What will hook the reader? Who knows? I just know what hooks me. And I’m a sucker for a good chase scene. I’m also a sucker for beginning in medias res — right in the middle of the action. No explanation needed. I’ll figure it out as I go along.
Jim Butcher does this brilliantly in his Harry Dresden novels – remember the flying monkeys at the beginning of Blood Rites? Genius.
When it came to introducing our protagonists in The Werewolf Whisperer: Book 1, Bonita and I absolutely had to go with a chase. It’s what Lucy and Xochitl’s lives have been all about — running toward or away from something. But we also wanted to establish a certain kind of tone — funny, nearly absurd, but with underlying danger and a palpable “something is very wrong here” feel:
Arms and legs pumping, lungs burning, Lucy Lowell sprinted up the Beverly Hills street due north toward Sunset Boulevard.
I hate when they don’t listen to me!
Xochitl Magaña, her long blond hair whipping her cheeks, ran hard on the parallel sidewalk and cursed loudly in Spanish. The awkward weight of her Remington 12 gauge forced Xochitl to lag just a few feet behind Lucy. A great runner, Xochitl was obviously furious she hadn’t caught up to Jimmy Stanton and Fat Dan Walters yet, but the shotgun was a necessity in case young Jimmy decided to bite his neighbor’s face off.
This opening image is a snapshot of what passes for Lucy and Xochi’s normal life, but it is already far from normal:
A group of lady speed-walkers raced by. Their leader, a fit, white-haired Beverly Hills matron sporting a leathery tan, waved to Lucy and Xochitl with great enthusiasm.
“Hi, girls!” the rail-thin lady shouted and smiled a big, perfect smile. ”Hello, Mrs. Siperstein!” Lucy returned the wave. ”My Maedel has been so good! No more counter surfing!” Mrs. Siperstein gave them a double thumbs up. “You just have to get The Werewolf Whisperer. The girls saved my life,” she instructed her gaggle of followers.
“Thanks for the endorsement!” Lucy shouted back to the passing throng. “Have a Werebeast-free day!”
“Really? Have a Werebeast-free day?” Xochitl asked, shaking her head slowly.
The beauty of the Beverly Hills setting is in direct contrast to the chaos teeming behind each pristine door. Lucy and Xochi try to help people whose loved ones have turned furry but have retained at least a bit of their original personality. Our girls’ help is appreciated by some. Not so much by others:
“My wife and I just don’t know how to thank you for today.” Mr. Stanton started walking toward the door. “We learned a lot. And we appreciate how busy you must be.” Lucy’s eyes flicked to Xochitl who gave a tiny shrug. ”Everybody said ‘Get The Werewolf Whisperer.’ We couldn’t stand the thought of putting him down.” Frank Stanton stopped; his words hung in the air.
Apparently unable to stand the silence, Maggie Stanton cleared her throat. “Jimmy’s part of the family. Almost like he was still our son,” she said with a quiet but firm voice.
Lucy saw Frank look at his wife with unadulterated hatred. Xochitl tugged on the front of her vest, doing nothing to hide the disgusted look on her face.
“Now that we know where everybody stands,” Lucy said and returned to sit on the leather couch. “Let me give you the honest truth. We’ve seen this before in Ferals like Jimmy.”
She thought about her next words carefully and decided that giving the worst-case scenario was the only way to convince the father to give up his son.
“Mr. Stanton, keeping Jimmy would be like living with a tiger. It would be a lot of work, and it could go fine for a while. But one day, you will not be able to control his behavior. And that’s gonna be a really bad day.” Lucy stopped herself from saying more.
“Why don’t you send him to our camp?” Xochitl tried to sound cheerful about the prospect. “That’s only a couple of hours from here. It’s up in the mountains. You could visit—”
“Let me be clear,” Frank Stanton said and took a protective step forward. “My son, our son, will stay with us. We will take care of him. Here.” He looked to Maggie for support. “There’s a doctor in West Hollywood who specializes in declawing and defanging Hounds. You can’t tell me Jimmy will be dangerous to us without his claws and teeth.”
“You stupid son of a bitch!” Lucy jumped up from the couch, and stormed over to stand toe to toe with Frank Stanton. “Why don’t you amputate his fucking arms and legs while you’re at it!”
Jimmy yipped and scrabbled under the coffee table, sending the Limoges china clattering to the floor.
“I think that will be all Ms. Lowell.” Maggie Stanton’s silken voice rose in admonishment. “Ms. Magaña?”
“We take cash,” Xochitl replied, her tone unflappable. She took Lucy’s arm and pulled her partner toward the foyer. “We’re done helping you.”
Lucy walked straight to the front door, knowing she would punch Frank Stanton in the face if she as much as turned around to glance at Jimmy.
Outside the bright February sun delivered a sky so blue it seemed to mock Lucy’s dark mood. She drank in the lush, sweet exotic-flower scent that permeated Beverly Hills. Xochitl slammed the Mission-style front door, making the hinges rattle.
“Cash in hand, chica.” Xochitl waved a stack of bills in Lucy’s face. “Can’t save ’em all.”
An enormous crash sounded from inside the house. Lucy and Xochitl made no move to turn around but continued to El Gallo, their bright orange ’66 Olds Toronado.
“They’re screwed!” Xochitl said as she opened the trunk to place her shotgun next to the rest of their arsenal.
And so ends the beginning.
Like what you see? The Werewolf Whisperer is available at Amazon http://amzn.to/12OTMIr