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11 April 2011

Hook 'em Danno!

This Clash's Host: April Gardner

Excerpt days are my favorites at Clash of the Titles. It’s the day that my voice counts. I actually get to be part of the cyber-laurel awarding process! That’s just too cool.

Today begins our month-long emphasis on Best Hooks. We give you the first 500 words of two novels each Clash, and you decide which you’d be most likely to continue readers.

Thinking over this, I began to wonder how long you generally give a book before you decide it’s worth finishing.  We post the first 500 words, but do you give a novel more time than that? A page? A chapter? Or do you feel compelled to finish every book you start? On Wednesday, we’ll talk more about this, and then, just for fun, we’ll conduct a survey to see how long the average reader gives a book to sell itself. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today, voting begins on two excerpts that you’re sure to enjoy.
Have at ‘em!


Pain seared Colette's temples, neck, and shoulders. Behind her eyelids, everything blazed like a powder keg of dynamite going off inside her. Explosions roared and blasts glared - red, and now and then a streak of hot white. She stirred on the bed, and her satin dress rustled.
"Wear the dress, Lettie."
She picked it up and held it before her in front of the oval mirror, noticing how the crimson sleeves would drop off her shoulders, and the bodice would all but reveal every inch of her form. The rest of the dress was cut to accentuate her womanliness, and the rustle of the fabric caressed her skin when it stirred.
"They all admire you. Tonight, I don't want them to be able to take their eyes off you."
"You would put me on such a display?"
A condescending laugh rippled out of him, and she pinched her eyes shut.
"A display? You want to help me succeed, don't you?"
"It's so degrading."
"Degrading." He didn't shout the word, yet it seemed so. "You never want to please me."
"I do."
"No. If you wanted to please me, you would do these simple things I ask of you."
He stepped up behind her and slid his fingers over her shoulders.
"Vashti," he whispered. He tipped his lips to her neck and nuzzled her skin."My Vashti. Wear the dress." His use of that name sliced into her. He caught her gaze in the mirror and entwined one multi-faceted ringlet around his finger, stroking it against the curve of her jaw. "And leave some of your hair down. Just enough to tickle you here... and here..."
His words echoed in time with the blood pulsing through the bruise on her cheek.
They all looked at her. There was no mistaking the hungry thoughts barely veiled in the eyes of the men as they regarded her. The women whispered behind fans and gloved hands, and she felt their rebuff.
Shame. Flooding her. Turning her cheeks crimson, which only seemed to attract more of their attention.
"Dance with the gentlemen, Lettie. It pleases me. That's all I'm asking. Only dance."
So she'd danced. But somehow, even that hadn't pleased him. Somehow, she'd done something wrong.
Tears crept out from under her swollen eyelids, and her shoulders rocked with quiet sobs. How had she come to this place? What had happened to all the dreams she used to harbor?
God, how could I have been so wrong?
Images from another life lived a long, long time ago, hurtled through the blare of her thoughts-images of a small town with a street covered in pine dust, of a white house on a hill and a trip across the great lake into the shroud of forest where she'd first met her destiny.
A key turned in the lock of the door. Colette wished she could reclaim that other time from the foggy past. But now it was too late. She could never go there again.


“Gunshot wound!”
Hannah sighed at the tense sound of her husband’s voice filtering down the hall from the parlor to the kitchen.  Though she clearly heard the urgency in Drew’s tone, she took a moment to remove the half-baked biscuits from the heavy iron stove, lest they burn before she returned.  This would be the third batch of baked goods she would toss this week so she could assist Drew in his surgery with one medical emergency or another.
Biting back a second frustrated sigh, she removed her cooking apron to don a fresh one.  Tying the apron strings around her back, she entered the chaos of Drew’s surgery room.  The heavy shuffling of feet echoed in the small room as four men grunted under the weight of the injured man.  The acrid smell of blood hit Hannah full force.  She recalled the days when the odor and sight of blood caused her stomach to roil.  Nearly two years working by Drew’s side cured her of some of that sensitivity.  Heart pounding rapidly, she prepared the ether cone, anticipating the forthcoming request.
“Get him on the table.” Drew instructed the men carrying the wounded bank manager, Mr. Davis, in a calm voice.  As he turned to face her, his tone remained steady, “Hannah, I need the ether now.”
Hannah’s breath caught in her throat as she looked into Mr. Davis’s panicked eyes—her earlier frustration vanished.  Whispering words of comfort, she placed the cone over his nose and mouth, silently counting out the seconds.  Around the third second, his thrashing stopped and his body relaxed into an unconscious state.  She let out a shaky breath, relieved by the sight.
Drew’s lanky form bent over Mr. Davis’s left leg as he intently studied the blood soaked trousers.  Hannah offered Drew scissors and he cut the pant leg to better see the wound.  The bullet was lodged in Mr. Davis’s thigh.  He placed a tourniquet above the gaping hole to stop the flow of blood.  Hannah mopped up what she could with rags silently praying for their patient and for her husband’s skill.  As he requested the small forceps, she handed them over.  Watching, she could not help but admire his steady hand and careful movements as he grasped the bullet with the forceps.  Gently he removed the bullet.
As she administered another dose of ether, Drew threaded a needle with his long slender fingers, seemingly unaffected by the gravity of his task.  He doused the wound to clean it before starting slow deliberate strokes with the needle to stitch the hole shut.  When sweat beaded on his forehead, he barely noticed her swift action to dab it dry, his concentration so intense.  Once he finished with the stitches, he wrapped the leg in bandages before checking for other signs of injury.
“I don’t see any other wounds,” Drew said meeting her gaze as he washed the blood from his hands.  His expression remained unreadable.

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Item Reviewed: Hook 'em Danno! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: April Gardner