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Friday, August 13, 2010

Colors of the Sea - First Chapter

The last two years of my life I've been making and taking care of babies, shopping for trash, writing and  editing.
Editing is a process I compare to making bread.  It's about skill, directions and timing.  It also makes your fingers very tired. 
Oh sure, I've edited all 326 pages of Colors of the Sea before, like 27 times, but who's counting. The difference for me, and this is a big one, is this time I'm editing my manuscript with a professional editor.  In other words, I'm not editing alone.
Can you hear me shouting for joy?  If you listen very quietly, I bet you can.
I'm loving the suggestions and changes she's made.   Now I need to put them all into place.  Hopefully in a few more weeks it will be ready for me to start querying agents again. 
So, I promised you a peak.  I hope you enjoy it.
She caught my attention as she stretched her arms toward the dark ginger sky.  Her black sundress danced up her thighs and in the distance a wind chime sang.  Other than the dark morning shadows scattered across the sand, she was alone on the beach.  A lively splash of waves in the water caused her to look my way, but I think she only saw the bird above me pushing off into the wind.  She sat down on her towel and watched the morning scene unfold.  A ball of golden light touched the tip of the sea and again she looked my way.  I ducked underwater as the dolphins raced by.  Once they passed, I swam a bit closer to shore.  I watched as she ran her fingers through her long, sun-bleached hair, twisting it into a braid.

A symphony of sunlight sparkled on the tide and it flashed like diamonds on her face.  She seemed troubled, somehow searching for something by staring into the sea.  She looked right through me, not knowing I was staring back at her.  She reached into her backpack, opened a book in her lap and began to write. 
Her writing lasted a moment when she focused on the water again, but there was just enough darkness to keep me hidden, at least I think there was.  She stood up and I ducked under a passing wave.  I swam toward another part of the pier and resurfaced.
In a giant sweep she pulled off her dress and ran toward the waves.  Her body matched the morning; golden and beautiful.  I watched her as intently as she watched the sea.  She stepped into the waves and I felt her vibrations move through the water.  Goose bumps covered her body like freckles and the initial chill seemed to slow her pace, but she dove under anyway, pushing through the water, deeper into the sea, stretching, kicking until her body temperature adjusted.  I realized she was swimming closer to me so I shifted my position and swam a few feet behind her.  The coast waited in the distance, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t be going back for awhile.  Methodically, her breathing became more regular and like a trance, she moved her body in a continuous freestyle motion. 
 I shadowed her for awhile when I sensed something following the two of us.  Its energy seeped into the water like black tar and was impossible to shake.  I turned and looked below.  The dark eyes of a great white shark penetrated me for an instant, knowing well enough to leave me alone.  It seemed annoyed I had interrupted his hunt, but then again great white sharks are always annoyed.   It lost interest in me and stared back at her.  We both followed her movements, the warm smell of her skin and the pattern of her motion.  This shark wasn’t just hunting for food, but playing a game.  I’d seen hundreds of shark attacks and witnessed how they toyed with their prey before the actual kill, allowing the blood of their victim to lure its taste buds into a frenzy, but never on a human. Strangely curious and suddenly motionless, I knew any second the shark would make its move.  In a large swell of water and with the force of a speeding train, it crashed into her.  She surfaced, desperately turning her head from side to side and shaking in terror.  Her feet kicked like paddle boards as she scanned the water, the whites of her eyes bulging.  She knew.  She knew exactly what hit her.  Again, like she was thrown against a brick wall, the shark rammed into her.  She screamed through the fear and pain.  Turning toward land, she kicked her arms and legs like a trained swimmer.  The shark would attack again, but next time with precision.  If I was going to save her I had to move fast, so what was I waiting for?  Did I really think I could watch her die?  Sharks were trackers and it was only a matter of seconds before his jaws crushed her.  A large black dorsal fin surfaced, a clue too late in the game.  It circled and she froze!  She was the bait and the game would last no more than a few seconds.  I had to make my move now or it was all over.  She braced herself for the battle; her body against rows and rows of razor-like teeth when I clicked my teeth together, sending off an ancient pattern of sounds I’d learned as a child.  The shark contorted, almost flipping itself in half.  Its body rose out of the water, twisting as if on fire.  A shriek, the most desperate guttural sound came from its throat and it appeared to be fighting some unseen force.  His back fin crashed in front of the girl, the fierce hit just inches from her face.  She remained frozen; uncertain which direction would get her the furthest away from the beast. The shark breached out of the water, writhing in pain as I rolled another pattern of clicks off my tongue.  Again it hit the water, this time with a giant slap in its face.  It descended several feet when I clicked once more, sending a direct order for the shark to go away and never come back.  The shark bolted, running away from the disorienting sounds.    
With each maddening stroke, the girl inched herself closer to shore. As desperate as she was to get away from the shark, she was now just as desperate to reach land.  I swam by her side unnoticed.  I’d gone from wondering if I should save her at all to now breaking the blow of the waves that forced themselves down on her, hoping to make her swim to land more bearable.  Her face remained underwater for long drawn-out strides as her arms and legs moved in clattered patterns.  Each breath was a fight for oxygen and when she looked toward land again, she was only fractions closer.  A cluster of seaweed brushed against her arm and she froze in terror.  I swam ahead, an unseen companion hoping to coax her forward.  Within seconds, she caught her breath and again raced toward me.   
 Finally her feet touched the bottom and she ran for shore.  Her legs buckled as she took her last step out of the water, sinking into the coarse sand.  She turned her head and scanned the sea.  Her teeth chattered as she fought for air.  She looked down over her body, her skin a plump pink from the freezing water.  Her leg where the shark crashed displayed a cruel bruise, the skin raw and tender. I’d felt shark skin before, the needle-like sandpaper covering every inch of its body.  She’d been rammed not once, but twice. I suddenly felt ashamed.  Not just ashamed of my choice, but scared of who I was becoming.  The shark attack should have never happened; the golden-skinned girl should have never experienced such terror.   I could have sent the shark away before she even knew it was there. Why hadn’t I stopped it?  Did I think watching someone else suffer would take away my own pain?  That it would somehow balance my loss? 
Several breaths later she stood up and walked toward her towel.  The morning wind turned wild and she clutched her arms around her body, trying to keep warm.  She walked as if she was in a trance when her journal lifted off her towel and was carried away by the wind.  Pages released into the air like autumn leaves falling from a tree.  Old ticket stubs, photographs, letters; the wind caught hold of it all.  She rushed to the journal, falling to her knees as droplets of water turned scattered sand on the pages to mud.  Her wet fingers brushed across the pages, smearing the ink like oil. 
Defeated, she held the damaged journal to her chest.  Its pages were ruined, such a trivial thing considering the encounter in the water, but it was all too much and it seemed impossible for her not to cry.
I suddenly felt the desire to put my arms around her.  What was wrong with me?  I should have swam away the second I laid eyes on her.  Even as I rationalized my actions, I wanted more than anything to step out of the water and tell her everything would be all right.  For her, I would lie and pretend I believed it.  
 She hid her face and cried. I finally stopped watching.  I realized running from my past wasn’t hurting just me, but that realization doesn’t mean I can change my destiny.   
Suddenly she lifted her head and she tossed her journal to the ground.  She picked up a fistful of sand and threw it into the water. 
“What are you?” she yelled, squinting through the salt water in her eyes.  She looked right at me as I ducked back underwater.
The waves rippled toward her, steady and constant as she wiped away her tears with the back of her hand.  She picked up her journal, but the lost pages blew into the water; their own journey into the ocean.
I turned back toward sea, back to my comfort, fighting through the sorrow that forced itself down on me.  The water was rough and I dove deeper to the tranquil darkness below.  The silence forced me alone with my thoughts and I pushed my way through twisted seaweed.  What did I think?  That some lives could be saved and others lost?  I had no control over either.  The life I wanted to save more than any other had already been lost and there was no way I was getting it back.     A pair of sea otters swam near me, flirting with the fish within their reach.  Playfully they caught their prey, killing the fish with one swift bite. 
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  1. Wow! I'm hooked! I'm really quite taken aback by how beautiful your writing is.

  2. I LOVED it! I can't wait until your book comes out!

  3. Your writing is so descriptive and vivid! It flows so eloquently! I was right there with her at the beach--from the first sentence, to the very last. Can't wait to read more!!

  4. The suspense is going to kill me, you know that, right?

  5. What a wonderful excerpt! You have marvelous descriptions and images (which sometimes tend to bore me when reading books but yours kept me riveted the whole time!) and some really great symbolism, which is something I struggle with. Mine always seem forced and corny, but yours come naturally, I see. Nicely done and congrats on the professional editor! I've got to get me one of those ...

  6. Laura, I really want to read more. I'm very curious what creature saved the golden-skinned girl's life. A merman? A mermaid? Maybe neither?

    You've created several hooks here! The one above and who the loved ones your MC lost. And the kind of life your MC leads. I'm so curious!!!

    I love your descriptions. Thank you so much for sharing your talent! *Hugs*

  7. I kept your notecard and decided to look at your blog--I love your story! Makes me jealous, because I tend to get writer's block a lot...
    By the way, it's me-with-the-bicycle-necklace.
    I'd love to read more!