Today’s Dystopian SF First Lines post is part of my First Lines Friday series. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Would you read more?
A twig snaps somewhere in the woods. I shoot up from my sleeping bag and reach out in the darkness.
There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. These titles are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.
Now, if you buy one of my books… that will put a little money in my pocket. And a gigantic smile on my face. I love my readers.
Do You Want to Read More?
Did you enjoy these Dystopian SF First Lines? Check out previous First Line Friday posts. And you’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it?
A sneak peek is a portion of a story in progress. It’s an early draft which means there are grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and probably some story errors, too. So why post a sneak peek? It’s a tease of what’s coming. It’s a test—does this work? And it’s a peek into the writing process many readers enjoy. This snippet is from the revision draft and is part of a new chapter. So, without further ado, I present this sneak peek-revision draft, If I should Die, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.
If I Should Die
By Lynette M. Burrows
The aroma of warm pancakes and syrup and the rumble of her stomach woke Miranda before her sleep shift had finished. She needed coffee, but the galley already held two people. David stood at the stove flipping pancakes.
“Morning, Captain.” Wanda offered her a mug full of hot, black coffee. “Beryl’s piloting. David’s cooking. Mind if I go forward?”
Miranda took the mug. Lifted it and inhaled the fragrance of fresh coffee. “Go ahead.” Someone should get some extra sleep. She sat at the lower helm, sipped coffee, and watched the remaining fog roll off the river.
“Peace offering,” David said behind her.
She faced him. “You and I are not at war.”
He stood, braced in the hatch to the galley against the motion of the boat. Held a plate with a lopsided tower of pancakes.
Her smile broadened at the size of the stack. “That could feed an army.”
“Not after I get my serving.” His mouth twisted, rueful and hopeful at the same time. “Should I take some up to Beryl?”
“No, she’s already had breakfast and will eat again in a couple of hours when I relieve her..” Miranda peered down the passageway behind him. “Where’s Leslie?”
“Coming,” a lilting voice called. Typical landlubber, she lurched down the passageway toward the galley. Her strawberry blonde ponytail bounced behind her. And somehow the borrowed gingham dress fit better today.
Soon all three of them sat at the table and dug into breakfast.
When they’d had their fill, Miranda rose to take the dirty dishes to the galley.
“I’ll take care of those,” Leslie said and took the dishes. Duct tape made an extra seam down the back of her dress.
“I need to say something. Try not to get mad and just listen. Can you do that?” David asked once Leslie had slid the galley hatch door closed.
Miranda folded her arms on the tabletop, leaned forward. “Say what you must, but I won’t change my mind.”
“Even if you don’t believe that the Azrael are being grown again—think about what Leslie told us. There are Fellowship labs hidden in former mines hundreds of feet beneath the surface. That alone is cause for alarm. The Fellowship is up to something. If they’re not growing an army of assassins, maybe they’re making munitions, or a poisonous gas, or prisons for folk like us.”
“And that’s what you should focus on when you talk to Monkshood.”
He tilted his head, studied her.
The thrum of The Lady’s engines and the slap of water on her hull filled the silence between them.
“You still don’t see that you and Beryl should take precautions?” His voice held disbelief and a tinge of anger.
“They aren’t doing that just for Beryl and I.”
“No. They’re doing it for you and your refugees.”
The idea of an underground Redemption seized her in a tight, icy grip. She swallowed. Wiped her sweaty palms on her culottes. “All right. You’re right. Monkshood needs to know this. We’ll make sure you and Leslie get to that meeting.” She leaned forward. “But this doesn’t mean that my mission has changed. It means the Freedom Waterway is more important than ever.”
David set his mouth, then nodded. “Get us to Waverly. Maybe Monkshood will convince you that this means you have a new mission.”
She almost laughed. We’ll see who out stubborns who.
Sneak peeks of the rough draft are available on this blog. See the first installment of chapters one through six.
Miranda lived a charmed life…until she broke the rules.
Now, she’ll fight the tyrants, even if they’re family. Even if it costs her freedom—or her life.
Available at all your favorite online retailers, My Soul to Keep, is book one in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.
Thank You for Reading
Revision is a process of refinement, expansion, and surgical excisions. As a result, chapters from the rough draft disappear or appear in different locations or from a different viewpoint. Kind of like putting a puzzle together, it’s a process I love. But I am not a fast writer. I hope to publish If I Should Die late spring or early summer of 2021. Did you enjoy this sneak peek-revision draft, If I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Dystopia?
The pumpkins and witches and goblins are out. That means it’s the end of October 2020. What progress can I report? Well, a lot and not a lot. But it’s 2020, so that has to be okay. And when I looked back at it, October was a productive month in despite all that 2020 has thrown at us and the world.
Life Goes On
This month my back-up computer died a permanent death. The toilet started running. And my yard improvement project increased my water bill zoomed to the ceiling. Oh, right, and we have cars that need fixed or service and a dog that got injured. (No worries—he’s healing.) Just usual life stuff that normally would be a mild-to-moderate irritant. In 2020—well, I took a deep breath and am addressing each issue as I can.
Last month after I finished the rough draft of If I Should Die, the second book of the Fellowship Dystopia series, I let the story “rest.” That means I didn’t look at it and tried not to think about it for four weeks.
I studied front and back matter for books. Planned how I’d revise that material in my own books. And I worked on revising the blurb for If I Should Die.
Then, I picked up the rough draft of If I Should Die at the beginning of this month. I spent three weeks re-reading it and creating an in-depth revision outline and manuscript notes. The outline and notes use most of the techniques I describe in my Re-visioning your book series of posts with one addition. I used Margie Lawson’s EDITS system. If you’re a writer and you don’t know Margie or the EDITS system, I suggest you check out her website. It’s stellar.
This week I started the first revision of If I Should Die. How many revisions will there be? Hopefully, only two. But only time will tell. If you would like to be a beta reader for this story (read an unedited story and offer suggestions for improvement) email me at Lynette at lynettemburrows dot com with Beta in the subject line.
I learned more about running ads on Amazon and applied some of those lessons.
My Sweet Milestone Giveaway ended. I contacted the winners and got the prizes out—well, almost all the prizes out. Huge congratulations to Cindy, Suzanne, and Alexis. (More emails going out today.)
If you get my newsletter (Yes, it’s late—AGAIN), you’ll get a short video of antics of my youngest Yorkie that made me laugh.
Briefly, and using mask and social distancing, I celebrated one of my grandson’s birthday. And I spent a few hours with two grandsons my son and daughter-in-law celebrated their anniversary.
I transported my husband to a doctor’s appointment where he got his flu shot. I got my flu shot.
We had our first snow of the winter. In October… might be a rough winter. Well, perhaps it will make self-guaranteeing easier.
Throw in some meal making, laundry, housecleaning, and some television watching, and you’ve got a snapshot of my life. Not very exciting.
And I voted. Nope. I won’t say what party or persons I voted for. What I’ve witnessed over the past few years is that most attempts at political discussions devolve into heated name-calling and anger and ruined relationships.
Looking forward this year has been much like looking down the foggy road ahead. But in November, the month of Gobblers…
I’ll work on the revision of If I Should Die for the next two months. Polish the blurb. And I’ll start making notes for the next book in the series.
We’ll have a Thanksgiving Day like I’ve never experienced. My husband’s risks make it mandatory that we eat alone. But gratitude will still be a sizeable portion of that day. Despite the rough patches, we’ve a lot of reasons to be grateful.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful month despite all that 2020 has thrown at us. Let me know one good thing about your month below, won’t you?
Welcome to sneak peek, If I Should Die Chapter 6. This is the sixth (Duh) installment of sneak peeks at my WIP (work-in-progress). If you’ve already read chapters 1-5, skip the synopsis and recap and go to the section labeled chapter 6.
If I Should Die is book two in The Fellowship Dystopia Series (formerly called the My Soul to Keep series.) It’s the continuation of Miranda’s story (book one, My Soul to Keep).
Miranda has built a successful Safe Harbor rescue system across the inland waters of the United States. Refugees from the religious oppression of the Fellowship find safety and freedom aboard the Safe Harbor boats. But now her brother needs rescued so he can complete his mission. She’s committed to helping him, but she’s a peace-loving woman. Will she resort to violence and save lives or stick to her principles and sacrifice many?
Chapter One: Miranda pilots her yacht, the Lady Angelfish, up the Missouri River to rescue her brother, but the U.S. Coast Guard and a Second Sphere agent stop her for a “routine” inspection. You can read a brief sample or watch me read the entire Chapter One.
Chapter Two: Irene, Miranda’s sister, can’t believe she’s the wife of the newly appointed Prophet. Nor can she believe she’s at the White House sitting with President Joseph Kennedy Jr. But there are drawbacks to being the Prophet’s wife. When she’s offered a role in a new “secret” project, she’s more than intrigued. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Two or read a brief sample.
Chapter Three: As a nighttime thunderstorm rages, Beryl tries to persuade Miranda to wait. But Miranda insists she must go ashore to find her brother. And since Beryl has sworn to protect Miranda, she must go too. But when someone sneaks up on them, Beryl’s hesitation to shoot endangers them. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Three or read a brief sample.
Chapter Four: After Miranda rescues her brother, he insists she’s in danger because his refugee claims that the Azrael are being reborn. Beryl reminds him that they destroyed the island with all the equipment and records for how to clone Azrael. Miranda can’t help but believe that since they had a Second Sphere agent on board, the Lady Angelfish earlier in the day and he didn’t recognize them, they are safe.You can watch me read the entire Chapter Four or read a brief sample.
Chapter Five: Irene is enjoying a day out with her daughters. Their visit to an ice cream parlor erupts into pandemonium when a car bomb explodes nearby. Life interrupted and delayed the YouTube video of this reading, but it should appear soon. Or you can read a brief sample.
Beryl gripped the pilot’s wheel tighter. She had a bad feeling about this trip. And so far she’d been right. Everything had gone wrong.
Submerged rocks and snags, the rock jetties that lined the shores, and the river’s rapid current made the Missouri a navigation nightmare under normal circumstances. Now they also had a river littered with debris from the storm. Silent projectiles and snags that lay in wait for them. How did Miranda avoid scuttling the Lady last night? In the dark with the storm stirred water, there’s no way she could have seen everything. Luck? More than luck?
Beryl had delayed launch because of the early morning fog. Finally, when the sun had burned off the fog and warmed the air, she launched. Only a half-hour upriver debris foul the props and before she’d caught on to the problem, flooded and overheated the engines. Somehow Wanda cleared the props and the flooded engines in a little less than an hour. Once bitten, Beryl didn’t let her attention waiver.
She slowed the engines and guided the boat around whatever sunken object lay beneath another bump in the water. Got the boat back into the travel lane. The slap of water on rocks made a percussion counterpoint to the burble of the engines.
Behind the trees to port, a car zoomed up a county road that twisted away from the river. She couldn’t keep from smiling. Ever since she’d escaped Redemption, she couldn’t get enough of the sights and sounds of the land.
She spotted the next mile marker buoy. Only 71? Damn. Good thing the meet isn’t until nine o’clock tonight. Might take us that long to get there.
A glance at the chart confirmed what she knew. They would reach the staunch Fellowship town of Jefferson City about noon. Not the greatest timing. Only one of the challenges this trip entailed.
So reckless to take the Lady halfway to Kansas City, but that was Miranda’s decision. Beryl snorted. So glad to not make those kinds of decisions anymore. And as long as the weather held, no slow traffic got in the way, and Murphy’s Law stayed away—they’d deliver their passengers on time. Not soon enough, but at least it was a relatively short trip.
Birds chirped. A soft, warm breeze caressed her skin. She inhaled the fresh scent of damp earth. One could almost imagine the Fellowship didn’t exist.
“Good morning,” an unfamiliar female voice called.
Beryl spared a quick glance behind her.
The girl refugee, Leslie, stood on the main deck close to the doors to the salon.
Attention back on the water, Beryl remembered her manners. “Good morning.” What is the refugee doing outside? Does she want to be seen? Or does she plan to argue about the Azrael again? “Living dangerously?”
“Wanda said it was safe to come out now. She said I could hang some wet things on the clothesline.”
“Sure.” Beryl guided the boat past yet another rock jetty. “But we’ve got less than ten minutes before we pass the next Fellowship town.”
“I’ll hurry.” The girl noisily clambered up onto the locker.
The squeal of the retractable clothesline sounded. Soon, clothes snapped and popped in the breeze and the girl’s footsteps retreated into the salon.
That was okay with Beryl. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist. In fact, she wasn’t much of a people person either. Ten years in Redemption’s isolation cells had seen to that.
Flap-flap. Redemption also had made her acutely aware of sounds. She glanced over her shoulder. Two pairs of blue jeans, two shirts, and two jackets fluttered in the breeze. His and hers?
The boat pitched against waves. She concentrated, scanned the waters over and over. The miles passed slow and steady.
Honk-honk-honk. Honk-honk. A flock of geese flew over them. Headed south.
She couldn’t fault Miranda for helping her brother. But we damn sure shouldn’t be here.We should be headed south too. Headed to their winter hideaway on Isla Mujeres’s carefree beaches. Trouble waited for them upriver. She could feel it.
The current crisis notwithstanding, my hope—my plan—is to publish If I Should Die in the late fall. If you would like to stay up-to-date on my progress and be part of my advanced readers team, please sign up for Burrows Insiders.
What’s Your Vote?
If I Should Die, chapter 6 is as far as I had planned to take these sneak peeks. I had hoped the need to shelter at home would have passed by now. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is here to stay awhile. As always, I wish safety and health for you and your loved ones. Please take a moment and vote in the comments below. Should I continue sneak peeks with If I Should Die? Yes or No?
The COVID-19 virus is here in the world. All that will matter when this is over is how we behaved during this crisis. It’s time to circle our wagons and open our hearts. I’m offering a little diversion, a sneak peek for your entertainment.
My Hope For You
My husband and I have self-quarantined. It’s not a choice. He’s got many health issues that make him at very high risk should he contract COVID-19.
I hope that each of you have also self-quarantined, that you’re safe and healthy. That your loved ones and dear friends are safe and healthy. And I hope and pray that all of you stay that way.
What I Can Do
I can’t do a grand gesture that will feed thousands or pay off someone else’s mortgage or any of those wonderful things so many warm-hearted people are doing right now. I can’t even do much in the way of small gestures. What I can do is share my stories. No, I can’t make them free…I do have to eat and keep a roof over our heads. But I can offer you a little diversion. A sneak peek for your entertainment. At least, I hope it’s entertaining.
Each Friday for the next six weeks or more. I’m going offer a bit of my WIP, If I Should Die.
If I Should Die
by Lynette M Burrows
Storm clouds blotted out the sunset and the last of the day’s light. But Miranda Clarke, captain of the Lady Angelfish aka Serenity, had a rendezvous to keep. She eased the throttled down a little more. Turned on the boat’s spotlight and illuminated the Missouri River’s dark waters. She ran the boat as close to the channel markers as she dared.
Then it appeared. Mile marker 35. Relief loosened the tension in her shoulders.
She grabbed the mike of the VHF radio. “Ladies, we just passed Mile Marker 35. We’re clear of St. Charles.”
“Read you five-by-five,” Wanda, her engineer and chef, answered. “I’ll clear the decks.”
Even on their private channel, they used code. Safer that way.
St. Charles, Missouri was a major Fellowship stronghold so they’d assumed their alternate personas. The Fellowship flag flew beneath the American one. On the table in the salon, a copy of a New Testament for Modern Times lay open to the Book of Samuel. Pictures of the Prophet Samuel hung in the salon and the Captain’s quarters. And anything that might identify them as SABR rebels hid in secret compartments.
Miranda replaced the mike. She longed for the day this ruse wouldn’t be necessary, but for now she focused on the river. She wanted this, their last refugee pick-up of the season, to go especially well.
Be-boop. Be-boop. The bleat of the two-toned alert from the VHF radio startled her.
“This is the U.S. Coast Guard. Serenity, heave to. Over.”
She sucked in a breath and tightened her grip on the wheel. Crap. An over-the-shoulder glance took in the running lights outline of a USCG cutter two-or-three cable lengths behind them. It plowed the river between its overgrown banks, headed straight for them. Lousy timing. She wished she could tell David that their thirty minute ETA just became an hour or more….
My intention is to publish this novel late fall 2020. Watch my If I Should Die book page for updated information.
If you’d like a sneak peek at inspirations for this book visit Pinterest.
As always, my books are available on Amazon and all the online stores including Walmart. If you’ve already read my stories, consider buying a story by some friends of mine: William F Wu, Robert Chilson, Jan S Gephardt, G.S. Norwood, or Jenn Windrow. And if you don’t buy from them, buy from another author. Many authors don’t have pension or retirement funds or even health insurance. They depend upon readers to buy their books. And if you’ve read a book, take a moment to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or even a short “I liked it” post with a picture of you holding the book on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
The Plan Didn’t Quite Work
Welp, I made a video. I made lots of videos of me reading this chapter aloud. Unfortunately I’ve made about every mistake a beginner can make and the video was rejected by YouTube. I’ll work on this and hope I can produce a video soon.
The Next Sneak Peak for Your Entertainment
Stay tuned for next week’s episode. Hopefully, I’ve learned what not to do and next week my video will be accepted and posted at the regular time.