I took a good hard look at an aspect of my book that's worried me for a while, and decided to make some changes.
That old first chapter started where the story began for me, with the solution, since the 'problem'I saw was actually wider than just that in this book.
However, when considering the book itself, the problem was only presented after the solution. Not a good structure, and likely a boring read.
So now the Stonehenge episode begins in the second chapter. The new opening is a bit earlier in the protagonists' journey.
Ty and Jen encounter mindless violence and looting in an English town when they stop to draw money from an ATM.
With my dislike for direct confrontation, they are not personally attacked, but clearly are endangered.
Let's see if more readers are tempted to read further. Still quite mild for a thriller.
©Philip van Wulven 2011
I was busy at the ATM, concentrating like you do, when a crash of breaking glass brought me to quivering alertness. I felt as violated as if someone’d kicked open the bathroom door while I was doing my thing.
I looked up, and saw Jen’s back view. Red hair spread across her freckled shoulders and flowed over her back as she turned towards the noise. Her right fist clenched around her water bottle, and then she shifted her grip to hold it like a club.
Across the road there was a confused swirl of hoodie-clad people around the shattered window of a jewellers. Some darted in, grabbed stuff, and slid out again, while others seemed to be venting a grudge against any unbroken glass or intact display. Mindless rage, not just a smash and grab.
The machine beeped for attention. So bloody annoying. I turned and kicked the wall, which hurt nothing but my foot.
“Dammit! I’m working out the exchange rates.” Machines don’t listen, but usually I feel better for a bit of release. Breathe deep, get the cash, and get out of here before we were roped in as witnesses, or something.
I punched in the numbers, the machine coughed up a bunch of notes, English Pounds, and I was outta there.
“Let’s go, Jen.”
She looked daggers, but kept her lips closed, and we hurried along, away from the trouble-spot. I hoped none of that lot would turn their attention our way. Never mind being tied up as witnesses, we could end up as victims here. There were at least ten of them. One or two wouldn’t be a problem, but no-one can fight off a swarm.
Jen grabbed my arm and hung on tight. She didn’t look up, just plunged on, head down. I tried not to go too fast, to act confident and not draw attention. If I’d noticed them earlier I’d never have gone near the ATM. Should have just left without the cash. Dumb. Dumb. Setting us up as targets like that. So much easier to rob cash from us than try to pawn rings or watches.
I felt better very quickly, as we moved out of the area. So did Jen. I could see her shoulders loosen up as we walked.
We’d parked next to a white van, with a logo of a black bird, a raven or a crow, on the side, and it was still there when we returned. As we walked up, I noticed something bright pink moving inside, visible through the small windows in the back doors.
“What’s that? Can’t be an animal, that colour, can it? Day-Glo pink, for gosh sakes.”
Jen didn’t answer, but pressed her nose to the glass and looked in. She burst out laughing, and waved me over, “You have to see this, Ty. Unbelievable! Look.”
I humoured her, and stood and looked through the window in the other door. Inside was a fairly orderly jumble of what you might expect in a tradesman’s van, an electrician or maybe a cable or alarm guy. Amongst the rolls of cable and boxes of screws and bits and pieces was an animal cage. Inside was a very active bright pink ferret.
“Hoy! Get outta there. Go on, beat it. If you’ve nicked something you’re done.” A large man in grey coveralls walked up. He had a two wheeled dolly loaded with wire and several cardboard boxes. Couldn’t help noticing, the backs of his hands were covered in faded blue tattoos. Crosses and some kind of writing.
“Sorry, we’re just looking at your pet there. He’s cute. What’s his name?” said Jen.
“Never you mind. That’s a working animal, and this is company property. Get out of here before I have you arrested.”
I took Jen by the elbow and pulled her away, against some resistance, the few feet to our rental Ford Fiesta. “Come on, Jen, climb in.”
She got in as soon as I opened the passenger door for her. “I suppose you’re right, Ty. Best to leave people like that alone, but he didn’t have to be so rude. I mean, he could see we don’t mean any harm.”
The guy opened the doors and started putting his gear away. One wide-swung door blocked our car in. I was about to climb out and make a big deal of it, but Jen’s hand on my shoulder changed my mind, with a squeeze. Her turn to keep me out of trouble. We were turning into a real team here.
Another man wearing the same coveralls arrived. “Hoy, Fred, this is the disc for the jewellers. Thought you said you’d put it in and start the broadcast?
“’Course I bloody said that, and I did. I put the bloody C.D in and got it going, packed up the gear, and collected the wire we left at that gift shop last week. All while you was swanning around buyin’ coffee.”
“You must have used the wrong disc, then. This is the one with the Teen-Annoyance frequencies. The only other one we had in the van is that experimental stuff Hancock wanted me to work up for him. I better go change them right away. That other one might cause a riot or something, instead of just annoying. It has some strong emotional enhancement frequencies.”
The van door swung closed, out of our way, so I reversed out, and we were off again.
“What was that all about, Ty? What were they doing? That must’ve been the shop they were working on, that had the window smashed.”
I had no more idea than she did, so I said, “Never mind what they were doing, who’d want to work with someone as bad tempered as the tattoo guy?”
I did wonder at the intensity of the mood changes we’d both gone through in such a short time. Probably jet-lag had a lot to do with it, I decided.
That bit about the disc ‘causing a riot’ was disturbing, when I thought of how those fools had behaved. Then too, he’d said something about ‘emotional enhancement’. Did that mean their C.D. somehow pumped up anger, or fear, or whatever?
Out in the traffic again, we made good progress, and moved at a fair clip despite the congestion.
“This is the right way, Ty. Now we’re off the Motorways and past Andover it should be easy. Just a bit further on this road and we’ll be there.”
“At least there’s enough traffic going the other way to remind me which side of the road to drive on.”
“Next stop, Stonehenge.”
Jen had the map on her lap already, so I just kept driving, and let her navigate.