My book, chapter one.

Hey, guys. This is the first chapter of my book. A little test if you would. Site unseen, after reading this, would you want to read the rest of it?


He got to the church before the cops, or thought he did. Maybe it was more likely they were watching him now as he pulled open the heavy doors by their big brass handles, kicked the snow from his shoes, and stepped inside.

He had almost not recognized Greektown because of the changes wrought to it since he'd last been here, the casino, the new face on Trapper's Alley. But St. Mary's traced in white he recognized. The smell of incense, the tiny, winking flames of candles, the stained glass windows in the tall stone walls were familiar to him. He knew, too, the vaulted, sky blue ceiling and its ornamental gilding. This was the church to which they had come for midnight mass every Christmas Eve when he was a kid, and these high places above his head had given him his first impression of what God's heaven must look like, of where the deity at whom he aimed his childhood prayers lived.

It was before the intimate scrutiny of this authority that he knelt, after dipping his fingertips into the font of holy water and making the Sign of the Cross, and a long, slow walk beneath the Stations of the Cross to the front of the church, where he slipped into a pew. A large, lifelike figure of the suffering Christ hung suspended over the altar and he gazed at this over woven hands.

Silently, he prayed: 'Here I am, Lord. Is this where it ends? It started with Jim. Now it's down to me. And all this time and through all this trouble, how much of your will have I done, and how much mine? Be with me now, Father. Help me.'

He sat back in the pew and raised the kneeler. The ice on his shoes was melting into small puddles on the floor. It was afternoon. Only a few old timers were in the church with him, the kind of elderly retirees one sees in churches daily, who come now that they have vacant hours, perhaps too many hours, to reflect and pray. As he sat there, one of these concluded his business and left.

It was good to sit in the stillness. Outside, myriad people were dying and being born. Plans were being laid, plots set in motion. Ten thousand romances and heartbreaks were occurring, acts of devotion and of betrayal. In here, only silence. It was a good space to crawl into. It matched the emptiness he felt. He continued talking to God.

'I'm spent. But you knew that. Seems like I've run so far and so fast, only to watch it all slip away and see it come to an end. Everything in my experience told me this would turn out badly. Still, I tried to hold on. I tried to go where my heart was leading me. Right now I'm having a hard time seeing my life as anything other than an endless procession of death and loss. I know that somehow it must be right and good, that in some way it fits into your designs. But all I feel at this time is a bottomless hole in my stomach where my will used to be. A tiredness without sleep.' He thought of psalms in which bones were poured out like water and suddenly felt as if he knew what that meant. 'I feel like I can't do anything now except what I think is the right thing, and that's make a clean finish to it.'

Again he thought of scripture - 'and I alone have escaped to tell thee' - and he felt like a specter, his family's gaunt ghost waving lantern and chain.

(copyright 2004 Charlie Kondek)

His shoulders relaxed and his eyes went long. He swept his gaze around the old familiar church and recalled childhood nights spent in wonderment at the world, the world in the giant ceiling and the world of possibility he had felt existed beyond these walls. It was a world he had sought to embrace, then evade, then embrace again.

Now the doors opened again and two pairs of footsteps were coming up the aisle. They stopped beside his pew. He looked up to see two men in long coats standing over him. With a weary gesture, he invited them to sit. One of them, the bigger man, genuflected before doing so.

'Are you Nathan Gallows?'

He nodded.

'We've got a lot to talk about.'

'I guess we do.'

It would end here with Nathan. But it had started with Jim.

(copyright 2004 Charlie Kondek)


raw dawg

Haha! I would, RD, but it goes on for, like, 250 more pages. I can't post em ALL here!

Edit: and please be brutally honest.


raw dawg

Nice beginning, you made me want to read more.

the rev

No, you were not too brutal! I appreciate the feedback. I've gotten to a point in my writing where I want feedback as honest as possible. I am pushing myself and my work to be the best it can be.

Yeah, the chapter is more of a prologue but I hate calling things "prologues." I have not been happy with the flow of this chapter and have tooled away on it so much I cannot read it anymore, so I am looking for a little direction and/or signs that I'm on the right track.

I appreciate it, guys, I'll try to post some more.

RD is right, can''t you just tell us he ending? I liked it, makes me want to read more. At least two more chapters, thats the chance I give a book before putting it down.


"Why the mention of the cops?  Why would they be there before him? "

Good point, but if he didn't mention the cops it would be just a guy going to church.

Thanks guys. Three chapters, eh? I'll post some more. It all still needs a lot of work but I think I'm moving in the right direction.

Here's an ending, just in case:

"You Nathan Gallows?"


"What's with all these unpaid parking tickets?"

"I... I'm so sorry."

Haha, my chance to be brutal! j/k

I love literature. The important thing to remember is there are no standards. People laughed at Mark Twain for having uneducated writing and they criticized Hemingway for being choppy--so remember that when I put in my 2 cents, it isn't worth any more than that.

1. The first issue that needs to be resolved is, what genre is this? Horror? Murder-mystery? Or, I fear, literary?

2. If this is genre writing (i.e., not literary) than the style of writing is fine, if a little verbose. Plot-driven stories should be driven by the plot. That seems obvious, but this prologue/chapter offers too little in way of events if this is supposed to be plot-driven. Also, if this is genre, consider looking into the advice of Elmore Leonard: easy on the adverbs, rewrite something if it sounds like "writing," never write dialogue with anything other than "said" and never modify "said" with any adverbs, concentrate on plot, not description, and so on.

3. If this is not genre--that is to say, literary--than stylistic changes must be made. Literary fiction is perhaps the most difficult to teach, because there are no formulas and no concrete rules for the use of the language (compare the disparate writing of, say, Joyce and Hemingway). In the space of this thread, I cannot help you (and any other help would still be, perhaps, a corruption of your style).

Thanks, Sway. It is indeed genre fiction, a crime story. I thought I'd just drop it on here sight unseen to see if this first prologuish chapter enough could spark a reader's interest, sort of to see if it could produce a picked-it-up-in-the-bookstore-and-decided-to-keep-reading reaction. It still has a long way to go. I've produced the entire manuscript and I'm in the process of rewriting.

I posted chapter two further down, how 'bout a little feedback? (Or, as much as one can give without knowing anything else - cover letter, synopsis - about the story.) I'm really just looking for feedback on the flow, whether it sparks interest, whether it answerds the critical question, "Would you keep reading?"