My Book: Chapter One

8 06 2011

I am lucky enough to be represented by a top-notch literary agent, Jessica Faust of BookEnds, LLC. With her guidance, I’m telling my story, the story of my family, the generations of women affected by the breast cancer gene. I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago, after I’d finished treatment for Stage 1 breast cancer. Jessica and I then had a pow-wow and went over the areas I needed to rework. I’ve just about completed what Jessica needs to “shop” my book to a publisher. I’ll be turning in the new chapters and proposal on Friday. In the meantime, Jessica has granted me permission to share just one chapter with my blog audience. Something you should know before you begin reading: I am calling it a “Suspense Memoir.” And if this genre didn’t exist before, it does now.

Chapter One
I woke up face down on the ground, covered in something green and slimy. There was a clump of it in my hair, hanging down onto my forehead, another wrapped tightly around the fingers of my right hand, a third clinging to my right knee. I remember thinking that it felt like the bowl of icy, unpeeled grapes I’d once plunged my hand into at a makeshift haunted house.

I don’t know how or why that memory came to me at that moment. But there it was – the bowl, the young girl dressed like a Ghoul, a hood shrouding her face, the sounds of zombies and their screaming victims turned up so loud they hissed through the overtaxed speakers from the back of the garage. I remember how the little Ghoul grabbed my left hand and forced it into the bowl, then leaned in to me and whispered, “Gen-u-whiine Eye of Newt.”

I lay there, my nose in the soil, taking in shallow breaths, afraid to turn my head to the left or right. There was dirt on my lips and on my tongue. I could feel the grit on my teeth. I lay that way for what felt like a moment, but could easily have been an hour. Maybe longer. It was a dark, starless night, a night with no point of reference, no use, no care for time.

I was clamped by fear. Held in place like a chunk of wood in a vice, that big, old, clunky tool that sat on the edge of my Dad’s greasy basement workbench. The one that’d hold a piece of lumber to be sanded or metal to be bent. When I was a little girl, I used to test it, swinging the arm round and round to see just how tight it could get, stopping only when the arm quit mid-cycle, couldn’t budge any further.

I tried to suck in a breath. I waited. And I listened. The earth was cool and damp. The air was still. The acrid scent of decaying leaves entered my nostrils, that, along with the pungent smell of manure.

I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate. No sound. Not a Barn Owl or the buzz of a mosquito homing in on tender skin, the promise of a good meal on a humid mid-summer’s night.

I knew then that it was too quiet. There was a void. A blackness. Like time had ceased, the very life sucked out of it.

I turned my head to one side and dared to open my eyes. I reached out and began to cautiously pat the ground around me. I felt something strong, thick coming up from the earth. I followed it, running my hand up as far as I could reach, maybe a foot, maybe two. I touched another. Then another. The next one was bent, broken, lying on the ground. I moved my fingers up the strong stem to the silky, stringy top. It felt like the tassle on a graduation cap.

Corn. I was in a cornfield.

Oh my God! Not again!

My heart began pumping so hard my chest hurt and for a moment, I felt disoriented. I brushed the soggy leaves from my forehead and reached down to pull them from my right knee. Beneath them, my skin was warm and wet; sticky. Blood. I’d been bleeding. I must have fallen. Had I been running?

That’s when I heard them. Helicopter blades, slicing through the preternaturally quiet night sky like the sails of a large ship, whipping in a violent storm at sea.

Then suddenly, I was bathed in an intense white light. A spotlight. And I knew.
The enemy was in pursuit.

I squinted. The helicopter made a pass, the blades whipping up a breeze that stirred and rattled the corn husks as they rippled and swayed. Had I been spotted? Then the sound of the blades faded as the helicopter moved off into the distance.

I dragged myself into the row of corn and lay there, my legs wrapped around the stalks, face down in the dirt, my arms above my head, scarcely breathing, trying desperately to blend in. I felt the sting of a half-dozen mosquitoes dining on my arms, my legs, my neck. I willed myself not to move.

I remembered this cornfield. I remembered it all too well. The enemy had found me here once before, five Harvest moons ago.

But how? How had it found me a second time, after all these years? After all I’d done to evade it? To disguise myself? To vanquish what it was really after?

The first time, it’d taken body parts in trade for my very survival, and I’d gladly given them up. I’d fought back with all I had. It’d been taken from my body, examined, then destroyed. I’d hit it with the most toxic, targeted chemicals known. Its weakness. Its Kryptonite. There wasn’t supposed to be a second time.

I heard the copter circling back, the spotlight illuminating a wide swath in the dark of the night. It passed over me once again.

I dared look down to examine myself. I was clad in a ripped, muddied, white tank top. My chest wall, covered only in a thin, tight layer of skin, showed through. My artificial nipples made indentations in the thin, damp cotton. I was wearing a pair of boxer shorts so thread-bare that the material was nearly transparent. I’d seen them once before. Only once. Last time.

The chopper blades hovered overhead, loud and unyielding. The corn stalks stirred frantically, violently in the windstorm. Together, they sounded like a thousand metal marbles rolling down a playground slide. The enemy was closing in. I pushed my nose even further into the dirt, holding my long blonde hair tightly to my head. I held my breath. I lay perfectly still. No use. The spotlight, the enemy locked in on me.

It must be the boxer shorts. I tried to pull them down, get them off, fling them far into the field. But I couldn’t even manage to wriggle them to my knees. They clung to my skin like they’d been painted on.

On the front, they were a seemingly innocent blue and white plaid. But the back. I knew what was on the back.

A bulls eye.

The chopper was circling, looking for a place to land among the cornstalks. The spotlight blinded me; the roar of the engine deafening as it closed in, ready to make its vertical descent.

It had found me. Again.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson




23 responses

8 06 2011

I am so looking forward to reading more chapters….great start! Amy Rauch Neilson the first famous person i know 🙂

8 06 2011
brian Murphy

Wow! What an opening!!!!

8 06 2011

And then what happened? Good job Amy, keep up the good work.

8 06 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. And that just gets so messy and complicated.

8 06 2011

That was so amazing! Can’t wait to read the book!!! I have not been thru breast cancer, but similar things where I have felt the enemy finding me more than once……and trying to get away. I could really relate to what you were saying. God bless you.

8 06 2011
Mark Robertson

I hope you’re packing an RPG when this story continues.

8 06 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

So excited to read the whole book and can’t wait to see it in print! Very proud of you and all your strength and courage! On top of that, your sense of humor is contagious and brightens all around you !!

8 06 2011

Wow! I think I just read the first part of a future best seller!

8 06 2011

=-) Ewe da best.

8 06 2011
Jennifer Fink

Wow, wow, WOW, Amy! This is so incredibly powerful. THIS is a story that can sell (and I feel bad even saying that, knowing that you had to live through all of this to get the story). But you, Amy, have a knack for helping others feel what you feel. That intro is so darn descriptive, so real, that the reader can’t help but be pulled into your journey. Good luck!

8 06 2011
Laura Kasischke

If II had the whole thing in front of me, I wouldn’t have time to write this to you because I wouldn’t be able to stop reading. What more could one ask of a first chapter?

8 06 2011
Roxane Dikeman

Amy, your beginning is absolutely a grabber! with wonderful imagery and emotion. Being a farm girl who has spent many hours in corn fields, I could TOTALLY put myself in that setting. I am saving my nickels and dimes NOW to buy this book. Great job!
Love and Peace.

8 06 2011

WOW – that’s all I can say!!! WOW!!!

8 06 2011
Scott Orwig

Love it! I think I know parts of what happens next, but I can’t wait to read it. And I don’t want the story to end for a long, long time.

Give us more!

8 06 2011
Susan Ager

So glad to see this moving again!

8 06 2011
Rita O'Connor

Ah Amy darlin’…..that’s my girl! Love, Mom Reet

8 06 2011
Alice CFW

What a great debut! Can’t wait to read you more….
Keep climbing!

8 06 2011

Wow…can’t wait to read it all! You are a beautiful writer of words!

8 06 2011

Can’t wait to read the whole book Amy, such a powerful beginning. Love it. 🙂 xoxo

9 06 2011
Nancy Allison

OMG! You have such a way of telling a story. I don’t think I breathed the entire time I was reading your opening chapter. I can’t wait for the publication of this book. You are simply an awe-inspiring woman/wife/mother. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

9 06 2011

Wonderful, Amy! I almost didn’t read this since you were kind enough to share some of your book with me last fall so I figured I’d already read it – not the case at all. This will absolutely catch a publisher’s attention!

9 06 2011
Helene Rabinowitz

You just knock my socks off Amy. What a powerful opening. You reach into the depths of your own trauma and translate it into universal fears so that we can all relate to your personal story and be drawn into your journey. It has been said before, but WOW!

10 06 2011
Hanna Shapira


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