For the past two weeks, I’ve published Prologues of two other local writers and asked the reader to try to determine the author’s intended message in these short passages.
For the final segment of this series on Why I Like Prologues, I’d like to review prologues from my B. J. Vinson Mystery Series, both published, awaiting publication… and one work in progress.
As noted previously, my prologues try to set the tone of the novels. They are normally short but packed with information for the discerning reader. Let’s look at some.
The Sangre de Cristos to the north and the Jemez Mountains on the west stood like massive, mute sentinels. An unforgiving sun high in the cloudless sky bleached the desert landscape brown and turned Interstate 25 into twin ribbons of glistening black tar. The white four-door Impala barreling down the highway pushed the speed limit—not enough to attract the attention of passing cops but sufficient to clip a few minutes off the hour’s drive to Albuquerque.
A blue Mustang convertible closed the distance quickly and then paced the white car. When the Chevy began its long descent down the steep slope of La Bajada into the middle Rio Grande Valley, the Ford muscled past in a burst of speed. Suddenly it swerved right, catching the front fender of the Impala and sending it hurtling toward the sheer drop-off beyond the shoulder.
In this Prologue of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, we meet no one, neither protagonist nor antagonist, but we are alerted to the fact this is likely a novel of action and danger. We know that lives are at risk with people willing to claim them through violence. We also get a sense of the New Mexico countryside in this omniscient point of view prologue. The narrative that follows is told in the first person, as are all of the books in this series.
Note: The photo shown here is the cover to the book that was published. My new publisher, Dreamspinner Publications is currently developing new art for their release of the book, presently scheduled for September.
A lopsided moon daubed wispy tendrils of scattered clouds with pewter. Glittering pinpricks of muted light smeared the Milky Way while moonshine bleached the barren landscape silver. Sharp-edged shadows shrouded the feet of mute, grotesque gargoyles of clay and sandstone: hoodoos masquerading as monumental toadstools, spheroid stones aping gigantic dinosaur eggs, and eroded clay hills with folds like delicate lace drapery.
A great horned owl soared above the high desert floor, its keen eyes scouring the panorama below. The plumed predator dipped a wing and veered eastward, attracted by the dull metallic shine of a large foreign object. Quickly discerning it represented no culinary opportunity, the raptor flew in slow, ever-widening circles in search of something more promising.
The huge bird’s flitting shadow startled two figures, interrupting their heated argument. Both glanced up quickly. Taking advantage of the moment, the larger man snaked a belt from his waist and slipped behind the other. He whipped the leather strap over his victim’s head, driving him to the ground with a knee to the back. After a short, desperate struggle, the man sprawled in the cooling sand ceased to resist. The violent tremors in his extremities passed, and he lay still.
Panting from his exertions, the killer rose and began the hunt for a suitable crevice to hide the body. It wasn’t difficult to find one in the unstable terrain of these remote badlands. Satisfied his cairn of loose stones and sandy soil blended well with the rest of this weird, other-world place, he turned and plodded toward his distant vehicle.
Does this set the tone for a book, or what? Murder in the wierd terrain of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness . We certainly don’t meet the protagonist (at least we hope not as he would be either dead or a murderer), but we certainly get a glimpse of the antagonist. This omniscient glimpse of blatant murder in such an unworldly landscape sure gets my interest.
Same disclosure on the cover art as above. No release date has been set for this book by the new publisher, Dreamspinner Publications, but is anticipated to be in January 2017.
M Lazy M Ranch in the New Mexico Boot Heel
The thief froze as a string of sharp yips hammered the quiet night. Both big Dobermans were darted and sleeping soundly out at the fence, so this yapper must be a house pet. A light flashed briefly as the back door opened. A fur ball with pointed ears bounded down the steps and made straight for him. The feisty canine latched onto his pant leg and whipped it back and forth, growling furiously. A growl was preferable to a bark, so he dragged his dog-impeded leg like a zombie in some old Hollywood movie.
As he reached the poultry pen, all hell broke loose. A single quack built into a raucous caterwauling. Someone must have flipped a switch up at the house because brilliant light suddenly flooded the enclosure. He reeled backwards, stunned by a sea of white. Ducks. Dozens of ducks. Hundreds. How was he going to find the right one?
The dog attached to his pant leg shifted its grip and closed on his ankle. Cursing, he gave an involuntary kick, sending the pooch over the fence. The ducks scattered, opening a circle of dark earth around the confused mutt. The pup transferred its attention to the birds and began a joyful chase, dashing this way and that, parting its panicked prey in dizzying waves of undulating white, creating a living kaleidoscope of shifting shades and shapes.
Then he saw her. In a coop all by herself. Like she was waiting to turn into a swan or something. A clamor from the house galvanized him into action. He vaulted the fence, threw open the cage door, and dragged her out by the neck. He ignored the claws raking flesh from his forearms as he fled through a horse corral at the back of the pen. He made it to the cover of some shrubbery before the ranch came alive. Moments later a woman’s agonized wail rose above everything.
Remembering he was to deliver the duck alive, he loosened his hold on the feathery neck. The bird immediately set up a loud protest that could have awakened the dead but wasn’t enough to overcome the clamor of the hundred or so other birds. He turned and headed for his pickup. Best get out of there before Millicent Muldren’s drovers filled him full of lead.
This Prologue from THE CITY OF ROCKS has no cover art as this is the novel presently awaiting its initial release, anticipated to be late spring 2017. In this passage, the reader is led to the conclusion that the "kidnapping" of a duck is a frivolous crime. Our hero, BJ Vinson, treats it as such until people start dying when he goes on the hunt for the duck. An unusual case for him.
The Lovely Pines Vineyard and Winery, Valle Plácido, New Mexico
An unmoving figure watched silently from the edge of the dark wood as blustery night winds raced through undulating evergreen boughs to brush rough-barked trees with feckless lover’s kisses. Littered leaves and pine needles trembled before gusts as if the Earth, itself, were restless. Advantaging an errant cloudbank obscuring the half moon, the intruder picked up a heavy cylindrical bag and breached a four-foot stone wall. The prowler crossed the broad lawn, pausing briefly before a brick and stone edifice to scan a white sign with spidery black lettering by the uncertain light of a small electric fixture trembling in the breeze.
THE LOVELY PINES VINEYARD AND WINERY
Valle Plácido, New Mexico Ariel Gonda, Vintner
Established in 1964 Fine New Mexico Reds
The wraith made its cautious way to a larger building at the rear of the stone house and took a small crowbar from the bag to pry a hasp from the heavy door. Hesitating only to make sure no alarm had been triggered, the black shadow vanished into the depths of the deserted winery.
This omniscient Prologue for THE CITY OF ROCKS, a book that has been accepted by Dreamspinner Publications to be released sometime in 2017, paints the picture of a mystery that takes place in a Winery in the small fictional town of Plácido, New Mexico. We meet someone, an intruder, but have no idea if he (if it is a he) is a protagonist or an antagonist or fits somewhere else in the story. This is the book I am working on at the present time, so there is no cover art—present or pending.
I hope this post and the two preceding it will cause you to pause and reconsider the use of Prologues in novels. As I said in the first piece, Prologues are considered passé. But as I cautioned then: What goes around, comes around.
Hope this was of some interest to you. Keep on reading, guys.
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New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.