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Be My First Chapter Beta Reader

I am currently undertaking the daunting task of reading my entire novel out loud to myself.  As I’ve discovered with my vampire short story series, and even the second book to the Akasha Series, ‘Air’, this method works wonders for catching hard to spot grammar/spelling mistakes and awkward sentences.  Although ‘Water’ has been on the market since September 2011, I haven’t yet put it through this process.  I have vowed to have this done by the time we go to Canada for our kid’s spring break trip (better get a move on because that is next week). Anyway, by the time I finished reading the first chapter out loud, I decided it needed a complete rework.

Whether you have read ‘Water’ yet or not, I would very much appreciate your input on the short 637 word excerpt below.  Does it grab your attention? Do you want to find out more? Does the dragon analogy work? If you have read ‘Water’, should I just stick with what is already there? Please leave your comments and thank you!!!

Chapter 1: Avalanche 

I leaned forward.  The board strapped to my boots responded.  Slicing through the fresh powder, I made a sharp curve to the right.  A quick glance uphill showed the wave of snow had almost tripled in size, and it was about to catch up to me.

More than anything else, it was the noise that pumped me full of adrenaline.  Like the roar of an angry, unrelenting dragon; breath stinking of the earth churned up in its path.  The entire right side of the unmarked backcountry trail was a wall of thick trees, impossible to break through.  I pulled my toes up, arching back to the left side of the trail.  But I wasn’t going to make it.  The dragon’s spittle pelted me on the back of my neck, sending chills down my spine.  Instead, I pointed my snowboard straight downhill and put all my weight on my forward leg, hoping to outrun the beast.

I willed my board to go faster than I ever dared before.  The avalanche was faster.  The dragon opened its mouth wide, closing in on me from both sides and overhead, blocking out the bright blue sky and the trees to the side of me with its gray jaws.  The slope beneath me cracked and slithered forward, like the monster’s forked tongue.  As the force of nature dropped over me, I closed my eyes and threw my arms around my head.  My screams were lost deep inside the creature.

Completely engulfed, I moved with the dragon.  The whole of the trail had transformed into its body; an agitated, unstoppable river of churning snow and debris.  The world became darker and darker, the snow heavier and heavier.  Flashes of light were few and far between.

When I gasped for air, I was sometimes rewarded with a clear breath but more often than not I sucked in a mouthful of snow.  Hacking to rid my throat of the slush, I came to the awful realization that I was drowning on dry land.

My hands, flailing for something solid to hang onto, finally caught hold of a tree.  Small as it was, it held fast against the merciless rush of snow.  I fought against nature, literally holding on for my life.  I wrapped myself around the trunk as two large branches just above me ripped away and disappeared in the churning white waves, along with my screams.  I squeezed so tight the rough bark scratched at my arms and cheek.  The scent of pine was strong, and I inhaled deeply as though the scent alone would keep me tethered to the tree.  I willed the roots to be strong.

They were, but I was not.  My grip started to loosen as my tired muscles and numb fingers were unable to hold on against the rushing snow.  I lost the stable trunk and returned to the tumble of snow.

I came to a halt just like the rest of the debris of the Canadian mountainside.  A small air pocket had formed, allowing me to spit out the coppery taste of blood.  Suffocation couldn’t be too far off, encased in an immobile block of ice as I was.  Feeble attempts at movement proved useless.  Silence settled in on me as I heard the last of the snow come to a halt above me.  Tolerating its crushing weight because I had no choice, I was left as I always was – alone.  Most of the time I preferred it that way; people were nothing but annoying.  But annoying or not, having someone who at least knew of my vacation plans would have been welcome.

As the numbness slowly receded, pain returned to one hand.  I wiggled my fingers.  They were free, possibly above the surface.  I grimaced.  Great – at least the wolves would find me.  Closed casket for me.

Where Have All the Bees Gone?

They’re dead. Well, not all of them – but give it ten years. Please don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to turn my blog into a consistent rant about environmental issues. I will only do that occasionally. This is one of those occasions.

In researching for the third book of the Akasha Series, ‘Fire’, I came across the plight of bees and will of course, highlight this in the book. So of course, I turned to Claudia Christian, author of the Alex the Fey Series, organizer of Twitter bookmarket chats, resident of my home state of Colorado, and beekeeper. Soooo many reasons to love this lady!

Anyway, on to the bees:

Question 1 – What is the cause of the disappearance of bees?

Claudia: It’s the pesticide. Period. The pesticide weakens the bees’ immune system so they are susceptible to all kinds of disease. People can’t say it’s the pesticide because the creator (Bayer) is protected by their employees (Congress). It’s a very frustrating situation especially when they banned the pesticide in France and the “mysterious” disease disappeared.

Question 2 – Is the problem growing or decreasing?

Claudia: The problem is growing. It’s hard to conceptualize but it’s not just bees. It’s all pollinators – wasps, hummingbirds, and bats are also ‘mysteriously disappearing.’ For example, there used to be many thousands of varieties of wasps in the US. These wasps have died out. Now there’s only a handful of the most aggressive forms of wasps live in the US. Another example is that the Bumblebee is expected to be extinct in the next 10 years. Further, the bat populations have declined at alarming rates. We hear about bees because they have ‘keepers’, but every pollinator on the continent is at risk.

Question 3 – Have you experienced these issues with your bees?

Claudia: Yes, we’ve been beekeepers for more than 10 years. The first 3-4 years were easy years. We had hives at 3 or 4 locations including my in-laws house in Durango, CO. Then it started, slowly at first, we saw some aggressive changes in our bees. We brought them back to our house and hive after hive died. We did everything we could think of, talked to everyone we knew, but fumbled over and over again. For the last 3-4 years, we’ve replaced hives almost every year. We lost all of our hives last year. Our healthiest hive was attacked by an aggressive feral hive (think about the wasp situation) and decimated. This is new behavior for honeybees, but not unheard of. I found beekeepers all over the country talking about this new aggressive robbing behavior.

Question 4 – Why are bees so important to the Earth’s ecosystem?

Claudia: Ok, think of it this way. Once upon a very, very long time ago, there were coniferous trees. They were fertilized by the wind. In somehow, some way, the ancestral bee was created. This bee and those who came, long before the alligator or the roach, created every single flowering plant in the world. Every. Single. Flowering. Plant. was created by the bee. Bats, hummingbirds, and the rest of the pollinators came after the humble bee created flowering plants to sustain them.

So, are honey bees important? Only if flowers are important, only if vegetables and seeds are important.

Question 5 – What would be your suggestions to helping Earth’s ecosystem by way of ‘bee’?

Claudia: Fix campaign finance. Seriously. I don’t mean to get all political, but Bayer owns Congress to the extent that at the Congressional hearings on CCD, researchers are not ALLOWED to mention the possibility that the pesticide is responsible for the death of pollinators in the US. And the first hear was AFTER the pesticide was banned in France and other European countries – and the bees had returned!

So… what do you do with that? The FDA and USDA are owned by Bayer. Congress is owned by Bayer.

And we continue to talk about it as if it’s a ‘bee’ problem.

So there you have it! The bee, *ahem*, pesticide problem. As with many other environmental issues, politicians and large corporations block the solutions. So what can we do about it? Make it an important topic with your local government representatives and in this year’s elections. Write congress, spread the word, buy organic. Get out there and save the bees! I need them for my stories…

A few extra websites that offer solutions are:

About Claudia:

Claudia Hall Christian is the author of the romantic serial fiction Denver Cereal, Ft. Worth’s hottest mystery, The Queen of Cool, and the fast paced Alex the Fey thriller series. She is the founder of the Open Grove and the Twitter chat #bookmarket.

She writes books and keeps bees in Denver, Colorado.

Connect with Claudia at her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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