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Writing => Critique Group Central => Topic started by: wannabe1 on January 25, 2011, 02:39:36 PM

Title: Looking for a beta reader for my thriller -
Post by: wannabe1 on January 25, 2011, 02:39:36 PM
I've been working on my thriller for a long time and realize what I am really lacking is for someone to read my story and tell me where it fall down. I will, of course, be happy to swap. My manuscript is about 90,000 words long. If you are interested, please e-mail. Just click on my name to see my e-mail address. Below is my first chapter as a sample of my work.

A succession of tremors shook the jumbo jet violently. What the hell, Bill thought, tasting blood. He pressed his fingers against his lip to stem the flow. He’d been rehearsing his marriage proposal to Nora, trying to find just the right words. Another bone-jarring shudder rattled through the plane as it plunged toward the ground. Bill felt his body lift out of the seat and then push hard into it. Clear air turbulence, he thought. No, the plane was not acting as if being buffeted by strong winds. This was something far more serious. As if his thoughts had been transmitted to the other passengers, their chatter became screams of fear.

The plane leveled and banked hard to the right. Bill relaxed his grip on the armrests. Too many years of perilous experiences taught his body the trick of staying calm. Looking around, he caught sight of the outboard engine. Thick black smoke almost masked the harsh yellow-blue flame streaming out. Sure as hell isn’t clear-air turbulence. Could it have been a bird strike? No, too high for that. What could do that to an engine? As the ground rushed toward them, the neat fields that made up the countryside outside Istanbul became clear. The plane can easily fly on the three remaining engines, that’s if the pilot doesn’t panic.

A horrible whistling noise drowned out the screams. Bill felt his ears pop as he turned to see an airline blanket sucked halfway out a crack in the double-paned window three rows back. With the decrease in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks dropped from their overhead compartments. The passenger’s screams grew more frantic. Bill’s eyes refocused on the yellow plastic mask dangling in his face and pulled it over his nose and mouth. Taking a deep breath, he was rewarded with the calming effect of the oxygen-rich mixture. He hoped it would do as much for the other passengers. Another breath cleared his mind and countless images flashed through his thoughts. All at last resolved into an image of Nora. Only a week ago he had received her phone call. She was traveling to Turkey. A friend had invited her to take part in his dig in Ephesus. Now she was inviting Bill to join her. Would he ever see her again?   

A loud crash brought his attention back to the main aisle of the first class cabin. A flight attendant wrestled with the portable oxygen tank she was lifting from the floor. After fumbling with the straps, she got the tank seated on her back and donned the mask. She began moving from passenger to passenger. They sat frozen as the attendant pulled on their masks. Finished in the first-class cabin, she disappeared into economy.   

The nose of the giant plane dipped once more. The increasing shudder set off a new round of screams. Bill turned to his seatmate to see if she needed any help. Expecting to find a hysterical person, the unruffled look of the lovely young woman surprised him.

“What happened?” She asked in a casual voice as she rubbed sleep from her eyes and carelessly pulled on her mask.

Before Bill could answer, the plane shook again. Overhead compartments sprang open. The contents spilled out onto the passengers. Cries of pain merged with those of fear. 

Looking past the woman, he peered through the window at the large plume of black smoke continuing to erupt from the shattered engine.

“The outboard engine caught fire,” he yelled, his voice muffled by the mask. “There must have been some kind of explosion.”

The young woman turned toward the window. The rate of decent forced more air over the wing, briefly clearing the smoke.

“More than an explosion, I think.” she announced, lifting her mask for a moment. She spoke as though she knew exactly what she was looking at.

The nervous voice of a flight attendant interrupted their conversation. She told the passengers that, although the plane had sustained some damage, the pilot was in complete control. She quickly explained crash positions the passengers might be asked to assume. She reminded them to remain buckled in and to not get up until they were told it was acceptable to do so. After she clicked off the PA, the passengers began another round of mumbling, this time with a greater amount of agitation as their situation began to register in their minds.

“What in the world do you mean?” Bill asked, resuming their conversation. “Maybe it was a bird. I’ve heard that kind of thing happens more than is reported.”

“No bird,” the woman replied confidently. “Take a closer look at the damage. Can’t you see the top side of the engine housing is still intact? Only the rear portion has damage. An explosion or the introduction of a bird would’ve caused damage all around the engine. There appears to be additional damage to the wing tip. This is not a rare engine failure or an avian collision.”

Bill could not believe they were having this conversation. The plane might crash at any moment and they were debating the probable cause of their impending death. Their eyes met for a second before he diverted his attention to study the twisted metal. 

Somehow, the pilot managed to bring the plane back to a level posture. Bill saw an attendant pull off her mask. We must be below 8,000 feet, he thought, pulling off his own mask. The smoke was still being drawn off very quickly, allowing him to see that the top of the engine housing was still intact.

“We must be close to landing.”

The level flight of the plane had a soothing effect on the passengers. Their screams reduced to quiet mumbling. The dark eyed woman allowed the corners of her lips curl into a thin smile.

“It appears Yagil has regained control of the plane.”

“Who?”

“We suspected an attempt might be made during the flight. We arranged for one of our people to take the pilot’s seat. Yagil is a very competent military pilot.”

“Your people? What are you talking about? Who are you?”

Before the woman could respond, the wheels hit the ground hard. Whatever loose objects not already fallen came tumbling out of the overhead compartments. The silence in the plane now filled with a loud round of applause and noisy conversation as the passengers realized their terror-filled experience was over. The brakes and the reverse thrust of the three remaining engines at last stop the plane’s forward motion. Bill reached for his carry-on just as the lead flight attendant began speaking.

“Please, everyone remain seated. The plane is not yet at the gate. The fire is out and you are all safe. There is no need to use the emergency slides. There will be fire trucks and other emergency vehicles here in a moment. This is just a precaution. The authorities will also be arriving shortly. A preliminary inspection of the damage must be made prior to us being given clearance to approach the terminal. I assure you that every effort will be made to allow you to deplane as soon as possible. Please remain in your seats and keep your seatbelts secured. Thank you.” The nervous trill in the flight attendant’s voice was transmitted to the passengers, whose anxious murmurs once again grew in intensity.

Bill watched a number of vehicles come racing toward the plane. In a matter of moments, they were surrounded by fire trucks, ambulances, airport police vehicles and a number of other cars. Men aboard two fire trucks spent minutes pumping thick white foam all over the wing. Convinced their work was finished, the firefighters drove off, only to be replaced with two mobile stairways.

Several people ascended to perform a preliminary inspection. Bill was sure the section of wing and the ruined engine would be torn apart for a thorough examination once the passengers deplaned. After inspecting the engine from below, two men climbed onto the wing. Hanging over the trailing edge, they studied the damage carefully. Several minutes went by before one of the men looked up and signaled to someone on the ground. All the inspectors climbed down and the mobile stairways were pulled back.

The plane began taxiing toward the terminal. A flight attendant again warned everyone to remain seated and belted in. The plane came to a stop far short of the terminal and a large gangway crept to the side of the plane. A moment later the hatch opened and they were allowed to get off. As Bill and his seatmate passed the cockpit, the door opened and a heavily mustached man poked his head out, smiled, and returned a nod from the woman.

* * *
 
Nora collapsed onto the hotel room bed, trying very hard to dismiss the depressing feeling of another unproductive day. Counting more than twenty years of archaeological fieldwork, the lack of discovering even a tiny pottery shard was difficult to accept. Finding a comfortable position on the lumpy mattress, she began considering her next move. It was going to be another lonely evening. She knew her graduate students appreciated the informality with which she conducted the dig. Still, she was never invited to join them for their evening visits to the local attractions. She told herself she didn’t really mind. After all, at forty-three, she was old enough to be their mother. Ugh! What a horrible thought. Nevertheless, it was true. 

She could not stop thinking about the bad luck they were having – nothing had been discovered after nearly five weeks of hard work, Nothing beside an interesting oarlock design. Part of her job was to fire up her student’s interest in archaeology. The last thing she wanted to do was allow them to become disenchanted. Most of the boat they were working on had already been uncovered by a group she led during a previous dig. Before leaving for Tunisia on her current grant, she had gone over all the details with this new group of students. They knew what to expect, but still held out hope to make their own discoveries. The dig was turning out to be a bust. The second one Nora recently racked up. It bothered her personally and would have a big impact on her future capacity to obtain choice grants.

Dismissing her unhappy thoughts, Nora turned her attention to the two letters delivered to her by the hotel desk clerk. The first was from a colleague, working on a dig in what had once been the thriving seaport at Ephesus, Turkey. A week ago, she had sent him a copy of her preliminary report and this must be his response. She tore open the envelope and read her friend, Hank’s correspondence. Her excitement grew as she carefully reread the note. He claimed to have found a similar oarlock design on the boat he was excavating. Such a find, by itself, was of little importance. But, she knew if it could be dated to the same period of her find, it could have great significance. It could go a long way proving a pet theory of Nora’s. She believed that merchants from the ancient city of Carthage traveled the trade routes all the way to what is now Turkey. The best part of the note came at the end. Hank was inviting her to join his dig. She might at last have an opportunity to prove her theory. 

The second letter was from the university. Her supervisor reminded her that her grant would run out in another week. If she could not produce anything that would allow an extension, he would be obliged to close out the grant. In view of their unproductive work and the letter from her colleague, this was fine with her. Nora had already decided not to ask for an extension. She would have to tell her graduate students, but she had a feeling they had already guessed her decision. There would be other opportunities for them to get more field experience. She was already in preliminary negotiations for a dig at Machu Picchu and was sure her students would want to join her.

Leaning back, she began thinking about her boyfriend, Bill Johnson. She missed his companionship, not to mention the feeling of his strong arms surrounding her in an affectionate embrace. More than that, she wondered if he had at last decided to propose. She was sure he would, three months ago when they both managed to steal some time from their jobs. But he never brought it up. She decided to invite Bill for a visit once she was settled into Izmir, a mid-sized city not far from Ephesus.

She knew how much he hated office-work and hoped he had completed the training his second in command. With Bill’s background in military intelligence, the CIA, and as a mercenary, it was logical for him to begin his own security business. However, he never expected there to be so much tedious work. He was and always would be a man of action.

Walking to the desk, Nora passed the large wall mirror. Still firm in all the right places, she smiled. Her tan body was lean and muscular. It was all the fieldwork, she told herself. Nora felt she still had every bit of her youthful appeal. Sitting at the desk, she dashed off a quick note to her supervisor, concurring with his decision not to extend the grant. She took more time writing to her colleague. She explained how delighted she was to accept his invitation. She also mentioned that her current grant was satisfied, so the timing was perfect.

The dim room light, peeling wallpaper, dusty curtains, and tattered rug made the room so much drearier now that she had new plans. With little else to do, Nora quickly stripped off her clothing and took a relaxing bath. Thankfully, the room was equipped with an old claw-foot tub instead of the small shower most of the rooms had. After toweling herself dry, she opened the window, hoping for more than the unbearably hot, humid breeze. Pulling up the thin blanket, she was soon fast asleep, dreaming about being in her lover’s arms.