The “Look” Challenge

Had been looking for an excuse to post a teaser from my current work in progress and Jessica Fortunato has provided one for me. 😉 The only reason it has not been gracing my Works in Progress blog is that I am penning my submission for a short story anthology before resuming work on Thick As Thieves.

Here is how this challenge goes.

Take your current manuscript and find the first instance of the word “look”. Then post the surrounding paragraphs as an excerpt of the book on your blog. Lastly, tag five more blogging authors who you think would be a good choice for the game.

This story is titled “Lost Highway” and will be featured in the upcoming Nocturnal Embers anthology.


July, 1994

The sun bore such blinding brightness to it that Tony Marlin feared it would probably incinerate him where he stood. Of course, his second fear was that his sister would be the only one to miss him, which brought the realization that he was now irrevocably alone. Boxes surrounded him on all sides, the windows devoid of any curtains to block out the harsh rays of a summer afternoon. And the comfort of a ten year old’s affections was a small consolation weighed against the crushing loss he’d sustained.

Most of his possessions had been sold back in Joplin and the constant moving since then had stopped him from buying more than a futon and CD player. The same collection of books and discs had followed him from Joplin to Omaha; Omaha to Boise; and now, from Boise all the way to San Francisco. His progressive trek westward followed the path of jobs until even the smell of dirt and the feel of a hard day’s labor couldn’t offer much for the twenty-six year old.

Tony turned his back to the window and sat on one of the boxes, a beer in hand which had already started turning warm. The last pennies of severance pay his boss in Idaho had offered now jingled in his pocket as an urgent reminder that the cans of beans and ramen noodles would only last for so long. ‘Could always hunt a rabbit or two,’ he mused as his eyes settled on an out-of-tune guitar he hadn’t gotten around to learning how to play. The ghost of its previous owner still haunted him.

Are there even rabbits in this god-forsaken place?

There’d been rabbits in Joplin. Deer closer to Kansas. Areas where he ran which he would still know like the back of his hand three years after being exiled. The sound of a tornado siren still echoed in his dreams and the sight of Route 66 was still such a painful memory, he had headed north instead of south when he packed up and left. Evan had once said they should drive the entire length, from Chicago to Los Angeles, and Tony had started saving money behind Evan’s back.

At least it paid the security deposit for his apartment in Omaha.

Tony sighed and stood, walking over to the short counter separating the kitchen from his new living room and placing the beer bottle down atop its lacquered surface. A copy of the San Francisco Chronicle laid spread out next to it, with circles drawn in blue pen around the few jobs which seemed promising. Nary could a landscaping position be found in the blocks of blank ink, but Tony hadn’t moved to the coast for the work experience. It seemed a far enough distance to finally put the past behind him.

“I should sell that damn guitar,” Tony said, picking up the pen and twirling it around his fingers twice before setting it back down onto the counter. The threat had been levied with every new apartment, but each change of scenery had provided a place to land and the need never became urgent before the first paycheck was cashed. Other possessions made the chopping block long before the guitar ever seemed to. The wrist watch given to him for his high school graduation. The rope chain that choked him whenever he forgot to take it off first before shifting. He could always rid himself of the CD player, but music had been his one solace and when the music ended, so did the meaning to life.

It was the CD player or the guitar.

Tony frowned. Walking over to where he’d propped up the instrument, he lifted it into his hands and ran his fingers along the strings. The noise it produced could only be described as discordant, which symbolized quite a bit as far as Tony was concerned. Maybe it really was time to let the damn thing go.

“A loan,” he said, turning the guitar around to admire the rosewood overlay. The headstock boasted the name Taylor and it had been a pretty penny when it was purchased. A solid months’ pay, if Tony remembered correctly. “You an’ I’re too much alike, ol’ friend. You’re good company even if you don’t speak much.” He set it down upon the futon and turned back for the counter, snatching the newspaper in one hand and taking a better look at the circled listings. His parents had always told him never to stay down in the hole life pushed you, even if they helped with the initial kick.

“You’ve got thirty days. Better make ‘em count.” Folding the paper, he stuck it in his pocket and rolled the sleeves of his button-down shirt back up to his elbows. The keys to his car rested atop the only other piece of furniture – a coffee table he’d found by the side of the road in Omaha – and made a home next to his change as he shoved them into his jeans. As the front door shut behind him, Tony held the guitar by the frets and thought of a song sung to him once when times were better.

I got a feelin’ called the blu-ues, oh Lawd, since my baby said goodbye…”


Alright, now… tagging:

  1. MR Graham
  2. Justine Dee
  3. TJ Whelan
  4. Ke-Yana Drake
  5. Steven Luna

The rest of this story shall be made available sometime in November, when the Crimson Melodies Nocturnal Embers anthology is released. 🙂

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About Connor

Peter Dawes is the pen name of USA Today bestselling author of dark and historical fantasy, Connor Peterson. Local to the Philadelphia, PA area, Connor is the wordsmith behind the Vampire Flynn and Deathspell series and has also contributed to the story cycle Red Phone Box (published by Ghostwoods Books) and the anthology Nocturnal Embers (published by Crimson Melodies Publishing). He is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, an active participant in the Philadelphia writing community, and volunteers as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month. While Peter Dawes is also the name of the fictional protagonist of the Vampire Flynn books, Connor assures the reader he is not now, nor has he ever been a vampire. (Any similarities are purely coincidental.) You can follow him on Twitter (@peterdawes) and Facebook (@AuthorPeterDawes), where he actively avoids being on time for any of his publication deadlines.

13 Responses to The “Look” Challenge

  1. MR Graham says:

    xD Good thing I clicked this on FB. For whatever strange reason, I wasn’t following this blog.
    *reads and scurries to scour manuscript*

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  4. keyanadrake says:

    Isn’t that song at the end Gary Moore?

    I like it! I want to know more.

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