First Lines Fridays – 8th January 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines of the story I am currently reading.

(This is a slight cheat in terms of these being the first lines from one story within a collection of short stories, rather than the first lines of the actual book.)

Just twenty feet from George, the polar bear reared up on its hind legs. It sniffed at the howling wind that smoothed its silvery fur. George stumbled backwards, feeling for the bear mace in his breast pocket. He pulled it out, closed his eyes and sprayed. Then a crosswind slapped it back straight into his face.

This wasn’t exactly how George’s evenings typically ended. Nor how he’d for a split second imagined his life might end. But his days usually did include a lack of good luck here and there. Like four days ago, when we invited him along with us to conduct field tests near Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. He’d forgotten to put on his sunscreen. Thankfully, that evening the medical officer confirmed he suffered only first-degree sunburn. And only yesterday, he got a light case of snow blindness when he lost his goggles on the way to visit our borehole testing site nearby.

Zuzanne Belec

The book is….

The story those lines were taken from is called Arctic Haze.

Book Description

Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness.

From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world.

With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?

In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise?

In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

In the Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.

Buy Layers here:

Add Layers to your Goodreads To Be Read list here:

Download a free story by Zuzanne Belec here:

You can download a free copy of one of Zuzanne’s stories, The Unadorned here:

About the Author

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.  

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing.  This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.

About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.  

Her debut collection, Layers: A Collection of Short Stories, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …

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