An Exaltation of Larks, by Suanne Laqueur, is the grand-prize winning book in the 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. It bested more than 2,300 entries from 55 countries across eight categories to take home a prize package that includes $8,000 and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. For complete coverage of this year’s awards, check out the March/April 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest.
Below, read the opening passage from our grand-prize winner,
An Exaltation of Larks.
The doorbell rang at three in the morning.
Alejandro Penda was awake immediately, sitting up in the double bed in his parents' room. Clementina, his mother, was slower to rise, her silhouette big and round in the moonlight.
The bell rang again. Alejo moved as close as he could to Clementina, his arm creeping across her pregnant belly.
"Cálmate, hijo," she whispered.
"It's a friend."
"Papi said friends ring the doorbell," Alejo whispered. "Soldiers and police bang with their fists."
"Get up," Clementina said, throwing the covers aside. "Come." She pulled on a robe, tied it above her stomach and stretched hands to her son. "Ahora, Alejito."
She pulled him toward her closet and pushed him inside.
"Stay here," she whispered as the doorbell rang again. "Just to be safe. It's me they want, anyway."
She shut the door. It was pitch dark within, a pillowy, inky blackness Alejo could sink his fingers into. It stopped up his ears, making the sound of his own heartbeat enormous, like an angry fist pounding on a door.
Friends ring the doorbell.