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andersm
andersm's picture
Practice

Alex’s first stop was the sentry tower midway along the fortified double wall on the north side of the castle. He climbed the long winding stairs to the lookout and he was nearly out of breath by the time he reached the top. He knew the sentry heard his approaching footsteps on the stone and he’d be keeping a wary eye on the stairwell.
The moment the top of Alex’s head was visible the sentry barked his challenge, “Halt! Who goes there?”
Alex stopped. Another step without permission might get his head blown off. “Lieutenant Commander MacIver,” he replied in the clipped authoritarian tone he used for his official military duties.
“Do you travel in company or alone?”
“Alone.”
“Advance to be recognized!” the sentry commanded, his voice echoing inside the stone turret.
Alex warily moved up to the next step and then paused, cautiously swiveling his head to locate the sentry. He was acutely aware his civilian dress would excite suspicion and a man with a loaded gun aimed at your head was no one to be trifled with.
He finally located the sentry off to one side, eyes peering over the musket aimed at his head. The sentry studied him for several seconds and then propped his gun back on his shoulder.
“Proceed,” he ordered, satisfied Alex was who he said he was.
Alex recognized the sentry’s face but was unable to recall his name until he saw the missing ear lobe he’d been told had been neatly sliced off in a knife fight over a girl. He was one of Jacek’s innumerable relatives working as servants and soldiers around the castle.
“Good morning, Lukasz,” Alex spoke cordially.
He received only a curt nod of acknowledgement in return. As it should be, Alex reminded himself. A sentry reigned supreme in his watchtower and only his immediate superior held greater authority. In his civilian clothes Alex merited no special recognition for a rank existing only within the context of the military service signified by a uniform. Any consideration beyond simple courtesy was strictly at the sentry's discretion.
“This is an unofficial visit,” Alex felt compelled to explain, “I’m awaiting a call from Pan Bukowski to travel on his behalf. I came on impulse to determine if the visibility from our towers is sufficient that no one could hide within our perimeters without us knowing.”
While that was a truthful statement as far as it went, he still felt a twinge of guilt about the reason underlying his wish to know. His motive was impure, he thought, undeserving of the trusting respect of the soldier before whom he stood.
Lukasz motioned his head toward the wide port running along the north side of the turret. “Permission granted,” he said and resumed his watch.
Alex turned his back and walked over to the opening, anxious to remove himself from the sentry's eyes. He braced his hands along the ledge and leaned forward to survey the broad area spread out below.
The distant perimeter wall wound like a long gray snake encircling the castle, village, fields and pastures. Centuries of invasions by Cossacks, Tatars and Turks had made it necessary for people near the borderlands to hide behind protective barriers and fortifications. Tatar raiding parties, known as tchambuls, roved northward in search of slaves even during peacetime, seeking not only to find profit but also to preserve a wide uninhabited buffer zone between the Muslim Khanate and its hostile Christian neighbors. Death or kidnapping could burst out of the tall grasses of the steppe as suddenly and destructively as a river breaching its dyke.
The wall itself stood half again as tall as a mounted man and constructed of grouted fieldstone bristling with needle tipped iron spikes cemented into the cap. It could be easily scaled with a ladder but even if an attacker dodged the metal teeth biting at his face and hands, the moment he dropped inside he was snared in a thick tangle of brambles.
The brambles grew in long arching canes covered in barbed thorns that sloped downward so that once a man was among them he was caught like a mouse in a cat’s claws. As soon as the unlucky captive moved, the thorns penetrated his clothing and tore his skin. The harder he struggled, the deeper they bit, effectively halting movement unless he hacked his way out or was willing to have his flesh shredded. The wall and brambles would not stop an attack, but they would delay it long enough for the cavalry to mobilize and take the fight to the enemy in the open fields between the inner and outer walls where men on foot were helpless against a mounted charge.

andersm
andersm's picture
Follow-Up

It seems I can't indent the paragraphs. Tried a couple times but it wouldn't take.

As far as a preamble, Alex is a Scottish mercenary who has lived in Poland for several years. Militarily he has done well and he's risen to be the field commander of a private army of a Polish noble. In this scene he has come to a sentry tower with the sole purpose of using the vantage point to spy on a woman.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
WOW...Eager huh? : )

I'll get to this in a bit Marlene. Looking forward to reading it and first up? Way to go! The more I thought of doing so, the more I held back because of the "troll" factor that seems to rile people so. He most definitely seems to be the type to shred and insult for nothing more than a lack of ability to "create"....beyond stupid tirades that is!

Good for you though! And I will be posting up thoughts later today!
Now close your eyes and picture a tall. skinny dude bowing to your courageous leap into the void!
John

andersm
andersm's picture
Eager - yes!

I wish I could claim great courage but in fact I myself can see where edits are required. I have writing habits I need to break and even if I get 'trolled over" as long as I receive something that will make me better in the long run, then I can accept the gravel along with the gold. :-)

Being ignored would be the worst thing.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Way to go Marlene!

OK, I've read it! And I like it. Now comes the critique.

First a very, very minor thing that grabbed my attention right away. Your lead -Alex-states he "is awaiting a call". That to me immediately brings forth an image of a telephone or radio. Though the sentry is armed with a musket. Very minor point but to me, the word "call" creates a little confusion.

All in all I like it and the only thing I would suggest ( besides what you yourself see as edit matters ) is a more defined atmosphere. Granted, it is only one chapter presented on it's own...and that in itself has dangers in helping with the "big picture" but I find the lack of "air" taking away from the potential "sense" of the scene. No need for great detail in describing it but little things. Like when Alex climbed the stairs...is it a cold morning? Could he see his breath as he huffed and puffed his way upwards? Or was he sweating from the heat? Were the stones of the wall cold to the touch? Or warm in the morning sun? Gloomy start to the day? Pending showers? Blazing sunlight? The vast area Alex looked out and over? Green and lush from the new spring buds or faded browns and tans of the coming winter. Little things, I know, that may have all been set up in a previous chapter, but these little bits flitting in and out, to me as a reader, help create a valuable dimension, making me "feel" and just as importantly "see" what is happening in the tale beyond the characters, thereby placing them in a "real" space.

It's really tough doing this "critic" thing by the way Marlene and I hope you take it as it's meant. Honest, friendly and courteous.

So there you go! I hope my opinions as a reader were of value........PLEASE DON'T HATE ME! : )

And you are correct.....being ignored would be worse than anything!

John

andersm
andersm's picture
Thank -you!

John, you have been incredibly gentle and courteous – probably too much so.

Yes, it is tough giving feedback but always, always, it is the spirit and intent behind the words that matter most. It’ll get easier as we learn how to do it.

You made a good observation about using the word ‘call’ – it carries the connotation of a telephone call. ‘Summons’ is better as a messenger would be sent from the castle down to the officer’s quarters.

You make valid comments on the necessity of better describing atmosphere around the central character. More detail! I hear ya, I love lots of detail and it’s something I worry about overdoing because I lean heavily into wordiness.

I saw one place where there was a POV problem “…the moment the top of Alex’s head was visible….” This would be as seen by the sentry and since we are not in this character’s head, we wouldn’t know that.

There’s awkward wording here and there.

Next time I will give a much better preamble based on what a reader would already know at that point.

The passage I posted was only a scene – I think a chapter is going to be a bit too lengthy for this forum unless it’s a short one. I’ll have to see if we can upload a pdf and then we can post whole chapters.

Again, thank-you.

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Whewwwwwwwwwww! : )

The part about the top of Alex's head? That to me works fine because you stated just before that the sentry had his eyes on the stairway. Even Alex would have been aware of his head coming in to view, so I saw nothing wrong there.

It's hard to get a clear sense with a snippet from a story, so for me at least, little things make a more definite sense of space, if nothing else. Overboard is overboard but tiny things add up to "area". I find when reading that if I can slip into a particular "environment", cold, warm, wet, etc. etc. the other senses tag along.

If you take a standard vampire tale....hint at the dark, gloomy, damp surroundings.....the hoped for feeling of dread follows as the bloodsucker makes his way upwards from the bowels of his castle to begin his nightly hunt. The character is still front and centre but the area around him, makes him....him. And even in a short passage, that thickened atmosphere can hold a reader within it's grasp. Particularily if it only implied. Little bits at a time.

Well done and I'm glad I could help....if in deed that is what I have done LOL

John

So? We're still friends? : ) Cool!

andersm
andersm's picture
But of course, dahlink

We're absolutely still friends. Even if a reviewer rips my story or ideas apart, as long as it's not me personally getting beat up, I'm not going to be fazed. All I'd ask is that for every criticism, I get a useful suggestion how I can improve. That's the intent, isn't it?

What I learned:
1. You were kind - probably waaaay kinder than the excerpt deserved but a gentle start is good - make big deposits to the emotional bank account (a la Steven Covey) because at some point you'll have to make a withdrawal. :-)
2. I need to set the stage properly - the reader is handicapped without knowing the context and having the proper background. Certainly true for a scene, perhaps less so for a chapter.
3. Cut and paste has some limitations. A little of the formatting was lost. (paragraph indenting)

Anyway, we're on the board and we'll keep kicking this around.

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Naaaaa!

What makes you think I was kinder than I should have been? Were you expecting to get shredded? LOL I don't do that no matter what. That stifles people. I never did it when I taught people how to work with glass years ago. Even though by rights, some probably should not have been there because they possessed little to no artistic abilities beyond a knack for copying what others had already done. But they found pleasure in learning how to work with glass....a VERY unforgiving medium. With no "undo's" : ) So, I would guide as best I could based on their individual abilities. No matter the limits they may have had ,( and a couple of them didn't seem to have any! ) they got enjoyment doing what they were doing, learning what they were learning and that is good enough. If I could help them, maybe make them more at ease, or just more adventurous in their approach and step beyond "the standard" in that particular art form...I was happy too.

As far as the actual posting etc. goes, I'm sure that will become more streamlined in time.

John

PS. I'll be "throwing" something up shortly myself. I just have to get through my present edit issues. Another tale to shop around that I want to get out and about this week.

Splynter
Splynter's picture
all gone for now! : )

all gone for now! : )

andersm
andersm's picture
At a glance

I copied the story into a Word document and I will go over it in detail. It will take a couple days.
Quick overview

Strengths:
-a compelling story. it's interesting and holds my attention
-good descriptive language that takes you to the time and place

Opportunities for improvement
-some structural and stylistic bugs
-some habits that intrude on the flow

And that's all for the moment based on about twenty minutes of review.

I will give you the full meal deal once I can spend more time on it. I will put comments right inside the body of the story so you can see what I'm referencing more clearly. I can try posting it here but I don't know how well that will translate to this forum. Perhaps I can just e-mail you the comments along with the story when I get it done.

Overall, the most important thing is you have storytelling talent. Anything getting in the way of putting that story forward in the best manner possible can be remedied.

That's it for the moment. Back to my accounting and bank reconciliations. :-)

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Critique

I look forward to your opinions and comments Marlene. It is a long passage and a work in progress so...hit me! : ) The email idea sounds good. If that's the way you want to do that.

Good luck with the accounting! Numbers, like the hi-tech stuff...gives me a nasty headache. Oh, I get it now! The hi-tech is binary! Numbers! Ha! Wadda ya know! : )

andersm
andersm's picture
On its way

I e-mailed my comments. I tried the copy and paste and lost some of the formatting that made it easy to pick out my comments. Soooo, I e-mailed it.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Got it!

I got it. Thanks Marlene. I'll be going over it in depth shortly. I'm just taking advantage of the small window I have here. Construction has played havoc with the phone lines etc. for a few days now....so the internet is hit and miss. Fun wow! Again, thanks for the review. Funny thing is, no sooner had I posted the chapter I began making changes to it due to seeing quite a bit of what you noted. I like the "vibe" but there are a lot of little things that need changing or improving on. Ahh...the joys of hammering out something as quick as you can whilst the image dances through your skull! Two finger typing no less! LOL

andersm
andersm's picture
Two fingered typing

Holy hole in a donut Batman! - that's amazing that you type with two fingers and you're a writer. Still, people used to scratch out novels with quill pens. The human desire for expression is boundless.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Yup!

A two finger typer I am. Two relatively quick, agile fingers! One day, one day....I may add a third just for fun!

Thanks, but hardly a writer yet....but I try! : )

andersm
andersm's picture
Whatever works

John,
If you can type at a speed to your own satisfaction, then that's all that matters.

I took typing as an easy elective in high school back before personal computers. Everyone in the class took it - boys and girls. Who knew it would one day be such a useful skill?

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Typing class?

My speed is no where near where I wish it was. But with two fingers and a third waiting in the wings? I'll get there!

Typing class? Oh no! Not back in my high school days. No proud, long haired, MetalHead dude would be caught dead in a typing class! Or home-ec! No waybe-baby, that was just not cool!.........BIG MISTAKE! LOL

andersm
andersm's picture
Beginning of a short story

Ok, if I can't entice anyone to comment on a piece from a novel, how about giving me some feedback on the beginning of a contemporary short story. I won't give you a preamble as it's the beginning of the story and should speak for itself. If it doesn't, I need to hear about it!

Short Story (no working title yet)

I met him at a gym in Grande Prairie, a small city in the middle of that oil-soaked region known in Alberta as Peace River Country. I was quietly going about my workout routine enduring the auditory assault of a bald gorilla in a muscle shirt grunting and blowing his way through ten reps of look-at-me. I stared at Magilla Gorilla as I clattered my hand weights back on the rack, wondering why some people insist on an audience. Was he looking for applause?
“Do you think he’ll birth a boy or a girl?” a pleasant male voice spoke behind me.
I turned and saw a sandy-haired man with friendly blue eyes. He was medium build and completely dressed in black from his filled out tee to the trainers peeking from the hem of his long pants. He stood with an easy posture, relaxed. Not the usual hyperactive type that generally inhabit gyms.
“By the sound of it, maybe Siamese twins,” I replied, picking up another pair of weights. A smile briefly touched his lips and he went on his way. A workout is an intensely introspective activity and serious practitioners don’t intrude on one another.
Magilla launched into round two, bellowing and puffing through another ten reps of advertised effort. Mid-way through the count he ripped out a loud fart and people scattered from his immediate area. Across the room the man in black caught my eye and gave a disgusted shake of his head.
I watched him as we went around our individual circuits. From a distance he looked much younger than the thirty-five years I’d guessed when he was up close. My own age. He was muscular, well proportioned for his height and moved with graceful purpose. If you glanced around a room full of men he’d be unremarkable but if you watched, then the picture changed. There was a strange stillness about him even when he was in motion. Like a man patiently listening to a story when he already knows the ending.
I finished my routine, showered and dressed in my street clothes. As I moved past the receptionist’s desk toward the exit I saw him leaving through the large double doors, still in his exercise gear. I almost called out to bid him goodbye but clamped my mouth shut. We were strangers who’d shared a space for an hour.
As I pushed through the doors a mud spattered Lincoln Navigator with tinted windows pulled up. It drew my attention only because you never see a Nav that looks like it actually works for a living. The man jumped in the back and it glided away into the September dusk.
The mystery man was not at the gym the next two evenings but on the third he appeared. He wasn’t there and then suddenly he was, dressed as before, stretching out ahead of tackling the weights. We nodded at each other. Friendly but not inviting.
The next two weeks the pattern repeated itself. We’d dip a head in silent greeting, maybe share a few seconds of conversation and go our separate ways. I was the only person to whom he spoke. Always pleasant. Always brief. Until one evening he lingered a little longer and introduced himself.
“Robert,” he thrust the name forward along with his hand. “Rob,” he amended.
There was nothing to do but grasp the proffered hand and complete the transaction.
“Sigbjoern,” I gave it a good lilting Norwegian roll off the tongue, anticipating a wide-eyed look of astonishment that never materialized. “Call me Sig.” I gave him the working version. The roughnecks had quickly chopped both the name and the arrogant young engineer down to a manageable size when I’d shown up from Calgary a decade ago. The men of the north respect nothing but competence. These sons of Martha battle hazards, machines and weather on a daily basis and they’re intolerant of pompous fools who think titles and degrees automatically win respect. You get one chance to address the error of your ways and I took it.
“I’m heading over to The Caravan after I finish here,” he said. The invitation was clear but there was no awkward pressure. It left a wide-open space for an easy out. No need to make up an excuse if I didn’t want to go. I made a quick assessment of my commitments. Catherine and our four-year old daughter Kayli were visiting her sister in Toronto and the work I brought home wasn’t urgent.

aaaaaa

The Caravan was a local lounge done up in the style of the fake warm-weather paradise ubiquitous in the north. It was based on the motif of a desert oasis and it sported a small waterfall, a pool with loose change glittering at the bottom and a couple of palm trees rising out of a riot of tropical plants. The only thing real was the water.
Rob and I went through the exploratory ‘what do you and where do you work’ opening males use to find common ground for discussion.
“Petroleum engineer, Norseman Energy,” I responded to his query. “You?”
“Surveyor with Tyndale Geomatics.”
“Where you from?” I knew the company wasn’t local.
“Vancouver. Up here to find a route to lay fibre optic cable through this country.”
“Really? So broadband is coming to the north. When do you think you’ll be in the ground?”
“Don’t know. We’re still mapping the route. Crawling through every last inch of ground looking for showstoppers,” Rob scooped a handful of nuts and popped one in his mouth.
“Lot of muskeg swamps,” I warned him. “And there’s a pretty radical contingent of environmentalists funded by God-knows-who that are going to make your life hell if anything’s disturbed.”
“Oh, we’re aware some people are touchy. That’s why we’re doing a preliminary study.”
A waitress in harem garb glided over to our table.
“Well, hey there, Sig,” she gave me a friendly smile.
It took a few seconds to recognize the woman under the long black wig and kohl-rimmed eyes.
“Geez, Sandy. It’s six weeks ‘til Halloween.” I laughed and dodged the hand that shot out to cuff my ear.
Sandy was around my age, one of those women born with the gift of handling smart male mouths and wandering hands in such a way everyone kept their dignity. She was an attractive woman who genuinely liked men. In this town full of young oilfield workers sweating under the strain of excess testosterone and cash she was worth her weight in gold to whichever establishment could persuade her to wait their tables. Her tips alone likely equaled my annual take home salary.
“What can I get you, gentlemen?” she looked appraisingly at Rob who pointedly returned the favour. Sandy was accustomed to being appraised. She had the body of a goddess and her outfit enhanced every female attribute nature had generously provided. I could easily believe her Friday and Saturday night tips totaled in the thousands.
We ordered our drinks and asked for menus. As soon as Sandy left I waited for the inevitable request for an introduction.
“Have they picked up any leads on those pipeline bombings?”
I stared at him blankly, completely taken off-guard by the unexpected question.
“I, uh, no.” I fumbled out a response, shifting my brain on the fly. I was prepared for a bit of bragging I’d once dated Sandy, not answer questions about pipeline bombs.
“You’ve got a lot of crude running down those pipes. Don’t you worry about your guys getting killed or even just a supply disruption?”
Norseman had made a major oil strike eight years earlier and was now one of the biggest producers in this area. It was a family owned business. My father had amassed a nest egg in the Norwegian oilfields and then sold everything and emigrated to Canada with his wife and infant son to make his fortune away from the tax hell of a socialist country. He’d gambled everything on this play and it paid off. There was never any doubt I would follow in his footsteps and the ink had barely dried on my engineering degree when I was shipped up north.
“I don’t think these bombings are anything more than just some disgruntled environmentalists trying to draw attention to their hobby horse. There’s never been any serious damage. More smoke than fire.”
“Maybe. But keep in mind smoke is often the first sign there is fire,” Rob rejoined
“What? You think there’s something more going on? Like what? Al Qaeda?” I laughed it off. People seemed to have this notion spooks and terrorists were crawling among the drill rigs looking to cripple Canada’s oil supply.
“I don’t know. Just sayin’. I’m only a surveyor.”
The guy was starting to make me a little uncomfortable. He was pressing the point a little too hard for comfort.
Sandy came up with our drinks and laid down our menus.
“Still some medium rare prime rib left if you’re interested in dinner.” She looked at Rob and then me.
“You up for dinner? I’m buying,” he fixed me with a serious look.
I debated whether I wanted that much to eat this time of night. I don’t sleep well on a full stomach and I need to be up by five for the long drive out to the field to go over the drilling logs with my seven o’clock cross-shift.
“Just bring me the prime rib, save the potato and give me extra salad,” I took the prudent course.
“Make it two,” Rob glanced up at Sandy who was looking at him like he was dinner.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
I'll be back!

Just gave this a quick glance. I shall be back! Got to shut down the computer for a while. It's gasping for a breather! I've been sending out queries to agents and it is NOT FUN! When you decide the time is right and you are ready to do so Marlene...be prepared for a headache! Big time!

Just a quick question though....Magilla? A real life encounter? : )

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
First Impression

Hi Marlene.
After the first stutter of finding Sig a male....he reads as female in the first bit, and the conversation/attitude between Rob and Sig almost feels like flirting, which added to my impression, I got into the flow and wanted to read more.

The mud spattered Lincoln Navigator made me smile. Perhaps because I live out in the country I would have used "almost never", because keeping a vehicle clean out here where the pavement ends is a real pain in the ass. I'm always wonder "how" folks can travel without getting their vehicles a custom mud camoflauge coating at every outing.

Sandy, Rob and Sig dynamic is interesting and I wonder where it is going.

(I told you I wasn't good at feedback)!
Vicki

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Marlene and the Gorilla

I have to agree with Vicki here. I read it and for whatever reason I too felt it was a male, female interaction in the gym setting. Then when Sigs partner and daughter were mentioned I immediately did a leap towards another possibility in sexual dynamics. Probably triggered by a flashback of my own to a girl I once knew named Sig in junior high. But I like it and I want to see where it goes. Mildly confused I may be ( LOL ) but I want to see how this plays out. And I developed an instant dislike for Rob. Got a bad vibe off of him right away. Maybe I'm just tired. I know my vision is blurred from the computer and all. : ) Keep it up! By the way.......a possible Surrey Short Story entry here? I'm considering doing something. You should too!

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Surrey!

I have been to the SiWC several times, and by all means enter the short story writing contest. First and foremost you get to be read by non other than our "Jack" and Diana Gabaldon. It is the best bang for your buck as far as conferences go. You can get feedback from writers, editors, agents and publishers. Not a few books have been published directly due to contacts made at the Conference.

I'm going again this year, not ready to submit anything, but with 8 or 10 sessions for each time slot, with panels, authors, or publishers discussing everything from sex to dialogue it is the best weekend in October! I'd love to meet up with y'all there! We might even be able to persuade Jack to join us for breakfast! Just sayin'
Vicki

andersm
andersm's picture
Surrey

I hadn't considered this story for Surrey - I had it started before the announcement came up. However, that said, I think I'll reconsider. It would be a treat to meet Jack in person and.....I have a friend who owes me a giant favour who lives in Surrey so I have a place to stay. :-)

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Chief Scott
I'm considering attending

I'm considering attending Surrey again this year. I went in 2010 and enjoyed it very much. I was also on a scouting mission, since I had taken up a role in preparing the 2011 Historical Novel Society conference. I figured that seeing how a long running conference puts things together would be a good thing.

This year I need to make a choice, however, between Surrey and attending a board of directors meeting for the HNS in Florida. I can't really justify two trips.

andersm
andersm's picture
Historical Novel Society

What do people do at a Historical Novel Society conference? Classes in writing techniques? Critique each other's work? It sounds interesting.

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Chief Scott
Welll...

There's a lot of hob-nobbing. Sure, we have panels and author sessions on everything library research to electronic publishing, but I enjoy just rubbing elbows with my fellow readers and writers where we don't ask each other the question, "What is your genre?" but "What's your era?"

My critique partner says I'm the best shmoozer in the HNS because I'll strike up conversations with anyone if I see them just sitting on the sidelines and I'll have to admit that I've made a lot of great contacts this way. This past year I even worked my way up to a first name basis with Diana Gabaldon. WOOT!

andersm
andersm's picture
Hob-nobbing

Having schmoozing talent is a big plus. Life is easier (and you learn a lot) by being able to get in front of people and just talk.

So - it seems the HNS conference is part social/part professional. A good time!

Congrats on getting to a first name basis with Diana Gabaldon. How many years did that take? :-)

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Cathy
Cathy's picture
But, but, but ...

If you don't come to Surrey, how are we going to get together for brunch again?

Chief Scott
I'm leaning...

towards Surrey :)

andersm
andersm's picture
*smiling*

Both of you are very astute - the story did start with the first person narrator tending toward female but I changed my mind when I got into it - for the sheer believability factor of how readers would accept a female in the role of where this story needs to go. I've worked in manufacturing and construction complete with steel-toed work boots and hard hats. I have good friends, also engineers, who work in the Alberta oil patch and yes they travel to oil batteries and work with the roughnecks. Yet, readers are still not going to buy it - too far outside their experiences.

I'll sharpen my pencil and work on that opening.

Thank-you to both of you for that feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Change it back to the female

I'd change it back to the female. This is 2012, there are female engineers in the tar sands that are tough and have had to fight their way into those jobs. It will add sexual tension, as well as corporate espionage tension.

Unless there is a different sexual tension slant that you are going for.... Well that is my two cents worth anyway.
You want to read some real strong female roles in the north? I'd suggest some of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak novels...any one of them.

andersm
andersm's picture
From Male to Female lead?

I'll have to ponder that suggestion for a day or two and determine how it might work. There's the believability factor but also the sexual dynamics play into things fairly heavily. The question is how to rework it. Give me some time and maybe I'll do a rewrite and see what you think when I change the gender of the lead.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Surrey?

I'm considering writing something but unfortunately, being way out here I won't be attending. : ( I'd love to have the oppurtunity to meet Jack. That would be cool. I guess I'll just have to "whip" something up and maybe find solice in knowing he may read it.

Heavy sigh!

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Way out here....where?

If you win, I believe they will pay your plane fare...not sure. A bunch of about 20 of us gather each year on the Thursday before the conference. Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte and Jay Clarke (aka Michael Slade) join us to raise a glass or two. This is a party for Diana every year and Jay came in thinking it was the Authors hospitality suite....he was kicked out...he regaled other writers with his story of being outed by an Amazon. The next year he got an official invitation and so did Jack and his lovely wife Beverly. We look forward to their company every year. I bring a couple of bottles of single malt (My favourite is Glenmorangie aged in sherry cask 12 year, but we also have another whiskey as well).
Now I can't swing an invitation to this shindig, but there is still Friday and Saturday. I stay at the same hotel as the conference so could host. Keep it in mind!

Cathy
Cathy's picture
Slade being ousted ...

That's funny - never heard about that before. I'm going to have to kid with him about it on his message board. I hang out there too. I'm a bonefide Sladist.

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Sladster

Don't encourage him!!!! *G*. I think it is one of his favourite stories to tell. That ione and the time he got pinched by his toilet seat.
He is a terrific speaker, I've read three of his books, a shade on the violent and "horror" side for me. His personal stories are amazing and he really rocks the podium when he gets up to speak.
Vicki

Splynter
Splynter's picture
OOPS!

That's funny. When I first read that, my blurry eyes saw "punched by his toilet seat"!

The images that flashed through my mind? Well no need to go into detail, but very, very slapstick! Maybe I should give the orbs a breather! : )

John

Cathy
Cathy's picture
Pinched

Oh that is too too funny. I must get him to tell us all about it over on his message board. He participates there a great deal. I don't think I've seen another author message board where the author participated as much as Slade does.

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Cathy

Can you post his message board? I'd like to visit him. As I said, I can't read his books...but he is a very interesting person....I used to have it, but lost everything on my computer a year ago and haven't found the site I used to visit.
Vicki

Cathy
Cathy's picture
Slade's board

It's been pretty slow there for quite some time, but here's the URL for the message board:

http://specialx.net/specialxbbs/index.php?sid=30243e252a9011656118f7bffb...

And here's the URL for the website:

http://www.specialx.net/

Apparently the 'toilet seat pinch incident' became a part of his novel, PRIMAL SCREAM. I posted the page numbers where it can be found in the North American hardback, and paperback in one of the threads there.

Cathy
Cathy's picture
By the way ...

I go by Mbwun there. If you're familiar with the novels of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, you'll know what that's all about.

lolvickib
lolvickib's picture
Thanks

I am not familiar with Douglas Preston or Lincoln Child, but will look them up. Thanks for the URL for Slade.
Another story from Surrey concerning Jack (at least I think it was Jack and Scrimgour (can't remember his first name)...but they were attending a conference where the speaker had a very dull, long drawn out talk. Break time came and they headed to the bar...just before they could be served the bar closed and Jack told the barman...."You will die a terrible death, in my next novel!" (spoken of course with the wonderful Scots accent. *g*

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Where oh where?

I'm just north of good old Toronto! Thankfully NOT in Toronto : ) I'm playing around with an idea for a tale now. I'll definitely be submitting something. Win or lose, no matter. Just the idea of "pros" reading your story is a hoot! But who knows? Maybe I will find myself in a position to take you up on the offer! LOL
John

andersm
andersm's picture
Pro Reflections

I agree - it would be great to have a pro read your story, win, lose or draw. I wonder if they give you any feedback - even if it doesn't make the grade it would be valuable to know why it didn't.

I had an old physics prof who believed you learn far more when you make an error and learn where you went wrong than luck onto something and not understand how you got there.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Somehow....

I don't think they would have time for something like that. I would imagine the submissions would easily be in the thousands. Even if they, themselves didn't trim the numbers, round by round, they must still have to deal with far too many to be able to get personal. It would be awesome though to find out from the "real" writers, why you did or did not pass the test. That would be cool.
That was always my Dads theory too. You only truly learned by making a mistake, figuring out why you made it, correcting it and then moving on.

andersm
andersm's picture
You're right

I have no idea how many submissions they get, but yeah, I can imagine the number would be staggering. I have a friend who teaches at a college and every time he has to mark student essays he's nine-tenths berserk by the end of it. We wouldn't want our Jack to be tipped into insanity. :-)

I have to agree with both your father and my old prof, learning from mistakes makes for a more deeply held lesson.

Marlene

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Surrey? Here I come!

Story wise at least! Let rip last night with a tale for the Surrey shin-dig. Crazy how it goes. An idea just popped into my head and I started doing my two fingered pecking at the keys and well? About half way through the first draft. It should hit about 4500 words total, so having rattled out 2000 or so in just over an hour and a half last night...not bad. Actually a fun little story to write. Got to go! Back at it and the on-going edits on "the book" that is done!

John

andersm
andersm's picture
Right on!

It's funny when a lightening bolt hits - you're lit up with inspiration and you just go go go until the light dims.

Marlene
"How you do anything is how you do everything."

Splynter
Splynter's picture
Sort of!

Or until those two fingers cramp up and refuse to go on! That happens too!

Cathy
Cathy's picture
lolvickib - Preston and Child

In their first novel, RELIC, the Mbwun Lily had a spore that grew on the underside of its leaves that was high in the hormone released by the human pituitary gland. A tribe in South America would make a soup out of it, and feed it to an enemy they had captured. It would quickly transmorph them into a monstrous creature.

They would then cut the creature off from the supply of this hormone, and unleash the monster on the enemy they were trying to vanquish. Having now become addicted to that hormone, it would hunt down what were once its own tribe members, and tear out their brains to get at their pituitary glands.

A monster they had created out of a man from the New York Natural History Museum, makes its way back to New York by following crates of artifacts which have been packed in the leaves, and terrorizes the museum. The tribe had obviously seen the encroachment of men from the developed world to be a threat to their existence.

They made a film from the book that starred Penelope Ann Miller, and Tom Sizemore, called THE RELIC. It wasn't really a very good film.

There is also a sequel to the novel called RELIQUARY.

Pages

Surrey Writers

The International Surrey Writers Conference is coming up October 24-26, 2014 in Surrey, BC, Canada. Last year, members of the Forum here lead by user andersm presented to Jack the items pictured including a leather bound collection of stories from readers about Jack and his work.

News

On the eve of the vote for Scottish independence, Gobal Okanagan TV caught up with Jack on his home golf course.

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