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Aestua Nox
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smiley14.gif posted on 6-13-2009 at 10:49 PM
Excerpt from your JulNo


No doubt many of you haven't actually started writing your JulNo novel yet, but I started writing mine before I knew what NaNo or JulNo was. (I'm only keeping the prologue and the first chapter anyway.) But for those of you who have started writing, post a short excerpt here! And, if you like, critique the person above you or anyone else's whose piece caught your eye. I'm just curious to see what everyone is writing, and styles, and everything. :D

Here's my prologue. It's kind of floaty and vague...because it's a prologue. :P




Green crouched, catlike, on a veined branch. Another summer sunset in scorching Missouri; he twirled a fuzzy dandelion between two fingers.

Leaning back against the trunk and dangling one leg carelessly, Green sighed and watched with glazed eyes as the sun sank lower and lower, halfway swallowed by the dark horizon. The sun, he thought, seemed to take not only its light and warmth with it, but also all the happiness and energy he’d collected during the day. He could feel his muscles stretch languidly, could practically see the energy flowing from him, through the feathery leaves clothing the old tree, across the field and over the trailer park and the neighborhood and the schoolyard and skimming the little creek down the way, and finally catching the interstate and rocketing to join the golden, swirling globe sinking into blackness.

He sighed again, and dropped from the tree, landing on all fours.

Then something rustled above him, and the tree regurgitated a whirl of yellow-green-brown.

The Something thumped to the ground and its big brown eyes looked up and its lips said “So, I had no idea anyone else was up there. Hello.”




Thoughts? Excerpts?
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[*] posted on 6-14-2009 at 11:37 AM


I liked it!
I particularly liked the way you used...not so typical ways to describe things, such as 'a veined branch' and 'feathery leaves clothing the old tree'. The use of veined branches when describing the old tree I thought was particularly striking, seeing as...well old people's veins do stick out from their arms.

The only problem I had with this was the length of the last sentence in the second paragraph. It was very long...and the previous sentences have been fairly short. I just found that to be a little inconsistant with the flow of the story, especially considering how short the sentence afterwards is.

But I'm defintely interested :] That 'Something' to my mind sounds kind of cute...like a rabid kitten [I'm weird ehhh.] I mean...big brown eyes? Thumped? I'm sold :D

Urrrm. I'm not sure how much of an excerpt you'd like...I'll just have to guesstimate, and if it's too long, I do apologise!
I'm taking in the first couple of chapters that I've written already, and dropping on top of them the 50,000 words for JulNo.




The cigarette smoke rose up into the air, curling around itself like a lazy dragon. The black ink sky was bejeweled with stars as it let loose a torrent of water. These days all it did was rain.
Turning away from the window, I wandered over to the bar, slouched myself over, and gazed over at the bartender, stubbing out my cigarette in the nearby ashtray as I did so.
“The usual please Greg.”
The old man grinned at me. “You look tired.”
“I am.” I lowered my head onto the cold wood and kept it there until Greg placed the glass next to me.
“We ran out of your usual brand, so I just gave you another Irish one. Is that alright?”
I nodded slowly, and lifted my head up. It wasn’t really, usually I wouldn’t drink any other kind, but I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy to complain.
“Hard day huh?” Greg leaned against the bar, looking directly into my eyes.
I nodded again and took a mouthful of the drink. “She sent me after a particularly difficult one this time. I hate it when she does that.”


Thoughts are appreciated!

[Edited on 14-6-2009 by Shino]




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[*] posted on 6-14-2009 at 09:34 PM


Aestua - The description of the leaves as clothing is nice. However, clothing tends to keep us warm and keep the cold and rain and stuff out, protecting us. If the leaves are just letting his energy float away, in fact, siphoning it away from him, they're not doing a great job of being clothing. Describing them as such makes the tree seem like a shelter, but it's not doing a good job. The crouching, catlike does not fit with the languid and lazy atmosphere you've portrayed throughout the rest of the passage, and it's too sudden a change for me. Also, if the sun is swallowed by the horizon, is it the sun that's taking all the warmth and energy, or is the horizon sucking the warmth and energy out of the air as it devours the sun? Also, I think Shino's right about the long sentences. I feel there are also too many places, too many sights. I would cut out everything between "...across the field" and "catching the interstate..." The interstate phrase, however, is quite original and very vivid. Nice job.

You are also implying to me that Green had enough time to look up after hearing the rustling to see the something fall out of the tree. This is fine, however, if nothing special happens on the way down, I can assume that it made it to the ground. I don't know if "regurgitated" is the right word. It depends on the mood and tone of your story, I guess. I don't have suggestions about it, it just doesn't sit right with me.

Finally, if it is a prologue, then you can rest assured it will be the first thing your reader reads. Floaty and vague will not grab the reader's attention. I continued because it wasn't very long, but if you'd gone on for a page like that I would have put it down. You can do that after you get the story started. The mood of your opening passage is quite dark. If this Something isn't really evil, you might consider rewriting it to reflect perhaps, a day well-spent and a hopeful tomorrow, rather than sucking away happiness, warmth, and light into blackness.

Shino - First, I have never seen the stars on a rainy night. Clouds produce rain, and they also block out the stars. Continuing, whose cigarette smoke? I don't think your character would speak of his own cigarette in such a detached way, or even notice it. People who smoke generally do it often. I don't typically notice the shoes on my feet, and I doubt smokers stare at their smoke, no matter how depressed they are. They probably don't care if they've got other problems, anyways. "Like a lazy dragon" is a nice description, but does it have any pertinence to the story. Are there dragons, or little dragon figurines that play an important role? If yes, the description plays a good role. If not, it's not necessary. Also, you say your character lifts his head up when Greg sets the glass next to him, but then he lifts his head again two lines later.

"It wasn’t really, usually I wouldn’t drink any other kind, but I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy to complain."

This is narration. I'm not sure it's necessary to spell it out like that for us. How about : "I grimaced, hesitating, but I let it slide. I didn't really care if I liked it or not." And how about inserting a sentence after the first sentence of the last line. If he won't accept other beer normally, I'm guessing he hasn't had this kind before. How does he like it?

Lastly, unless you've described Greg in some detailed earlier, "old" really is not a good adjective. You probably don't need it at all. The phrase "old man" is simply another substitute for "he", and since our main guy is the only other male that we see and he's referred to as "I", the word "he" will suffice and is actually better. If you must portray Greg as old, refer to the slow, shaky hands that fill the glass from the tap, or the gray beard he'd long given up on shaving, or something to that effect.

The last two sentences are appropriately mysterious, and make me want to know that the heck they're talking about. I think you could have given us more, if you wanted, as nothing really happened in this passage. Not to be rude or anything, but honest.

To both of you, I apologize for sounding harsh and being extremely picky. I doubt it's what you were asking for when you posted. However, I realize that you're both trying to write novels here, and that you can't expect fireworks to erupt from every word. I'm simply telling you what would make it better for me. These are my opinions. In the scheme of things, the may not matter. I may simply like writing different than yours. I don't want you to feel attacked, but I want to be honest. I'm certain in both cases it was simply that your excerpts were too short for me. If you want to share more, I am interested.

I think I'll put my excerpt in a new post, since this one was so long.




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 6-14-2009 at 09:40 PM


This is the opening of my novel. It may be too subtle. Let me know.

---

The voice of Father Eisan echoed in the sanctuary, as if he was speaking into a cave. Ryvass listened, well, more heard, the words as they washed over him, but they didn’t really register to him, as if they bounced off some invisible barrier that isolated him from everyone else. Instead, his mind wandered to anything else, the morning heat, the fly that buzzed around the worshippers, even the tone of Eisan’s voice, flat and heavy. He tried to call his mind back to attention, tried to really listen to the prayer.

“…And we thank you for the rains, remembering that it is you who brings them to rejuvenate your creation…”

Yeah, thought Ryvass. Lots of rain right now. He frowned, his eyes still closed and head still bent. He was here for a reason, he knew it. This was what he believed, what he had been taught, and what he felt in his heart to be true. He owed to his community, the priest, his parents, himself, to the Lord Eskaroff, to put effort and passion into his prayers. To treat it like the sacred ritual it was. For, if one could not communicate with Eskaroff through prayer, one could not hope to properly communicate with others, with himself. That was one of his favorite lines, “… and the prophet Joadis spoke to the Reimennas: “The only path to self-understanding is by communicating with the world around us, and with our creator, Lord Eskaroff. Only by understanding what is around us, and the divine power we come from, can we truly understand ourselves…”

“All glory and honor belongs to you, Mighty Creator. As it has been, so it shall be now, so it shall be forever.” Ryvass opened his eyes at the closing of the prayer and lowered his hands to the floor. He looked at Father Eisan, who kneeled at the front of the sanctuary. The Father rose to his feet and stretched his arms out to his sides. The beginning of the Dance of Rain.

They were reaching the wet season, and so the Dance of Rain was a part of each service. Ryvass moved through the different postures, feeling his body twist and stretch and float and sink, trying to reach that state where the mind seemed to drift out of his body and everything moved with a peaceful surrender to an energy that was not his own, but that of the Lord Eskaroff himself. The Dance did not ask for rain. No, instead it prepared the body to become one with nature, so that each person might perform their duties with ease and strength and confidence in the Lord.

This was the part of the service where Ryvass’s doubts never strayed. Here, he became one with the pulsing energy in the room that came from the concentration and grace that each person brought to the Dance, the Dance which they had performed since they were children. Each turn and bend brought a surge of energy in his chest, as if he were going to burst from his skin and soar the skies above. And yet, he felt every move, and every step, and his feet became one with the ground, as if his legs burrowed deep into the earth, even as he lifted them.

He reached the final posture, standing straight with his hands clasped at his chest, and opened his eyes, as they always closed at some point, as if of their own will to feel. His heart sank, and he felt his spirit return to his skin, and the intense awareness of his body was gone. Instead, he saw the bright browns of the wooden beams, the pale cream of the carpet, and the deep blue of Father Eisan’s robes as the sun flooded in from the windows. Even so, he smiled, as he always did after the Dance, and bent down to roll up his red woven mat.

---

Let me know what you think. Aestua and Shino, feel free to attack me. :D




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 6-14-2009 at 09:43 PM


oooo ooo ooh!! i wanna put my prologue up too!!:
(disclaimer: description is not my strong suit, i like dialogue better, but whatever, go ahead and criticize it :P criticism can only help, after all.):

The City was perfect. Monstrous skyscrapers aligned by the hands of the creators in perfect rows and columns were connected by fluid rows and columns of transportation bubbles flying the inhabitants to their destinations. Gardens bloomed from the tops of the skyscrapers, like lush green hair atop a head. It was early night, and the city was bathed in a soft blue light from thousands of its million windows.

Two siblings played on the rooftops, among the gardens. The older sibling, a girl in pigtails, not yet out of junior high, sat atop a structure of metal and gears which looked not unlike a giant spider. It jerked to and fro as the girl tried to wrestle it into some coherent form of motion.

The younger sibling, a boy who looked a few years younger than the girl, tapped out notes on some device comprised of lasers. As he tapped out more and more complex chords the mechanical beast his sister was riding began moving more smoothly, until it moved to the upbeat tune the boy was playing, and the sister was laughing as the great mechanized beast scurried around the gardens in great arches.

The City hummed and buzzed with millions of streams of electricity whipping around to keep the humans which occupied it happy and safe. The City took care of its inhabitants, looked after them, so the inhabitants could turn their eyes to things greater than themselves. The City knew the humans, the humans knew all else.

One man finished with his work for the day and collected his tools: paint, canvas, brushes, pencils. He stepped into a transport, which closed a glass dome over his head as it took him swiftly and safely between the skyscrapers to his home. On the way inspiration struck him, and by the time he reached his home he had already sketched out another drawing on a scrap piece of canvas. The City took care of opening doors and preparing his food, so that the artist could focus wholly on his work, without the distractions that his own body caused him.




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[*] posted on 6-14-2009 at 10:00 PM


Pliny,

I know I've read your summary elsewhere, and it's quite an idea. It's also good that I immediately recognized which one was yours from your excerpt.

I actually like the green hair atop a head description. Elsewhere, I would really be put off by it, but it fits in the with the weird and kooky atmosphere of this city. I would not use the word "sibling", it's odd, and people just don't use it. I've never said, "This is my younger sibling, Meghan" to anyone. It may seem longer, but I believe it would be less obtrusive to say two children or a boy and a girl. We can learn that they're related afterward. Do you really want "columns" for your transportation bubbles? Would "criss-cross" create a more fitting image? I don't understand if your buildings are columns and your transportation is columns how that would really fit. Wouldn't they be kind of like streets, except in the air? How does the device comprised of lasers make sound? I can't quite picture the beast scurrying in "arches". Do you have another word you could use?

The last two paragraphs do a good job of portraying the city as being a conscious entity. I like the way you "zoom" in and out with your camera lens, focusing on a few people in specific shots. One thing. These three people had better be your main characters, or play huge roles. If not, they need to be cut. Also, if you really want to go all the way and make your futuristic society seamless, I'd bet there's no such thing as junior high anymore. I'd bet education has completely restructured itself. Do some investigation into that, as the two children being school-age will give it a role in your novel. It will make your world more real.




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 6-15-2009 at 01:18 AM


Ahhhh good advice.
Yeah, criss-crossing works way better, i had just revamped that section b/c i switched my transportation from moving walkways to the bubble car things, and hadn't taken the time to make it sound right, so yeah there you go, what you did was right.

and yeah, i am about to run into the school system plot-wise in the chapter i'm in now, so i'm about to figure it out. once i do i'll go back and fix that bit and make it work. that was a little "place holder" thing before i figured stuff out.

thanks for the c/c, it was good stuff ^.^ (when i'm less focused on my thesis i'm gonna go back and read yours and other people's and take some time to offer good advice. right now i'm off in causality land...)




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[*] posted on 6-15-2009 at 02:26 AM


Thepianist [ how exactly do you want me to refer to you? :S ], thank you for your thoughts and advice on the excerpt! You weren't being unnecessarily harsh, you pointed out things I wouldn't have noticed on my own. Like the lifting the head thing...I need to go fix that now.
Actually...I stare at my own smoke...but that might just be me :embarrassed: No, the 'lazy dragon' description does not have any pertinence to the story-I'll try and fiddle with that. And with the 'narrative' bit. Thank you for that example, I'll use that to construct a new sentence.

I'll post my thoughts on your's and Pliny's excerpts soon :] I've just been writing a short story so my brain is a bit tired now haha.
And yeah, I know what I posted was short...I wasn't sure how much to put up...I might just tweak it a little bit and then post more up later...I don't know.




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Thou canst not then be false to any man.
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Aestua Nox
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[*] posted on 6-15-2009 at 01:56 PM


Pianist - heehee, I have to admit I felt a little attacked at first, but it was a stupid reaction. Like most writers, I get really protective of my work - but the critique/criticism/whatever y'all call it, was welcome. And your closing paragraphs made me feel better. :P

By way of shortness - it probably comes from reading/having read fanfiction, but I prefer my prologues either short or nonexistent, so I don't think I'll be changing that part of it. But other than that, both of you, Pianist and Shino, brought up some really helpful points. The main problem, I think, is that I have all this massed background in my head, along with a perfect image of what's going on. Obviously, I'm not conveying it clearly enough.

The tree's clothing stays. I like it. The crouching, on the other hand - you're right. He goes from crouching to leaning back to jumping. Now, if he'd gone from leaning to crouching to jumping, it would be okay - but, as it is, I've changed it to "lounging," whcih doesn't have the alliteration that I was partial to, but conveys the mood better.

I'm also with you and Shino both on the long sentence - it was meant to emphasize the laziness and...kind of the amount of space between Green and the sun. But it actually ended up stabbing itself in the face. :D Therefore, I've cut out a few of the phrase thingies to shorten it up. I'd actually been laying out the town in my head as I wrote that, so essentially everything between Green and the sun ended up in there. *shakes head amusedly* Definitely not necessary.

And as for the regurgitation - what? Haha, I'd thought that it was almost...cute, actually. That it was funny, the way Green is like a lazing cat, all in control, and then drops neatly to the ground, and then this Something gets unwillingly regurgitated and thumps to the ground on her butt.

Because the Something is, surprise, surprise, my FMC. ...She has her sadder moments, but I wouldn't consider her dark at all. In fact, I didn't find my prolouge particularly dark. How were you reading it to get that? I was thinking that the energy flowing away emphasized the laziness and lethargy more than any particular darkness. .... Yup. I really am curious, though. I hadn't looked at it like that at all.

Okay, so now that I've tired you all by overanalyzing my own writing, (which I'm hoping most of you sympathize with,) I'm off to critique stuff. :P
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[*] posted on 6-15-2009 at 02:22 PM


Pianist - I have one of the same comments about your prologue that you had about mine...I'm not sure it'd catch the reader's attention. It's not so much the actual event....just the amount of detail. I mean, obviously it's personal preference and all - but even things like "They were reaching the wet season, and so the Dance of Rain was a part of each service." Is that necessary? Or can it stay mysterious for now; can we just know that Ryvass is doing the Dance of Rain in some sort of religious service?

Also, were you trying to say "doubts never strayed"? Or more like faith/belief never strayed?

And you have two "as if" phrases, metaphors, in the first two sentences - it sounded awkward.

I'm assuming that Ryvass's favorite line will have significance later? If not, why is it there - just to give an expert opinion on his need to communicate with himself? And if so, can it look a little more significant? New paragraph, or Ryvass cutting himself off in the middle of a thought to hear it, or something?

The description of the dance is confusing. His legs were burrowed into the earth even as he lifted them? I know that it can be hard to describe experiences like this...I've tried my hand at writing fantasy and it's tough to convey, you know, how fire feels as it flows out of you, or how it feels to posses a tree, etc. But that just...doesn't quite work. It's too much of a contradiction.

Also, although this will probably become clear later, I'm confused about what the point of the dance was. I'd say find the balance between too much background and mysteriousness and confusion.

...I do feel overly critical for posting this, so I'm sorry if anything came out badly! But I did actually find your critique to be helpful - maybe this will be, too. Doubtless I'll be just plain wrong about some things. :P But it's much easier to find mistakes or confusing things in others' stories than your own.
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[*] posted on 6-15-2009 at 07:22 PM


Aestua, thanks.

"Doubts" gets changed immediately, the rest of your stuff I'm going to have to put away in a file for revisions. I like to save it until the first draft is done.

I agree on the "as if" phrases. I like both of them, but they can't sit right next to each other. And yes the favorite line is significant *spoiler, not that you'll be reading it anytime soon* because Eskaroff is not a god, but an ancient magician, so the fundamental figure on which Ryvass's faith is built is a lie.

The Dance is something I do need help on. Actually, it's not completely like fantasy, though the story is definitely fantasy. It's based on Yoga, and the idea that although you're letting the energy surge through you and feeling as though you can reach the heavens, you are at the same time intensely grounded in your own body. Perhaps as I continue my practice the dance will further evolve, and influence any future dances.

Actually, the last two sentences tell the purpose of the Dance. Would you mind reviewing it and giving ideas as to how it might be made more clear? As it says, the Dance is about connecting with the world around us so that we are better prepared to complete the tasks nature asks of us. In this case, that's most likely preparing the fields and caring for the plants. They believe not that nature is a home Esskaroff created for them, but that they are a part of the Nature that Esskaroff created and the Dance seeks to reconnect to the energy that binds his creation.




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 6-17-2009 at 02:09 PM


"Instead, he saw the bright browns of the wooden beams, the pale cream of the carpet, and the deep blue of Father Eisan’s robes as the sun flooded in from the windows. Even so, he smiled, as he always did after the Dance, and bent down to roll up his red woven mat"? Sounds more like Ryvass coming out of his dance-trance than an explanation of the dance...I'm confused.

Did you mean last two paragraphs?

Even if you did, I'm not sure how much I can help you - I don't have the same understanding of the dance that you do. I'm afraid to suggest any one image or way of describing the dance, because it probably won't be what you're trying to get across. Magic and prayer are like that. Actually, stories in general are. :P But I would suggest playing with a few metaphors...they can be overdone or drawn out for too long, but in a situation like this, where it's not something that can be fully described physically, I'd at least say you could try it. And if you're talking about stretching toward the sky while burrowing into the ground, and this is all part of nature - well, why not try out a paragraph-long grass/tree/symbolically Ryvass-like plant metaphor? (I'm kind of partial to grass if this is also about connecting to the world around us...because of the root system....righty....) For all I know, you've already tried this and it sounded corny, but I think it's worth a try.

Yup.
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[*] posted on 6-18-2009 at 02:28 PM


[[-peeks in- Criticism will be welcomed with open arms and hungry maws.]

She was picking scabs on her legs, enjoying the cool trickle of blood down her shins. Everyone said blood was hot, and she thought it might be if there was a lot of it, but these were just little red streaks, glistening in the bulblight like lines of clean steel. She imagined being soaked in the stuff, and flinched because that made her think of lakes, and puddle-jumping, and puddle-jumping made the man in the closet angry because you ended up tracking mud indoors even if you cleaned your shoes. The man in the closet was not an okay thing to think about. Not even for a second.
Then a fine mist, tasting vaguely of toothpaste, was offered to her by a gleaming white spray nozzle, which was sunk beneath a finger the color of the coffee people served when they didn’t have any beans left to grind. It took her a moment to realize that there wasn’t a nail on that finger, just smooth, black skin, proof of expensive mods. Don’t, she wanted to say, but instead she licked her own fingers, scraping congealed blood off her own nails, which were real and solid and made of something someone had once told her was eggshell in disguise.
The other fingers, the ones she couldn’t control, took her away into the mist, and then into soft, silvery nowhere.

Outside, it was dark. Tall, spindly people—sodium lights—leered at her from above, orange faces moving past at a fast walk. A set of fingers left her body and the head of a man she hadn’t noticed exploded. Then she knew the warmth of blood, on her legs and on her face, and she compared it to the cold feel of gun put back against her thigh. She looked up, craning back her head, and saw a very white smile like lightning, set in hard, black continuity.

There were stairs, and people, but their heads passed intact. She stretched to look at the smile again, but it was replaced with a hard sheen that was not skin. She did not miss the grin itself, but the teeth had been pretty.
“Nobody speaks English anymore,” she said, and had the not altogether strange thought that it was not her who had said it but a little person inside of her, using her voice. Not little, actually. Mistletoe-size, except it had the Power, and so it was secretly the size of mountains.
“No, but they speak English in England,” the voice that was connected to the fingers said, and the lips didn’t move, scary stillness imposed on a sheet of cheap pink steel. It had been made into a face. Pupil-dark slits meant eyes. Formed globbets of glitterstruck blue plastic meant lips.
A mask, said the mountain-sized secret, and she understood that she was not to say it aloud. Something else, though, bursting from her lips and leaving behind the licorice flavor she knew from fauxtails back in—mindclench, it hurt—…back in a place that lived in yesterday.
“What do they speak here?” Licorice.
“Something else,” said the voice. “Go to sleep now.”
“Then there was the white nozzle again, and toothpaste mingling with the licorice at the back of her throat, but this time she asked mountain-size for permission before she breathed in.




I CAN SEE THE CHORDS
...cos I\'m dancing up the street to be with the people who are just like us only different
in Baltimore there are beautiful black women in bright skinny jeans and short dresses with glossy belts, gliding over asphalt in heels the size of your arm, I swear, babe, they were born in them
and upstairs there\'s a coat just for me, feeling like the skin you peel off when you get burnt, my favorite blue, I\'ll wear it next Halloween
speaking of Halloween
I\'ll paint my face for school
and be a Duchess for traipsing
which is a very weird word, don\'t you think?
strawberry oil smoking us out of the bus, can\'t breathe but for the stench of summer fields folded up and liquidized and put in the clinkety bottles and tubes that line the stomach of that man\'s wire cart
he\'s old, you can tell, his hair and beard stick out grey in all sorts of directions
but his skin is smooth, proof that you don\'t need Botox to look twenty-five, no sir he says, pulling off his sunglasses, they\'re aviators and they leave his eyes wide and slightly pathetic, like they met up with the wrong face on their way out of his muma
he sings
SUMMERTIME
but there is no easy livin\', it\'s a different song.
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youngshay112
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[*] posted on 6-23-2009 at 10:39 PM


Love don't live here anymore. The sad spare synths of that old song pop up in my mind every early morning of my life. I keep my groaning inside as I crawl out of the supremely uncomfortable sofa-bed that is my new home. Without bothering to fold it back in, I step to the balcony door on my right. I hate sleeping near it. Devin doesn't live in a very good neighborhood and I am convinced someone will climb through here and kill me on their way to stripping the apartment of all valuables. Snotty but true: since I've been here the valuable count at apartment 22 has doubled. My laptop, my instruments, my jewelry and my clothes. I brought so much stuff that Devin called his renter's insurance agent and got his policy bumped up. I thought he was joking until he asked me for the extra $10 a month. I couldn't put the things in storage because I no longer have a valid credit card.
I peek from between the vertical blinds and watch the sun rise. I'm up late. I've missed the exact moment where day overcomes night. The top of the sky is already bright blue. Bands of pink and orange cut across, accented with clouds of purple and ocean green. They remind me of a dress I bought in Tahiti, shoved into the kids' second closet. I'll put it on when I get home from work.
Devin's wife, Coco, had suggested selling some of my dresses and shoes. She said I could net enough to get my own place, and she's probably right. "I need them, though," I said, rolling a pair of Seven jeans into the tightest possible tube.
"For what? You don't do anything but go to work and come home," she replied. I took a look at her and went right back to rolling. Her job had no dress code and she took it to heart. Many times she reported to her call center job in something she had rolled out of bed in. I really believe that clothes make the woman. Coco dresses like an indifferent call center worker, and that's what she's become. Devin dresses like an exhausted warehouse grunt, and that's what he's become. I love him, but that's what he's become.
The sun is officially up. A troop of kids, free from the backpacks that made them look like turtles sponsored by Dora or Spiderman, head to a city recreation van that will take them to the pool. Behind me, Coco shuffles the twins, Devin Jr. and Drew, out to catch the van. "I guess you're off today," she says. I turn around and she's gesturing at the unmade bed.
"No," I reply.
"Well, your bed won't make itself anymore," she huffs on her way out. "DJ, stop running!"
The door slams. The pneumatic thingy that should make it close gently is broken.
My bed has never made itself, I retort to an empty room. The housekeeper helped.
Just because Coco was so rude, I do decide to stay home from work. I call a girl who is desperate for more hours so she can buy tickets to the Jazz Fest. She tells me she is on the way. I hop into the shower, but I save the hair-washing for last.
Devin gets home at eight, and I'm still in the shower, singing Anita Baker. He knocks on the rickety shower door. "Yes?"
"It's me."
"I figured that."
"Can I come in?"
"But of course."
He's already naked, his Wal-Mart duds folded neatly on the toilet seat. We normally try to avoid each other, and with him working two jobs and going to school, it's easy. I've been here for a month, and I stay home about once a week, usually when I'm mad at someone. So there, I think as he washes my hair. I don't care if you're supermom, if you're too smart and focused to care about frivolous things like satin sheets and sunrises. Your husband loves me. If your name weren't on the Section 8 voucher that lets you get this apartment for cheap, he'd have gone long ago.
We pat one another with a towel until we're damp. Back to the living room where we roll in this morning's set of sheets, dusky rose. This is not lovemaking, we don't have that kind of time. Before I know it, he's biting my shoulder and saying "I got you this time."
"Doubt it." I didn't come, so I get to be mean.
"Don't ever doubt me, Bee. Baby number three is on its way."
"You have to get rid of wife number one first," I say, rolling away from him. His dark skin glistens in the stripes of sunlight that come in from between the blinds. Devin turns onto his stomach.
"Pull up the sheet," is all he says. I cover his lower body, wondering when he and Coco had sex last.
"Hey," I ask from the kitchen, "who sang that song 'Love don't live here anymore'?"
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Aestua Nox
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[*] posted on 6-24-2009 at 09:59 PM


Hi Scarletmoon and youngshay - if you have time/inclination to critique anyone else's piece as well, that'd be great.

@Scarletmoon - okay...here goes. I'm so confused. Am I supposed to be confused? What in the world is going on? I like it, in some ways, but I would like it more if I could follow it at all. I mean, it feels dark and...the narrator feels innocent and confused and lost and scared and haunted.... You're getting some things across, I'm not saying it's horrible - you have good imagery and description and such. I'm just not following what's going on, who anyone is - anything! (Are the tall, spindly people the black-finger-face people? What about the orange faces? Why are heads exploding? If no one speaks English, why can the black-face guy speak English?)

This might just be me, mind you. Buy anywho, assuming that this is some sort of otherworldly/fantasy/futuristic SOMETHING, my tenative suggestion would be to not be so broad.... Maybe you do need to get all of that information in right now, and I won't try to stop you, haha. But I'd suggest that you either make this shorter so that the confusion doesn't turn into frustration or (and I like this option better) narrow it down. By narrow, I mean - well, the narrator/MC's mind is wandering, right? One thought immediately leads to something loosely related, or links back to thoughts from earlier. Cut down on it - wander less, or with more continuity. (Again, if you can't do that for character-y reasons, don't, but this is hard to follow!)

Oh, and then there are parts where it's not just wandery - it's...completely out there. (Mind you, it's interesting; I have no problem reading all of this through, and I don't get particularly bored. I just can't tell what's going on....) For example: "Outside, it was dark. Tall, spindly people—sodium lights—leered at her from above, orange faces moving past at a fast walk. A set of fingers left her body and the head of a man she hadn’t noticed exploded. Then she knew the warmth of blood, on her legs and on her face, and she compared it to the cold feel of gun put back against her thigh. She looked up, craning back her head, and saw a very white smile like lightning, set in hard, black continuity." She's inside? How is that related to "soft, silvery nowhere"? Are there really spindly people - because then what's the "hard, black continuity"? What are "sodium lights" and how is that related? Orange faces? "A set of fingers left her body"? Did the fingers belong to her hand? Had someone had a hand on her shoulder or something? Why are heads exploding? Why is she comparing the warmth of blood to a cold gun?

I'm confused. Very, very confused.

I'm actually intrigued and confused, which bodes well, but the confusion is definitely overpowering the interest.

:( I'm sorry if this was too critical. As you could probably tell from above, I get really protective of my writing, so I know where you're coming from if you get offended/annoyed/defensive after reading this. Sorry!!! I just want to help...yeah. I'm done now. :( :) Hope this helped somewhat?
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[*] posted on 6-26-2009 at 06:26 PM


First, Aestua, here's what I was referring to:

"The Dance did not ask for rain. No, instead it prepared the body to become one with nature, so that each person might perform their duties with ease and strength and confidence in the Lord."

I meant the last two sentences of the third to last paragraph. It didn't come out that way. :(




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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Imperatrix Xoco
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[*] posted on 6-27-2009 at 12:20 AM


I'll go ahead and post this excerpt first, then a critique of a few of your guys' stuff. :) These are the first few paragraphs of my retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "Thumbelina," which I've called The Barleycorn Girl. Critiques are more than welcomed.

The mist stretched through the forest, curling its thin fingers around every branch, into every crevice. It tackled any hint of light from the moon and smothered it with a good deal of duct tape. The adorable, fluffy woodland creatures that might have lived in the woods were either sleeping in their respective burrows or had long ago met their end in the teeth of one of the beasts stalking between the trees.

In retrospect, it was the perfect night for anyone to visit a witch.

The woman would have disagreed. In her mind, the perfect night to visit a witch consisted of an armed escort, a moon brighter than a sun, and the comforting weight of a very heavy stick in one hand. All of these were painfully absent and, as she stumbled through the undergrowth, she tried not to focus too hard on that fact. Or the fact that she was well and truly lost and that, on the part of a sudden dip in the forest floor earlier, her ankle hurt like anything.

The woman looked about herself, at the trees unwilling to give her any hope of direction, and wanted to cry. Of course she would get lost on her first visit to the witch’s house. Of course those washerwomen from her town had bragged about how finding witches was so bloody easy. “Just go through the woods on night right before a new moon,” they had said. “About half way through ’em, sing a little song. She’ll find you long before you’ll find her, hon.”

They had laughed after saying it too, in that sort of way that people who know more than you generally do.

Edited because I had to fix some funny formatting.

[Edited on 6-27-2009 by Imperatrix Xoco]




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Imperatrix Xoco
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[*] posted on 6-27-2009 at 01:02 AM


Shay: At first I was confused, since your first sentence is “Love don’t live here anymore.” It made me think of my granny and sitting on the front porch, listening to her slurring things with her thick Louisiana accent (like “jeet” translates vaguely to “did you eat”). Then I thought, a Southern story? Neat-o. But it turned out to be a song title. For future reference, those are generally put in quotes with all the important words capitalized. So it would be, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” This way the readers actually know what you’re talking about. I pretty much second this when it’s referred to again toward the end.

I’m just going to run by a few lines I wanted to comment on specifically.

Quote:
Snotty but true: since I've been here the valuable count at apartment 22 has doubled.

I like how a bit of the character comes through with this sentence. However, when an independent clause follows a colon, the first letter of the clause is capitalized. I know that it’s a grammar nitpick and that this is only the first draft, but I felt I ought to point it out.

Also, could you find a better way to describe it than “the valuable count”? For one thing, you just used the words “valuable” a sentence before. It rubs off as repetitive. If you were to keep “valuable,” it would read better as “the count of valuables,” since it’s talking about more than one ‘spensive thing.

Quote:
I thought he was joking until he asked me for the extra $10 a month.

Pretty sure that the “$10” thing is meant to be written out as “ten dollars.”

Quote:
A troop of kids, free from the backpacks that made them look like turtles sponsored by Dora or Spiderman, head to a city recreation van that will take them to the pool.

I love this imagery! It puts a good picture in my head, and it’s pretty accurate.

Quote:
My bed has never made itself, I retort to an empty room. The housekeeper helped.

Lovely spot of characterization. :) However, does she say this out loud or just think it? Right now it’s pretty unclear.

Quote:
If your name weren't on the Section 8 voucher that lets you get this apartment for cheap, he'd have gone long ago.

“Wasn’t” reads better than “weren’t,” to me. I’m not positive, though, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Overall, I like the feel of this. However, I’m not too big on the use of present tense. It takes a long time to settle, and even when it does, it doesn’t taste right to me as a reader. I don’t know if you’re using it to evoke a certain mood, but right now all it’s making me feel is distracted. I’m spending too much time being slightly irritated every time I see “reply” instead of “replied,” and it took me out of the story a lot of the time. Just something to keep an eye on.

I’ve got some lingering questions about the narrator that I think will be answered later on in the story. Mostly I’m curious why she’s living with this man, Devin, and his family, and why, if she was wealthy to some degree before, she isn’t now.

Hope I helped.




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moonmanmad
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[*] posted on 6-28-2009 at 03:19 PM


here is the prologue to what Im working on:

I have a picture of my daughter Daphne and myself, taken in the summer of 1997. We're standing in front of a house and I've got my arm around her shoulders and I'm beaming at the lens. Daphne looks tired, or bored, or disappointed, or sad. Standard conditions for a fifteen year old girl, especially a child of divorce. Yet she's so beautiful, so lovely in her youth, that even her sadness, if that's what it is, finds itself eclipsed. She's wearing black clothes from shirt to shoes, the remnants of a phase of flirtation with the gothic image, and because of the black clothes it's almost impossible to tell at first glance that she's holding my entirely black cat, Robin, in her arms. So there's another identity to add to the photo. The house that Daphne and Robin and I are posing in front of is a two story clapboard house, light blue with white trim, with a fenced porch; it belongs to my girlfriend Emily, and at the moment the picture is being taken she's inside, making a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches for us. So Emily too, through the legerdemain of memory, becomes part of the tale being told in this scene.

The person taking the picture was Robin. Not my cat, but the one the cat was named after. Robin, my wonderful sister, she'd snapped the shot with her own small Kodak. I've noticed many times that no matter what a photo contains, people seldom wonder who the person behind the camera was. Or, at the very least, they don't think to ask. Whenever I look at other people's photos anymore I always try to find out who took it. Because I know that sometimes that's the most important question to ask.

I keep the picture of all of us, seen and unseen, tacked on the wall above my desk, partly to remind myself of what was one of the happiest moments of my life. But I also keep it there because it signifies something else to me; that brief moment, that flash of time forever captured on film, was simply that: a moment. There was time before that photo, there has been more than enough time since, and most of it has been lived in a fog of sorrow for the things I had as much as for the things I lost.

[Edited on 6-28-2009 by moonmanmad]




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DennisJernberg
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[*] posted on 6-30-2009 at 07:50 AM


Here's the only scene from Black Science that survived from NaNo '06. The only one. Certain scenes and plotlines I spun off into a separate novel. The most important scenes besides this were never written. I threw out the rest because it sucked. What's left, including events and characters, is subject to change as I write the rest of the story around it during JulNo. This was originally set a few years in the future, so certain background events, including the fall of Cuban communism and the absorption of the US into a New British Empire, never happened. This was the '06 version, after all. The ending will be greatly improved. The names and characters of "Milena Alvarez" and "Werner Stockmann" have already been changed, and proxy firm Biotron has been replaced with Dictel Corporation itself. In the prequel, Bad Company, Dictel invaded America. Bad news: Dictel's back!

So here's the last surviving scene from Black Science, at the end of chapter 1, straight from the Microsoft Word file. After main character Dr. Willa Richter-Thomas defeats fiery creationist Rev. Joseph Creel in debate on Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, Dictel lawyer J. Marshall Brinkman II offers her a deal she can't refuse. She refuses it.

-----
The Student Center is crowded with people celebrating Willa’s stunning victory over the feared creationist, Reverend Joe Creel. Willa is surrounded by students, businesspeople, scientists, teachers, and even Navy officers who shake her hand, thank her, and sing her praises as though she were a conquering hero:

Scientist: “It’s about time somebody stood up to the creationists!”

Hotshot entrepreneur: “You chewed him up and spat him out!”

Businessman: “You said it better than I ever could.” His wife: “You were wonderful!”

Skater (gives her high ten): “Way to go Doc!”

As the night gets darker, the crowd wears itself out and thins. Willa, worn out by all the praise, rests on a plush sofa in the corner next to the piano. One pretty Latina who had earlier expressed her enthusiasm in a flow of soulful Spanish sits down next to her, a coffee in her hand. She says in surprisingly un-accented English: “Sorry if I got a little too enthusiastic. It’s just that it’s been so long since anyone had any courage to stand up to those pious frauds.”

“No problem.” Willa guesses she is at least ten years younger than her.

“By the way, I’m Milena. Milena Alvarez.” She shakes Willa’s hand a little too enthusiastically. “I’m a doctor myself. A general practitioner, actually.”

“A rare breed anymore. Where do you find them nowadays?”

“Cuba. Actually, not anymore.” Her voice was wistful, and then got bitter. “Not since the exiles took over and started murdering socialists in the name of their God.”

Willa smiles. “That must be why you’re here in Cascadia instead.”

Milena raises her voice. “Superstition has been gaining ground everywhere. We need more people like you who can fight back the darkness.”

“But are you willing to be one yourself?”

Milena sighs. “But how?”

“I can teach you some of my tricks.” They both laugh.

A man’s voice interrupts them from a distance. “Bravo, Dr. Thomas! A fine performance!” A tall black-haired man, wearing an Italian suit more expensive than a small poor nation. He holds a wine glass; he is slightly drunk.

Willa groans under her breath: “Oh, great.”

Milena leans into Willa’s ear and asks quietly, “You know this guy?”

Willa stands up. She shakes his hand, but looks straight into his eyes like a duellist about to draw her sword. “Well, well. Isn’t it the dreaded J. Marshall Brinkman, ace corporate lawyer.” She turns to Milena. “We’ve tangled before. He plays dirty.”

Brinkman also looks at Milena, something other than business on his mind. “And who may your lovely companion be?”

Willa forcibly breaks the handshake and gets between Milena and Brinkman. “Not that it matters to you. So what fine Faustian bargain does the Devil’s messenger bring?”

“Ha! Lashing out again with that legendary tongue of yours, I see. It’s a miracle that His Eminence the Prime Minister endured you for an entire month.”

Willa snaps at him: “Out with it, Brinkman!”

Brinkman pretends to sulk. “You hurt me with that dagger you call a tongue.” He sighs. “Very well, Doctor. It seems that, besides your debates with hapless flat-earthers, you have built quite a reputation for innovative research in the neuropsychological field.”

She eyes him suspiciously. “Go on.”

“Such brilliance could not but come to our attention.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Oh yes. One always needs to speak in specifics with the beautiful and brilliant Dr. Richter-Thomas. So, then: your reputation has reached the highest levels of the great corporations.”

“As I suspected.”

“And so Dr. Werner Stockmann himself, the illustrious chairman of the Biotron Corporation, has hired me to ask you to be a part of the hottest company in cutting-edge biotechnology.”

“I’m flattered. But there’s always a catch.”

“No catch. But I do have an offer you won’t believe.”

“Of course I won’t. So how much would that be?”

Brinkman grins. “Upwards of seven figures.”

Willa puts her hand on her chin and looks upward. “Let me see: a six-figure salary, stock options galore, bonuses, perks, an armoured stretch limo with a sexy and dumb Russian chauffeur, a mansion in Vail with all the mod cons, more hunky young things than I could ever want — and I can have all this, in exchange for my soul.” She crosses her arms and stares back at Brinkman.

His smile disappears at once. He crosses his arms. A note of menace enters his voice. “Doctor — can I call you Willa?”

“No.”

“Doctor, you don’t understand — ”

“I understand all too well. Now, I appreciate the extra money, the bonuses and perks, the bonuses and perks, the mod cons and stretch Hummer, and hunky young things who obey my every whim. All fine and dandy in my opinion. But I would much rather keep my soul.”

“The Chairman will not be pleased,” Brinkman threatens.

“The Chairman can stick his offer up his ass.”

Brinkman winces as if she had just slapped him in the face. He growls menacingly, “The Chairman does not take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Willa stares hard into his eyes and smiles. “He just did.”

They stare at each other for a seeming eternity. Then Brinkman takes a step toward Milena. “Before I leave, Miss… whoever you are, I must warn you. Dr. Richter-Thomas has a well known fondness for dark exotic beauties—”

Willa’s response is sharp and angry. “You will go, Mr. Brinkman!”

He looks at her for an endless second, his lip twitching. Then he storms off. He turns back to her and shouts: “You’d better reconsider, Dr. Thomas! Consider the consequences!” At last he leaves.

Willa sits back down, still looking in the direction Brinkman left in. “That’s not the first time, and it sure as hell won’t be the last.”

Milena asks, alarmed: “You were married to Henry Becket?

Willa leans forward and sighs. “Unfortunately, yes.” She turns to Milena. “It was the worst month of my life.”

Just then Jennifer walks over to them and looks toward where Brinkman left. “I don’t like the smell of that creep.” She lowers her glasses slightly and peers over them, her eyes slightly narrowed. “Or the look of him, either.”

Willa gets up and puts her hands on Jennifer’s shoulders. Sternly she says: “Darling, I’m afraid our so-called friends in high places may be preparing some nasty surprises for us. Watch your back at all costs.” She turns back to Milena. “Oh, by the way, this is my daughter. Jennifer Blair, Dr. Milena Alvarez.”

Milena stands and shakes Jennifer’s hands. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Hi.”

“Milena, do you have any children of your own?”

Milena sighs. “One. A daughter. But she’s back in Cuba. Her father’s probably trying to get her into a convent. He’s one of those Opus Dei people. They practically control Cuba these days.”

Just then there’s a commotion. Flashing lights and orders barked through bullhorns. People crowd the exits to leave. A tall and pretty young blond man walks over to Willa and Jennifer, a look of concern on his face. Willa motions to him and says to Milena, “And this is my son Connor.”

Connor: “Mom, the police are here. We’d better get out before things start getting ugly.”

Milena asks, “What’s going on?”

Willa says with an angry edge to her voice, “Smells like Marshall Brinkman whined and got the police to shut us down.” She rousts the last stragglers left in the Student Center and calls out, “C’mon, everybody, let’s go! We’ve got to get out of here now!” She joins Milena, Jennifer, and Connor again, and they leave together quickly.




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LunaKlipps
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[*] posted on 7-1-2009 at 10:16 AM


Here's my beginning.


I jumped a little at the sound of the squeaking hinges of the door. I shivered upon stepping over the threshold. It seemed as if the house was enveloped in a haze. Silence filled every corner, just waiting to be broken. I looked up, seeing a dust and web covered chandelier hanging from a single wire. As I stared longer, even more detail came into view. A lone spider hung from its silk, adding on to its already magnificent nest.
A chill ran down my spine when I realized just how long this house had been empty. If the spider had had enough time to build its snare up to such an extent, surely there must be no one here. No one could stay in a house in this condition.
As I was convincing myself with those thoughts, I took a few steps forward—just enough to clear the circumference of the hanging fixture. My weight made the floorboards creak, breaking the quiet that had long been over the house. I cringed, but nothing sprang out to harm me. I felt a drop of sweat trickle down the back of my neck. The house did not feel empty. There was someone here.
I turned slowly, glancing back for just a second to make sure nothing lurked in the shadows behind me. Just as the more sane part of me thought, there was nothing.
I faced forward again and looked at the stairs that lay before me. Their dull maple wood seemed intimidating, too cheery for this lonely place and its dark ebony furniture. It was strange. I bent down and swept the pad of my finger over the surface of the bottom step; dust. Underneath, the dark ebony wood shone through. Not maple, I realized, just dusty.
I blew it off of my finger and hesitantly rose, placing one hand on the banister of the old staircase to balance myself. I took a slow, deep breath and started my way up the stairs.

Questions, Comments, and Critics are welcome!




NaNoWriMo '08: Menda - EPIC FAIL - 3.344
JulNoWriMo '09: The Twin Gates - WIN! - 50k
NaNoWriMo '09: blink - WIN! - 50.077 - WIP
JulNoWriMo '10: Framed - Abandoned - 8.899
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JulNoEdMo '11: Down (Cont.) - WIP - Edit in Progress
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[*] posted on 7-1-2009 at 12:31 PM


LunaKlipps: Very spooky and suspenseful! I really like your descriptions; they add to the suspense. I want to know what happens next! My favorite description was: "My weight made the floorboards creak, breaking the quiet..." For some reason, 'breaking the quiet' really caught me, I'm not sure why. I also really liked when she realized it was dusty.

Mine: (This is the middle, since I'm starting off already 20,000 words into my story.)

“So, where’s this new school of ours? Any shortcuts through the ‘hood?”

He seemed unusually lively, but maybe it was just my tired eyes. “Unless you want to be eaten by Mr. Hammonds pit bull? Nope. We just have to go the long way.”

He turned his head towards me, wiggling his eyebrows. “C’mon, how about an adventure? I’m sure Fang is sleeping at the moment.”

I just stared at him. “You’ve never seen this dog. He’s like a… bulldozer with legs.”

He pursed his lips. “Oh, whatever. Where is this Mr. Hammond’s yard? Right over there?” he asked, gesturing somewhere in the direction of the school through the maze of houses.

I jerked my head towards the house we were passing at the moment. “But Aiden, don’t try it. You have to go through this gate and he has like, an alarm on it, I think? Look, there’s a security system sign right there! Hey, what are you-“

He turned around as the gate swung open, holding his finger to his lips. “Now, what we’ve got here is a bonafide killer. I suggest we not rouse him, lest he bite off our extremities. So shut up and come on.” His whisper was a mock one, like the dog lying on the other side of the fence didn’t have bionic ears, because dogs aren’t known for their hearing or anything. I’m not sure what possessed me to follow him, but I did, creeping through the grass like I was Elmer Fudd and we were hunting rabbits. Maybe I was too tired to think straight or maybe I hadn’t had stupid fun like this in a long time, but I wasn’t very scared of the pit bull.

Until I saw him, that is.

Back in the day, all the kids used to make fun of Mr. Hammond because balls used to disappear into his yard and never come back. Alex always told me that he tried to rescue a kickball from there once and swears he heard gun shots as he ran away from it. Around the time I came to Breaker Falls, he got a pit bull, and all the kids grew up seeing him take this massive thing on walks around the neighborhood. Usually it snapped at anyone who got near it, the razor jaws crunching on the bones of little girls. He was chained to a post, but he wasn’t sleeping, despite the early hour. He was lying under the porch, a dog bed with stuffing coming out of it beneath him, and as I eased the gate shut behind me, his head whipped towards me.

It all happened very fast. One moment, I was staring in blind fear at this massive creature, which was growling deep in his throat, the vibration thrumming through the ground beneath me, and Aiden was whispering, “Shit!” and then he had grabbed my arm from where I’d frozen and yanked me towards the gate and we ran, feet pounding crunchy grass. We weren’t fast enough, however, and the dog was bounding towards us, flashing rows of pearly white teeth. (Why did dogs, who never brushed their teeth, have such white ones? Does that make any sense?) We reached the other gate, and when I thought we were going to make it, the dog lunged at Aiden, jaws gaping wide, and in one very quick motion, I’d opened the gate and thrown Aiden through it. The dog’s teeth clamped on empty air and the chain caught it around it’s neck, wrestling it to the ground. Aiden yanked me through the gate and slammed it shut behind me.

I took in a deep breath of the cold winter air. “What. The. Hell.”

Aiden was panting, his foggy breath like visible exhaustion. He leaned against the fence and slid down it, his head angled toward his knees. But when he looked up, he was smiling. “See, didn’t I tell you it’d be an adventure?”

I gaped at him. “We almost got eaten!”

He rolled his eyes dramatically, making a knuck sound with his tongue. “Come on! He’s a dog, not a lion.”

“Same difference!” I felt like shouting everything at the moment. Short bursts were all that my lungs could handle at
the moment.

“No, lions belong to the feline family, Celeste. Don’t they teach you this in science class? What is this, the Florida education system?” I punched him in the arm and for once, I was glad he wasn’t wearing a parka, so he could feel the pain. He hardly even flinched, though, just blinked up at me innocently. “Oh, you know that was fun. Nothing like a little terror to wake you up in the morning, huh?”
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[*] posted on 7-1-2009 at 02:37 PM


I'm almost hesitant to post this because of how unpolished it is, but that's the idea of this whole challenge, right? Revision is for August. This is my first chapter as it stands. Here goes:

Before either of them had formed a full sentence they would sit on opposite ends of the piano stool, their noses just reaching the grooves of the keys, echoing one another's notes.

The piano was an antique, flushed and losing its maple hue, handed down from Laurie's mother who had passed just weeks before the twins were born. As far as Laurie and John could trace it back, this was the only musician in their bloodline, and she had given up playing years prior to dying. It stood against a wall, unused, quiet as a coffin, until the afternoon when the twins' jumbled music rang throughout the house.

When the twins were making duets out of commercial jingles as adolescents, their fingers still smaller than the black keys, Laurie and John would loom over them in astonishment, casting each other sidelong smiles.

The Leeds hired a piano instructor, and Carrie and Casey were reading music before they had learned long division. The instructor was a dark, lanky man who seemed to always leave the house after a lesson looking disconcerted. He pulled the parents aside one day, a crooked frown scribbled on his gaunt face, and he dropped down onto one knee.

“With all due respect, you folks seem like good parents, but I must... I must plead with you not to traumatize these kids or use their genius toward your own ends. I'm sorry. What you've got are prodigal children. I'm doing my part, but I have to ask you to do yours: Let them grow into the bards they are, and let the word hear their music. I beg you.”

And he slipped out the door backwards, bowing, his tophat tilted on an open palm.

His strange presence became a fixture in the Leeds household, and by the time the kids were young preteens and playing duet renditions of Bethooven, he had twinges of gray hair on his temples. His eccentricity seemed to grow with the kids' talent.

“Yes! Indeed!” his voice would careen from the den where the piano stood, the young twins huddled over the piano in a trance, their fingers gliding across the keys effortlessly.

**

The twins grew into airy, eccentric youths with a profound introversion. Laurie would encourage them to bring friends home from school, but they never would; shedding their backpacks, they would race into the den and fill the house with the sound of music. The instructor seemed to be their only friend, and the parents began to grow an aversion to him. They blamed the twins' awkward social skills and disinterest in other kids their age on him. The more he bowed out of the door with his tophat, the more polished the music of the twins became and the more askance the parents would look at him.

At seventeen, the twins were in talks with a record executive who would come by the house and shake the parents' hand with a wide, toothy smile. The kids had developed a musical identity, a sort of wistful folk sound with vocal harmonization and heavy-handed string instrumentation, and the executive pored over how soon they would have a record after stepping into his studio.

At the insistence of Casey, Carrie and the instructor, they were to be home schooled for their last year of high school. This allowed for more time in the den, which had been converted into a makeshift musical studio with a drum set in the corner and violins hanging from the wall.

When homeschooling started, the instructor spent more time around the twins, coaching them in hushed tones about recording studios, visibly shaken by the prospect of his fledglings going off to record music on their own. Laurie and John were uncomfortable with his increasing presence around the house, and a week in to the year they found a way to oust him from their kids' lives.

John searched their room one day and, as expected, found drug paraphernalia. The kids were scolded, the den was locked for a week, and the instructor was fired and ordered to stay away from the twins.

By the seventh day, the twins had fashioned a trash can lid with guitar strings and Carrie played it like a harp while Casey beat on the underside of the bin, their voices ringing in harmony like drunken, drifting songbirds.

The record executive was to come to the house to finalize the deal on the day the den was to be reopened. It was a September evening with slanted rainfall pressed against a bruised sky. The family loaded into John's sedan to head to a local bar to celebrate over dinner and drinks.

The last thing Casey remembered seeing was Carrie's forehead pressed against the windowpane, her humming making a small spot of fog on the glass. There was a sudden thrust, a swirling of blacks and grays, and Casey woke up days later in a hospital bed, distraught, his head murky and prickled with pain.

A stocky, wiry-haired man stood at the foot of Casey's bed and rested a hand on his leg cast with a crooked frown. He spoke slowly and sincerely, his voice hushed and thick, but all Casey would remember was the emptiness rising like bile to his throat, the anger flushing his veins.

He prayed for death and dreamt he was singing with Carrie in a dusty, sun-washed den, the ceiling a powdery, cloudless sky. The dreams would be his only reprieve, though, for his body was stubbornly alive and he was trapped in his new world of without.

[Edited on 7/1/09 by Waits]
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[*] posted on 7-1-2009 at 03:48 PM


Wow, these are all so... polished! I'm not going to give much in case you see the terrible truth that I can't do polished prose first time round!!

... Infuriating git, she thought again. It certainly suited him.
The bus slowed to a crunching halt on tarmac and Callie winced as piercing white noise came from the microphone. The bus driver fiddled with it in an attempt to speak clearly.
"Hello?" he tested. "Hello. We've stopped for a short half an hour break. Go use the toilet, grab a bite to eat, whatever. It's another couple hours before we reach the school."
Callie looked up in surprise. Where were they going? France? She took her purse out her bag and checked the amount. Pitiful. Ten pounds for the rest of the term. She knew some kids who got more pocket money per week, Louise included.
"Hey." The dark haired boy was looking at her, the know-it-all smile back in place.




\"Mom and Dad won\'t be pleased if they find out.\"
\"That you freed a possible criminal by trading away your brother to a warlock who looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog and dresses like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?\" Simon inquired. \"No, probably not.\"
- City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

NaNo 07: Won!
NaNo 08: Won!
NaNo 09: TBA
JulNo 09: TBA


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C of Many Names
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[*] posted on 7-1-2009 at 08:14 PM


With luck tomorrow I'll reread everyone's work and critique; for now, have a scene near the end (it's what I've been working on).
Information you need: D'Tielrat are people who can, by writing, control and shape whatever they write about (their stories come only true). RANDOM is an organization created to control them and also where we are.
________

Seven said, "Actually, there is a way we can find out what's going on outside."

"How?" I shouted, my nerves frayed.

"You already know."

Her voice was infuriatingly calm. I closed my eyes and bit my lip, trying to figure out how best to convince her that I had no idea.

But I did know.

I wrote.

The Graytech department is gray: the name suits. Walls, floor, doors... at least it is an easy marker that Cristian is in the right place. "Hey? Anyone?" he calls, walking still. It is almost like a nightmare, but he can hear -- just barely, but he can -- the sounds of the battle being fought, and his dreams are always silent.

Finally, another voice -- "Thank the Gods!" -- as someone comes around the next corner. Cristian notices the pale niform of the Graytech second-in-command, round bruise-colored eyes, dark skin, black hair and feet that have never touched the ground in the split-second before he puts a name to the newcomer; the name is Nina. Her arms are full of all kinds of weapons and her face is a mask of relief. "Thank the Gods," she repeats, and nods toward a door that is just like all the others, but open. "I -- I didn't know -- I still don't, Twenty-Eight, what's happening out there?"

Once inside, she drops her armful of armaments; many of them appear complicated and high-tech, and most of them look like she made them herself. They clatter on the floor. The simplest of them, a long knife or perhaps a short sword, skids towards Twenty-Eight, and he casually picks it up before replying. "It's a condensed sort of war, I think. Someone told a lot of D'Tielrat, and their families, and their friends, what we've been doing."

She turns around. Her face shines with tears. "They came through here already. None of us were prepared. It's not like we have much combat training anyway. They killed almost everyone. They killed Il."

That gives Twenty-Eight pause. "I thought he was immortal?"

Nina laughs, short and bitter. "Apparently not." For the first time she appears to notice the spreading stains on Twenty-Eight's white uniform, and she frowns. "Whose blood is that?"

"D'Tielrat," he says calmly.

"Oh." She shudders. "I know it's necessary and all that, but... it still bothers me."

"I'm sorry about that," he replies, ever-so-casually stepping closer. "And about this, too," Cristian adds, stabbing her.


Seven almost tore my notebook out of my hands. I wondered absentmindedly if she could read my handwriting, then dismissed the worry as I saw her eyes move so fast they blurred. In a minute she was done reading.

"Who's Cristian?" I asked her, wondering why she was so panicked. "Why didn't Twenty-Eight do anything?"

She threw the notebook at me. "Cristian is Twenty-Eight's real name." Watching as that connected in my head, she nodded. "I have to go find him!"

"I don't..." I said, not sure what I was going to add.

"I have to," she told me, yanking the door open. "You stay here. Both sides would be targeting you."

"I don't--" I repeated more forcefully, but she was gone before I finally said what I meant that time: "How would they know? Won't they be after you too?" I sprinted towards the door -- maybe to run after her, maybe to call her back -- but suddenly that didn't seem at all important and what was important -- what was missing, as noticeably as a lost tooth -- was a pen in my hand and paper to set it on. I hadn't finished.

"Fine." I don't know who I was talking to, or what was talking to me, but I listened.

The voices in my head sang.

Once she knows that he is among the Graytechs she can find him quite easily. And she does.

Cristian hears the running feet, the characteristic thunk of Seven's steps. From that moment on he knows who it is but tells himself he doesn't, looking up and hoping he'll be wrong.

He turns his back to her and looks down again. He's right.

"Twenty-Eight, what are you--'" Seven cries, before deciding to be clever. "Are you all right? Whose blood is that?"

Although he is not particularly good with technology the controls on most things Nina comes up with are reasonably straightforward. Cristian figured out how the gun he carries is used fairly quickly, for example, although he does not know how it works.

"D'Tielrat," he says easily, the words only half a lie. He turns and fires.


"That's enough!" I screamed, dropping my notebook to the floor. It wasn't enough, of course, and the things I still had left whirl through my mind. Seven is lying in a spreading puddle of her own blood, just wishing she could die with her wings. Cristian doesn't seem to care which side he's fighting for. An Elica, a Davean, an Andrew and a Thirty-Six and Two and Ninety-Eight all wanted their stories told, but I didn't care. Not then.

Soon enough I would pick up the notebook again.

[Edited on 2-7-2009 by C of Many Names]






When a housecat kills a human he is regarded as a god by his feline peers.

NaNo 08 // LEC //
fail, rewrite in progress
JulNo 09 // For the Love of Words //
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