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The Caduca - chapter 1

by elaine6 

Posted: 01 December 2006
Word Count: 4719
Summary: First chapter of a full length novel

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

In Chaireddan, in the hot weather, the day begins long before the light.
In the market square the stalls glimmered with yellow-flaring lamps, enclosed against the insects in tents of billowing white mesh through which the women pushed like swimmers. On their heads they carried wicker baskets, the leaves of their next dinner hanging down around their ears like ladies in Airdrossa wore jewels. The stalls were sparsely set so close to harvest, but still the crowds were thicker than usual, the expert fingers flicking among the vegetables with a trace of urgency. There had been no hint, no clue or proclamation; no one had said that day out of all others would be the day. But early that morning the women of Chaireddan, who had lived before through fire and siege and storm, loaded their baskets till every scrap of space was filled and, as the sun rose red into the guileless sky, turned their black-coated backs and hurried away.

It was Na’Stelfia, her mother’s friend, who gave her the first picture, a long time ago when she first went away to school on Chi!me Two. They hadn’t been fashionable then, but Aunt Stelfia was IntPro, as Ar’Quila had always sworn she would be when she grew up; she was always one step ahead of a trend. When she wasn’t at home at the IntPro central office on Zargras, the once uninhabited planet where the United Planets was based, she was travelling the galaxy on missions as daring as they were secret. The Office of Interplanetary Protocols was the enforcer for the United Planets galactic government; staffed largely with Chi!me, there was always something thrilling to do. Once, when Quila was very small, Aunt Stelfia had come home from a posting with a small, round, burnt hole in the brim of her hat. She had shown it to her, tipping back her chair and tossing it to her with an idle gesture, as if she didn’t much care.
‘Was it a hydrogen blaster?’ Quila had asked, wide-eyed. ‘Did someone shoot you?’ It had seemed unbelievably exciting to her, so amazing, so lucky. ‘Did someone shoot you?’ Aunt Stelfia had crossed her boot heels on the table and laughed.
A picture from Aunt Stelfia was worth framing with respect. Quila had dutifully given it pride of place on the dormitory wall opposite her bed and, after a while and some appreciative comments from her new best friends, had even been moved to look its subject up on her terminal. She had barely heard of Mara Karne then, though the exports of Benan Ty figured with depressing regularity in her galactic geography lessons all through her years at school. The sparse information available taught her only a little more. A guerrilla leader, she read, the daughter of Benan Ty’s deposed president. A hero or a villain, freedom fighter or murderer, champion of peasants or destroyer of cities, depending on your point of view. A thin, white-faced girl with an ancient gun, a skein of blowing hair; eyes that looked right out of the poster and gently, cynically, knowingly at her.
She collected other pictures where she could, from fan shops of esoteric places or in-depth crystals on our primitive cousins in the old Terran space. A shot from a security surveillance recording, Mara with her hair bundled under her hat, marching down a corridor deep in conversation with a older man, the antiquated gun with the Terran name that was her personal badge slung casually over one shoulder as if she had forgotten it was there. An old image from an article, Mara at her father’s graveside, still and straight with a black lace veil pushed back over her hair. A police photo for a wanted poster, her mouth quirking with defiant laughter at the thought of how she would shortly fight her way out. And the last, dubious snippet, from the camera of a journalist who claimed to have been allowed into a ViaVera base, of a camp fire in an evening field, a blur of faces singing and Mara in the centre in a long flounced skirt, dancing with a young man for all the world as if she was just an ordinary girl and not a killer at all.

It was the birds that made her late. As she had always done in those days when they were in a provincial base, Terise went down to the market early that morning. The sky was just starting to pale and she was heading back when she saw them. She knew the animal stalls well; usually in the narrowest entrance to the market, on bad days the stench from the frilleh cages would follow her all the way round the other booths. At least the frilleh sold, they were good for catching the rats the first human colonists had inadvertently introduced. The frilleh always found a buyer in the end; what she had really learned to hate were the two moth-eaten jeebas that were brought out again and again and taken away each time without one. Ladies in Airdrossa, she had heard, would wear brightly coloured jeebas on their shoulders as pets, but it was not a fashion people had any truck with in Chaireddan. The jeeba would reach out with clutching paws as she passed them, as if they could feel her pity. When it was possible she always took another way.
She would have done so today, but the song called her. Just the littlest thread of a tune, a little high piping her grandmother had once said would be the music of the gods, if only it weren’t for free. She hurried over, pushing through the clouds of mesh with the flats of her hands. There on the biggest stall, taking up almost all the room, was a cage of tarnished metal and inside, perched all in a line on a single loop of dead branch and singing their hearts out as they had always done, were six pietera. The dawn light caught their dark plumage into purple and gold like the very definition of beauty. At home they had nested in the trees all around the village; the girls had collected their discarded feathers to wear in their hair. Such small, round birds they were, with their purple feathers and bright eyes and no good eating on them at all. No one would ever harm a pietera.
Looking at them now she had a sudden impulse to buy one for Ladyani. He was from her village, the only other in the inner circle who was even from the east coast. They could listen to it sing together, remember all the things from their shared childhood they could not speak of to anyone else, and when they had heard enough, they could open the cage up and let it go. He would like that, she thought, it would be a poetic gesture and a fit one for a revolutionary. More importantly, it would be theirs alone. She was still at that stage then when it seemed worth trying to find things to have with Ladyani.
She prodded one finger at the bars of the cage and one of the birds bounced along the branch towards it, cheeping hopefully. They were so friendly, so lacking in predators that they were always sure of their welcome. She saw Ladyani thinking of their village, his thrust-out lip and hard, red-rimmed eyes as clear as if he was standing before her. The bird fluttered up to her finger and cheeped again.
‘Would Madam take a bird this morning? A nice little bird, very cheap, for pet or food? Come all the way beyond Camino, these do, I do you very good price?’
The stallholder was almost as mangy as his jeebas, another one in this poverty-stricken province hanging on beyond the point when there was nothing left to hold to. Every time she came to the market she was reminded of how much the people needed them, even if they didn’t know it. She wriggled her finger out of the cage, gently dislodging the bird.
‘No’ she said. ‘Not today.’
At the same time, just beyond hearing, the police carriers were edging along the narrow streets of the lower town, their engines straining at the slow speed. Ahead of them the crowd of dark, carapaced figures pulsed and shifted, full of scurrying motion. In the first carrier, the young police chief sniffed at the faint bitter smell, the suggestion of fuel cell catastrophe building somewhere beneath him. It was as much as he could do not to accelerate and sweep them all out of the way; in moments like this, even the inevitable criticism seemed almost worth it. Almost, but not quite. He had always been good at controlling himself, it was what had got him where he was today. Self-control and hard work, against those who knew the meaning of neither.
Once they were out of the warren around the market, the road was clearer, climbing between dust hued walls up the hill to the old town. Fewer people lived up here; the rambling buildings on the summit were mostly a motley collection of religious missions, student hostels and sinking, threadbare charities. All sorts of organisations had a forsaken outpost in this forsaken outpost of a town. The police chief squinted into the rising sun. The tower of the building called the Adicalan Charitable Mission rose ahead against the skyline and he felt himself beginning to smile. There was only one woman with them now, a short, black figure climbing up the street ahead. For a moment he stiffened, but it was all right; everything this morning, he knew suddenly, was going to be all right.
He stood up in his seat, noting with surprise how his legs seemed to tremble beneath him, and gave the signal. The carriers behind him stopped, the men in them leaping over the sides and turning left or right to run round each side of the fortified building. From his own, his crew got out the heavy equipment. It had been years coming, this moment, years when he had planned and schemed and ignored everyone who had said it couldn’t be done, years when he had been laughed at and worse and only endured it because he had known one day it would be different. There was nothing worse than to be powerless, despised. He had learnt that, and today was the day he was done with it. There were all sorts of organisations up here, any number of which might be other than they seemed. Yet for them the law was nothing, ruling by violence they were themselves inviolable. There were many like that, many fronts for the teeming multitudes of his enemies, but after today, one less. He tasted the phrase unspoken on his tongue. One less.
If he had known what he was going to start that day and how far it was going to take him, he might have felt differently; he might even have been afraid. But he had known nothing and was filled instead with a vast, clear joy. Petrus Desailly, chief of the Chaireddan police, stood in his carrier and waited, gratefully, for his battle.
It was fully light and she was halfway up the hill when Terise heard them behind her. She knew where they were going immediately, but she couldn’t run. Couldn’t run, couldn’t shout, couldn’t do anything, not even reach into her robes for her communicator to say goodbye. If she had been closer, close enough for a sprint to take her to the gates…They would not even know who she was: in her traditional black dress and head scarf, she could have been anyone, just another townswoman dragging her shopping home. The carriers were drawing level now, she could feel them at her shoulder, breathe their fumes. She kept her eyes on the ground, bending her head as the local women did when they didn’t want to be seen.
She reached the top of the hill as they passed her and took the left fork around the front of the mission building. She was still walking but quicker now, the bones in her calves aching with the effort of not sprinting. Just a woman hurrying home with her shopping, just a woman with the sweat springing under her black coat and her breath hoarse against the edge of her headscarf. A little way along there was a passage on the left hand side, a set of steps leading steeply upwards to a cluster of houses perched on the escarpment above the mission. She turned into it and started to run. Halfway up the steps, a path led off to the right into a garden. Gracious once, it was overgrown and neglected now, a riot of shrubs and tall, dry grasses lining the wall above the road. She flung herself down and wriggled along through the undergrowth until she was overlooking the road. She couldn’t see anyone. She ducked back down into the bushes and pulled the communicator out of the waistband of her skirt.
‘Mara? Can you hear me? Mara?’
No reply but the hiss of static. The silence stretched out like wire.
‘Mara?’ Come on, she breathed to herself, please answer.
The communicator crackled, too loud. She slapped her hand over the speaker to muffle it and, at last, heard the voice she was waiting for.
‘Hi, Terise’ said Mara Karne, lightly, on the day she died. ‘Trouble?’
Even then, it made her smile. ‘Trouble. You’ve seen them?’
‘Two carriers out the front, nothing else. How many more?’
Terise parted the leaves in front of her face.
‘There’s five…no, wait, six men coming round the west side now.’
‘Only that Espada crap, I think, I can’t see any Chi!me blasters.’ Espada was the Ty weapons company, the official supplier of the government, whose blasters were so liable to jam or explode in your face that Mara said you might as well throw them at the enemy and duck. ViaVera favoured Gargarin hydrogen rifles, which were cheap and easy to source when they couldn’t get Chi!me, but even Terran guns were better than Espadas. ‘There were more of them, but I couldn’t stay to watch. I expect they’re working round the other side. They’re not making a perimeter, my guess is they’ll wait till they’ve got enough grouped, then storm front and back.’
‘Hmm’ There was a pause as Mara digested this. ‘Who are they? Army or CAS?’
The CAS paramilitaries would have been the worst, Army perhaps expected. This was almost embarrassing. ‘They look like police. The locals.’
Mara snorted at her tone. ‘Like being savaged by a flower’ she said. ‘Alright. This is what we’ll do. I’ll get the ship underway, that gives us twenty minutes to hold them off and get to the roof when it comes in. You said they don’t have Chi!me blasters? You don’t think they’d have anti-aircraft?’
‘I can’t see any. I don’t know what’s in the carriers, but I don’t see why they would. They don’t know we have the ship, after all.’
‘Or so we hope. We’ll assume the ship can take care of whatever they throw it; we don’t have a lot of choice, anyway. Where are you, you in the garden?’
‘Opposite the kitchen window.’
‘OK. You stay there, keep watch as long as you can. I’ll pass you over to Michel, you can talk to him if you see anything. Give it 15 standard, then get yourself up to the roof. You should be able to take the side escape stairs if they’re not cordoning the place, but if that changes, let Michel know. Can you do it?’
Terise had her doubts, but she wasn’t going to share them. Below, another three policemen thudded past.
‘Course I can’ she said, brightly. ‘I’ll be fine.’
‘Well, don’t miss the flight. You know I can’t do without you. Who’d nag me to eat and sleep like my old granny, if not you?’
‘I only do it for the appreciation.’ With an effort, she kept the fear out of her voice. ‘See you later, then’ she said.
‘Yeah’ said Mara. ‘Here’s Michel.’
A buzz of her voice, receding: ‘Shut up, you lot, we’ve got trouble…’ Drowned out by Michel, tense with excitement. He had been with them two years, but by the Terran reckoning they still used on Benan Ty, he was only seventeen. Terise pulled herself together.
‘Michel. What do you need to know?’
‘Well…’ he began, and the world dissolved into noise. Terise found herself face down on the ground. She raised her head, gingerly, and saw that where the main gate of the mission had been, there was now only a pall of white dust.
‘Fuck! Michel! Michel, can you hear me? Michel?’
The communicator sang in her hand.
‘Terise? You there? That was the main gate, and half the front with it. All the windows have gone and the wall in the mess hall’s shot. It got Çeru, he’s still here but I don’t think he’s going to make it. Jesus, Terise, you should see his leg, its gone, its just…’
She kept her tone level, cutting across his panic. ‘Where are you now?’
‘In the salon, above the courtyard. We can hold them off here, they’ll have to come through one at a time, the way it’s fallen. We can hold them.’
‘Of course you can.’
‘Of course we can. Of course…’ his consolation ended in a yelp. ‘They’re coming through! There’s one’ A crackle of rifle fire drowned him out.
‘Michel? Michel? Come in!’
His voice in the background was jubilant.
‘We got him! We got the bastard!’ Another crackle. She heard him shouting into the room. ‘Take that, you fucks! Cesna, give me that charge pack. Come on!’
‘Michel? What’s happening?’
Belatedly, he remembered he was supposed to be talking to her. He breathed heavily into the communicator.
‘I can’t fire a rifle one handed. I have to go.’
There was a clunk as his communicator fell to the floor.
It was fair enough, she couldn’t tell them anything. She couldn’t help, couldn’t do anything except sit safe in her grassy hideout and listen to the shouts, the bursts of rifle fire and the deeper thuds of the blasters coming from the wrecked, burning building that had been their base in Chaireddan. Counting down the minutes to their rescue, ten minutes, five minutes now. She scanned the sky for the ship, fixing her hope on every dot that might be a bird, or might not.
Mara shouted something, too far from the communicator for Terise to make out. Footsteps crossed the floor towards it.
‘Michel? Are you alright? What’s happened?’
‘We’re pulling back’ he gasped. ‘You have to get to the roof.’
‘OK, shouldn’t be a problem. But tell Mara I don’t know where the other policemen are, they might have got up the back, might be on the roof. I can’t see from here.’
‘I’ll tell her. I have to go. Get to the roof.’
‘Wait, Michel, where’s…’ The line clicked off. ‘Ladyani’ she finished to the empty air. He would only have laughed at her anyway.
One of the dots was coming closer, definitely too big for a bird. The firing was at both gates now, but the policemen didn’t seem to be watching the sides. Terise slipped down the escarpment into the road and ran, bent double, across to the door to the fire escape. In the stairwell, the blasters were louder and the air was hazy with distant smoke. She could hear shouting, but nothing very close. If she met a policeman coming down she knew she didn’t have a chance, but neither would she have one if she were left behind. Terise pulled her headscarf over her nose, breathed once or twice into the folds for courage, and galloped up the stairs.
She stopped at the top and peered out round the door. The roof of the mission was wide and flat but not regularly shaped, and was broken up still further by a power cell housing about a third of the way back on the west side. The ship was directly above them now, sitting down on the roof with its wings folded and bolts richocheting off its armoured sides. A group of about four policemen, including one with a leader’s red trimmings on his shoulder, were sheltering behind the power cell block and doing most of the firing. As soon as they had got down, the crew of the flyer had opened up on them, but the cell block gave them too much cover for them to be seriously endangered. The main stairs from the building came up on the east side of the roof, slightly further along than the power cells. On these stairs Terise guessed from the firing that the surviving group members were gathered, holding off more policemen following them up from inside. No one, it seemed, had seen her. She waited at the top of her stairs.
After a moment, the fire from the ship increased in intensity. The policemen on the power block cowered back into cover and, in that moment, Michel sprinted across the open space and galloped up the ramp into safety. He was followed by Cesna, Çeru’s brother, his shirt flapping open and bloody. After him came Marius with something tied round his thigh and scorch marks all down one side of his jacket. Lander went with him, taking the left side so that Marius would have a better chance, firing one-handed while Marius leant on him. A bolt grazed his upper arm; he staggered, but kept on going. Terise watched them cross and felt the need to shoot someone so strong she had to dig her nails into her palms to contain it. In the stairwell, she could see tufts of Ladyani’s red hair as he fought to give them time. He was next to go, sauntering across the roof so slowly she would have hit him if she had been able to reach. Only Mara to come now, only Mara who had naturally insisted on being the last, and Terise should be making her move. Tensing her shoulders against the blaster bolts, she ducked her head and ran towards the ship.
She pounded in under the folded wings, swung herself round the rail on the side of the ramp. Ladyani was crouching at the bottom with one the crew members, always afterwards she remembered thinking that he must have taken the place of the pilot so that they could get away quicker and how like him it was to think of it. Then Mara came up the last step and started to run. Terise stopped, one foot on the slope. She saw the sweat on Ladyani’s upper lip as he shot, the way his fringe got in his eyes because he would not let her cut it, felt the reverberations of the ship beneath her feet, the engine noise filling her head so that she couldn’t hear anything else, so that even the fury of fire from Ladyani was silent. Mara was almost halfway across now, shooting over her shoulder as she ran, laughing, her hair flying out behind her like the sun trailing clouds. The man with the red trim on his shoulder stood up. Ladyani went on firing, bolts droning past the man’s head like insects. Mara turned. The red-trimmed man lifted his blaster. Ladyani took one, half step forward, his hand stretching out as if he could touch her. Terise let go of the rail. Mara opened her arms out wide, like greeting an old friend. The man fired.
The bolt took her right in the chest, lifting her up and back with the force of it before crumpling her into a heap of old clothes, a charity not worth the trouble of keeping. No one could survive a hit like that, no one who did not have the armour that cost money that could be better spent on weapons. No exemptions, no special protection. No one could survive it; not even her. Terise thought for a moment that she saw her hand flutter, then there was nothing but her hair, blowing like feathers around her face.
It was very quiet. From the trees beyond, birdsong flickered above the crackle of the flames. The red trimmed man stood still, staring at them, while the fringes on his shoulders ruffled in the breeze and behind his head the sun hung crowned in smoke. There seemed no reason why any of them should ever move again. Then, slowly, the man lowered his blaster. He lowered his blaster, and Ladyani started to scream.
It was Terise who pulled him back, Terise and the crewman who got the rifle off him and pushed him up the ramp.
‘You know we can’t lose both of you.’ Terise had cried, shaking him. I can’t lose both of you. ‘She told us what to do, we have to go on. No gestures, no throwing yourself away for nothing. We have to go on. Nothing else matters, not even revenge, not even for her. You know that’s the first thing she’d say.’
He’d known she was right, he must have done, or he would never have allowed her to force him on board. He knew she was right but, all the same, he never forgave her for it.
The ship stretched out its wings and leapt into the sky. It circled the building once, low, while policemen fired at its impervious back, then headed north and east into the mountains. On the roof of the burning mission a bundle of clothes lay tumbled in a spreading stain and birds sang all around.

She’d bought the dancing picture a few days after she heard Mara had died, and though she never put it up with the others, secretly it was always her favourite. Quila knew it was in doubtful taste, most probably faked with an actress from a Darien brothel in that brief time when her image was currency, but she couldn’t help it. A glimpse of a happy, normal life, a girl who didn’t know it was so soon to be taken away. She cried over it in many nights those first few months, under the covers with the light of the ring terminal she’d got for her naming day last cycle. It was like the death of a friend, just as for a little while she’d almost felt she’d known her while she was alive, that Mara had known her, Quila. It was a strange thing to think about a dead revolutionary half a galaxy away, but it didn’t last. After a few months, Mara got too fashionable even for Quila’s devotion. She took down all save the first of the pictures.
She was adolescent by then in any case, too old not to have her doubts about the romantic heroes of her youth. Mara Karne might once have been regarded by IntPro as tolerable, but when the Terran civil war started the Terran year after she died, it changed everything. In death, she was tolerable no longer. At Quila’s first Academy interview that cycle, they’d asked her if she thought the idolisation of other planets’ terrorists was a healthy trend among the Chi!me young. It hadn’t taken a genius to guess the correct answer; she’d taken the warning for what it was. In her aunt Stelfia’s day ViaVera had been the cause with which the young and daring would flirt but that was before; things changed and you had to keep up. IntPro was a life-filling commitment: if you were serious, you couldn’t prepare yourself too soon.
She would still take her pictures out sometimes at first, in the rare moments when she could count on being alone, and run her fingers over the contours of cheeks and chin as if by doing so she could make them unlock some mystery. But she never did. Two Terran years, fourteen months by UP standard reckoning after Mara Karne died in Chaireddan, Stelfia went into seclusion on faraway Herantive. Quila was accepted into the Academy and put the last picture away.

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Comments by other Members

toshi at 11:34 on 04 December 2006  Report this post
Hi Elaine

First of all I'd like to say how much I enjoyed reading this. You have a great style here and use excellent description and dialogue. It is definitely something I would like to read more of. It looks like you have some good kick-ass female characters as well which is always good to see, and there is lots of detail to entice the reader. All in all a great start!

I have just a couple of comments to give you on this. The first is that your paragraphs are quite long, which makes the text overall quite dense to read and you can end up losing your place in them. It would be a simple thing just to split them and aim for not more than 5-6 sentences in each paragraph, or less if the sentences are very long.

Secondly, this chapter uses a lot of different points of view. The advice I've been given is do not switch point of view within a chapter (or at least a section) . In this chapter we see the action from Quila's, Terise, the police chief, Terise, and finally Quila again, and sometimes we are given an external point of view as well (as at the beginning).

For instance here:
"If he had known what he was going to start that day and how far it was going to take him, he might have felt differently; he might even have been afraid. But he had known nothing and was filled instead with a vast, clear joy. Petrus Desailly, chief of the Chaireddan police, stood in his carrier and waited, gratefully, for his battle.
It was fully light and she was halfway up the hill when Terise heard them behind her. "

there are three points of view all in a short space (the external narrator, the police chief and Terise). It becomes confusing for the reader and makes it hard to know who to identify with.

My suggestion would be that you limit this first section to the police chief and Terise, ie you cut out the Quila bit altogether and perhaps use it to start Chapter 2. Also you amalgamate all the police chief bit into the beginning bit, then switch to Terise and follow it through to the end of the action. That way this first chapter would concentrate on the events on Claireddan, and be an excellent introduction to Mara Keane and fighters like her. It would also be a very compelling beginning to this novel as it sets up such a good action sequence.

Well these are only suggestions which I hope may be of some help to you. Please feel free to ignore what I say - after all it is your book! I do hope you will upload more. This looks like it will be a very exciting and intriguing novel.

Best wishes

elaine6 at 22:25 on 05 December 2006  Report this post
Hi Toshi

Thanks very much for your comments - it's great to get some constructive criticism.

Paragraph length - you got me bang to rights. I could say in my defence that they look a lot less dense but really I've just been reading too much Henry James. I'll split them up.

I like your idea about moving the Quila sections to the second chapter. This had not occured to me but the more I think about it, the more obvious it seems. I'll give it a go and you can see how it works when I upload chapter 2.


Patsy at 18:02 on 12 December 2006  Report this post
Hi Elaine,

This looks to be quite an interesting story that you have going :) I love the descriptions that you put in, as they put you right in the middle of the story, and it's easy to see what's going on in your minds eye as you read :)

Things to consider:

You have a lot of shifting viewpoints going on here that might get you into trouble, but I see Toshi has already mentioned this. Viewpoint is one of the hardest things to master. Think to yourself as you write if the viewpoint character can't see, hear, or think it -- you can't put it in. That's what saves me!!
It's always best to try and stick with one viewpoint in a chapter, or at least in a scene. Decide who is the most important character, and try and stick with their viewpoint as much as possible, or switch off between important characters by chapter or scene if you can. Are you planning to switch back and forth between Terise and Quila as viewpoint characters -- give us the two sides of the coin, so to speak?

If the policeman is a character that you won't use again, I'd cut out the section from his viewpoint -- leave us with Terise, as it will build on the tension, let her see what he's doing, or if we need to know who he is -- let her recognize him.

The first paragraph, I'm uncertain of -- If you could have Terise notice their actions as she walks through the market, and not have this as a seperate viewpoint, I think you might be better served.

And the sections from Quila's viewpoint should be grouped together at the end of this chapter, or maybe moved to the next one, and have this as a prologue if Chapter One has happened in the past, and you are going to jump forward in time. Always open with your action ;)
Give us a bang to hook our attention, and you'll have your reader so they can't put your book down!!

You have an excellent story going here!! Hope to see more.

Patsy :)


P.S. Sorry it took me so long to get to this -- I was off doing NaNo in November :)

hmaster at 21:59 on 09 January 2007  Report this post
Hi Elaine,

Unlike Patsy I have no excuses like NaNo. But here's my comments anyway =)

This is a good start, a bang before we've even barely turned a page =) There seems like plenty of backstory here, a lot of that is coming out already. The direction of the story is unknown and that's no bad thing. There's a lot of work gone into putting some flesh on the descriptions as well.

One of my big grumps was the multiple viewpoints, too. Although I wasn't that comfortable with the slip between Petrus and Terise, I wasn't sure if Quila was needed at all in this chapter. I think the issue is that there's very little time-consistency between the Quila and Mara stories in this chapter. Not knowing where the story is headed, it'd be unwise to make any specific suggestions...

There are sentences where the meaning is awkward or incomplete, but a revision would probably sort them out. e.g.

A picture from Aunt Stelfia was worth framing with respect.
What's the difference between framing with and without respect?
A police photo for a wanted poster, her mouth quirking with defiant laughter at the thought of how she would shortly fight her way out.
Fight her way out from what?
The stalls were sparsely set so close to harvest
I was grasping for a missing conjunction or something like the stalls were sparsely set, being so close to harvest,

Plus, there's some forecasting with the text and I'm not sure you really need to do that. e.g. "on the day she died" The problem with that kind of style (omniscient point-of-view) is that it can distort the proceedings, pull the reader out of the character's head and make it known there's an Author Here. In this setup - which is fine - it seems unnecessary.

Anyhow, I hope you can get us the second chapter sometime soon. I recommend you perserve on with the second and only revise the first once you've made significant progress into your story. My goodness, it's been over a month. What have you been doing? Enjoying Christmas???

- Joel

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