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Above and Below, chap 3

by kmerignac 

Posted: 16 September 2003
Word Count: 1093
Summary: Here's the next installment...

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Jo and Shaun felt nervous as they approached the house, but when they saw that their mum’s car wasn’t yet in the drive they both felt their spirits lift - they might still get a lecture, but at least they weren’t going to be caught in the act.
Jo took her wet shoes off and made her way up the stairs. She wondered if Shaun was going to tell them what had happened and decided he probably wouldn’t. One of the unspoken rules of the house was that Shaun look after her when they were alone, so if they happened to find out that she’d been in danger she knew he’d get an earful too. She knew it was unfair, but she was also pretty sure she could work this to her advantage.
Dorfmann had been pruning when they returned; she'd felt his eyes on her back as she'd waded by, river water dripping from her clothes, but she didn’t think he’d say anything either. He was quiet on the whole and kept himself to himself, and that suited her just fine. She didn’t like him much. He looked a bit like how she imagined a vampire to be - tall with dark hair receding at the temples, a horrid gaunt face with narrow features. He gave her the creeps. But having worked the estate forever, there could never have been any question of replacing him.
She walked into the bathroom and quickly got undressed. It wasn’t exactly a hot day, despite the presence of the sun, and the wind had taken all of the warmth out of her wet body during the trek home; it was a relief to peel the wet clothes from her skin. When she turned the hot water on damp steam began to fill the room, caressing her with its warmth. She stepped into the shower and stood under the flow, closing her eyes and tipping her head back to let the warmth hammer down onto her face, relishing in the feel of her muscles gently loosening in the heat. Then there was a knock on the door and she heard Shaun’s voice drift in from the corridor.
'Mum just phoned. She said she'll be back in about half an hour.'
Jo opened her eyes and wiped the water off her face with her hands.
'Okay!’ she shouted, then stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. She picked up her things and padded down the carpeted corridor to her bedroom, warm water dripping from her hair and down her back. She was pushing her wet clothes into the back of her cupboard, making a mental note to put them in the machine herself before going to bed, when Shaun poked his head around the door.
'Can we keep this to ourselves?' he said.
Jo looked up, surprised.
'Fine by me.’
He disappeared again, and she smiled to herself. She took a large jumper and a pair of jeans out of the cupboard and pulled them on, then pulled a brush through her wet hair and glanced at her reflection in the mirror. Then she turned, walked to the bed and lay down.
There’d been no one on the bridge with her, she’d have seen them. But she had been pushed in; she'd felt the pressure on her back. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. There was absolutely no sense in what she was thinking. But then, was there any sense in the fact that she’d heard people singing too?
And how had she been able to stay under water for so long? She wasn't sure how long exactly, but at least three or four minutes, and although she wasn't a bad swimmer she certainly wasn't champion material.
She'd felt safe though, until Shaun interfered. In a kind of trance… induced no doubt by a lack of oxygen to the brain, because she'd heard of things like that happening. Yes, maybe that’s what it was. That would certainly explain why she’d seen what she had… just some sort of hallucination… a figment of her delirious imagination… what other explanation was there for seeing a blooming hole in the riverbed? Well not a hole exactly, more like a window. A kind of window.
She pushed herself up onto her elbows and opened her eyes. Maybe it was just a mirror. Discarded, and forgotten. No age spots, and the reflection perfect, so it would have to have been thrown in recently, but maybe that’s what it was. So what she’d seen in it would just have been a reflection. That would make sense. Because there’d been trees, just like those surrounding the river, standing tall and proud, and the sky had been the same bright blue and dotted with wisps of fluffy cloud. She’d seen small birds flitting in and out of the branches of the trees… and all that could well have been a reflection. If there hadn’t been those other things too. An ornate bridge in white wood that she'd never seen before, delicate and majestic, arching over the water, and a far cry from her father’s makeshift affair. And the banks she’d seen were smooth and green whereas the river she’d fallen into had muddy banks full of weeds and wild flowers.
Then, of course, there were the faces. Seven or eight of them, crowding on the river’s lush banks and staring down at her. Faces of people she'd never seen before.
Jo chewed at her lip. She was beginning to feel a bit sick. No matter how she looked at it, how much she turned the thing over in her mind, she always came back to the same ridiculous conclusion: what she’d seen wasn’t a mirror. It couldn’t possibly have been. What she’d seen could only have been one of two things. Either a hallucination, produced by lack of oxygen or something, or a window. A kind of window. Looking out over some other garden. Some other place. She smiled. A window to another land… just how crazy did that sound?
She sat up and kicked her feet over the side of the bed and down onto the floor. The sound of tires on the gravel filtered in through the window and she glanced outside, catching a glimpse of the roof of her mum’s blue car just before it disappeared out of sight: there was no way she’d be able to get away today, but she would tomorrow. She’d make sure of that.
Curiosity had got the better of her.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 19:55 on 16 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Kate,

This is coming along really well. Love the mystical element in this chapter and would certainly have kept on reading if there had been more.

I noticed a couple of instances of the word 'felt' in the first sentence, maybe you could say:

Jo and Shaun felt nervous as they approached the house, but when they saw that their mum’s car wasn’t yet in the drive their spirits lifted... instead. I know it's just a small point, but for some reason repetitions always seem to leap out.

I noticed you wrote relishing in, maybe drop the in as it seems odd, perhaps you were thinking of revelling in?

Silly things I know, and this is getting exciting now, look forward to more.

Best, Nell.

bjlangley at 09:09 on 17 September 2003  Report this post
Hi Kate, I agree with Nell, with is coming along nicely. This chapter doesn't give much away, but we're still with Jo as she tries to make sense of things, and share her curiosity.

kmerignac at 12:13 on 17 September 2003  Report this post
Good to hear from you again - and as on the ball as ever. What an excellent suggestion; do you know that's a sentence I just couldn't get right! Does that happen to you? No matter how many times you try to work the thing you know that there's something not right somewhere! So thanks for that - I'll use that if you don't mind!

As far as relishing and revelling goes, you've hit the nail on the head - confusion between the two. Well noticed.

I'm glad you like the way it's going, and say you'd like to read more. The question I'd now like to ask is, do you think it's worth my trying to send this to an agent somewhere - and do you think he (or she) would find these snippets interesting enough to want to find out more? I fear they'd find it far too amateurish, and I would appreciate your experienced opinion on this!

Yours, Kate
(by the way, just reading the golden web, and love it - will get back to you on that. How do you manage to do so much fantastic stuff?)

Thanks for following and for your support! I'm glad you like the way it's going and that you feel some sort of sympathy with Jo. It's quite a short piece, but I hope to keep the reader hooked this way?!

Nell at 16:49 on 17 September 2003  Report this post
Kate, glad to be useful; and about those tricky sentences - yes - I find that if when I'm re-reading I skim or skip over something, or trip slightly on it I must then look at it very hard, because there's always a reason, always something wrong.

I believe it's really just the previously published authors who already have an agent who submit their work before it's finished. The agent can then guide them or make suggestions on the work in progress. I doubt that an agent would be willing to do this for a first-time author - unless the work really blew them away, and it would have to be extraordinary for that - they'd want to see a synopsis and maybe three sample chapters from the finished work first, then if they liked it they'd request the whole manuscript to look at. Still no guarantee they'll accept it once you get to that stage though. And I always feel better saying in the letter to accompany the synopsis etc that the novel is finished.

Glad you like The Golden Web!

Account Closed at 19:50 on 18 September 2003  Report this post
I thought this was very exciting work - I love the way you hook us into Jo's thoughts, and I as read I found myself reading faster adn faster to see what happened! - great sense of mystery and pace. I'm looking forward to finding out all about this strange new world/vision she's having.

Anne B

kmerignac at 13:22 on 19 September 2003  Report this post
The novel iis/i finished! I finished it last year - although you know what it's like, the first chapters have been changed and changed I don't know how many times. So synopsis etc. doesn't pose a problem, but I was under the impression (from the Writers Handbook, and the Yearbook), that the first three chapters was all most agents would consider. I also know that it's incredibly difficult to get a foot in any door, but maybe it's worth giving it a go? Who knows, some poor unsuspecting agent somewhere might be having a good day when it falls on the desk! My question was more of the 'are they just going to laugh in my face?' variety...! You probably just have to be very thick skinned though (he who dares...) and not have your whole life riding on the thing! What do you think?
Yours, Kate.

kmerignac at 13:25 on 19 September 2003  Report this post
Anne B,
I'm so glad you like it - I don't think I'll be putting any more up though, not just now anyway. I just wanted some professional feedback on what works and what doesn't, but it hardly seems worth going through the whole novel this way! It has been incredibly helpful though, and will serve as a valuable learning experience. Maybe the next one will be better!
Yours, Kate

stephanieE at 13:29 on 19 September 2003  Report this post
Yes, this is coming along very nicely - a window into another world indeed!

One tiny thing that I wanted to correct was 'tires on gravel' - tires is fine if it's for an American market, but please, if we're in England, can we have tyres?

I think Nell is right, you need to persevere and complete the manuscript before sending it to an agent. For a start, it's pretty difficult to send a synopsis if you ahven't finished it, and then you'll find that your confidence and writing style improve as you go on, and you might want to go back and re-write earlier chapters once you're finished.

But please do carry on, as I think you have an interesting and engaging tale here, that's worth pursuing. Good luck

stephanieE at 13:32 on 19 September 2003  Report this post
Kate, sorry, we were posting at the same time... yes, if it's finished then why not go for it! My advice would be to get a really tight synopsis together, to make sure you know what market you're aiming for (if children's then what age?) and then do some research on appropriate agents/publishers. Always worth ringing them and asking are they taking on new material right now, as terribly frustrating to have material returned once you've sent it out. Make sure you address it to an individual too (receptionists will tell you the right name if you're not sure) to give it the best chance of being read.

Fingers crossed!

kmerignac at 13:55 on 19 September 2003  Report this post
Thanks for that! Hell, why not! Let's give it a go! Would you recommend agents or publishers as a first shot? Or should I just go screaming into offices demanding that they read it on the spot?!
It's not actually a child's book because there are more horrific(!) sides to the story as the whole thing progresses, and as far as a tight synopsis goes I'll do my best, but isn't that the most difficult thing in the world to get right when you're new to the business! It's a complete nightmare trying to pin everything into a few pages AND make it sound interesting! (Oh, and by the way, why don't my attempts at italics and things ever seem to work ,ii:ii:i:://!!)
Anyway, I'll let you know if, in years to come, this one makes it, and if it does, I'll put your name in my 'thanks go to' list!!
Yours, Kate.
(and tyres is certainly better than tires - why did I do tires??!! It's beyond me!)

old friend at 13:39 on 20 September 2003  Report this post
Hello Kate,

I read this and the other Chapters. You write extremely well with interest, pace and good character definition.

I wonder who your audience is to be? If you are developing a clear answer to this, then read and re-read your work with this in mind.

If it is to be 'all ages' etc. then I would suggest that you look at yout initial start - Chapter One - and try to capture the reader's eye' with better paragraphing... you've done this nicely with most of this Chapter. Read your work and remove those words that are not necessary or mean something different from what you have written. The Father's 'affair' will not be read as the bridge he constructed but as something else.

You tend to describe each phase of action (example - in then out of the shower, picking up her things and so on) some of this adds tremendously to the story but with other examples I would question their value.

Small points..First line - cut out 'yet'. Reference to wet shoes... Refer to Chapter One where it was her 'feet' that made a noise on the stairs. Fourth line 'were' not 'was'. There are also other typos.

By this stage I wanted to receive more of 'the Plot'. Very good suspense but I do not wish to 'go along' much further with a 14-year-old unless the real action starts.

Lovely style, keep it coming.

old friend, Len

kmerignac at 11:10 on 23 September 2003  Report this post
Dear Len,

Thanks for reading and for your comments which I have found incredibly useful. You've obviously done this before?!

I understand worries about target audiences, and probably because the heroine is so young. I'm really thinking young adult, because (although it's difficult to really know this having read so little) the story itself is more of a fantasy come horror affair. I read a lot of Stephen King (find his characters fantastic), Dean Koontz, James Herbert, Peter Strauss etc, and have enjoyed the novels which have been written through the eyes of a child (King especially). I don't want it to be a heavy going, punch you in the face kind of horror from page one, and so this might be why it's hard to pin the kind of audience I'm aiming for down. And I know that this will pose huge problems when having to send sample chapters out. But how to get around it?

Affair - fair enough, and it hadn't even occured to me(!). Too many actions - okay. 'Yet' will be out in the next draft! Wasn't sure what you meant about the wet shoes?

Re reparagraphing in ch 1, do you mean the one where they're running down the stairs? Do you think they should be shorter, or reworked? Shorter maybe, to get eyes moving down the page? Could you get back to me on that one?

As far as the plot goes, I see what you mean. I think maybe there are things I could consolidate a bit. In the next chapter she's in the other world and it all kind of takes off (at least I hope it does), but it is Jo that takes us there and maybe the reader will have had enough of her by then. Maybe I should try and push a couple of chapters into one? I was aware of this, and it's one of the reasons why I'm putting in the underground scene as chapter two to break it up a bit. I don't expect you read in that order though did you, because the underground is on the site as ch 1.

Huge thanks for this input though, and if you manage to get back to me on these points it would be fantastic.

Yours, Kate

kmerignac at 11:16 on 23 September 2003  Report this post
Oh no, here we are talking dirty again! That dreaded word: synopsis. I am thinking about putting it up on the site but don't like it much and so it would be a bit like bearing one's sole to the devil! I am trying to get up the courage though. Have you found it useful?
I think I dealt with the audience problem in my reply to old friend, and hope that has cleared the confusion a little bit?! It's not easy though. It's certainly not meant as a kind of Harry Potter(!).
As far as flashbacks go, I do understand. I'm playing with the idea of knocking Ch 3 and 1 into one, in which case I would necessarily get rid of a lot of that. Ch 3 is quite short, so it should be possible. All useful comments, keep them coming...
Thanks for taking time out with this, it's much appreciated,
Yours, Kate.

bluesky3d at 11:46 on 23 September 2003  Report this post
Yes Kate, Anna and Synopsis - she might have room for one more in Synopsis Group - but its up to you.

Is it a dirty word ? it might be if it were Sin-opsis!

I know exactly what you mean about 'bearing one's sole to the devil!' I used the analogy of briefing the barrister for one's defence in the dock. I found it really tough to do a detailed one, but wish I'd done it much earlier - and on this next novel I'm working on - I'm determined to keep a detailed synopsis from the start so we'll see how it goes.

Far from limiting what one does, I think it can open up options in the plot which one might not have considered... it enables one to see the wood from the trees .. sometimes one gets lost in a forest and suddenly seeing a bird's eye view of things is amazing.

Yes - I think the flashbacks would be better dealt with as action.. and then flashbacks if any, can reinforce the action rather than leading.

Also, perhaps it's important not to underestimate the intelligence and capabilty of young teens to deal with grown-up issues and indeed many have an appetite for them .. look at the tv and films they watch nowadays! (it was just Robin Hood and Swallows and Amazons in my day.)

Andrew :o)


ps. Chapter 1 - reminded me of Closing Doors - but the house reminded me of the opening sequence of the brilliant film Don't Look Now - don't know if you've seen that one?

Hilary Custance at 09:01 on 25 September 2003  Report this post
Kate, this is beginning to sound very strange and unnerving now. I must confess that I am not a fantasy reader, but I liked the way she resisted her experience because it didn't tally with reality. I guess from the title that you are now going to be running both worlds, real and fantasy, in parallel. Interesting exercise from the writing point of view!. Good luck, Hilary

kmerignac at 19:30 on 26 September 2003  Report this post
You're quite right about the capabilities of teenagers our days! I think older teens would like the kind of thing (bearing in mind that I know what it is completed!). I'm quite chuffed that my modest effort might remind you of 'don't look now'!! Thanks for that!
I'm a bit rushed off my feet at the moment, but am still consiering the synopsis idea. Will keep you posted!
Yours, Kate.

kmerignac at 19:34 on 26 September 2003  Report this post
Dear Hilary,
Thanks for saying it sounds strange and unnerving - that completely made my day as that's exactly what I like and was aiming for! And you're right in that I did try to make it sound a bit ridculous - I'm what you might call a realistic fantasy writer! And, yes, there will be now a run between both worlds, and I'm glad that (as a non-fantasy reader) you came away a little intrigued. Thank you for following, and for your support!
Yours, Kate.

Nell at 07:53 on 10 October 2003  Report this post
Kate, I'm sorry, I forgot to tick the box and missed your question. Yes, the first three chapters plus synopsis and letter is your initial approach to an agent or publisher, but always be guided by the details they've given in The Writers' Handbook or on their website. If they're impressed they'll ask to see the whole manuscript, this is why it's good to have it finished and in as polished a state as possible, unless of course you're already an established writer of best sellers, a celebrity, or the preview knocks their socks off, in which case they'll sign you up with a huge advance straight away!

I believe this applies particularly to fiction; with non fiction a proposal is more usual.


Oh, and they won't laugh in your face, and even if they reject the work after seeing those first chapters, you may be lucky enough to get a scrawled comment on the standard letter - always very revealing and useful.

kmerignac at 11:28 on 10 October 2003  Report this post
Thanks for that!!

noddy at 18:41 on 27 October 2003  Report this post
Hi Kate,
Very intriguing chapter. I did see where some of the other comments were coming from in terms of the age group/style of the chapter debate, but I can likewise see where you're coming from in terms of the style of some of the other writer's you've mentioned. I've read heaps of Dean Koontz and Stephen King novels and love them, so look forward to reading more.

Anyway, hope it all goes well for you, and good luck with finding an agent.

Best Regards

PS. Andrew... ages ago in a previous forum post I mentioned that the Icera stone evoked memories of something familiar. I never actually mentioned it, for fear of being mocked, but it was actually Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence... (Greenwitch, I think one of the stories is). The novels, and Alan Garner's, were my childhood favorites!

bluesky3d at 19:17 on 27 October 2003  Report this post
Kate and Noddy,

(Kate please excuse me if I jump in and address Rob's (Noddy's( PS comment here.)

It is great that you like Susan Cooper's 'Dark is Rising' sequence too Noddy - I had not made the connection with 'the Icera Stone' though.

Certainly the next novel, still in the early stages, does take the darkness theme fully to heart. I would not have mocked you for suggesting anything of the sort, (hope that isn't how I come across?)

I think everyone takes on board early influences in our work and it is important to mentally acknowledge what does influence us. Philip Pulman with 'His Dark Materials', was influenced by 'Paradise Lost' and it is a long tradition of being inspired by the forces of darkness versus light - Star Wars etc. (There was excellent 'the Good Read' programme on Saturday BBC2, and so it is a well-worn track but nevertheless always offers surprising new vistas.

Andrew :o)

PS Kate - Thanks for your patience :o)

kmerignac at 10:46 on 04 November 2003  Report this post
Hi Rob,
Thanks for reading this and for understanding! It's never easy is it. As for searches for agents and things goes I'm dying to find out how you've been getting on with your fantastic piece.
Yours, Kate
PS Andrew - you're forgiven!

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