Friday, December 08, 2006

New Beginning 171

Dehl picked up the glasses and plunked them into the lukewarm water of the wash barrel. Have to add a bit of hot soon, he reflected, and began rinsing the earthenware, absently rubbing his thumb and finger around the rim to remove the lip grease. Damn foul stuff those Zahorians smeared on themselves to stop lips cracking in the cold; it smelled like bile and his local customers complained that it made the ale sour if they tasted it on the mugs.

Of course, he reflected, the townsfolk always complained that his home brew was sour. But, as he was more fond of money than he disliked washing the mugs, Dehl kept them clean enough to satisfy that lot.

He eyed the line of boots upended on a spindly rack beside the fire. They gave the place an odor Dehl would have preferred to forgo, but the traderfolk insisted, and wouldn't go where they couldn't take proper care of their gear and their feet, as they put it.

Dehl put the last of the glasses on the drying rack and moved over to the stove to check on the stew. Perhaps more pepper. The Zahorians always insisted on this margwarbler meat; rich in fat to keep them warm on the tundra, but a stink like rotting flesh when it’s cooking. And the effect it has on their digestion: flatulence that could melt your eyeball right off its stalk. No wonder they say, If you want to find a Zahorian, just follow your noses.

“Is that stew ready yet?” Dehl spun around and sent a cloud of Olian pepper billowing into the air. A violent sneeze ejected great gobs of vile-smelling phlegm over the counter and into the stewpot. "Get those boots polished before my men come to!" the Zahorian ordered.

Polishing Zahorian boots and clipping their yellowed toenails wasn't what Dehl went to culinary school for, but it was a lot better than his last three jobs, and it would do until he could get off this stinking planet. Plus, all that sour ale made a good salad dressing.

Opening: Writtenwyrdd.....Continuation: ril, Kate Thornton


Anonymous said...

Well, it started on a promising note with him "absently rubbing his thumb and finger around the rim to remove the lip grease." But it didn't turn out to be the story I was expecting it to be, and my early excitement was short lived. Something of an anti-climax, to be honest...

The continuation was quite a satisfying coupling, though.

Anonymous said...

I would read on. This sounds like a tavern scene! -JTC

Anonymous said...

I am my own cliche.

There's no tension, no action, nothing interesting here. It's a guy washing dishes and navel-gazing for goodness' sake. Why would I care about his thoughts on people who smell? Why would I want to read on?

Your story does not start here. Pick the point at which your main character realises he has a problem and start the book there.

Rei said...

I stumbled through that first paragraph. Probably the biggest "huh" had nothing to do with Zahorians -- it was "Have to add a bit of hot soon, he reflected" What is "a bit of hot"?

I still can't tell whether this is sci-fi or fantasy.

Anonymous said...

I would keep reading, because the voice sounds interesting, but I would need to see something happen pretty soon. The author has given me a feel for the setting, and for the character, so I expect that some action will soon be forthcoming. Nice job.

Kate Thornton said...

I like the way the scene is set and we are treated to more than visual sensations: the cold, the stinky lip balm, stinky boots, lukewarm water, dirty dishes, sour ale - in short a bar (usually a good place!) that's not such a good place.

And there's aliens - well, outsiders of some sort - so I'm figuring this for a fantasy and some of my favorite fantasies have had bars in them (see Spider Robinson, et al) I'm hoping there's a quest coming - maybe a hint of it in the first pages would be good enough to keep me reading on.

ril - we should get married or something.

Anonymous said...

Arghhh! I keep reading that taverns and quests are soooo cliche, and agents don't want them. Guess Kate's opinion is why, despite what agents profess, editors seem to be acquiring plenty of stuff with a familiar feel.

Personally, I feel cheated if a fantasy doesn't have some element of the "epic" in it. Doesn't have to be magic or gods or dragons or elves--just something.

I liked the whole lip grease thing, but I did think the second paragraph wasn't precisely necessary. Or at least, the second sentence of it.

All things considered, this is going to have to go somewhere pretty soon. If it does, I'd read it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Next thing that happens? A god walks in with a carrot and a stick. It's the first scene of the second book in a five-book fantasy epic arc. (Don't ask; the thing just got away from me.)

There is most definitely a quest.

Thanks for these and future comments.

ril said...

My word, Miss Kate, you are very forward.

By the way, what exactly did you mean by "or something..."?

Anonymous said...

Next thing that happens? A god walks in with a carrot and a stick.

Ye-ah, baby! *does handsprings*

Dave Fragments said...

I don't have criticisms. It's OK and works to set a scene of mundane work. It does say quite a lot about Dehl... A real slave to good service, soigne and charm. Not the usual Basil Fawlty

Things that bother me:
- absently used for absentminded or idly or unconsciously.
- "on themselves to stop lips cracking" that implies more than putting on lip gloss. Just how big are lips on Zahorians.
- can it be spelled ZAH-whore-IAN?
- "more fond of money than he disliked" {?} than his dislike? maybe?
- Can you diagram the second sentence in the third paragraph?

All that is style, of course, but it bugs me. The leisurely pace of the writing, also part of the style, worries me. how will you establish fast moving action?

Anonymous said...

Next thing that happens? A god walks in with a carrot and a stick.

But seriously, why not start with the god walking in? How much character development do we need for a barkeep, and how much of it absolutely couldn't have been done after the god walked in?