Friday, January 12, 2007

New Beginning 187

In the year 1878 I became the recipient of my father's fortune, owing to the sad event of his death of malaria two continents away. I was thirty-one at the time, and prospering in my business as an architectural consultant for those builders of the vast, smoky factories that rose to darken the skyline of London.

This was three years before I met the mysterious woman in black.

My mother had died that decade past, and, having been the sole child of that union, I was pleased to find the inheritance falling uncontested into my pockets. An account of my new fortunes included: a healthy sum of cash and an even healthier sum in sound investments; two houses, one in Kent and another in Vienna; a French cook of no mean ability; three of my father's prize greyhounds; and my father's valued manservant, Christopher Toomie.

Toomie was a wiry chap of fifty-some years. He was a Cockney; he had hunted rats as a boy, dug trenches as a young man, and in recent years had been my father's sole companion and trusted servant.

This was four years before I encountered the enigmatic figure in the hooded robe.

My first interview with Toomie was inauspicious. "Yer father didn't think 'ighly of ye," he said.

I would have fired him on the spot, but his words had rendered me speechless.

"Blind Osbert, 'e called ye. Didn't think ye were any good at reading the signs even when they were smackin' ye in the face."

"What . . . what utter piffle," I said. "I made my way down here to Kent with only one false turning. No good at reading signs, indeed."

"Aye, well, we'll just 'ave to wait an' see then, won't we?"

This was five years before I met the unfortunate individual with the horns in his head and the cloven hooves.

And six years before things turned decidedly odd.

Opening: acd.....Continuation: McKoala


Anonymous said...

Why isn't it ever the mysterious woman in yellow?

I think this is very good. I like the style and would read more. -JTC

Bernita said...

You seem to have the voice down pat.

Dave Fragments said...

I have a great suspicion that his is a modern version of Sherlock Holmes or an imitator of Caleb Carr's novels.
Not that that's bad, I like both. However, it's just a lot to live up to. The writer has a nice start here. The style is not too dense and not too simple.

I think that some of the backstory - the Mother's death - can wait. And I think that the mention of the Woman in Black has to wait until after the mention of Christopher Toomie. That's just a bit of rearranging.

As for the continuation, Someone has been watching too much Ingmar Bergman with all these black robed DEATH figures.
Notice I said Bergman and not TV because watching that silly TV series about reapers is a waste of time.

Cathy in AK said...

I like the voice too, but much of the information can be given in smaller bits throughout the story, not all in one or two beginning paragraphs. After mentioning the woman in black, over a paragraph is spent describing the inheritence. Give us more on this mystery woman and the circumstances. Also, we get two descriptions of Toomie that essentially mean the same thing: valued and trusted. I doube an untrusted manservant would be terribly valuable. But that's just me : )

Marissa Doyle said...

Great background color, EE. Very 1878.

Anonymous said...

This is all backstory, and you're telling, rather than showing.

It does accurately mimic the voice of the, um, stuff that gets called classic literature now that the copyright has expired and it's cheap to print. However, you're trying to get published today.

A mysterious woman in black is a cliche. The voice is not fresh, and nothing of interest happens here.

If, in the very next paragraph, you start turning conventions on their heads, or a thick streak of satire shows up, this could work. However, if it just keeps being derivative, I think you'll have trouble selling this piece.

You can keep the old-fashioned voice and still present the story in a way that is fresh and interesting to modern readers. Start with some action, not backstory. Have the main character say something intriguing and unexpected for a man of his time. Dramatise the scene with the woman in black, and show the reader that she's mysterious, rather than telling us.

You might have a great story here, but I think the presentation you've chosen could get in the way of it being published.

Anonymous said...

I liked the voice and would definately keep reading. But then, as is obvious from all the different authors and books out there, various people like different stories. Nice start!

Dave Fragments said...

The Woman in Black is a cliche?

Women in any color are cliches.

A woman in scarlet - a acamp, a tart. She wears red to weddings and funerals... Red velvet swings
The Lady in White - a ghost story
Devil with the Blue Dress - bad, bad, news.
Bobby Vinton sang about Blue Velvet and his lover
The Virgin Mary wears sky blue
The Dragon Lady of Singapore - dressed in the Emporer's yellow silk.
Gray Lady Down - well, a ship, not a real lady.
The lady in green is ERDA.
The Black Dahlia,

Shall I go on?

r_i_d said...

I recently started a blog, and decided to click on the "next" button. The first place that took me was here, and I was nicely surprised. This story works for me, and I don't care at all that you are "telling" instead of showing or that much of what is put in the first paragraph could come later on. I like it the way it is; but it's too short. There is an interesting coincidence on top of that: I just took out my ALL H.P. LOVECRAFT anthology for the first time in four years, and it sits right there by the computer--and your story feels like you've read that man too.


HawkOwl said...

It sounds like a modern writer trying to sound like a Victorian writer. I might have given it a chance, but The Crimson Petal and the White has soured me for ever on faux-Victorian.

Anonymous said...

I admit I don't know what makes a book publishable, and after reading hooks and beginnings on this site, I'm more confused than ever. (*drek*: "Fabulous!" *gold*: "Crap!")

But--this is spot on. I love the style. Sure you're telling: you're telling a story. The first three paragraphs are fascinating; only when the brief description of Toomie begins does restlessness set in. If action starts right there, I'm with you.

I would definitely read this (unless it was a doorstopper like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I couldn't stick that one out.)

Anonymous said...

um, actually, the comments and assessments on _this_ blog are very good. Can't imagine which blog I was thinking of. Sorry.

writtenwyrdd said...

I like the voice. I think it carries off that "antique" feel quite well. Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell has that same style of voice, and that book has done rather well. So, to the naysayers, such a book can and has been sold recently.

The thing is, you need to have something really interesting going on in order to hold your average reader's attention.

I'd certainly want to read more of this.

McKoala said...

I liked the voice and the choice of starting point was in synch with the style of this time; it may not be entirely to modern taste, but if you jump quickly into action after this then I think that you will get away with it.

The one thing that I didn't like was the word 'mysterious'. If you mention a woman in black and do not name her then she is mysterious, you don't need to tell us.

Tia Nia said...

I like it just as it is. Love that old fashioned voice. I like the way the mysterious woman in black is just mentioned and then is concealed by the talk about his mother's death. It keeps her mysterious, the woman in black not the mother.

I like the efficiency of the description of Toomie. However, I agree with the other posters who wanted the action to start when or right after Toomie is introduced.

I'd buy this book if the first two or three pages continued at the same level of quality.

Anonymous said...

McKoala--"utter piffle"--LOL. Loved the continuation.

Author, I liked this and wanted to keep reading, but by Toomie I was looking for something to start happening. Or at least a break into a trot.

And I agree with JTC--mysterious woman in black is cliche.

Good luck.