Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Beginning 395

Minos climbed to Marie's shoulder, wings half-extended, his claws making a ladder of her crocheted top.

Once in his favourite spot, he pecked her ear. "Stranger coming."

She pulled her arm out of the crevice in the preformed rock, and shook life back into her fingers. Surely even Daphne wouldn't lay eggs that deep.

"What kind of stranger?" She rewarded the kea with a grape, which he tasted, turning it round in his beak, then ate.

"Man. Tall. Dark."

"What are you, my horoscope?" She caressed his feathers with one finger. "Handsome, too?"

"Don't know handsome."

He pecked her ear again before beginning to patrol her shoulder. Surveying his domain.

Marie looked around too. This was the elder of the two kea enclosures, and it showed wear and tear. When kea got bored, they also got destructive. Or, as she expressed it at funding meetings, 'creative'.

"What's this?"

Her hand withdrew a strange contruction of sticks and twine.

"Mine!" cried Minos.


"I made! I, kea!"

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: khazar-khum


Dave Fragments said...

How about #5.
It's Halloween carnivorous time.

Robin S. said...

EE- I think this is a great idea - but I can't vote this time, as I'm in the running.

Chris Eldin said...

That's too much work, and also what we pay you for.

Get back to work and stop playing with pumpkin clipart.

MK said...

I vote for #5.

Rachel Green said...

#3 for me!

none said...

I kea! I kea!

Anonymous said...

Voting as ME, I vote for #5, since I think it would be in poor taste to vote for my own. Voting as EE, I believe I would select #3.

Elissa M said...

I vote for #3, thtough they're all good.

Anonymous said...

#3 made me smile (seeing as I can't, in good conscience, vote for my own. Or am I?)

(No, I'm not.)

Chris Eldin said...

Maybe being EE will be fun.

These continuations suck. They clutter my blog and cause grievance to my inner creativities.

Number 1: Sighed and rolled eyes are so cliche. Gag me. Suck factor 7.

Number 2: Again with the sighing? And can you start a paragraph with something other than a pronoun? Suck factor 9.

Number 3: WTF? Are we in nursery school? Suck factor 9.

Number 4: When did the bird drop the stick and jump to her virgin-hood? Ever hear of transitions? Suck factor 8.

Number 5: Three 'was' in the first paragraph. And unless your feet are being deep-fried, how can footsteps crackle? And it's way long. Suck factor 7.

Number 6: You're seriously introducing a dead parrot and a sheep fornicator? Isn't the opening stange enough already? Suck factor 6.

Number 7: Bla, bla, bla. Not much excitement here, is there? But it sucks the least with a suck factor of 5.

Vote is for number 7.

Poor, poor author. Condolences for the sucky writing skills of my minions tonight.

Robin S. said...

Ooooh, CL- good EE inner voice imitation. At least I think it is.

Is it?

McKoala said...

OK, Church Lady, that was scary. And I'm disagreeing...

I vote for 3, because I think it had the best idea behind it.

pacatrue said...

If CL is reviewing, I'm glad I didn't submit anything.

Unknown said...

7, I guess.

Dave Fragments said...

A dead parrot?
Was it a Norwegian Blue?
Did it die while pining for the fjords?

none said...

You must have EE confused with Dave, who's the "was" counter.

Amanda said...

I vote for number 3. It was cute!

Anonymous said...

So, am I the only one who laughed out loud at #3?

Precie said...

LOL at CL! I wonder if the real EE will borrow your "suck factor" system. LOL!!!

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Of course, now the grant directors were asking for demonstrations of this creativity.

"Minos, have you finished your assignment?"

If the bird could have sighed or rolled its eyes, it would have. Instead it tipped its head and said, "Yes, I finished your profile on Match.com."

"Good," Marie said, rewarding the bird with another grape. "Now would you be a love and go upgrade my Internet connection? I have another funding meeting next week."


She sighed and tried again. "Rich?"

Minos shrugged. "He was dressed pretty well."

Marie stood up and wiped the sweat from her forehead. "Well, why didn't you tell me? I'm sitting here collecting bird eggs while there's someone waiting for me?"

Minos shrugged again. "Look, Marie, it's Daphne who's responsible for your profile on match.com. I'm just taking care of your myspace page."


Minos squawked, a sound like a sick hobo clearing his throat, and jumped off Marie's shoulder.

"Don't want to talk to me anymore?" Marie asked, a teasing grin on her face.

"Busy," the bird replied.

Marie shrugged. "Okay." She watched as Minos broke a stick off his tree. With it in his mouth he started scratching in the dirt. "What now?" She took a few steps forward.

Her eyes widened as she realised what Minos was doing. Writing! This was incredible. The letters were ill-formed, but she was able to make them out, mouthing the words as she read: "Minos climbed on to Marie's shoulder, wings half-extended, his claws making a ladder of her crocheted top..."


"'You make me hot,' she panted as the bird's talon worked the stitches, revealing her firm, round, virgin..."


Footsteps crackled up the hill. He was tall, yes, and dark. His scowl was disturbing, but the rest of him was pleasing to the eye.

Marie crossed her arms and glared down at him from her perch. "Can I help you?"

His eyes narrowed as he met her gaze. "We need to talk. About your birds."

"My favorite subject."

"Not mine." He scuffed his boots against a rock, smearing off the droppings his steps had collected along the way.

"Who are you?"

"Agent Coreman. Homicide." He flashed his badge. Minos snapped his beak at the shiny object and hopped once on Marie's shoulder. Agent Coreman balked at the bird's motion.

"Homicide?" Marie raised an eyebrow.

"Yes. That bird on your shoulder is under arrest for murder."

Marie snapped her head to look at Minos, who held a wing over his face. "What did you do this time?"




Marie rolled her eyes. "You know what this means, don't you?"

"Two wrongs?"

Marie nodded. "Make a right."

She turned back to Agent Coreman. He squinted in her direction, suspicious. She shrugged. "Kea are omnivores, you know."

"That's wonderful, miss, but--"

Minos leapt from his spot. The others leapt from theirs. Over two dozen wings slapped at the air.

Marie screamed over the din of wind and feathers. "They get very sick of grapes, sometimes!"

Agent Coreman drew his gun, but it was too late. His screams echoed off the rocks, as the flock explored their 'creativity'.


Minos pecked her ear again. “Rich Stranger.”

“Oh, really! How can you tell?”

The kea ruffled his feathers. “Bulging saddlebags.”

Marie squinted at the approaching man and noted that at least one of his saddlebags was bulging. As he drew near, she recognized him as the sheep rancher she had seen in town last week. She recalled that he was, indeed, handsome, but more than a little gruff. She extended her arm and Minos walked its length and flew off. “Hey there!”

“Ma’am,” the stranger tipped his hat but did not dismount. Instead, he reached into the bulging saddlebag and withdrew a large bird with bright green plumage. “This your bird? Caught him chewing the back off one o’ my prize lambs this morning,” he said, tossing the bird to the ground.

Marie bent down and picked up the dead parrot. “No sir. Not my bird. I believe this belongs to the old pirate, Grizzle Beard, about five miles south of here.” She handed the bird back. “And if you go there, I suggest you have your gun cocked and ready. He’s been known to shoot first and ask questions after.”

“No worries about that, Ma’am. I killed that old buzzard yesterday. Caught him fornicating one of my ewes.” The rancher tipped his hat politely. “G’day, then. And I’ll see ya at the funding meeting on Saturday."


Marie and Minos watched together as Man-Tall-Dark-and-Passably-Handsome reached his hands around the preformed rock face and stepped cautiously toward them over the kea-crap splattered path.

God, Marie thought, did she ever need to feel ‘creative’ again. With a human. It had been so long since she’d been ‘creative’… been a long time since she’d been away from here, and had a male other than Minos clinging to her chest.

She tried prying him off, but the bird was having none of that. “Don’t know handsome, don’t know handsome,” he squawked, pecking on Marie’s soft ear lobe, clawing into her crochet, glaring between pecks at the ever closer Man-Tall-Dark-and-Passably-Handsome.

“Miss…uh…Miss?” the man called out. “Uh, the zoo is closing soon, and uh, I’ve been asked to escort you away from the kea sanctuary.” He shuffled his feet, smiling gently. “No more sleepovers allowed, unless it’s in the company of staff.”

Marie looked at him. “And are you…staff?”

He nodded, coming closer, still smiling.

“Stranger coming. Stranger coming.”

--Robin S.

SzélsőFa said...

I found #6 funny as hell, but yes, the Weird Factor reached 10 and that was quite enough for one read.

I liked #7 the most.

Evil Editor said...

For most of this it seems like a fantasy, and probably it is, in view of the bird's ability to have an intelligent conversation. So it's somewhat of a letdown to me to discover we're in a zoo-like enclosure. Suddenly I'm less interested in who's coming. But that will change if Mr. Tall Dark has an intriguing story. Let's hope he's not coming to say, "Hey, Marie, time to feed the kiwi."

SzélsőFa said...

I voted for #7 for I thought it was creepy, with a female protagonist who's a bit...mad...or, mentally challenged, or disturbed.

#7 suggested all that to me.

Dave Fragments said...

I thought the opening did nothing but introduce an odd but mundane situation - a woman with a talking bird. I say bird because that's the only real description I can think of for a "kea." I thought maybe this thing was bat-like or one of those miniature dragon thingies that pop up in fantasy stories.

So what we know is that a talk, dark and handsome stranger is coming and that we're in, as EE says, a zoo. Marie hunting for eggs has no tension or story of any interest because it's way to early in the story to establish the egg's value.

I'm not sure what the hook is to keep me reading. I would read on but not enthusiastically. Once I found out what the "kea" was and who the man was, without a storyline, I'd close the book.

You could open with Marie turning to the man and saying "the kea told me you came" and he could express surprise about the Kea being well trained or acknowledge the Kea's ability to communicate. After that, he must involve Marie in the plot.

Dave Fragments said...

Actually, I complained about "had" verbs as weak and passive. Not Passive as in tense, passive as in couch potato.

But this is a good exercise to make a point. I hope I don't hurt anyone with my comments.

But let's look at those three "was"...

Footsteps crackled up the hill. He was tall, yes, and dark. His scowl was disturbing, but the rest of him was pleasing to the eye.

I try to edit that type of sentence out of my writing. (please - I'm human, I probably miss lots of these in my own writing. I can see them in other's writing. So be nice.)

BuffySquirrel's opening already establishes the stranger is tall, dark and possibly handsome. Why when Marie sees him do we need verification of it?
Does Marie have reason to doubt Minos?
Does the reader have reason to doubt Minos?

I hope the answer to both questions is "no" ...
So what purpose do those words serve?
I once heard that Male Hairspray should be named "balls" because that reassured fragile male egos. This is Butch Reassurance. This is walking a reader through a story.

I see this all the time on TV. The characters talk about what they are going to do, then they do what they talked about, then they explain the signifigance of their actions after the fact. (then I never watch the show again).

What might be much more effective is to take the next lines of dialog and say something like:

Marie turned to see the stranger. Minos was right about everything but the man's blue uniform and shiny badge.
"Agent Coreman, homicide, ma'am. We need to talk about your birds." Minos snapped at the badge. Coreman yanked it away.
"We found a body this morning dead from Kea attack."

And we're off into a murder mystery.

So that's my opinion on three "was" verbs and an action verses inaction passage.

none said...

Love that continuation. Too funny.

EE, I can see why you'd think it's a zoo. It's actually SF not F.

Of course a kea is a bird!

Lightsmith said...

I really liked this piece, although I think it would work better positioned later in a story; as an opening it's not very hooktastic, as other people have mentioned.

The writing is very readable and is sprinkled with nice little touches (e.g. the kea making the ladder out of her top, the way the kea eats the grape, the mention of bored keas getting "creative")

I had not heard of keas before and thought at first that Marie had a dragon on her shoulder. It wasn't until I looked "kea" up on wikipedia that I learned that they are a type of omnivorous parrot that has been known to attack sheep(!)

Nice work.

Anonymous said...


When I saw the name...well, I just didn't have the heart to let it get away. Some will say 'oh, you shouldn't have', but really, it was no bother!

none said...

Thanks, lightsmith. Where to start this story has bugged me a lot through its various incarnations, along with how to end it. I can't really start it earlier, because the arrival of the tall dark possibly handsome man is the inciting incident, but if I start it later, it won't have any context.

So I struggle.

Kea are fascinating, btw. They co-operate on problem-solving tasks and show other signs of being really smart.

McKoala said...

This had a nice tone, but it didn't hugely hook me. What's the stranger about to do? I might need to read further to be hooked.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read 'zoo' into this location, but a private mews instead. Would be nice to be a bit more grounded in where they are.

Actually, once you got to the enclosure, you started losing me. I liked the idea of the birds as cooperative neighbors rather than kept pets.

Not sure if I would keep reading. Maybe a bit more to see how the kea fit into the story.


none said...

How can a verb that enables the reader to distinguish between the recent past and the distant past be passive in any sense?

Somehow, instead of internalising "passive voice = bad", a lot of people seem to have internalised "anything bad = passive". An expansion in vocabulary is required.

Robin S. said...

Hi Buffy,

I'm with you on this. There are lots of areas I find myself disagreeing with what seems to be the norm, (whatever that is) - active vs. passive, sentence structure issues, backstory vs. story, etc.

EE, you said before we could do another class sometime...

Dave Fragments said...

That is not what I said or meant.

How can a verb that enables the reader to distinguish between the recent past and the distant past be passive in any sense?

The past tenses and past perfect tenses and all those other past tenses are fine and have their place.

You are misreading my use of "passive" as in tense. I meant passive as in no physical action. It's not used as a term in grammer.

Tom and Harry stood in the bar and argued about nothing.
this doesn't advance the story.

This doesn't either:
Footsteps crackled up the hill. He was tall, yes, and dark. His scowl was disturbing, but the rest of him was pleasing to the eye.

This does:
As they drank their livers into oblivion, Tom insisted, as he had the day before, that the Mets should have won the world series, while Harry took his position that the Red Sox were not a dominant force in baseball. They'll argue this until kingdom come, what with tom being a New Yorker and Harry being from Boston. The world might come to an end but these two would never stop argueing.

It's not that past perfect tenses or passive voice is bad, it's a signal for the author upon an edit to say "Is this advancing the story or merely placeholding the story?"
Is the narrative running in place? Or is the narrative trotting deeper into the story?

Dave Fragments said...

Gee, that last post got away from me. I thought I clicked preview.

What I am arguing against is the tendence to slip into the situation where characters --

talk about what they're going to do,
do it,
then talk about what they did.

That's saying the same thing three times. Unless that thing requires that much emphasis, this holds a story from moving forward.

TV stories do this all the time. We are bombarded with it. It has become familar. It is essential for 30 minute sticoms that they discuss life this way.

Look at the TV shows that win critical acclaim as avant guard - The Closer, Saving Grace, House - they do not follow this formula.

So this is what I am argueing against when I say too many "had" or it's not active.

none said...

Dave, there is a world of difference between complaining about "'had' verbs as weak and passive", as you did on this very page! I can look back that far! and saying that reprising what's already been discussed and shown is a bad idea.

I agree with the latter. It was one of my major problems with Pullman's Northern Lights/Golden Compass--they plan and go over the attack at the end in the same terms so many times I nearly hurled the book out of the window.

I can't agree with the former. So maybe if you explained yourself this clearly on more occasions--instead of misusing technical terms--we could understand each other better.

As for the tv shows, I watch reruns of ER. That's about it.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm not mad, angry or anything else. I just didn't want to be misunderstood. It's not that I don't write in past tense or past perfect tenses (all those time related tenses), I do.
However, when I go back to edit, I do seriously question why I need those facts and words at that point of the story. Most often, I can find a different way to say what I want.
Some days, my innate chemical engineer speaks and other days, I'm eloquent (or as close as I can get to it).

I saw "Comedy of Errors" at the Pittsburgh Public Theater today and that is one play with oodles of past tense explanations as the characters explain their actions to each other.

none said...

And I don't want to misunderstand you! Hence the suggestions.