Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Beginning 617 (excerpt)

Manuel led them west toward two peaks that matched in height and shape. Both grew from full, round bases, and tapered to smooth peaks. Kincaid took to thinking of women and breasts, and his longing for Maria grew. Three days remained on the long trip, and then he’d be with her again.

Manuel must have seen him staring at the twin mountains. “Do you know what they are called?” he asked. “Wah-Tow-Yah, means Breasts of the World.”

Kincaid rode in silence gazing at the two mountains. He wondered about the countless men, Spanish, Mexican, and Indian who had traveled this way and longed for a woman left at home. Of men who saw the peaks and thoughts flooded their minds and feelings surged through their bodies. These men who counted the days and hurried their mounts along. Now he was one of them, returning from danger and missing his woman.

As they rode farther, Kincaid caught site of the woodland at the end of the valley. A lush, deep canopy of trees, almost black in the fading light.

Manuel leaned over. "You see that copse? They call that Yow-Zah, The Valley’s Crotch."

Kincaid shifted uncomfortably in his saddle as he thought about what awaited him back home.

In time, they emerged from the trees, past the great rock Up-Frit, The Waiting Virgin. Kincaid had barely noticed the climb, or how the temperature had fallen, but now he looked out over a vast blanket of snow, as far as his eyes could see. He glanced over at Manuel.

"They call this plain Shah-Tmai-Wadh," Manuel said. "It means--"

"I know what it means."

Manuel saw Kincaid's frustration. "We can avoid it by going through the--"

"Forget it," Kincaid told him. "It's too late now."

Opening: Wes.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

I'm not crazy about this analogy. It might be more bearable if Kincaid sees the mountains and just thinks about Maria, allowing the reader to make the connection, but declaring that he starts thinking of women and breasts is like shoving it down our throats. The second paragraph can go, and the third could be more subtle, leaving out the mountains and the peaks:

Kincaid rode in silence, thinking about the countless men, Spanish, Mexican, and Indian who had traveled this way, and longed to be reunited with their women. Now he was one of them.

Dave Fragments said...

You used the word "peaks" in the first and second sentence and that caught my attention and distracted me.

Anonymous said...

The continuation made me cry I laughed so hard.

_*rachel*_ said...

It may be just me, but if I found this analogy in a book I'd stop reading.

batgirl said...

The Grand Tetons, are they?

Didn't the Indians usually travel with the women and children?

Anonymous said...

banged my keyboard (so to speak) at that continuation!!!LOL


pacatrue said...

Per the continuation, Kincaid is a lonely, lonely man.

Wes said...

Thanks, EE. I see your points.

Wah-to-yah and the Taos Trail is a classic of western literature. It was published in 1850 by a kid from Cincinnati who at the age of 17 helped suppress the Taos Revolt in 1847 and then regretted his actions.

Sadly, the name for the twin mountains was changed to Spanish Peaks.

Anonymous said...

Wes, it seems to me that all the excerpts you've posted have the same basic structure: A specific geographic feature stirs up an emotion or memory in Kincaid, which then leads into exposition. It feels a bit repetitive.

Admittedly, I have no idea where these passages all stand in relation to one another. This might not show up if they're separated by chapters.

Wes said...


You have to take credit for your continuation. It's one of the best and funniest yet.

Dave Fragments said...

I thought of a question about the excerpt. It it important that we know that Kincaid misses his wife? Is this setting up a betrayal or a letdown later in the story? Is this just a description of a lonely cowboy in visually attractive mountains? Or is it something else?

talpianna said...

Most pairs of conical peaks get called "breasts" or "paps."

Check out the Paps of Danu:

Anonymous said...

I don't believe I've ever seen mountain porn before.

Wes said...

Yes, Dave, this is a set-up for two things. Kincaid is lolled into a false sense of security with fond, romantic thoughts of Maria, then he and Manuel are suddenly attacked by Jicarilla Apaches (Wah-to-yah is an Apache phrase). The fight and the aftermath cause him to harden. But I can't tell you yet about the set-up regarding Maria.

BTW, Michener used the same analogy of French fur trappers gazing at the Grand Tetons (batgirl can explain what that name means) in CENTENNIAL. Admittedly his writing was better.

At least I didn't use Squaw Tit Peak in WY, which still retains its name. The language I use is definitely not PC, but a major message in the book is a graphic exposure of the evils of slavery. And of course the greatest victims of it were women who were captured for sex. Manuel's wife, Willow Women, was a Comanche girl sold to the Taos Pueblo for sexual exploition. All tribes, Americans, and Europeans were involved in the slave trade. Not all people, but each group was guilty of it. See COUSINS AND CAPTIVES, a horribly written book by an academic who obscures good research with his convoluted sentences.

batgirl said...

I'm tending to agree with Sarah. The repeated structure of Kincaid sees something, Kincaid muses about it, gets a bit repetitive.
While I realise that riding trails does lead to musing, as someone whose own characters think way too damned much I suggest - in revision, remove the musing. Let the scenery stand in for the thoughts it evokes. Any time the character's deliberations are made clear by the following action, cut them.

I'd need to go back through the excerpts to be sure, but I have the impression that 'feelings surged' a few times, which is more vague than evocative.

Anonymous said...

I too am not a fan of the obvious nature of your reference to the breasts. Leave that word out and you’re miles ahead. Also there seems to be a lack of faith that your readers can do much more than drool. Really, I’ve come across at least four or five that can read complete sentences.

Anyway, after I cross out all the stuff that most women find unseemly I started to enjoy what you are weaving. As for the repetitive nature of the scenery, what else is there for a jumping off point? Your characters spend a good deal of their time in nature and it’s all trees rocks, dirt and sunsets. You could maybe throw in a close up or two, things like saddles, bits or calluses to remind your characters of experiences, but I think those who buy westerns understand there’s a lot of mountains out there. Jussayin’.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. :)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Wes: Others have remarked about your rather unsubtle way of crutching the reader along (sorry!), so I won't belabor.

What I'm interested about is Manuel. From this passage, it feels like he's a tour guide. Has Kincaid been this way before? If not, why would Manuel even ask if he knows the name of the peaks? And does Manuel really talk that proper throughout the book? It's cheesy, but I think I would much rather have him grin or leer or perform some other nudge-nudge action that would give him a bit more personality when he's commenting about the peaks.

They plodded westward, the smooth desert before them gradually swelling, shaping itself into twin peaks that strained to touch the clouds. The low slant of the morning sun swathed their tips in rosy light.

Maria. Thought of her gripped Kincaid in sudden longing.

Manuel nodded toward the rising mounds then slid a grin Kincaid's way. "Apaches call them Wah-Tow-Yah -- the Breasts of the World."

So he wasn't the first passing this way to be reminded of a woman left behind. Like countless others before him -- Spanish, Mexican, Indian -- must have done, he hurried his mount along, missing his woman and counting the days till he'd be with her again.

I'm not adverse to having landmarks pointed out when someone's riding a famous trail. I just like to have some more zing in the description and in the dialogue about those landmarks. This, though, was hurried, and it's probably a bit too purple. ;o)

talpianna said...

I thought it was looking at the twin peaks that caused him to harden, Wes. *evil mole grin*

Wes said...

Phoenix, and others.

Perhaps you can offer some advice. The reason Manuel appears to be speaking so properly is that I was advised that Spanish speakers don't use contractions. So in an attempt to distinguish Manuel's speech in Spanish from Kincaid's (also in Spanish), I'm having Manuel not use contractions, but Kincaid does. To further differentiate their speech, I'm having Manuel use ejaculations (sorry) like "Mother of God!", etc., and having him use analogies that are based on Mexican objects and behaviors.

Manuel's behavior is not as proper as his dialog might seem. He has a lot of casual sex with women other than his wife which was the custom in Santa Fe and Taos at the time. This custom is explained.

Also, Kincaid is not the only POV character. Manuel and Joe show their perceptions from time to time, as well as Lerocque, the leader of the American traders, and the Spanish governor.

Comments are welcome.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hmm. If Kincaid is speaking Spanish, too, why would his dialogue contain contractions?

There are only like 2 contractions in the entire Spanish language if I remember my middle-school Spanish classes (but those were a long, long time ago, so feel free to call me on that one). The language has sort of "pseudo contractions" but they're mainly formed by deleting a space between two words -- something we would usually tag "compounding" rather than "contracting": can not = cannot, team work = teamwork, etc.

So I'm wondering if that dialog strategy makes sense or just alienates we white readers from your non-white characters. Especially if everyone's speaking the same non-English language.

Of course, I'm basing the characterization of Manuel off two sentences of dialog, so grain of salt and all that...

Maybe it would be enough to go with the occasional Mexican analogy and to keep the ejaculatory phrases in Spanish and italicized: ¡Madre de Dios! (with or without the inverted exclam at the beginning of the phrase.)

Wes said...

You ask good questions, Phoenix. I've been struggling with them. I figure after a few exchanges readers will forget, or ignore, what language they are speaking in. Kincaid struggles with Spanish at the beginning. I have Kincaid speaking redneck for characterization, because I want to keep my voice, and I want to distinguish him from Manuel. Joe, the black slave, is easier. I don't use phoenitics, and dis and dat, etc., but sentence structure and verb tenses common in early African-American speech (or so my research tells me). I'm still uncertain about what to do with Manuel.

EE, if you care to weigh in on this, please do.