Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Beginning 685

November 14, 9a.m.:

Fucking Faeries. They thought I wouldn't notice the hollow bit of dry skin, crinkling like an old plastic carrier bag, where our Monine used to be. They thought I wouldn't notice the soulless wheezing of this creature. They thought I wouldn't know where they'd taken her, know the old stories or their names; but Gran told me everything. They thought--

They thought I wouldn't come after them alone. I'm sure they were watching you, Niesh, waiting till you went away on business. And I can hardly go to the Garda with a faery story, can I? So I load this- this- thing, this changeling into the Baby-Björn like a baby, though it turns my stomach. The creature's all the creepier for it's closeness to humankind, like a half-starved, hollow-eyed infant.

I'm off. I regret for the first time our decision to go carless. The busses all either arrive or depart after dark and the faeries will be watching. The days are so short this time of year. I hope, my love, that you never have to read this, but if I don't make it back with our baby, you should know why. I can't just sit here, thinking of their skeleton fingers digging into her fair skin. I'll get as far north as I can today, and write again.

Niesh finished reading and shook his head. She thought I wouldn't notice she wrote the whole thing out in cocaine? Jesus, didn't one of the neighbors see her dragging the bedroom mirror out onto the front lawn and scraping all that powder around? They coulda called the cops or at least called me. Shit, there goes our nest egg with the next gust of wind.

He pulled out his cell phone and called his friend Rick who worked at the sheriff's office. "Yeah, just like the other week. She won't be hard to spot, carrying an E.T. doll around in a snuggly."

That does it. We're never getting a car OR a kid.

Opening: Mother (Re)produces.....Continuation: John


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Loves and Kisses,


PS: The sprinkler out back needs fixing, and Max needs his disptemper shot from the vet. I realize you're busy and it's football season and all, but I can't rescue Monine, save the world, and keep the house tidy without a little help from you every once in a while.


Unless, of course, they catch me and put me back in the locked room with the woman who sees leprechauns in her handbag and that scary man who keeps talking about his family of selkies in the back garden pond.

--Kate Thornton

November 13, 9p.m.:

My darling Niesh, you've only been away on business for three days but it feels like three months. This is the first time we've been separated since we've been together and I must's hard.

Since the first day I met you, you've been my rock. You saved me in my weakest moments and gave me the courage to soldier on. But I'm ready. I can do this on my own. I have to be strong for you and the baby.

Unfortunately, my old dealer found out that I'm out of rehab and he's trying to contact me. I'm going over to his place tonight to tell him that I will never, ever snort crack again. Wish me luck.


Anonymous said...

That's actually very gripping. Good mix of details and mystery. Well done. If the whole book is like this, you'll go far.

_*rachel*_ said...

The first paragraph confused me, but as soon as I realized it was a changeling I really liked it. Perhaps you could replace the imagery in the first paragraph with saying it's a changeling.

How could they think she wouldn't notice? (I'm assuming a she on this.)

I would definitely read on, even though I've got visions of miniature Gollums stuck in my head.

Adam Heine said...

I really like the voice, though the F-bomb first word was a little much, I thought. I really like the story this sets up (nothing like Man-On-Fire-style revenge to get me interested). I loved the first paragraph.

I don't know if I could handle first person present tense for an entire novel. But if I'm into the story, I probably won't notice.

I really don't know if I could handle an entire novel written in letters like this. I don't know if that's how it's written, it's just something I'm afraid from reading the last line.

Last, I think the first 3 sentences of paragraph 2 can go. It pushes the whole "they thought" thing too far and puts off the action. Could probably also drop "I'm off."

Evil Editor said...

If I'm writing this note, I'm not taking the time to put the time of day on it.

Fucking Faeries sounds like it should be followed by They've kidnapped Monine. I'm going after the bastards. There's leftover casserole in the fridge.

What you have following Fucking Faeries sounds more like what should follow Stupid, incompetent, half-witted Faeries.

It sounds like the note she would write if this type of thing happens all the time and the Faeries are mischief makers, and the baby is in no actual danger. She's annoyed. Is that the case? If so, this isn't bad.

But if she's worried sick that she'll never see her baby again, she's wasting a lot of time composing such a lengthy note, some of which includes info Niesh already knows, like it gets dark early.

As there are buses and cars, one assumes there are phones; can't she get in touch with Niesh?

Anonymous said...

They thought I wouldn't notice the hollow bit of dry skin, crinkling like an old plastic carrier bag, where our Monine used to be.(This sentence confused me. In part because it doesn't work with "fucking faeries." Mostly because I'm not sure what "a hollow bit of skin" is. And what is a Monine?

They thought I wouldn't notice the soulless wheezing of this creature. (Do you mean Monine? If not please tell us what this disgusting creature.)

They thought I wouldn't know where they'd taken her,(Are you referring to the creature, the Monine, or the bag of skin?) know the old stories or their names; but Gran told me everything. They thought--(The part about the Gran feels like it's for the readers benefit.)

They thought I wouldn't come after them alone.(I get what you're trying to do here, but there is such a thing as too much repetition. For me, this too much time telling me what someone else thought)

Who is Niesh and why are they watching him or her or it, or place or thing?

And I can hardly go to the Garda with a faery story, can I? (Is Garda a city or a person?)

Is the thing a changeling? Or is the thing still a "thing" and the changeling something else?

I'm off. I regret for the first time our decision to go carless. (who is this person talking to?)

The busses all either arrive or depart after dark and the faeries will be watching.(Buses is misspelled and while I don't follow that crap that spelling errors means you can't write, there's probably an anal-pore who'll tell you so....but I digress. I'm still not sure who the narrator is talking too. It feels like it's for the readers benefit anyway.)

Is the baby the bag of skin, the changeling, Monine, Niesh or Garda.?

I can't just sit here, thinking of their skeleton fingers digging into her fair skin. (Who are they and who is her? It's great to keep a little mystery but your use of pronouns is terrible. I can't figure out what's going on because I don't know who your referring to ever. Remember pro-nouns follow the antecedent. In this case, you have two; faeries and buses. They could apply to either, whilst her could apply to a single fairy or is a bus???)

Since you have buses and phones, you're going to need explain why phones don't exist.

I really liked the voice here but I was lost. Questions are raised, but I was too distracted trying to figure out who's who. I'm not a die hard fantasy fan, but I'll read anything if it's good. Clarify who's who, and I'd probably read this, but as it stands now, I was ready to quit by the end of paragraph one. I just couldn't figure out what was going on.

Dave Fragments said...

Is this the Goodfellas of fairy tales?

I ask the question that way because I want to be provocative. I am not a fan of "fairies" and the "fae" and all that stuff. I'm not an enemy. It's just not on my horizon. That being said, I have to ask the question: "Do you really want to open the story with the F bomb?" I mean seriously, is this going to be the "Under the Rainbow" of fairy stories? (hint, that's not a good comparison)...

I feel bad asking that question but I think if has to be asked. In all the discussions the minions have had about "F" bombs and bad language, here is a fairy story beginning with it. Who is going to read this? Not children. Housewives who want to read adult fairy tales? Is this like the Real Housewives of Fairydom? If that's it, then OK. Run with it.

Now don't get me wrong. I know this isn't Tinkerbell or Snow White. I know that there is a sub-genre of stories about fairies that involved adults and all that stuff. That's why I'm reluctant to comment on the rest of the opening. But the first two words are "fucking fairies" and that's like being hit in the head with a two by four.

Evil Editor said...

Usually the anonymous person who frequently writes in to pick apart openings line by line has a few useful comments, but this piece isn't nearly as unclear as he/she found it. And even if it were, it doesn't need to be clear to us, as long as it's clear to Niesh, who will be reading the letter.

That said, it wouldn't hurt to remove the "our" in front of Monine so it's clear that's a name. Capitalizing it doesn't show it's a name, as Garda and Baby-Bjorn are also capitalized.

Also, it's hard to reconcile the descriptions of the creature the baby was replaced with, first as a hollow bit of dry skin, crinkling like an old plastic carrier bag, and later as all the creepier for it's closeness to humankind. The first description doesn't sound close to humankind.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Aaaaaaagh! I'm not sure if I'm going to recover from this. When I close my eyes I see my protagonist stomping all over the west coast of ireland with an E.T. doll in a baby carrier. Make it go away!

seriously, thanks so much everyone for the feedback (anybody else?)

Loved all the continuations. Worries me a bit that so many of you thought of cocaine. Can't think why... *sniff*

vkw said...

I was intrigued by the opening but became quickly lost and confused and I gave up.

what is an "old plastic carrier bag"?

The first sentence is - they thought I wouldn't know they took Monine but they left skin behind and I knew by that. I heard the soulless wheezing. They thought I would not be able to find her but Gran told me everything, including their names.

What/who is Garda? and the next sentence "So I load this-this thing this changleing into the Baby Bjorn like a baby." I had no idea what a baby bjorn was until I googled it up. Now I am even more intrigued by the story - which is good but I'm not going to pick up a book read the first few paragraphs and then google up a word - especially if I am trying to decide whether to buy the book or not.

I would try this instead - "So I load this- this- thing, this changeling into the baby carrier and tie it around me. I feel like I'm going to throw-up. The creature's eyes are hollow, like a half-starved infant. I want to smash its head in."

The opening is fascinating. It's intriguing. I love the idea fairies are being betrayed in an evil manner rather than the usual wistful, helpful, seductresses of mankind. I love the voice.

However, you need to take some of the mystery away.

I loved all the continuations, especially John's and Blogless Troll's.

mb said...

...actually, IS it a note? Or is it a diary entry (which is what it sounds like) written on the bus? I agree it should be shorter and punchier if it's a note.

Like Rachel, I found the first paragraph confusing, but once I understood the set-up, I was intrigued. Partly because it seems possible that the baby is just a baby and not a changeling at all. Partly because I like the modern setting combined with the faery changeling story.

Evil Editor said...

The Garda is clearly the police/authorities. Try wikipedia. As I said before, if Niesh and the writer both know what the Garda is, and what a Baby-Bjorn is, it would be perfectly natural to use those terms, and would be an egregious use of "As you know Bob," to translate them for the reader. Unfortunately, some "As you know, Niesh" did creep into the piece.

Mame said...

I love it, minus the F bomb and the Monine confusion. Also, hollow bit of dry skin is no way to describe a living being, either. Knowing that Monine is a baby made all the difference on the second read.

I. Love. This. Shocker, eh?

Mame said...

Maybe drop the first line for "My dearest Niesh" or something similar.

Matt said...

The opening line grabbed me. I didn't find the letter confusing.

What's with all this faearies stuff anyway? Is that Celtic spelling? I've never seen it spelt like that until I read the fairy face-lifts on this site.

Suzan Harden said...

I liked it. Leave off the date and time, reminded me too much of Law & Order. But I liked it, f-bomb and all.

Chaoticia said...

For a book opening this needed a setting, even one tiny noun like home or at least where the person was off too, preferably both. I liked the explicative.

Eric P. said...

The concept is quite arresting and I wouldn't hesitate to read on. (Of course, I'm familiar with the idea of changelings from my readings in folklore. I suppose I can see why a few minions were a bit lost.) Excellent job on plot set-up as well: just the right amount of backstory, scene-setting, and motivation to get us moving.

Lose the F-word, at least here. It sets the wrong tone right off the bat, and then you don't follow through with it.

The letter motif doesn't work. As EE points out, it just doesn't read like a hastily-scrawled note by a distraught mother. I'd suggest either making it devastatingly terse ("The Faeries took Monine. I'm going after them. If you don't hear from me in 24 hours, call the cops. -- M.") or simply transmuting it into a straight-up internal monologue.

Mame said...

"As I said before, if Niesh and the writer both know what the Garda is, and what a Baby-Bjorn is, it would be perfectly natural to use those terms"

And I would point out, that writing down to readers is a huge mistake. Different books for different geeks.

Anonymous said...

I liked this, although the fucking did make me think it was going to have a little more attitude, or maybe a different voice. But the voice as is is pretty good and dthe description is well done. I also liked it because I can't stand stories about fairies and I hate the spelling faerie. So you had me at that first line. Of course, it does appear that your story is about fairies, but I didn't hate it and I wasn't confused at all about what the dry skin was or who was wheezing. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13 here again. Ok so this is my genre, I wasn't stumped by the meaning of anything like some people, and my advise = take no advise to Americanize your vocabulary or start 'splainin' everything to a lot of 'not my genre' people or you will lose too much of what makes it so richly and clearly an original voice and a modern Irish fantasy. It's brilliant as it is. Any minor adjustments that may be needed can be worked out with your agent/editor.

Joanna said...

Not much to add. I got Garda and inferred what a Baby-Bjorn must be, and both the descriptions of the changeling worked for me. I'd definitely keep reading.

I also think it would help to drop the first word as well as the 'our' in front of Monine; and maybe cut the third paragraph except for the last sentence.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Oh wow. Thanks so much, everyone.

mb was correct, it is a journal entry. She has left a short note for Naoise (I've given up the anglicised spellings) on the kitchen table, but hopes to get home before he does.
she's keeping the journal with the idea of mailing it to herself just before she goes into the mound, just in case she doesn't come back. she doesn't call him because he would just go apeshit with worry, and can't help her from singapore anyway.
I agree with you all totally about the opening description *not* resembling something human. I was going to write my own continuation:
"Oh, and they left an old work boot in place of the cat. Took me a minute to notice, but they can't fool me."
Did I really start four consecutive sentences with 'They thought?' Groan..
About the F-bomb. I'm not sure. thought it suited her personality. If the story ever sees the light of day it will probably be in a speculative fiction publication of some sort- NOT for kids.

Anyway, thanks again, so much. I'm rewriting this in 3rdP (dropping the journal idea- wasn't working out for a variety of reasons) i'll put it in the comments when it's done, if I may, EE?

(ps, Monine is getting a name change. her mother is named Roisin- too similar.)

Kathleen said...

ah Roisin, my favorite name ever.

All I was going to suggest was giving Monine a name change.

As for the rest, I really liked it - very creepy. I'd read more for sure!

Evil Editor said...

If the journal problem is that we think it's a letter, that can be easily fixed. If it said I'm sure they were watching Niesh, instead of I'm sure they were watching you, Niesh, we wouldn't make the assumption. You'd also want to lose the last sentence. If Niesh ever reads this he'll be reading the entire journal at once; there's no reason to state in a journal when she'll be writing again; the date and time at the top of the next entry will make that clear.

none said...

Oh, I dunno, EE. It probably is that confusing if you work really hard at being confused by it.

Xiexie said...

I'm hooked. I'd like to see the rewrite. Oh, and it's just me personally, but I didn't really see the f-bomb.

*Echoes earlier concerns* <-- The minions pretty much said what I was going to.

Good on you, Mother.

_*rachel*_ said...

I debated about mentioning my opinion on that word. I don't like the word at all, but I completely understand why you used it. Most parents, discovering their child kidnapped and replaced with a changeling would curse. I'm on the fence here, because this is about as OK as it'll ever get to curse.

vkw said...

I am going to be very honest here - I was very confused by the names, the name of the baby carrier and Garda.

I agree you should not "dumb it down" for me - I like the Irish character to it - now that I know these words mean - I think its a great opening.

I love the idea that you may write this in a series of journal entries - it has a Stephen King feel to it - and I like his writing a lot. I like the voice that may be lost if you change it.

I don't mind the F bomb. I think it fits with the cold calculating hunt for the missing child.

The only thing I don't like is that there should be some sort of reference to why she didn't call her husband and an apology. That would be the husband's first question. Why the fuck didn't she call?

Just an idea -

P2 - They thought I wouldn't come after them alone. I'm sure they were watching you, waiting until you were gone. I'm sorry I couldn't call . . . I am but I knew you were too far away to help, to do anything but worry. I didn't even call the Garda. How could I with a faery story?

What would be really cool is have the entire story in journal entries like this and find out in the last page she was strung out on cocaine.

Anonymous said...

If faeries stole my kid I'd be terrified and furious. Somehow the "fucking faeries" comment didn't sound like either. I thought it sounded exasperated - as if the story might continue "That's the second time this week. Let's call the exterminators."

My problem with "load ... this changeling into the Baby-Bjorn like a baby," was stylistic - the repetition of the word baby. Like walking in your walking shoes or grating cheese with your cheese grater.

I didn't have any trouble with the unknown vocabulary, though I did think at first that a Monine must be some kind of a car.

I really like story concept, and the images in the first para. But the tone from para 1 doesn't seem the same as that from para 3. "I regret for the first time..." seems too formal.

Steve Wright said...

I liked this. My assumption was that your narrator has second sight or something and can see through faerie glamour on that account - am I anywhere near right?

Anyway. It's got a good strong voice, and I think the situation comes across pretty clearly. Could use a bit of pruning and reorganization, but couldn't everything?

Jodi Ralston said...

Well, I'm a bit late to chime in, but, I think the opening draws you in and it has a flow that makes you read on even if you can't visualize or understand all components. But I am confused by whether or not Monine is a baby or adult and perhaps both Monine and the baby is taken.

Some nits:

Also, if this is a diary entry (as I read below in comments), then would she really write a dash to show she was interrupted here? "They thought--"

Also, I hate to argue with our host, but on this comment "The Garda is clearly the police/authorities. Try wikipedia."

It wasn't clear to me. And in my opinion, when reading fiction, the last thing you want your reader to do is reach for a reference book. It interrupts the flow of the story. Context can help clear up the Garda issue, by giving some kinda detail, like "they'd throw me in their paddy wagon and lock me up" or something like that if she took the baby to them.

Overall though, the concept behind this snippet is quite interesting. It may just need some polish. Good luck.


Evil Editor said...

I didn't look up "Garda." as I was reading. My Wikipedia suggestion was aimed at the commenter above that comment, who had already shown a willingness to use Google to look up baby-bjorn.

The meaning of Garda can be inferred from the context: who is it you would normally go to when your child is kidnapped?

none said...

Slightly worrisome that so many readers (and writers?) seem to lack basic skills like inferring meaning from context. Although I admit it took me years to work out what a letter jacket was.

Sarah Laurenson said...

F bomb worked well for me. Helped set up her voice right from the start. One too many 'They thought'. Didn't understand the beginning description.

I'd read on. Nice job!

Jodi Ralston said...

"Slightly worrisome that so many readers (and writers?) seem to lack basic skills like inferring meaning from context."

Buffy, I'm one of those who seem to be having problems with the context clues, but then again, once I get confused in a piece, it affects my ability to pick up remaining context clues on other issues. I think part of my problem was, when I read it the first time, I didn't connect Monine to a baby, in part because, due to lack of physical setting details in the first paragraph (where Monine was, for instance), I made up my own picture for the setting and character Monine. I admit to only skimming a line or two of the third paragraph because of my confusion in the first two.

But I do want to emphasize that over all, I liked this piece despite that--which is rare. Confusion normally tosses me out completely.


Mother (Re)produces. said...

I hope this is less confusing. Some of the bits that people liked aren't here anymore, but that's just because they've been moved to later in the story. Thanks again, everyone, EE.

Fucking Fairies. They thought I wouldn't notice the soulless wheezing of this creature they've tucked under the blanket. Or it's skin, which crinkles slightly like an old plastic carrier bag to the touch. Or the vague smell of tar...
Did they spy on us, waiting for Naoise to go abroad? My skin tightens with the thought of their fingers hanging on our windowsills, their filthy noses greasing the glass. Did they think I wouldn't come after them alone? I can hardly go to the Garda with a fairy story, and I can't wait for Naoise to fly home from Singapore. Maybe the miserable cowards thought I wouldn't know where they've taken our Emer; but Gran told me the old stories, and I listened.
I write Naoise a note. I'll be back before he sees it and I'll tear it up, but if I'm not... he'll need to know why. Now, all I can do is sit here in the dark and wait for the sun to pull itself up. It seemed such a noble idea when we decided to go carless but at the moment I hate myself for it. Did the dirty, thieving little fairies also know the buses are on strike? I'll have to hitch, but standing by the side of the road in the dark is all kinds of bad; if the traffic doesn't get me, the fairies well might. They've no scrupples.

Evil Editor said...

Spelling it fairies is going to lead some to think you're using a derogatory term for some gay kidnappers. Faerie is standard for a story about the Fae.

In the old version it eventually became clear that Monine was a baby. In this version it never becomes clear what Emer is. Could be a brand name for a motorcycle.

Also, it's losing some of the voice with these attempts to explain stuff. About all I'd keep if you go with the new version is:

Fucking Faeries. Did they think I wouldn't notice they'd replaced Emer with this soulless wheezing... creature? My skin tightens with the thought of their fingers hanging on our windowsills, their filthy noses greasing the glass.

I can't go to the Garda with a faerie story, and I won't wait for Naoise to fly home from Singapore. Did the miserable cowards think I wouldn't come after them alone?

I'll leave Naoise a note. I'll be back before he sees it, but if I'm not... he'll need to know why.

In first person present, you're not telling a story that already happened; you're putting yourself in the character's head and reporting her thoughts as events unfold. She knows where Emer was taken, but she's not going to explain to herself how she knows.

Sylvia said...

you will lose too much of what makes it so richly and clearly an original voice and a modern Irish fantasy.

I want to repeat this as its important. Not everything has to be written in American colloquialisms, please. :)

TBH, I didn't even notice the use of the "F-Bomb" when I first read it.

I did stumble on the description of what was left behind which seemed to be nothing like a baby (so worthless as a changeling)

They thought I wouldn't notice the soulless wheezing of this creature they've tucked under the blanket. Or it's skin, which crinkles slightly like an old plastic carrier bag to the touch. Or the vague smell of tar...

This is much better as I can now feel that someone might not notice but your protaganist did because she knows of such things.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Hello. Here is my (hopefully) final attempt at my opening (i.e., "Fucking Fairies"). Too many people cracked up when I opened with those words, so I moved them to put them a little more in context. If any minions have time for another look, I'd really appreciate any comments.
Thanks, All.

In Emer's doorway I age a million years in thirty seconds. The universe expands and contracts with the soulless wheezing of the creature they've tucked into her place. I move to touch it. Did the little fuckers think I wouldn't notice? The skin crinkles a bit, like a plastic carrier bag, and smells vaguely of coal; not Emer's sweet baby smell. This is never my child. Fucking Fairies.
Did the cowards spy on us, waiting til Naoise went abroad? I write him a note. I'll be home before he is and tear it up, but if I'm not, he'll need to know why. Then I bundle the changeling out of Emer's cot, snatch my bag my keys my coat, open the front door and I freeze. I don't hear a thing. It's still an hour till dawn, but there's always something rustling in the hedges out here on the peninsula- birds, a cat, a stoat. Tonight, it's dead silent. I fix my grip on the changeling, keys in my right hand. I'll just make a dash, I'm thinking. There's a giggle from the darkness and something whistles in like a bomb and hits the car with a metallic 'pock.' A bolt rolls down the bonnet and bounces off the bumper to join the other bits, scattered like bones on the gravel. I slam the door against the sound of more giggling and lean against it. I hang onto the changeling as everything else slides to the floor. The sweat on my back freezes to the cold door.

Dave Fragments said...

I just need a tiny piece of grounding in that first paragraph. She's walking into her baby's room, her baby's nursery and the language seems so impersonal.

Matthew said...

I agree with Dave. There needs to be a sense of place, otherwise I don't understand what's happening until the middle section.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I love the rewrite. That first para, especially, is really terrific.

The other paras are really good, too, just need a little tightening from the revision they just went through. Tiny technical things.

I write him a note. If I'm home before he is, I'll tear it up; if I'm not, he'll need to know why.

The "my bags my keys my coat" echoes a little too cutely against "birds, a cat, a stoat"

"I freeze" - I think you either need a dash before that or the MC needs to pause to listen before freezing (I would also delete "I"). The "I freeze" comes too abruptly when followed by "I don't hear a thing". As is, to me it sounds like the MC is on the alert for noise, not the lack of it, so the not hearing noise made me think everything's OK until it's clarified it isn't. Maybe just deleting "I don't hear a thing" will clear that up.

I'm looking forward to seeing this in print. You mentioned a spec fic publication, so I take it this is a short story rather than a novel...

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Thanks again, people. I'll keep tweaking.