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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear Katherine

A big thank you to Patricia who offered her first chapter up for critique. I will do a portion each day through Saturday. As always my comments will be in purple and I hope you'll add yours. Here is the first chapter of DEAR KATHERINE.

Chapter 1—Millanos

My life began the day I left school and fell off a planet for the first time. Up until then, I hadn't lived--I just existed. I like this, it seems like an expression of the times and it tells us these times are not like ours.
By the time I landed on Millanos, I was thirty two. I had fallen on and off most of the colonized planets in the Tetracoil Galaxy. But even after fourteen years, I still felt exhilarated every time the synchrotron was powered down and gravity took hold of the spacecraft. The adrenalin rush from those seven minutes of free-fall, not knowing if the hover jets would engage in time, lasted me days. Love this description.
My heart was still racing when the hatch opened and fresh air rushed into the dehydrated passenger cabin. I smelled brine in the air--my first greeting from Millanos. I unfastened the straps holding me to the seat and stretched my back. Through the internal passageway, I could see the three pilots moving around the cockpit. One of these days, I would learn to fly just to be able to ride in the front seats. But first I had nine more planets to visit and Millanos was just a few steps away.
I collected the single duffle that contained all my possessions and shouted a “thank you” toward the cockpit. I had paid them in advance, so there was no point in disturbing their crosscheck protocol. And after six and a half hours in the confined cabin, I was more than ready to be outside. That wormhole was a long one. Interesting expression to use for a wormhole...
At the edge of the landing pads I found someone who exchanged one of the four gold coins I had brought with me from Linnay for ten farm tickets, the local currency. All I knew about Millanos was that it was a beach colony with subsistent subsistence (subsistent isn't a word but I'm not 100% sure you want this one) agriculture and a population of about ten thousand. It wasn’t one of the planets we had spent much time studying at the Academy. My instructors obviously had never been to the settlement or they would have painted a much warmer picture. The sun that greeted me honey-coated the teal colored sea. (I love the picture this presents in my mind)  The star was high in the sky, suggesting midday. As on most other planets I had visited, those who colonized Millanos two hundred years ago had decided to settle close to the equator.
The town rimmed the ragged coast. Houses, interspaced with coconut palms, bordered the white sand. Restaurants and shops had been built further inland. Millanos was not much different than the ten other beach colonies I had visited. Sounds like some place I'd like to live.
My instructor's advice from all those years ago came back to haunt me. Make sure you find food and a safe bed for the night as soon as you land. I had ignored her advice only once and I still regretted it. After that I always made sure I had enough money to last at least two days, just in case. I glanced at the tables dispersed in front of the few restaurants close by, noting the dishes others were eating. Breads were popular and vegetables were served raw. Then my eyes met the sign for a tattoo parlor and I forgot about food.
I had left school set on exploring all one hundred and fifty colonized planet in the galaxy and I was very close to achieving that goal. Even though all planets I had visited were unique in their own way, I didn't think anything could really surprise me anymore. I was ready to show off that I understood the galaxy better than anyone who lived in it. I was ready to display that expertise with an eye-catching tattoo. I don't follow her logic here.
I walked into the shop and noticed two men browsing some of the designs posted on the back wall. They looked younger than me, probably in their late twenties. As I waited for someone to show up at the front counter, I examined the drawings on the opposite wall while my well-travelled duffle rested by my feet. It was impossible not to overhear the guys' conversation in the small reception area.
"I’m certain I can get it somewhere that won’t show,” the taller one said in the Western language I spoke at school. His accent was common to the fourth whorl and his wavy hair had a sun-kissed shine, with copper streaks outlining his curls.
The other man had straight hair in a darker shade, which swept in front of his eyes as he shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, dear—“
“It won’t be visible. Nobody will notice.”
“We haven’t been here long enough for you to decide on something so... permanent.”
“I thought about it long enough to want one. It’s just a question of which one.”
“But dear—“
“Derek. Why can’t you just call me Derek over here? I have no trouble calling you Rick,” the curly one said in a voice not quite low enough that I couldn't hear him.
“I promised I'd try.”
Their conversation and my eavesdropping were interrupted by the well-tanned man who walked out of the private room in the back of the shop. I was standing closer to the counter, so he smiled at me.
“And who are you?" The Southern dialect of Millanos had a sing-song melody that I hadn't heard anywhere else. I thought she hadn't been here before. This implies she has. I think you need to reword.
I matched his smile and language. "Katherine, but they were here first.” I pointed at the other two.
“Go ahead,” Derek said in the classic Southern language I learned in school. I detected no accent.
“Please. He hasn’t made up his mind,” Rick added, a little too harsh on the vowels.
I moved towards the counter. “Are you sure? Mine will take a while…”
“Even better,” Rick said.
I took my notebook out of the bag and opened it on the wood surface. "I want the whole galaxy."
The guy behind the counter glanced at my drawing and shook his head. "That's way beyond anything I can do. You'd need a robot for that."
"And you don't have one?"
"I couldn't call myself an artist if I did. If that's what you want, you'll need to go somewhere else. There are no robots on this planet."
I gnawed on my lower lip. There were only eight planets I hadn't visited and I didn't know if body art was popular in any of them. They hadn't taught that kind of stuff in school and I had failed to find a tattooing station in the last three planets already. (this tells me a tattoo was something she was already thinking about before she arrived on planet) If as a geography graduate I could draw it, the guy should be able to reproduce it if he was a true artist. I wasn't asking for a hologram on my back.
"How about if we make it not so colorful? The colonized planets in color and their suns in white. Then you can sprinkle some other celestial bodies in black to fill in the four whorls of the galaxy.”
He studied the drawing for a few minutes and traced the intertwining spirals of each of the whorls with his thumb. “I can do six colors--black, white and a different color for each of the four whorls. Do you want it to glow?”
            “In the dark?” Derek and I asked at the same time. Lol.

First impression? I like it. I'm not wholly invested in our mc, Katherine (yet), but this set up of an interesting future with space travel and wormholes intrigues me (it should; I just finished my own scifi wip). I would read on. What about you? Would you turn the page? Have any suggestions or comments for Patricia? You know we love comments around here :)


Trisha F said...

Yep, I'd definitely read on! Love the writing style and the world building already.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Make that three thumbs up:)

I'd lose some of the 'to be' verbs though. Some places need tightened, IMO. And extra words need cut.

Trim the pronouns whenever possible:
By the time I landed on Millanos, I was thirty-two and had fallen on and off most of the colonized planets in the Tetracoil galaxy.

Cut unnecessary (or the 'duh' words,lol):
Paragraph #3: cut "Dehydrated, in the air, my back" Edit 'was powered' to 'powered'

Fifth paragraph: Do you mean 'sustainable'?

At the edge of the landing pads I exchanged (cut 'found someone who')

Suggestion: "The Academy didn't spend much time teaching us about Millanos" rather than: "It wasn’t one of the planets we had spent much time studying at the Academy" - this rids the sentence of the 'to be' verb and clarifies.

Paragraph 7:
cut "dispersed" and "close by"
Change "...and vegetables were served raw" to "...and raw vegetables"

Suggestion: Change "Their conversation and my eavesdropping were interrupted by the well-tanned man who walked out of the private room in the back of the shop" to
"A well-tanned man walked out of the back of the shop and interrupted their conversation"

Great descriptions throughout. Be careful not to overplay that hand though.

Patchi said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions.

"Subsistence" was the word I was trying to spell. Thanks Marcy :)

@Huntress: I can always count on you to point out where I use two words when one would do. You're awesome! I need a parrot saying "Tighten, tighten, tighten" on my shoulder while I revise...

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

Good strong voice in this sample. That comes from the whole first person perspective I think.

L. Blankenship said...

So a professional space tourist lands in "Maui" and decides to get a tattoo.

No, I wouldn't turn the page. Nothing's happening here.