Empty Sky First Chapters for Comparison

What do you see in the night sky?

Sponsors following my #EmptySky Twitter updates know I’m rewriting the novel. Here are the original first chapter and the rewrite. Let me know which you prefer (yes, there’s a quiz at the end)


Original

The Moon
The Moon pushed up from the horizon, through the oaks and maples which dominated Michigan’s upper peninsula forests. Her white-slippered feet pressed against the acorns and seedlings, casting little moonshadows upon the cold, mist covered, late October land.

Through a cabin window she saw a delicate, flaxen-haired boy asleep upon a cot. Beside him was the shadow of a great dog. She lifted her arm to light a better view and saw it to be a golden, his muzzle whitened with the years. Both boy and dog lay quietly, resting between dreams.

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Gable Smiled (work in progress)

A different take on A Horse and His Boy

[[Note: This content is edited from the public version. There’s a five question quiz at the end.]]

Valen patted Gable’s muscular neck as they trotted into Lensterville. They’d been ten days out, mostly soldiering Sipio’s vast Northern Plain, and this time of year that meant heat with a capital “H”. Valen could feel his own sweat trickling through the hairs on his chest and back, and every time his Ranger issue travel cords relaxed around him, his scent rose like steam washing his face.

Not pleasant.

Not so Gable’s smell. Gable was a Callisto class ModEquid, part horse part…something. Valen was never sure what and Gable liked to keep him guessing. Mostly horse on the outside, Gable’s sweat was the sweet musk of heavy horse, working horse, a gentle giant unless riled and it took a lot to rile him. There was a tang of trail dirt and rich plains tallgrasses and lathering neck and flanks that Valen thought wonderful, comforting, reassuring, and it made him proud that Gable had taken so to him.

“Let me know when,” he said to the horse.

Gable smiled back, Any time you’re ready.

Valen performed an emergency dismount, Gable still trotting so that Valen landed running beside him on the horse’s left, reins in Valen’s right hand. He knew Gable liked to run side-by-side, the two of them together, and the horse always smiled laughter at the man’s two-legged gait.

No speed, Two-Legs, he would smile at Valen.

“Yeah, well…speed when I need it,” Valen said back.

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The Magic Tassels

What we see often determines the magic we possess

There was once a little boy who left his village and returned knowing how to journey the way shaman do. He returned to his people wearing tassels on his wrists and everybody who saw these tassels knew they were magic but nobody said anything to him about them.

Each day, the young boy helped tend the village herds and fields, each evening he ate with the old and not-so-old, the young and not-so-young in the village. He laughed at their jokes and made some of his own, cried at their grief and mourned all of his own.

Finally, one evening, a little girl from the village came to the boy and asked, “Boy, what are those tassels you wear on your arms?”

She did this at the village fire and everyone grew quiet to hear what the big boy would say.

He smiled at the little girl and asked, “What do you see, little one?”

“I see snakes,” she said. “Big, beautiful snakes. Snakes to ride on and carry me away.”

The boy nodded. “Thank you, little girl. Thank you for telling me what these tassels are on my arms. Now I know they are snakes. Thank you very much.”

The little girl smiled and laughed and the grown boy did, too, as the little girl went off to play.

A few nights later one of the oldest men in the village came up to the boy by the village fire and asked, “What are those tassels on your arms, boy?”

“What do you see, Grandfather?” asked the boy.

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Backcover Copy

Positioning, Priming, and the Importance of Backcover Copy

A recent Goodreads discussion asked “How do you like your scifi / fantasy?”

I responded “Well written.” A friend responded “Artesian or wishing?” I responded “Ah, to have a thirst for the magical.” Someone else responded, “Either way…DEEP.”

I followed that up with another response. It’s gone. Not sure why it got removed. I launched off the concept of “DEEP” because I’m told my writing is “deep” and “definitely not fluff.” Some readers wonder if I’m capable of writing “fluff.” “Even your short stories are deep.”

Gable Smiled – the first 10 pages, anyway – are being read by a professional actor at Concord’s Hatbox Theater at the end of this month (read the version being read here). Part of that process involves having the material evaluated by the producer.

The producer and I talked on the phone, and I received a DOC file with comments; this character wasn’t described, the environment wasn’t described, the background wasn’t described, … These comments confused me. The main characters are described. So is the environment, the background situation, the this, the that. I’ve had many first readers tell me the story’s great, when can they get more, so on and so forth. I’ve also had people tell me they don’t get it, the story makes no sense to them.

And then the producer said “There’s a lack of a reader entry points into the story.”

When in Doubt, Examine the Audience
I had no middle-of-the-road responses. Strange, that.
Continue reading “Backcover Copy”

The Lonely Oak (a Tale of the Woods)

You understand, don’t you? It’s magic, after all.

 
Once upon a time, in a land almost too far away, there lived a tall, glorious oak. It wasn’t odd at all that a tall, glorious oak should live in this land for this land was a Woods. But this Woods wasn’t like any woods or forests you’ve ever seen before. Here the animals talked and flowers flew and trees moved wherever they needed. This was a magical Woods, unlike most others.

You understand, don’t you? It’s magic, after all.

This tall oak watched all around her. She wasn’t old as oaks go in years, but she was a wise oak just the same. She had been an oak all her life. And all her life she had seen things in the Woods. Good things and bad things, sad things and glad things. And everything she saw she held deep inside, deep where the blood of trees flows from the roots in the ground to the high crown of leaves that brace the sky.

One of the things she’d seen often was the love of others for the trees around her. This made her glad. “Someday,” she thought, “someone will come and love me.”

She waited for some time, through many seasons in fact. But no one came. Many came through the Woods where she lived and spread her leaves, but all that came seemed to prefer the shade of other trees. The tall oak watched this and wondered, “Is there something wrong with my leaves? Or my bark? Perhaps I don’t shade the world as I might?”

None of this was true of course. The oak’s leaves were among the most beautiful in the Woods. Her bark was clean and smooth and ran straighter than many other trees. Her shade was a peaceful relief to the small creatures that sought shelter under her.

It’s magic, after all.

 
But all this wonderful oak saw was the scores of others resting under other trees. “Perhaps I’m too tall a tree?”

And so, despite the fact that she was a beautiful oak, she let her boughs drop to her sides and twisted her trunk slightly, trying to make herself smaller in the Woods.

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