Cymodoce (Part 2)

Cymodoce seems to be one of my best loved stories. EU actress Sabine Rossbach performed a reading of it and talks about it often (see Sabine Rossbach’s Happy Hour – 14 May 2020 Interview (wherein she waxes wonderfully about “Empty Sky”) for an example), parAbnormal published it in June 2019, there’s an ebook version and it appears in Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires.

By the way, a prominent Brit-based publisher and I have entered contract negotiations for Tales. It may not be self-published much longer. I’d suggest getting a copy now. Big changes are in the works, it seems.

 
I’ve broken the story into three parts starting with Cymodoce (Part 1).

Creator and above level members can download the entire Tales PDF version here


Cymodoce (Part 2)

Jenny returned to the cottage to finish her last book. She had two hundred pages to go. That would finish the day. Tomorrow, she would close up the cottage and head back to New York, back to the silent security of teaching Drama to the Deaf.

The sun was strong and Jenny realized she hadn’t even bothered to get a tan so she put on a baggy pair of shorts, a bathing top, sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, shoved an apple and penknife in her pocket, grabbed her book and wheeled a beach lounger outside. With one hundred pages left, she heard something. It sounded like the clacking of lobster buoys adrift in the shallows. Sounds didn’t make her nervous, but she knew every sound the cottage, the island and the ocean could make. This wasn’t one of them. Either someone was playing a joke or someone was hurt. She wasn’t sure if the locals could be that immature, but she wouldn’t put it past them. Twenty-five pages later she heard it again.

The sound came off and on with the wind. Unsure what it was, she investigated.

It stopped as she neared the dock.

“Hello?”

There was nothing there. No signs of any craft except Jenny’s own securely moored boat. She started back up the path and it started again.

There was a man lying among the rocks on the shore.

She walked towards him. “Are you all right?”

His naked body was cut and bruised in several places. Parts of a nylon fishing net cut into his flesh. The wounds had festered. His legs were bound in various lines. He rolled onto his stomach as she neared. His back was blistered from the sun.

“My God, what happened to you?”


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Cymodoce (Part 1)

Cymodoce seems to be one of my best loved stories. EU actress Sabine Rossbach performed a reading of it and talks about it often (see Sabine Rossbach’s Happy Hour – 14 May 2020 Interview (wherein she waxes wonderfully about “Empty Sky”) for an example), parAbnormal published it in June 2019, there’s an ebook version and it appears in Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires.

By the way, a prominent Brit-based publisher and I have entered contract negotiations for Tales. It may not be self-published much longer. I’d suggest getting a copy now. Big changes are in the works, it seems.

 
I’ve broken the story into three parts starting with this post.

Creator and above level members can download the entire Tales PDF version here


Cymodoce (Part 1)

Jenny silently guided the rowboat to the dock, all the while keeping one eye on her three-year-old twins, Davy and Cymmi, sitting in front of her. When the boat was next to the mooring Jenny grabbed a line, pulled the boat to the dock and tied it. It was the first time she’d been to the island since the twins were born. Her parents, who died within a week of each other the previous fall, left her the dock, the boat, the cabin, the two acres of land, and only property taxes and upkeep to concern her.

Davy fidgeted. “Mommy, I’m hungry. Can we eat now?” She put a finger to her lips and Davy pouted. Cymmi was leaning over the side of the boat, splashing her hands in the water. She paused, looked out over the waves, then splashed harder.

Jenny moored the boat, lifted a lunch basket and helped the children onto the dock. “Mom,” Davy whined, “I’m hungry.”

“We’ll go up to the cabin and eat. Okay, Davy?” They started up the narrow path.

“Mom, Cymmi’s still by the water.”

Jenny looked up. Cymmi was in up to her ankles. Jenny dropped the lunch basket, ran back and lifted Cymmi from the water. Her feet glistened. Cymmi kept looking at the waves as Jenny sat her by the lunch basket, took out a container of fresh water and poured it over Cymmi’s feet. The tiny, silvery marks began to fade and Jenny signed /COME /EAT /NOW /PLAY /LATER /OKAY/?// She took Cymmi’s hand and gently pulled her along.

Much later, when Jenny had put the children to bed, she walked down the path and sat on the dock. She took off her sandals and swished her feet in the ocean. Across the Sound she could see the lights of the Maine coast. The island had always been a quiet place. Even in the heat of the tourist season, when Route 1, heard if not seen across the Sound, was a tangle of campers, buses, and hitchhikers, the island was left to the three New York families who owned it and had cabins there.

The sounds of summer came across the water. She tried to match the sounds with the lights. Fuzzy rock music came from Beniroo’s, an old icehouse turned bar and nightclub. When Beniroo’s music paused she could hear a calliope and, intermittently, people giddily screaming. That would be Funland. She could see the Ferris wheel spinning and the roller coaster trestle climbing into the sky. Search lights swept back and forth, sweeping the ocean mists inland and then back out to sea. To the north she could pick out the tinny guitar and muffled bass of The Word’s tent meeting, preaching God’s message to the summer sinners.

Something tickled her foot and she jerked it from the water. Soon the tide would turn and go out. Fundy had powerful tides, aided this night by the moon overhead. There was a splash out by the rocks. Something bobbed briefly about forty feet from her. She heard another splash, saw a rippling approach her through the waves. /HELLO/?//

“Mommy?” Davy’s voice pulled her back to dry land.

There was a slight almost soundless splash in the water.

Jenny’s heart pounded. She fumbled getting up. “Yes, Davy?”

He walked over to her. “Who’re you talking to?”

She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Just the fishes. I told them we came back this summer. Now, what are you doing out of bed?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

She lifted him up so he could ride her hip as she walked. He wrapped his arms around her neck and cradled his head in her shoulder. “Come on, little man, you can sleep with me tonight.” Davy’s arms hung limp by his sides before they got back to the cabin.

She put Davy in her own bed and checked Cymmi before returning to the kitchen. There she made herself a cup of coffee and, from a window, watched the coast lights go out, one by one.

The next day they cleaned the cabin. Jenny and Cymmi doing most of the work. Davy would sweep, watch them, see something outside, go investigate, come back a few minutes later, sweep some more, and watch them again, repeating the pattern over and over.

Jenny, moving the broom in careful strokes, swept up memories along with the dust bunnies. Twelve years earlier, too young and too protected to know different, she’d come to the island with Anthony DiGracio. They were what, she wondered, sixteen then?

She remembered that at sixteen, the skinny, olive-skinned fisherman’s son had fleshed out into a handsome man: his dark curly hair heavy on his head, now darkening his chest and stomach, his blue eyes smiling under long lashes.

Jenny walked through the town with her parents and their friends for almost three hours that day. Not once did the conversation waver from stocks, clients, or banks, all of which bored Jenny to death. As Jenny’s people walked off, Anthony tapped her arm. “Wanna go out to the island?”

They went in Anthony’s skiff. He rowed with his shirt off, his muscles knotting and unknotting rhythmically under his skin.

They closed the cabin door and, before she knew it, he was up against her, his sweat and teenage cologne a miasma around her, his hands gentle but searching.

They were on the bed and her jersey was off when she heard something. She was about to ask Anthony if he heard anything when the door opened.

Daddy stood there.


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Writing Realistic Hand-to-Hand Combat Scenes

[A previous version of this post appeared on Rennie St. James’ blog]

Have you ever been in real hand-to-hand combat? Not a playground pushing contest, a real someone’s-not-getting-up-ever-again situation?

Forget about what you’ve seen in movies, TV, and the like. Those are highly staged, choreographed dances, not fights. Everything they do is practiced so nobody gets hurt.

Now for something that will help you write such scenes: Forget combat details, they’re irrelevant. If it’s important a character knows Krav Maga share that information before the fight scene, not in it. Fight scenes must give the reader a sense of the fight’s quick, violent actions — use short sentences with small words — and readers should feel the violence — use strong, action verbs.

Consider: “I pushed him down.” v “I knocked him down.”

“Knocked” provides visual and kinesthetic information that “pushed” does not.

Was the push hard or soft? Intended or not? We don’t know. The next sentence can be anything from “I grabbed for him, saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’” to “I kicked his head in.” But “knocked”? I used lots of force intentionally. I meant “him” to go down. You already know the next sentence will be “I kicked his head in” or something worse.

Let’s explore further:
Let’s dig deeper:

Which of the two above puts you closer to the action? “Explore” tends to be a “distancing” word in English — we “explore” something “over there.” We don’t explore our backyards. “Dig” implies an immediate, physical activity. We dig in our backyards. Strong, action words make a difference.

Let’s dig deeper:

1) Ellie blocked Earl’s left with her right, moved into him, and caught him across the jaw with an uppercut.
2) Ellie blocked Earl’s left. She stepped in. Her right rocketed from her hip. The impact shattered his jaw.

1 and 2 explain much the same thing. They’re nineteen and eighteen words respectively. But pay attention to yourself reading them. Most people read 1 slower than they read 2.

There’s lots of reasons for it and someday, if we meet at a con, ask me and I’ll explain it if you’d like.

There’s reasons for it. I’ll explain it should we meet at a con.

Short, simple sentences make a difference. They take less mental effort to process. You want your reader to understand as quickly as possible that somebody got hurt, possibly killed. You want them to know it as a fact. You don’t want them decoding a series of parenthetic expressions to figure it out.

2’s sentences are in SVO — subject-verb-object — order, what’s called “active voice.” There are four short sentences instead of one long one. Each sentence uses a strong, action verb: blocked, stepped, rocketed, shattered. Each verb conveys a distinct, easily visualized physical action.

Want to make example 2 better? Remove “from her hip.” Her right is already rocketing. The visual is already from low to high. Let the reader’s imagination fill in where from.

Earlier I mentioned “If it’s important a character knows Krav Maga share that information before the fight scene, not in it.” You don’t have time in the fight scene itself to describe the actual techniques being used because you’re using short, SVO sentences. How far before the fight scene do you need to share something?

Now we’re exploring foreshadowing. I did it earlier in this piece and, if I did it correctly, you didn’t notice it. I foreshadowed to prime you to respond a certain way to something that came later (and thanks to Joe Della Rosa for asking me to explain “priming”).


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Relatability

To me, the key to keeping readers focused on your story is relatability (yes, I know. If you’re reading my world-building posts, you’re shocked). A story is relatable when the reader can imagine themselves in the story, meaning the reader accepts what happens in the story as something that could happen to them, meaning it’s familiar, and that brings us back to grounding the unfamiliar in the familiar.

At this point, we revert to basic psychology; How do people relate to things? Turns out there are four basic ways:

  1. they’re familiar with a place (Setting)
  2. they’re familiar with what’s happening (Plot)
  3. they’re familiar with the people involved (Character)
  4. they’re familiar with what’s being said (Language)

Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!

Why It Works for Me – Natalie Babbit’s “Tuck Everlasting”

This is the last in this current series in which I discuss why a particular piece of writing works for me, aka, this piece of writing taught me something about writing, encouraged me to be a better writer, engaged me, captivated me, educated me, et cetera.

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s one thing to know something is good, it’s a better thing (in my opinion) to know why it’s good and then be able to copy what’s good about it, to learn from it so you can be as good and (hopefully) better.

This time out, Natalie Babbit’s “Tuck Everlasting”.