REBLOGGED | Writing Critique from Janice Hardy (The Other Side of the Story)

Janice Hardy critiqued a 250 words snippet of my Fantasy book Reminiscence of a Shadow last yearJanice is a writer of Fantasy and Science-fiction for teens. She runs this awesome blog site dedicated to all writers called The Other Side of the Story.

The Snippet:

Background: First person narrative in Sword and Sorcery fantasy genre. Narrator becomes a Shade-in-training after his death. In this scene, he travels with Marin and Taren after being separated with their Captain, when a monster, which had been following them since long, attacks them. 

A light tremor shook the earth beneath me gently. I felt a sudden chill at my chest. Something came whistling through the air above us. Flying or falling, I’d no idea.

From how far did he make that jump? 

The monster landed on its knee, crouching. The sheer power of the collision of him against the earth sent a ripple through the hard ground!

“Can’t believe I’m going to die with you lot!” said Marin.

Taren frowned. “The feeling’s mutual, friend.”

Marin looked at me sidelong. “How did you get rid of it the first time?”

I shrugged. “Um…I had to die.”

“Now where’s a Shade when you need one?” said Marin.

Taren brought out his blade and charged ahead. He hardly reached up to the monster’s waist, how he planned to kill it, I’d no idea.

The monster took out its battleaxe — as large as one of those smaller trees — even larger compared to Taren’s sword. Then it stomped its foot to the ground, making Taren stumble upon the tremor. It stepped in, flicked away the sword off Taren’s hand and raised the axe high above his head.

A giant arc cut down at him. I closed my eyes involuntarily, expecting the worse.

When I opened it a moment later, I found the axe still above the monster’s head.

A dark wire – dark, and smoldered in an even darker mist –- held the axe, mid-way, against the will of the monster.

“Captain!” I screamed like a little boy. Never before had I been this happy to see that face.

END

Critique By Janice Hardy (@Janice_Hardy): on The Other Side of the Story: Real Life Diagnostics: Keeping Action Scenes Clear…

One can have the snippets of their works critiqued through her blog’s weekly column “Real Life Diagnostic (RLD)”Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues.  Follow the guidelines and Submit! 

 

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Lesson (sort-of) Learned

Just love Brian’s posts. Hilarious. No nonsense stuff.

Eagerly waiting for his debut novel. Also, I’m curious to know about the monk that got whipped–although, apparently, that scene’s been cut!

Brian Staveley

Well, seven years after I wrote a scene in which a young monk is whipped while trying to paint a thrush, I can finally say it: The Emperor’s Blades is out on the shelves. Oddly, the money-laden dump truck driven by attractive fans has not yet arrived in the driveway, but maybe that happens tomorrow.

I’m a slow learner, but even for slow learners seven years is enough time to pick up a few lessons. Here’s what I’ve got:

1. It is never a good idea to drink five cups of coffee before noon.

2. That scene you spent a week and a half on, the one you thought was going to be the psychological pivot for an entire act? Yeah, it’s crap. Cut it.

3. When you find a brilliant beta reader, marry her. It’s the only way to ensure she’ll see the project through to the end.

4…

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A TRAVELOGUE (Or a sort of…)

KALINCHOWK: Up, Up, and Up We Go!

At the eminent height of some 3800 meters, Goddess Kali resides in the form of Kalinchowk Bhagwati. Surrounded by the spire of mountain ranges like Ganesh and Gaurishankar, it truly is one of the most splendid grandeur of Gods on Earth.

We were six, with three bikes, who rode up to the small settlement of Kuri, where the hill of the Goddess looms large. We began from Kathmandu and the places like Dhulikhel, Dolalghat, Sukute, Mude, Kharidhunga (one of the most, MOST beautiful!), and Charikot lied in our tread.  

Let‘s head straight over to the glory of Kharidhunga.

 THE MAJESTY AMONGST MAGNESITE

Panorama of the spires of hills crowned with snow. A little below them, a bit hazy to the eyes, a ragged line of green hills. Then, lower still, a clearer line of hill, dominated by the yellowish patches of grass. And there we stood, at the top of yet another of such mounds, overlooking this beauty in diversity of the landscapes that was at play at Kharidhunga. 

The earth beneath us felt slippery and the rocks were dark, an augury of the presence of the largest magnesite mine of Nepal under our feet. And the vista, a manifestation that we stood before one of the most glorious sights in Nepal. At that moment, for us, it was the most beautiful place on earth.


THE (DSLR) PHOTOSHOOT: (Courtesy: Sanjeev Dhakal)

The moment called for an extended photoshoot, no doubt. And we couldn’t allow our non-professionalism about a professional camera get in the way (though one of us did know his way with a DSLR). So with our available resources, such as they were, the clicks and poses lasted for about an hour. The sun threatened to crash-land on the horizon sooner rather than later, but who cared! The grandeur of the landscape vindicated our lingering.

The journey resumed with the sun fading away to orange, forming a calm reddish line on the western horizon. The road was narrow, curvy, and the destination still afar. Hence, we guiltily ignored the the beauty that sprawled all across the skies—courtesy, an almost melodic harmony of the dying sun and the random-shaped clouds.


THE DARK RIDE

Dusk found us at Charikot. A quick inquiry informed us that our destination was still about three hours (and some significant off-road ride) ahead. An off-road climb at that.

After a quick discussion, we decided to make the rest of the road that very evening. And, thus, we traveled up one of the most difficult roads I had ever ridden on a bike. In dark.

Had we had any hindsight on the condition of the road, or had there been any more light available to our eyes, it would have been rather difficult for us to make that road. Some sort of psychological affect was inevitable. But the situations, such as they were, led us to travel through the darkness, speeding our way on one of the toughest path. 

Finally, we arrived at a small hamlet of Kuri. And within just one and a half hours too! Thank the Gods for the wrong information provided by the local, our trip seemed a little shorter to our minds than it really was.


THE COLD VALLEY

Enter a cold valley. The coldest environment I’d ever faced. Winds, though soft, blew with a sharpness chillness.

Fire became our savior. And hot water. There may or may not have been other things mixed. Later, the hot supper gave a new surge of heat to our wind-chilled bones and the Lady Sleep demanded our attention to her. I couldn’t agree more.

Fortunately, the next day, a day’s bike ride hadn’t had its toll on our bodies yet. However, no matter how tired or rejuvenated, one just cannot simply forsake the warm early morning sleep (magnified by the cold winds of winter). And that is how, and why, we lost our perfect opportunity to watch the sunrise from the Kalinchowk top. Later, only when the sun had ascended above the mountains, did we recollected our vigor to set on our prime destination.

IT’S THE CLIMB!

Stepping out the hotel (or a sort of), we realized that we’d rested ourselves the previous night under the shadows of the great Kalinchowk hill. For the great mound of a hill stood before us, not fifty meters away. The hotel owners said it would take us about one and a half hours to make it to the top. We gave ourselves two. I, personally, gave myself two and a half. See I’m not exactly your average trekking kind of guy.

The entire way up our climb, the snow-capped hills gave its glimpses on the different facades of the horizon. Teasing us, challenging us, almost saying, “Climb! Climb and see me in my full glory!”

And climb we did.

 

 


A LITTLE CLOSER TO HEAVEN

I’m not the most pious of persons you’d meet, that’s for sure. But, right there, atop the Kalinchowk hill, before the shrine of Goddess Bhagwati, among the soaring skies, and with the mountain range of Gaurishankar, Ganesh, and Sagarmatha on the horizon (and at our eye-level!), it did feel a little closer to the heaven. A little closer to the God.

THE RETURN (OF THE SIX)

Our timing in terms of season, and the time of the climb, couldn’t have been any more perfect. Being just before the beginning of prime winter, somewhere in the middle of Paush (about the end of the December), the skies were ever clear and the view of the fading series of hills, glowing mountain range, and the vast landscapes appeared to us in their full glory.

At some time past noon, we descended the great hill. Only when we did arrive the bottom, and had our meal, the tiredness of a relentless day’s ride, and the trek, dawned on us. We leaned against our bikes, reluctant to resume our journey. However, the day was not long left, and we had great miles to cover back home. 

And, thus, we left the Kalinchowk hill behind us, standing resilient,  proud, and in its astounding splendor. We left the hamlet of Kuri, a unique world in its own. We left a place, where a duet of nature and religion resonates one of the truest melodies of beauty and faith among the visitors. 

We, without a doubt, were no exception.

Excerpts from my book: Chapter 3 of “AMARANTH: The Hunt for the Unicorn”

(Lens Ryk’s Intro)
Chapter 3
The Face that Lied

“Raise you ten.” Lens leaned back on his chair with a smile on his face. “Is that your hands trembling, Al?”

The man to his opposite frowned and tightened his grip. He glanced from his cards to Lens, then back to the cards—brows furrowed, wrinkles forming up his forehead.

And still the fool tries to read me. “Come, Al. There’s a lot at stake here. We’ve raised too far out for the day.”

Al watched him intently, wrinkles furrowing deeper on his temple.

Go on, then. Lens’ lip twitched slightly at the corner. Try to read my face. More the attention there, the better.

“Sharks!” Al cursed, letting his cards fall. “Fold.”

“Aw, come, man, Al,” some brown-haired boy said. One of the many spectators. “He is only bluffing. You know that!”

Lens lips curled to a crooked smile.

The big man snorted. “Well, yes…” He set his jaws tight. “But he could just as easily be telling the truth. There’s no reading this man. And I’ve just lost too much today.”

“Wise man, you are, Al.” Lens spread out his cards.

“Three wizards!” Al gasped. “That’s a bit too much luck for a day.”

Lens collected his coins with one swipe of the table and stuffed it into his leather bag. “Have some spirit, Al. Now, we’d a great time, no?”

“Yenh—” The big man shrugged. “Easy for you to say. Don’t have no woman waiting up for you to bring some riches back home, eh?”

“Uh-huh. No home. No woman. Lots of women, though.” Lens swung the bag of coins across his shoulder, hitting the folded cards and scattering it all over in the process. “So long, then. Meet ye when I do!”

He whistled to low note as he turned to leave.

“Now, wait a fuckin moment!” Al’s voice came from behind.

“Enough with your complaining, Al,” he turned back sharp. “What did I say about—”

Two wizards looked out at him from the big guy’s hand. He took a quick glance at the table and found the three that he showed still lying there.

Al furrowed his brows. “Looks like two wizards went astray from the folded set to the playing set, neh?”

Lens clicked his tongue. “Well, you know what they say in south—never trust them fuckin wizards.”

He darted toward the nearest door.

“Come back’ere,” Al roared. “Bloody cheat!” He followed after Lens.

Lens danced his way around the crowd of people, jumped over a table…grabbed a piece of meatsauce from one of them…and skittered out past the door.

“Here, boy. Here!” he screamed, hovering the meatsauce in air.

Five large stray dogs came galloping toward him.

Al arrived right on time. “I am taking them shiny coins for my wife tonight, Lens.”

“How very unromantic!” Lens threw the meatsauce at him. “Try some meatsauce instead.”

The dogs jumped at Al, bringing him down along.

“Fuck! I’ll skin you, Lens. Get’em off me.”

Lens smiled with content and darted away.

#

He walked a narrow path in the Silk street. The busy evening market flanked his way and he blended among them like shadows blend to night. Safer that way. When you’re Lens Ryk, there’s no telling who might decide to show up and put a steel inches deep into your gut.

“Hey, Lens!” A honey-coated voice stopped him on his tracks. He followed the sound to find a young girl standing, leaning against a pillar.

“Well, hello, there…” he said, an eyebrow raised.

“Long time, sweet,” she said, eyes flickering.

“Indeed. Two weeks, is it?” He put his fingers against his stubbles. “No, wait. That was someone else.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “Let’s just…” She put her smile back. “Let’s just head over to my place, what do you say?” She pressed her soft delicate finger against his chest.

“What do I say?” He grinned and raised his arm up in air. “I say haa-ooh, girl.”

#

Lens leaned against the wall with his hand as he watched the girl unlock the front door.

“Colored it again, eh?” Lens remarked. The color of the house definitely had been different last time around.

She narrowed her eyes with a hint of a smile. “So you couldn’t place my name but remembered the color of my house?”

“Yuh, no. Actually, the paint got on my hand.” He placed his hand before her, blue as the house.

She crackled softly and rolled her eyes.

The lock clicked and she opened the door. “Shall we get inside?” she said.

He shrugged. “Well, that’s the whole point of the door, right?”

She sighed, then stepped closer and kissed him on the lips. A deep, passionate kiss. The likes of which he’d never received.

She pulled him in, slammed the door shut behind her, and locked it. “I’m so going to miss you.”

He breathed in as much as possible. “I get that a lot.” Then blinked hard. “Wait, what?”

She snapped her fingers in a loud click.

Ten armored men stormed out. Weapons at the ready.

“Lens Ryk,” one of them said, voice heavy. “You have the orders to surrender to our custody. Any reprehension would be taken as criminal offense against the state and the King.”

He spread his arms out. “Hmm, I get that a lot, too.”

Lens watched around the room. No windows, no access to any other rooms or the roof, no furnitures, no chances of managing a make-shift weapon, no speaking your way out of it, and just one exit that was already locked. Also, no instrument for the make-shift key.

Sweet Crackles! The house was redesigned to be Lens Ryk proof. “So, I guess no haa-ooh, then?”

The man with the heavy voice handed over a bag to the girl. Lens resisted a serious urge to ask the price at which he was rated.

Why go to this length for me? Thousands of answers surfaced his mind.

Alright, who could be most desperate?

Lens pursed his lips. “Very well, brave people. Legends will speak of how you used a fragile girl to get to me.” He tried mustering as much of a guilt-laden face as he could, and raised both hands in air. “I surrender to your custody, or whatever it is.”

The men brought out a thick steel chain, some six feet long and possessing several locks.

Lens frowned. “Oh, you overestimate me.”

But the heavy armored men were having none of it. He was tightened with chains all over, save for his head and legs—and that too in a fashion that he couldn’t move freely more than a yard.

“God, we’re going to move slow. Hope you’ve brought chariots, eh?”

Someone pushed him from behind. “Move, thief.”

“Master,” he said. “It’s master-thief.” He bowed to the girl as much as the tight chains allowed. “Well, meet ye’ when I do…erm…” He squinted his eyes, hard. “Some girl.”

END of Chapter 3

 

Telekin #ShortStory

Telekin

My fingers fumbled around the inside of my coat pockets and found the last cigarette. I pressed it tight between my lips. I didn’t need the smoke, really. Just the touch and faint aroma calmed my senses on many different levels than one realized.

Kahl lit it for me. Ironic, that. The doctor who never smoked carried the lighter for some reason. I didn’t bother asking about it. The next thing I know, his answer would be that few aliens planted it on him. Such bizarre were the turn of events that day—anything seemed abso-bloody-lutely possible!

I waited for the doctor to say something. Anything.

“Telekinesis,” he finally said, voice rasp and weary…yet unnaturally calm. Doctor Kahl.

“Telekinesis.” His words echoed through my tight lips and I immediately felt like a complete retard.

“You seem surprised,” the Doctor said in that oh-so-casual way of his.

My eyes twitched. “That is your conclusion?”

“A speculation.” He rested his elbow against the table as he leaned closer to me. “For now.”

“Outrageous, doctor,” I barked. “Even for you.”

“Human mind, my friend,” Kahl said, standing from his chair. “It is an outrageous instrument. Capable of outrageous feats.”

I decided to go with it for the time being. It was still a better concept than an alien implantation. One that was slightly backed by science and years of research—even though on a completely controversial level.

I let out a ring of smoke toward the roof. “Say, it’s true. Say, I did it.” I shook my head, sighing. “Where does that leave me now?”

He smacked his lips. “That, Professor, leaves you in a rather difficult situation.”

I rolled my eye at the gash in my left hand. Still fresh and open. “I can see that.” I gulped. “What do you suggest further? Should I just…paralyze my mind?”

He chuckled. “If one could paralyze his mind just by simple will and on a whim, the world would have got three or four Buddha by now.” He waved his palm dismissively. “No, my friend. That sort of mental power is difficult to achieve—only possible, even if it were ever possible, through extensive meditation, focus, and will.”

“So, basically, I need to achieve Nirvana.”

The doctor eyed me from above his specs and gave a half-hearted shrug. “Basically…”

I stood up. “Yeah. So, thanks for your time, doctor. You’ve been as helpful as ever.” I managed a smile and turned to leave.

“Szel,” he said. One of the rare instances, even after years of knowing each other, when he called me by my first name. “I suggest you stay under my observation.”

“In your facility?”

His brows furrowed deep. “In my home.”

I scoffed. “Home?” I shook my head. “You mean asylum.”

“Home to some.” The doctor pursed his lips. “Asylum to others.”

I narrowed my eyes. “And what would it be for me?”

He watched me with cold eyes, bearing into mine as if he intended to see my very soul. I expected a quick come back, like he usually does. But he stood in silence. For once.

“No, thank you, doctor…” I said, gulping. “Kahl.” One of the rare instances when I called him by his first name. I offered him my hand and he shook it heartily.

I left the doctor’s hospice with nothing but an abominating theory and the bitter taste of medicine at the back of my mouth. A useless pill, that one. I frowned to myself. Useless pill from a useless doctor.

The guard at the elevator to my apartment shot me a salute.

Ugh. “Don’t do that, Mic,” I said. “You embarrass me.”

He only smiled at that. He always smiles, Mic.

I waited for the elevator. My mind wandered off in idleness and began counting the number of loose seats in the lobby.

One of the seats flew and came toward me, as if there was a giant magnet on me.

Shit! I looked away, forcing my mind to think about something else. I never turned to find if it did the trick. Didn’t even wait for the elevator anymore. I shot straight for the stairs and climbed up–two steps at a time.

Reaching the fourth floor was tiresome. Getting old, Szel. At thirty at that! In our profession, that was no age to get old. One of my colleagues…former colleagues…took twenty classes a day at sixty-five.

Reaching inside my coat for the apartment keys, I trudged toward it. I was almost thankful for the door to not fly open on my thought. Unlike earlier that day in my office. I could do with a few less glares for the day.

I turned the lock only to find my keys defunct. Not now. I pressed harder, twisted this way and that, even frowned at it a little. Nothing.

“I’m throwing you out, Szel,” a voice came, hard and cold. Cruel. My landlord, no doubt.

“You gotta’ be kiddin’ me, Redge.”

“Not this time, no.” His voice was firm.

I wiped my forehead. “Look, man. I’ve had a long day.”

“I don’t care. You don’t pay. You don’t stay.”

I really hoped that he’d disappear at the moment. Where’s the damned telekinesis when you need it? “A’ight. Lemme’ stay for the night. I’ll find my way out on the first light tomorrow.”

“Jessi’s Den. Only two blocks way. I hear their service is good.”

I sighed. “And my furnitures? My stuffs? Clothes?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll open it for an hour. Get your things out.”

He turned to leave. “Be grateful, Szel. I’m letting you have all your stuffs. I could’ve used that to recollect your debts.”

I smacked my lips. I’d been tight on my bills since…the weakness. Earnings were hard as it were, the weakness left me famished on all my resources. Of course, I couldn’t borrow from my colleagues, or Kahl even. What’d be of the dignity of the great Szel! Way to go, Professor.

As if everything that day hadn’t been worse enough, the God decided to play some sort of practical joke. It rained.

I walked, holding my jacket as far up the head as possible, utterly missing my umbrella tucked somewhere safely inside my apartment. I’d walked for more than two blocks, for sure. But I didn’t care if I ever passed the Jesse’s Den—getting the roof for the night were the least of my problems. I’d just lost everything I had.

My job. My apartment. My life.

Everything but the wretched weakness.

Ever since the first attack, I’d been weak. Even fainted on several different occasions. Once, shamefully, in the middle of my class. One of the students recall me ‘crying like a baby’ before I fell. One even dared confront me and ask if I…erm, sniffed.

“Psst.” A voice from the dark.

I started. ‘Shocked’ would’ve been a more natural instinct. Dark corners, only shadows in my wake, and all that—odds were good that I was about to be robbed. Except, I’d no cash on me. The perks of being broke. Finally.

“You’re the Professor, aren’t ye’?” The voice was thick with accent. For some reason, that made it a bit less scary. That and probably the pitch of it. That was no voice to have if you’re a mugger.

“Who’s asking?” I said, squinting my eyes to read his face. It always pays to recognize your mugger’s face.

I heard a hint of a scoff. Anyway, a sharp-nosed boy in a dark hoodie walked out of the shadows. Still twenty-two, maybe. “You’re in trouble, Prof?”

“Chase?” I wiped some water off my face. “That you?”

He smiled. “You’re in trouble, Prof.”

I looked at the sky. The rain showed no sign of settling. “As a matter of fact, I am.”

“Come, then,” he said. “I can get you a place.”

“Heh?” I said. His demeanor surprised me. You want to help me? Something didn’t add up.

He shrugged. “Let me help you. Don’t be too Professor Szel about it now. All human need one another, remember? Sociology 101.”

He didn’t wait for me to respond and walked away along the street.

I frowned to myself for a second or two. He used my name for an adjective.

Chase Marcoe. I was one of the nine-membered panel that sanctioned his expulsion not two years ago—basically on the accusation of…well, sniffing. The chances were real good that I’d be found dead the next morn if I followed the boy. Young boys taking to violence much quicker these days and all that.

“I won’t kill you, Prof,” he said, perhaps, sensing my hesitation and fear. His voice came distant, somewhat muted over the tattering rain, and only the silhouette of him visible under the dim light of a faraway lamp-post. “You’ve only saved my life by expelling me. Come, now.”

Maybe it was the hopelessness of my situation, but I decided to take a leap of faith. Dying didn’t seem any worse at the moment. Did I say I was stupid?

“So…” I said, walking beside him in the narrow pavement. “What have you been up to these days?”

“Really, Prof?” he raised an eyebrow. “We’re doing small talks now?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Let’s not try and kill the silence, ’kay?”

I frowned. I could do with silence. “Sure.”

He stopped before a huge building—a concrete tower that reached for the skies. My neck craned to see the top of it. I swear I heard it click. “This looks like an expensive apart–”

“Not my home, Prof.” He reached inside his jacket and retrieved a credit-card thing.

I turned to him sharply, clicking my neck for the second time. “Whose, then?” You’re parents? Some mob leader you get your ‘stuff’ from? The contract killers you’ve set for me?

He stared into my eyes for a split second. “Ours.”

My eyes widened. “Ours…” Wait a second, son. Is this boy high even now?

He walked up the porch and stood before the front door. His fingers searched for something at the wall just beside the door. They stopped at a slit—so slim and almost invisible to the eye. He swiped his card in that slit. Forgot where it’d been the last time around?

The door became radiant at the hinges. There was a swirling sound and the door parted from the center, sliding inside the wall.

We stepped into an enormous hall. A single sofa sat at the far end of the room. A desk to it’s side. A lady behind the desk. And a rather ornate elevator behind the lady. Organized.

“You seem a little short on the furnitures lately,” I said casually, my gaze darting around the hall.

He didn’t react, obviously, but it was odd that the hall of that size would be made for a single sofa and a desk. To top it off, no paintings on the wall, no windows, and no real paint—an extreme white color dominated everything around us in the room—save for the sofa, the desk, and, of course, the lady.

Let me correct myself on that one. The gorgeous lady. Her beauty only elucidated with each step we took toward her.

“One-one-one,” Chase said at the desk, slamming the card on the table.

The lady looked up to meet his eyes. She frowned. “One-one-one?”

Chase half-heartedly pointed at me with his thumb.

She watched me for about five seconds. Top to as bottom as was visible. Then she rolled her eyes for no apparent reason. She, however, accepted the card and pressed a few buttons behind her desk.

“Listen,” I hissed into Chase’s ear. “If I could afford a hotel like this, I’d…”

“Not even a hotel, Prof,” Chase said. He didn’t wait for me and walked toward the elevator.

I held him at the shoulder and forced him to face me. “I’m not taking a step further. Tell me where you’re taking me or I’m taking the door.”

Chase smiled. A genuine smile. “I’m afraid, Prof. That door closed the moment we entered.”

I spun wildly at the door from where we entered. Shut as expected.

Chase grinned. A bit pretentious this time around. “And there was just one card that could open it.”

“Was?” I repeated after him absently.

I turned to look at the lady at the desk.

Gone. Even the furnitures.

The room was vacant, a sea of endless white.

I felt Chase’s breath on my ear. “I’d take that elevator.”