GRAMPS (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

Paul Curran has decided to try his hand at fiction, and I am proud that he is sharing his first effort with my readers.  It’s a little longer than our usual offerings, but well worth the read, so get into a comfy chair, and – Enjoy!

____________________________________________

GRAMPS

By Paul Curran

PaulCurran2015

 

Shawna’s thick black hair bounced as she threw her kit bag into the trunk of the Lexus and slammed the lid shut. She was not pleased about this outing, but really had no choice. As a grad student studying marine biology with a specialty in tidal flora and fauna, this field trip and the lab work and report that followed were worth 25% of her final mark in this course. Today they were gathering samples of micro-organisms on the Flanagan tidal flats at low tide. She was meeting her lab partner and the other 8 students at the flats. It was quite a piece off the beaten track reached via an access road that was not open to the public. This made the samples they would take less likely to be contaminated by debris from humans.

Lexus

She slipped into the driver’ seat of the luxury car – a birthday present from her parents. Putting on her Balenciaga aviator sunglasses, she slapped the keys into the ignition and cranked the engine. Her knee-high Brian Atwood Italian boots worked the clutch and gas as she spun the wheels leaving the driveway. She loved the $6,000 tooled leather boots that she had gotten from Saks Fifth Ave, during a recent shopping trip. She was addicted to shoes and boots and had a good collection. It was handy having the use of Daddy’s plane whenever she felt the need to pop down to New York for retail therapy. She slammed the car into second gear and laid more rubber on the street. The custom engine whined as the RPMs swiftly climbed to the red line and then dropped to a purr when she eased it from 2nd into 4th and steadied at the 50 mph speed limit. No sense irritating the locals – she only had a few points left on her drivers license. The car had had some custom work done to it and had a lot of horsepower under the hood spinning a Richmond Gear manual transmission for her driving enjoyment. At the ripe old age of 24, Shawna was the only daughter of a rich investment banker. She had always had whatever she wanted even though her parents had tried very hard to make her life normal – and keep their daughter out of trouble.

BootsWith a heart shaped face framed by her shiny black hair, she drew her fair share of looks when she walked down the street. She was only about 5 foot 4 inches but preferred wearing at least 3 inch heels when possible, which, with her aggressive attitude, made her seem much taller. Reflecting back on last night her grip tightened on the steering wheel. Jonathon, that bastard. They had returned to her place last night after dining and dancing and he had spent the night. Just before he left in the morning, he had told her that his wife was getting suspicious and he wouldn’t be able to see her for a while. Jon was an engineer and travelled for his company doing IT installations. He was in town about once a month, so it wasn’t as if they were going steady or anything. And Shawna wasn’t really in love with him – it just irked her that she played second fiddle. It was fun when it was dangerous, but when he left a little part of her left with him. She had been really upset and as he escaped down the front walkway, she had opened the door and thrown a pair of his pants out onto the lawn with a “”Don’t forget your fucking pants asshole!” A few of her neighbors had turned to watch. He had known before he arrived that this would be their last night together and he had waited until he was leaving in the morning to tell her. Bastard. Chickshit bastard.

Oh well, she thought, just shake it off. You knew he was a passing fancy. She should swear off men, but she so loved the attention and waking up with the warm body beside her. She realized she had arrived at the private road that led down to the mudflats. The gate was unlocked and open as they had been told it would be and she drove through carefully on the dirt road. About three miles later the road opened into a grassy area where four other cars were parked. There was a clear view of the flats from the parking area. Shawna parked, popped her trunk and got out of the car, locking it behind her with the remote. As she stood at the trunk her partner pulled up in her green Volkswagen Bug.

Cynthia was a bit older than Shawna, married and in the third trimester of her first pregnancy. They worked well together and enjoyed each other’s company. Shawna was pleased that she had Cynthia for a lab partner – she pulled her weight, was bright and funny. Plus their writing styles were compatible, so rewrites of labs were limited. The two had become close friends.

Cynthia did not look well this morning. As Shawna watched, she turned to one side, bent over and heaved up her guts. Staggering a bit, Cynthia, straightened up, wiped her mouth with a Kleenex and continued to walk in her rubber boots over to Shawna.

Hey partner, how’s it going this morning?” Leave it to Cynthia to be throwing up one minute and smiling the next.

“I was feeling pretty lousy until I saw you. Morning sickness?”

Yep, it’s annoying and it comes and goes. Aggravated by last night – I hardly got any sleep at all with the baby kicking.”

Are you sure you are up to this? We’re just collecting samples. It looks like everyone else has already gone out onto the mudflats. Just a lot of walking and taking surface samples and noting the GPS coordinates of each sample.

Well, I do feel pretty lousy but you know the rule: we have to travel in pairs on the mudflats. I can’t let you go by yourself.”

That’s not an issue Cynthia. It’s a sunny day and I’ve been on these mudflats before. The rumors of quicksand and sink holes are greatly exaggerated. Besides I’ll be in sight of you and others the whole time anyway. Why don’t you rest for a bit and when you feel better just come and join me? I may very well be finished before you’re done resting anyway – it’s not a big job, just twenty mud samples. Most of the work is in the lab.”

Cynthia looked concerned but after a minute nodded her head. “I’ll just rest for a few minutes – thanks Shawna, you’re a life saver.

While they were talking, Shawna had pulled a reflective safety vest from the trunk and put it on. She took out the sample case and checked to make sure the bottles with the small scoops for sampling in them were all there and stowed properly in their clips in the molded Styrofoam. As Cynthia watched, Shawna pulled her red hip waders out of the kit bag and draped them over the edge of the trunk. Leaning against the car she unzipped and pulled off one boot then pulled on the wader. She repeated this with the other foot.

Where did you get the sexy waders Shawna?” Cynthia asked.

HunterRedWadersThey’re Hunter Ostens. They were only made in 2011 winter for distribution in England. I was over in London for a conference and I spotted them in a little fashion boot shop. They were originally £150 but because they were out of stock everywhere the shop was charging £350. They are supposed to be fashion boots so the top part is thinner waterproof material, but the bottom is the solid Hunter boots. You know I couldn’t resist a new pair of boots. I figured they’d work well today because we won’t be doing any heavy wading in mud.” Shawna fastened the straps from the top of the thigh high boots to her belt as she spoke. Because of her height the boots came almost to the top of her thighs.

You go put your seat back and rest Cynthia, I won’t be long. If I’m not back when you’re rested, come and find me. You have the matching Garmin Rhino GPS unit – it’ll bring you right to me.” Slipping her gloves into her back pocket and picking up the bulky sample case, Shawna waved good-bye as she strode down the path to the mud flats, her bright red boots gleaming in the sun. The Lexus beeped and the lights flashed as she pressed the remote and slipped it into her vest pocket beside the Rhino GPS unit. Cynthia climbed into the driver’s seat of her Bug parked beside Shawna’s Lexus and watched Shawna start across the mudflats. Each group had been given a separate sector to sample so they didn’t overlap. Their sector went out from the parking area and then went west to a river and then back to the lot, a pie shape. It looked like Shawna was starting at the furthest point and working her way back. Cynthia could soon only see the reflecting vest so she reclined the seat soon fell asleep.

Quicksand SignAs she walked onto the mudflats Shawna passed a sign that read “Danger – Quicksand – Stay Away”. She was aware of this as she had done some work on these mudflats before. Generally it was easy to spot and avoid soft areas and they were supposed to travel in pairs to reduce the chance of any incidents. Shawna had never actually seen any real quicksand here, just deep mud. She had been up to her knees a few times and easily got out with some effort. She suspected that the danger was exaggerated to keep tourists from getting stuck in the mud and calling for help.

Starting at the furthest point in their sector, she could see others working at a distance on the mudflats. She set down the sample case and reached into her back pocket to pull out her gloves. As then came out of her pocket they caught her iPhone and it fell into a puddle in the mud. Cursing she retrieved it, wiped it off, and found the screen blank. Fuck! Another phone bites the dust. Oh well, she could pick up another in town later today. Opening the sample case, she plucked out the first container and filled it with mud using the sample scoop which she then sealed in the container. She pulled the Rhino GPS unit from her pocket and copied the exact coordinates onto the container label with a sharpie. Shawna gradually worked her way west ward stopping every few hundred yards to sample. The repetitive process dulled her awareness and as she worked she stewed over Jon and his abrupt announcement this morning.

River

When she reached the river, she realized that the morning was getting late and was surprised to see that fog had rolled in. At first it had just been wisps but now it was getting very thick. She could no longer see either the cars or the other students. Sound was deadened and there was a chill in the air. Shawna was not concerned as she had the GPS and she could just follow the river back to the beach and from there the parking lot. She decided that she would take some samples at the edge of the river where it flowed across the mudflat. That would give a good idea of what microorganisms were being brought by the river when compared to the other samples. As she worked her way back towards the shore sampling along the river, she didn’t notice the color of the mud changing to a redder hue. Had she noticed it may have occurred to her that this mud had been deposited by the river and she was walking where the river once flowed. She came to a bend in the river where the water had moved around an obstacle of some sort. She set the case down as usual, opened it and took out the sample container.

Walking out into the bend to get a riverside sample, she didn’t notice the sandy mud getting softer as her mind was still focused on Jon. Each step left a slightly deeper footprint. When she finally noticed, her right foot was stuck in the reddish mud; mud flowing over the top of her foot. She frowned and pulled on her right foot but it seemed to be stuck. As she pulled on her right foot, her left boot sank deeper into the mud. Now her left boot was up to the ankle and she could feel the pressure of the mud on her foot. She continued to yank on her right foot and with a huge heave, it came free unexpectedly. She overbalanced and her foot swung forward to catch her fall. As soon as her right boot hit the surface again it was immediately swallowed up and disappeared up to her knee.

Now she was starting to panic and pulled hard on her right leg. This time her left foot and leg sank quickly almost to the top of her Osten boots. As the panic grew, Shawna struggled, pulling first on one leg and the other. She felt cold wetness on her left leg and looked down to see that the top of her boot had disappeared below the surface and wet mud stirred up from her struggling was flowing down inside her boot. She let out a small scream and tried to pull her left boot out of the mud and then she felt the wetness pouring into her right boot. As she struggled further, she screamed out for help but the dense fog swallowed up her cries. As her boots filled slowly with wet mud her legs became heavier and heavier and she sank faster.

Shawna’s intellect gradually cut through her panic and she realized that she was being pulled into quicksand likely formed when the river changed course but continued to flow under the sandy mud. By now she had sunk to her waist and she gradually calmed herself, realizing that she had once heard that staying still slowed the sinking. It was obvious that no one could see or hear her in the fog, even though she was not far from the car now. Her phone was dead but she still had the Rhino with its two way and texting capability with Cynthia. When they had been assigned as partners for the year, Shawna had given Cynthia a matching Rhino so they could communicate on field trips. They were expensive, but the GPS was required for their course anyway and the extra expense meant little to Shawna. She called and texted Cynthia now as she sank deeper and deeper, even without moving. Cynthia must not have had the unit turned on. Panic started to creep back as she tried and tried to contact Cynthia. Her legs started to move on their own trying to reach for solid ground with her toes pointed down. Panic was back now and she screamed for help, knowing that the fog would muffle any sound. Even so, she struggled and screamed as the panic washed over her. When the mud reached her chest she came to her senses for a minute and calmed herself again. With the Rhino still in her hand she realized that no one was going to come, that as much as she screamed she was going to sink to her death here, swallowed by the quicksand. Tears started to run down her face. From the depths of her mind came a glimmer of an idea – one more thing she could try. Although the odds were slim it might work. She reached her right hand down into the mud and found the pocket of her safety vest. Sure enough, she found what she was looking for and pulled the muddy car remote above the surface. She wiped it the best she could and pushed the panic button. If the remote still worked and if the car was in range – and it was a big if, although it was line of sight without the fog – that would set off quite a racket. She couldn’t hear anything and pushed the panic button over and over when suddenly the Rhino beeped. It was Cynthia! She had turned on the Rhino when the alarm woke her.

By now Shawna had been sucked into the quicksand up to her neck and she was holding the Rhino above the mud. She was very still as she tried to keep her face above the surface.

Cynthia, hurry and come help me!! I’m sinking in quicksand and I’m almost under. Bring some rope!”

Cynthia’s reassuring voice came back with the loud shrilling of the Lexus’ alarm in the background: “I’m coming!”

The Rhinos had the capability of finding each other so Cynthia would be there as quickly as she could waddle as long as Shawna kept her unit out of the quicksand. She knew that Cynthia’s husband kept rope in the Bug because they had had to pull it upon occasion when it broke down.

But still Shawna sank deeper and deeper.  Now up to her chin; now her bead was back to keep the mud out of her mouth; now her ears were below the surface. Even with her head back, the quicksand soon covered her mouth as well. Shawna held her hands in the air, keeping the Rhino out of the mud. Now she panicked as the quicksand slowly crept over her nose and she held her breath; now she had to close her eyes as her face disappeared completely below the surface, just leaving her hands protruding from the quicksand. Shawna felt a warm wetness spreading from her crotch inside her riding breeches as her bladder let go in fear. She knew she could only hold her breath for a few minutes and as the time passed and she felt the quicksand swallowing her arms, she slowly saw a bright white light appear in front of her. A sense of peace flowed over her as all her muscles relaxed. She seemed to be travelling towards the light and it was welcoming her. It felt like home as the light got brighter and brighter, bathing her in warmth. Then there was a short barrier and on the other side stood her beloved Gramps, who had passed about 5 years ago. He looked healthy and fit and seemed to gleam with light from within

Heaven

Hello Shawna, and welcome. It’s good to see you again.

Gramps, am I dead?”

Not quite, Shawna. That’s why the barrier is here. You have to go back. It is not your time yet.”

But then why am I here?”

Well, you know some quantum mechanics – it was possible for you to either live or die in this situation and the outcome was just determined as you came up to me. For a while there you were both dead and alive. Like Schrodinger’s cat.” He gave a small laugh – it was a private joke between them.

I don’t know if I can go back, Gramps.”

There is no choice Shawna – this is not ours to determine.”

At this, Shawna felt something hit her right hand. She looked down but couldn’t see her hand. She grasped what ever it was with her right and then with her left hand, dropping the Rhino. As her Gramps faded from view, she felt herself slowly rising as she was pulled upwards from the quicksand. The suction holding her down was great and she rose slowly, with her face reluctantly breaking the surface. Her eyes and ears were still plugged as she opened her mouth and spat out the mud that had leaked in – taking large gasps of air. She peeled off one glove and used her relatively clean hand to wipe the mud from her eyes and clean out her ears. Her first sight was a very worried looking Cynthia staring at her from the other end of the rope. With her were two male students who had been in the parking lot when Shawna’s car alarm had gone off. God bless Japanese engineering.

They slowly pulled her from the quicksand, keeping their distance to stay out of trouble. The suction was huge and it took them almost 15 minutes to get Shawna back to solid ground. By the time she stood back up on her own, Shawna was a different person. Cynthia looked at her oddly as if sensing the change.

What happened Shawna?” she asked when the boys had left.

Oh, I just wasn’t paying attention and stepped where I shouldn’t have.”

I figured out that part. What I meant was that you seem different somehow.”

Shawna paused and looked at Cynthia, seemingly sizing her up. They had spoken of religion casually over a glass of wine, and Cynthia had professed to being an agnostic. Shawna herself hadn’t been sure but felt there seemed to be some sort of higher intelligence. Now she knew, without any doubt.

I saw my Gramps and he said it wasn’t my time yet, just seconds before you threw the rope to me.”

Cynthia looked doubtful but just nodded: “Let’s get you home and cleaned up.”

HandsLight

 

__________

Paul Curran and I love to hear from our readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com or notcordeliasmom@aol.com

__________

Image links are included with photos for this post (click on picture)

 

This entry was posted in Guest Posters, Paul Curran, That's Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

128 Responses to GRAMPS (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest post CM. As you mentioned this is my first time at writing fiction and i’ll be interested in any comments your readers may have. Excellent job editing and formatting the piece CM. I am honored that you spent so much time to make it perfect. I trust the wine was tasty – and I see you were moderate in your consumption. 😀

    Like

    • One bottle down, 9 to go. But it will take me awhile since I pretty much limit myself to weekends.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Three pictures here are the copyrighted property of Studio 588,. One is marked as such and with the claim of “used with permission.” No such permission was ever granted. The other two are attributed to Ken Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton did take the pictures but the copyright belongs to Studio 588. Mr Hamilton does not have a signed model release for these. Please take them down.

      Like

      • This is a partial correction of my post regarding copyright permission. Permission WAS granted for the picture credited as from Studio 588. Those from Mr. Hamilton, however, remain posted without permission. They were taken by that person but as a crewman at Studio 588. He has neither the copyright nor a model release and does not have the right to grant permission for anything regarding them.

        Like

      • Both photos have been removed. I warned Paul numerous times about copyright infringement and tried very hard to vet all photos we used. Guess I failed on this one. I apologize.

        Like

  2. Ooh la la, Paul! Red hip waders, indeed. 😉 Also, thanks a lot, I now have boot envy.

    You’ve done well with this story and packed a lot of elements into a short piece. I wasn’t expecting your ending or the direction you took. That’s a good thing, people love to be surprised when they are reading.

    I’ve never hit quicksand, but I’ve gotten stuck in some mud flats a few times. My favorite is when your boots fill up with water and you fall flat on our face trying to escape. Seriously, the only reason to wear boots is because I fear something might be squirming around in the mud. It’s not like they ever keep me dry or clean.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. awesome…
    I like the pictures.
    I only know about Schrodinger’s cat because I watch The Big Bang Theory. HA!
    You seem a little obsessed with her hair, but it still reads very real… if a little like an ad for some product lines.
    I am not nitpicking, but I figured you wanted real feedback, so I tried to find something. It was funny and witty and surprising. Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Paul says:

      JHmmm, interesting point Art. I actually only mentioned her hair a few times, but I started a few paragraphs that way and it does stand out. In my defense, the character is modeled after a real person and her hair is one of her most noticeable physical qualities (and she is very proud of it – you might even say it is her product line that she pushes the hardest). I shall have to be careful about that sort of repetition in the future, excellent point Art. As an experienced fiction writer, I thank you for your input. Also thanks for the compliments and for dropping by for a read. I am honored. Please come by again.

      Like

  4. I like stories with a twist. As for ‘Gramps’, I have my own theory as to who will be there to meet us when our time comes to pass over.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. BerLinda says:

    Really enjoyed that! Well done! Terrifying and totally gripping. Thought she wasn’t going to make it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thanks Linda! When I wrote it I wasn’t sure she was going to make it either – part of the joke of Schrodinger’s cat – both dead and alive until the box is opened. Ha! I was pleased that she made it. Thanks so much for the compliment, given it is the first fiction I have ever had published, I was very unsure how it would go over. I am pleased that you enjoyed it. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I now have a new reason to not go out where it is muddy. Kudos to you for sharing your fiction. I am not that brave. Also I never seem to totally finish stuff.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hey Alice! Thanks so much for dropping by – I am honored. Great compliment Alice – I am so pleased that the story brought out an emotional response for you.. Thanks again for the visit and I hope your Hunger Games go well (I’ve been telling everyone that is NOT a trampoline- it is an amphitheater… 😀

      Like

  7. Melanie says:

    Very well done story Paul. Believable, suspenseful, and full of characters we can almost reach out and touch.

    If I were to make any suggestions for revision, it would be to cut that bit about her being the only daughter of a wealthy family. Just the fact that she drives a suped-up Lexus in college shows that, and then her indifference when she drops her phone sends that image home. Readers will get the idea that’s she a spoiled little rich girl with the actions you’ve shown, and you can cut out telling us that piece. Show vs Tell. You’ve shown very well. Trust yourself and your readers don’t tell us what you’ve already shown us.

    Not to distract from your story. It’s great. I think you’ve got the fiction bone in you. I hope you write/share more.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Paul says:

      Thank you so very much Mel. I always marvel at your fiction – thanks so much for the tip. You are very right – it is overkill. Thank you for the compliment. I am excited to write more and I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. 😀 Hope the moving is going well, when is Mooooving day?

      Like

      • Melanie says:

        I did enjoy it. You left just enough clues and built up the action seamlessly.
        Moving day is two weeks from today. Plenty of time and not enough time all at the same time. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. ksbeth says:

    this was wonderful, full of suspense and fear and i could almost feel her getting deeper and deeper. well done, paul )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thank you so very much for dropping by and for the compliment Beth. I am pleased that you enjoyed it. `I hope that your trip back home from Canada went safely and enjoyably. Please come by again.

      Like

  9. barbtaub says:

    Terrific first effort! If you’re looking for a critique, I’d start by saying you do way too much telling. Since you do a pretty good job of the showing, I think you can fix most of it with the delete key. Shawna is a spoiled princess? We get that because of the car she drives. We don’t really need to know how much she spent on each designer item. Instead of listing each thing, you could have her catch a glimpse of herself and smirk about how Jon’s wife would never get a chance at Balenciaga shades and Atwood boots…and if she did, she’d never rock them the way Shawna’s curves and heart-shaped face did. And the last line? We all know she just saw her grandfather, so it might just resonate more if you let the story echo… Shawna just smiled at her friend. “It wasn’t my time yet. That means I can make what time I have left really count.”

    Now I have just one question…where can I get those red wellies?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      That is an excellent critique Barb – thank you very much. I haven’t yet gotten used to the delete key – I need to use it more. And you are exactly right – I have a tendency to lecture – to tell. I have learned to show but still have a battle with the telling. I need more confidence that the showing is all I need – telling is just duplication of effort and annoying to the reader. This first effort is giving me that confidence. I like your ending much better than mine – again I thank you. The telling needs to fall under the delete key. Just think of my story as a topiary – I now have the big bushy tree, all I have to do is cut out everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Ha!

      Thanks so much for dropping by Barb – your critique is greatly appreciated. I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. The boots have really been discontinued since 2012 and are only available as a private sale now. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and for taking the time to critique it. I know you do that for a living and am honored that you took your valuable time to help me out. Much obliged.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. socialbridge says:

    Hi Paul, well done on a gripping read and for getting into the head of a woman so well.

    Like

  11. Barry says:

    Good story Paul. The only criticism I would make is that the early paragraphs are way too long for reading on a screen. I almost didn’t start reading for that reason. It was only because I know you can tell a good yarn that I bothered. I wasn’t disappointed.

    Like

  12. Elyse says:

    I started reading this early this morning and got interrupted, then I was forced to go to work. I was most annoyed at not being able to finish it. So I thought about where you were going for much of the day. Therefore, I can honestly say you built up the suspense from the start!

    I expected the quicksand, but not Gramps. I could feel the panic rise, then calm, then rise. Well done. Even though I knew what was going to happen, well, I didn’t KNOW what was going to happen. And you did a good job at developing the character into someone we aren’t sure we like too much — so while we don’t care about what happens to her, her experience with Gramps makes it important that she survive. That too is extremely well done.

    As an editor/reader, there are a couple of things. I have never been pregnant, but morning sickness is in the first trimester, not the third. There are a zillion other reasons a pregnant woman might want to sit this one out!

    The only other thing was “Gramps.” I’ve lived/known disgustingly rich folks all my life. I never knew any of them to refer to their grandfathers as “Gramps.” They were called “Grandfather,” “Granddad,” “Poppy.” “Gramps” in my experience, is more of a working class moniker. (My Dad was Gramps or Grampy, and so it is close to my heart). Its use explains the relationship, but I think you need to add an explanation phrase (perhaps her father was first generation rich shit).

    But the story made me smile. Made me glad I came back and finished reading it.

    And if this is your first try at fiction, Paul, you’d better get to work on your novel!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good points, Elyse. I knew there were some problems with the story, but didn’t feel it was my place to point them out, and I didn’t even catch the morning sickness boo-boo. Guess I do an adequate job at formatting, but my editing skills definitely need work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elyse says:

        Actually, I’m a strong believer in multiple editors. Nobody finds/sees everything.

        But the author always has control!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Paul says:

          Hi Elyse! Thanks so much for dropping by and for the honest commentary – it is the only way I will learn. I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. I recalled hearing women complain of morning sickness in the third trimester – so I wrote it without checking. I just googled it and some women do experience morning sickness through the whole pregnancy : “The hormone hCG is highest in the first trimester when morning sickness is most common. Some women will continue to have high levels of this hormone throughout pregnancy which may increase the tendency for morning sickness through the third trimester.” – http://www.newkidscenter.com/Third-Trimester-Nausea.html Given it is rare I should have pointed that out. Thank you.

          Good point about the moniker “Gramps”. My intention in making Shawna’s father an investment banker was to imply first generation wealth – thus accounting for her relationship with her Grandfather, a man of middle income. I should have been more clear in that relationship – she feels more comfortable with a relationship not involving wealth (hence Cynthia and the old Bug that had to be pull started sometimes). Ha! As a boss of mine used to say: That’s what I was thinking, how come you didn’t know that? Ha! Excellent points and I will make my thinking more clear in the future.

          Thanks again for the honest critique Elyse. I am very pleased that you dropped by and that you enjoyed the story. I was worried about it – being my first attempt at fiction. I learned a lot from you comments (**BOWS**)

          Liked by 2 people

  13. Trent Lewin says:

    Hey Paul! Happy to see you at the fiction game! First time? Maybe so. But you’re a born storyteller, that’s been clear from your other posts. Fiction is just storytelling, and that’s what you do. Doesn’t matter whether it’s stories culled from your life or not, the story matters.

    So some feedback… you’ll have to forgive me for being direct. I’m a brutal editor of people who request it… I’m editing one of Art’s books right now, and the amount of redline I’m spewing at him is fairly significant. But it’s all in the interest of unraveling the story that’s already there, not in telling a different one. It’s about revelation, not modification.

    In a nutshell, you’re a storyteller trying to be a writer. So you’ve covered the story in the trappings of what you might expect from a writer, but you don’t need that. The story stands. Honestly, I would take out half of the words in this story and you would not lose a thing. I think you would dramatically improve the flow, actually. Some examples: way too much description of Shawna up front, too many details – you have a talent for them, but they’re repetitive. We keep getting hit with them. Give your readers credit for getting it the first time! Pick a few salient details, the interesting ones, and let the readers fill in the gap. The $6k boots was good, the sunglasses, the car engine, the manual transmission, daddy’s plane… we get it, we do. She lives high on the hog, we know these types of people.

    The entire paragraph describing her face and finishing with …bastard. I would suggest embedding the descriptions in the plot… otherwise it feels like a paragraph written to describe her, a set of facts about the character. Don’t tell me she’s aggressive! Show me. The part I really liked was Jonathan, and how that ended… that told me more about her via story than any of the above description. That’s the storytelling component serving the character, and doing so very well.

    Paragraph starting with “oh well…”, you have some tense inconsistencies (she suddenly becoming you…). Lead us to the place where we know she wants to swear off men! You don’t need to tell us that. The Cynthia description was good, I liked the throwing up one minutes, smiling the next. That really tells you something about Cynthia, without spelling out what it is. That’s wonderful storytelling. By the way, do women have morning sickness in third trimester? Mine didn’t, but maybe there’s more variability in this than I know about. I haven’t had too many kids myself!

    How come the italics for text? Just asking.

    I like the discussion of quicksand. You just know it’s going to come into play in the story, but without being over-obvious about it. You know it’s out there, and it’s going to grab Shawna, but we want to know how… that’s excellent build-up. The red waders… I like that detail but I think you belaboured it a bit. It again says so much about Shawna, and in dialogue (which is always a great way to express character), but I think it went on too long. Keep it short, give us that info, don’t keep it going too long. Such nice details shine even if they’re short, and oftentimes especially if they’re short.

    I have a problem with the trade names in this story, generally because I don’t think they’re at all necessary or forward the story. They feel like forced details. I also don’t like the photos, a good story should not have to show you pictorially what is happening. You’ve got both a lot of details and photos – I would advise paring back the former to concentrate on the juiciest ones, and removing the latter, as you already know how to detail stuff. For instance, the sinking in quicksand photos… totally unncessary in my opinion. You described it so well, the photos actually do the text a disservice.

    Would suggest breaking up your paragraphs a bit. Stories should flow, change cadence a bit, be musical if at all possible. Paragraphs of the same size can lose the reader, try to break it up a bit.

    Does fog roll in late in mornings? I would expect that it would dissipate, but if you’re going to make a point about a slightly-unconventional bit of weather, you may want to elaborate a bit. I would have gotten Shawna into the mud much sooner – you have a lot of words between leaving Cynthia and getting stuck, I think that’s a key place where words can be pared. Sorry, I was taught never to love your own words too much… to be merciless with them. I think a lot of the stuff between Cynthia and “her right foot was stuck in the reddish mud” could be removed without hurting this story, as we know she’s going to encounter quicksand and frankly want to see what happens!

    “Shawna’s intellect…” I think is a bit of a funny line. Again, I’d like to see her smarts in action rather than be told that she has them… the rest of that line already does it, she’s very aware of her situation. Also, that paragraph is super long – we are talking about a panicky situation here, break up the sentences a bit, give some space, reflect the tension of the moment in shorter paragraphs. Let the story breathe in this crucial section. And I gotta tell you – I really expected that she would think back to that Jonathan chap in this section, for some absurd reason. Maybe just to tie him back into the narrative somehow? Or to break up the description of her sinking and the Rhino beeping?

    Okay, so the bright light… I have to say, that’s a big cliche and might be advisable to find another way to portray this – what would be a different way to show this near-death experience? I like Gramps, and his quantum mechanics – it’s offbeat enough to sound like something a dead grandparent would say, I really liked that. God bless Japanese engineering… liked that line a lot too.

    To be blunt, the part about Cynthia seeing something different in Shawna was kind of jarring. It seems too convenient that Shawna had her epiphany in that manner, and that this is the resolution of the story. I would have loved to have been led down the spiritual road without building to it quite so clearly. I think this was the missed opportunity in this story, to bring us to Shawna’s realization without being so direct about it. I think there is a great message here, but for me, having the message packaged quite so clearly at the end didn’t work as well as it could have. I would have liked to have Shawna reflect on some of her drawn characteristics, rather than having no doubt… I think the change was too swift, almost I wanted her to be distinctly on a different path towards the point of no doubt, but not clearly there yet. I didn’t think the story or the character had quite earned the clarity attributed to her at the end.

    Okay, so there’s my harsh analysis, please forgive my tone, I just write and out stuff comes. I really enjoyed the story, the characters, and had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach around the quicksand parts. I think, if I may be bold enough to say, that you really are a born storyteller and you have to write more. Just be wary of being too much of a writer, as, oddly enough, writing sometimes gets in the way of storytelling.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey, Trent, the italics for spoken words were my addition – Paul’s draft didn’t have that. I always use italics – I think it just looks better that way.

      As for the bright light – anyone who has had a near-death experience can tell you it’s not a cliché.

      Other than that, I’ll keep myself out of the discussion between you and Paul. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

      Like

      • Trent Lewin says:

        I kind of liked the italics, it was striking. Just wondering the reason.

        I’ve never had a near-death experience and can completely believe that there’s a bright light… it’s not the reality that I’m wondering about, it’s the perception. In fiction, you can make a near-death experience be about a rubber mark on the road, a half-melted ice cream cone… anything you want, as long as you can sell it. From my uninformed perspective, the bright light scenario has been done a lot, which is why I called it a cliche. I acknowledge that it may in fact be the fact, and that it may be the best way to do it.

        Please don’t take offence – if I didn’t genuinely like the story, I wouldn’t have offered any critique. Writing fiction is near and dear to my heart, and I respect good stuff such as what Paul does.

        Like

        • Paul says:

          Hey Trent! Your critique is greatly appreciated. The amount of time and thought you put into your comments makes me feel honored. ha! I had a root canal some time ago that was performed by a dental surgeon – not my normal dentist (at his request – there were some potential complications). In my experience the surgeon was an amazing dentist and did an excellent job. He did a root canal in 45 minutes without rushing and without one tiny bit of pain. When we were done, he walked out to the receptionist with me and along the way asked if there was anything he could have improved upon. It was obvious that this had helped him to be the best. In response I listed about 10 issues that I had which could have been done differently to improve the customer experience ( stuff like he let an air line for a drill rest across my throat – I hate that) He was taken aback and said that my experience was not very good then. I disagreed and told him that he was excellent – far better than any dentist I had ever had – and I only make suggestions to the best because I know they will pay attention or they would not be the best at their profession. I don’t waste my time critiquing the mediocre – it is a waste of breath. And so I take your critique in exactly the way in which it is offered Trent – and I thank you. And now to the comments… Ha! (World’s longest preamble – it is the writer in me – I can’t get him off my back!)

          Point taken loud and clear – let the story tell itself. I used to write a lot of business proposals and contrasts – it is important that every detail be covered at least once and more often from different perspectives if possible. That is obviously not the case here and I need to break myself of the habit of writing rather than story telling. And to be honest Trent, I was concerned that the story might not tell itself so I tried to support it with writing. I need more faith in the story and create a living document as opposed to a treatise.

          Shawna is based on a person i know and in an effort to bring the character to life, I see now that I have told about her rather than showing about her. Excellent criticism Trent – thank you (and an extension of my tendency to pontificate or lecture – or “write”. I made her into a contract with the reader as opposed to a real person.) WRT to the tense changes in the paragraph starting “Oh well” . I did put “she thought” in there and felt it covered the following sentence as well. Next time I will use quotes to signify self-thought. – it would be clearer, you are right. I have seen it done both ways but the extension to the next sentence was an experimental attempt at grammar – obviously not clear and I will fix it next time.

          Some women do experience morning sickness in the third trimester – however you are not the first one to question this. It is rare and is related to the level of hCG hormone level (see reference in my response to Elyse). In future when using such rare effects I shall make it clear that they are rare. The photos – you are right, overkill. I shall limit photos in future to those that can add to the story. They actually came before the prose and I used them basically as research – and as a “writer” I was always taught to include your research. That is obviously overkill in a story – now that you mention it.

          Trade names – I did that deliberately and I know it is annoying . That said, it is precisely what those who are rich do – they flaunt it in part by name dropping. I have rubbed shoulders with the nouveau riche a few times (like when I did the MBA) and it is one of their most annoying habits – almost as if they want to prove that they are better than you by name dropping.. I shall limit it in future or at least point out why it is being done. For instance, someone out to impress would not say they installed a racing transmission – they would say that they installed a Richmond Gear racing transmission.

          The italics – as CM pointed out, I don’t use them in my writing, she added them. That said, I really like them as I often put a few words or a line of dialogue inside a paragraph, rather than breaking into a thought to create a dialogue segment. When I first saw her do that I went “Whoa, that really makes the dialogue stand out without interfering with the train of thought.” See what I did there (or rather what CM did)? Ha! I learn so much from everyone – it is great. I will start deliberately using the italics when I write rather than depending on her to add them.

          The ending – I have a confession to make. When I wrote this I did it in one sitting and as I went along I checked word count – and was getting concerned. As I went past 3,000 words, I was down right worried – it was way too long. It came to a point where I knew what the ending was going to be (I didn’t when I started) and I just wanted it done. I couldn’t justify going over 3,500 words, so I just wrote it sparse and direct to keep down word count. In retrospect you are right, it should have been done much better. If I had been tighter, as you suggested, in my story to begin with, I wouldn’t have felt so uncomfortable giving the ending the attention it deserved. That shall be rectified in the future – thank you.

          Fog – I was born and brought up beside an Ocean – Halifax- and fog does sometimes roll in during the day. When air temperature drops quickly with a high humidity, the water vapor condenses out as small droplets suspended in the air – fog. That is why it typically happens over night. However, that said, when a cold front rolls in you get the same effect during the day. In future I will make a note of that by mentioning that the weather was forecast to become cooler. That will cover off your (and others’) questions on that matter.

          Shawna’s epiphany – You are right that does happen like a switch being flipped but it takes a while for it to change a person’s attitude – almost like it generates a wave that has to break over characteristics and sweep them to a different attitude. I was in a rush and that won’t be repeated.

          The white light – that has been described extensively by many – and much has been written about it. It seems to be a common experience with all who have gone to the edge of death and returned. Have you ever read any of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s books? She is a psychologist who spent her life researching and writing about this strange effect. Anyway, I handled it poorly. I would keep the same effect – it is a cliche because it happens so commonly – but would describe it differently. I admit that as much as I like the ending, I handled it poorly – too much of a rush to end the story as I panicked about the length.

          I love your comment about a good story teller being able to make a life/death experience out of a partly melted ice cream cone. If you don’t mind, I just may steal that idea. The effects of small occurrences on large systems has always fascinated me – chaos theory – like the butterfly flapping its wings in Arizona and creating a monsoon in India. My first degree was in physical chemistry – catalysis to be exact , which deals partly with that effect on physical systems.

          Anyway, I should finish this comment before WP cuts me off ( is there a comment length limit?) Thank you so very very much for your thoughtful and on point critique Trent. I admire your writing immensely and your comment has given me some insight as to how you make your writing so strong and rich. It is like a good reduction sauce – I still need to boil away the extra water to achieve the rich tasty writing you employ. Think of it as a topiary – I have the big thick bushy shrub – now I just need to cut away everything that doesn’t look like a duck. ha! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        • No offense was taken, Trent. I do sort of agree about the bright light scenario being used so often that it has become a bit of a cliché – there might have been a more unique way of handling that.

          If I ever decide to write fiction, I want you to be my critic – your honesty is well worth the little bit of pain it might cause. (Just growing pains for a newly minted fiction writer.)

          Liked by 1 person

  14. NOTE TO READERS: If you click on the photo of the red waders, it will take you to the site that’s selling them. The free advertising was not intentional, but if you wanna – go for it!

    Like

  15. Great story. You really built suspense well.
    Much of what I would say has already been commented on.
    Fog. depends on location – and it does roll in all times of the day and can be very dense and damp. CA coast is a big one for that, as well as here.
    Pictures. I like them – on blogs. Publishing on blogs is different that in books/print. You’ll lose readers if you don’t break up long passages – appropriate/limited number of related pictures rekindle interest and focus. (Nice the link to the red boot site – red is a good choice.
    Morning sickness. Usually early, but can linger along with that total exhaustion. Even without morning sickness, sometimes late food just doesn’t digest well and can make you feel yucky. So a pass on that one.
    Description. Yeah, specific details to establish character is important…but like me you get carried away in creating a perfect picture image – practice trimming that down a bit next time – just a few choice details. With all that rich image build, I wasn’t sure if there would be a kidnapping involved down the trail. It took up so much room it seemed that you suddenly realized it was too long and chopped the ending a bit ( and I read that was true….we all do that sometimes. Takes fortitude to go back and cut the rough draft once you have written the tale as it needs to be written – but it’s realistically too long. So write write write, then cut cut cut.
    LIke the red boots – that white light taps into shared knowledge and prior experience. So while common, it was expected and fits story. Always fun to explore an alternative method of showing the same situation – but it has to trigger the understanding and emotion of the reader.
    The phone was foreshadowing as was the fog that unexpected doom was ahead.
    Gramps is fine. I know some very wealthy people whose grand children use that. You set it up with her parents tried to keep her balanced and normal. It also show a close relationship to a down to earth grandparent. (down to earth…and she did end up there in multiple ways HA HA. Sorry)
    Like the “dropping the Rhino” Real rhinos are actually heavy – it also foreshadowed she was dropping some of the heaviness/materialism of her earlier life possibly.
    I half expected Cynthia to be the guy’s wife – and she knew about the affair and had plotted to get Shawna into a vulnerable situation – and get rid of her. A whole different story.
    Don’t labor and linger too long on the ending of “Her life has changed” Indicate it then leave it. The reader understands. No need to stretch it into tedium and cliche and run into sappy.
    Some good stuff in your story. Enjoyed reading it.
    While the Long Form forums/”class” didn’t like me saying it in the forums, “concise and precise” is critical even in a long piece. Write, then review and select the best words placed in the best order. (Something a story teller learned from working in research writing.) Makes the piece tighter, stronger, and more solid….less likely to wander like this comment.
    Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
    Cordelia’s Mom: Thanks for hosting!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Awesome comment/critique/compliment Phil. Ha! You are very good at this – I hardly feel attacked at all – Ha! Actually, all the great comments I got on this piece were helpful and positive. Indeed, I need to learn how to edit. I got the bush growing down pat – nice and bushy – but cutting out the form of the duck is the hard part. I’m not bad at choosing words just too many of them.

      I get the suspicious feeling you have done this critique thing before – as in teaching this stuff. Your comment is greatly appreciated Phil. I am honored that you took the time to read and write your thoughts.,Thank you and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Used to say, if I didn’t see potential, I wouldn’t even bother pushing you. There’s good bones here.
        One thought, you might try cutting the part about “they had talked about religion…” and neatly trim it down – 1-2 phrases/sentences at most – and quietly insert it where you just introduce Cynthia. It build/give another dimension to the characters there and it just puts a bug in the back of the reader’s mind. A brain shove towards the plot’s sequence. You can then shorten the end to give it more force and impact. Punch ’em then walk away quickly. Works in fights and writing.
        Words are fun. Cutting is like bleeding.
        (That boy friend character while it does establish her mood, is all that stuff with him really necessary if he isn’t going to kidnap her or have his pregnant wife kill her? A bit of a distraction to the ending. (although he’s in a well written section) Any way to abbreviate his role just a little bit?(I know he may have a contact mandating so much time on stage but… he’s get over it…promise him a role next time….cads always find a spot)
        One technique I used to use was printing out the story and cutting sections/paragraphs apart. Then you can move them around and try different order and sequences. I know you can do that on a screen, but somehow works better for some people with paper strips on a table. Just an idea.
        You’ll get the paragraphing, variation of sentence length, combining sentences, and mechanics like quotes down – that’s just maintenance. The writing is the important part – the most difficult and you are very much well on your way there.
        Seriously. Write. (What is that song phrase? “…bleed just to know you’re alive.” You’re alive and, well, get writing.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Paul says:

          That’s a really interesting technique – printing then cutting and literally pasting – they used to do that in the old days with newspapers didn’t they? I think that is where the phrase “paste up” came from.

          Thank you so very much for the encouragement and compliments. Now all I have to do is the work – Ha!

          Oh, Having been around a lot of women in my life I think it is realistic to have Shawna pre-occupied with Jon since the break-up was only just that morning. It is that preoccupation that, in addition to the alignment of other small negatives – like dropping her phone at the start, her partner being sick, the fog, the communication devices being shut off – each innocent by itself but combined create a deadly situation. I can tell you from my driving career that that is often the case. We see and prepare for the big issues but it is the accumulation of small ones that so often takes us by surprise. It is the mark of a true professional to spot these accumulations and before they interact and to stop the situation that is developing. As the safety director for a gas tanker company for many years, I can tell you without any hesitation that almost every single accident or incident that I investigated had at least some lack of attention or distraction that played a part in the series of events that lead to the bad end. Jon was hers.

          Like

          • All the tidbits do add up – and enrich a story. Like that phone. And she definitely would have been preoccupied and distracted. Under no circumstance ax him out of there – he is critical to the plot. (I think the unevenness of emphasis comes from the mood/character building descriptions at the beginning compared to rushing at the conclusion with worry over length. – just let the story go longer if it needs to.
            The cutting thing is a writing technique (as well as newspaper one – but different goal, not spatial/formatting) to get the brain to shift and look at things from different angles – like a puzzle.
            Physically moving passages jars the brain’s focus. Some writers write, then get on the treadmill and “simmer” what was written, then suddenly see something over looked.
            Chopping and cutting with real scissors is easier emotionally on some rather than using “delete” button. (and you don’t lose the original, so that fear is eased) Sometimes it ends up that the order is in the best order so any uncertainty can be put to rest. Just a trick to keep in your hat for the future if you get stuck on something.
            You are tagging your longer stories with the WPlongform or long read tags? Gets a whole different bunch of readers. (and you don’t have to worry about length as stuff there tends to be over 900 words)
            Every writer ultimate writes as they find the most natural. (Ever read much of UK’s Thomas Hardy’s novels? That opening of the heath of The Return of the Native. Now there’s a wordsmith who won’t hurry a story and lets the words roll. It was first published in installments, 12 I think. Readers are in such a rush these days when sometimes it’s good to sink into a story and thrash around.
            You’ve got all sorts of stories and the ability to put them down. Write. (nagging again…)

            Liked by 1 person

            • Paul says:

              Ha! What you say is very true – the ideas are all hooked together and paragraphs come out in a string that is not necessarily the best way to present the subject. Converting it from thoughts to words sometimes necessitates rearranging the delivery.

              I’m just sending CM the draft in Word – I’m not sure what format she is using in WP.

              Yes, Thomas Hardy is very interesting. My fav is Far from the Maddening Crowd. I love the way he describes his female character as floating and just barely touching the ground. And how circumstances that occurred could only have happened if there were a higher power with prior knowledge that she would be in the church at the time and thinking what she was thinking..Cool stuff.

              Liked by 1 person

  16. ~ Sadie ~ says:

    Excellent first effort, Paul!! Though I agree with the “show-don’t-tell” – I am guilty of it myself at times – and for me, as a reader, I really didn’t notice it much. You telling me that she is the daughter of a rich investment banker, while not necessary with the other details provided to show she enjoys the finer things, did tell me she doesn’t sell drugs or topless dance to afford college and her luxurious lifestyle at that age. While this may not be important in this short story, that level of detail might be important if this was a longer piece. Your fiction is written just as your real life experiences – with compelling storytelling making it hard for me to quit reading. I like that you weren’t sure if she was going to make it or not – because sometimes something happens along the way of getting it down on paper that makes the story and its characters take on a life of their own. I’m looking forward to your next fiction piece!! 🙂
    On a funny note – when you mentioned those $6000 boots, I was wondering WTF she was doing wearing those to go sample collecting, LOL!!
    Thanks Cordelia’s Mom!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Awwww, c’mon Sadie, you know why she wore those boots. She was just jilted by her lover and needed to feel special and attractive.

      Your comment actually strikes home and I’ve had it before and have pondered it. I seem to write as if it is a piece cut out of a long stretch of life – a snippet so to speak. I read a lot and most short stories are like a bowl – they start, dip down into the action, then come back up for a finish. I write like a piece of a bath tub – same basic shape, but the beginning is assumed to be long before the story starts and the ending will come long after the story finishes. Trent writes that way too and for me it feels more real – all the questions don’t have to be answered and in real life they never are. We are seeing just one battle in a long war – and who wins or loses is not yet determined.

      I do need to better edit my work – I’m working on it. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and comment Sadie. I am honored. And yes, CM is a wonderful host and editor.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ~ Sadie ~ says:

        Yeah . . . editing is the hardest part sometimes!! Something I am always working on, as I tend to be long-winded myself 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • Paul says:

          It’s funny you should mention that Sadie. I used to write assignments for university and I would get a decent mark and a comment from the prof that he/she was waiting for the next installment – ha!

          Liked by 1 person

      • I may be a decent host, but it’s become apparent from the comments that my editing skills need work. I should maybe just stick with formatting – I do like placing those pictures.

        Like

        • Paul says:

          Bwahaha! I don’t know if you noticed but some prefer more pictures, some prefer less pictures, some prefer no pictures and so on. It forces me to think about why I use pictures and how many I think would add to the narrative. Trying to measure up to any particular one would be hard. You do an excellent job formatting and editing – as one reader said: It is ultimately the writer’s job to make the changes. I am open to any you would like to suggest but do not hold yourself responsible for any criticisms. You put so much of your time and energy into these posts already CM – way more than I have any right to expect. I am thankful for your work. You do an excellent job.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Gee, Sadie, doesn’t everyone wear expensive designer boots when working in mud? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Good stuff, Paul! I’m glad to see you writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Don! Awesome to see you here all the way from St Louis. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. I am honored. I am pleased that you enjoyed this piece. Your latest was incredible as usual. We both need to write more. How are Cool and the gang doing? Be well Don.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. willowdot21 says:

    Great story Paul, you really nailed it. I really enjoyed it . Very impressed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much Willow for the compliment. I am pleased that you dropped by for a read as I know you are busy right now. It is great that you enjoyed the story. Hope all is well with you and yours. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hey Paul!

    This is a great story. The technical aspects of it are very well done, and I think the style is great. You tell a good story here. The characters feel different, and it feels like it’s done from Shawna’s perspective. That’s not easy to pull off. Most people cheat and use first-person to pull that off.

    If you do want to rewrite it at all, you might want to consider the “show-don’t-tell” to illustrate Shawna’s change. This would enhance the effect of the near-death experience that you’re portraying. Shawna is very focused on material things, and I think you can use that later on after she gets pulled out (something like having her waders ruined and making a comment about “it’s just stuff” that takes Cynthia aback). Really, you did a great setup for it in the story, and it would only take a few words in the middle and the end to make it work.

    Personally, I like the reference to brand names, because it gives me a sense that it’s from Shawna’s perspective. She likes fancy things, and fancy things are known by fancy names. Also, I like that she likes Cynthia but doesn’t care to describe any of her stuff. It almost implies that maybe she likes Cynthia because she doesn’t feel threatened by her. That adds a lot of character depth that’s shown and not told. Even if it wasn’t done on purpose, pretend that it was.

    Even if you don’t rewrite it at all, it’s still a good story. Thanks for sharing it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Hi SB! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. I am honored. The ending was the least well done part of the story. I was in a rush to get it finished as it had grown too long. In future I will take my time with the ending and use show not tell. Then I shall go back and edit the body to reduce the word count – if it needs it. It was intentional that Shawna gravitates to the poorer – i.e. Cynthia and Gramps – yet she loves her brands and being rich , a sort of paradox. That same paradox is reflected in the fact that Gramps said she was both dead and alive at the same time – and that she didn’t get to decide which would be the outcome. That is basically Schrodinger’s cat explanation of quantum physics. All outcomes are equally real until one is actualized – even when they are mutually exclusive. Her deliberate dropping of the Rhino when the rope hit her hand signified that the choice was made. The one thing that was her life line she abandoned to grab onto a new hope – the rope.

      There was a lot of meaning in the story that I did not develop as I was battling against word count — and lost , Ha! When I sent this story with pictures to CM for publication it was so big that I had to split it into 4 parts to get my e-mail to accept it. She reassembled it to edit, format and publish it.

      Thank you so very much for visiting SB and for the comments. Much appreciated. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you don’t mind my asking, why was word count an issue? Sure, blog posts are generally shorter, but fiction can break those rules. For short fiction, as long as you’re under 5k words, you’re okay. Then again, people have different tastes, so you might get different advice from different people.

        You did fine with the ending. There are different strategies to dealing with hitting a word limit, though. Different kinds of pre-writing have helped people. My own personal choice is to write it out and then reword it. If you are comfortable enough with your editor, you can ask her to do it for you.

        Bottom line is that it’s about repeating the process and finding what you’re comfortable with.

        Like

        • Paul says:

          Thanks so much SB. I was worried because I am new to blogging and was under the impression that 800-1000 words was optimal. I have written pieces up to 2,000 words but 3,500 was way over what I had ever had published and I was worried. I know better now as there were no complaints about the length from the bloggers i asked – some of whom are published authors. There were valid criticisms about telling rather than showing and that type of editing and rewriting would shorten the story some naturally. I’ll use the advice to help write the next story.

          Thanks so much for your input and encouragement Siriusbizinus. Much appreciated.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It did seem a bit long since my own posts generally fall into the 1000+/- range – but I knew that people would read anything you write, no matter how long. I think any of the sites you generally guest post on would have accepted your story despite its length.

            Liked by 1 person

  20. Did you find the photos and write the story around them? What I find most horrifying is the fact that people have actually died this way and this is probably what they experienced. Awful stuff, which is to say, effective writing. Clearly, this isn’t your first stab at fiction. It might be the first time we’ve seen it, but there’s enough character development and attention to pacing that leads me to believe you’ve been at this a while. What else have you got there? Don’t tell me this is all. I don’t believe it for one second.

    I Googled it and there really is such things as Hunter Ostens and Garmin Rhino. How do you know so much about brands? The front of the story is loaded with them, too. How much research did this require?

    See that…extramarital affairs are bad for your health. They can distract you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Bwahaha! You ask many questions Kemosabe. Ha! Welcome Mark! Great to see you here. I did find the photos and then write the story around them. There is a fascinatingly complex and huge website called DeviantArt.com where artists and photographers explore otherwise socially unacceptable perspectives. There are internal rules that keep it from becoming violent. The three quicksand photos are from there and the story was basically written around them. People do die this way but not commonly. The most common deaths by quicksand is getting stuck on tidal plains when the tide comes in. Every year in England there are multiple deaths this way. They have rescue squads trained just to help people stuck this way.

      I have written much other fiction – but this is the first I have had published. Writing the true stories which I have done to date also helps the pacing and character development. Believe it or not the research wasn’t too bad. I started with the pictures , plugged in a character that is real (names changed), then checked out the accessories she would have.: car, sunglasses, boots, transmission, waders, etc. Ha! The “pants on the lawn” section is actually true. ha! She is a character. It makes it clear who wears the real pants and it ain’t the one chasing them around the lawn. Ha! The research was about 8 hours and I wrote the story in one sitting – about 12 hours.It was simply a matter of plugging the character I knew into the scenario and letting it roll. It was rather fascinating as I didn’t have a plot plan or even a known outcome. I needed a GPS unit that could be used as a two-way, could track another unit and sure enough – one exists. Actually the same company also makes GPS for airplanes. I actually wrote both endings – where she gets saved and where she doesn’t. Exactly as Gramps said – she was both alive and dead until she reached that barrier in the white light. It was at that point that it became clear that she would survive – both in the writing and the story. .

      Awesome questions Mark. I am pleased that you enjoyed the story and am honored that you stopped by for a read and a comment. Please drop in again.

      Like

  21. Pingback: Blogger’s GPS – Animal Supplement – 2015/09/02 | charles rogers home page

  22. The Hook says:

    This was definitely worth the time.
    Skillfully presented, Paul.
    I envy your talent, my longtime friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thank you so much Hook. You’re going to make my head swell up with the compliment. I really appreciate your visit, read and comment. I am honored. **BOWS Thank you Hook. I am pleased that you enjoyed it.

      Like

  23. List of X says:

    But what if Shawna felt like a different person, because Cynthia and other students pulled out the wrong person from the quicksand experience?
    I’ve actually had a similar experience, except it wasn’t a quicksand but a quicksnow: I went skiing and I was making my own trail through the forest, when I lost balance and fell on my back off the trail into the snow which was probably chest-deep. And since I was wearing skis, bought used for $80 bucks from a friend who moved down south (no idea what the brand was), my feet stayed on the trail, while my body was about a foot or two below in the snow, with nothing below but fluffy snow to push off – the ski poles went all the way into the snow without hitting the ground. Imagine trying to get up while having the heels tied to the top edge of the pool, and the rest of the body swimming in the water. So, I can’t get up, I can’t roll to the stomach to get the skis under me because with the skis on the trail I can only turn to a side, and I can’t reach the boots to detach the skis – which would have be a great short term solution because I would have been able to stand up, but a terrible one in the long run because I wouldn’t be able to put the skis back on in such a deep snow, and wading out of the forest through chest-deep snow would take forever.
    These were pretty unnerving 10-15 minutes, until I somehow crawled on my back about 15 feet to the nearest tree, grabbed onto it, and pulled myself back up.
    Of course, the situation wasn’t nearly as desperate as Shawna’s, since I probably had a cell phone in my backpack.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Ooooh, that is scary X. I know that feeling of loss of control from the time a car hit my truck head-on on the wrong side of the road. You may have had a cell phone X but I can’t see you getting at it in that situation. Being buried alive is a major fear of mine. Brrrr! Thank you so much for dropping by for a read and comment. I appreciate the addition to the discussion.

      Like

  24. List of X says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    From Paul Curran, the blogger with no blog, the trucker with no truck, and the computer expert with no working computer, comes this gripping (both metaphorically and literally) story , in which Paul backs his serious writer looks with some serious writer chops. Check it out!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. idiotwriter says:

    Thanks for the story Paul (which I eventually got to reading this day)
    I am not sure I can offer much ‘advise’ though?! SO much has been said already – some of which I agree with and others disagree I guess. That is the nature of writing/reading. There is an audience for all kinds of things.
    I love the ethos and theme. I like how YOUR style comes through in the story …in fact that is what I like best. It READS like PAUL’S words. Almost as though this was just another of your real life stories you are sharing with us. I see no need to change anything. Just write another one, and then another one, and then another one and you will be amazed at what you glean and learn as you go along.
    SO basically – don’t listen to ANY of it – just write and it will speak as it may. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by Belinda. I know you are busy with family right now and I am honored that you took the time to visit and read. I appreciate your comment – it’s good to know that I have a style. To a certain extent I suspected that but it is not easy to see when you are standing in it. You’re like the mirror to my soul Belinda – and I find myself preening in front of it. Damn I”m cute. Bwahahaha! 😛

      Like

      • idiotwriter says:

        You are welcome 🙂 And that is an odd thing to say (about the mirror) but funny and I shall take it from whence it comes 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • Paul says:

          I see myself much clearer through you. Don’t you get that feeling as well? I’ve heard you say a number of times that i “read”you well. Which was not why I said what I did – I don’t get any sense of that at all – I say how your work strikes me same as I do for everyone else. Your comments on my postings allow me to see myself clearer than I could any other way. Not sure why. Oh well, take it as a compliment.

          Like

          • idiotwriter says:

            I did take it as a compliment. Just a kinda hardish one to take somehow see. Just – sorry – was not trying to upset you and fob off your kindness and tenderness! I take compliments with difficulty specially when they nail it in a way I probably needed at that time. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  26. anawnimiss says:

    Okay – I’m super late to the party, but here’s what I think.
    I agree with most of the feedback you’ve received around show-not-tell and how the end seems a bit rushed, so I’m just going to leave you with this thought: Paul, you’re an exceptional storyteller. I loved the bits about the quicksand, especially how Shawna would panic one minute and force herself to calm down the next. I could see myself doing that in a situation like this. You really do need to write some more!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much Ana – did you read all those comments? Whew! Dedicated lady. Yeah the show and tell is a hold over from doing business projects and giving sources. I can and will get rid of that. Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and comment. I am honored. And thank you so very much for the compliment and encouragement. I hope to write more in the future. I’ll keep you posed. 😀

      Like

  27. markbialczak says:

    Deep, Paul. In many ways. Your first crack at fiction is a success, my friend.

    Like

  28. kerbey says:

    Well, I liked it, Paul. I don’t usually read fiction on WordPress bc it takes FOREVER, but you are my friend and well worth the effort. I don’t know any of those brand names bc I am not affluent, and I was kind of hoping she’d die in that quicksand bc she was shallow. Now, by coincidence, I did watch Bear Grylls last night, about 7 episodes, and one showed him inside quicksand, and he said you only sink to your chest bc humans are more buoyant than quicksand. He said most people just die bc the sun will bear down on them and they dehydrate (an awful death), but I didn’t know that until I watched last night. Good job, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by Kerbey. I really appreciate it. And I am pleased that you liked the piece. I am honored that you took the time to stop by and read. Thank again., Kerbey. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  29. LindaGHill says:

    Great story, Paul. 🙂 I don’t need to repeat the other comments about cutting down on the details – my advice to you is, tell it like you’d tell it out loud off the top of your head to a stranger at a truck stop. If you see their eyes glaze over, you know you need to kill the details and get on with the story. 😉 You can actually do this by telling it out loud when you’re writing it. It’s amazing what your ears will pick up.
    I look forward to your next tale! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • LindaGHill says:

      Oh, and thanks for including your picture. You’re one handsome guy! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thank you so very much Linda. I appreciate the read and the comments and compliments. That’s a good suggestion about reading it out loud. I’ve actually heard one other author mention that as well – I will have to give it a try I am honored that you dropped by. Yes, that picture is my writing persona. I spent many years in the corporate world and used to get a haircut every two weeks – and it was short , a number 2. Throw in a 3 piece suit, a leather briefcase, polished shoes and an MBA and I could intimidate any boardroom. (being 6’3″ and 250 pounds helped too) And often did.

      Since retiring on a disability pension I let it all hang out – Ha! All I need now that I have the look down pat is an unheated room over a bakery where I can shiver and sweat and pour my angst into the screen. Then I’ll be famous and when people as me how I got started I can tell them that first I had to get the writer look down pat and then write. (And that Linda was one of my tutors – you’ll be mega famous by then and just be using your first name – like Cher or Madonna) Ha!

      Like

  30. Paul, you’ve gotten some great feedback here, and I’m with Melanie: you’ve got the fiction bone in you. The suspense you built kept me going until the end without stop. Don’t stop writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting GG. It is greatly appreciated. And thank you for the compliment. I know you are busy and I am honored that you took the time to visit for a read. Please drop by again. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  31. reocochran says:

    Pail, sorry to be late here. Also, Cordelia’s Mom, thanks for featuring this fantastic story. I tend to read posts in order, so I read Mark Bialczak’s post and found Paul. Then, artive here. . .
    I am someone who loves details and description. My good friend, a retired teacher, and I ate out on Friday (9/11/15) and we talked about our favorite authors who are “dumbing down” their books, using less technical details and less description of setting. I try to practice character development and really admired what you wrote, Paul. Just a “vote of confidence” given to you from an unpublished author. 🙂 a hug to you and also, like your friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Paul says:

    Thank you so much for the visit and the great compliment Robin. This is the first fiction I have published, so am pleased to hear that I am on the right track. I too like detail and think that it better reflects reality – in life we never know all of what is going on and we are bombarded with details. We have to pick and choose which details are important.

    Thanks again for dropping by Robin. Much honored.

    Like

  33. Pingback: Spam-Bam Thank You Ma’am (September 2015) | Cordelia's Mom, Still

  34. Pingback: Where are your words, Paul Curran? | Mark Bialczak

  35. lbeth1950 says:

    This is good. I hope there will be more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Well thank you very much lbeth. It was my first fictional account and I hadn’t actually thought of doing another , with all that has gone on lately. That’s an interesting idea, and I’m glad you liked it. I’ll give that serious consideration. Sooner or later I’ll have to switch to fiction when I run out of personal experiences to recount. Thanks again.

      Like

  36. jenlewis0121 says:

    Great story! Panic time!! Quicksand – buried alive yeh, it def time to Panic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much Jen for dropping by for a read and comment. I think this is the first time you’ve come by – welcome! I do some guest posting on Cordelia’s Mom and a few other places but I don’t have a web site of my own – technically/ thanks again for the read and I hope we’ll see you again.

      Like

  37. Reblogged this on Cordelia's Mom, Still and commented:

    Several times a week, readers come to this site specifically to read Paul Curran’s guest posts. Today’s re-blog is the one they view the most. At the time he wrote it, Paul expressed his concern that it might not fit in with the tenor of this blog – but, in fact, it has become the single most-viewed post on the entire Cordelia’s Mom, Still site. Enjoy – and remember. Happy Easter, Everyone.

    Like

  38. socialbridge says:

    I loved it the first time and I’ve loved it again. So miss Paul and all he brought to our lives.

    Like

  39. Thanks for sharing this post, CM. I read all the comments. Oh, Paul was such a gifted writer and a wonderful friend. Gone but will never be forgotten. Happy Easter, my friend. ( ◜◒◝ )♡

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s