18 January 2011

On A Lark

I entered a contest on The Sharp Angle on a lark. For the contest, I had to send in approximately 500 words of the beginning of a project for critique and possible prize. Since the contest was free and I really don't expect to win (winner isn't announced as of this post), I figured it would be a fun thing to do. Below is what I sent in with the critique I received, and I must say that it amazed me.

I will add that this is first draft, if highly edited with a focus on technical issues. I did not expect it to read as well as it apparently did to Lydia, who ran the contest. I've left her crit bits in it and bolded them to help differentiate them from my text. These are the first approximately 500 words of Baheen.


Thanks so much for entering the contest!

Zaashen wasn't in the Oasis when the Child appeared at the Fountain during the last gloaming moments of dawn, so he was not the first to see it. He lay prostrate on the night-cool sand, praying, his shesees spread around him, as he did every morning and evening. His spouse objected to this habit, but he would not abandon it.

With a deep sigh as the last of his murmured prayers faded, he pushed himself up to sit back on his feet and looked at the desert, patting his chest twice with his left hand. He could have turned around and seen much the same view--the deep shadows dipping between the still dunes, the few clouds streaking gold across the cerulean sky. The sun sat just at the edge of the horizon, still deeply red from its rise. He sat there for a time, not thinking anything, just letting his mind drift before he pulled it back into focus.

Zaashen rose and gathered the front of his shesees shut. He didn't bother fastening it but instead turned around and walked back to the Oasis. Just over two dunes, and he was home. Well, as close to home as he would ever come again; {period} he wended his way between the thick-walled, multicolored glass homes to his own and entered. {this is a slow-paced beginning, but I like the tone you're setting here, and I'm intrigued by this character.}

"Noova?" he asked as he entered, stepping just inside and easing the heavy door shut. He shivered, heard only silence. "He's probably at the Fountain," Zaashen murmured, entering deeper into the house. That meant that Noova had left breakfast up to him.

Halfway through preparation, the door grated open. Zaashen glanced over his shoulder, saw his spouse, and froze.

"Noova, what's wrong?" he asked.

Noova shifted, glancing away as his expression jerked out of shock and fear into too-innocent. "Just an argument at the Fountain," he said, then added, "I brought us water." He raised the amphora, the tip of which had been propped on the ground, for a moment, then set it in its stand. {this is a m/m couple? I think I love you. You're the first person to give me something with any kind of lgbt element. Is there a reason you can't say husband though? Spouse implies that they are married (or bound in some way), so I would think the term husband, for each of them, is appropriate. But that's entirely up to you and what you've set up in your story world.}

"An argument about what?" Zaashen asked, turning back to the desheepan he was cubing.

"N-nothing important. Just tempers."

Zaashen raised his head a little, uncertain that he'd actually heard the stutter. "It sounds like it's upset you quite a bit," he said, carefully, in an effort to evade what could become an argument. As soon as the statement was free, he wished to withdraw it, certain that Noova would misinterpret his concern as insult or something similar.

"I said, nothing important," Noova said, more firmly.

Zaashen stiffened briefly in surprise as Noova's arms came around his waist in a loose embrace.

"Why are you still wearing this ratty thing?" Noova asked, tugging one of the edges of the shesees.

Zaashen shrugged. "I just didn't take it off."

"You need to get a new one. One that isn't so drab."

"What color would you pick for me?"


Zaashen chuckled, wiggling a little. "I like this one; {period} it's still good enough for its purpose."

Noova stepped away, muttering. Zaashen shook his head once, catching the familiar words, "Which purpose?" and ignored them. They were old words and no longer had the power they'd once had when they'd first joined, when Zaashen was still defensive about his excommunication and Noova insecure about Zaashen's loyalties.

Wow. You've totally hooked me with this, and I can't even pinpoint exactly why. I think it's the intrigue about the fountain in combination with this unsettling situation between these two men who were likely best of friends at one point. What's the word I'm looking for… they're… jaded? They've fallen into a routine of disinterest, and you've made me wonder why. And for you to be able to convey that so clearly in so few words, while at the same time portraying multiple elements of intrigue-- the fountain, the child, the supposed hiding of something, the religious devotion despite being ousted-- it's all very well done. I would definitely keep reading.

Thanks again, and good luck with this!


And as to why I use the word spouse--I'm writing this as though translating it from Zaashen's language, and in Meeyaharan, they don't have gender-specific words for spouse. Then again, they don't have the strict sex/gender assignment that we do (which is: you are either this or that, and if you are this, you are expected to behave this way and dress this way, and if you are that, you are expected to behave that way and dress that way), their sexes number three, not two, and they tend to view gender as something rather fluid over the populace.

I should also probably note that the day after sending this entry in, I had a major epiphany about Zaashen's conflicts, which means that every chapter I've already written following the first chapter no longer fits. Times like this I really wish I could bring all my subconscious reasoning to my conscious mind when I really need it. It would prevent a lot of the rewriting and backtracking I've found to be necessary in writing my fantasy projects.

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