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Old 01-05-2013, 06:51 PM
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Joseph McKenna drove the ambling wagon listlessly along the trail; led by five other rigs, laden with hopes and provision for a new beginning. The guides kept a watchful eye on the despondent man but gave him distance out of respect for his recent loss.

Twenty miles separated the small wagon train from the latest of tragedies that had afflicted the former family man. His young son, the last promise for future generations of McKenna, had died of the same fever that devastated his wife and daughter in previous weeks.

Having emerged unscathed, his fellow travelers concluded that Joseph neither suffered from the malady nor was a carrier. The only thing separating him from the mobile community was his depth of despair and their own desire to retain optimism for the journey ahead. They were supportive to be sure, but none of the others had tasted such overwhelming sorrow and few could console him without understanding.

Cresting a rise in the great undulating prairie, the trail boss sent runners to announce that La Junta was now within sight. Cheers and hoots rang out as each wagon was alerted though Joseph’s response was little more than a nod and a painfully weak smile.

Essentially nothing more than a rickety collection of white-washed shacks, La Junta was a town established for the express purpose of servicing the needs of rail yard workers, buffalo hunters and the now rare pioneer. Most venturing west these days chose the rail over the road preferring to start out fresh and unencumbered, but those clinging to remnants of their former life were restricted to the well-worn trail and covered wagons.

The town offered plenty of entertainment if such was your desire, but few homesteaders dared venture into the blatant dens of iniquity for fear of spousal reprisal at the very least.

A small military presence was maintained in the bustling township, primarily billeted to protect rail workers and the dwindling stream of western adventurers. Signing in at headquarters was the first stop for the trail weary travelers, then on to hot baths and shopping for essentials.

Captain Ferguson, a gregarious man, tall in stature and grateful for the distraction, greeted the sojourners individually. Having heard the report from the trail boss, he offered his condolences to the grieving McKenna.

“I’m terribly sorry to hear of your loss Mr. McKenna, if there’s anything we can do to assist you, please don’t hesitate to stop by.”

“Thank you Captain, you’re very kind. I’m afraid that at this point, I’m not sure where I’m going, what I’m going to do nor why. We …“ he choked. “We were heading to Denver to start a new life, but now …”

The captain shook his head, placing a sympathetic hand on Joseph’s shoulder. “Well sir, the decision is yours to make but if you decide to return back east, there are plenty of local traders ‘round the depot to purchase your goods and give you passage on the next train if you’re so inclined.”

“Again, thank you … I’m much obliged.”

McKenna turned toward his rig, tipping the brim of his hat as Ferguson called out one last bit of advice. “Mr. McKenna … best mind your purse around that lot” he said. “And steer clear of the tracks come nightfall.”

With a nod, Joseph lightly cracked the reigns and was off. Having registered at the office, his attentions were now drawn to a hot meal and a well deserved rest for his team.

The Draper, a local establishment and one of the town’s few permanent structures, specialized in accommodations for the likes of McKenna and his fellow settlers. The rooms were clean but Spartan, and the food, abundantly befitting a high plains appetite. Potatoes and eggs with a side of ramps surrounded an enormously thick steak of Buffalo meat. A small bowl of melon rounded off the bounteous meal, washed down with the western staple of hot coffee.

With the horses in the livery and a room secured, McKenna ventured down to the shanty town erected along the tracks flanking the depot, just south of the banks of the Arkansas. The sights and sounds heard left little doubt as to the inspiration of the good captain’s warning, but Joseph, veteran of the War of Southern Rebellion back east, walked with little fear as he searched for dealers in the goods of unfulfilled dreams.

The bittersweet odor of burning kerosene merging with the scent of mysterious roasting meat permeated the air, assaulting his senses. Drummers of sundry novelties called out ceaselessly at his passing, hoping to entice him into frivolous purchase of useless trinkets. Lethargic women in garish apparel posed unenthusiastically outside of tents from which the noise emanating testified that the clientele were far more enthusiastic than those providing service.

Adjacent to the languid House of Joy, a near-toothless transient hawked his wares of moccasins, deerskin leggings and beaded vests. “For the discerning customer such as yourself …” the raspy voice whispered. “A special treat … genuine Comanche scalps!”He proudly raised the matted black horrors in his clenched fist. Joseph winced.

With his Winchester shouldered, he quickly moved on, soliciting passersby that they might point him toward likely traders of household articles.

**********^**********

Even as he approached their weathered table, the placid traveler felt a sense of unease. Josiah Tucker was the apparent leader of the trio with the other two wisely kept occupied in the background. Their front-man was dressed in reasonably serviceable attire but the pair behind were unabashedly filthy and generally unkempt.

It wasn’t their absence of hygiene or sense of propriety that troubled him most; he had yet to wash more than his own face and hands; but it was their general temperament that seemed amiss. All traders display a certain hunger when eying a potential customer but few bother to intentionally hide their eagerness.

Tucker was a merchant in goods, and in this environment, everything was up for barter; weapons, wagons, tools, even the clothes off a man’s back if such was his collateral. Most made no bones about visually appraising another’s assets but these three would suddenly turn away, as if caught red-handed, in the act of plotting.

His burly associate struggled to avert his gaze from the Winchester while the younger became transfixed by McKenna’s fine boots, a surprise gift from his wife upon departing St. Louis. The dirty blond wall-eyed miscreant sported a tattered buckskin suit, ragged cavalry boots and a mouthful of frightening yellow teeth yet carried a surprisingly well-polished hunting knife.

Noticing Joseph’s discomfort, Tucker turned to bark out orders, commanding the pair to store dry goods in their sloppily painted wagon parked behind.

Joseph half-heartedly expressed his query, already certain he’d refuse whatever they offered.

Tucker folded his arms, leaning back with belly outstretched. “Depends on what ya got mister! Why don’t you roll your rig down here and we’ll give ‘er a look-see?”

McKenna glanced at each man, individually assessing their reaction. Only Tucker maintained eye contact, and that, Joseph surmised, seemed to require great effort on his part.

“Let me sleep on it Mr. Tucker, I’ve come this far, I’m not so sure that turning back’s the answer.”

“Suit yer self” he said. “Which way’ll you be headin’ if ya don’t mind my askin’?”

“Denver” he replied. “Wagon train pulls out first thing in the morning.”

Tucker shrugged, seeming strangely disappointed.

Joseph tipped his hat and headed back toward the Draper. As he climbed the rise, he could feel six ravenous eyes trailing him, still hungry for his store-bought rifle and well kept footwear.

Dusk settled as the waning sun signaled the arrival of blissfully cooler desert night air. Joseph leaned against the rail of the shallow balcony outside his street side window, incredulous of the great departure that his path in life had taken. He shook his head as occasional tumbleweeds rolled along the dusty avenue, unimpeded by obstruction.

He and his young family had left the smoking stacks of Pittsburgh in the hopes of a new beginning out west. The burgeoning prosperity of mining and industry had seized the high plains to the north and Denver was rapidly becoming a land of unbridled opportunity for a mechanical craftsman such as Joseph McKenna.

It was for this reason that they chose the trail as a means of travel since Joseph’s tools were one of a kind, handmade and unavailable from mercantile shops. Now alone, he lamented that decision, wishing he’d chosen to start again with stock implements straight off the rack.

As he sullenly weighed his irreversible decisions, the passing breeze carried music from a nearby tavern. He recognized the tune, something heard while traveling the great Missouri expanse.

A family of Irish had joined the train, up from the Mississippi, with the intent of raising cattle along the richer pastures of the Rockies’ front range. The father played fiddle while the daughter sang sweetly, a melody Joseph recalled as “What child is this?” though their lyrics sounded foreign and unrecognizable.

He began to muse on that day, two weeks out of St. Louis when he and his lovely wife spun in the dust before the campfire, engaged in an impromptu waltz to the great delight of all that witnessed. Joseph wept.

He knew not what the future held nor whether time would heal his wounds of the heart, but forward he would go and not behind. Tomorrow he’d join his fellow travelers in the hopes that this new land might offer the solace of recovery to his injured soul.

**********^**********
With full bellies and renewed vigor, the train was assembled along the back alley of the Draper. The boss and his men did a quick accounting then briefed the drivers on their expectation of progress for the day. McKenna gave them the high sign that he too would proceed and at that, the train was off.

They rose up to the ridge beyond the river valley and started west with the intention of crossing the rocky ford ten miles out then continuing their course on the north side.

Once clearing the valley, the enormity of this territory became readily apparent as the land unfurled in all directions. To the east lay nothing but featureless wasteland, punctuated only by the muddy river’s narrow strip of green to each side. The western panorama was much the same with the exception of the ominous facade of the Rockies’ front range emerging from the horizon.

McKenna gazed at Zebulon Pike’s namesake, the milestone peak of the new west, with Denver’s promise just a week’s drive to the north. Pulling back on the reigns, he halted his rig and carefully scanned the rest of the vista before him.

So many a night they’d anticipated this moment but now Joseph was fated to experience it alone. Pike’s Peak was impressive in its stature and symbolism, a beacon to weary travelers, but the southern end offered two massive spires, towering in ominous grandeur, set in the midst of a sprawling desolation.

Trail guide Obadiah Reems pulled up beside the stalled wagon to see if Joseph had encountered a problem.

“Everything alright Mr. McKenna?”

“Sorry … yes, I’m fine. Mr. Reems, I believe I’ve decided to part company, doesn’t the Old Santa Fe go south …toward those mountains?”

Reems scratched his head. “True enough sir, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Springs are hard to come by and you’d be hard pressed to encounter a soul till you hit the range. ‘Sides, word around town has it that Injuns been acting up in the badlands.”

By this time, the trail boss had doubled back to see what was the hold-up. “Breakdown already …?”

“No sir” Reems replied. “Mr. McKenna’s considering leaving us, wants to head down the Santa Fe.”

“Hmm, that’s rough trade for any man these days. You sure about this Joseph?”

McKenna nodded, “We came out here with expectations and none of them seem to be coming to pass. I think for now, I’m gonna do the unexpected, does that make any sense?”

The boss nodded with a sigh, tilting his head. “Well sir, given what you’ve been through, I’d have to say yes.” He turned to Obadiah. “Did you mention the springs?”

“I did …”

“Fair enough, though if you want my advice, I’d head south to the Purgatoire so you can stay watered and then cut west to Trinidad.”

After receiving a hastily drawn map and several helpful pointers, McKenna held out his hand. “Good advice William, I shall take it gladly. It’s been a pleasure gentlemen.” He gratefully shook the men’s hands and turned his rig to the south.

The high plains were a land of dramatic contrast; parting from the river valley immediately plunged Joseph and his team into the arid desert terrain. Each rise was met with another disappointment as rocky sand gave way to more of the same.

Green meant life and life required water, but the pale yellow land offered little of either. Finally, hope sprang up in the form of Pinon dotted mesas just an hour’s drive ahead. This was the first marker for the fabled Purgatoire or Purgatory River.

The waitress at the Draper had recounted the origins of the foreboding moniker to Joseph the evening before. It seemed that the Purgatory got its name from an incident that occurred during the Spanish occupation of the region.

A company of conquistadors had ventured into the valley in search of gold but disbanded for reasons unknown. Now isolated from their strength in numbers, the stragglers set out on their own paths, only to be killed off by bands of local Indians. Having no priest to administer last rites, the assumption was that the soldiers’ souls were now trapped in purgatory, destined to perpetually exist without their eternal rest.

Though Joseph saw no need for denominational ritual to maintain his redemption, he certainly understood the sentiment. McKenna sought strength to endure the earthly, his heavenly condition, he determined, was not for him to decide.

Upon arriving in the valley, he was gratified to see that the river offered lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife, a far cry from the hellish reputation that its name would suggest.

He decided to set up camp for the night near the banks on a stable plateau. The horses could graze while he rested, giving him plenty of opportunity to reflect on his fateful decision. There was an abundance of wood for the fire; a deterrent for four-legged foes but an open invite for those bearing but two. Choosing watchfulness over fear, he gathered the sun-baked timber and tended the flames without reservation.

He sipped his cup of over brewed coffee as the evening breeze began to pick up, fanning the fire and showering him with the flotsam of decayed grass and cactus pollen.

Occasional gusts stirred up something quite surprising for such a remote location, bits of tattered paper and remnants of cloth. Rolling on edge across the flattened camp site, a perfectly square card tumbled along, ultimately plastering itself against the side of the wagon. Intrigued, McKenna got up from his comfortable spot to examine the curiosity.

It was a photograph, a sepia colored picture of a small family of pioneers! The husband stood astride his wife with their young daughter in the center. The parents had placed a hand on each of the girl’s shoulders as she beamed with delight. In the backdrop directly behind the trio was a fully outfitted covered wagon, water barrels hitched to the sides and a Hawken rifle fixed beside the driver’s seat.

Joseph wiped the thin layer of dust away and pressed out the creases, reverence for a hopeful moment captured on film. He knew nothing of the events that lost this treasure to the elements for he could not imagine the family intentionally discarding it. Perhaps a wayward breeze snatched it from the little girl’s grasp, he thought.

Regardless of the circumstance, he’d decided to keep it on the off chance that he may one day encounter the family and return this reminder of their great adventure west and how far they’ve come.

The wind finally subsided by nightfall, the flapping canvas of the wagon cover falling mercifully silent at last. With a final check on the horses, McKenna retired for the evening.

Abruptly awakened from a deep slumber, Joseph rose from his bedroll with a start, grabbing his rifle as he leapt to his feet. A number of coyotes were yapping with great ferocity, just beyond his campsite. Even though his fire had dwindled to barely a flicker, the diminished light still managed to illuminate several pairs of amber-green eyes, a menacing sight in this isolated darkness.

McKenna stoked the fire as an added precaution but doubted that they had any concern for his doings. They appeared to have a preoccupation with interests beyond the bush in a ravine on the other side of the flat. Confident that both he and the horses were safe, he returned to his bunk.


**********^**********

The following morning, with camp broken, Joseph steered his rig toward a gradual rise that terminated on the level grade of a low mesa. He wanted to investigate a location he’d spotted in the distance while approaching the valley the day before.

The construction of men stood out with stark prominence in the midst of this wilderness and McKenna was certain that he’d seen an old homestead just beyond the rise. With a final heave, the team crested the mesa, revealing their destination a few hundred yards to the west.

Even before pulling up to the ramshackle cabin, Joseph could see plainly that the place had long been abandoned. A collection of tumbleweeds, snared by the porch posts, blocked the open doorway while the window shutters flapped in the breeze. A clear path led from the rear of the building to a dilapidated outhouse just beyond the original pioneer dwelling, a crumbling sod hut. There was a barn of sorts, likely the most recent addition, sturdy in construction but apparently devoid of the necessity for level and plumb.

Joseph dismounted the wagon to survey the landscape, curious as to why none remained. The spread was quite a sight to behold, acres of flat manageable earth, perfect for cultivation and livestock. A creek branch from an adjacent hillside trailed through the center and the winds were subdued by rows of Pinon trees along the ridges.

Failure seemed impossible with such an abundance of resource but the humble graveyard in the distance, fully occupied, gave mute testimony to the contrary. Death and life, as Joseph had become painfully aware, cared little for the aspirations of men.

Clearing the porch obstruction, McKenna entered the cabin. A quick glance revealed that personal items were conspicuously absent, a sure sign that this dream had faded into obscurity rather than fallen prey to sudden catastrophe.

In an instant, Joseph knew what he must do. With no established plan urging his compliance, he was free to choose and for the time being, this would be his choice.

The irony of his decision was not lost on the wayfaring man. Unlike his ill-fated Spanish predecessors, Joseph McKenna chose to dwell in Purgatory!



Episode 2 of 3 will be posted in 72 hours OR read it now at surrealisticpillowtalk.blogspot.com

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Old 01-06-2013, 12:09 AM
Rooster Smith (Offline)
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WHILE I WOULD HAVE OPENED ON ACTION, OR DRAMA, ( MAYBE THE DEATH OF HIS SON? ) I HAVE TO SAY THAT YOU DID A GOOD JOB OF SETTING THE MOOD HERE.

THE WORLD IS WELL CRAFTED, YOU DID A GOOD JOB OF PUTTING THE READER INTO IT.

KIND OF TORN HERE, ON ONE HAND NOTHING REALLY HAPPENED IN THIS PIECE, USSUALLY A NO-NO. BUT IT WAS ENTERTAINING I THOUGHT DESPITE THAT.

I CAN'T HELP BUT ROOT FOR THIS CHARACTER, MY FAVORITE PART WAS WHEN HE DECIDED TO BREAK AWAY FROM THE GROUP.

THERE'S A LOT OF ROOM FOR DRAMA HERE BECAUSE THERE COULD BE ANY NUMBER OF REASONS WHY THOSE PEOPLE DECIDED TO LEAVE PURGATORY.

ANYWAY, GOOD JOB MAN, HERE'S THE REVIEW ...


Joseph McKenna drove the ambling wagon listlessly along the trail; led by five other rigs, laden with hopes and provision for a new beginning. The guides kept a watchful eye on the despondent man but gave him distance out of respect for his recent loss.

I SUSPOSE THE GUARDS ARE ON HORSE BACK? OR ARE THEY IN THE BACK? MIGHT WANNA CLARIFY THAT.





The town offered plenty of entertainment if such was your desire, but few homesteaders dared venture into the blatant dens of iniquity for fear of spousal reprisal at the very least.

AND VD, THE OLDEN VD'S. THE DEADLY KINDS ...

TODAY'S VD AIN'T YOUR GREAT GRANDFATHERS VD, THAT'S FOR DAMN SURE ...





With the horses in the livery and a room secured, McKenna ventured down to the shanty town erected along the tracks flanking the depot, just south of the banks of the Arkansas. The sights and sounds heard left little doubt as to the inspiration of the good captain’s warning, but Joseph, veteran of the War of Southern Rebellion back east, walked with little fear as he searched for dealers in the goods of unfulfilled dreams.

WHEN YOU SAY BANKS OF THE ARKANSAS, DO YOU MEAN THE BANKS OF THE RIVER?

OR THE CHASE AND TD BANK NEXT DOOR TO THE STRIP CLUB? I USED TO WORK AT THE ARKANSAS, BUT I'M SURPRISED YOU EVER HEARD OF IT.

The bittersweet odor of burning kerosene merging with the scent of mysterious roasting meat permeated the air, assaulting his senses. Drummers of sundry novelties called out ceaselessly at his passing, hoping to entice him into frivolous purchase of useless trinkets. Lethargic women in garish apparel posed unenthusiastically outside of tents from which the noise emanating testified that the clientele were far more enthusiastic than those providing service.

I HATE LETHARGIC HOOKERS. YOU GOTTA RESPECT THE CUSTOMERS. IN ANY BUSINESS ...






Adjacent to the languid House of Joy, a near-toothless transient hawked his wares of moccasins, deerskin leggings and beaded vests. “For the discerning customer such as yourself …” the raspy voice whispered. “A special treat … genuine Comanche scalps!” He proudly raised the matted black horrors in his clenched fist. Joseph winced.

"WHY IN GOD'S NAME WOULD I WANT THAT!?" JOSEPH ASKED.




A family of Irish had joined the train, up from the Mississippi, with the intent of raising cattle along the richer pastures of the Rockies’ front range. The father played fiddle while the daughter sang sweetly, a melody Joseph recalled as “What child is this?” though their lyrics sounded foreign and unrecognizable.

WHAT!? IRISH!? THERE GOES THE NIEGHBORHOOD ...

( JUST KIDDING, I'M A BIG FAN OF OLD SCHOOL RACISM, WHERE WHITE PEOPLE HATED OTHER WHITE PEOPLE. HILARIOUS ... )




Once clearing the valley, the enormity of this territory became readily apparent as the land unfurled in all directions. To the east lay nothing but featureless wasteland, punctuated only by the muddy river’s narrow strip of green to each side. The western panorama was much the same with the exception of the ominous facade of the Rockies’ front range emerging from the horizon.

USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!




Reems scratched his head. “True enough sir, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Springs are hard to come by and you’d be hard pressed to encounter a soul till you hit the range. ‘Sides, word around town has it that Injuns been acting up in the badlands.”

INJUNS? THERE GOES THEIR NIEGHBORHOOD ...




A company of conquistadors had ventured into the valley in search of gold but disbanded for reasons unknown. SOMEBODY FARTED ... Now isolated from their strength in numbers, the stragglers set out on their own paths, only to be killed off by bands of local Indians. Having no priest to administer last rites, the assumption was that the soldiers’ souls were now trapped in purgatory, destined to perpetually exist without their eternal rest.

JESUS, THAT'S DARK.

Though Joseph saw no need for denominational ritual to maintain his redemption, he certainly understood the sentiment. McKenna sought strength to endure the earthly, his heavenly condition, he determined, was not for him to decide.

BUT YOU'RE NOT WORRIED ABOUT IT? NOT EVEN A LITTLE?




Joseph wiped the thin layer of dust away and pressed out the creases, reverence for a hopeful moment captured on film. He knew nothing of the events that lost this treasure to the elements for he could not imagine the family intentionally discarding it. Perhaps a wayward breeze snatched it from the little girl’s grasp, he thought.

YOU'D HOPE...

Regardless of the circumstance, he’d decided to keep it on the off chance that he may one day encounter the family and return this reminder of their great adventure west and how far they’ve come.


The wind finally subsided by nightfall, the flapping canvas of the wagon cover falling mercifully silent at last. With a final check on the horses, McKenna retired for the evening.

YOU DON'T LIKE THE *** THING? MAKES IT MORE DRAMATIC WHEN YOU CHANGE SETTINGS OR PASS TIME ...
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Old 01-06-2013, 12:16 AM
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Very well written. Easy to read and although Westerns are not my genre I found it entertaining. Hard to criticise since it looks pretty much perfect. Right level of backstory to hook the reader and the descriptions seem very authentic and real. I could easily picture the scene and the characters. I used to read a lot of JT Edson when I was younger and your writing is of a very similar style. Well done.
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Old 01-06-2013, 01:29 AM
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This is one of piece work that will stay in my mind for a while. I could picture it in my head, thanks to your words. The world you have created is beautiful but I expect that there is something dark hidden in the shadows. Good work.
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Old 01-06-2013, 10:52 AM
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You evoke the setting in the past very well, evoking the period with factual details but no need to give an exact date. Some might like a bit more action, but you draw the reader in with the tragic back story. The last story I put on was set in the nineteenth century, though that was in Britain not North America, and I used little details to set the period, so yours caught my eye.
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Old 01-06-2013, 12:27 PM
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Rooster,
Clever tactic "wrangling" your blog comments to WB, you may be on to something.

I'm going to try responding to stuff that I didn't in SPt.
McKenna's "redemption" response was to show contrast between the Spaniards' notion of earned salvation through an act like last rites and the concept of "election". Without going into great detail, McKenna believes that he can't earn or qualify for redemption, he has to be "chosen", and who is he to question the chooser?

I'm re-thinking Gritsy's suggestion of calling the guides "scouts", that would probably give the reader the immediate sense that they're on horseback.

Won't bother commenting on hooker quality control ...

I took your advice regarding the scene breaks, perhaps too much on Hwy3.

Thanks for the re-visit Mr. Smith, I may use that copy/paste deal on Awesomeverse.

Abdula
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:20 PM
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very cleanly written in that none of it was really awkward,

but nothing really stood out for me.

your stye/characters/message are quite unremarkable. but keep at it, bruv.
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:47 PM
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Ranjit,
Thanks for the read as well as the supportive comments. I love watching westerns but I can't say that I've ever read one, does Edson specialize in that genre or are we just similar in style?

I wanted to try something a bit different with Hwy and attempted to suggest period flavor with some of the terminology and references. Westerns are great subjects since you can keep scenery clues and elements minimally described leaving the reader's imagination and familiarity with the genre (from movies at least) to fill in the blanks.
That's the way it worked out anyway.

I'm curious as to whether we've met on one of your pieces before. I know I've seen your comments to others and have appreciated your insights. Do you have a link to some of your work so that I can give it a look? If so, you could post it here or send me a PM and I will most definitely take a read.
Until then,
Abdula


Andy,
You've got the gift my friend, without letting the cat out of the proverbial bag, darkness is indeed looming for Hwy2. I should have it out by Tuesday.

I'm looking forward to Protector 2 but was surprised to hear that you had posted your MoF piece. I know you told me it was coming but I thought that maybe you had changed your mind. I'll take a look asap and hope that I'm allowed to comment.

See you soon,
Abdula


Ian,
I'm beginning to truly appreciate the period piece. It seems like a great way to transport the reader into a fantastic world yet keep them decidedly grounded on terra firma, no pun intended.

It's great for the writer too since he doesn't have to fabricate a venue and has an abundance of resource material to work with.

There is action afoot but the real story is more people centered, at least that was my intention.

I know that I've seen your work but do you have a particular recommendation for me? As I said to ranjit, a link, comment note or PM is always welcome.

Thanks again for stopping by,
Abdula
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:54 PM
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Wow.

The first thing that got me about this was how well you weaved in the past with the present- not just in your pinpoint details of the town and its surroundings (out of pure curiosity, do you live near Denver?) It felt like you, the writer, knew the town, the trail and its surroundings as if from childhood. While I can't say that I've read or watched many (if any?) Westerns, I really got such a vibe from this piece.

Your writing is precise and trimmed. You don't waste words on a section of trail or a part of town- you describe it, flesh out its character in a few well-chosen words, and move on. It's not a good thing or a bad thing- it's how you write. In my humble opinion, it works well for what you've got here.

My two problems with this piece were thus. First off (I don't know if this was your intention), you really threw the reader into the piece. This is a good thing. The problem was you threw them a bit too hard. It took some re-reading of the first few paragraphs (and a bit of disorientation on my part) before I really sunk my eyeballs into the piece.

Secondly, while this piece is very well-written, it doesn't seem like the start. It seems like the middle- a break between action, travel or combat. It seems like a respite, a pause for reflection.

Thus goes my two cents worth. Well done- I'll check out your blog tomorrow morning for Part 2!
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Old 01-06-2013, 07:31 PM
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Red,
Thanks for the review.
I get what you mean about his abrupt entry, Rooster suggested starting with the death of his son. My intention was to begin with the man already broken rather than "in-process".

I had to wrestle with too much information since each installment pushes the limits with approx. 3100 words. I figured that the reader would get that he's despondent and why, leaving them free to experience this new phase of his life.

Bear in mind that I am seriously thinking of expanding this story into something akin to a novelette and in so doing, I'm sure that I would explore his tragedy with more emphasis. We'll see...

Before I go, can you shoot me that blog address in full through PM, I only got a partial when you messaged me.

Looking forward to seeing more,
Abdula

Moops,
I must have missed your post when I was replying earlier in the evening. Sorry that it didn't flip your switch, different strokes I guess...
Abdula
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:52 AM
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Abdula, you are, of course aloud to comment. It will be useful if you can comment.
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:27 AM
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I didn't have any specific book or author in mind, but I read factual history books and watch documentaries about history on T.V.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:57 AM
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Ian,
I was asking you if you might have a recommendation of one of your works that you might want me to read.

You don't have to post it here, you can always send me a PM with either a link or just a title.

Thanks,
Abdula
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:57 PM
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The latest story I put on was called 'Mr Browning's Target.' It was down on page two of this site when I last checked it and it is an historical piece.

I've used the same main character in stories called 'The New Fire' and 'My Friend is Dying' which I put on Writers Beat last year.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:17 AM
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I agree with some others who have suggested starting with a hook of action or some moment of greater import, but the writing and information given is engaging enough that lacking a hook of that sort is not really missed.
At first I found your style in this piece to be wordy and convoluted, however that also helps to set the tone and period of the piece, as they were very wordy and used sentence structures that are odd to our modern ears.
All in all I enjoyed the read and look forward to reading the rest of the story. My mind is already churning over the photo, what it means, how it will be used. Good stuff!
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:02 PM
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Abdula,

What a pleasure. I have to disagree with the suggestion that the story begin in any other way than it did, I was snared from the start. Your writing is rich without being verbose, it offers intellectual nutrition without unnecessary indulgence.

McKenna sadness was palpable, I felt so much pity for him. The choice of his unique tools vs his family was such a tremendous statement to make, a brilliant contrast to me...it felt terribly tragic.

The choice to break away from his caravan unnerved and intrigued me. Fantastically written, tremendous job bringing this world to life.

I'd say there were only two things that jumped out at me.

One, is that you (refreshingly) have not used any cliches in anything I've written of yours, until I got snagged on "assaulted his senses." I feel like I've read this line a thousand times...and I thought I'd point it out.

Also, you described the sickness as having "devastated" his wife and daughter, but it wasn't till later did I realize taht they had also died. I assumed they had, but I carried confusion along with me for a little while.

(fighting a fever right now, so I'm a little less coherent then usual, but...)

Masterfully done, an enjoyable read all-around.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:34 PM
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damn, 'Dula, that's a great many comments when compared to views.

This piece cleary stuck a chord with people.

I think it's the whole, "screw you nature, I'll do what I want!" thing.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:24 PM
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Ian,
Thanks for responding, I know that I read "Mr.Browning" but I believe I neglected to comment. I've been running around so much that I'm having trouble keeping up. I will revisit it again and hopefully not at three in the morning...again.
Abdula

Mightie,
Welcome to the WB! After much consideration, I'd have to say that to me, this is the beginning of Joseph's new life(as you'll see later) so it really seems to be the best place to start given that premise. The thing is, it couldn't hurt to start earlier and it could well help to do so. What to do, what to do ...

As far as the language, that was an attempt at achieving an older world flavor. Don't get me wrong, I can be rather windy once I get started, period piece or no.
Without giving things away, the photo is important!
Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you on your next thread.
Abdula

Monserat,
I am going to institute an official ban on the word "assaulted" and all of its insidious derivatives! You know, the odd thing is that in my personal life, I'm known as the master of the parable.

I can explain virtually any principle, deep or shallow, technical, psychological or spiritual with ease, primarily through the use of colloquialism or common figure of speech (cliche').

I do not embrace the lowly cliche' but neither do I fear them! I'm just yanking your chain ...

As far as that reference to McKenna's wife, I hadn't even considered that devasted wouldn't suggest their death. Good point, and easily reparable. I will revisit.

Until next time,
Abdula

Rooster,
Brother, you were reading my mind! This is the first fiction piece that I've ever done that went hot by comments before viewings. Talk about cool beans!

Abdula
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Old 01-11-2013, 12:18 AM
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I love historical stories. Our history and yours is intertwined with ox-wagons, pioneers (Voortrekkers) exploring new landscapes and facing the dangers of savages and predators.

They were supportive to be sure, but none of the others had tasted such overwhelming sorrow and few could console him without understanding.

with?
The town offered plenty of entertainment if such was your desire, but few homesteaders dared venture into the blatant dens of iniquity for fear of spousal reprisal at the very least.

You probably don't need that.
The rooms were clean but Spartan, and the food, abundantly befitting a high plains appetite.

and the abundant food, befitting a high plains appetite.
Or you could just drop 'abundant' altogether. I would.

He sipped his cup of over brewed coffee as the evening breeze began to pick up, fanning the fire and showering him with the flotsam of decayed grass and cactus pollen.
Excellent! Very poetic. Read it aloud, it sounds beautiful.

I'm going to refrain from giving an overall comment on the storyline. This feels like the prologue - it feels like you're painting the outlines here.

Blessings!
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:21 AM
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I must admit that near the beginnig it struggled to keep my attention. For me there was to much description and not enough action. But then once i got into it i really enjoyed your style. Especially towards the end when he is making camp and finds the photo. You painted the picture of the scene brilliantly within my mind. Will read the next part shortly, looking foreward to it.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:15 AM
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Judith,
It's great to see you again in my comments section, expect a visitation in your flash "drought" piece when I return this evening.

Good call!
It's funny that you lighted on those three items. When I was writing this piece, they clicked in my mind that they needed further attention too. I believe that two of them were the subject of re-write when I did my first two edits.

I'm debating making any immediate changes since I'm considering an expansion of this story for possible publication. I'll probably re-structure entire paragraphs in the process and hopefully refine everything then. The hardest part for me is to remember all of the good advice given then apply it to my file copy and transcribe the changes on WB posts and the blog.

You are absolutely right that this is the setup (prologue) for the rest of the piece. All of the necessary elements have been established so that the story progression has a foundation.

I hope to keep you and Jigalow interested enough to return in episode 2 of 3 and see if that tactic was ultimately effective.

Seeing you soon,
Abdula


Jigalow,
I imagine many look at a western as being rife with action but somebody has to dig the outhouse!
I'd probably be a dismal failure if I was tasked with scripting a Stallone or Bruce Willis film but I'm glad that I kept your interest with written imagery.

Everything is tactical in this story, even the mundane, so don't forget that camping scene.
Sorry for the self-indulgent teaser there ...

Looking forward to your next endeavor Jigalow, I'm liking your "Jonathon" story's flavor. I think it shows great diversity.

See you here or there,
Abdula
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Old 01-14-2013, 12:00 AM
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Best to go with your instincts (Holy Spirit prompting) as you write.
I always print out the comments once a story moves off to page 2, then I highlight the suggestions I'd like to edit. But that's just me!

See ya!
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:23 AM
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Judith,
Good advice, I hadn't even thought of pasting comments/suggestions to an edit file for later scrutiny. I've got a POV revision that I HAVE to perform on my "Service" thread thanks to Emerald's keen eye that I'd best not forget too.

Thanks again,
Abdula
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