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And Then You're Gone, first 250


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#1 MikeStrayer

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Posted 29 February 2016 - 11:15 AM

Hey all,

 

Here's the first 250 of the opening. Don't know if this is relevant or not, but this chapter is a prologue and was published on its own in a literary journal; I'm posting it because there has been restructuring of the novel and I'm curious to see how it's working (in prior versions, this section occurred near the middle).

 

Change in the House of Light

 

            Monday, January 12, 2004, South Lake Tahoe, California, 7:00 a.m.:

            Fingers whisper names and torments through your hair. Your room comes to you in the morning light like a swinging door, destroying the night by its sweep. You do not remember sleeping. You remember the drive back from Mendocino in the dark, the mountain pass, the January cold. Drifts of snow on the roadsides. Highway 50 a bridge of ice in the frozen polelights. You remember getting home, embracing your mom, walking up the stairs to your bedroom. Afraid to sleep because of the dreams, guilty to sleep because of what you’d seen, what you had done and failed to do. You do not remember sleeping.

            A glacial winter morning. Your mother crouches over you. Crying. Her hand floats away. It settles on your forearm.

            Then she tells you.

            Blake I… I’m sorry. Conner didn’t make it.

            The room is full of sunshine. Hazy, blinding. Gazing at the hand on your forearm you can’t stand the feel of human touch. Swooning, the mattress dissolves beneath you. You feel as if your guts have been yanked out and spread before you, cut open, waiting to be studied. The walls explode and your mother is far away, as if at the end of a great corridor.

            Conner didn’t make it.

            Conner is dead.    


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#2 xkime

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Posted 29 February 2016 - 09:08 PM

Holllly CRAP. That was awesome! Hooked me right away, would read the book 10/10. The only thing is, I'm not fond of the use of the word your. But that's just me being a nitpicker :) Seriously. Very clean and I love the heck out of this intro. 



#3 HBDiaz

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Posted 02 March 2016 - 09:18 AM

Hey all,

 

Here's the first 250 of the opening. Don't know if this is relevant or not, but this chapter is a prologue and was published on its own in a literary journal; I'm posting it because there has been restructuring of the novel and I'm curious to see how it's working (in prior versions, this section occurred near the middle).

 

Change in the House of Light

 

            Monday, January 12, 2004, South Lake Tahoe, California, 7:00 a.m.:

            Fingers whisper names and torments through your hair. Your room comes to you in the morning light like a swinging door, destroying the night by its sweep. You do not remember sleeping. You remember the drive back from Mendocino in the dark, the mountain pass, the January cold. Drifts of snow on the roadsides. Highway 50 a bridge of ice in the frozen polelights. You remember getting home, embracing your mom, walking up the stairs to your bedroom. Afraid to sleep because of the dreams, guilty to sleep because of what you’d seen, what you had done and failed to do. You do not remember sleeping.

            A glacial winter morning. Your mother crouches over you. Crying. Her hand floats away. It settles on your forearm.

            Then she tells you.

            Blake I… I’m sorry. Conner didn’t make it.

            The room is full of sunshine. Hazy, blinding. Gazing at the hand on your forearm you can’t stand the feel of human touch. Swooning, the mattress dissolves beneath you. You feel as if your guts have been yanked out and spread before you, cut open, waiting to be studied. The walls explode and your mother is far away, as if at the end of a great corridor.

            Conner didn’t make it.

            Conner is dead.    

 

You have a talent, Mr. Mike Strayer. No doubt about it. I read this on a whim, and I didn't even have time to sit down in my chair before this sucked me in. Your imagery is solid, your assessment of emotion is accurate and relatable. The only critique I have is the sentence, "The walls explode..." That pulled me out of the story, I think because its so much more sudden than the hazy, near hypnotic rhythm you've got going on here. I can't really see the walls exploding. Maybe include a simile to bring the image home? The latter part of the sentence is excellent. This is just my hang up, feel free to disregard if I'm off base.

But, nicely done. I would read the rest of this in a heart beat (and, if it's anything like this first 250, I don't think I'd have a choice in the matter.) Onward!  



#4 MikeStrayer

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Posted 02 March 2016 - 06:22 PM

Well thank you both very much. Your words of encouragement are appreciated (if only they were edible!)


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#5 sophlisterkated

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 12:27 AM

Hey all,

 

Here's the first 250 of the opening. Don't know if this is relevant or not, but this chapter is a prologue and was published on its own in a literary journal; I'm posting it because there has been restructuring of the novel and I'm curious to see how it's working (in prior versions, this section occurred near the middle).

 

Change in the House of Light

 

            Monday, January 12, 2004, South Lake Tahoe, California, 7:00 a.m.:

            Fingers whisper names and torments through your hair. Your room comes to you in the morning light like a swinging door, destroying the night by its sweep. You do not remember sleeping. You remember the drive back from Mendocino in the dark, the mountain pass, the January cold. Drifts of snow on the roadsides. Highway 50 a bridge of ice in the frozen polelights. (needs a dash or comma or something after Highway 50) You remember getting home, embracing your mom, walking up the stairs to your bedroom. Afraid to sleep because of the dreams, guilty to sleep because of what you’d seen, what you had done and failed to do. You do not remember sleeping.

            A glacial winter morning. Your mother crouches over you. Crying. Her hand floats away. It settles on your forearm.

            Then she tells you.

            Blake I… I’m sorry. Conner didn’t make it.

            The room is full of sunshine. Hazy, blinding. Gazing at the hand on your forearm you can’t stand the feel of human touch. A comma or something after forearm. Swooning, the mattress dissolves beneath you. This technically means the mattress is swooning. You feel as if your guts have been yanked out and spread before you, cut open, waiting to be studied. The walls explode and your mother is far away, as if at the end of a great corridor.

            Conner didn’t make it.

            Conner is dead.    

 

This is AWESOME!! Love how it's beautiful and dreamy. I realize the things I commented on might have been a stylistic choice; they just distracted me for some reason.



#6 MikeStrayer

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Posted 10 March 2016 - 12:44 PM

Hey all. Just thought in the spirit of sharing I would include the subsequent passage as well, as your feedback has been so positive and believe fully that sharing is essential to the creative process (unless you're J.D. Salinger, I suppose.) Anyway it is my hope you enjoy. If you do, and you're feeling lovely, I would appreciate any help I can get on my query letter, as it has become bogged, and I believe in my work and would hate a damnable sales pitch to be my undoing.

 

            Conner didn’t make it.

            Conner is dead. 

            You see him: tan face, short black hair. Smiling. Teeth a lunette of devilish sanctimony. The vast and impatient blistering for manhood shuttered inadequately within the naïve lantern of his fourteen years.

             He’s floating in the water. Looking at the cliffs—the wide blue sky—the spattering of friends and family, watching. His face is tired, his eyes are terrified—then resigned—then opaque.

             How?

             A silly question—you were there when it happened. When the Coast Guard fished him from the sea like a dog from a swimming pool. That’s what it looked like. The tiny boat and the coast guard with his aviator shades and blue polo and khaki pants and the long pole in his hands, voided hook gleaming in the light. And Conner, gliding over the water’s surface. Caught on the hook and limp as an empty shirt or a drowned terrier.

             How?

             The water was just too cold… He was under for too long. There was nothing anybody could do. He was gone when they pulled him out. I’m so sorry.

             Ambling to the bathroom. An empty sensation in the bowels of your stomach. A rent hole. Somewhere things disappear.

             In the shower you force yourself to cry. Conner is dead and you’re alive and you don’t know what this means, exactly, but crying seems the right thing to do.


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#7 sophlisterkated

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 12:52 AM

Just from reading once, I wouldn't change a thing. Very pretty :) 



#8 Gem

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 08:42 AM

I don't know if you are still looking for feedback here, but as you gave your input on my 250 it's the least I can do. First I want to say that I was certainly intrigued and would read this book - even with the use of second person here which is usually something I avoid like the plague. Now onto the other bit:

 

Monday, January 12, 2004, South Lake Tahoe, California, 7:00 a.m.:

            Fingers whisper names and torments through your hair.This sentence threw me right away, but after reading it a few times I was able to get it and move on. Probably just a lack of awakeness here since it is early. Your room comes to you in the morning light like a swinging door, destroying the night by its sweep. I really like this sentence. It's strong. You do not remember sleeping. You remember the drive back from Mendocino in the dark, the mountain pass, the January cold. Drifts of snow on the roadsides. Highway 50 a bridge of ice in the frozen polelights. You remember getting home, embracing your mom, walking up the stairs to your bedroom. Afraid to sleep because of the dreams, guilty to sleep This phrase 'guilty to sleep' feels off. I've puzzled it for a few minutes now and can't come up with a solution but I thought I would say it anyway. maybe you can tweak it a bit if you want to? because of what you’d seen, what you had done and failed to do. You do not remember sleeping. The repetition here is interesting and somewhat jarring at the same time. I like it, as I am a fan of that kind of style, but at the same time it doesn't quite work as well as it could for some reason that I can't put my finger on.

            A glacial winter morning. Your mother crouches over you. Crying. Her hand floats away. It settles on your forearm.

            Then she tells you.

            Blake I… I’m sorry. Conner didn’t make it.

            The room is full of sunshine. Hazy, blinding. Gazing at the hand on your forearm you can’t stand the feel of human touch. Swooning, the mattress dissolves beneath you. As someone else pointed out - technically in this sentence the mattress is swooning, although to the common reader it would probably not be noticed too much. You feel as if your guts have been yanked out and spread before you, cut open, waiting to be studied. The walls explode - perhaps an addition of 'seem to' here would make it not as jarring as it is. I was really taken out of the scene when this happened, but that may well have been your purpose. - and your mother is far away, as if at the end of a great corridor.

            Conner didn’t make it.

            Conner is dead.    

 

 

 

I love the ending. Love it. Very powerful and strong last two sentences. I am by no means an expert and these are only my opinions as a reader and someone who has a little knowledge of the craft. Overall it is fantastic I think and, as I said before, I would read this book. Thank you for sharing!!

 

Gem.


“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” – Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones

 

"The first draft of anything is shit." - Ernest Hemingway


#9 VitaCoco

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 06:55 PM

This is strong. As others, I read right through after the first sentence (consider tweaking that first one). At the end of the extended version, I love how Blake has to force him or herself to cry. (S)He's trying to get everything out, to feel better or numb, but sadly, it doesn't work like that. Great job!

Here's the sentence I was talking about changing: Fingers whisper names and torments through your hair.

For the rest, the voice is there, the style, the emotions, the conflict. And none of that seems forced or dramatic just for the sake of being dramatic. Again, excellent job.

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes" (Pooh).


#10 KellyS

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 10:43 PM

How much of the novel is written in second person? I think your voice is great, but I'm finding the pov distracting. Clearly I'm in the minority on this one though. Best of luck with the whole querying process!!!!



#11 MikeStrayer

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Posted 26 May 2016 - 03:27 PM

How much of the novel is written in second person? I think your voice is great, but I'm finding the pov distracting. Clearly I'm in the minority on this one though. Best of luck with the whole querying process!!!!

 

Three chapters are written in the second person, about 25 pages in all, set at intervals at different points in the narrative. The rest is in the first person past tense. But thank you for your feedback; I don't expect my work to jive with everyone and you even managed to sneak in a compliment along with your critique. Best of luck to you as well.


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#12 VitaCoco

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 07:53 PM

I'm curious: why are the first three chapters the only ones written in second person? Since the majority of the book is written in first person, I'm sure there's a reason you decided to keep the beginning in second. You don't have to tell me, of course. I wanted to ask anyway (no harm in trying, right?).

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes" (Pooh).


#13 MikeStrayer

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 12:48 AM

Vita Vita,

 

I govern my life by your last sentence. Besides--sharing is the whole point of these forums, isn't it?

 

To answer your questions: the first chapter is written in the second person; there are then about sixty pages in the first person, and then an interlude written in the second person, followed by perhaps a hundred or so pages in the first and then a final interlude, written in the second. 

 

The chapters tell two stories respectively, detailing the events the MC considers to be his greatest failures in life (the driving forces behind most of his actions throughout the narrative). As repressed guilt and denial are major themes of the novel, these passages are meant to approximate the MC coming to terms with himself, with his actions or lack thereof, and the reality of the aftermath.  


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#14 VitaCoco

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 07:25 AM

Vita Vita,

I govern my life by your last sentence. Besides--sharing is the whole point of these forums, isn't it? [Ha! Very true, but I still didn't want to put you on the spot or anything.]

To answer your questions: the first chapter is written in the second person; there are then about sixty pages in the first person, and then an interlude written in the second person, followed by perhaps a hundred or so pages in the first and then a final interlude, written in the second. [Ah! So there's a pattern. Good!]

The chapters tell two stories respectively, detailing the events the MC considers to be his greatest failures in life (the driving forces behind most of his actions throughout the narrative). As repressed guilt and denial are major themes of the novel, these passages are meant to approximate the MC coming to terms with himself, with his actions or lack thereof, and the reality of the aftermath. [Okay, cool! The second-person chapters are like a gauge. As for the other chapters, are they falling back into the past, springing forward with the story, or both?


"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes" (Pooh).


#15 MikeStrayer

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 03:03 PM

 

Vita Vita,

I govern my life by your last sentence. Besides--sharing is the whole point of these forums, isn't it? [Ha! Very true, but I still didn't want to put you on the spot or anything.]

To answer your questions: the first chapter is written in the second person; there are then about sixty pages in the first person, and then an interlude written in the second person, followed by perhaps a hundred or so pages in the first and then a final interlude, written in the second. [Ah! So there's a pattern. Good!]

The chapters tell two stories respectively, detailing the events the MC considers to be his greatest failures in life (the driving forces behind most of his actions throughout the narrative). As repressed guilt and denial are major themes of the novel, these passages are meant to approximate the MC coming to terms with himself, with his actions or lack thereof, and the reality of the aftermath. [Okay, cool! The second-person chapters are like a gauge. As for the other chapters, are they falling back into the past, springing forward with the story, or both?

 

 

The other chapters move forward (but they are written in the past tense); they tell the story of his travels (he goes to Kolkata and volunteers at the Home for the Dying); the interludes describe the predominate catalysts, and I suppose on a technical level serve as segues as the MC journeys into different settings.


Query, Literary Fiction: And Then You're Gone: http://agentquerycon...tion/?p=317848 

 

And Then You're Gone, Literary Fiction, Opening: http://agentquerycon...t-250/?p=314811


#16 VitaCoco

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 05:06 PM

Ah, so it switches to first person and past tense; that could be great as past tense gives more room for the manipulation of time. Your book definitely sounds unique and compelling. Just as others, I wish you the best with your publishing journey.

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes" (Pooh).





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