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Author Topic: Chapter one  (Read 10426 times)
Ed
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« on: February 17, 2005, 06:50:56 PM »

I've decided to ditch my novel in progress and start again, after learning a few things that I didn't know before and realising that it wasn't worth trying to patch-up the original - better to start over.  Anyhoo, here 'tis - comments welcome afro

Chapter1

Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank-you, God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm that lay ahead.  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono browed delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton, which involved fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but would get hit with a penalty clause, which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week, if the work wasn’t done on schedule.  That’s all it would take – five working days of hold-ups would sink him; cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

When Steve first went self-employed, the idea was that he’d be earning more money for fewer hours, and he would have the occasional day off when he wanted one.  It didn’t work out like that.  Now he was earning less money than his apprentice and working more hours than ever before.

“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van?”

Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did.  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition.  Once inside the first house, Steve decided not to bother starting, “Jesus, look at the state of it!  Bricks and blocks all over the place, boards and trestles up above – it would take us at least a couple of hours to clear all this shit out.”

“Yeah, and if we spend the time doing it today, they’ll expect us to do it every time, won’t they?”

“Yup, and that ain’t gonna happen.”

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind; old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.

“Yeah, that’s it!” he dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college, “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” he listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds, “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times, “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway,” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office, “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’ll take us hours to clear it before we can make a start, so you’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack. 
Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.
He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks.  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

The ‘somewhere else’ was another headache.  Taylor Construction fell out with their regular plumbing contractor, citing the reason that he was unreliable and awkward to deal with.  Steve took over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town, a few miles from Shilton and was a generous paymaster. 

Steve climbed into the van and drove off, heading for Taylor’s offices, to pick up a cheque that would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  His heart beat fast and irregular in his chest.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm.  Waiting at some traffic lights, he spotted a little boy leaving a shop with a packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  At the urging of a car horn, he looked up to see a green light.  Snapped back to reality, he pulled away, noticing Carl had his feet up on the dashboard and seemed younger than his eighteen years.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him and, if he had any sense, would get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride; bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes, and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows and wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee, as did the man himself.  That and cow shit.  Sitting at his desk with a sour facial expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable, he sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded at Steve.

“Alright, Gary?”

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole again.

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice, well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  Come the end of the month, the merchants will need to be paid, and if I don’t get this money off you, I can’t pay.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand to stop Steve going any further, “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you, simple as that.”

“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk, “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Now write me a cheque, or you’ll be wearing this fucking desk!”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that…”

“Like fuck!  Get your fucking cheque book out, now!”

“Look, I could write you a cheque, but it would bounce.  I can’t pay you until the client pays, and the client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  You’ve got that new fucking Range Rover sat out there, and you’re telling me you can’t afford a few grand to pay me what you owe?  Fuck off!  If things are so bad, why don’t you sell that fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere.  Now, I suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret,” he puffed out a smoke ring and then exhaled more smoke through it.

“I ought to smack your fucking head in.”

“Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Steve lifted the edge of the desk and slammed it down again, he knew Taylor wasn’t kidding about having his legs broken.  It was well known that he had it done to a guy that ripped him off a few years ago, but he didn’t stop there – he waited until the guy’s legs healed, and then had them broken again, and again, until the guy ended up in a wheelchair, permenantly.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2005, 07:00:18 PM by blunt » Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2005, 07:32:07 AM »

Quick reaction for the moment.

This is a great start.  I like your mc and his apprentice.  I really want to know what happens to them.  The idiot foreman and the Mr Nasty contractor are good foils.

One tweak I noticed in passing - 'thank you' doesn't need a hyphen.

There are a few clumps where you need to 'show not tell'.  The ending at the moment feels that you just ground to a halt at that point.  Not that you need a formal cliff-hanger, but there needs to be something spelt out - say, the mc has said, 'And when I get the cheque from Taylor I'll be able to x,' with x being really important, only then Taylor refuses him.  His threat of violence not only doesn't work, it gets him a counter-threat which he knows has to be taken seriously, which you've already put.  But with x in the air, you'd be able to end with a big question, or inspiration, or suggestion from the lad, or Taylor saying, 'If you want some readies you could...'  Then we're all set with tongues hanging out for where it goes next (or if you're really sneaky, in the chapter AFTER next, because you take us off to meet some other people in Chapter Two).
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2005, 03:39:36 PM »

Quick reaction for the moment.

This is a great start.  I like your mc and his apprentice.  I really want to know what happens to them.  The idiot foreman and the Mr Nasty contractor are good foils.

One tweak I noticed in passing - 'thank you' doesn't need a hyphen.

Thanks, Joyce afro

Quote

There are a few clumps where you need to 'show not tell'.  The ending at the moment feels that you just ground to a halt at that point.  Not that you need a formal cliff-hanger, but there needs to be something spelt out - say, the mc has said, 'And when I get the cheque from Taylor I'll be able to x,' with x being really important, only then Taylor refuses him.

Which clumps do you think are over told, Joyce?  I wasn't sure how much to tell as back story, and how much people would already understand without explanation.  Thanks.

I thought I had left a cliff-hanger, but maybe it wasn't clear enough - the inference was that 'things might be alright' if Steve got a few more well paying jobs from Taylor, so they just got worse because Taylor not only isn't giving him more work - he isn't paying for what's already done, so when the merchant invoices are due at the end of the month, Steve is in big trouble, because he won't be able to pay them, and then he'll be 'on stop' and unable to get the materials he needs to carry on.

Quote
  His threat of violence not only doesn't work, it gets him a counter-threat which he knows has to be taken seriously, which you've already put.  But with x in the air, you'd be able to end with a big question, or inspiration, or suggestion from the lad, or Taylor saying, 'If you want some readies you could...'  Then we're all set with tongues hanging out for where it goes next (or if you're really sneaky, in the chapter AFTER next, because you take us off to meet some other people in Chapter Two).

Steve isn't usually a violent person, but sleep deprived and under stress, his temper gets the better of him - his mouth's working faster than his brain.  So now he's made the threat and had it countered, he's put himself in an even weaker position than he was in before.  Plus the next time they meet, he's going to be embarrassed, and will have to decide whether to try and save face, or eat humble pie, apologise, etc.

Oh, I've already got a couple of horrible characters lined up for chapter two - they're the same two that feature in my part chapter posted in this section (from the abandoned novel).  I'll post a bit of the re-write later on afro

Thanks for the crit, Joyce - I really appreciate you taking the time to read through and comment smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2005, 04:09:03 PM »

You're welcome - I'm glad it's useful.

I'll have a look at the detail of the 'show not tell' clumps and the cliff-hanger when I can over the w/e.
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2005, 07:35:02 PM »

Thanks again afro

I want to get this as good as I can, as I write it - I think it's going to be a good novel, if I can write it right.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2005, 08:50:15 AM »

I'm putting together what I'm sending back to you on this one - just having lost the lot with an incautious sweep of the mouse, this time I'm doing it in a Word document first!

Blunt, can you tell me how you do the quotes thing so that it ends up in pretty boxes?  I tried a couple of things but it didn't do it.  It won't be for this effort, but in the future!
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2005, 10:43:13 AM »

Here's the chapter, with alterations and comments in brackets and italics.  One thing I didn't alter but you might like to consider - these days, most printed material uses single quotes for speech, rather than double.  Oh, shit, the cut-and-paste hasn't picked up the italics from the Word document.  Well, sorry about that, which will make it a little more difficult to spot the alterations, but probably you'll be able to make it out by comparing.

Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank you (two separate words), God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm (doesn’t need that lay ahead).  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono-browed (I’d hyphenate that) delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton (, which involved I’d substitute a dash here) - fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  (Some changes here to tighten it a little.)  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but if the work wasn’t done on schedule, he would get hit with a penalty clause which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week. Five days of hold-ups was all it would take to sink him.  Five days would cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

(Next para is Steve thinking in the middle of the conversation, so shortened and tightened.) Steve was working longer hours than ever before, too.  That hadn’t been the idea when he first went self-employed.  He’d even dreamt of having an occasional day off.

“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van (You’re repeating ‘old’ here – how about letting him go a bit OTT, as in ‘would I be living in that ancient monument and driving this rust-bucket)?”

Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them. (and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did  You don’t need this – we’re going to see him do it.)  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition. 

(The next bit was a tell – Steve wouldn’t need to say it to Carl, as he could see it too.  But if you send Carl on, there’s a reason to spell it out.)

Carl jogged ahead into the first house, and was back on the doorstep by the time Steve had plodded half way up the slope.  ‘Bricks and blocks all over the place, and boards and trestles up above. It’d take us a couple of hours minimum to clear it all out.’

‘Yeah, and if we did it today, they’d expect us to do it every time.  They can whistle.’  (And that saves ‘it ain’t gonna happen’ for in a minute.)

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind - old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.

(Next para – the bits of speech are complete sentences in themselves, so you need capitals afterwards.) “Yeah, that’s it!” He dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college. (full stop) “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” He listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds.  (full stop) “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times. (full stop) “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway. (full stop)” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office. (full stop) “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’d (conditional, because they aren’t going to do it)  take us hours to clear it before we can make a start.  You’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  (The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack.  This bit is telling.  Steve could either say it to himself, or tell it to the foreman in the hopes of making it happen!)

Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.  He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by.  (, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks  We don’t need to know.)  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

(Now I know what you want to do with the end of the chapter, I think it just needs some changes of order and balance, and then you’ll have enough of a cliff hanger.  This is a for instance.)

The ‘somewhere else’ might dig him out of a hole.  Taylor Construction had fallen out with their regular plumbing contractor, and  Steve said he’d take over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town (no comma) a few miles from Shilton, (comma) and was a generous paymaster. 

Now he headed for Taylor’s offices.  The cheque he was due would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm. (Change of order, because he’s not trying to shake off his heart.)  His heartbeat was fast and irregular (in his chest don’t need this – it’s not going to be anywhere else).
 
(This next bit is all Steve’s POV, so I think you need sentences which sound more ‘spoken’.  Also, you had several in a row that started ‘DoING something-or-other comma’, so it’s a repetition of rhythm.)

By the traffic lights, he spotted a little boy smiling over a new packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  A car horn blared.   He looked up to see the green light.
 
Snapped back to reality, he pulled away.  Carl had his feet up on the dashboard. H didn’t look eighteen.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him.  If he had any sense, he’d get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride (; I think the semi-colon is too literary for this style, and a dash will do the job.) - bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes (no comma) and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows, (comma no and) wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office was like the man himself.  It stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee. That and cow shit.  Taylor was  at his desk with a sour (facial it can’t be anywhere except on his face) expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable. (full stop) He sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded.

“Alright, Gary?” Steve began.

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole once more (again to get rid of the repetition).

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice.  Well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  I can’t pay the merchants at the end of the month if I don’t get the  money off you.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand. (to stop Steve going any further It’s obvious.) “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you. (full stop)  Simple as that.”

“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk.  (full stop) “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Write me a cheque, or I’ll wrap this fucking desk round your neck!” He lifted the edge and slammed it down again.

(Big change of order here.  We need to know SOON that Taylor is really dangerous .) “Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Taylor wasn’t kidding.  Everyone knew what had happened to a guy that ripped him off a few years before.  When his legs healed, they got broken again, and again after that, until he ended up in a wheelchair permanently.  (Wrong spelling in the original.)  But Steve was still fired up.

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  Fuck off! ”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that… The client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“If things are so bad, why don’t you sell your fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere, little man.  Now, I very strongly suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret. (full stop)” He puffed out a smoke ring, (comma) then exhaled more smoke through it, straight into Steve’s face.
 
As Steve choked, he saw the yellow eyes, narrowed with anger.  He realized what good advice he’d just been given.  Coughing till the tears came and he could hardly see the way, he blundered out of the office.
 


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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2005, 12:58:18 PM »

I'll take a closer look at what you've done, later afro  Ta.

With the quote boxes, all you need to do is select the text you need to quote and then press the 'quote' button (second from the right on the bottom row, to the right of the button with the hash mark on it).  Alternatively, you can press the quote button instead of the reply button, and then type in [/qu-ote] after the end of the first block you want to quote (I've hyphenated to stop it working here) and then for each subsequent block you would start with [qu-ote] and end with [/qu-ote] or select text and press the button.

Italics never make the transition on any forum I've seen, which is annoying on a long paste.
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2005, 05:50:23 PM »



Still bleary-eyed from a fitful night’s sleep, Steve picked up his post and thumbed through the envelopes.  Junk mail, bill, bill, bill, more junk-mail, bill, junk, bill, bill, “Great start to the day.  Thank you (two separate words), God.”  He wandered through to the kitchen and made strong coffee then sat down to drink it.  It was so quiet at this time of the morning that he could hear his own breathing, like the proverbial lull before the storm (doesn’t need that lay ahead).  Today would be manic, like every other lately, and those he could see in the near future too, but he had to keep it together – keep a straight head and get through it, otherwise he would lose everything.

Agreed afro

Quote
By six-thirty he’d made his lunch, filled a flask, and was already driving across town to pick up his apprentice.  Carl ambled from his run down council house, lunch in a carrier bag, his wrist through the handles, twisting a cotton bud in his ear with one hand and patting-down a defiant tuft in his gingery blond hair with the other.  Steve leaned on the horn and shouted, “Come on!” which made him quicken his pace.  Flicking the cotton bud over his neighbour’s hedge, he climbed into the seat next to Steve, “Mornin!”

“Made it then?”

“How’d you mean?”

“My gran walks faster than you and she’s eighty, for Christ’s sake!”

“You’re in a good mood today then?”

“Bollocks.”

Carl Chapman was a good kid.  Descended from a very long line of complete morons, but a good kid all the same.  Steve wondered if there was a mix-up at the maternity hospital all those years ago, or whether Mrs Chapman, on seeing her own pugnacious, mewling little cabbage in its cot, had simply switched tags with somebody else’s baby.  Somewhere in the depths of rural England, there was no doubt some poor family with a cuckoo in their nest.  Perhaps all their other children grew up to be fine upstanding citizens, but there was an odd one out – a loping mono-browed (I’d hyphenate that) delinquent, named Tarquin, or something.  A knuckle dragging simpleton that spoke in clicks and grunts, was always in trouble with the law and could barely spell its own name… .

“…are you listening?” Carl broke into his thoughts.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I need a pay rise.”

“What?”

“I said…”

“Yeah, I heard, but why?  You’ve just had one.”

“My mate Simon, at college, is getting three hundred a week.”

Agreed afro

Quote
Their first job was to get some carcassing done at a housing site in Shilton (, which involved I’d substitute a dash here) - fitting all the pipe that needed to go in before the carpenters laid the floors and put the plasterboard up.  Usually it took them three days to do each house, but there was a rush on, so they were slamming it in at a rate of one house a day.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do.  (Some changes here to tighten it a little.)  With the prices as they were, Steve couldn’t afford more labour, but if the work wasn’t done on schedule, he would get hit with a penalty clause which equated to twenty thousand pounds per week. Five days of hold-ups was all it would take to sink him.  Five days would cost him his house, his credit rating and everything else he’d accrued in fifteen years of working.  To make matters worse, material costs were rising fast and the builders were slow to pay, resulting in a cash-flow crisis.  His co-habiting girlfriend’s wage was all that kept them afloat at the moment.

Yup afro

Quote
“Your mate ‘Simon at college’ is probably getting three hundred a week, before tax, which means you’re on more than him.”

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

“I can’t pay you any more money – you’re earning more than me as it is.”

(Next para is Steve thinking in the middle of the conversation, so shortened and tightened.) Steve was working longer hours than ever before, too.  That hadn’t been the idea when he first went self-employed.  He’d even dreamt of having an occasional day off.

I'm not so sure that has the same impact, but I get what you're saying smiley

Quote
“Come off it – you must be raking it in, with all the work we’re doing.  Danner said so.  He said you’re earning a thousand a week.”

Danner Taylor.  What a pain in the arse that guy was – wooden spoon award for craftsmanship, and he used it to stir-up trouble wherever and whenever he could.  The most talentless bricklayer in the history of wall making, ever, yet he would pick fault with everybody else’s work, and punch anybody who criticised his.  Boss’s son or no, Steve would put him on his arse one day; he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.

“Danner loves to stir it up, mate.  If you want, I’ll show you the books, and then you’ll see how bad things are.  Think about it.  If I was earning a thousand a week, would I be living in that run-down old house and driving this crappy old van (You’re repeating ‘old’ here – how about letting him go a bit OTT, as in ‘would I be living in that ancient monument and driving this rust-bucket)?”

I would have said that it was authentic dialogue - people don't tend to screen out word repeats as they're talking huh


Quote
Carl went quiet for a moment and seemed to come to the right conclusion, saying, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

As they turned into the site entrance, Steve could see the foreman standing in their path, waiting to ambush them. (and ask lots of stupid questions, as he always did  You don’t need this – we’re going to see him do it.)  An involuntary, “Aaw,” passed his lips as he wound down his window.

“Hello Steven, and how are we this fine morrow?”

“I’ve had three hours of fitful sleep, I ache all over, I’m stressed out, pissed off and just generally feel like shit, actually.  And you?”

“Fine, thank you for asking.  Now, what I want you to do today is…”

Where did Midbrass Homes find this jerk?  David Braddock was like a failed children’s TV presenter – larger than life, in a goofy kind of way, knew absolutely squat about building, but seemed to enjoy dressing-up as a construction worker and bossing people around.

“…so, do you think you can manage that?”

Steve suddenly realised that he hadn’t been listening, but felt safe to say, “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yes, and I nearly forgot,” Dave’s chubby hand fed an envelope through the open window, “I’ve got a correspondent for you, from head office.”

“You mean correspondence.”

“That’s what I said.  See you later,” and off he fucked.

Carl had a look of consternation on his face, “Why’d you say we’d do that?”

“Do what?”

“Clean out the houses before we start.”

“Eh?  Oh shit, did I?  Well, let’s see how bad it is first.”

They drove over rough ground, the van heaving and wallowing towards the half finished houses.  Even from fifty yards away, it was obvious they were in a pretty bad condition. 

(The next bit was a tell – Steve wouldn’t need to say it to Carl, as he could see it too.  But if you send Carl on, there’s a reason to spell it out.)

Carl jogged ahead into the first house, and was back on the doorstep by the time Steve had plodded half way up the slope.  ‘Bricks and blocks all over the place, and boards and trestles up above. It’d take us a couple of hours minimum to clear it all out.’

I'm not so sure about this - again, it's dialogue, and people state the obvious to each other all the time undecided


Quote
‘Yeah, and if we did it today, they’d expect us to do it every time.  They can whistle.’  (And that saves ‘it ain’t gonna happen’ for in a minute.)

They returned to the van and got their flasks out.  Steve read the letter that Braddock had handed him, “Grrr!  The bastards!  They’re trying to stick me with that penalty clause again, saying that we’re not keeping up with the programme of works, and demanding that we get more labour on site.  Well, they can shove it up their arse.”

At least twice a week, Midbrass Homes sent a letter of complaint, often without real grounds.  They did it to every trade.  The temptation was not to reply, but that would be disastrous in the long term.  If he didn’t refute the claim, it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

“Looks like they want at least one of us here full time.  That ain’t going to happen though, is it?” A thought entered Steve’s mind - old twinkle-toes wouldn’t know a real plumber from any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, would he?

Carl just sat, sipping his tea as Steve pondered his options.


Quote
(Next para – the bits of speech are complete sentences in themselves, so you need capitals afterwards.) “Yeah, that’s it!” He dialled a number on his mobile, and was soon talking with the plumbing lecturer at the local college. (full stop) “Got any adult trainees that need placements?  Yep, yeah, I could take two.  What are they like?” He listened to the voice of encouragement for a few seconds.  (full stop) “Yeah, right, but what are they really like?”  The phrase ‘never as long as he’s got a hole in his arse’ came up a couple of times. (full stop) “Thanks for the truth, but I’ll take them anyway. (full stop)” Steve hung-up, raising an eyebrow and nodding at Carl.  By the end of the week they would at least have two adults ‘helping’ them.

On their way out of the site, Steve resisted the urge to flee, and called into the office. (full stop) “Dave, there’s too much rubble in the house – it’d (conditional, because they aren’t going to do it)  take us hours to clear it before we can make a start.  You’re going to have to get a labourer in there.”

Yup, I'll take your word for that - I've never been sure of how to punctuate passages with dialogue in them scratch

Quote
“They’re called general building operatics, now, not labourers, Steven.”

“Operatives.”

“Sorry?”

“They’re called general building ‘operatives’, but they’re still labourers, as much as sanitation engineers are still dustmen, and domestic engineers are still housewives.  Anyway, glad you understand.  Now we’re going to bugger off someplace else.”

“No, you can’t do that…”

“Yes, we can, and we will.  The houses aren’t ready to start, we’re already pushed for time, and it’s up to you or the bricklayers to clean up their mess, not us!”

“But…”

“But bollocks – we’ll see you next week!”  As Steve left the office, he glanced back to see the foreman stamp his foot and shake like a toddler that had been refused a chocolate biscuit, his fat face wobbling, purple with stress, and sweating profusely.  (The guy would have to learn to chill out, or face an early heart attack.  This bit is telling.  Steve could either say it to himself, or tell it to the foreman in the hopes of making it happen!)

That was meant to be Steve's thought entering the narrative, but it might be better spoken - later in the book, we realise that Steve is the one who needs to learn to 'chill out', but he can't recognise the warning signs in himself.

Quote
Outside on the steel steps, Steve could see right across the site.  Two new gangs of bricklayers had started and were making the most of the dry spell, slamming down thousands of bricks a day between them.  There were perhaps twenty houses, all at the same stage of construction, which meant they’d all be ready for first fix at the same time and, worse still, second fix, not long after.  He clanged down the steps and walked to his van as a forklift truck hammered by.  (, on its way to unload another delivery of bricks  We don’t need to know.)  Trying not to breathe the fog of dust in its wake, he stared up at the sky, squinting at the sun, willing it to cloud over and piss down the incessant rain normally characteristic of an English summer.

Agreed afro


Quote
(Now I know what you want to do with the end of the chapter, I think it just needs some changes of order and balance, and then you’ll have enough of a cliff hanger.  This is a for instance.)

The ‘somewhere else’ might dig him out of a hole.  Taylor Construction had fallen out with their regular plumbing contractor, and  Steve said he’d take over what was left to do.  Gary Taylor owned a big chunk of Tolminster, a small market town (no comma) a few miles from Shilton, (comma) and was a generous paymaster. 

Now he headed for Taylor’s offices.  The cheque he was due would pay this month’s merchant invoices.  If he could do few more well paying jobs for Gary, things might be alright.  As he drove, deep in contemplation, a feeling of isolation enveloped him like a cloying second skin.  He tried to shake it off, telling himself not to be so stupid, but it stuck firm. (Change of order, because he’s not trying to shake off his heart.)  His heartbeat was fast and irregular (in his chest don’t need this – it’s not going to be anywhere else).

Agreed afro
 

Quote
(This next bit is all Steve’s POV, so I think you need sentences which sound more ‘spoken’.  Also, you had several in a row that started ‘DoING something-or-other comma’, so it’s a repetition of rhythm.)

 whoah repetition of rhythm?  Never heard of that one - more to worry about Cheesy


Quote
By the traffic lights, he spotted a little boy smiling over a new packet of sweets, and Steve found himself trying to remember how long it had been since he last felt happy.  A car horn blared.   He looked up to see the green light.
 
Snapped back to reality, he pulled away.  Carl had his feet up on the dashboard. H didn’t look eighteen.  The kid had his whole life ahead of him.  If he had any sense, he’d get out of this game and find a better job.  Not just yet, though, for Christ’s sake.

At Taylor’s yard, they pulled up alongside Gary’s new high-specification Range Rover.  Fifty or sixty grand’s worth of car, but inside it looked like a farmer’s ride (; I think the semi-colon is too literary for this style, and a dash will do the job.) - bales of hay in the back, muddy old Barber jacket on the front seat, burn holes (no comma) and dust and dirt all over the upholstery.  Unbelievable.  And the outside was worse – dents and scratches, tufts of grass sticking out from the bumpers, caked in shit and dirt from where he reportedly wove his drunken way back from the pub every night, down through the lanes, bouncing off the hedgerows, (comma no and) wending his way home, like an oval ball thrown down a skittle alley.

I've always been a bit wary of using too many dashes, because it's listed as a punctuation 'over-used by novice writers' Sad


Quote
“Is he in?” Steve asked as he passed the receptionist.

“Yeah.”

Gary’s office was like the man himself.  It stank of putrid cigar smoke and stale coffee. That and cow shit.  Taylor was  at his desk with a sour (facial it can’t be anywhere except on his face) expression and yellow eyes, the personification of the worst hangover imaginable. (full stop) He sucked at the end of a fat cigar, smacking his wet lips and swallowing noisily.  He nodded.

“Alright, Gary?” Steve began.

He nodded again and uttered a phlegm-filled, “Yeah,” before plugging his smoking hole once more (again to get rid of the repetition).

“I just came in to pick up a cheque for my last invoice.  Well, the last two, actually.”

“The work’s not finished.”

“Yeah, I know, but when we first started you said we could have stage payments, and I’ve only billed for what I’ve done.  I can’t pay the merchants at the end of the month if I don’t get the  money off you.”

“Finish the work, and I’ll pay you.”

“I can’t get any more materials to finish the work if you don’t pay me.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Like I said, finish the work and I’ll pay you…”

“But…”

Gary lifted his hand. (to stop Steve going any further It’s obvious.) “I can’t get any more money from the clients until the job’s wrapped up – they’re holding money on me, I’m holding money on you. (full stop)  Simple as that.”

Agreed afro  Why didn't I spot that? scratch


Quote
“Well just give me an advance on what you owe me, just a few thousand, so that I can keep going.”

“No, not a penny until you’re done.”

Steve gripped the edge of the desk, feeling a lightness in his head that he knew meant he was about to go berserk.  (full stop) “Listen, fucko!  That wasn’t the deal!  Write me a cheque, or I’ll wrap this fucking desk round your neck!” He lifted the edge and slammed it down again.

(Big change of order here.  We need to know SOON that Taylor is really dangerous .) “Well if you decide to try,” his voice deepened, “you’d better make sure you do a good job of it first time round, otherwise I’ll have your fucking legs broken.  Now fuck off, before you get yourself into trouble, boy.”

Not sure about this, but I'll look at it some more smiley



Quote
Taylor wasn’t kidding.  Everyone knew what had happened to a guy that ripped him off a few years before.  When his legs healed, they got broken again, and again after that, until he ended up in a wheelchair permanently.  (Wrong spelling in the original.)  But Steve was still fired up.

“What kind of fucking outfit are you running anyway?  You must be taking the piss!  Fuck off! ”

“Hey…hey…calm down, there’s no need to get like that… The client won’t pay until the work’s finished.”

“If things are so bad, why don’t you sell your fucking car and use it to pay what you owe?”

“This is getting us nowhere, little man.  Now, I very strongly suggest that you go away and have a think, before you say something you might regret. (full stop)” He puffed out a smoke ring, (comma) then exhaled more smoke through it, straight into Steve’s face.
 
As Steve choked, he saw the yellow eyes, narrowed with anger.  He realized what good advice he’d just been given.  Coughing till the tears came and he could hardly see the way, he blundered out of the office.
 

Thanks for the detailed crit, Joyce - I need to tighten up quite a few things.  I thought I was writing fairly tight as well undecided  Must keep a closer eye on what I'm doing smiley
« Last Edit: February 19, 2005, 05:52:25 PM by blunt » Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2005, 07:08:40 PM »

If it's any consolation, we ALL think we're 'writing tight', and there's ALWAYS stuff to take out and move round.   Sad I think one of the most important things I've learnt about writing is not to expect the first draft to be 'it'.  Or the second.  Or the third.  Or the... (One of the other most important things is that you have to let go of it sometime!  smiley )

Re: your remarks about authentic dialogue.  Of course in real life, people repeat themselves and state the obvious all the time, but writing IS NOT real life.  The trick is to make it enough like real life that people are fooled into relaxing and believing it.  But it's ART.  Written dialogue is real life with the boring bits taken out.  It's real life improved, condensed, and sharpened up.  People would love to believe their real-life speech to be as clever as written dialogue.  If you ever try the experiment of transcribing a tape-recording of real conversation, you'll see how awful it is, and you'd never want to write anything like it.  (When I was studying play-writing, someone once made us do this, and then try to read out the 'script'.  It was practically impossible.)

You can trust me on the punctuation.

'Repetition of rhythm' is only me describing something - it's not some rule.  What I mean is that if you get any pattern of words happening several times in quick succession, it makes the passage heavy, and distracts the reader from what you're trying to tell them.  (e.g. 'Hearing the door open, she looked round.  Seeing her husband enter, she stood up.  Moving to meet him, she tripped over.  Falling to the ground, she cried out.  Hurrying to help her, he twisted his ankle.'  And so on, or preferably, not!)

Well, I've never heard the one about a dash being the sign of a novice before.  Quite honestly, I think putting semi-colons and colons in non-literary fiction is more of a give-away.  The important thing is not to have a relaxed reader interrupting themself, wondering what something means.  I remember being mortified when someone criticized an early piece of newspaper writing of mine by saying, 'You've written this like a school essay, as if you were going to get a tick for every rule you kept,' because he was RIGHT, damn it.

I do hope you don't think that any of this is a 'thou shalt'.  It's a reaction, the same as I would have to something of mine that I'd put away in a drawer three weeks ago and was having another look at.  That's the best thing that you can do with it now, too.   cheers grin





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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2005, 05:36:29 PM »

This all reads as very plausible advice, Joyce afro  Thanks - I appreciate it. 
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2005, 04:42:46 PM »

Fancy a bit of chapter two? huh

***

Five miles away, in Romley, Milton and Mervin Hargreaves, ostensibly painters, were busy searching an old lady’s bedroom for valuables.

“These old people are fucking stupid, ain’t they?” Milton marvelled at the stash of cash under the mattress, “Why the fuck don’t they put their money in banks?  I mean, it’s not like we’re in the fuckin Wild West now, is it, where the town bank gets robbed and everybody’s money’s gone for good.”

“Just as well nick it now, ain’t we bruv?  Save us the journey later and all.”

“Yeah, good idea, dumb-fuck!  They’d never figure out who nicked it then, would they?”

“S’pose…”

“Look, leave the finking to me, right?  You just ain’t got the wiring for it, know what I mean?”

“Don’t start on me again, Bruv, I dunno, do I?”

“Nope, you’re right there.” Milt replaced the mattress and put the bedclothes back how they were, “You should know the drill by now though, Merv, for fuck’s sake.”

They would leave it a month or so, and then come back while the old girl was out bowling, like she always was - one ‘til four, every Monday afternoon.  Make a show of breaking-in, rough the place up a bit, empty a few drawers, make it look like they were searching for stuff, and then sweep through to where they knew the cash was.  Having been there, off and on, for a couple of weeks now, Milton knew that when they came back, the rest of the cul-de-sac’s occupants would either be at work, or be out with the old dear, bowling.  Perfect.

“Would you boys like another cup of tea?” An elderly female voice enquired from the bottom of the stairs.

“Uh, yeah!” Merv added a ‘please’ after being jabbed in the ribs.

“Yes please, Mrs Fielding, we’ll be right down.” Milt scowled at his brother, “She’s got to fink we’re ‘nice boys’, remember?”

They wandered downstairs and sat at the kitchen table.  The old dear put a plate full of fresh cream cakes and chocolate biscuits out for them.  “My son brought them round,” she smiled, “and I couldn’t eat them all myself now, could I?  Got to watch my figure, you know.”

Why the fuck would she have to watch her figure, Milt thought to himself as he smiled back, it’s not as if anybody’s going to want to shag her, is it?  Any old bloke that still found it attractive probably wouldn’t be up to the task anyway.

“Dig-in then boys, it’s not like you’ve got to stand on ceremony in front of me.”

Milt was imagining her naked, with all that wrinkled skin hanging everywhere, probably loads of veins showing too.  His smile curdled. 
Her eyes were shining; probably enjoyed the company, Mrs Fielding didn’t seem to get many visitors. 

“Do you like my flowers?” She beamed, caressing the petals of the display on her kitchen windowsill, “Michael gave me them, too.” 

Good old fucking Michael.  I bet he’s a swotty little greasy bastard, “Very nice, Mrs Fielding, he takes good care of you, doesn’t he?”

“Oh yes, but I wish he’d pop in a bit more often.  He’s very busy though, you know, he works very hard, a little too hard really.”

Yeah, me too, thought Milton, “Oh yes?  What does he do then?”   

“Oh, he’s very clever, he’s an accountant in town.  He’s very important.”

Yeah, swotty little greasy bastard then, I was right, “Oh, good for him, Mrs Fielding.”

Milt saw that his brother bore his simpleton look, like a baby grinning at a bunch of shiny jangling keys, and he wanted to twat him one, for being so stupid.  Whatever was going on in his amoebic brain was always plastered all over his face.  Sometimes he even mouthed the words the old dear was saying, as she said them, he was so wrapped up in her personality that it masked his own.  He often looked the same as this when he watched cartoons.

“Mervin, have you put the brushes in the thinners?”  His brother’s expression went from one of glee and flowers to plain vacant again, “We wouldn’t want the brushes getting hard now, would we?”

“Oh, let the boy eat his cakes,” Mrs Fielding interfered, “I’m sure the brushes will be fine for a few minutes.”  She patted Mervin on the shoulder, and he looked up at her like an appreciative dog, grinning from ear to ear, probably thinking the old dear had put one over on Milt.  A look from Milton wiped the smile off his face and set him straight again.  He put his cake down and left the room.

Mrs Fielding’s smile faded, and she stared at the half eaten cake on Mervin’s plate, probably unsure whether to clear it away or not. 

Milt said, “We’ve nearly finished your spare bedroom now – should be done and dusted in the next few minutes.”

“Oh right, I’ll pop up and have a look when I’ve washed up these plates.”  Her voice had lost its gleeful tone, and Milt couldn’t decide whether it was because she was annoyed at him, or because she would be back to being lonely when they went.  Not that it mattered, either way.

“Now, about the bill – it comes to seven hundred and fifty-six pounds.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, it’s a bit more than I thought it would be, but we ended up stripping all that old wallpaper, and there was a lot of filling to do and stuff, you know – time’s money and all that.”

“But it was only meant to be two hundred and fifty pounds, to begin with.”  Her eyes darted around, and her voice turned into a whine, “I’m only a pensioner, you know.  I can’t afford all that.  I wouldn’t have had it done if I knew it would cost that much.”

“Well, we’ve done the work now, and you’ll have to pay, Mrs Fielding – we’ve got to live too.”

Mrs Fielding blinked back tears and reached into her handbag, taking out a chequebook and pen.

“Ah,” said Milton, “If you’re going to write a cheque, I’ll have to add on twenty percent for tax and handling charges.  That was the cash price.”

“But I don’t keep any cash in the house,” her bottom lip quivered, “I don’t know what to do.”  She covered her eyes with her hand and sobbed.

Milt finished his cup of tea, “I’ll go and clear our stuff away, and I’ll be back.”  After taking another cake from the tray, he went upstairs.  “Can you believe the old bag tried the pensioner routine?” 

Merv said nothing - raising his head in acknowledgement before going back to his cleaning duties.

“What’s up with you now?”

“Nothin….”
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2005, 08:10:41 AM »

Quick note to let you know I've seen that this is here - I'm not ignoring it, but I'm editing a story which ought to arrive somewhere by midnight, so I won't get round to commenting on this today.  smiley
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« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2006, 08:00:34 PM »

Blunt,
I enjoyed the chapter. You have a way of weaving words and a great flair for description. I especially enjoy your dry wit.
One question: Is this a gothic/horror novel? Is Steve going to turn into some psycho killer? That's the impression I was getting. Am I close?

Lanie

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« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2006, 08:16:11 PM »

Glad you liked it.  Thanks for reading, Lanie smiley  It's not a horror novel persay - it gets very dark, murderous and claustraphobic later, though.  Milton is the one who has the psychotic break, not Steve.  Steve gets caught up and swept along, like a helpless pawn in somebody else's game.  Life's a bit like that, really, isn't it? smiley
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« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2006, 11:37:23 PM »

Yes, Blunt, I do agree.

This woman, Joyce, who has critiqued your work, is she a professional writer/reviewer? She gave you advice without sounding overly critical of your work. It was very well done.

There are some people who THINK they're give you constructive criticism, when, in fact, it's DEstructive. I found some to be so petty and picky, trying to come off so professional, when they're advice, alone is written like crap with mispelling and grammatical errors up the wazoo! Do you know what I mean?

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« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2006, 04:04:26 AM »

Yes, I know what you mean - I just hope I'm not guilty of the same.

Joyce is a school teacher, so she knows her way around the English language, and she knows how to be supportive and encouraging, while still getting her point across, which is a skill in itself smiley

My writing has moved on a long way since this was first posted, so it's probably not an accurate representation of my ability now.  Something I've come to understand, though, that some writing site nazis seem to overlook, is that there are different levels of readership ability, so any advice given should take that into consideration (the target market the author is aiming for). afro
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« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2006, 07:25:46 PM »

You may have mentioned it, but my shriveled brain can't remember: is this your first novel? If it is, hats off to you, you have a natural talent for it.
I, for one, don't believe that writing can be taught, only guided. You have to have the gift to begin with.

You're right. A lot of people, reading the chapters, don't take into consideration the style and genre. If you're reading a book that isn't your preference, it's going to be harder to enjoy or understand.  I try and stay away from the genres that aren't my cup of tea (which is Earl Grey, by the way! smiley).

Keep at it, Blunt, you've got great potential!

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« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2006, 07:37:19 PM »

Thanks, Lanie - nice of you to say so.  It wasn't my first attempt, TBH.  My first one was a kind of post cold war specfic thing that I wrote by hand (before I could type at a half decent speed) at a rate of about 4 hours a night for God knows how long.  It was the first thing I'd ever tried to write and it showed, but it was a good learning experience.

There's another part of this one on the forum, here - it's a darker piece, in case you fancy it. smiley
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« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2006, 08:13:09 PM »

I had a quick look around for it, but I couldn't find it, so I found it on my comp and I'm posting it here -

Milton was up in Bristol, making one of his late night weekly drug runs, looking to pick up two kilos of weed, a nine-bar of solid, maybe a few grams of coke for himself, and the twenty grams of brown that his brother would earn for selling the rest.  Parking up outside the George and Dragon, he took a wad of cash from the glove compartment and stuffed it into his pocket, then slapped Merv. 

“Get out of the car you dozy twat!”

“Alright, alright.”

Inside the pub, he was to meet Dengy; a white guy with dreads, who looked like a black and white negative of a Rastafarian.  Dengy moved around a lot, slipping between traveller’s camps and squats, never meeting anybody in the same place twice.  Nobody knew his real name, nobody knew anything much about him, other than the obvious, and nobody even really knew what he looked like underneath all that hair.

The music was loud Jamaican Dancehall as they pushed through the wood and stained-glass doors, the scent of marijuana hung in the smog and the place was packed out, lit only by the bar lights and those of the DJ. 
Milton was agitated, having snorted a few lines of powder earlier.

“Why the fuck are we meeting him here?  Can’t hear yourself fucking fink!”

“What?”

“Oh fuck off.”

They worked through the place, being jostled by revellers and having drinks spilled on them, searching for the table where Dengy would be waiting, probably in a corner; the guy hated sitting with his back to anyone.
The DJ dropped the volume of the music to announce a new track by one of his mates, and at about the same time, a skinny Jamaican bloke bumped into Merv, who lost his temper.

“Look out, you fuckin monkey!”

“What you say, bloodclaat?  You must be waan dumb motherfucker.”

“You heard me, you dozy fuckin nigger!”

Within a couple of seconds the music stopped, and so did any conversations that were going on.  Milt’s mouth dropped open as his eyes stared heavenward, in utter disbelief of what his brother had just got them into.  He groaned an almost silent sob in anticipation of the beating that was about to ensue. 

Back home, with everybody knowing his brother’s ‘small town psycho’ reputation, Merv would have probably got away with making the racist remark.  But here, in St Pauls, he was about to get his attitude adjusted.  Still feeling invincible, he threw the first punch, which landed square on the Jamaican’s nose. 
Autonomic sibling protection mode kicked-in, somewhere in Milt’s head, shortly before his head was being kicked-in by the majority of the pub’s occupants.  Beaten by a hail of punches and kicks, both brothers disappeared, buried in a mass of irate revellers, forming like living crop circles around the pair. 
Scrabbling around, hunched over, still being kicked and stamped on, and his body being assailed from all directions, Milton’s hand found an empty bottle.  He smashed it on the floor, then lunged and swung it at any flesh within striking distance. 
Some of the crowd backed off a little, blood slicked the floor and sprayed through the air, but the blows still came through between the mass of blood soaked heads.  Lashing out again, he caught a man in the throat, the jagged glass sliced through an artery.  Bright and fresh from the heart, the blood spurted high into the air, before the guy sank to the floor clutching his neck.  He glassed two or three more in the face, slashing the skin into ragged flaps as wails of horror rang through the pub, and women screamed. 

Grabbing a female hostage, Milt held the shattered glass to her throat and demanded car keys from her boyfriend, who quickly handed them over.

“Which car is it?  C’mon you fucking monkey, which car?”

“It’s the black BMW, you fucking arsehole.  And I’m telling you now man, I’m gonna fuckin kill you.  You is fuckin dead!”

“If anybody follows, I’ll cut her fucking throat.  Got it?”

Their resolve diminished by the hostage taking, the crowds backed away, leaving a channel for the two men and the girl to escape by.

Outside on the street, Milton, with his face and body thrashed to a throbbing mass of cuts and bruises, moved towards the car, holding the broken bottle up, taunting the mob to come and get him. Red from head to foot, he yelled at his brother to get the car started.  Merv, limping, unable to stand or walk straight, and with one eye swollen shut, shouted for Milt to give him the keys, then got the car going, wheel-spinning away as soon as his brother dropped into the back seat with the girl.  Fifty yards up the road, fed up with her hysterical wailing, Milt punched her unconscious.

They’d gone about a mile before he ordered his brother to stop the car.  They pulled down a quiet side street.  He swung open the back door, scrambled out and wrestled Merv from his seat and onto the pavement.  Holding him with one hand by his collar, and with every syllable backed up by punch to the head, Merv read his brother the riot act.

“What…the…fuck…were…you…thin…king…you…fuck…ing…arse…hole?”

“I’m sorry bruv,” he spat out a molar, red spittle drooling from his mouth, “please bruv, don’t hit me no more.”

“You fucking tosser!  We were the only fuckin white people in there, for fucksake!” Milt threw him against a house wall, “You know we’ve got to fucking go back there now, don’t ya?” he circled with fists clenched, drying blood caked in his hair and all over his face and hands.  “My fucking car’s down there, innit?  You dumb fuck!”

“We’ll get it tomorrow, it’ll be alright.”

Milton raised his arm, jabbing the air by Merv’s face, barely stopping himself from striking again.

“Give it ten minutes and the old bill will be swarming all over that fucking place, and they’ll find it.  And I ain’t about to let them fucking coons get away with that shit neither.  I’ll fuckin ave em.”

“Milt, for fucksake bruv, it ain’t fuckin worth it.”

“Get the fuckin boot open!  What’s in there?”

Merv got the keys, opened the boot and rummaged around inside.

“A car jack, petrol can, few tools, some clothes an stuff, nuffink.”

“Go up and down the road, see if you can find us an automatic, an fuckin urry up!”

He did as he was told, limping up the street, peering in car windows, until he found an old Ford Granada, its gold paintwork gouted out with rust holes, but it was an auto.  On his way back, about to give Milt the good news, he saw him wielding a claw hammer, lifting it up and thrashing it down onto something in the boot of the BMW, again and again, in a frenzy of rage.  Whatever it was, there wouldn’t be much left of it.

“Oh bruv,” Mervin burst into tears, “oh bruv, what’ve you done, what’ve you done?  Oh my fuckin god!” he vomited on the pavement.  Gasping for breath, he panted, “I don’t want nuffink to do wiv this, look what you’ve done.”  He bent double and puked again.

The girl’s head was gone, replaced by flaps of skin, hair and skull fragments.  Pieces of brain littered the floor of the boot, an eyeball stared from a shattered socket, and blood was spattered everywhere.  It stank too; a sweet and sickly stench.  He wretched and gagged, his stomach empty, but still he was reaching for the bile.

“Dry up, you fucking nonce.”  Milt’s voice was calmer now that he’d vented his anger, and he was swallowing hard, revolted by the sudden realisation of what he’d done.  As he’d rained down blows, his vision was blurred with movement and frenzy, but now that he’d stopped, he could see the full extent of the carnage.  Now he was afraid, just wanting to get away. 

A car sped past the road end, full of Rastas.  Baseball bats, and what could have been shotguns, stuck up in the air and out of the open windows. 
It didn’t look like they’d been spotted, but there was likely to be more out searching for them.  Milt quickly dowsed the car and the corpse with petrol, then lit a matchbook and tossed it in.  The car was immediately engulfed in flames, the heat and soot gradually wiping out any trace of fingerprints and DNA evidence.  Tucking the hammer handle and a long flat-bladed screwdriver down behind his belt, Milton grabbed his brother and rushed him along the pavement before they could be spotted by any householders coming out to investigate the fire.

“That’s the auto, bruv!” Merv shouted as they passed it.

“Forget about that now.”

The plan had been to get an automatic so that the throttle could be propped full on, then the shift knocked into ‘drive’ from outside the car; the idea being that it could have been aimed at the pub, with a hole in the fuel tank and a Molotov smashed on the boot as it sped away.  But he realised it was too late to be going back, and the murder he’d just committed meant they had to get as far away as possible, and quickly.  Besides, he’s even freaked himself out by what he’d done, and revenge for the beating they’d received wasn’t on his mind anymore.

They ran for a couple of streets, then Milt used the blood soaked hammer and the screwdriver to punch out the lock on an old Peugeot 205, once inside he opened the passenger door for his brother.

“Gimme a hand with this then!”

They both gripped the steering wheel and yanked it hard until they heard the steering lock snap.  He beat the screwdriver into the ignition, tugged it downwards until the alloy gave, then twisted the screwdriver in the slot of the plastic switch behind.  The car started.  In the distance they could hear police and ambulance sirens, and a blue light flashed briefly across the end of the road.

“Get in the back and lie down!”

They pulled away slowly and, keeping to the speed limits, Milt drove towards the a trading estate with the sun visors down and his right hand up to the side of his face, just in case any surveillance cameras lined the route. 
In a dark corner of a car park, tucked back in the shadows from the warehouses, Milt stopped the car and popped the bonnet open.  Carefully checking again for cameras, he got out and stripped off his bloodstained sweatshirt.  The T-shirt beneath wasn’t too bad at the back, but the front was pretty well drenched.  Finding a relatively clean patch on the sweatshirt, he tore it out, dunked it in the windscreen wiper bottle and set about washing the caked blood from his face, neck and hair.  With what water was left, he wiped down his chest, goosebumps sprung up all over his naked flesh as a bitterly cold wind swept between the buildings.  Wringing the pinky brown liquid out of the cloth every so often, he tried his best to dry himself.  Finally, he put his T-shirt on back to front, put the bonnet down and got back into the car, relieved to be out of the cold.  In the back foot well, his brother was still sobbing like a schoolchild. 

“Dry up Mervin, for fucksake!  It’s done now, and there’s no point crying about it, so just shut up, cos your pissing me off now.  Alright?”

Within ten minutes or so, Merv had fallen asleep, fatigued from the prolonged adrenaline rush and concussed from the beatings. 
It took about an hour and a half of incident-free driving to get home.  They put the 205 in one of Milt’s safe lockups, to cool off overnight.  Full of incriminating evidence, and stolen from a place very near to the scene of the murder, it wasn’t a smart thing to do, but Milt needed to rest.  Once in the house, they crashed out in the lounge and slept where they fell, the chinking of milk bottles outside signalling the hour.
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« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2006, 11:16:38 PM »

While it's written well, I personally don't like so much foul language, but I understand it's part of who the characters are.

Sorry, I didn't enjoy it as much as the last one, but remember, that's just because it isn't my style, not because there are any flaws.

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« Reply #21 on: June 29, 2006, 03:36:46 AM »

Yep - it's a first draft and the language will be toned down in the second.  It doesn't always pay to be too accurate in character details.  Thanks for reading smiley

(This was written a few years ago, too.  I think I'm writing much tighter now. afro )
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« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2006, 11:16:35 AM »

Hah, this is the first time I've looked through your novel first chaps, Ed. Exciting stuff - excellent characterisation. Joyce did a terrific job on ch 1, didn't she? To be frank, it would need tightening more after her edits if you intend to submit it to a hardnose publisher. One thing that struck me - and so most publishers' editors - is your first word. Most contemporary authors avoid 'modifiers' like they do cliches and yet you start your novel with one! Hilarious. Still, you have time to expunge your stills I suppose? My advice is to delete such modifiers or 'stutter words' as Neil Marr calls them, and see if it works better or worse without them. You had cliches too. I know people speak with many cliches, repetitions and lazily, but an author cannot have his/her characters being too realistic. Most conversations are reeeeeeaaally dull.

Second chap is mucho better. I bet if you wrote it today it would be tighter still. Eighteen months is very long time in the learning curve of writing. smiley

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« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2006, 12:41:31 PM »

Glad to see you're still working on the novel, Blunt. You're right about Joyce, she's pretty handy with the english language. I hope she comes back sometime soon.
Speaking of chapters, for about the third time, this year alone, the links to NAY are dead. I can't find the forums and I've just had it. I've played catch-up with Debs for far too long and I'm done trying. I'm still writing the book-- chapter 14 now-- but I guess, as far as the challenge goes, it wasn't meant to be. I'll never understand why her sites open and close with such frequency. It's a little wierd. 
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« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2006, 02:30:57 PM »

 afro  Glad you got a laugh out of it, Geoff (even though it's not the desired effect grin ).  I'm of the school of thought that says use everything in moderation - adverbs and other modifiers included.  I suppose it's part of the way I speak and the way I write.  It's my 'voice'.  Not a good opening line, though, for sure.  Plenty of time for editing later, eh? smiley

Walker - yep, I've never understood why Debs opens and closes sites with such awesome regularity, and yet she still manages to fill the places with active users scratch  How?  Personally, I think she got bored with NAY and wanted people to drop out before the end.  Maybe she had trouble with her readers?  Who knows.  It is bizarre, though.

I hope Joyce comes back sometime, too - the place isn't quite the same without her around.  It's strange that both her and Gerald disappeared without a word.  Can't help wondering if something pissed them off scratch
« Last Edit: June 29, 2006, 03:05:18 PM by blunt » Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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