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Feedback Request

REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK

Hi there,

Attached is the beginning of a novel, a bit of a farce I play with from time to time. It's set on the Gold Coast of Connecticut. The protagonist, married to a financial bigshot and living the 'good life', is at odds with the effort to 'keep up' and yearns for a simpler life.

I'd like to know your reactions. I apologize for the formatting. i could not link it as a pdf. Thanks for reading!

Connie


ROLLING HOME

Chapter One

    “Pink flamingo on your side! Minus twenty-five points!” 

    As Jessica watched the workmen on the lawn below position Adam’s’s latest purchase into place, memories of the childhood car game came flooding back. She had been around ten on that long ago trip, sitting behind her mother in their Oldsmobile station wagon, as her father spelled out the rules. 

    “Jess, you watch the right side of the road, I’ll take the left,” her father stated as they traveled from Tennessee to Kentucky on narrow back roads. “If you see a yard ornament on your side of the road, you get points: twenty for a wishing well, five for a whirly-gig; a burro and a wagon is fifteen; a bathtub madonna, twenty. But, and you have to be honest, if you get a pink flamingo on your side, you lose twenty-five points.” 

    It had been a rare occasion that day because she had won out over his eagle eyes. What value would he have assigned to Adam’s new decoration? 

    “A thousand friggin’ points!” she muttered. 

    She leant against the limestone balustrade surrounding the raised veranda on which she stood overlooking Long Island Sound. The sun-soaked fieldstone floor radiated warmth from the June sun, and she shed her sandals to allow her manicured feet their freedom. It was a balmy day with gentle salt tinged breezes and the occasional annoyance of a weed trimmer. In the harbor, sailboats, large and small, were anchored for summer residence. A few were already gadding about, ferrying their passengers to islands offshore, sandy beaches, and fashionable restaurants where one could tie up and dine dockside. Enjoying the long awaited summer air on her bare arms, she pushed her chestnut hair away from her eyes and turned her face upward to catch the morning rays. What a glorious day to be outside! Her reverie was interrupted by a harsh grinding noise, and she returned her gaze to the goings on below. 

    Stretching to the seawall, from the diligently maintained boxwood hedges surrounding the terrace, was a carpet of golf club worthy grass. An expansive curving dock elongated the view across the water and to the horizon. In the midst of this putting green perfect lawn, on a berm of freshly compacted sod, a burly delivery man was supervising the unloading of three enormous antique stone orbs. Purchased by her husband, at considerable expense, from a respected London dealer of ornamental garden decor, they had just been delivered. Also at considerable expense. The men below had put two in place on custom steel supports and were lowering the third onto a similar mount. ‘Bespoke’, Adam had called the stands made to elevate his acquisitions; a more aristocratic term, evidently, than ‘custom made’. Adam and his baubles was how she viewed them, them being the costly items he had a penchant for buying. The estate was a showplace. 

    More like a showing off place. 

    And Adam was showing off right then. He was yelling, and pointing frantically, at the lift operator. 

    “Careful! They have to be perfectly positioned! You’re too far to the left!”
Jessica watched the workman shift gears and swing the giant ball to the right.
   “Too far!” Adam yelled. “Watch what you’re doing!” He was getting shrimp faced; red as a prawn thrown into boiling water. Impatience, undiluted: that was Adam. It would be futile for her to interfere. From past experience, it was best to let him do things his way. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes not.

    The hoist swung slightly back to the left, and the operator began to lower the huge ball.                             “Looking good, looking good,” Adam shouted.
   From her view, above the action, it wasn’t looking so good. In fact, it seemed somewhat off its mark, and she yelled at her husband. He shook his head at her and waved his hand past his ear as if to say he couldn’t hear her.

    Or he doesn’t want to hear me. 

    “Let her drop!” Adam yelled.
The operator released the orb onto the steel stand and backed away.
     Great. We now have, on ‘bespoke’ tees, three giant gray golf balls in our yard.

   She shook her head at the huge ornaments. Their mass was better suited for a craggy castle in Scotland than a pseudo chateau on the Connecticut shore. As if aware of her contempt, the stand, on which the last and largest orb sat, began to sag under her abuse and sank into the ground on one side. Tilting its immense burden towards the shore, and before anyone could stop it, the giant ball slowly rolled off its mount, as if gently putted. Down the sloped fairway of lawn it broke, gathering speed as the angle to the water steepened. 

    “Catch it!” Adam yelled, gesturing in distress and disgust. 

    The workmen scrambled to waylay the runaway but seemed unsure as to exactly what their actions should be. Two thousand pounds of rolling stone was not easily managed. Striking an outcropping of granite, the wayward sphere shifted its direction like a half shot. Its target of the dock was quickly affirmed as it hit the decking in a victory lap before falling onto the kayak tied up there and sinking to a watery grave. 

    Minus five thousand points, Adam. 

    There was little she could do. Adam would most certainly blow his top and blame whoever was in his sightline. He was already thundering at the poor lift operator. It was best to remove herself from any involvement sooner rather than later. She walked inside to the adjacent sunroom. With its tile floor and abundance of plants, it was the smallest and coziest room in their twelve thousand square foot manse. Adam had built the house before they married, tearing down the picturesque stone cottage that had sat there before. The interior was furnished, in juxtaposition to its classical architecture, with fine mid century furniture and fashionable artwork. A well known New York designer plied Adam with expensive temptations on a regular basis. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate the items or the house; it was that it had never felt like a home, at least not her home or even their home. 

    As the years passed, she had begun to see herself as just another of Adam’s baubles, acquired for looks rather than substance; and once acquired, forgotten. She had become part of the background, overlooked and taken for granted like the Ruhlmann bookcase filled with volumes Adam never read. It hadn’t been like that in the first couple years of marriage, but as his hedge fund took on additional and wealthier clients, Adam’s need for perfection in all aspects of his life began to take a toll. It seemed the only time he acknowledged her existence was when he needed something done. Then he bossed her around as if she were his butler rather than his wife. The nonsense of it all was exhausting. It was as if his possessions owned him, not the other way around. She was an onlooker rather than a participant in his life. 

    She went upstairs to get ready for a luncheon in town. As she entered her spacious, well organized dressing room, her cell phone rang. She looked at the screen, smiled, and sat down on the Danish bench beside the window to take the call. 

    “Maggie!” she exclaimed, to her closest family member. Her father’s younger sister, Maggie had been both aunt and mother to Jessica after her parents passed in an auto accident when she was sixteen.

      “How’s my favorite niece?” Maggie’s central Kentucky accent vibrated in Jessica’s ear. 

      “I’m your only niece!”
      “Then you must be my favorite.” It was a familiar exchange between the two of them.        

       “God, it’s good to hear your voice!” Jessica let out a sigh of relief more audible than she intended. At the moment she doubted there was anyone’s voice she more wanted to hear than Maggie’s.

    “You doing okay, darling?” Maggie asked with knowing concern in her voice.
     “It’s been one of those mornings.” Jessica related the morning’s events to Maggie.    

    “Lordy, child, that man’s got more money than sense. All he needed was a bigger pair of balls.”
    Jessica snickered. “You always could get to the point. From the terrace, the damn things flank a tower with a cone shaped roof on the small island offshore. I’m sure you have a mental image of what that looks like!”

    Maggie giggled. “I think you need to get out of there for a while. Come see me?” 

    “Is everything okay?” Jessica asked.
“Yes, dear. Just sounds like you might need a dose of reality.”
    “In this town, always,” Jessica replied.

    They talked a bit longer before Jessica begged off. If she was going to be on time for her lunch date, she had to get dressed. With the warmer day outside, she opted for a sleeveless shift and sandals. She tugged on a gold cuff bracelet for accent and left in place the simple gold studs that adorned her ears. It just did not feel like a diamond and pearls kind of day. With a light gloss of lipstick, she picked up her purse and went out. She could still hear Adam swearing as she left.

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Replies (13)
  • I like it. There is a good sense of place and the characters feel real. Adam is larger than life but without being a caricature. Jessica invites our empathy well. The game with her dad is a nice touch.

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    • Hey, thanks! Keeping him from being a caricature is the hardest part. Glad you liked it.

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    • Hi Connie. I really liked this, particularly the ingenious way in which you opened it with the memory of the car game with her dad. I could also really picture the scene you painted for us and the amusing but tense relationship between Jessica and Adam.

      I did struggle a little to get the second paragraph which slightly put me off at the beginning, having to read it two or three times before I got the sense of it. I wonder whether it could be worth reversing the first sentence of that paragraph - like this...

      Memories of the childhood car game came flooding back as Jessica watched the workmen on the lawn below position Adam’s latest purchase into place.

      I would even be inclined to get rid of the 'Jessica watched'...

      Memories of the childhood car game came flooding back as the workmen on the lawn below positioned Adam’s latest purchase into place.

      I've also replaced position with positioned there, which I think makes more sense.

      Of course, you might not want to leave out Jessica's name here, as it's our first introduction to her but then you do mention her name (albeit shortened to Jess) in the following paragraph.

      Another sentence I would reverse is Her reverie was interrupted by a harsh grinding noise, and she returned her gaze to the goings on below. 

      I would go for A harsh grinding noise interrupted her reverie... which then makes the harsh grinding noise interrupt the reader's reverie too.

      I think there are a few places where you perhaps give us more information than we need at this stage. For example, do we need to know that her dressing room is spacious? The fact that she has a dressing room at all tells us that she lives in a big, luxurious house and other little details tell us that they have plenty of money.

      Also, I think it would be more compelling and less 'tell-y' if you left the introduction to Maggie as simply Maggie had been both aunt and mother to Jessica after the accident. I think that on its own implies that her parents died in an accident. It doesn't tell us when, but it would probably be assumed it was when she was still quite young and I'm guessing we'll hear more about that and its effect on Jessica as the story continues.

      Finally, in order to reduce the filtering, I wonder if you could change your final two sentences sentence to something like With a light gloss of lipstick, she picked up her purse and went out past her still cursing husband.

      I hope that's helpful. I think you're doing a great job on this already.

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      • Hey, thanks, Paul. All of those are good catches. Interesting about the dressing room, but you're right. Only in Jessica's circle would they notice how spacious it is; most readers won't. Ha! I did interiors for years. One client was only animated when she spoke of her closet! Another, in Houston, Texas, years ago, had eight fur coats. Go figure.....

        I appreciate your reading it and taking the time to comment. Glad you liked it.

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      • Hey Connie. You were kind enough to give feedback on my flash fiction and this brought me to your story (no good deed goes unpunished).

        Paul has given fabulous and specific feedback, so I just wanted to share a tip.

        We all know the excellent (and universally acknowledged as correct) advice to keep backstory (non essential right now information), to the absolute minimum at the beginning of a story. Advice that sounds so easy to do but is, in fact, s-o-o-o hard to do when your brain is stuffed full of the back story: position of the buildings / model of the car / Fred's lactose intolerance / Janie's weird habit of caressing china figurines ...

        So here's the tip: 'Highlight!'

        Go through your first chapter and highlight every piece of backstory/history in red (other colours are available). You can now see at a glance how much backstory you have and easily interrogate each piece for its need to be there.

        Bonus Tip: With a piece of you red text selected, do this:

        'HOME' - 'Select' (on far right of tool bar) - 'Select all text with similar formatting' (in mini drop down menu). This will select all the red text in the document and you can now copy and paste it into another document - thereby making it even easier to 'see' without the distraction of your story.

        WARNING: You may get addicted to this method. You can, for instance, use it for all passages of telling and make them sweat under an interrogative spotlight until they admit if they can be switched to active / dialogue. But, if you find yourself with more than four highlight colours to a page, you may need to detox back to black.

        AN APOLOGY: To everyone (especially Connie) reading this who knows 'Word' inside out and has just procrastinated five minutes of their life away reading this.But it is offered in the sincere hope that it proves useful to someone.

        All the best.

        -Heather

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        • Thanks Heather. A handy editing tip. 

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        • Thanks for the tip, Heather. I highlight passages in general when I'm editing.

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          • I didn't know this tip. Thank you!

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            • Very enjoyable read Connie, I was seriously smiling to myself when you described the plight of the runaway giant golf ball. It seemed such an appropriate punishment for Adam, who let's face it, deserved it. Look forward to any future chapters, especially if Adam gets into a fight with the owner of the sunken kayak!

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              • He's already in that fight! It was his wife's! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!

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              • Hi Connie I think this is a great read. The characters are immediately recognisable and there is a real sense of things going on. It definitely flows! 

                For my taste the prose is a little overworked at times. Phrases like 'memories...came flooding back' are a little bit too common. I might suggest something like this: 

                Jessica watched the workmen on the lawn below position Adam’s’s latest purchase into place. She thought of a car game she played when she was ten, sitting behind etc etc 

                As a reader I'm more intrigued about the connection now between what Adam's purchase might be and a memory of a car game. Also the As the years passed chapter lays on the 'in the background' metaphor a little too strongly I think.

                However kudos to you for having the guts to put yourself up for review! 

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                • Thanks for reading! Watched and thought, I've been told indicate 'telling' not showing, so I have already rewritten to avoid those pitfalls. Maybe I will post again at some point. I appreciate your time to comment!

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                  • No problem! Am happy to read more when it's ready

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