Karen Tucker

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I've been writing all my life, but only really started to take it to another level this year (2020). I started with a 1:1 course that's helped enormously with my writing, and reading a number of books on the craft of writing - including two by Harry himself - that have also been a huge help. Joining Jericho, of course, was the next step!

My current WIP is a fantasy/alternate history series for Middle Grade children, called Grail Maiden, and I have several other series for children on the back burner, as well as a paranormal crime series for adults, the first of which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger back on 2002.

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To be honest, Jo, I'm not sure it matters how you choose to show the thoughts, as long as you're consistent throughout the text. Personally, I think I'd just have italics and nothing else, but that's just my choice.

Hi Kate. I love the idea of basing a series of stories on the colours of the rainbow. Will the other stories be about ways the other cabs are used because of their colours, or will they all be different?

I rather like this story, but I have a few suggested tweaks:

You say that Richard had a red cap, but haven't mentioned whether the drivers wear coloured uniforms or all have coloured caps, so that might be a brief line to add after the cabs are painted - something like, 'All the drivers wore uniforms and caps to match their cabs.' I would also suggest not introducing a new character, Emily, right at the end, at least unless she is going to feature in other stories.

You might also want to suggest that the post van won't be fixed in time for tomorrow's deliveries unless they go and fetch the part, to make it more useful that they do this. And perhaps mention how much fun Richard had driving Arthur around?

Good luck with your lovely stories.

 Hi Daniel, and welcome to the group. Well done for having the courage to put your work up here for critique.

I would say that although this is definitely readable, it currently reads more like a magazine article than a short story. It's usual to start a story just before some major action, or at the start of something big, so I would suggest beginning with them battling the waves going out to the island, and nearly getting swamped, then drop the other information in piecemeal, between paragraphs of dialogue and action. A little rearranging of paragraphs would make quite a difference to begin with. 

If you read short stories, perhaps take a few minutes to look at the start of a few of your recent favourites, and see how they tackle the start. The opening is the most important part, as you have to hook the reader and get them to read on.

There are a couple of small points that grated slightly on me - please don't use the phrase 'off of' except in speech, as it's not good grammar; and you've got an extra 'p' in scraping that needs to be deleted.

These comments aside, congratulations on a pretty good early draft.

I could keep editing this one short passage forever, but I'm on a deadline. There's a competition I want to enter by 17 January, for the first 10k words, so I need to get cracking. This is my final version (for now at least). Any further comments welcome, but they'll have to wait for my second pass before I incorporate them.

Women’s Healing Temple, Angron City, Atlantis


‘But I can’t be pregnant. It’s not physically possible!’

Yet for the third morning in a row, I’m bent over the sick bowl. And it’s not just the retching that makes my stomach feel tense and painful. It’s the implications for my future.

Finally, the retching subsides. I sit back and try to work it out.

But I still have no idea what’s going on. I keep coming back to the fact that I’m a virgin. My brother’s hugs and kisses couldn’t make me pregnant. No other man has ever touched me. Well, there was that blushingly vivid dream the other week. But dreams can’t make you pregnant either. So I can’t be. Then why the constant sickness?

But if I am? I don’t think I can be a priestess and nurse a child. Motherhood is a sacred gift and I’d want to give it my full attention. And being a priestess is a full-time occupation. Anyway, how could I leave my baby and concentrate on my healing duties? 

I cradle my belly and promise the child that can’t possibly be there that I will never leave her.

But how can I leave the temple, the home I grew up in. How can I leave my best friend, and my service to Artemis and to all the women who need my help, and my magical studies and … and my whole entire life! What will I do? Who needs a priestess except a temple? 

But I can’t give up my baby. If I’m having one. But I can’t be, because I’m a virgin. So I must have just eaten something really bad.

I’m empty, my stomach and my thoughts a blank. My mouth tastes acid raw and my throat’s burning. I need water. And as the temple is halfway down a cliff, under a waterfall, there's always plenty of that. Goddess, I’ll miss the constant presence of water! How will I live without the sound, the sight, the humidity? Its healing properties? Will I even still feel the presence of the goddess? I reach for her with my thoughts, and feel the warmth of her arms around me. The panic subsides a little, and the tension in my stomach eases.

I fill a glass from the water running down the channel in the wall and swill the first mouthful to wash away the aftertaste. I spit it into the sick bowl then gulp the rest down. It takes three glasses to quell the rawness in my throat. 

But neither the presence of the goddess nor any amount of water can fully dispel the gnawing fear in my belly. If I really am pregnant, my happy, comfortable life in the temple is over. And I can’t go back home - my mother would never have me in the house again. I have no skills other than healing. So where can I go? What can I do?

Thanks, Rick. As usual, insightful and very helpful comments.

It's funny - I was just saying to some of my colleagues earlier that this was the first year in a long time when I didn't get given any books for Christmas. But I did get a fair bit of money, so I can buy quite a few if I want to.

As Rick says, it's all about 'make me care'. It might help to have her feel a fierce love and protectiveness towards this tiny baby with powerful energy, rather than just knowing they'll want to kill him too. It's what will keep her going, even through her exhaustion.

Thanks, Jo. Always good to be reminded what makes stories work.

Does this work better?

My problem is that I can’t still be a priestess while nursing a child. It’s not a punishment. But we see motherhood as a sacred gift, and you’re expected to give it your full attention. Being a priestess is the same. They’re both full-time occupations, at least they are in Atlantis. And anyway, how could I leave my baby with someone else while I attended to my healing duties? 

Thanks, Maggie. Would it help if I told you it was set in Atlantis? Which, as you say, would be mentioned on the cover/in the blurb. I've also amended the modern language - thanks for that insight!

Thank you so much for your help. I feel more comfortable continuing with my edits now.

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