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First Page: Wild Meat (Genre Ambiguous)

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Father Stephen Stokes saw a police jeep parked in front of the tackle shop and felt a guilty knot in his gut, remembering that his business here in Mexico was illegal. Only technically illegal, Mario had promised, but Mario’s disregard for earthly law was legendary.

The desert heat had built mightily by noon, and Stephen regretted sleeping so long. It was after two when he finally left behind the stuccos and candy pastels of the fishing village and began struggling up into the baking sierra.

Every couple of hairpin turns, a cool turquoise wedge of the Sea of Cortez came into view, smaller each time. When the water vanished from sight for good, it seemed as though he’d lost touch with the only friendly face around. He would not see another until he reached the crumbling Spanish mission at the heart of Mario’s rural parish. No official-looking vehicles followed his tiny rented Daihatsu, but still he felt watched.

"Get yourself to L.A.," Mario had told him, "and take a charter flight to a place called San Marcos in south Baja. Find a boat and stay in it until you hook something larger than a triggerfish for dinner, then rent a car and come up the hill." But Stephen was anxious to see the unpublished scraps of colonial history that had pulled him nearly two thousand miles down the map, so he had decided to skip the fishing part of those instructions. And then there had been the police jeep – not just soldiers at a highway checkpoint, but actual police. There was no reason to think the jeep’s appearance had anything to do with him, but that rack of lights and the shrill, two-tone paint job had helped give him a quick shove out of town.

Now Mario’s "hill" had turned out to be a mountain range, and the unpaved road would not let him drive fast enough to feel a breeze or to outrun his own dust cloud. It took five hours to travel seventy miles.
He reached the Misión Santa Cruz del Sur without much daylight to spare. Its front wall of gray and black volcanic rock stretched up as bleak as the side of a medieval fort, adorned only by two wind-eroded stone crosses. The stubby bell tower looked like a turret. Another tier of mountains rose beyond, but the road ended here, at the mission’s yawning arched doorway.

***

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47 Comments

  1. MS Jones
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 04:49:19

    I really like this – but maybe that’s because I’ve driven that unpaved road out of Loreto and up to the Mission San Francisco Javier de Viggé Biaundó three times now, and this sounds exactly like what you’re describing. Verisimilitude! In a setting we don’t see much of! I’d definitely read on.

    A minor concern: the first sentence seems a bit off, if the protag has come to Baja for an illegal purpose; seems like that would be foremost in his mind, and he wouldn’t forget it. Would changing the word “remembering” to “aware” make sense?

    There are other word choices I’d quibble with, but mostly I think this is well-done and intriguing.

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  2. Emmy
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 06:45:59

    a) Wild Meat? Pornoriffic title. Or gay werewolf romance. You pick.

    b) It’s possible to drive a Daihatsu uphill on an unpaved road without it overheating every half mile or so? Well, will the wonders never cease! Must have been a recent model, as in after Toyota took over the company.

    I vote gay romance, since he’s about to do something that’s only technically illegal in ‘earthly law’.

    It’s interesting. I’d definitely keep reading. Maybe with only one eye, cuz preists gone wild…not my fave plot.

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  3. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 08:13:05

    Technically, the writing works, but it’s not really grabbing my attention.

    And I do have to say, I’m sorry, but that title isn’t working for me.

    Sorry!

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  4. Leah
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 08:17:00

    The writing is very good, and it was easy to envision your setting. I would have to know more about the plot to know if I would be interested in the story itself. I was thinking it had something to do with immigration and safe havens, since your character is a priest. We’re in a hotel and I have apprently forgotten part of my power cord, so before my battery dies completely, best of luck!

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  5. Anion
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 08:28:43

    Hmm. This isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really snap either. I’d cut it and start when Mario opens the door; that way you can show us why Father Stokes is there rather than telling us. I’m also not crazy about some of the distancing/telling words you’ve used here:

    He felt a guilty knot in his gut
    He remembered that his business here was illegal
    He felt watched
    He was anxious

    Instead of those, try:

    Guilt twisted his gut/his gut twisted. Guilt. Beneath the anticipation, the excitement, it still hovered, urging him to turn around and go home./His stomach gave a guilty lurch

    How had he come to this? Priests did not break the law. Not just God’s laws, but any laws.

    No official-looking vehicles followed his little rented Daihatsu, but all around him were hiding places. Anyone–anything–could be behind those sandy hills, or around the next bend in the road. Waiting for him. And above it all was the sun, like God’s eye focused on him. There was nowhere to hide from the truth of his actions.

    Mario hadn’t given him many details over the phone. Of course he hadn’t. But what he could have… Who would have imagined it? That after a lifetime of searching, the papers could have shown up here? Sweat trickled down Father Stokes’s side. He’d waited all his life for this. The guilt didn’t matter. What mattered was his quickened pulse, the dizzy fantasies in his head.

    See what I mean? Of course, these are just quickie examples, and I don’t know what Father Stokes is about to see so some of it is conjecture, but these are ways to draw the reader in. Words like “felt” distance the reader; they should be used deliberately. Instead of feeling guilt, show us the guilt. Instead of feeling the hot leather of the car seat, show us how it sticks to his legs, or how sweaty his thighs are under his jeans. (I know that isn’t on the page, it’s just a suggestion.)

    The story intrigues me, certainly. I love the idea of long-buried manuscripts or whatever, and the presence of a priest makes me think it could be really interesting. But the writing, while certainly capable, doesn’t feel quite “there” yet, because I’m not feeling what Father Stokes feels strongly enough.

    Like I said, I’d start when he gets to Mario’s place. Have him look over his shoulder, scanning the road one more time for police vehicles. He could tell Mario he saw a cop car and it spooked him, or wipe nervous sweat from his forehead, or whatever. And then we can see the manuscript pulled out and experience what the priest does, along with him.

    As always, just my opinion/suggestions.

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  6. Jane O
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 08:59:35

    I really liked this, and wanted to read more, but then I realized that I was thinking of this as a thriller, on the order of “courageous priests defend their flock against corrupt officials.” Is that the impression you want to give?

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  7. joanne
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 09:14:42

    The title says something about the content of the story so IF it’s misleading then that’s a turnoff for readers, in my opinion.

    The flowery descriptions in the last paragraph seem like you were sticking them in randomly rather then because they were needed to set the feeling of the area.

    It reads suspense to me… not necessarily m/m or m/f romance or erotica…. but I would like to know sooner rather then later. Again, the title says one thing but what story are you telling?

    I love the setting of the story in Mexico and the manuscripts would draw me in.

    Good luck and thank you.

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  8. Bev Stephans
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 09:20:52

    The first page was intriguing, but that title has to go!

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  9. Keishon
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 10:24:14

    I couldn’t past that title.

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  10. theo
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 10:58:42

    In all honesty, reading that title then starting with Father Stephen…it just made me cringe. Sorry.

    And probably not important to others, but it made me go ‘huh’, why would a priest be taking orders from someone named Mario? Don’t they usually take their instructions from someone in the diocese higher up? I don’t know. I’m not Catholic, that’s why I’m asking. But if he is taking his orders from a lay person, I’d want to know why. You’re getting me from point A to point B but there’s no reason for it. Even just one sentence or two:

    “Get yourself to L.A.,” Mario had told him, “and take a charter flight to a place called San Marcos in south Baja. Find a boat and stay in it until you hook something larger than a triggerfish for dinner, then rent a car and come up the hill. The evil/monster/army/attacker/plague/girl-in-the-pink-leotard won’t be attacking/entering/destroying the mission until tomorrow.”

    I know, sounds silly all run together like that, but it gives me a reason to keep reading. Now I want to know what part the priest will play in all of this and gives me a better idea of him and Mario and why they might be ‘partners’ if in fact, they are.

    As it stands now, the imagery of the drive is great, but I would need more to keep reading.

    Kudos and thanks for putting it out there!

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  11. shenan
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:03:06

    —-Father Stephen Stokes

    A Romance with a priest for a hero? I’d dump the book right there.

    —–saw a police jeep parked in front of the tackle shop and felt a guilty knot in his gut, remembering that his business here in Mexico was illegal. Only technically illegal, Mario had promised, but Mario’s disregard for earthly law was legendary.

    I’m with the poster who jumped on “remembering” here. It doesn’t read right.

    I’m guessing from the “earthly law” that this is a paranormal.

    Is Mario’s disregard for the law really the stuff of legends?

    —-The desert heat had built mightily by noon, and Stephen regretted sleeping so long. It was after two when he finally left behind the stuccos and candy pastels of the fishing village and began struggling up into the baking sierra.

    What happened between noon and two?

    Too many adjectives for my taste. After the first few in any story, I end up counting adjectives instead of paying attention to the story.

    It isn’t obvious here that the MC is in a car. The use of “struggling” makes it sound like he’s walking.

    —–Every couple of hairpin turns, a cool turquoise wedge of the Sea of Cortez came into view, smaller each time. When the water vanished from sight for good, it seemed as though he’d lost touch with the only friendly face around.

    Water as a friendly face doesn’t work for me. I’ve never thought of bodies of water as having faces. Nor do I get why he would think of the water as friendly, much less the only thing friendly.

    —-He would not see another

    How does he know he won’t see another friendly face?

    —–But Stephen was anxious to see the unpublished scraps of colonial history that had pulled him nearly two thousand miles down the map,

    Nice description!

    —-It took five hours to travel seventy miles.

    How bad can the road be if a car can average only 14 miles an hour? Not to mention, how big is this mountain if the road is at least 70 miles long? I’m guessing the mountain is actually set a good ways from the village, but all we see of the drive is the part going up the mountain. It therefore reads like the entire drive was up that mountain. Then again, if the mountain is 60 miles or more from the village, it makes even less sense that the car would be going that slow. (And yes, I’m that picky.)

    Beyond the Priest as Hero turn off, this excerpt didn’t hook me. I don’t get a sense of who the character is or why he is where he is. Mario is off screen, which tends to distance the story for me. There’s no dialogue set in the present and only a snippet set in the past. No real action. (Even the car going up the mountain isn’t all that active if it’s only traveling at 14 mph.) Just a hint that the priest is doing something “technically” illegal works for me, but only if I have something else to keep me going until the reveal. Something more than a travelogue.

    Still, I’m curious to know what’s going on. So, if not for the priest, I might skip ahead just to find out. And if what I found sounded interesting enough, I’d go back and pick up with page two. (And again I say — reading these excerpts would be easier with a back cover blurb to clue us in.)

    (The preview not working for anyone else?)

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  12. shenan
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:09:33

    —- theo said —- And probably not important to others, but it made me go ‘huh', why would a priest be taking orders from someone named Mario? Don't they usually take their instructions from someone in the diocese higher up?

    I took it that the plot involves something outside the priest’s usual priestly duties. Something the Church isn’t involved in and probably doesn’t know about and that wouldn’t get anyone’s blessing if they did. Although the plot does seem to have something to do with something the Church should maybe be interested in.

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  13. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:12:52

    I love it! I’m from San Diego and I have a soft spot for Mexico settings. I like the details and hints of intrigue. Nice suspense!

    You might drop some of those “had”s (change “Mario had told him” to “Mario told him” for example). It won’t confuse the reader or change the meaning.

    Agree with the others about the title. Sounds kind of sleazy.

    Good job!!!

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  14. Emmy
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:15:33

    If you’re going to have a title like “Wild Meat”, at least change the priest’s last name to “Strokes”. That’s all I’m sayin.

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  15. Kathleen MacIver
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:18:54

    I kind-of ignored the title. Here are my thoughts, if they help at all. Feel free to toss, of course!

    As for the text… it was just to telling for me, and there was too much backstory. I agree with Anion wholeheartedly. I, also, noticed the “felt like” and “seemed as if” phrases mentioned. If you pull it into a slightly deeper POV you can fix so much of this.

    Only technically illegal, Mario had promised, but Mario's disregard for earthly law was legendary.

    How about:
    Hmmph. Mario said it was only technically illegal, but Mario’s disregard… (Now it’s not backstory in past perfect tense; it’s his thought in the present.)

    The desert heat had built mightily by noon, and Stephen regretted sleeping so long.

    …could be:
    He should have forced himself out of bed earlier. It was just too stinkin’ hot, and it was only noon!
    (Okay… that’s probably not how he’d phrase it, but you get the idea, I hope.)

    It was after two when he finally left behind the stuccos and candy pastels of the fishing village and began struggling up into the baking sierra.

    Eventually, he left behind the stuccos… into the baking sierra. He glanced at the clock. Two. Hopefully he only had an hour or so left of driving. (Or some such thought that fits.)

    He would not see another until he reached the crumbling Spanish mission at the heart of Mario's rural parish.

    This sounds like author’s voice, because he doesn’t know what the rest of the trip holds… he’s never taken it before.

    The “Get yourself to L.A.” paragraph is all backstory, and should be cut. If you offer a sentence like, “Mario’s instructions had been good – although he’d left the fishing trip part of it out – but…” You hint some of this, if that’s necessary. The details of the Mario’s instructions don’t seem important… but if they are, slip them in there more subtly. They’ll have more impact that way.

    The next paragraph is backstory too… in past perfect tense. I like the sentence about Mario’s “hill” turning out to be a mountain, but it will also have more impact if we’re with him when his jaw drops when it comes into view… or if we hear him grumbling about Mario’s 3,000 foot high “hill” in his thoughts… or if he complains about it to Mario when he gets there.

    It took five hours to travel seventy miles.

    This is telling, too, and pulls us out of the scene. Even if, in the middle of his mental grumbling, he expresses disbelief that it’s taking five hours to travel seventy miles so far, that pulls us into his mind and his emotions, and still gives the information.

    You’ve also got a number of similes and comparisons:
    seemed as though
    as bleak as the side of a medieval fort
    looked like a turret

    In general, it’s best to avoid using comparisons to describe things, because it’s usually more vivid to describe it as what it is, instead of as what it isn’t.

    But all of that is examples using what’s written here. In reality, I’d start the story somewhere else, as well. When he arrives at Mario’s place is definitely a good idea, but without knowing where the story’s headed, it’s hard to say.

    Start at a point where he’s feeling emotion of some sort… the first thing he’s up against, or the first time he realizes that he’s going to have to go up against something… or when something surprises him.

    Where’s the point in this guy’s life where everything starts to change, and he realizes it? That’s where you want to start your story. Everything that happened before that point is backstory… but you don’t want to tell it as backstory. You want to slip in details as they are needed, so as your reader anxiously turns pages to see what’s going to happen, they’re also turning pages to figure out what has already happened.

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  16. theo
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:19:51

    @shenan…yes, I can see that. Thanks. Makes sense now. I do think though that maybe some brief mention of that, if in fact that’s where the author is going, would help someone like me without the Catholic background. Maybe with the paragraph about this being illegal and the priest feels guilty…

    “felt guilty knowing the church would have defrocked him (or whatever the word is they use) for the mission he was undertaking.”

    Again, just those couple of added descriptives give a whole new meaning to why he’d bother following Mario’s instructions.

    But again, that’s just me and my background.

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  17. Raine
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 11:36:34

    The title does not work at all, and somehow doesn’t seem to match the style of writing.

    That being said–you have an EXCELLENT voice, and powerful descriptive abilities. I might’ve liked a bit more of a sense of intrigue along Stokes’ way, but would probably read further. Yes.

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  18. Linda Rigel
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 12:06:35

    All the comments about tightening things up are good.

    Father Stephen Stokes saw a police jeep parked in front of the tackle shop and felt a guilty knot in his gut, remembering that his business here in Mexico was illegal. Only technically illegal, Mario had promised, but Mario's disregard for earthly law was legendary.

    How about something like:

    A police jeep pulled up in front of the tackle shop, and a knot formed in Father Stephen’s gut. Mario’s assurances that this business was only technically illegal meant that it was probably illegal, but Father Stephen was still compelled to risk this journey to a decaying Mexican mission.

    One nit: I don’t know, but do priests go by first and last names?

    oops — edit — I do like your voice, too. There is some lovely description here.

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  19. Karen Kennedy
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 12:16:29

    I agree about the title, which likely would keep me from picking the book up in a store. I’m thinking it’s some sort of paranormal (earthly laws?) thriller/suspense, if that’s the case, I would definitely read beyond the first page. If that’s not the case, if it’s romance, I might not read on. The priest as romantic figure doesn’t work for me.

    The setting is intriguing, but I agree with what others have said about the writing. It could be a bit tighter–more immediate.

    I liked the water as friendly face. I thought it made sense in such a dry place.

    I also thought, as someone else said, that Stephen was on foot, not in a car. Don’t know why the first sentence gave me that impression, I re-read it and it doesn’t say that, but there you are. Does it matter that the police car is at the tackle shop? Should he have gone fishing and then he’d have been in the tackle shop where they are? If not, maybe having the police car follow him through town before turning off would give him more of the heebie jeebies and would establish right away that he’s in a car. This would also make the suspense more immediate.

    Good luck and kudos for braving the comments. I enjoyed it very much!

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  20. Jill Myles
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 12:20:26

    I couldn’t get past the title either. Yikes.

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  21. Tobin
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 12:41:13

    (This is the author.)

    It’s not a romance; more like suspense with a minute sliver of science fiction (in the form of a non-existent animal) thrown in.

    That was what the first page looked like in August.
    Now it goes like this:

    Father Stephen Stokes saw a police jeep parked in front of the tackle shop and felt a guilty knot in his gut, remembering that what had brought him to Mexico was illegal. Only technically illegal, Mario had insisted, but Mario's disregard for earthly law was legendary.

    It was three in the afternoon when he left the stuccos and candy pastels of the fishing village and began struggling up into the baking sierra. A cool, turquoise wedge of the Sea of Cortez got smaller with every hairpin turn, and once it vanished there was nothing but sixty unpaved miles of heat and dust.

    “Get yourself to a place called San Marcos in south Baja,” Mario had said. “Find a boat and stay in it until you hook something larger than a triggerfish for dinner, then rent a car and come up the hill.” But Stephen was anxious to see the unpublished scraps of colonial history that had pulled him two thousand miles down the map, so he had decided to skip the fishing.

    He reached the Misión Santa Cruz del Sur without much daylight to spare. Its front wall of gray and black volcanic rock, adorned only by two wind-eroded stone crosses, stretched up as bleak as the side of a medieval fort. Nothing moved inside except a legion of swallows gliding among ledges high above the nave. The unsealed cement that covered the original floor stones was coming up in a gray powder, and Stephen thought he could taste it in the air. Gold leaf had flaked away from a gilded relief that rose behind the altar, so that a number of cherubs appeared to suffer from some terrible skin disease.

    He looked into the right-hand chapel, blocked off by a purple velvet rope, and saw sheets of plastic covering broken floor where repairs to the foundation were underway. Here was where Mario had found the bundle of parchments, the ones he had hidden so that Stephen could come and see them before they passed into the hands of academic bureaucrats.

    On the wall above the plastic were painted wooden panels depicting saints, and Stephen found himself staring at one of them, trying to figure out what was wrong with it aside from age and neglect. There was still no one around, so he slipped under the rope to inspect.

    So much paint had cracked and fallen from the panel that he could not begin to identify the praying figure. It took some time in the chapel's weak light, but he finally saw where brush strokes had been added, the paint piled on so thickly that it stood out like strands of hardened black epoxy. The addition had done less peeling away than the rest of the image, but had crackled enough to show that it, too, was very old. Someone centuries ago had defaced the original work.

    The vandal's contribution was a back view of an impish figure climbing up the saint's white robe. It reminded Stephen of the crouching demons that populated the fifteenth-century grotesque painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights. A tail twice as long as its body extended from beneath a flowing black cloak.

    He spotted another little beast clinging with bony hands to the praying figure's far shoulder. This was a deluxe version; it gave a three-quarter profile of the thing's face and had flesh tones, while the other had been done entirely in black. The eyes were childlike and gentle, though freakishly distant from the hairline. In the center of its mouth, set close together, were two slender snake fangs.

    Clumps of red paint had been added up and down the praying figure's arms and on the shoulders and neck. If the same had been done to the feet, it would have looked like an explosively messy stigmata.

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  22. Courtney Milan
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:31:56

    Re: Old first page: I didn’t realize the protagonist was in a car until I got to the bit about the rented car. I’d imagined him struggling up the baking sierra on foot.

    New first page: Deleting all those other paragraphs does a weird thing to your timeline. Now in para. 2, he leaves the candy pastel stuccos and climbs up the hill; and then in para 3 he then skips the fishing and goes up the hill.

    So you do his leaving the small town, and then talk about his decision to leave, which is the opposite order of how things happen. Okay if you’re having a long rambling journey; otherwise it just feels weirdly out of order and I have to scratch my head and reread to figure out what you’re talking about.

    Like the writing and the voice. Very vibrant. And the last sentence, and last few paragraphs in the new one, would definitely lead me to read on.

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  23. Tobin
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:33:49

    @MS Jones: Thanks, Ms. Jones. Changing to “aware” is a good suggestion.

    Yes, it’s really Loreto and San Javier, but I fictionalized because wanted to exaggerate the distance and also to leave the Mission in far worse repair than the real one. (San Javier is actually very well maintainted.) And thanks for the hyperlink. Great photo!

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  24. Tobin
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:40:48

    @Courtney Milan: Thanks for the comments, Courtney. I hadn’t looked at that in a long time, and you’re right about the confusing timeline.

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  25. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:40:59

    Love it, absolutely would keep reading. Hate the title. Hate the title. Did I say I hate the title? Love the voice and how quickly it moves. Would buy it. Absolutely.

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  26. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:53:33

    I actually preferred the first version. I liked the scene-setting and the second page rushes things a bit for me.
    It did throw me, thinking that the book was a romance, and maybe this isn’t the best place to display it, as this is a romance forum, but a lot of romance readers aren’t exclusive.
    The first version read a bit like Linda Howard, and you had the confidence to take your time to set the scene. I’ve never been to Mexico and I needed that scene-setting.
    The others have commented on your use of “he felt,” “he thought” and so on, and since I’ve just spent a week taking those out of an older book of mine heading for a rerelease, I know of what I speak! They can distance the reader.
    But a great voice, and I’d like to read this.

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  27. MCHalliday
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 14:34:51

    I really enjoyed this first page and the subsequent update. But a few religious observations stood out for me.

    A Roman Catholic priest would be feeling far more than mere guilt engaging in illegal or unauthorised activity, for he would face excommunication. And I’m also wondering how he managed to slip away from his diocese or archdiocese, without approval. Or did he lie to the bishop?

    In a Roman Catholic church, the term ‘nave’ is used to indicate that portion of a church reserved for worshippers, including the central and side aisles and crossing transepts all leading to a single north altar. It would be impossible then to have a “right-hand chapel” and I believe you are trying to say is, east alcove. A chapel with altar can be within an alcove in a large Episcopal church, so perhaps this is where your confusion arises.

    The words, ‘explosively messy stigmata’, if the feet had also been included was rather redundant. And could be quite disturbing to a RC.

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  28. Tobin
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 15:37:49

    @MCHalliday: Thanks, McHalliday, especially for the comments on terminology. I’ve modeled this after a real 18th-century Spanish mission that is still the main church for a small rural parish. At each end of the transept there is a group of pews, facing the same direction as those in the nave, and in front of each group of pews there is a small altar. Should this be referred to only as an alcove, or does the terminology differ in older churches?

    Thanks

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  29. Leah
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 22:50:40

    Knowing what it is about makes it more interesting to me, and I like your second version much better–it doesn’t take so long to get started. I would probably buy it–if it had another, more attractive title. It sounds bad, I know, but when I’m trying to skim through a bookstore, with a limited amount of time, the title plays a huge role in whether I actually pick a book up to read the back cover. “Meat” is just not an appealing word for some reason.

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  30. MCHalliday
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 16:14:48

    Hi Tobin, sorry to repond so late to your query about ‘a small altar in front of each length of pews’ and if it should be referred to as an alcove, or if the terminology differs in older churches.

    The two side alcoves are for the placement of statues on elevated platforms and on the east side, typically a cast iron table of vigil lights is prominent for candle lighting before the Virgin Mary. There is never more than one altar in an RC church as the Sacrament of the Altar is celebrated there from the tabernacle. This has been traditional for hundreds of years.

    Tobin, your tale intrigues me for many reasons: the priest as hero, the parchments recently discovered, the RC aspect, the SF/F genre. And I too, would consider a different title more in keeping with the theme and less, um, directed toward hunting or game cookery.

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  31. MCHalliday
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 18:29:00

    I wrote in good faith to your response and then I recieved your email:

    “I think it is much less likely than you suggest that a priest will get excommunicated for breaking the law. Think of all those priests like the Berrigan brothers who were out there getting arrested during the civil rights marches and anti-war protests of the 60s. They don’t even excommunicate pedophiles.

    Priests do get vacations, and can go anywhere they like. I think you may be confusing the regular clergy (those in an order) with the secular clergy (ordinary parish priests).

    And the transept is the transept, it is not the nave. I don’t know about Spanish mission churches, but many old Catholic churches have side chapels. Even St. Patrick’s in NYC does.”

    I must tell you that I am not a expert in Vatican law but I have many years as a devoted RC, including catechism instruction and consideration of a vocation.

    To your first comment, I shall just say that in the US this month, a priest is facing excommunication for attending the ordination of a female priest. One must know the Vatican guidelines for excommunication before declaring knowledge of such, the RC church has very strict rules and few are aligned with law made by state government in any land. Divorce and remarriage are one example.

    Yes, I am aware of vacations for clergy although they must be approved by the bishop and in accorance with religious vows at ordination with further considerations made for the order. More to the point, there is no priest in the RC church that is not bound by vows and therefore not a part of an order, whether it is Jesuit or other. Parish priests are ordained and so your notion of ‘regular’ clergy is notwithstanding. Google is often wrong, don’t rely on it.

    Please reference Catholic church architecture that you may understand the nave is the entire portion of a RC church reserved for worshippers, including the central and side aisles and transepts. These side sections of seating for worshippers (east and west of transepts) is part of the nave.

    And please understand this: the tabernacle set upon the altar is the most important part of a Catholic church. Housing the Eucharist, and where the sacrament occurs during Mass, does deem any other table or platform NOT an altar. See my above post, Sacrament of the Altar.

    DA’s ‘first page’ blog is meant to engage discussion, perhaps to aid new authors and gain exposure for new works. Emailing me privately to assert your stance does not further the purpose.

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  32. Jane O
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 21:41:50

    MCHalliday: I didn’t mean to offend you by emailing you. I just hadn’t thought this was a good place to get into an argument about church law and I assumed the author would be checking anyway.

    Excommunication is for a very serious public defiance of moral or church law, not civil law. Defiance of civil law can even get you sainthood – consider Thomas More.

    Colloquially, the nave refers to the entire area reserved for worshipers. As a technical term in church architecture, it does not. Check the Catholic Encyclopedia if you like.

    Members of orders like Franciscans or Dominicans are part of the “regular” clergy because they are bound by that order’s rule (regulum). They may or may not be priests (some may simply be brothers). Priests who are ordained but are not members of an order are “ordinary” clergy. It’s not a sneer, it is simply the technical term.

    And yes, there can be a side altar, sometimes called a bye-altar, in one or more of the bays of the apse, nave or transept. This is frequently where daily mass is celebrated in large churches and cathedrals.

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  33. MS Jones
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 22:39:30

    I’m confused – is (are?) Tobin and Jane O the same person?

    I like the rewrite. Good on you for keeping the fish! I read that as Mario telling Father Stephen to bring a lot of faith and then he doesn’t bring it. Bum bum buuuuum!

    Or maybe I’m reading WAAAAAY too much symbolism into the text. To paraphrase Freud: sometimes a fish is just a fish.

    MC Halliday: Totally guessing here, but I’m thinking the illegality comes from concealing the parchments from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Not completely familiar with Mexican law, but it’s my understanding that INAH will go all Buffy on you if you don’t report the discovery of culturally important historical documents.

    Tobin, re the title, which doesn’t seem to “work,” here’s some ideas –

    Lower Life [riff on Baja]

    See the Beast [riff on ecce homo]

    Seize the Beast [riff on carpe diem]

    Strange Mission

    - or whatever – something that will not instantly alienate a literary agent or publisher; I agree that Wild Meat is not your best choice.

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  34. Tobin
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 00:20:24

    @MS Jones: @MCHalliday: Dear McHalliday:
    This is Tobin (the author of the novel fragment posted here). I did not email you privately; that was someone else, apparently “Jane O.”

    Tobin and Jane O are NOT the same person.

    My only response to your first comment was a request for help in understanding the terminology. Your second post did clarify this: what I thought was an altar in the east alcove was one of the tables for candles that you explained in your subsequent post. I should have recognized it as such, since I’ve seen many such tables in identical positions in other churches — it’s just that in the Spanish mission I visited, there were no candles on the table, and it was covered with a white cloth, just like the real altar.
    Again, it seems to have been another DA member who emailed you privately. I have responded only here on the website.
    Again, many thanks for your help in clarifying the nomenclature, and also for your encouraging words about the story.
    –Tobin

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  35. Tobin
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 00:57:03

    @MS Jones:
    Hi MS Jones…
    Thanks for your second round of kind words about the story.

    And yes, INAH comes into the story after about three more paragraphs. Mario, (who was in Guatemala during the civil wars there, and was nearly killed when he sheltered villagers from uniformed goons) is a fairly fearless guy. Stephen is a total bookworm, with a special passion for colonial history. When Mario discovered the parchments (that the repair crew hadn’t noticed before knocking off for the day) in the rubble, he thought What the heck; I’ll hold on to these and see if Steve can get some time off to come and see them. Then I’ll turn them over to INAH.

    So you were right. What’s illegal about Stephen’s plans is that he knows Mario should have called in the experts to extract the parchments from the rubble instead of risking damage to them by doing it himself – and certainly shouldn’t have hidden them just so his old pal could come and take a peek.

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  36. Anion
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 04:50:56

    Defiance of civil law can even get you sainthood – consider Thomas More.

    I don’t want to join in the argument, but I think we can all agree More was a special case. He defied the law because the law was telling him to renounce his God; in doing so he gave his life for the Catholic Church.

    He wasn’t a shoplifter or something. There are laws, and there are laws.

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  37. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 08:20:30

    I don't want to join in the argument, but I think we can all agree More was a special case. He defied the law because the law was telling him to renounce his God; in doing so he gave his life for the Catholic Church.

    Well, actually, the law was telling him to renounce his Pope. The Act of Supremacy required him, as an official of the English court, to renounce the authority of the Pope in the English church, especially in secular concerns. He was given the opportunity to quietly resign, if his principles wouldn’t allow him to go along with that, which was more than many people were offered, but he chose to martyr himself and to blacken the name of someone he had admired and respected up to that point.
    People tend to forget that England, not Henry, needed an heir. It wasn’t (only) an egotistical demand for a male heir – Henry could have stayed married to Katherine and had bits on the side for the rest of his life, and produced sons, but as he’d finished off the job his father had started and killed off any possible claimant to the English throne, he needed to prevent the country falling back into civil war by producing a legitimate, without question, heir.
    More tried to stop that, being one of those people who looked at principles rather than actuality. His act is still being discussed in academic circles. But he was never asked to renounce his God – only the Pope. If he equated the two, then that was his privilege. Henry remained a Catholic to the end of his days, and persecuted Protestants with all the fervour of his daughter Mary. He just didn’t acknowledge the authority of the Pope. High politics is never a matter of black and white.
    Sigh. I just outed myself, didn’t I?

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  38. Jane O
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 09:49:47

    Tobin/author -’ I assure you I wasn’t trying to masquerade as you, and I am truly sorry if I have caused you any embarrassment. That’s what I was originally trying to avoid for anyone, but I seem to have loused that one up thoroughly.
    Sorry.

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  39. Anion
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 09:59:10

    Yes, thank you, Lynne. I was just trying to simplify.

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  40. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 10:59:07

    Yes, thank you, Lynne. I was just trying to simplify.

    Sigh. I know, it’s me, not you. I’m obsessed by the Tudor age. Never managed to write a novel set in the period, though.

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  41. karmelrio
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 12:54:31

    The title led me to expect erotica. The juxtposition of the title – “Wild Meat” – and the first three words of the manuscript – “Father Stephen Stokes” made something in my brain go TILT. Let’s just say I wasn’t quite expecting to be introduced to a member of the clergy. ;-)

    I very much enjoyed your setting descriptions. Very vivid. But I felt there was a bit too much of it – I was much more interested in finding out more about the illegal activity he was about to engage in – and what would incent a Father to do whatever it is he’s about to do.

    I was also a little confused by the ‘earthly law’ phrase. Being that the character who’s head we’re in is a member of the clergy, I took it to mean spiritual or religious law.

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  42. MCHalliday
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 15:37:55

    Unable to log on until now…so very glad things managed to get sorted, although I am obliged to make two acts of contrition.

    Tobin, you have my sincere apologies. My second post was of some use to you so I am slightly relieved but would like to offer you a RC viewpoint privately, if you wish. Having visited RC churches in many parts of the world, including a remote village in the Sierra Madre, I've found various differences (some subtle, some not so) depending on the country, the order and sometimes, the preferences of a rural parish priest. I have a rather extraordinarly diverse RC background and can provide some insight if you like.

    MS Jones, too funny! And it did seem clear, didn't it, the parchments should have been handed over to authorities and holding them from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia was illegal. Someone had mentioned defrocking, so I thought to add Father Stokes wouldn’t face excommunication except for violation of Canon Law. I just wondered if the priest told the whole truth to his bishop, but have a pretty good idea why Father Stokes would withhold the discovery until he read the old documents. In spite of that, it seems to me the priest would be feeling remorse at not confessing everything to his bishop.

    Jane O, no worries please. It was my faux pas that created the misunderstanding. Although I continue to maintain Catholic churches architecturally refer to the nave as any area south of the altar and chancel. Worshippers fill the transepts at times of celebration and direct reference is made to nave including the transepts in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I admit to dispensations for daily Mass in poorly attended cathedrals that it may be held at a side altar prepared to hold the tabernacle, but a rural church in Mexico is not a NYC cathedral.

    Lynne, I adore the Tudor period as well and have a special interest in Henry VIII and his creation of the Anglican Church, as I am a Catholic born in England. I don't believe Henry the VIII considered himself Roman Catholic after his divine order of ‘monarch as head of the church' in the British Isles, replacing the Pope. I believe he saw himself as head of a church based on apostolic doctrine. His daughter, Mary was pro Catholic but I deem that due to her mother's influence and religious advisors. As I see it, the political lean for Elizabeth to take the British throne was to prevent accusations of treason for the previously patriotic Anglican converts under her father's rule. There is further challenge with regard Ireland and political vs religious sides, resulting in the Republic of Ireland and the UK ruled Northern Ireland. Another topic altogether, isn’t it.

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  43. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 18:03:33

    I don't believe Henry the VIII considered himself Roman Catholic after his divine order of ‘monarch as head of the church' in the British Isles, replacing the Pope. I believe he saw himself as head of a church based on apostolic doctrine. His daughter, Mary was pro Catholic but I deem that due to her mother's influence and religious advisors. As I see it, the political lean for Elizabeth to take the British throne was to prevent accusations of treason for the previously patriotic Anglican converts under her father's rule. There is further challenge with regard Ireland and political vs religious sides, resulting in the Republic of Ireland and the UK ruled Northern Ireland. Another topic altogether, isn't it.

    He saw himself as head of the Catholic Church in England, but no longer a Roman Catholic. While reformers saw it as their ‘in,’ he remained firm and stuck to Catholic doctrine. I think he always planned to reconcile with Rome, perhaps when the Pope who was Queen Katherine’s nerphew had died, but we’ll never know. Mary returned to Rome and acknowledged the supremacy of Rome, even though her brother, Edward VI, had officially turned England Protestant.
    Definitely not the British Isles at this stage. England and Wales only. Scotland didn’t unite with England until 1702

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  44. MCHalliday
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 18:28:51

    Definitely not the British Isles at this stage. England and Wales only. Scotland didn't unite with England until 1702

    In history, the British Isles are refered to as such, as far back as 1522 when Waldseemuller mapped the islands as “Insvia Britani.”

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  45. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 18:48:31

    In history, the British Isles are refered to as such, as far back as 1522 when Waldseemuller mapped the islands as “Insvia Britani.”

    The British Isles have existed in their present form since the Ice Age, and are described as such in various accounts from the Romans onwards.
    The British Isles is a geographical description, as is “Europe” and “North America.” England, Scotland, Ireland, Ulster and Wales are political entities, and the United Kingdom currently describes England, Scotland, Ulster and Wales.
    As a political entity, the United Kingdom, with a monarch and a constitution in common has only been in existence since 1702. Before that date, even when the countries have had a monarch in common, he was officially described as “James I and VI” and “Charles I and I” because until that date, Scotland was a separate country. Politically speaking.

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  46. MCHalliday
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 19:53:26

    Thanks, Lynne. My attempt in response to your post was to affirm Henry VIII as head of an apostolic doctrine and my mention of the British Isles was not political, I should have been era specific.

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  47. Tobin
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 20:15:32

    @Jane O:

    I assure you I wasn't trying to masquerade as you, and I am truly sorry if I have caused you any embarrassment.

    No worries, Jane O. Thanks for your supportive comments early on, by the way.

    And I do believe you’ve started, or escalated, a thread truly unique on this forum! Who’d have thought it would lead to in-depth discussion of Tudor ecclesiastical politics? It’s been fascinating reading, and I’ve certainly learned a thing or two.

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