Reviews for The Surry Family's Mule-Cart Blues
philliph chapter 26 . 1/11/2015
I love this story. Sam is so protective of his younger siblings and as for Smithy he is smarter than the average bear. (I'm showing my age - grew up with Yogi Bear on the TV) What else can I say.
Guest chapter 20 . 12/17/2014
You have a substantial gift. If you'll forgive me for presuming where you are in your writing career, I personally think it's more important to protect that gift so you can develop it (and it can develop you) than it is to stick to some arbitrary notion of when you should post another chapter. A family tragedy and a new home seem to me a lot more than a week's work. If you need time off for these, take it. Give yourself that gift to protect the one you're giving us readers.

It's not that I think your creative impulse is fragile; in fact it seems quite robust. But I'd secure the walls of my fort before I went out looking for the enemy. (Speaking of forts, if Lee had put you in charge of his defenses at Petersburg, maybe he wouldn't have lost the war.) Patton's "hell for leather" strategy made sense with his enemy, his weapons, the terrain he had to fight on. You're leading an entirely different set of troops in an entirely different kind of engagement.

Anyway, I will read you whenever.
antiisocial chapter 19 . 12/8/2014
Well written. Has nice flow. Post whenever you like but once a week is awesome.
Guest chapter 18 . 11/29/2014
The irony of the contrast you draw between the natural scene and the way the war mocks it is a neat touch. Much writing about war includes a similar awareness of the contrast between nature and war's violation of the natural scene. But your touch doesn't sound derivative at all. It simply fits.

I'm not sure it's good to worry about readers falling behind because of how often you load a chapter. I think of two different rhythms of interest here. The writer's rhythm-your creative rhythm-is the engine, the energy, that drives everything until the novel's umbilical is cut by publication. Up to that point, what would count most to me (I'm not prescribing for you; you can count for yourself) is what rhythm of chapter dispensing best serves that energy.

It's natural to care about what works for your readers. But I don't see how releasing chapters more often-if and when you feel it's time for them to go out and play-will put pressure on your readers. Presumably they've already decided how much they care about your story, and nothing stops them from pausing in their reading because they're tired or have something else to do. I think that's what readers do anyway. They constantly adjust the balance between their interest in a story and their interest in something else. But the more of a story they've already read, and the more that reading experience has been held together by having occurred in relatively less calendar time, the less the chance they won't stick with you to the end.

Again, the story is yours, first and foremost. Trust what feels right (useful, convenient, energizing) to you, and those of us who like your writing will follow where you lead us.
Guest chapter 17 . 11/21/2014
I like this chapter, particularly Sam's recall of his mother in the rocking chair and all that's associated with it.

Before I tuned in to Ch. 17 I found myself thinking back over my experience reading the prevous chapters. In particular I found myself losing track of what was going on and so having to backtrack to connect one chapter with another. I don't see this as a fault in your construction, but an obstacle for anyone writing in this artificial format. By "artificial" I mean that the reader is forced to wait a week between chapters, and then when he gets to the chapter he's waiting for, that chapter may depend on the context created by a chapter he read two or more weeks previously.

I don't know if those who run this site use this artificial interruption of the rhythm of both the writer and the reader as a fulcrum for advising writers about plot construction. It seems to me that if writers on this site learn to keep things connected in the reader's mind-in spite of a hurdle made much higher by the week-long break between chapters-then this artificial situation is all to the good. I assume you're aware of the problem of sustaining the rhythm of reader interest I'm talking about, since you face it every week.

Let me be more specific. The last thing I recall as a focus of my interest is the Sequoyah-Mindy relationship. But as I write this note, I have only a vague memory of where the last scene with those two left us. If they don't show up again for another week or two, I will find myself tempted to skim to get to the next major development there. And that's a negative. If I were writing fiction, the last thing I'd want would be to see a reader skimming. I want him hypnotized by his sense that every phrase in front of him is crucial to where things are going. Okay, so this is nothing but the ideal of "organic unity." Even so, it's still a problem you have to solve, and the weekly wait makes it harder for writer and reader.

I hope I'm not needlessly confusing you. I'm not finding fault with your plot organization or development. I'm simply noticing how my reactions as a reader highlight the artificiality of the arena you're working in, and hoping that those who know how to write novels (I'm not one of them) are using the walls of this arena to help you control the ball so it stays in the field of play. (You can have that metaphor. I wouldn't have the nerve to use it again.)

Keep going. I'm excited to find out how much more is on its way.
Guest chapter 14 . 11/1/2014
"He had an overstuffed duffel bag slung across his back. It must have been heavy because he had one hand clutching the strap to keep it from digging into his shoulder."

Now that is art. That is how a pro uses one small detail to make a whole scene vivid.
skyryder43 chapter 11 . 10/13/2014
I like this story! Things are shaping up for all kinds of plotlines and opportunities. Hope to see more soon!

Great work so far.
Guest chapter 7 . 9/14/2014
Two things worth noting that show you know what you're doing. First, it seems smart that you skipped the scene of their capture. It wouldn't have added anything, unless you had had something you wanted to use that experience to establish. The fact of the capture is what advances the plot, not precisely how it went. Second, Sam's failing to think about how they'd get water on the road is precisely the kind of detail that makes him real, since it's the kind of thing many of us would have missed in such a stressful situation, and it also arouses a certain amount of additional sympathy for his burden of responsibility.

You're on a roll, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter. (Kids with guns is tricky. Please don't let Shayna get shot by accident.)
Guest chapter 3 . 8/22/2014
These chapters are a great start. You observe human behavior quite closely. This shows in how quickly your characters become emotionally three-dimensional. Their situation, beginning with the Smithy dilemma, grabs my interest, and the bucolic background against which you're getting ready to paint an invasion is firmly established. As you develop succeeding chapters, you'll probably come back to these and see odd additions and cuts to make to tighten the whole. But it's too early to worry about perfecting these chapters. There are of course writers who feel they have to perfect every page, or at least every chapter, before they can move to the next one. If that's your style, trust it. But it's also useful to throw all your clay on the wheel before you start handling it to see what it feels like it wants to be. Your creative unconscious knows more about what you're doing than your conscious art does. So dumping all your ideas for further development early on, even if you're going to junk many of them later, can make a huge difference by the time you've gotten to chapter 12.

You might want to review the Arithian order-of-battle. A horse cavalry mounted by an army about to launch a blitzkrieg with tanks? The 1939-1945 Wehrmacht did depend on horses a great deal, but to haul supply carts, not to give Russian gunners easy targets.
Guest chapter 3 . 8/22/2014
A great start.
philliph chapter 2 . 8/11/2014
What a wonderful start to a new story.

Your characters are so lifelike. I am looking forward to Ch3. Keep writing and don't spare the electrons.
LDF chapter 1 . 8/7/2014
In general, I'm a bit conflicted with the amount of detail in the first chapter. The great part is that it's nicely described - I really get a taste of the grit, the character, and the setting. But on the one hand, it goes on for paragraphs and paragraphs, and it has this detached feel in the narrative, like it meanders.

The character interactions feel the same way. Sam is upset that he has to sell Smithy, but I could've been fooled in the beginning because it just feels like they're having a leisurely walk, and the interactions feel phoned in. The story picks up nicely halfway through when Sam returns home. It's just that the first half feels a lot like filler.

Sorry for my rambling review, and apologizes in advance if it didn't help. You have a really good grasp of the essentials with writing, you know your dialogue tags and how less is good. Story just needs some tweaking, that's all.