• Gary emptied out his pickup truck which was parked in the driveway of his home. He removed the campaign paraphernalia he’d been carrying around:  tied up bundles of brochures, lawn signs, and autographed photos of […]

    • Wow – I loved reading this, getting inside Gary’s head (and what a place that is – full of scathing observations and resentments – he comes over suddenly as an angry observer and some of his thoughts seem valid – the vapid glamping crowd (ha ha) and overprivileged Long Islanders. You’ve covered so much here its quite breath-taking. Gary’s rapid rise as Poster Boy for the party is coming back to bite him in the ass. His hatred and desire for revenge at Jen really took me by by surprise, superb scene Sudah. I can’t wait till next week

    • Gary and “charm” in the same title? Ha! He hates almost everyone, doesn’t he? Your description of the country club crowd on Long Island reminded me of Nelson DeMille books I read and enjoyed long ago. Did you intentionally have him slip up and say “here” when he lied and said he wasn’t home yet? Vending machine donuts and lukewarm beer – charming indeed! I imagine it must be the Yonder Boys coming over? I gasped at the ending and am now very worried about Jen.

      • Hi Kathy,
        Thanks for catching that “here”, I meant to write “there”. We don’t know much about Gary’s affiliation with the YonderBoys, just that they admire him and his campaign. His meeting is supposed to be with volunteers with his campaign. Perhaps I’ll find a way to put that into the story later today or second draft. Yes the ending is worrying. Thanks so much for your feedback!!

    • HI Julie,
      Thanks so much for your feedback. I was a little worried about how to get that hatred for Jen in there, I’ve been dancing around it for a while, because I really have a tough time getting into his head space. I know you have experience with that for the story you are writing, I feel so unclean afterward. I may have to slow it down and make sure I introduce it a little slower earlier so that it’s not too much of a surprise. Something to ponder for second draft.
      But thanks so much for your comments, I really appreciate them!!

      • Hi Sudah, I really appreciate what your are saying, its awful getting into the heads of our unsavoury characters but I think you do it really well even though it does take its toll on the writer. I didn’t have that much idea about Gary but I wasn’t surprised by his thoughts given his political affiliation – that’s the way those people think as far as I know. I didn’t find his feelings about Jen abrupt just a surprise in the plot. Great writing.

    • Hi Sudha,
      This scene was a great read and you had good pacing. Things are building up; I’m ready and waiting for next week. Suggestion for an edit, reword so there’s only one but in this sentence: But, the persistent stupor he sought became just another state but not one that led him anywhere.
      It’s interesting seeing Gary’s perception; it makes us understand him a little better, but he still doesn’t get any sympathy!

    • Holy Moly Sudha! Gary is a narcissistic piece of work. I loved the beer as a metaphor all the bitterness inside him (at least that’s how I read it) AND the slow build up of just how deep and dark his anger is. His hubris is going to be his downfall – at least that is what I started to hope for! And his blind spot that he feels just as entitled as all the Hampton’s folk. You built the scene methodically and left it at the height of his rage. That’s great for the momentum and page turning quality of this story. Can’t wait for next week!

      • HI Leona,
        Thank you. Yes, he’s an angry narcissist which is one of the most dangerous kinds. I loved the beer/bitterness analogy. I didn’t think of it, but I think it fits. Thanks so much for your very supportive comments.

    • Wow Sudha! Gary is one nasty piece of work! His thoughts about Jen at the end made my skin crawl.
      I really enjoyed the insight you gave us on his way of thinking about his own origins and Long Islanders, it was so telling of his chip on his shoulder and bitterness. I was wondering though whether you need to look at the language you used there, as it’s sophisticated, articulate and devoid of swearing and so quite a contrast with his voice in spoken word and his thoughts at the end of the scene. I hope that makes sense.
      Bill’s 101 paragraph was brilliant. “There’s campaigning and there’s governing” and “ideas are dangerous in that setting” – loved those, sadly never a truer word.
      Just loving yor story, Sudha 😊

      • Hi Ben,
        I thought about that use of language, and I agree that he sounds a bit sophisticated. Gary can sound intelligent briefly when he is performing but his baseline around friends and family is crude. I agree with your analysis of the language he uses in his thoughts. That worried me very much and I struggled with that. Some people fancy themselves “articulate” but they mostly borrow phrases from others and often misuse them. I may try and adjust it to that impression in the next draft. Thanks so much for picking up on that.

    • Hey Sudha,

      I’m so so sorry for only commenting again now. You always give me such great and thoughtful feedback and I feel awful for so rarely reciprocating.

      I’ve caught up reading the last few weeks’ scenes. Your story flows really well and I’m always eager to keep going when reaching the end of a scene. One would swear that you’ve learned from series writers, the way you always end on cliffhangers! It’s awesome.

      Ugh, just when I think I can’t POSSIBLY hate Gary more, you reveal him to be an even bigger scumbag than previously thought.

      One thing that I’ve picked up from reading the last few scenes in one sitting: I’m a bit confused about Gary and Marge appearing to be back at home following the flooding. Last time they had moved from Bern’s poor parents to a different place? Or did I miss something? If I did, I apologize and then you can obviously ignore this bit of my comment.

      Over all though, really well done! I can’t wait for your next scene! – Rachel

      • HI Rachel,
        YOu are right and thanks for reading them in a row. I can’t bring myself to do that yet, so I really really appreciate that you did it. (Mia keeps admonishing me to ‘do my homework’). Yes, you’re right, I will have to make sure that I mention that the situation is resolved and that they have moved back into their house. Thank you so much for reading and commenting when you can!

    • Hi Sudha I’m seriously late to the party this week and can’t say more than everyone has commented here. Gary really is a douche bag. And Jen will be furious if/when she sees pics of their ‘happy family’ posted online – all together a fantastic scene. Super well done.

    • Hi Sudha,

      Apologies I am also late this week – but good things are worth waiting for it seems, and here you’ve presented Gary so uniquely!
      You’ve got a very complex character here, that is going to give you a lot to work with. I enjoyed his bio, growing up and and how he viewed his surrounds and what they inspired him and his subsequent loathing for the long islanders. He has a point when he says that many of the fat cats are unhappy in their pursuit of material wealth, but there is an underlying resentment there for a personal failure (which I sense) and which you can play up more if you like. In fact, with Gary there is a lot of pent up resentment disdain for those around him that differ from his ideals – that’s why he’s so intriguing. We glimpse this in his reaction towards Jen when he thinks about her.
      Interesting his heightened self image also comes to the front when he says he’s been a house man for the past 5 years but at the same time, he doesnt want to have his colleague release any info of him (because deep down there are some serious feelings of unworthiness, I suspect a dad that beat him and brought him down, belittled him)
      Ooooh beautifully complex and very engaging! I’m so glad we got to spend some time with him.
      Well done on Nr 36!

  • Rachel
    Stellenbosch, present day.
    “One would never imagine that it’s supposed to be spring!” I complain as I try to burrow deeper under the blanket. “All that sunshine out there is false advertising when it feels […]

    • David replied 4 days ago

      Hi, Rachel-
      What a terrible situation. I know exactly what it feels like to be on the wrong end of a long-distance conversation about a loved one in emergency surgery. “I breathe for the first time in hours” captures it perfectly. I might have wanted to see a little more of what went on during the wait–what was Zelda, doing, for example?
      I love the bit about Marius still being a brother-in-law even though he divorced Petro. When someone gets associated with our family, it’s the same way. They’re stuck for life.
      And, hey, do you really use phrases like, “one would never imagine” in ordinary conversation? 🙂
      Great scene.

      • Thank you so much for your comment, David. Marius’s illness is one of the reasons why I used my first reprieve and posted two scenes this week. He’s still in ICU, but he’s off the ventilator and talking! We’re hopeful again!

    • No not Marius too. Sounds like such a special family and from your POV, it is hard to understand how their relationship with each other and their significant Others is so copacetic.
      I loved the story of buying a ticket back to South Africa where Rachel still has a home.
      Beautiful story, especially as you draw out the tension about the surgery and its results.
      Great scene.

      • Thanks so much, Sudha! Marius’s illness is one of the reasons why I used my first reprieve and posted two scenes this week. He’s still in ICU, but he’s off the ventilator and talking! So we’re hopeful. I was unable to write about anything other than him for this scene, even if it doesn’t make it into the book in the end. – Rachel

        • Hi Rachel,
          I am so sorry about Marius’ illness. I am very glad to hear that he is recuperating. It is very very hard to write in that setting. Your love for him and concern for his wellbeing are certainly apparent in this scene.
          I hope this makes it into the book because it’s really a great description of the dynamic of the family.

  • Zelda
    It’s Valentine’s Day. I’m in bed, reading, when my cellphone chimes on my bedside table. It sounds different than a text notification, which is why I reach over for the handset and check.
    It’s a private […]

    • Hi, Rachel-
      I’m glad that you mentioned that you posted 2 scenes or I would have missed this one.
      It’s interesting that the Facebook message was the impetus for the story–the MacGuffin, if you will–and yet we never hear anything more about it.
      Zelda’s philosophy is interesting. What if we’re born on the wrong side of the globe from our one-and-only?
      Anyway, good scene. I really like the sisterly interplay between Rachel & Zelda.

  • “And what did you do after you saw the text on Michael’s phone?” the lawyer asked me. Her face was  without emotion – she was just gathering facts. 
    I shrugged. “I had just been coming to terms with what Emma-Leig […]

    • What a great scene. Alma, so cool, in the face of Michael’s denials. Micheal on the back foot. Peony looking like she’s going to be uncontrollable and E-L an HSP. You used the setting well. Public space keeping everyone under control but not enough to avoid having some kind of conversation. Distress and denial amplified by a busy, distracting space. Then focusing in on small details, the phone buzzing distracting Michael. Alma controlling her face, tiny micro movements only someone very familiar with her might notice bringing back into the readers’ minds that Michael and Alma both know each very intimately and yet hardly at all. Cliffhanger ending. Big thumbs up!

    • HI Hanri,
      I remembered that Alma had gone to see a divorce lawyer but that was a few scenes ago (I think) so maybe an italicized reminder at the top would help. In the novel, when you have your sequence down, it probably will not be necessary.
      I really enjoyed the cat/mouse nature of the conversation with Michael, especially as he makes deals with himself about what Alma may or may not know. And the public setting of it all, forces them to be restrained when she would much rather not be. Great tension–I liked it.

    • Hi Hanri,

      Ooooh, that line – don’t stop the call on my account – it says everything, we’re finally catching a glimpse of Alma unchained. I doubt she will be able to control the enormity of the emotional tsunami that is going to hit her, but she’ll be able to defer it’s impact e.g. right now, this is going to push her into a sort of survival mode where she’ll be thinking clearly but be dissassociated from the situation, and when it’s done and wrapped up, the fallout will hit her and she’ll have to deal with that. I love the complexity of your characters and the many facets you show us of them.

      What I really liked about this scene was the fast forward to the divorce laywer to explain her action and then the return to the scene. Fastastic scene with lots of tension, I’m looking forward to the next instalment!

  • Scene 37 – Magera
    “You can’t be serious, Benji,” Magera’s heart raced at Benji’s words, unsure whether to discourage her young friend’s impetuous desire to rescue SuSu or lend her resources to the task.   
    Her […]

    • I like the plan! I can’t stop thinking about the red door. What does it mean? And has all this taken place in less than a week? I thought more than a week’s worth of events had happened in Minsang’s captivity. Either way, things are moving fast now!

    • Hell of a plan to pull off, I also think I need a reminder on the timing. Weren’t the girls caught trying to escape. Golly, my memory is full of holes. Having those guys with some professional training will be useful – but not unless they’re armed.
      Very fast paced scene, plenty action, and high stakes. It’s great that things are moving so fast – almost like the whole overall story is rushing to something.
      We’ve still got a pile of weeks to get through and I look forward to seeing where this ends up. 😉
      Small typo here: “What is is?” She asked.
      I’m also going to need a reminder on Richard Drummond – rings a bell. Might just be me being dumb.

    • So much going on, the ramping up for action is exciting to read about. You draw Benji and Magera’s personalities well through their conversation. I don’t remember Richard Drummond that well, but I figured it out from the context. This line was confusing, ” Magera relayed her suspicions about what was going on in the upper floors of the warehouse, of the girls she knew were trapped there” . Isn’t Minsang still in the apartment with them? Can’t she relay what is actually happening?
      I’m also really puzzled by the red door reference. I’m guessing that Magera may have seen the entrance to New Moon.
      There should be a stronger argument for why the group doesn’t want to wait for law enforcement and feel that they should take this rescue into their own hands.
      Definitely could feel excitement coursing through the whole scene!

    • Hi Peggy, another great scene! I too got a little confused by Magera’s suspicions given that Minsang could fill them in on exactly what is going inside the New Moon but that’s very minor. I’m also intrigued by the laptop and I think you’re hinting here there might be quite a bit more to that. It seems strange that after everything that she’s gone through, Minsang is so focused on her laptop, first on retrieving it and then on using it. I wonder what she’s doing and cannot wait to find out…
      I love that the love interest is back and that he has previous military training as well as being handsome, just what’s needed here 😉 I can’t wait to find out how the rescue operation unfolds now…

    • Wow Peggy, cooking on gas! Adore handsome Richard coming to the rescue but I wasn’t sure, given he had just heard the complexity of what had been going on, that he would capitulate so rapidly to such a scary, daring plan but then, there’s his background and alpha male persona. I remember at the beginning of the story you commenting that Minsang kept a record of all that had happened on her on her laptop so I think that is why its so important?. Can’t wait for the next episode. 🙂

    • Ah! Richard is the cavalry! I have a good feeling about this plan! I hope that Susu and the girls are still okay though. Great job keeping this moving Peggy!

    • Eeeek! Exciting stuff. Here’s hoping they pull it off, but I can’t imagine it will be easy. Good stuff, Peggy.

  • *************
    Robert walked past his wife. Her surprised expression brought him no satisfaction. A swelling wave of irritation with a crest of impatience crashed against the walls of his heart. He was sick of her […]

    • Very very interesting. My first guess is that someone in the lab overheard the conversation that Vivien had with Robert and referenced that in their text. Another more far-fetched explanation is that Robert has a split personality disorder. Both are not that convincing. So you’ve got a fantastic mystery here and you’ve left us dangling over the edge of a cliff. We are seeing competing POVs from Robert and Vivien and we see their suspicions for one another. Brilliant idea.
      Great scene

      • Thank you for the read and the comments as always Sudha! I think here I should not have the message arrive immediately because neither of these as you point out, are plausible, and it’s not Robert or one of the Lab Technicians. I need to accelerate the conflict between the two as the bomb will explode soon, and I thought this way could work – thank you for your reassurance!

    • Hi Jan
      There are so many ways this can go, I’m left wondering what’s going to happen next
      Vivien goes from being conciliatory with Robert to glaring at him the next without much indication of the shift in her feelings, she’s in a very volatile state atm. It was good to hear how how they were when they first met and it’s not clear if this is recoverable.
      I was a bit confused by this “The positive result from auto test also did not reassure her.” Was the test positive for HIV, or that she was clear. or was it positive (ie good) news that she wasn’t HIV positive?
      Picky: Those snakes, would they rear their heads rather than bare them at her?
      So many delicious tangles to comb through, hope you’re enjoying weaving them together! A few typos and such but you’ll pick those up later.Really good scene, let’s us into Robert’s head

    • Hi Jan I dont know if I feel better or worse about Vivien and Robert’s relationship after this, but the HIV mystery deepens if Robert isn’t confessing to an affair and he’s certain V wouldn’t have had a sexual relationship with someone else…and the text…very perplexing – who could have heard that convo about her forgiveness (interesting V is making it a quid pro quo – she’ll forgive only if Robert will do the same…. Home run ahead of us!

    • HI Jan,
      Thank you. I’m glad that my comment was helpful!

  • They heard them from afar, the muffled noises of a crowd of some sort, shuffling towards them. Then, the out-of-tune din of the band starting up. Children rushed from their mothers’ sides towards the dusty t […]

    • Hi, Martin-
      This is a spot of fun! The circus coming to town used to be such a big event.
      I wasn’t certain whose part of the story this might be for a while–we don’t get Laoise’s name for several paragraphs, just an unidentified “she.” I found it a little confusing.
      I enjoyed Laoise’s wiles, getting the girls to complete their chores first. And the girls’ impatience. And especially the smooth artist, with his double-entendre ending the scene. Nicely done!

    • Hi David and thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

      I have no idea where the circus idea came from, but it is a good place to find a charmer, I’d say. i take your point on the confusion, Because I have several Laoises on the go at the moment, it’s beginning to scare me that using the name itself might confuse. Anyway, I’ll review it.

      Thanks again.


  • CHAPTER 34
    As soon as we arrived in the next town, we picked up another burner phone. Fred checked in with Mr Pritchard who had nothing more to say than get a move on before he hung up.
    Fred took the scenic […]

  • Fran jumped into Terrance’s Landcruiser and fastened her seat belt. For a moment, Terrance just sat, one hand on the steering wheel, one on the gear stick, looking at her. Then he shook his head and turned the k […]

    • Good for Terrance. Nice job laying the foundation for the next round of snot en trane 😎 between Duncan and Brigitte and poor Guy, seems like there will be plenty to go around.

      • Hi Nina – hoping it won’t end in tears for Guy but there are sure to be some shed along the way!

    • Hi Deryn, I love how you used the giraffe to prove a point, comparing Fran to the scurrying animals of prey. I think Fran’s familiarity with Terrance speaks to her character. How nice that she has an opportunity to go to the gallery where Duncan and wife will be–have fun with that scene! Quick typo fix: There should be a quotation mark before the word Giraffe.

      • Hi Becky – thanks for the pick up. My beta reader criticised Fran’s familiarity with Terrance, but for me she didn’t give anything too personal away- but I can always review that later or give them more interaction before to pave the way. Thanks for the read and feedback.

    • Hi, Deryn-
      Nice scene. Not as dramatic as some of the others. I especially liked the Afrikaans phrase–“Just getting things straight – making sure there won’t be snot en trane* before my lodge is finished.” It added a touch of verisimilitude.
      So did Fran get the wrong end of the stick regarding Terrance’s inquiry? Wasn’t he asking her whether she & Bernard would be a problem because he was worried that they couldn’t get along?
      Fran’s dropping in on Duncan & Brigette, eh? I’m sure that there will be zero snot en trane assoicated with that encounter.

      • Hi David – haha yes there is going to be a showdown at the OK Corral next week!!! I love the word ‘ verisimilitude’ btw so thanks for throwing that in!!
        I thought that Terrance was uneasy because he thought Fran and Bernard might start (and end?) a ‘ thing’ – might get messy when they’re working on his property…but maybe you saw it differently? Thanks for the read and feedback!

    • HI Deryn,
      Love the expression snot en trane…its a good one to describe this sort of melodrama. I’m glad Terrance is such a straight shooter–that’s good for Deryn. You used the giraffe sighting quite effectively and showed us how Fran felt in comparision. Clever.
      Also, I like the anticipation of what might happen at the gallery now that she knows Duncan and his wife are there…good reaction scene.

      • Hi Sudha, thanks – love that you’re conflating Deryn & Fran!!!! My beta reader felt that Fran was over sharing and being over familiar with Terrance , but it felt natural to me to write it like that…but hey ho…the catchwords now are ‘draft 2’ and ‘revisions’ …nearly at the end

        • HI Deryn,
          I”m so sorry, I guess I was sleepier than I thought. I caught one Deryn in my comment but I guess I missed the other one. I apologize, but I guess it’s pretty funny too. I understand your Beta reader’s POV…but it is a long drive. Perhaps, Terrance says something to make Fran feel like he’s an understanding person, or perhaps she says something about Bernard that makes him question her. Those two ways may be a way to ease into her revelation to Terrance. But still, I agree with the “catchwords”–here we’re just working on the bones.
          Great scene–a lot get’s done here!!

    • Hi Deryn, no, I don’t htink the familiarity between Terrance and Fran is too much. Yes, at first you think Terrance is a bit too blunt but then you tell us that he’s known Duncan and Bernard for almost all their lives. And he clearly likes Fran. I think he’s just trying to clear the air so that his project runs smoothly. I would leave the tone as it is, if you asked me.
      I love how you weave descriptions of the African bush in here and there. I am looking forward to Fran’s trip to the Gallery…there’s bound to be some drama in her conversation with Duncan.

      • Hi Susanne – thank you so much – am getting an early start on next week’s scene – it’s going to be one of Mia’s ‘ inciting’ moments!!

    • I liked this sentence, very Terrance (from how I know him). 😉 “This could be a long drive if I’m speaking out of turn— so feel free to tell me to shut up if I am,” he opened. I must tell you and excuse my French – that whole opening scene was f**king great. Expertly done. I read it with an open mouth.
      This whole Guy thing is funny, great pick up on Notting Hill. Really sharp – it adds so much colour to this story and their relationship and Guy is an amazing sub-plot (if that’s what it is).
      I must tell you this is a stunning scene from beginning to end, really, great. Now we wait for the confrontation at the Gallery. I can’t guess at how that’s going to go – so you’ve created a very unpredictable leading lady for this.
      I’d have her be super nice to Brigette and the girls go for lunch leaving that creep to finish up his work and sweat it out. LOL.
      Read some other comments – I think someone like Terrance doesn’t operate like the rest of us – his approach is great.

      • Hey Michael – Thank you SOOO much for this review. All I can say is phew that it worked! A massive re write notwithstanding it all seems to be working – threads in place to weave together (or unravel!) and the end is almost in sight. Thank you for the loan of Terrance – he has proved far more useful than Ethan/Madison so they are free to sail up the Congo river unmolested by my story, but possibly not by bandits or other sundry adversaries…!!!
        Still debating re the show down – should Fran blame Brigette equally, or just lay in to Duncan? Am channeling my inner woman scorned and working mostly on the dialogue (and maybe there are items thrown for the physical action that’s required…) Many thanks again for your support, D

        • Let’s call it a rewrite – massive is not required. Most of the meat and bones are there and look tidy enough. 😉

    • Hi Deryn
      It feels a bit like you’re drawing the threads together and setting up things for a wonderful showdown (Duncan), hugely enjoyable piece on friendship where Fran grows up (Guy) and there’s the titillation of will she/won’t she (Bernard). All excellent stuff, looking forward to seeing it all pan out!

      • Thanks, Anne – hope I have enough to get me to 52 – it could all be over (bar the shouting!! ) quite soon!!

    • Hi Deryn, I loved the inclusion of ‘snot and trane’, it gives it another level of South African flavour and authenticity and straight away took me there. The convo with Terrance is great, him spotting the chemistry that Fran is still denying really firms up the Berard appeal for the reader and oh my gosh, I can’t believe that you’re going to send Fran to the gallery for the showdown. That is more than inspired, it’s genius! I cannot wait 🙂 x

    • Deryn,
      The pacing of your novel is so dang good. Every scene leaves me wanting more. Even your minor characters like Janice and Lawrence are really well done. I love Terrence directly getting into Fran’s business, and explicitly pointing out to her that Bernard likes her. (Our Fran can be a little daft.) So well done!

    • This race along so thrillingly. Terrance getting stuck in straight away. Poor Guy and boy is Duncan gonna get it. Loved it!

  • C Alexis and Profile picture of SunshineSunshine are now friends 1 week, 2 days ago

  • I tugged on my bunched-up nylons under my skirt as I stood outside of Nancy and her mom’s brownstone in Park Slope. It was a calm, residential street on a Sunday morning in Brooklyn. The cool breeze rustled t […]

    • Hi Sudha,
      I enjoy following your scenes. Nancy sounds a bit codependent. I wonder if you want to go into that characteristic a little more detail about that in your rewrite? Just a thought–otherwise maybe leave out the details of her past relationships and just talk about Ken specifically. I could use a reminder of what Jen said to Nancy on the phone, don’t remember what she snapped at her about but that’s probably just my memory giving me problems as usual, lol. Good descriptive line here: “To be honest, I didn’t really follow what they were saying. I was focused on whether I was going to break up with Ken”. See you next week!

    • Hi Becky,
      Yes, it seems that Nancy is going to need a little more carving out-as more than just the secretary who makes bad coffee… The reminder is that when Jen was drunk she was scornful when Nancy showed concern and pissed off that Nancy had withheld that she’d met Jen’s mother. She’s now appeared at Nancy’s house two days after her drunken episode and is very ashamed of her prior behavior.
      Thanks so much for your feedback!

    • Hi Sudha,

      I like that Jen is not above making amends, being honest about the things she does wrong. She really feels guilty about what happened – her paranoia and subsequent “observations” confirm that. But she takes it head on and sees an almost humourous side to it.

      Interesting here the gap between Nancy and Kenny is widening, and Jen never had a chance to meet him. I wonder if he will make a comeback? And if we’ll be seeing more of him as he gets in deeper with the Yboys – this part seems unclear as he appears to be both drawn to and careful of them.
      I liked meeting Nancy’s mom and the gesture of having Jen over – a safe space for these ladies (and your descriptions of the food have me wanting so roast now) with the Mom on their side.

      This hints a start of a nice friendship between Nancy and Jen, but where Jen takes on more of a ‘big-sister’ role, even though it started the other way round, I just love the irony and the gentle pace and energy of this scene!

      Well done On Nr 36!

      • HI Jan,
        Yes, you got the paranoia/humor side which is self-deprecating. She’s not sure whether her observations are real or an overreaction. Thanks so much for your feedback, I wanted to slow the pace down here which you picked up on!!

    • This scene shows a nice side of Jen, more patient and empathetic than we’ve seen before. I love Mea Culpa Counseling, brilliant, and that Jen feels she owes Nancy the truth since she’s a guest in her house. The mother intrigued me. Smarter than her daughter?

      • HI Nina,
        I wanted to show that although she struggles to remain professional, she’s aware that she crossed a line and she doesn’t have much to make up for her sin except the “free counseling” for the moment. Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I think the mother is smarter than the daughter and very patient with her.

    • Hi Sudha – I like this opportunity to see Jen working albeit informally, giving advice to Nancy. All 3 women – Nancy, and her mother and Jen have strengths they can draw on when required, but who will be required to do what with and to whom is the question? Can’t wait for the coming weeks!

      • Hi Deryn,
        Yes this scene was a bit of a time out but also a follow up after Jen lost control. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Hi Sudha, it was great seeing Jen getting a little closer to Nancy in this scene. Although Nancy makes poor men choices, she has a big heart and clearly cares for her boss. I loved the bit about Jen’s glass being a little less filled than everybody else, that was hilarious, and no wonder🤣
      Nancy’s mother seems really nice and sensible, quite a long way from Jen’s own mother, I wonder whether that will make Jen ponder about her relationship with her Mum some more… xx

      • HI Ben,
        Thanks for the observations re Jen…I do think at this point that Jen thinks it’s a given that most people’s mothers have their act together more than hers, but yes, something to ponder on her way home. Thanks for that potential follow-up for next week’s scene.

    • Hi Sudha – this a great scene, as everyone has said, for showing relationship dynamics. The places you explored these is where I really landed as a reader. For this reason I wonder if tightening up some descriptions might amplify the juicy bits. For example you write:
      “As I stood on the stoop, I fretted about whether I had brought an appropriate gift. And whether I should apologize for my atrocious behavior when I had drunk too much. Did purple irises and Italian sesame cookies express “atonement”?” Could this be: “Standing on the stoop I wondered if purple irises and Italian sesame cookies could stand in as an apology? Or would I actually have to say something?” Tighter if you know what I mean.

      There’s so much gorgeous detail too. Loved the description of the mother’s apartment down to sticking to the sofa. Fabulous.

      • Hi Leona,
        Yes, I agree that the beginning part is a little wordy and I really like your suggestions for tightening up the writing on the second draft. Thanks so much. Once again, I was a little strapped for time and finished this right at the deadline. But yes, this can be cleaned up.
        Thanks so much for your feedback. I’m glad you like the relationship dynamics, I’m finding that I like writing about it.

    • You’re getting quite good and showing us these little glimpses inside Jen’s head, her self-deprecating guilt/remorse for how she spoke with Nancy and her desire to atone for it. I cracked up at the images you gave us, of bunched up nylons, her wine glass not as full as the others, and the Mea Culpa Counselling. I’m glad to hear that Nancy broke up with Ken, he was such a jerk. I wonder how, or if their breakup will be significant in upcoming scenes.
      One minor thing I picked up on, when Jen arrived at their house, she referenced Sunday morning, but then they’re drinking wine and eating supper. Maybe it should be a sleepy Sunday afternoon? Another great scene, Sudha. What happens next?

      • Hi Peggy,
        Hey, thanks for the suggestion about Sunday afternoon vs. Sunday morning–I think that makes more sense and is how I pictured it. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Ken, I will have to think about it.
        Thanks for your feedback.

    • Julie replied 1 week ago

      I really loved this insightful scene – the slight awkwardness in the initial meeting in Nancy’s mother’s apartment, Jen’s observations of Nancys mother’s homely knick-knacks, the sofa covering sticking to Jen’s thighs and creaking – I was laughing and cringing but loving all of them for their abiity to confront the uncomfortable. I think Ken is going to come back into the story. I like Nancy’s mother and wish I could be invited round for a pot roast and glass or two. I was really worried that Jen might be tempted to drink too much but her caring/professional side saves her. Sign over the counselling door LOL. Fantastic dynamics in this scene with totally believable characters and emotions.

      • HI Julie,
        Thanks so much for trying to picture the scene I painted. I think we’ve all been to apartments like this one, there are a lot in NYC.
        Yes, Jen is self-conscious but she’s working really hard to pull it together.
        Thank you for your supportive comments.

    • Hi, Sudha. This was a nice scene with great imagery, as everyone else has already said. I liked the humor in everything from the bunched pantyhose and plastic-covered furniture to some of Jen’s inner thoughts. The only thing that tripped me up a little bit was the reference to the smells of “home” which I agree are comforting but nothing like how I imagine Jen’s home growing up to have smelled. But I guess she is old enough to know what home is supposed to smell like. Maybe her inner thoughts in the next draft might include a brief acknowledgement of the difference. I’m glad Nancy broke up with Ken, especially since her mother never liked him much! It was interesting to me how self aware Nancy is about how she keeps making bad choices.

      • Hi Kathy,
        Thanks for the comments!! I agree, I should clarify that Jen doesn’t really know the smell of home except maybe from Bernadine. I ‘m glad that you could appreciate that Nancy knows that she makes bad choices but makes them anyway. I will keep your suggestion for the second draft!

  • My parents, my brother, and I got ready for a vacation to Florida. It had been decided that to save money, we would drive south for three days rather than fly or take a bus.

    My mother was beside herself. How much […]

    • What a heart breaking ending! Is this based on true events? It reads as if it is, and if it is, then my condolences go out to you. If it’s not, then you’ve written a very convincing story that evoked quite strong emotion, and portrayed a lifelong history of favoritism between the mother and brother that the daughter learned to navigate based on teachings from the father. The little vignettes tied together so well, and was quite engaging and well written. Great work, Sudha, I enjoyed this very much.

    • Hi Peggy,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. I haven’t made it over to the ss yet, still trying to get through the scenes! I would say that it’s a “fictionalized” memoir where some facts were changed for the sake of the story. The toast scene was more or less the way it went. The ending was very real –it’s been about 6 years since my father passed away, so I’m doing OK, but yes, the memory still comes back just about every day.
      Thanks so much for your supportive comments. I really appreciate them!!

    • Hi Sudha
      This piece is so emotive, in many ways. The mother-daughter dynamic produces a deep frustration in the reader, which is a good thing. You captured a whole family dynamic very well, in fact, and I hope its not all autobiographical. It does make for a captivating piece of writing, however. The end sort of makes it into this circle, where you MC still stays the subordinate, but has taken on more responsibility in that very role, having to take the place of her father as peacekeeper. Well done on this one xxx

      • hi Chantal,
        There is a lot that is autobiographical (see Amrita’s comment above about a typical Indian Mother), but definitely, some of it was exaggerated to make a point. The Toast story is famous in our family and that remained untouched…(you can draw your own conclusions from just that story…)Thank you so much for your feedback!

    • Hi Sudha,
      That was poignant and moving! I read the comments before starting because I wanted to know how much it was memories and the what percentage was fiction. It was a seamlessly woven tale and the breaks didn’t seem like cuts. I am sorry about your loss. I know losing parents seems like the hardest loss in one’s life, no matter how old we are. It feels like the roof on top of our heads is gone. I loved how you have described the mother. She captures all the qualities and characteristics of an Indian mother perfectly. Parts of it took me down my own memory lane. The end was moving. A great memoir! Thank you for sharing!

      • Hi Amrita,
        I’m very glad that you can relate to the mother character…this is a slippery trope that is hard to capture without pouring too much on it. I’m happy that it jogged memories for you, I find that to be very helpful information.
        Yes, it’s very hard to lose a parent, especially one whom you felt very close to. It’s a strange feeling to wake up and realize that you can’t talk to them that day.
        Thank you for your very kind feedback.

    • Hi SM, and how goes it? As usual, I missed the detail that this was a part memoir. Please accept sympathy, as well as thanks for turning this into something we can all relate to. The anecdotes you chose feel very real and I could get what felt like a very personal view of life within this family. The last line is tough and must have been difficult to live through as well as to write about. Thanks, regards and all the best. Seyi

      • HI Seyi,
        Thanks for the sympathy. It was very tough to write about and yet it felt like it had to come out there. Yes, this line will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.
        I decided to go with family dynamics and patterns as an example of inheritance. Thanks for your kind and supportive comments.

    • Hi Sudha, this was very well told. I liked the different scenes depicting the changes in your life – through travel/holidays. From this, I gather you were most like your father in personality and your brother, very similar to your mother. It must have been so hard to be the grown-up and make that decision and to lose your father. The one with who you had such a bond. You have honoured him greatly with your story. A great take on the prompt to tie in inheritance. My sympathies at the loss of your father, thank you for sharing this snippet of life.

      • SM replied 1 week ago

        HI Jane,
        You definitely got what I was trying to do and you articulated it so well, that it made me a little teary. Thank you for your kinds words. My father died in 2015 so of course, it is easier now to write about him, I had a tough time trying to do so before. And yes, I also look a lot more like my father which seemed to tie the parallels in our lives very well. Thanks for your sympathies.

        • Jane replied 1 week ago

          You are very welcome. This story is a lovely tribute to your father and your family dynamics.

    • Hi Sudha. I love the humour in this piece, especially the ‘toast’ discussion. Despite its sad ending, there is a genuine warmth throughout the piece. It’s a novel way to relate a life story – through travel! Just one little thing: Where you say ‘can you fly to DC tomorrow?’ and the reply is ‘“Why? I have tickets —” At that point I thought she was saying she had tickets to fly to DC, but I think you meant she had tickets to eg a concert, a play, a movie, or something else. So if you say “Why? I have tickets for —” I think that would alleviate that confusion. Thank you for sharing this poignant piece and my condolences on your loss.

      • SM replied 1 week ago

        Hi Jane,
        Thanks for your feedback. I had “for” there and for some reason I erased it for word count. I don’t mind telling you that those tickets were for a Star Trek convention (that’s how old that story is!) which I missed, because I did go to help. I agree, that “for” should be there. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Hey SM, I loved the different iterations of the same family dynamic from when she was a child on: Mom and brother the children, sister and dad the caregivers and peacemakers. Hilarious that the toast part is true. I also loved that the kids wanted to pack toys on the trip and not clothes. My sister did the same thing with dolls when we went camping as kids! truly artfully done. Sorry about your father.

      • SM replied 1 week ago

        Hi Beth,
        i love when people tell me about their stories in their response. Thanks for sharing that part about the dolls. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Hi Sudha, I absolutely love these pieces you write drawing on your family’s experience and how you take us through the years with the mini-scenes! There is something so special about the authenticity of the memories and details in this story. The humour too was just wonderful – the underwear giggles, the pink line going the wrong way, the shorts conversation, the toast – you had me smiling all the way. And that last part was so beautifully written and so poignant. My heart was full reading about the special bond between you and your Dad and how you knew that he would always put his trust in you.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us xx

      • SM replied 1 week ago

        Hi Ben,
        Thanks so much for relating what parts of the story touched you. The last part was tough to write but it felt like it had to be there. Thanks so much for your kind comments and support!

  • My grandfather’s garden here on the farm is a magical affair. The large lawn, a personal playground of epic proportions for all of us grandchildren, unfurls down in front of and to the side of the ranch house like […]

    • Hey Rachel, No need for apologies. Sure, you are definitely writing your way into this story with all its difficulties – the narrator voice, the subject matter, even the setting feels so grand for your usual characters. But when you get into your stride, the eavedroppings, the separation of the world of adults and children, the rituals of the rich, and the cross-generational nature of genetics, there’s a genuineness and honesty to it that I really liked. There’s something about a voice of a child that can deliver that rawness and searing objectivity. The moment she blurts out the connection between the siblings you land it. I wonder if you needed more of that – her initial reaction to the way they walk, their gate, the challenges they have that she doesn’t. Or maybe she doesn’t notice and is totally accepting, until she knows and suddenly that makes her see differently. Not sure, but I feel like you’ve tapped something really rich here. Reckon its worth pursuing. Thanks for sharing it in its raw state. A

    • Hi Rachel,
      I like Adam’s critique. It’s a little raw but the child’s voice seems to take over midway through the story and makes it stronger. I would say that there is a long description of the garden at the beginning that can be shortened It’s a bit of slice of life but there are little hints like the awkward gait that the child MC may have initially written off to their townie or city slicker status.
      It’s great that she learns about her cousins and their illness as she eavesdrops–the way most kids learn about family secrets.
      This was an interesting story with a unique take.

    • Wow, well done for a first draft. Your story is there and very well refined already. I love the narrator. This is a winner. A bit more spotlight on the siblings with the dystrophy might provide more focus to the central themes I think. Maybe also showing us a bit more of that disdain the mother had towards the sister in law (loved that by the way, so very typical haha)

    • Rachel Great work and not much needs to be polished.
      Your opening paragraph is a brilliant description of the garden and I could see it in my mind. Well done
      Now I want to know what happens next

  • Malek took a moment to breathe in the fresh air, filling his lungs and rejuvenating his soul. He noticed Tomlin and Mikah and the other warriors doing the same.

    He hadn’t realized how uptight and high strung t […]

    • I loved it! It’s a very well-written piece. I’m not sure if I have read previous parts of this or not. It seems familiar but I can’t recall the story. (My memory sucks!) Anyway, this piece is beautifully written and flows perfectly. I absolutely loved your characters’ names. The air of uncertainty and impending war gives the story a nice touch. Makes us wonder what will happen next? A gripping tale, and of course, my favorite genre. Thank you for sharing.

      • Thanks so much, Fizza. I’m glad that you found the story gripping, even if you haven’t read previous parts. As to what will happen next, I think it’ll depend very much on the prompt, which I haven’t seen yet – maybe I should go check that out! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

    • Hi Peggy,
      Geez, this part was breathtaking! I loved the tension and suspense you built up. I even read it faster! I also loved your idea of mixing the danger of an imminent battle (slaughter) intertwined with the storm. Perfect! It was very intense. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thanks for the lovely comment, Zefira, I hoped the storm would elevate the tension, and glad to hear that it did seem to work! Thanks for following my story!

    • Hi Peggy,
      I loved the storm, the momentous rising of the troops, the daze and confusion of the Subterraneans to decide what action must be followed. The dialogue was done well as was the body language–I loved when Malek jabbed his finger into Micah’s chest. That was a great way to show us how Malek was making sure that the others knew he was in charge. I would say that some of the names went by me a little fast, I’m not sure that I’d seen all of them before, so I wasn’t always sure who was who in that scene when Malek is giving orders.
      The whole scene was quite dramatic and I enjoyed reading from Malek’s POV.
      Great installment to your story!

      • Thanks for your comments, Sudha. Depending on whether I actually bring this story to a conclusion this year, I’m thinking of using it as the basis for 52scenes next year. I’m still debating whether it has sell-ability or not, but I’m enjoying this genre and the storyline. As for all the names, I decided that the six warriors that accompanied Malek inside needed to have names, especially since I needed them to take action to help show the number of people involved in this scene. I suppose I could just have had Malek say , “you two, go up to the heights and have the men up there stand down,” and ‘you two go to camp and find whoever’s in charge…” but I thought it would make the story more interesting to give these characters names. Perhaps it just caused confusion, so I’ll give that some thought. If I do make this into a full length novel, the six warriors will have been named already and we’d have a sense of who they are, along with the Subterranean leaders and other characters named in this scene.
        Thanks for following along with the story, Sudha, I appreciate your feedback.

    • Hi Peggy,
      This was such a brilliant action packed chapter! I really find myself inept at writing action sequences. Hence I admire writers who can bring it up so effortlessly. You have build up the scene piece by piece, the tension mounting a little with every word. I really like how the storm has been used in such a symbolic manner, a reflection of the tumult that is to follow between the inhabitants of the Subterranea and Outside. I hope Malek manages to stop the madness and avoid killing of more innocent souls. But will that drive the story further? Or will a heated encounter lead to a twist? Waiting for more! Thank you for sharing!

      • Only three more months to finish the story (assuming I wrap it up by the end of the year), so something’s got to happen soon! I have an idea how this story will end, but then again, I hadn’t expected all those people to storm Outside last month, setting the stage for this scene, and the next one after that. I’m hoping for a twist! As for writing action – this is something I’ve been practicing this year, as my 52scenes novel is quite action packed, a genre that I’m not used to writing much, but which has taught me a tremendous amount. Thanks for reading, Amrita, I’m glad you’re enjoying my story!

    • Peggy,
      This is a great installment of the story. It moved along at the frenetic pace you would expect of this situation. You also did a great job of blending the dialog with the action so that neither dominated the story, but carried each other along. Well written and great read.

    • Hi Peggy. I read on the Facebook page that you only wrote this on the day it was due. That is amazing, not sure how you do it, but you have managed to produce a really well-written installment in your story. It flowed beautifully. I only have one very small suggestion.
      highlighting the nervous faces of the Subterranean Leaders. Highlighting the boulders at the far edge of the – these two sentences have the word highlighting very close to each other, I would suggest changing one of them.
      Thank you for sharing your action-packed story, I really enjoyed it:)

      • Yes, I wasn’t sure I was going to pull this off this month – I was really sweating, and pantsing the whole time! Thanks for the suggestion, Jane, and am happy you’re enjoying my story!

    • Wonderful, Peggy! I had to step away from the site for a few months and haven’t yet managed to catch up properly, but I wanted to make sure I read your story – and I was not disappointed. You know your stuff. And I love how you manage to slip the monthly prompt into this continuing story.
      Tiny niggle (and as I said before, I only niggle because your writing is already so good): you write about how the Subterraneans might be afraid of rain because they had been underground ‘for more than a hundred years’. That means they (this specific lot) were born underground – none of them is 100 or more, right? In that case, I would suggest saying ‘for three generations’ or something along those lines.
      Keep going!

      • I absolutely love your suggestion about referencing 3 generations rather than 100 years, there’s only one person still alive after all this time, and he is not one of the ones that have gone Outside. Thanks for the read and the great comments, Vera – I’m off to find your story next…

    • As we would say in NZ; ‘Beauty, mate!’ An excellent way to use the theme of the month, the story holding the attention of the reader right to the end! Full of great detail and you maintain the tension right till the end of this chapter. Can’t wait till next month 🙂

    • Seyi replied 1 week ago

      Wonderful stuff Peggy. Great descriptions of the curiosity, confusion of the Subterraneans as they poured out of their home. Malek, from a very impetuous introduction, is really proving to be a Main Character and a huge influence on the story. Bringing the storm in as another character (almost) is a very cool touch. It would definitely slow down the crowd pouring out and also the advancing warriors. Very well thought-out construct and can’t wait for the next chapter. Well done and best regards, Seyi

  • The great ship slid to stop at the wooden jetty in the Year of Our Lord 860, and it carried death in its belly.My father, the man they called the Thane of Worlds, stood on the city wall, watching. His hands rested […]

    • I love historical fiction, especially when there is such intrigue and mystery as you’ve given us with this story. You did such a great job setting the scene as well as the tone, and you escalated the tension especially well.

      There’s a few sentences throughout that might be modified to add rhythm to the pacing (for example: men will do what men have always done, and women will [always] pay for it. )

      It took me a while to realize that the narrator was female, although the line I just referenced was a perfect clue that I didn’t pick up on. I liked the sense of foreboding you created when the Thane asked to bring his wife (MCs mother), and I liked the reference to their mutual affection, though his was perhaps greater than hers 🙂

      I especially liked the ending, and the premise of it. This line took me a few reads to understand who said it and to whom: “Why did you go with him?” She had loved my mother and my mother had left without so much as a goodbye. – I assumed it was the woman that came with the boat, but it threw me off, because we’re inside the MCs head and how would she know that the woman had loved her mother or that her mother had left without saying goodbye?

      Overall, I found this to be a captivating, fulfilling read that just left me hungry for more! Well done, Elaine, it was worth the late night and the morning after fatigue!

      • Hi Peggy!
        Thanks for reading and your thoughtful comments.
        Yes, the story does need an edit.
        I liked the thought of popping in ‘always!
        Yes, you’re right. That piece of dialogue does need a tag.
        I would have liked more words to fill it out a bit more. But it’s a start so perhaps I’ll do that on my side.
        Had you originally read part 1? Did you think this was a good follow-on piece?
        Thanks again, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed it and that it left you hungry!

      • Hey Peggy, I’ve done the edit. I’d love to know your thoughts on this rewrite, if you’re willing?

        • Much better, Elaine. The ending was more cohesive and easy to follow.
          I did read your tag story way back when, it’s been a while so I don’t remember the story exactly, but If you like, I can go back through the archives and re-read it. Do you think you’ll continue this story line? I like it, a lot!

          • Hi Peggy,
            Thanks so much for re-read! I really appreciate it. I’d be delighted if wanted to re-read Tag and let me know if the two stories hold together! Yes, I have been thinking about it, and possibly making each section told from a different person’s pov. Or possibly just Mother Birch and this story’s MC.

    • I’d love to hear Mother Birch’s story – it’s such a fascinating time period and storyline. And weaving the two POVs would be brilliant, especially if told from their respective homes and perspective’s where you can contrast the two lifestyles, perhaps even causing one another to be forced to live in the other’s land, for what ever reason. So many things you can do with this.

    • Mark replied 1 week ago

      Hi Elaine,
      Loved the description of the cold. SHivers down the spine.
      You must expand on this one and I agree two POV.

      • Thanks for reading and commenting, Mark. And for your faith that I could actually expand this and do it in 2 povs. No pressure! 😀

  • Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/FL6rma2jePU?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

    It was a distant sound that seemed to get louder and louder. My phone vibrated itself off the […]

    • Hi Bogdana!
      What a pleasant surprise this story was. I loved the plot twist.
      I also enjoyed the complete change of tone; the beginning was gloomy, and then, after the V- 1996 appeared, everything became new and exciting.
      Her mother was so caring and thoughtful; it was beautiful to see the hope for better days ahead her mother created through this last gift.
      My guess is that they will live happily ever after.
      You have such a vivid imagination and are a wonderful storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Bogdana – what an intriguing idea – it kept me racing to the end (although I was a little distracted by a few typos). I wonder how it’ll all play out! Thanks for sharing.

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Amrita Sarkar

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Active 2 days, 15 hours ago
Short Story : 9
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