Mike Casper makes entering our contest Child’s play

The Sing-Song Child, to be precise! Literati! Mike Casper, one of our frequent fliers (Inside joke: Mike is a senior flight attendant with SouthWest Airlines! arrf!) has been on the tarmac too long.  Have not seen him on our site until now.  And with good reason.  Mike’s literary efforts have been concentrated on completing his …

The Sing-Song Child, to be precise!

Literati!

Mike Casper, one of our frequent fliers (Inside joke: Mike is a senior flight attendant with SouthWest Airlines! arrf!) has been on the tarmac too long.  Have not seen him on our site until now.  And with good reason.  Mike’s literary efforts have been concentrated on completing his first novel, The Sing-Song Child.

What better venue to introduce your work than A Word with You Press?

Unlike the forty or so contests we have run in the past, there is no prompt or word limit; use your judgement on how long you can hold an audience. Submit a prologue to your novel-in-progress or even the novel that you have threatened to write but have not yet run out of excuses not to write.

And keep writing, as if you know you will make it to the semi-finals and finals, where you will submit chapters  one and two. Why try to remove your writer’s block when just a little friction on the keys will melt it away?  He is the link to the rules, and oh-by-the-way a list of $500 worth of prizes you could win. (the winner, at their option, can decline the $250 first prize in favor of a date with the editor-in-chief at he McDonald’s of his choice anywhere in Moscow, Idaho)

http://www.awordwithyoupress.com/2014/03/20/once-upon-a-time-our-new-contest/

Here is Mike’s entry, for your consideration, the prologue to

The Sing-Song Child

by Mike Casper

THE YEAR 1574 ANNO DOMINI

IN THE SOVEREIGN COUNTRY OF TIERARY, NESTLED BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

 

Around a washed out bend in the road came a quickly moving formation of armed riders escorting a horse and carriage. The carriage hit a muddy rut in a particularly rough stretch and lurched to the side. The occupants, a boy and a middle aged woman, were tossed about; the boy bounced hard off the sidewall. The vehicle lurched again, prompting the driver to slow the carriage almost to a crawl and the driver to call back, “Sorry.”

A woman’s voice replied, “Andrew and I are fine, Penn, we’re used to the bumps.” As the passengers steadied themselves, movement out the window drew the boy’s attention to a peasant family collecting the remaining potatoes of the season. A girl his age looked toward the carriage and rubbed away a splotch of dirt from her nose. Barefoot, except for rags tied around her feet and desperately thin, she stood and waved to the boy. Their eyes locked, she felt a flutter in her heart. He smiled and waved back. Her stepfather’s sharp, “Sophie” broke her gaze and she turned away. She drew her threadbare shawl tighter around her shoulders and blew into her hands. In a reedy voice she said out loud to herself, “A carriage and smart looking lad my age, too. Good for him.”

She looked at the Heavens. Fog had coated the landscape much of the day but now, as evening fell, the sky overhead looked like the rough woolen blanket on her straw mattress. She could almost see bedbugs.

Her shoulders sagged a little and a tear trickled down her grimy face. She scratched an itch. “Yet, where’s the fairness, Lord? He gets a carriage and I get potatoes and bugs. Why?” As if in response to her plea, for one spectacular moment the entire bottom of the cloud layer burst forth in a blaze of pink, purple and orange, giving life and color to the land. She smiled to herself, murmured a quiet ‘thank you’ and started digging with her worn hand-me-down potato shovel.

It slid underneath a potato then hit something else, something hard and unyielding.

The blade of her shovel sheared off and its shaft snapped in two. Frustrated, she squatted and tugged hard at the defiant potato. To her surprise, the tuber shot out of the earth and the girl sat down hard. Red faced, she rubbed her bum and turned towards the boy in the carriage. To her immense relief she could somehow tell he was smiling with her misfortune, not at her. Sophie smiled back then dug in the hole to retrieve the rest of her shovel.

She partially unearthed what broke her tool: the tip of a large, smooth white rock. Alongside the stone was a palm sized shard of reddish pottery and a round disk of grey clay. There was an unusual black line painted on the pottery and, curious, she unearthed the fragments. A well placed gob of spit rubbed on the pottery exposed the image of a man with a prominent nose reclining on a couch.

She glanced over her shoulder at Stepfather, who by now had a tankard of ale in his hand and was sitting in the back of their battered wagon. She again peeked back at him then looked into the hole and moved more dirt. She could see more disks and a larger piece of pottery. She pocketed the shard and one of the disks then filled in the hole.

Just then her mother called, “Sophie, that’s enough for one day. Let’s go home.” Sighing, she rose and gathered her potatoes. She missed her daddy. Mother had re-married shortly after his death a year ago, for she had children to protect and feed. Unlike her real father, the new head of the house would become angry if she lingered in the field.

Nice to her at first, Stepfather had turned out to be a harsh man, especially when he had been drinking a lot of ale. She had learned to not anger him, and to dodge his efforts to catch her alone. That he might succeed one day made molten bile rise in her throat and revulsion shake her frame. She would have to stay quiet in the shadows till after he went to sleep tonight and then hide in her safe place behind Mother’s spinning wheel. And pray he did not wake up.

As Sophie was walking back to rejoin her family, on a whim she turned around and tossed the broken shaft of her now unusable shovel on the ground close to where she had found the fragments. From across the field a partridge’s raspy call made her smile and she tried to trick the bird to reply with her own call as Daddy had taught her. Success. Another glance at the retreating carriage confirmed the handsome lad was still looking at her. They smiled, her heart leaped again, and then they both turned away.

* * * * * * * * * *

(Put this video on to take you back to 1540 and the spoke n word)

23 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Sing-Song Child” is a novel which I’ll put on my “Hope I can purchase and read the novel someday” list. I am shovel struck by the mystery of the pottery, the suggestion of later romance of a girl and boy of different stations in life when this was taboo, the family initially tantalizing and a setting well imagined. The reader of your Prologue, in my opinion Mike, can expect to find rich descriptives, personalities careful, concise and personable without being too familiar all at once.

    A prologue is very much the young lady at a traditional, old-fashion dance. Her mission is to entice us to ask for a dance with her and the mission of a novelist writing an introduction is to entice us to wish to read Chapter One. You have beauty in your writing on this one Mike, so where do I sign in order to read Chapter One, because I would love to dance with your words swirling in my mind.

    • Mike Casper says:

      Parisianne your sweet kindness overwhelms me! Please feel free to twist any part of Thorn’s anatomy (I was thinking ONLY ‘ear’ and ‘arm’ and ‘tail’) to get him to advance my book to the semi finals/finals. LOL Thanks again! Mike

  2. Mike this is good stuff. Please continue with this story, if only for the seven of us (though something tells that AIN’T gonna be the case, even still I’LL PAY TO PLAY in this story land with a Sing-Song Child, lol)! I agree with all the previous comments about wanting to read more. “Timeless”, “love Sophie”, “enticing”, “interest peaked”, and of course “well-written.” Mike, you’ve got lots of potential for a great story here!

    Where are the boy and his mother going? Is the pottery a world changer or just a symbol in Sophie’s story? Which of the children is the Sing-Song Child, or does one “activate” the other like a wonder twin? Will the boy grow to the man who will save and love Sophie? So many good possibilities… my head is rife with questions — is the evil stepfather just evil, or is the the villain of the tale? Does the mother of the boy remain as magnanimous as she seems, or does she feed some darkness? Is the boy a pain in the butt or just ignorant of the connection he has with the world (given his “‘carriaged’ existence”)?

    Apols for the length… I am still waking up from a writing dream… lol

    • Mike Casper says:

      Tiffany, thanks for your kindness! The Sing-Song Child will be out shortly (3-6 weeks) on Amazon. All I need is to get a cover done and I have peeps working on that. As far as your questions…well…stay tuned! Mike

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    I wish to add Mike that the appeal of a character who we wish to journey with through their life is a powerful anchor to any novel. Sophie is that girl, that starting point persona and psyche which we ask to walk along with. So my wish includes a congratulations on your excellent prologue which begins this grand adventure with lofty expectations of the footsteps ahead.

  4. Glclark says:

    Mike Casper! Glad to have you back, and with a great prologue for what’s going to be a really good novel.
    This is the story of rich meets poor and finds love (I think) and there’s a lot of unanswered questions and plot points built into this prologue. As has been mentioned before, who is the young boy – why is he attracted to the poor girl in the potato field? And then we have a shift in Point of View to the young girl digging in the field and finding parts of a vase. Who is she and how do these two unlikely friends become friends (I’m guessing now).
    Tons of places to go with this beginning and I’m excited to see where this goes. I’m betting she puts the vase together and finds a cryptic message or map and the two (the young boy in the carriage and the poor potato digger) follow the clues on the to ………… Hmmmmm – what could it be? Treasure? Happiness? Thorn’s tattered and torn panties?????
    Looking forward to more and hope you advance so we will get the first chapter to answer some of the hundreds of questions we all have about this. Good job, Mike!

    • Mike Casper says:

      Gary! How the heck are ya? Thanks for the warm welcome back, it means alot to be welcomed into yours and everybody else’s company. I hope I advance too, there’s surprises galore coming iffen I do. Thanks for the kind words about my prologue, I wasn’t going to enter it into this contest but Thorn twisted my arm a few millimeters and here it is. Good luck to you too, bon chance and let’s roll!

  5. Mike, I know you have been working on this for sometime, and I can only assume the first, second, and third series is done. (LOL) It is a brave writer who enters a done deal for the knives of the group to cut and slash. Alas, this is not the case. The P has all the suspects to take us along for the ride. Plus, there is that Casper talent, the glue of which makes me belive in the characters, know that I am in for the devil, and a great ending. This contest would not be the same without you.

    • Mike Casper says:

      Michael, I am deep into the sequel to The Sing Song Child…about 90 pages to be exact…and am busy as a bee filling in my outline slash roadmap. I’ve a third book planned too but it’s rattling around in my noggin with just a few voice notes and jottings down so far. I’m happy to be back, thanks for the warm welcome.

      • YOU are so welcome. It is so cool to see a writer happen. More than cool. I walked outside and prayed to the stars that we humans never lose the gift, no matter where we are headed, writers like you, will takes us there.

  6. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    Mike,
    I very much like your prologue. I was drawn into your story. However, if I may, I have some suggestions to offer to possibly more quickly engage the reader and more strongly pique his/her interest. Please kindly take or toss my comments below as you wish.

    Sophie seems to be the focus of your story. Why not start out with her finding the pottery?

    Alongside the stone [that broke her potato shovel], Sophie [readjusted her bug-laden, thread bare shawl] to best examine [protrusions of] a palm-sized shard of reddish pottery with an unexpected black line and a round disk of grey clay. Puzzled, she stared at the dark mark.

    After this, perhaps Sophie, who is supposed to focus on her work, can look around to make sure no one is watching hear, but, as she lifts her head, she hears the horses. Since a fair bit of your story is from Sophie’s POV, it would be difficult, I think, to insert dialogue from the woman and Andrew. Maybe, she spots the two passengers and -imagines- what they would say. In doing this, she can look up once or twice more and watch the reaction of Andrew, who happens to be sitting on the side of the carriage facing her in the field.

    Then, toward the end of your prologue you might have something like this:
    Curious, she unearthed the fragments. Using a well-placed gob of spit rubbed on the pottery, she exposed the image of a man with a prominent nose reclining on a couch.

    — –

    Below I made some notes as I read.

    Again, my suggestions are for your consideration, to chew on or bury in the field, as you wish.

    === =

    Around a washed out bend in the road came a quickly moving formation of armed riders escorting a horse and carriage.
    >> Your opening sentence catches my attention, but I’m wondering if it can be stronger/sharper. For example, the word “came” could be replaced with a more expressive verb.

    >> Suggestion: quickly moving –> quickly-moving
    >> Suggestion: washed out –> washed-out
    >> Suggestion for your consideration:
    >> A formation of armed riders on horseback charged around a washed-out-bend in the road, stressing its escorted horse-drawn carriage, rocking it from side-to-side.

    A woman’s voice replied, “Andrew and I are fine, Penn, we’re used to the bumps.”
    >> Above, this sentence seems forced. I think someone is more apt to say, “We’re fine. We’re used to the bumps.” Yes, you may want to introduce your characters at this point, but, maybe, there’s another way to more subtly do this?
    A woman’s voice replaced, “I’m fine.”
    “Me, too,” young Andrew said. “I like the bumps.”

    >> Suggestion:
    As the passengers steadied themselves, à
    As the two passengers steadied themselves
    (This will help verify the number of passengers.)

    “A carriage and smart looking lad my age, too. Good for him.”
    >> Above, question: would a little girl say this? It sounds formal to me.

    She could almost see bedbugs.
    >> Above, why not say that she saw (half a dozen) bugs? Or, maybe, she caught a glimpse of one and knew that others were there, too.

    The blade of her shovel sheared off and its shaft snapped in two.
    >> That was one weak shovel.

    >> Suggestion: Red faced –> red-faced

    Frustrated, she squatted and tugged hard at the defiant potato. To her surprise, the tuber shot out of the earth and the girl sat down hard. Red faced, she rubbed her bum and turned towards the boy in the carriage. To her immense relief she could somehow tell he was smiling with her misfortune, not at her. Sophie smiled back then dug in the hole to retrieve the rest of her shovel.

    >> Suggestion: Sophie smiled –> She smiled
    (We know that it’s Sophie. Also, this is toward the end of a paragraph in which she participated.)

    >> Suggestion: palm sized –> palm-sized
    >> Suggestion: well placed –> well-placed

    >> Above, I think that these sentences can be written to sharpen. Please see my suggestion for your first paragraph. Also, if you can, try to avoid “there was…”
    >> Alongside the stone, she saw a palm-sized shard of reddish pottery with an unexpected blank line and a round disk of grey clay. Curious, she unearthed the fragments. A well-placed gob of spit rubbed on the pottery exposed the image of a man with a prominent nose reclining on a couch.

    for she had children to protect and feed.
    >> How many? Young?

    • Mike Casper says:

      Julie,
      Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll take em to ponder. Hey! Perhaps in the future we could collaborate on a story and enter another Thorn contest as a duo (duet?). We could call ourselves ‘Cohen-Casper’ it sorta RINGS. Just don’t give Mr. Stang or Mr. Clark the idea or we’ll be outpaced and outgunned. Or not. 🙂
      Mike

      • Julie Mark Cohen says:

        Mike,
        Interesting suggestion! If I remember correctly, a late aunt Cohen’s maiden name was Kasper. So, perhaps, there’s some potential for pair-writing, if/when the occasion arises.
        In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading more of “The Sing-Song Child.”

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