Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuesday ..already?

Allrighty then. This really, really is the last scrap from Christopher's Medal. I've been revising but I need to step away from it for a little while before I do a final sweep and send it off to Beta readers. I've got Torchwood to distract me and, of course, now I'm diving back into the Russian WIP (Yea, still no title). I've started thinking about it a lot and that's always a good sign.

This piece and other bits like it in the novel, are tricky for me to write. I like to write about what I know and what I'm comfortable with. Having to write a part where Chris is finally opening up and telling Grace of his experiences in Afghanistan is hard for me. I wasn't there, I will not be there, I haven't talked to anyone who was there. I'm having to rely on news stories, blogs, interviews and a bit of empathy to have Chris tell his story. So any feedback would be much appreciated.

“Stuff keeps coming back to me.” Christopher told her.

Grace shifted in his arms and looked at him. Outside, the wind hurled rain against the windows in the gathering gloom of late afternoon.

“They keep nagging at me…bad things that I thought had been long forgotten.”

“Will you tell me?”

“Yes.” He held her tighter.

She felt his long, shuddering sigh as she rested against him, the wool of his jumper soft beneath her cheek.

“Last November, about two weeks after we’d arrived at the FOB, we went on a patrol.

Grace waited, her hand curled up beneath his chin.

“We’d had reports of more insurgents moving into the area. There were reports that they were moving in an arms shipment, to a village about six miles away. We’d had some reliable information, we knew where they were. I didn’t have to go on these patrols, I could’ve stayed in the compound, but I liked getting out there instead of waiting around for a mortar attack. Anyway, it was too bloody cold to be sitting still. We took three armored vehicles. It was slow going. When we got to the village, we noticed it was quiet. Usually when we went there, there’d be people around, some even liked to see us there. That was enough for me. I told the lads to be on their toes more than usual and, fuck me if I wasn’t right. We’d no sooner passed through the market place when they opened fire on us.” His hand moved through her hair. “Are you tired of the ambush stories, yet, Gracey?”


“It’s just as well.” He flinched as the wind slammed a loose panel on the horse-walker.

“They hit us with RPGs. One of them struck the first vehicle in the convoy. We were stuck in a narrow lane with no way to get past it. We returned fire while the lads in the damaged vehicle scrambled for cover. By some stroke of luck, we managed to nail the bastard with the RPG, but there were still plenty of bullets flying about. We had to reverse out of there, once we’d got the men from the other vehicle out of harm’s way. One of the lads got hit in the leg and I dragged him into our lorry. We gave them plenty of covering fire. It was chaos, lots of shouting and swearing. I called in for air support, so that the gunship could tell us where to fire. They got there pretty quick and that just added to the pandemonium, the shouting, the swearing, the shooting and the roar of the helicopter. My ears didn’t stop ringing for days afterwards. That’s why I like the peace and quiet so much.”

Grace felt him tremble as the walker panel banged again. She wanted to make his pain go away, wipe the memories that haunted him.

“The gunship did its job. We managed to get one or two more of the bastards and the rest made a run for it, with the chopper chasing after them. It took care of the rest. We were so lucky that day. It doesn’t stop me from having nightmares about it, though.”

She looked at him, scared by the blackness he saw. She fought to keep the gates open, to keep him there with her. “I wish there was something I could do.”

His hand trailed across her cheek. “You do plenty.” He said softly. “It means so much just to wake up in the night and know that you’re close enough to touch. It’s enough that you’re here right now. I probably don’t say that often enough, how much you’ve helped me. I don’t tell you enough how much I love you.”

“You don’t need to.” She kissed him. “I know.” She sat up with some reluctance. “Now I’m going to go out and fix that bloody walker.”


  1. I keep saying thiss, but it bears repeating: your scenes are just so sweet and poignant. Beautiful.

  2. What Amy said. Lovely. :-) I can't comment on the accuracy etc. of the Afghanistan stuff, but it does give me a good feel for Christopher - and how HE saw things. So for what that's worth, it worked for me!

  3. Awwww! You keep coming up with the beautiful scenes that have the right amount of sweetness and grimness.

    You're writing is simply amazing and well written!!!

  4. Beautiful scene. I can't wait to see this one on shelves!

  5. Hmmm...not sure how to feel about this. It's very sweet and touching. You have a deft hand at these emotional scenes. Yet it bears no resemblance to the one conversation I had with my husband after he came back from Afghanistan. What strikes me, I guess, is that there doesn't seem to be any conflict for either of them. Him in telling or her in hearing it. Just my two cents: there's a reason post-deployment divorce rates are through the roof.

  6. Thanks, Bryn. That's my problem, I don't really have the experience to address this. Prior to this part of the book, Chris is pretty screwed up, won't talk about these things, won't talk at all, won't acknowledge her presence, loses his temper, goes on a drinking binge, leaves her for 4 months. It's only after all of that, he finally begins to unburden himself. I need someone who's been through all of this kind of stuff to read through the last part of the book and see if it rings true.

  7. Maybe its because I've read a lot of your hitorical fiction, but I couldn't help but feel like this scene was removed from the present time. It felt nostalgic, not immediate. I can't comment on the the authenticity of the conversation itself, only the feeling it evokes. Lovely and lyrical, and it felt like they should have been discussing WWII.

  8. Very nice. I, too, felt like it belonged to some other time, but that could have been my American-ness coming out and placing "lads" in some bygone era.

    I don't think his description needs dialogue tags or anything, but it made me wonder what his emotions are as he relays the actual story. The brief interludes are helpful, but I'm not sure I completely see how he is remembering. Nice work!

  9. This definitely works for me. I think some background - how extraordinary it is that he's telling stories at all - would be a good prelude to a scene like this (even if it's just website extra-narrative context for the reader). I can't speak to the accuracy of Life During Wartime, of course, but I'll say that I *like* the slightly nostalgic, old-fashioned scent in the air - I think there's too much grunting and screaming representing present-day wartime. And it's not as though you're talking about poppy fields or raising flags. He's happy to be with her, that's the point of the scene, and it's wonderful. I do think that she herself should be a bit more 3D and a bit less of a vessel, but that's the problem with wartime stuff, isn't it? I think it's marvelously done and wants only a bit of layering.

  10. Marissa stole my main comment, Fire. While as always, you set the scene so well, I felt a little detached, when I really wanted to feel sucked into all the emotion of the moment. Is there any way to *show* us more how he's feeling? Maybe through narrative, but also through pauses, breaks he has to take in the re-telling? Stuttered words? Because it just seems like it's all coming out so easily for him--very little emotion, pain, anger, or otherwise.

    Does that make sense? I guess the main way I'm getting emotion from this scene is via Grace's reactions, and his one flinch, and the weather. Whereas I'd like a lot of it to come from him.

  11. thanks, all, for your brilliant comments. I agree that I need to up the emotion in scenes like this.
    I like that I'm getting some great stuff to keep in mind when I go back and do revisions.

    Thanks again. Purgies rock!

  12. Outside, the wind hurled rain against the windows in the gathering gloom of late afternoon....I love this line. It truly makes me feel cold and I want to suggle up to my hub. Seriously, Missus Fire, are you trying to make my eyes well every week? I think it's a timeless scene, that could have been written now or a 60 years ago! Lurve it!

    xoxo -- Hilary