Monday, August 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - new stuff

This is from the WIP, tentatively titled 'Through the Mist'. I've made some changes to the beginning. The first beginning had Katya meeting Lieutenant Carr when she was lost in the fog on a Welsh mountainside. Happily, I was able to figure out a way to put Katya in Kashgar for the first chapter or two of the story. It works soooo much better in terms of establishing a relationship between the two so that it actually makes sense.

This scene is from the first chapter. Katya's Uncle went cap in hand to the British Consultate and managed to persuade the good Lieutenant to take Katya, overland, to Gilgit in northern India, in order to get her to safety before the Soviet tanks move in to crush General Ma's rebellion.

The peacock called out again and the rising breeze brought with it, the flat, salty tang of the desert. The dripping, dying fountain was a forlorn whisper in the courtyard. Uncle Sergei poured out more wine and Katya was uncomfortable under their guest’s stare. She was relieved when Anasa brought in the lamb. The room was full of noise again. Her uncle made a big thing of carving the lamb while her aunt passed around the bowls of rice and vegetables. For a while there was no sound except for the chink of silverware on china and the distant wailing of a singer from somewhere in the dusty maze of the Muslim Quarter, night was settling on Kashgar. The lamb was rich with spices and Katya resolved to beg Anasa for the recipe before she left. She wanted something to take away with her that would remind her of all that had been good about this adventure.

Dessert was a plate piled high with the produce of the market place, wedges of sweet melon, peaches and cherries. The conversation drifted from tennis, to orchards and the bazaar. Uncle Sergei brought the vodka out. Katya watched their guest carefully. In the few weeks she’d been in Kashgar, she’d seen a few dinner guests felled by her Uncle’s vodka and his endless toasts. The Lieutenant would have to be made of strong stuff to walk out of the house unaided after an evening with Uncle Sergei and his vodka.

He downed the first two shots with ease. Katya decided that this, alone, was impressive because most people’s eyes watered after the first, firey shot.

Katya helped herself to a few cherries and watched the toasts and the shots progress. Uncle Sergei’s eyes were narrow, tired slits by the seventh. Aunt Tanya’s fingers drummed on the lace tablecloth, a whispering, impatient tattoo as she waited for the inevitable conclusion. The Lieutenant finished the eighth shot after a toast to the peacock who still called out in the sullen, sleepy warmth of the evening. His brown eyes were still clear and his Russian fluent.

“To my niece, Yekaterina.” Her Uncle’s words were beginning to slide together. “A brave, beautiful and wonderful girl.” He slammed the empty glass onto the table and grinned. “A safe journey home, my dear.”

“I’ll drink to that.” The Lieutenant winked at her and drained his glass.

Katya blushed and arranged the cherry pits into a circle on her plate. She murmured her thanks and stared at the gnawed melon rinds.

Uncle Sergei poured the ninth with an unsteady hand.

“To a wonderful evening,” The Lieutenant said. “In the best company I’ve enjoyed for a long time.”

“Hear, hear.” Her uncle finished the shot in one gulp and slid inelegantly to the floor.

“Katya, darling,” Her Aunt sighed. “You had better ask Asana to fetch Tughluk.


  1. lol! Beautiful prose to describe getting drunk. I love it. :-D I really like that you're setting this in Kashgar, and your details give me a nice feel for the place.

    A couple minor things I noticed: You have a stray comma in the first sentence (after "brought with it"). Also, in the first paragraph, the sentence that starts with "For a while..." - the last phrase "night was setting..." should be its own sentence.

  2. I love the over-exuberant uncle, drinking toasts to anything. Although I was surprised he couldn't handle more than 9 vodka shots.

    Here's a thought, too: bring Katya into the moment. She seems very detached, thinking, "Oh, I have to get this lamb recipe." Which feels so ... suburban mom-ish. Is she thinking at all of the journey ahead? Similarly, you have great details of the atmosphere--tang of the desert and the dying fountain and the distant singer, but Katya doesn't seem to be experiencing them.

  3. As Ink noted, you have beautiful prose even in describing the decent into drunkeness. The subtle descriptions such as "Her Uncle’s words were beginning to slide together" work best. Well done.

  4. Love the dinner scene with hints of the Lieutenant and Katya's interest in him. I thought the first few sentences were misleading: kind of overly poetic for what was to be a much more grounded scene. Also slowed down the pace for me right from the get go, which I don't think you need. But the meal, the conversation, etc. were all fantastic.

  5. I have to agree w/Blond, while beautiful, the first few lines don't fit the rest of the scene.

    I have some Russian and Polish friends, who sit around thier table talking and sipping shots of warm vodka as if it were water, just having a great time. This totally brought that to mind. I think you did a GREAT job describing that!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  6. Thanks, Purgie peeps, for your comments. I'll probably expand the dinner/vodka session scene when I do my revisions.
    I definitely get what you say about Katya being detached from the place and the scene, I've picked up on that when reading through what I wrote during my weekend word blitz. Too many filters.
    Happily, I 've found my photos from my trip to Kashgar and the diary so I'll be going back and making more of a 'star' of the location.
    Hilary, my Russian teacher and his wife invited us round for dinner once...lots and lots of proper vodka and some very silly toasts. I could barely make it on the bus after!

  7. I liked it a lot! I really like the setup you've got going, and I'd probably read the entire thing. For some reason, I'm fascinated with this time period/area of the world, probably because I know very little about it.

  8. I enjoyed this scene! Love them sitting around with the drinking and toasting. And the detail about her arranging her cherry pits on her plate really conveys her embarrassment--nicely done.

    You may want to watch all your double adjectives, though--you've got a lot of "flat, salty tang" and "dripping, dying fountain" format strewn throughout this passage. Once doesn't bother me, but I stumbled across it several times, and for me, it really slows the pace. I think you should choose the one that captures the image you're seeking the most and get rid of the other.

    Overall, this is really fascinating. But I'm bummed that you left us with just a tiny little tease of the interaction bt the hero and heroine--BOO! :)