comments on U-town

Before I start the actual entry, I will mention that the new chapter, Quartet, is done. You can read it, starting with the first part, here. Or, if you’ve read what was posted already (up to SarahBeth meeting Pete and Katherine for dinner), you can pick up the action here. Or you can get the whole chapter in one file here.

Now we join our regularly scheduled entry:

My friend Cyndi has been reading U-town, and she has sent me some very interesting comments, which I’ll excerpt here. The parts in italics are my replies.

Chapter One: A Quiet Night at Duffy’s

here I sit.. reading chapter one. the tone from the prologue is still there.. mysterious.. curious.. you get the idea. it’s very fitting so far.

I’m wondering about the sandy-haired guy talking to the empty air next to him.. is he a bit off his rocker, or what? I’m sure I’ll find out later.

there is a LOT more of a feeling of mystery to this one than A Sane Woman.. and it feels even a little bit fantasy or sci-fi inspired, too.

very exciting, so far. I’m curious about the next chapter already. I’ll be getting to that soon (if not in a minute).

Glad you’re liking it so far. The first chapter is definitely intended to set a mood, and I guess it is sort of a mystery, though not a murder mystery (though, as you’ll discover, there is a murder mystery included in the story).

You’re definitely correct to see that this is fantasy/sci-fi inspired (and very much influenced by magical realism as well, which is in the same ballpark). It is a sequel to ASW, more or less, but it shows a larger world (many more characters) and it’s a larger world which includes people like Randi (and Vicki for that matter).

As you’ll see, the narrative becomes more straightforward after the first chapter (except for a few touches).

Chapter 2: A World so Alive

okay, I’m curious who Randi is. I’m sure I’ll find that out as the story progresses, of course. the different points of view so far are.. well.. they add to the story. I can’t think of a good word, but they do add to the story.

the “episode 1” breaks make things seem a little bit less confusing so far, just so you know.

I’m curious who the couple kissing in the kitchen are. this method you’re using, jumping from scene to scene, gives me a sense of the way TV works these days–small bits of information delivered at a fast pace.

you’re very good at keeping people wondering and curious enough to keep reading for more information.

pretty convenient of Chet to have a girlfriend who can rescue everybody in a moment’s notice like Randi does.

I’ll tackle some more chapters later on. this is really good so far.

You’ll find out more about Randi, but her actual history won’t be revealed until the current novel (and I’m not at that part yet, though it is written). She’s the person who the guy in the bar is talking to (when he appears to be talking to himself).

The Episode breaks are there from when it was posted on BBSs. Those chapters are written to that rhythm, and it didn’t work to take the subheadings out, so I left them in. I also couldn’t take them out (without a lot of other work) since in some later chapters the parts have titles as well.

The couple kissing in the kitchen was Henshaw and Jenny. If that wasn’t clear, it will be clarified in a later chapter when we see that evening again, from another point of view.

Chapter 3: The Mystery Dance

I’m about halfway through the third chapter and I realized I needed to write and tell you what I think.

overall, the mood is, so far, considerably lighter. this story so far feels like the kind of story where everything happens at night.. kinda like those movies where you rarely see the sun.

I find it very interesting that the club that Paris and Vicki and Jan Sleet went to was so quiet because everyone had on earphones. very interesting. it reminds me of those commercials for a portable mp3 player (I believe) that featured that alien or whatever it was. I forget the brand name.

Paris is in a gang, isn’t he? I’m wondering more and more why Vicki is so powerful that she can wrench the knob off of the ladies’ restroom door.

I didn’t know Jan Sleet smoked a pipe. very interesting. it adds to her odd character description.

interesting that the cops would give Jan Sleet problems but completely ignore Vicki, especially when keeping in mind that she throttled a good number of cops in chapter 2 (if I’m recalling correctly).. I’d think they’d have an all points bulletin out on her or something for that.

I find the closing of this chapter to be humorous.. not hilarious, but kind of funny.

Paris is in a gang, but maybe not exactly the type of gang you’re thinking of. We’ll learn more about that.

Jan smokes a pipe from time to time, mostly when she’s concentrating on thinking about something. As for why the cops picked her up, it was for a different reason (which you may know already, if you’ve read more).

Vicki did kill a cop (by punching him in the stomach), but remember that none of the cops survived Duffy’s (or had time to report what had happened).

Chapter 4: Prove It (Just the Facts)

okay, plowing right into chapter four..

the intro to this is funny to me. it makes me think of those affidavit thingies that you hear about people signing for court cases.

Carl strikes me as very easygoing in this chapter. easygoing and playful, for certain. bored, perhaps?

I see the imagery of Henshaw and Jenny kissing in the kitchen again, from a different point of view. it seems clearer this time than before.

seeing Jenny attack Henshaw from another point of view helped clarify a few things too. I wasn’t sure she’d attacked him, but now I’m pretty certain. why, I don’t know yet. I imagine it was simply being too drunk.

I love the way the story seems to jump around from person to person and from one part of the timeline to the next. it keeps me interested.

I don’t quite know why the cops would be after Pete. though I imagine they’d be chasing after Vicki after what she did to the bunch in the bar in chapter two.

the scene around the fire is very tranquil. it gives me the feeling of “calm before the storm”.

shame to find out that Carl’s dead from mouthing off at a couple of frat boys. yikes.. interesting development that his death is possibly bringing, based on what Jenn said, anyway.

and you ended the chapter on that note. good cliffhanger. nothing too suspenseful, but definitely enough to keep me curious.

Carl is pretty easy-going, especially compared to the other members of his band, who are not (in different ways).

Jenny, as we’ll learn, has some pretty big issues going on.

Chapter 5: Pre-War Housing

I like the “the story so far” intro here. it comes off as kind of tongue-in-cheek to me. I dunno why. the tone of it just seems very casual for something so otherwise serious.

I’m very curious about Marshall’s relationship with Jan Sleet even though they’re strictly (as far as I know anyway) colleagues. I mean, there is a chemistry between the two of them that says there’s something more there. maybe it’s just close friends but still, I’m curious.

just how skinny is Jan Sleet, anyway?.

T.C. doesn’t seem to care that it’s a federal offense to tear open someone else’s mail, huh? unless it’s not a federal offense where she is..?

does Marshall like Jan Sleet in more than a professional/buddies manner of speaking, by any chance?

Jan Sleet doesn’t strike me as the type who would carry a freakin’ WEAPON. o_O maybe I’m wrong, but she never struck me as that type, even in the case of being in U-Town.

I get the feeling that Vicki is going to fit in perfectly with T.C. and her crew. I think the part with her picking T.C. up in her chair is quite funny. if this were a movie, it’d be a very delightful comic relief moment.

I like the fact, more and more, that you made Vicki so very small because people’s reactions to her size and then to her amazing strength are always amusing to me.

The “story so far” is left over from when I was posting this on the BBSs (piece by piece), and I wanted to remind people of what was going on. I left it in because it seemed to work right there.

Marshall and Jan will make it very clear whether they’re sleeping together or not. And she is very skinny. The biggest thing to remember is that this is later than ASW, some time has passed, their relationship has developed.

Jan probably wouldn’t carry a weapon, but she might make Marshall carry one (if she thought it was a good idea). Even if he wasn’t too keen on the idea himself.

It is true (as you point out in a couple of places) that “Pre-War Housing” is a “lighter” chapter (lighter in tone, and also fairly short). This was deliberate, since “Prove It” is longer and somewhat heaver, and the following chapter is longer and heavier also. It seemed nice to have a kind of break in between, but also it shows (probably not that obviously) something about Jan Sleet and Marshall.

Jan, when we see her in the earlier chapters, is unhappy and scared and uncertain (not surprising, considering what’s happening to her). Now she’s back and she’s cheerful and optimistic and confident. What’s changed? She has Marshall with her now. I don’t mention this anywhere (and neither of them would ever say anything about it), but she’s not the same without him, not in situations which are potentially dangerous (she is, as we’ll see later, quite happy going out on a date without him, though 🙂 ).

Oh, and I mentioned how this is later than ASW (though I don’t specify how much later). Their relationship has developed. One indication is how formal they are with each other in ASW. He mentions at one point that she complains if he takes his shoes off in their hotel suite, and they have separate bedrooms. Here (we’ll see more of this as the story goes along), they’re quite comfortable sharing a room, and taking their clothes off around each other. Their “relationship” may appear weird, but they’ve both become much more comfortable with that, because it works for them.

Oh, and you’re absolutely right, Vicki will fit in perfectly with T.C. and her crew. Jan Sleet less so, but she’s used to being an oddball (and, in fact, she sort of works at it, given her clothes and so on).

The thing about Vicki is not only how small and strong she is, but how immediately comfortable she is about it.

Chapter 6: One Night at the Quarter

the switch to Marshall’s point of view is welcome, having been exposed to it once before. what I want to know, though, is if he feels like his talents have been wasted because Jan Sleet asked him if he could type, take shorthand, and do research.. and he doesn’t hardly do any of it.

Well, no, because Marshall feels he does many vital things for Jan Sleet, including keeping her alive and keeping her focused (and, as we learned in ASW, occasionally discouraging her suitors). Of course, this is his view of it, hers is probably somewhat different.

the scene with Vicki handling the belligerent drunk–right down to tearing his pants to shreds–made me laugh out loud. it worked very well.

This is brought out more explicitly later, that Vicki tries to find creative solutions to situations like this, because she realizes how easy it would be for her to injure or kill somebody accidentally if she really gets into a fight with them. She didn’t plan to kill the cop in Duffy’s, after all.

I’m curious what’s going on with Marshall driving a motorcycle with the rest of the Jinx members–namely while drunk.

Marshall has a somewhat wilder side, but he likes being respectable, so when he does get a little wilder, he usually has an excuse. For this reason, he may be exaggerating how drunk he was. We’ll see him do this again (though mostly he isn’t that wild).

what kind of gang are they, anyway? they come off as good people–the good guys, and yet “the enemy” is law enforcement. however, that said, the law enforcement so far comes across as extremely corrupt.

You’ll learn more about this, especially the law enforcement (less so the Jinx) as we go along. It’s related to the question of where they are, which you mentioned above.

uh-oh, more drama. Jenn’s pregnant? oh boy.

I really like the kind of power that Dr. Lee commands with the other members. the way you describe it is.. well.. very fitting.

I’ll let you in on an inside joke here. Her name is Dr. Lee because that’s a reversal of the syllables of “leader.” I’ll mention that in the blog at some point.

I get the idea that they’re a religious group, the Witnesses, the more I read.

I would say so, though it’s not explicit.

crap, they lost the briefcase again! as for Jenn, I find it a little hard to believe she’s dead. but I’ll find out more, I’m sure.

They’ll get the briefcase back, but Jenny is dead. So is Carl. We may see them later on in flashbacks, but that’s it.

very good chapter.

Thanks. You’re now 1/3 through the book. Maybe not in terms of number of words, but on the table of contents page (http://text.u-town.com/utown) you’ll notice that the chapters are organized into three columns, and the columns are uneven. There’s a reason for this, which is that the book really divides into three parts, and the chapter starling is the beginning of the second part. That wasn’t really planned, but, once it was finished, it was obvious that was true.

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