Monday, February 20, 2012

New Beginning 926

By 1961 four purebred registered Cleveland Bay stallions remained on British soil. The other stallions had been sold, shipped abroad, gelded or at their end of days and usefulness they were finished off at slaughter houses. The Cleveland Bay, a British breed a gasp away from extinction, due to two World Wars, the railroad and the mechanization of agriculture in the British Isles almost vanished. The docile, strong and versatile breed stemming from Chapman stock crossed with Andalusion and Arab blood during the Middle Ages, could pull artillery or plough all day, foxhunt, steeplechase and then managed to pull the family carriage with grace. The once numerous Cleveland Bay horses lost against changing conditions over the previous forty-eight years in Great Britain. The pressures on the breed were too great. The wars killed millions of them and progress eliminated the remainder. Their accelerated decimation was astonishing. Breed extinction is a great loss, in the case of the Cleveland Bay, a tragedy. A horse by the name of Mulgrave Supreme was one of those four remaining stallions in the British Cleveland Bay Horse Society registry in the early 1960’s.


Hamlet of Dalehouse, U.K.

Gerald Mulgrave wrestled with a nasty choice. He dunked his head under the tap to try and dull his throbbing headache. He could sell the colt to secure his farm or sell the farm to secure the horse and pray he didn’t colic, develop laminitis or go through a fence and meet a truck on his way out. Lightning hit horses with great frequency in the country. Early in the 1960’s, Britain had troubles with Yemen, decided to invade Egypt over the Suez Canal with some help from France and had many other internal problems. The world Gerald lived in was uncertain. Being the third generation Mulgrave on the farm it was his duty to keep it for the fourth.

Mulgrave Supreme was foaled in 1961 about four a.m. on a dark, cold morning. Hiw dam nosed him, nudged him and nickered to him. The foal got his legs organized, staggered to his feet then found his mother’s udder. He was an hour old when he pulled at her and tasted her warm milk for the first time. By Cholderton Minstral out of Mulgrave Rose he had a grand pedigree. Four and five generations back he had double Cholderton and Mulgrave lines top and bottom. His impeccable breeding gave him the bone, the height, the muscle, the breed type and temperament. Mulgrave Supreme had the best of the Cleveland Bay. And he had to go. Gerald doused his head again. The headache wasn’t going away.

The phone rang, its shrill bells amplified by the throbbing in Gerald's head.

"Hello. 6810." Gerald said, confirming his number to the caller.

"Mr. Mulgrave?"

"Uh, yes. What is it?"

"I understand you are the owner of a horse farm?"

"Well, yes, I suppose you could--"

"I have a business proposition for you..."

And so began the successful launch of McDonald's into Britain.


Opening: Wilkins McQueen.....Continuation: anon.

20 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


In 1961 the farthing ceased to be legal tender in the U.K. In 1962 the Rolling Stones debuted in London. And in 1963 Gerald watched the first episode of Doctor Who on BBC. The early 1960s--and this was indeed in the early 1960s--was an interesting era indeed.

With so many dates and history lessons floating around his brain, it was no wonder poor Gerald had a migraine.

--T.K. Marnell

Evil Editor said...

The opening paragraph can easily be shortened. The breed was on the verge of extinction thanks to war and progress. No need for three or four additional sentences that make the same point.

I would drop this from the first paragraph of fiction:

Lightning hit horses with great frequency in the country. Early in the 1960’s, Britain had troubles with Yemen, decided to invade Egypt over the Suez Canal with some help from France and had many other internal problems. The world Gerald lived in was uncertain.


In the following paragraph, change hiw to his. And the horse's history could be shortened to:

By Cholderton Minstral out of Mulgrave Rose he had a grand pedigree. His impeccable breeding gave him the the height, the muscle, the temperament...the best of the Cleveland Bay. And now he had to go.

Assuming this is a novel, you'll want to focus on the characters and plot in the early going.

Whirlochre said...

If this had started with Gerald Musgrave and his nasty choice then I might have been tempted.

As it stands, with the prologue and the almost documentary-like horsey stuff, I'm having trouble getting past the fact to the fiction.

Can you sieve the Cleveland Bay stallions in a little more gently? That, it seems to me, is the main problem here.

John said...

I'm actually kind of interested in the plot about this man and his horse, but the story is drowning in repetition and infodump. For instance, you don’t need British/Britain five times in one para, or something like eight references to how fast or why the breed has declined.

Here’s an edit of the first para cutting over 40% (190 words to 109), and that’s with barely a nick to the long sentence on the breed’s origin and abilities. The only factual item lost is the name “British Cleveland Bay Horse Society,” which could be introduced later, if needed at all.

By 1961 four purebred Cleveland Bay stallions remained on British soil. The others had been shipped abroad, gelded or - at their end of days and usefulness - finished off at slaughterhouses. Breed extinction is a great loss, in the case of the Cleveland Bay a tragedy. The docile, strong and versatile horse, stemming from Chapman stock crossed with Andalusian and Arab blood during the Middle Ages, could pull artillery or plough all day, foxhunt, steeplechase and then pull the family carriage with grace. Two world wars killed millions of them and the railroad and the mechanization of agriculture eliminated the rest. Mulgrave Supreme was one of those four remaining stallions.

In the second sentence the word “sold” doesn’t really fit because simply selling a stallion doesn’t mean it’s no longer on British soil.

Yemen is irrelevant, and “double X and Y lines top and bottom” is inscrutable.

I can imagine lots of horses getting killed in WWI, but was that the case in WWII as well?

The beginning as a whole looks like a set of three possible first paragraphs. Two is stretching it, but could work. I’d definitely cut the third and move on to some action.

If the rest of the book is like this, you'll probably need to cut at least a third to make it read well. I know how hard that is, because I had to do the same to a manuscript I had thought was ready for prime time.

Best of luck.

John said...

I'm actually kind of interested in the plot about this man and his horse, but the story is drowning in repetition and infodump. For instance, you don’t need British/Britain five times in one para, or something like eight references to how fast or why the breed has declined.

Here’s an edit of the first para cutting over 40% (190 words to 109), and that’s with barely a nick to the long sentence on the breed’s origin and abilities. The only factual item lost is the name “British Cleveland Bay Horse Society,” which could be introduced later, if needed at all.

By 1961 four purebred Cleveland Bay stallions remained on British soil. The others had been shipped abroad, gelded or - at their end of days and usefulness - finished off at slaughterhouses. Breed extinction is a great loss, in the case of the Cleveland Bay a tragedy. The docile, strong and versatile horse, stemming from Chapman stock crossed with Andalusian and Arab blood during the Middle Ages, could pull artillery or plough all day, foxhunt, steeplechase and then pull the family carriage with grace. Two world wars killed millions of them and the railroad and the mechanization of agriculture eliminated the rest. Mulgrave Supreme was one of those four remaining stallions.

In the second sentence the word “sold” doesn’t really fit because simply selling a stallion doesn’t mean it’s no longer on British soil.

Yemen is irrelevant, and “double X and Y lines top and bottom” is inscrutable.

I can imagine lots of horses getting killed in WWI, but was that the case in WWII as well?

The beginning as a whole looks like a set of three possible first paragraphs. Two is stretching it, but could work. I’d definitely cut the third and move on to some action.

If the rest of the book is like this, you'll probably need to cut at least a third to make it read well. I know how hard that is, because I had to do the same to a manuscript I had thought was ready for prime time.

Best of luck.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If we skip the prologue, which seems designed to weed out everyone but horse-mad elementary school girls, then I was quite taken with the actual story till we got to the trouble with Yemen.

Then I went WTF? Yemen? And my eyes glazed over.

To get a total stranger interested in an imaginary person's equine-related problems is an accomplishment. You don't want to risk everything on then trying to get a total stranger interested in Yemen.

Anonymous said...

You have hereby established that your main audience is people who spend a lot of time thinking about horses and horse breeding. Cut the author's homework: that stuff in italics. All this will be conveyed to the reader as the story unfolds, or else it doesn't matter.

BuffySquirrel said...

A lot of horses were used in WWII, yes.

Nancy DiMauro said...

So, I am part of the horse-mad element although I've been out of grade school for quite some time and I couldn't get through this. Why?

I couldn't decide if this was a history lesson or a story. Seabiscuit did so well as a book (and later movie) because it told a great story (and was fabulously written). Tell the story first.

I'd start with:

Gerald Mulgrave wrestled with a nasty choice. He dunked his head under the tap to try and dull his throbbing headache. He could sell the colt to secure his farm or sell the farm to secure the horse and pray he didn’t colic, develop laminitis or go through a fence and meet a truck on his way out.

I wouldn't use the term laminitis - I'd use "founder", if at all, since that word is more common in the non-horsey set. I might just say "pray he didn't colic or fall prey to a host of other malidies or accidents." Also in over 30 years with horses I've known 1 to be struck and killed by lighning. Is that really such a high risk in the English countryside? I would presume the prize stock would be brought in during storms.

Work in the history of the horse gradually either through dialog or as Mulgrave ponders his choices. This is trying to do too much, IMO. The tension is "keep the horse or the farm" work with that.

Good luck.

Dave Fragments said...

The best book I found for cutting out extra words was Stephen King's On Writing. It's readily available and the middle part on editing is great.

I made myself obnoxious sometimes by saying "cut by half" to writers (mostly of non-fiction when I was collecting scientific fact sheets at work years ago). "Cut by half" got me some nasty face-to-face comments but it works. Look at your first drafts and say "where can I cut and still have the story make sense." We all tend to wander into excess words.

Khazar-khum said...

Another horsey-type here. I think I'd rather read more about the horses & could care less about Gerald's migraine.

The story of reviving a critically endangered rare breed could be interesting, at least to horse history freaks like me.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thanks Evil Editor and comment people.

I worried about the opening info dump, like get on with it already. I am so grateful for the comments, and the revision was fantastic.

Yes, WWII took a lot equine lives. There were tanks and vehicles in use but horses stilled pulled artillery. CB's had spread across Europe and were drafted into service. When horses died on the battle field or were shot because they were starving they then fed soldiers.

Thanks again, the comments are constructive and extremely helpful.

Sarah Jessica Parker said...

Loved this!

AA said...

I actually liked this, but I'm different than most people- I prefer nonfiction to fiction and I will read dense blocks of text. It comes from a lack of age-appropriate books when I was a bookish and poor child. Most others will stop halfway through the first paragraph.

Yes, cutting out the repetition will shorten the para. without hurting anything. You can put it in a little later. Most people (not like me) will probably prefer you start with Gerald's story.

A great book I've found to be very helpful is "Self Editing for Fiction Writers." I'll bet it could help you a lot with this.

AA said...

I would start it this way:
"Mulgrave Supreme was foaled in 1961 about four a.m. on a dark, cold morning. His dam nosed him and nickered to him. The foal got his legs organized, staggered to his feet, then found his mother’s udder. He was an hour old when he pulled at her and tasted her warm milk for the first time.
By Cholderton Minstral out of Mulgrave Rose he had a grand pedigree. Four and five generations back he had double Cholderton and Mulgrave lines top and bottom. His impeccable breeding gave him the bone, the height, the muscle, the breed type and temperament. Mulgrave Supreme had the best of the Cleveland Bay. And he had to go.
Gerald Mulgrave dunked his head under the tap to try and dull his throbbing headache. He could sell the colt to secure his farm or sell the farm to secure the horse and pray he didn’t colic or go through a fence and meet a truck on his way out. The world Gerald lived in was uncertain. Being the third generation Mulgrave on the farm it was his duty to keep it for the fourth.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thanks for the book suggestions. I'll try and get my hands on them. Not hopeful they are available in my neck of Asia but I'll try.

Appreciate all the suggestions. Very helpful.

batgirl said...

Meanwhile, lightning struck in Yemen...
There should at least be a paragraph break between breed extinction and war with Yemen.
Could you put all the information actually relevant at this moment into Gerald's head as he dunks it? If it isn't something a man with a headache and a big problem would actually think of just then, the reader probably doesn't need it yet either.

I really liked the unchosen continuation.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thanks Batgirl.

By the way I found a pdf on the 'net of Stephen King's "On Writing". Thought I'd pass that on. Recommended here by Dave Fragments.

If I can find "Self Editing For Fiction Writers" suggested by AA I'll add a note here.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Thanks Batgirl.

By the way I found a pdf on the 'net of Stephen King's "On Writing". Thought I'd pass that on. Recommended here by Dave Fragments.

If I can find "Self Editing For Fiction Writers" suggested by AA I'll add a note here.

Rashad Pharaon said...

It might be available in the iTunes or Kindle store.