WMHB Chapter 2: A.K.A. Show & Tell

When I originally started reviewing this chapter it took me several days to recover.  I am nothing if not a masochistic book reader, hence the category.  So, here I come back to inflict some more agony upon myself, and to share it with those of you willing to read my own personal tripe.  I mean, lets be honest, I’m criticizing her for the horrid work she published, but when will I ever put my money where my mouth is?  Hold that thought!

This one was tough to get through.  I mean I’m starting to think that it may take me more than a week to finish the next one, with how hard this one was.  Just a warning, your entertainment may not come every week on schedule.  Guess you’ll just have to enjoy my writing prompts instead.

Alright, alright.  I know what you are really here for!  Onward to literary torture!!!

So, when we last left MC, she had just been sucked into a time vortex created by her major herp-derp moment that happened right after BFF said she wanted MC to help with the first tests.  Of course, this is only the beginning.

Speaking of, here’s the first paragraph.  Enjoy: The sun beat down upon the wasteland with a merciless intensity as if hell existed upon the Earth’s surface.  The air glimmered with emaciated visions that danced limbless and bodiless, tempting any hapless traveler to journey farther through the land.  Cacti, yucca, and a sea of sand populated the land hardlly touched by man’s hand.  A range of mountains loomed under the vast sky, green and brown in a lushness only found in wild nature.  The air was scorched, holding all the heat to be found in its essence.

I’m really wanting to rethink this bit where I give you the first paragraph, if only because I want to stop and comment.  You see, this beginning after the very abrupt “Oh, shit.” of the previous chapter seems sudden.  Also equating the desert to Hell on earth in one part of the paragraph, then going on about the lushness of nature in the same paragraph doesn’t work.  Usually each paragraph has a theme that it keeps to.  If you start with heat and emaciated visions, the other sentences are supposed to follow along those lines.  Honestly I don’t even think a new paragraph would’ve been better.  Although she’s talking about the mountain off to the distance, it reads as if the author is saying the desert is somehow lush, then jumps back to it being hot some more.

So, next paragraph turns the focus to an unamed town.

In the middle of such desolation lay a town, though certainly not much of one to the naked eye.

Aaand we’re back to a show-and-tell situation, or should I say a show, don’t tell situation.  The author could have shown us in what ways the town lacked, or seemed to lack.  Instead she just went on to discribe the goings on like horses clattering around with a life of their own, then some sense of urgency combined with excitement and desperation show up out of the blue, and finishes up with the atmosphere of greed and lust that lay in this small, out of the way place.

I’m sure this was an attempt at foreshadowing maybe, or perhaps they were trying to be gritty.  So soon into the book, maybe it would’ve been better if the author had set this chapter in the middle of a thunderstorm at midnight with a full moon and an organ playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor in the background!  You know, just in case it wasn’t entirely clear that this place was full of sin and evil!  Too much?

Stifling shadows flew over a figure in the desert. Ugh! Come on! There had been a quick flash of light, So that is or isn’t MC…I’m confused! though the few who had seen it dismissed it as the sun reflecting off a wagon.

MC wakes up and honestly the author would have been better off staring the chapter at this point (paragraph 3 sentence 3) then maybe going into details about the area as she gets her bearings.  Perhaps a flash of light could be mentioned before, but without eyes to look through, it feels odd and keeps the reader from really getting into the story.  Honestly, the whole story does it, which is another reason why reading this causes me pain.  My brain keeps trying to make sense of what it’s reading, but it takes some major mental acrobatics to do, and lets be honest, I’m not succeeding anyway. Moving on, the shadows could be buzzards, or they are the shadows of MC’s ability to act like a normal human being.  Either way, not only are we not shown more, we also aren’t told either.

Immediately blinded, she squinted against the sun, forcing herself to sit up.

It took me a few times to read that because it was situated in such a way that it kept reading it as two different sentences.  As one whole one, it doesn’t quite work.  In fact, if she cuts the sentence after ‘sun’ and rewords the last, it would work a lot better.  See, the author has a tendency to try and make most of her sentences to work too hard.  Again, I’m reminded that though the story could have been a good one, the amount of editing needed would make most reputable publishers balk, and that’s not me being snarky either, just brutally honest.

MC has a migraine.  I’m halfway there, but unlike MC, mine doesn’t build in the space of a sentence.  She hurts in other ways too, which tells her she’s alive.  Then she tries to dust her black leather pants off, but somehow can’t?  The author makes it sound like it’s the color that shows the dirt, but no that would just be the dirt.  Heck, her clothes could be the exact shade of the Arizona desert and it would still show the dirt since she was just laying in it.

She sees the town and asks, “Dear God, where the hell am I?” Love how the capital is on God, but not Hell, BTW.  She looks around at the nothing around her, fusses with her clothes, curses her clothes, curses her hair which has gotten loose and is now at her shoulders.  She scares off a lizard to finish it all off and starts walking towards the town.  I wonder if all that was supposed to be funny.  If so, it tried too hard.

She starts talking to herself as she walks (slowly for some reason) wondering if she were dreaming and mentioning that she doesn’t normally keep my own clothes in my dream, whatever the heck that means.  She doesn’t elaborate.  Might I point out this reads like really bad Anita Blake fan-fiction?  I also want to point out that BFF just told her she’d set it for the old west. Sigh!

No breeze touched her or the sharp arms of the yuccas she passed.  A few saguaros sprang from the earth in the distance. Eh?  No discription of what on earth a saguaro is; size, shape, color, animal, vegetable, or mineral.  Nothing.  Google has given me a better idea of this.  Anyone not entirely familiar with the ecosystems of deserts, or even Arizona’s desterts will have no clue what she’s talking about.  By her wording alone, I had the impression of something like a prairie dog poking its head out of the ground.  Imagine my utter frustration when I googled it and saw a cactus.  Yesserie, the author just named those tall armed cacti that are synonymous with most everyone’s image of what a cactus in the desert looks like.  With a bit of crative discription, this could have helped to solidify the author’s vision in the minds of the readers.  And let’s not forget the mention of yuccas.  If I had never played 7 Days to Die and survived in the desert biomes by eating yucca fruit and drinking yucca juice, I would again be utterly clueless as to what this was as well.  Here’s the thing, yuccas have leaves, not arms.  Saguaros on the other hand, would have arms.  Arms covered in cactus needles that are so numerous as to make them look fuzzy.  The leaves on a yucca are indeed sharp and dagger-like, also fibrous.  In fact, they can be used to make a sort of rope or twine. (Thank you Stranded Deep for that info!)  The author must think you don’t need to know all this because nothing else is said of saguaros or yuccas.

So it suddenly Dawns on MC that this is all the product of the accident in her friend’s as lab, and oh yeah! The Watch! She looks down at her wrist that was reddened and blistered from the Burns inflicted by the device that is no longer on her person. She was never wearing it!  Also…ouch! She didn’t notice second-degree burns on her wrist? Bitch, I’ve had them on my wrist. They suck! You notice that shit!

Whatever!  She runs back to where she came from, calling herself a stupid git, which is accurate I suppose, but British slang seems out of place to be honest. The watch is miraculously in one piece… wait. The watch that got so hot it burned her on the wrist, even though she wasn’t wearing it, doesn’t show signs of any heat damage? Yeah…

Well, MC starts denying it actually happened, then for some inexplicable reason she decides to cuss out a buzzard. She turns her attention back to the mysterious town and as she starts walking towards it starts whistling the theme to Gunsmoke.

After some time she came closer to the town.

This was a necessary sentence? As the details and inhabitants of the Town become clear she makes a derisive comment about coming across the reenacting group from hell. Cliche saying is cliche MC.

The smells of the place reach her, and though she’s still trying to deny it, she’s beginning to realize that maybe it’s all real. So, we are treated to a secondary description of the inhabitants as if she didn’t already give us a half-hearted one three paragraphs ago. This time we are told that some of the dresses the women wore were at the height of fashion which coming from a 21st century woman, ring as true as a wet turd. Okay, so she heads for the business district and then of course in the middle of a paragraph this sentence happens:

A black sheep among the flock, that’s what she looked like.

Then of course the perspective shifts to a group of men watching her. They comment on her clothes, and speculate whether she’s a whore.  You know, what you would typically expect a writer to write in this situation.  Nothing new or original here. Then the perspective jumps to a group of women who are stopped in their tracks by her sheer audacity! They also comment on her clothes and her hair saying it’s too short. No mention of how bedraggled she would have to look, considering her bun had come undone or she’d just been lying in the dirt.  I do wonder where all the pins that had held her hair in a tight chignon had gone off to.  Oh well! Moving on…

MC can hear the occasional sound of gunshots in town. God damn it! Can the author at least go one paragraph without printing inaccurate tripe? Was her research Hollywood movies or something? Yes the West was a mostly lawless place but guns were usually prohibited in the town proper, ya dunce! And how in the world is she familiar with the sound? Bad Anita Blake fanfiction is the only way I can rationalize half the shit this person has written so far.

Next paragraph has MC thinking about how she feels as if she belongs here. The writing makes it very heavy-handed and oh my God why the hell am I forcing myself to do this again?

She can smell death, it’s strong here but more importantly she wants to figure out where she is. I kid you not all of that was all in one sentence. At this point I’m about ready to burn the book. So anyway she comes across the Grand Hotel and is stumped as to where she’d heard of that place before. Also she wants to dunk her head in the water trough nearby… too easy. Can I just be honest at this point and admit I’d like to imagine MC coming to an untimely end in just about every situation she’s in now?

Conveniently a piece of paper with Tombstone Epitaph written on it is blown her way. She stares blinks stairs again then whispers “Tombstone, Arizona territory. Holy shit!”

Like muffled heels on polished floors Whispers do not exclaim. I know it’s fucking redundant to keep pointing out writing errors, grammatical or otherwise, but come on!

When she discovers the date, (July 17, 1881 by the way) suddenly she knows it’s only a few short months before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Also, she now believes that BFF’s time-travel watch has worked.  Now she has no way back.  Yeah…so sad!  Of course that realization causes her to feel a little sick.

She felt like a wraith, a misappropriation, a blotch on the face of history. 

Like every other word/paragraph/chapter of this book, you think maybe the author just needed to get going, that they’d find their groove and come up with something palatable. Then you come across a word or sentence that just doesn’t seem to fit, like misappropriation.  I want to shake the author and yell at her to stop throwing word-salad at us like the language is going out of style.  Or at the very least make absolutely sure that they mean what she thinks they mean. For anyone not in accounting or in a legal career that aren’t quite sure about it a misappropriation is the action of embezzling something usually money or to take something dishonestly for your own use. If the author couldn’t understand that, perhaps the most dumbed down definition of “to put two wrong use” was also read and she thought it could work. However going on the heels of the paragraph where she felt she belonged really makes this a bit confusing. Which is it? Does she feel like she belongs or does she feel like she is a blotch on the face of History?

So she struggles for two more paragraphs with her fear that she may be stuck here. The writing is still bad but I’m getting exhausted from having to stop at nearly every sentence to try and fix it. She does finally muster up some courage, and looks up to see 15 members of the Cowboy gang just standing around. Yep! You heard it folks all of them we’re standing outside the Occidental Saloon at the same time at the exact moment MC was in town. What a co-inky-dink! I won’t bore you with the details but after looking everyone over she was able to identify both Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo. Of course they both turn and look at her which makes her back away from them and then the last paragraph for the chapter reads like this:

What also chilled her was her knowledge. She knew how both of those deadly men would die. Curly Bill would be killed out of Revenge for an assassinated man. (Oh but she can’t say his name for us? But why?) But Johnny Ringo? Ringo would be killed for the sheer sport of it.

Aaaand here I am months later after starting this book thinking I don’t think I can handle chapter 3. At this rate it’ll take me a month. I feel for you Jenny Trout I really do!

Up next the boundaries of believability are stretched when she has to get a job, pay for a drink, and meet more historically significant people in Tombstone! Hang on to your panties girls and boys, we’re in for a ride!

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About Cici Brown
I'm a happily married mother of two and a half. I'm usually pretty bubbly and in some cases, according to my husband, too open about everything. I am and always will be a gamer geek, though I haven't table-top roleplayed for many years. I still manage to hit an MMO or two. My interests include most things geek and Vampire fiction, though not the sparkly kind, that's not vampire fiction. I have goals towards publishing that have yet to be fulfilled but one day...

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