Inish Carraig 2

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Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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We've had some fun on my facebook and twitter feed deciding which parts of Northern Ireland should be destroyed and a certain roundabout in Larne came high on the list! Anyhow, I have a working plan for a book at this stage (although I've said that before and it fell apart), so I'm going to have a play while I'm waiting to hear the outcome of something that will decide what I work at next....

This is very new. I don't need too much feedback about my scanty language, or lack of depth etc, as that will all come.

My specific questions:

To those who have read Inish Carraig - does this feel like the right tone/voice. It's been a while since I wrote it and I might not have just nailed it.

Is there too much info in this that you already know, and does it make it drag. And does the new-info level feel okay.


To those new to the joys of Norn Irish sf: does the information in this overwhelm you? Or is it okay, and you're keeping up. And how do the characters come across to you?

Muchly thanks, all. Wish me luck with it! I'm moderately terrified of this. Jo

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Chapter one


“What,” asked John, “the hell is that?” The centre of the roundabout Carter’s car was approaching had a giant crown proudly displayed on four unsteady looking legs. It looked like something Stuart would have made, except that was unfair to his little brother’s building skills. Or, for that matter, his artistic ability.

“It’s a roundabout,” said Carter, proving that stating the obvious was still the cop’s specialist subject. “The crown was put there for the Queen’s jubilee.”

Back when the royal family had a recognisable country presumably, before the alien invasion accounted for most of the big cities and plenty of towns too. What little infrastructure that had been left now had to be checked for Barath’na nests. When one was found – and it turned out the aliens were unbelievably good at colonising Earth – any buildings above the nest were invariably destroyed in the Zelotyr’s resulting Smart bombs. As the Barath’na spread beyond the towns and cities, burrowing further and further away, the rural areas were beginning to suffer as much as the cities had.

“And it survived the invasion?” muttered John. “There’s no bloody justice in this world.”

The cop grinned, probably in spite of himself. “Apparently even the aliens didn’t find it worth destroying.”

John couldn’t decide if Carter meant the crown, or Larne itself. Best not to ask, he decided.

“And this is where you’re putting us?” Not in Belfast, where John at least knew his way around. Carter was sidelining him deliberately, he reckoned. Some kind of karmic punishment for all the times John had pissed him off. He knew John would go mad in a week without some excitement.

“Yes.” The policeman went into his familiar spiel. “In a state of the art house, John, with Josey and the kids. Independent, but with access to support services. And a school.” He narrowed his eyes. “No Barath’na. The area has already been cleansed.”

In other words, there was no chance John might be grabbed and taken into a convenient nest. He may have already given his testimony to the GC – thoroughly evidencing the Barath’na had been behind the attempted xenocide of the Zelo, and a planned genocide of the human race – but he wasn’t out of danger. Should the Barath’na find John, he was under no illusions he would be made to pay.

The cop glanced at him, and his face was set. “We knew the prison was one of their central nests. Believe me, this part of the country – from here, up to the North coast – has been scoured for the Barath’na. This is somewhere safe for all of you. You need to finish your own qualifications, John. You know your parents would have wanted that.”

It was the cop’s ace card, and Carter knew it. John’s ma would never have allowed him to leave school with nothing. Then again, she wouldn’t have expected a world where kids lived in ruins and starved. His ma had looked out for the John before the invasion. That John had been a schoolboy. Since then, he’d learned how to survive, how to feed the kids and make sure they had clothes. Hell, he’d even managed to foil an alien conspiracy. Surely, he was past the point of school.

“If you leave now, you’ll end up on a building squad,” said Carter. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that – except that, sooner or later, the rebuilding will come to an end.”

Sooner, given the speed with which buildings were going up. The Barath’na’s living metal, able to be manipulated and shaped, was their only useful legacy. The metal might give John the shakes - but that was what a history of being encased in the stuff could do to anyone – but there was no denying its usefulness.

“You’ll end up with no job and nothing to fall back on,” said Carter. “As it is, you only have six months left in juvenile protection. At least get your basics. And then, when you leave, I’ll see what else I can get you access to.”

A silence fell between them, neither of them speaking about what the future might hold. If the Barath’na couldn’t be flushed off Earth, would John be able to gain his freedom? Or would he be condemned to a life of safe areas, or fear of a vengeance that could be enacted at any moment. If so, what would he choose: safety and half a life, or a chance of freedom if he accepted the danger? He knew the answer – and so, probably, did Carte. John could not face a life half-lived. Not after fighting so hard to keep the damn thing.

He stared out of the window. The cop was right about getting qualifications. John would never let Stuart or Sophie out of going to school. Nor Josey, who, at fifteen, had time to catch up and do well. John was supposed to be their role model. Like it, or hate it, he’d have to go back to school and take his exams. And pass, so they’d have something to look up to.

He scraped his hand across the window. The crown was right beside him, revealed in all its shoddy-gold glory. “All right. You win.”

Something shifted, at the edge of his vision. He was about to dismiss it as tiredness, when it came again, a movement on one of the struts. A droplet of water, perhaps. Except, amazingly, it hadn’t rained in Northern Ireland for almost a whole day. A weakening of the infrastructure? That was entirely possible.

Carter took the left, out of town, towards the coast road, and the roundabout fell behind them. John found himself looking in the wing-mirror until the crown disappeared, and couldn’t shift a deep feeling of unease.
 
I think you're at risk of having too much scene-setting and intro stuff.

The challenge you have is that (as you've observed) Inish Carraig didn't feel like it needed a sequel, so there's no direct and obvious continuation of story. I think you need to get straight in there and show us there is another story to be told, rather than wandering around a world in which the main action has already ended. The thing with the droplet of water (whatever it means) is interesting, but maybe comes a bit too late.

I would think about starting without really any reference to events in IC. People who've read IC will know what they were anyway, broadly; people who haven't don't need to yet. Kick the story off with John doing something interesting, and fill in the gaps later.
 
The water drop is the start of the new story - but the Barath'na element is important (that they are loose and spreading) too. Maybe drop the wider info about the invasion, keep a quick reference to the trial (so previous readers get a sense of where things are) and move onto the water drop. ?

The crown bit is mostly to get some humour in there and ground the reader back into the voices.
 
On second thoughts, then, maybe you should delay the water drop to scene two. I can't explain exactly why, but I think if it's a mystery kind of thing, you shouldn't make it obvious right away how important it is.

Could they get caught up in a Barath'na cleansing or something? At the moment it's too much Carter explaining things while ferrying them about.
 
On second thoughts, then, maybe you should delay the water drop to scene two. I can't explain exactly why, but I think if it's a mystery kind of thing, you shouldn't make it obvious right away how important it is.

Could they get caught up in a Barath'na cleansing or something? At the moment it's too much Carter explaining things while ferrying them about.
I'll have a little muse :)
 
I mused :) The water bead Thing will be a quick review (and an early oh-s**t moment). I might move noticing the bead to the start and then have the explosive Thing at the end of the chapter.

It in itself is not a mystery - what's causing it and what it will lead to is. :)
 
It was deffo worth a Google, Jo
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Newbie.

The concept intrigues me enough to want to read the first book, so I'll avoid your posts of number 2 from now on, to avoid spoilers!

Three characters in the opening paragraph is a bit much for me. I don't know if that's a common thing. I've been reading mostly short stories the past year or two. Perhaps just refer to Stuart as a nameless little brother until he's introduced a few paragraphs later? The character names coming in here don't bother me like they do right at the start.

I can't decide if there's too much info, or if it can be fed in more naturally. For example, the first sentence of paragraph 3, I find enough at that stage. After “Apparently even the aliens didn’t find it worth destroying.” - it seems like the next bit of info from paragraph 3 can be drip-fed in, then the invasion has been introduced in dialog already. Then the bit about buildings being destroyed after the bit about building squad jobs.

John's navel-gazing seems unnecessary. I'm interested to find out what happens to him by now. I was a bit confused about Carter - am I supposed to like him or not? The sarcasm at the start put me off at first (though I can be as sarcastic as anyone), and John feels like Carter is sidelining him. But on the other hand, Carter seems to care about what happens to John and the kids.

The description also makes it feel like they're at that roundabout for an incredibly long time.

I hope that helps. :)
 
Newbie.

The concept intrigues me enough to want to read the first book, so I'll avoid your posts of number 2 from now on, to avoid spoilers!

Three characters in the opening paragraph is a bit much for me. I don't know if that's a common thing. I've been reading mostly short stories the past year or two. Perhaps just refer to Stuart as a nameless little brother until he's introduced a few paragraphs later? The character names coming in here don't bother me like they do right at the start.

I can't decide if there's too much info, or if it can be fed in more naturally. For example, the first sentence of paragraph 3, I find enough at that stage. After “Apparently even the aliens didn’t find it worth destroying.” - it seems like the next bit of info from paragraph 3 can be drip-fed in, then the invasion has been introduced in dialog already. Then the bit about buildings being destroyed after the bit about building squad jobs.

John's navel-gazing seems unnecessary. I'm interested to find out what happens to him by now. I was a bit confused about Carter - am I supposed to like him or not? The sarcasm at the start put me off at first (though I can be as sarcastic as anyone), and John feels like Carter is sidelining him. But on the other hand, Carter seems to care about what happens to John and the kids.

The description also makes it feel like they're at that roundabout for an incredibly long time.

I hope that helps. :)
It does! Thank you loads :)
 
I think you're at risk of having too much scene-setting and intro stuff.

The challenge you have is that (as you've observed) Inish Carraig didn't feel like it needed a sequel, so there's no direct and obvious continuation of story. I think you need to get straight in there and show us there is another story to be told, rather than wandering around a world in which the main action has already ended. The thing with the droplet of water (whatever it means) is interesting, but maybe comes a bit too late.

I would think about starting without really any reference to events in IC. People who've read IC will know what they were anyway, broadly; people who haven't don't need to yet. Kick the story off with John doing something interesting, and fill in the gaps later.

I'm just going to echo HB's comments. :)
 
Very quick take. Not as gritty or desperate. If I remember correctly doesn't the first one start with scavenging for food during a curfew?
 
Very quick take. Not as gritty or desperate. If I remember correctly doesn't the first one start with scavenging for food during a curfew?
It does, yeah. :) but I think the sh*t has to hit the fan again before it can go back to that.

So an exploding roundabout with an alien chase underway might help give that desperate feel - if not quite the gritty? :D
 
It does, yeah. :) but I think the sh*t has to hit the fan again before it can go back to that.

So an exploding roundabout with an alien chase underway might help give that desperate feel - if not quite the gritty? :D
Now I've seen that crown is a real thing that's far worse than I imagined after reading your intro, I'd definitely like to see it explode, in my imagination at the very least.
 
Totally first draft with all clunkiness. @Martin Gill brought up an important point, I thought, about the world, and the others about getting into the action. There is still some info in this to be smoothed, about the upcoming trial, and why they're off the road (and I might have them all travel up in a convoy if it makes more sense once I write a Josey and Neeta chapter) but this is the outline of where it might go. Feel any better? Closer to what readers of the first book might want?
**** ****


John wiped the passenger window of the car and stared out into the darkness. The world had grown to be a darker place since the invasion, not just in the ruined cities but the lack of street lights and people moving around. He supposed Larne had once been a busy place. A sign for a closed-down train station indicated that. Now, the headlights of Carter’s car were the only thing that broke the inkiness, racing along a road that weeds had broken the surface of.

“Need anything?” asked Carter. “Last shop for miles coming up.”

A solitary light shone from a single unit in a broken-fronted shopping complex. The budget supermarket that someone had taken over was the only unit in operation, its single light over an almost-deserted car park generator driven and an orange softness indicated the generator wasn’t fully up to the job.

“No,” said John. He’d lost the knack of being hungry, as if the starving years in Belfast had reduced his body’s need for food. Either that, or adrenalin had learned to take its place. “We have the flask for later. Let’s keep going.”

The cop nodded and sped up. The airport at Derry was miles away, especially as they had to keep off what remained of the M2, which had been closed after a Barath’na alert earlier. John scrunched down in the seat. Before the invasion, no one would have used Eglinton airport by choice: now, its small size and remoteness made it the only airport that could be guaranteed secure across all runways.

“You’re ready for tomorrow?” asked Carter. “Katherine took you over everything?”

“Yeah.” Tomorrow, and a day in court, testifying from what remained of Manchester to the GC council on the Zelotyr home planet. John was both excited and nervous about it. Excited to see anything other than Northern Ireland, hopeful that maybe the larger island had fared better and had been able to rebuild quicker, but nervous at leaving the places he was used to. Here, he knew who to trust, and where to take cover. In England, he’d be at the mercy of the police and army surrounding him, a visible target for the Barath’na, who didn’t want him to give that testimony.

At the moment, the only thing allowing the Barath’na to stay on Earth – under heavy survelliance, their buildings locked down and guarded – was that their attempted genocide hadn’t been proved. It was like the police in Belfast, before the invasion, who’d always known who’d committed what crime, but couldn’t always prove it. That John – and Josey, and Neeta, all travelling to Derry under separate protection, testament to how likely an attack might be – and Carter were part of the key to that evidence gave an edge to his nerves that kept his eyes sharp, watching into the darkness.

Something loomed out of that darkness, starkly highlighted in the headlights.

“Jesus,” said John. “What the hell is that?”

“A roundabout,” said Carter, stating the obvious.

“Yes, but what’s on it?”

“A crown.”

A big one, standing on spindly legs, its gold colouring shining in the headlights. How had the structure survived the invasion? Sometimes there was no justice in the world. Cities had fallen, people had died, and a shaky-looking structure on a deserted roundabout, in a half-ruined town, stood proud and tall.

Carter slowed for the roundabout. Something caught the corner of John’s eyesight, a movement under the crown, something running.

The ground under the structure exploded. The crown lifted from its struts, half-balanced for one long moment, and then fell with a loud clang, into the road to their right.

“Hold on!” yelled Carter. He put his foot down. The car surged forwards. John could see what had emerged, the long, low forms he knew well, swarming towards the car.

“Barath’na!” he yelled. A nest, a big one.

“I see them.”

The cop cleared the roundabout, taking a screeching left turn, onto a narrow road, flanked by empty terraced housing. The swarm took the straightest route, aiming for the car. A thud echoed as one landed on the roof.

“Carter!” yelled John. “Put your foot down!”

The cop did. Another Barath’na – a big one – appeared, this one on the bonnet. Carter swore and ducked, trying to see. The car swerved. John yelled. The cop hit the brakes, throwing the alien on the bonnet off, its long howl muted by the noise of the engine. Another alien bounded onto the boot and, with a single blow, broke the back window. With a burst of speed John would never get used to, the Barath’na surged forwards.

“sh*t!” John grabbed the flask from the passenger seat’s well, and swung it, connecting cleanly with the creature’s snout. Glass tinkled, but the creature howled. John grinned: he hadn’t lost his touch.

With a skid, the car swung. A crunch, and it came to a halt.

“Out!” yelled Carter. The cop had his Glock unholstered already. He shouldered his door and burst out. Two shots rang out, followed by a howl and a body falling past John’s window. He scrambled over the gear-stick and tumbled out of Carter’s door, flask still in hand.

The headlights still shone out of the crumpled bonnet, and that was a good thing: Barath’na had night vision that humans could never match.

Carter lifted his wrist. “Code red. Barath’na attack. Jubilee roundabout, Larne.” He gave John a shove, hard against the last of the terraced houses, into a darkness that felt too deep after the headlights. “Go. I’ll cover you.”

Bloody cop, at it again, showboating and taking the glory. John opened his mouth to argue, but the words died on his lips. The Barath’na were streaming towards the car, covering the distance with grace.

Coolly, Carter took aim, taking one of them down.

“Go!” he yelled. “Support is on its way to pick you up. Activate your finder, get down and stay down. You need to make that trial!” He fired at another Barath’na, but the swarm wasn’t growing any less. The aliens approached, in their low-slung manner, encircling the cop on three sides so that he would be backed against the car when they attacked. That’s what they did, swarm and attack. There was nothing John could do against those numbers.

And Carter was right. Not to testify would allow the f**kers to win. John’s parents, Taz, his ma – they’d all have died for nothing. Mouthing a sorry, clutching his useless flask, still masked in the darkness of the house, John ran. He heard a last shot and, horribly, a single scream as the swarm took Carter down.
 
I know I said I wouldn't read any more to avoid first book spoilers, but anyway...

I found this much more engaging. It makes me want to read on, rather than go back to the first book (which your original draft did).

As the Barath’na are so key in this opening scene, I want some idea of what they look like.

I don't know if this is something you'd iron out in the next draft anyway, but I was confused with John's positioning when he hit the Barath’na i.e. did he swing the flask behind him, over his shoulder...
 
I know I said I wouldn't read any more to avoid first book spoilers, but anyway...

I found this much more engaging. It makes me want to read on, rather than go back to the first book (which your original draft did).

As the Barath’na are so key in this opening scene, I want some idea of what they look like.

I don't know if this is something you'd iron out in the next draft anyway, but I was confused with John's positioning when he hit the Barath’na i.e. did he swing the flask behind him, over his shoulder...
Thanks, Alex - hopefully I'll convince people to pick up book one AND read on :D

The positioning all needs fixed, I suspect, but the key thing is it is more engaging :)

Phew. Ty :)
 
Hi, Jo.

I am a very critical reader. I will tone down (most of) my analysis for the sake of courtesy. I make this remark before reading past the first sentence.

It made me say 'whoa' out loud. The easy fix would simply be not splitting the statement. Too, the wording suggests that John exclaimed -- not merely asked.

In the first paragraph, the word 'that' in 'except that was unfair' logically refers to the preceding clause. Non-standard, but I suppose fine for most readers. I acknowledge the utility of being a bit loose with language. In contrast, the pronoun 'his' in 'his little brother’s building skills' has Stuart as its antecedent. I presume you meant to refer to John. Using "John's" would be clearer.

I'll address the big picture now.

After reading your excerpt twice, I found it suitably engaging for a sequel. I mean, I reckon that you have a target audience intrigued by the Barath'na. Since I am largely ignorant of what (who?) they are -- I mean, I only catch the drift -- I feel there's not much I can say about the overarching theme. I lack the essence, the pull, that the preceding work would provide.

The following caught my attention. 'Hell, he’d even managed to foil an alien conspiracy. Surely, he was past the point of school.' School that involves tackling aliens, hunh? Some curriculum! As I have written a novella about an (outwardly) peaceful clan trying to survive repeated incursions by brigands -- and the clan's rogation of a (highly trained) warlike tribe for assistance, I wanted to know more about an education that (like that of the tribe, I presume) included martial practices. Regardless, I was curious about the teaching of strategy and tactics.

Please, don't take my initial comments the wrong way.

I tend to put grammar and style first -- and story second. I do hold the story to be important, but only once the picayune is out of the way. For example, a book from the Game of Thrones series lost me when, picking a page in the middle, I encountered a comma splice and a bizarrely incorrect antecedent -- '...crossbow on his knee, cocked and loaded' -- in the same paragraph! Silly. Why not use a semicolon and '...on his knee a crossbow, cocked and loaded?' Very odd errors. And, yes, I do accept non-standard English, like my using a sentence fragment and beginning a sentence with a conjunction. I just want to see non-standard English used strategically -- and judiciously.

Warm regards,
hej
 
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