I’m back! (I think?) by Colin Rowland

I’m back! (I think?) by Colin Rowland

I have a favor to ask. As some of you are aware, I have been undergoing cancer treatments for the last few months. The chemo affected me in unforeseen ways, to the point that my hematologist gave serious consideration to suspending the treatments. Since early September I have been unable to do much more than just live one day at a time. I lost the ability to write more than a sentence or two at a sitting, and plotting an outline has been impossible. To add insult to injury I lost the feeling in my fingers, which makes typing anything a different experience each and every day. To say this frustrates me would be one of the biggest understatements of all time.

Over the previous two weeks I have, finally, regained some clarity in my mental processes, although those who are familiar with me might claim I was never possessed of much to begin with, but what do they know?

To cut to the chase, I am posting a portion of a story idea that occurred to me, and would appreciate your feedback..

A few clarifying notes in preparation for what you are about to read:

  1. It is a work in progress, and is incomplete.
  2. I do not know whether it will be a short story, a novella, or a full length variation; that might depend entirely on the feedback I receive. At present, I am not even sure where in the plot this would appear, although I am leaning toward having this start the adventure.
  3. I would ask you to be completely honest in your assessment. I welcome all criticism, especially negative, as long as it is constructive. What I don’t appreciate are disparaging comments given for the sole purpose of denigrating my writing. If you cannot refrain from that type of input, please don’t bother.
  4. If you don’t like what I have written, tell me, but do so in the spirit of helping me improve upon my admittedly scant talent. I am not averse to the necessity of completely reworking, or even deleting it and starting over.
  5. Unlike my brother Jann, I am new to writing, and am aware of many shortcomings, which I am working on improving.
  6. The following few hundred words took more than two weeks to write; I have revised the text multiple times and, at present, am still unconvinced it’s not garbage
  7. This excerpt contains minimal dialogue. I concentrated on show vs. tell as opposed to verbal interaction. Speech is a bridge I will cross in the near future, I hope.

Without further adieu, here it is:

“No! He is mine!” she heard before a flash of light, followed by nothing.

Red is the best flavor, she thought, reaching for an orb that hung suspended beyond her outstretched fingers. I must give it to Theodore.

It is not real, she guessed as the object danced away, its rhythmic pulse changing to a steady throb between her shoulders.

She opened her eyes to see that she lay on the ground amongst a stand of trees; the twigs, branches, and pebbles pressed into her shoulders and back. A gurgle of water tumbling over rocks was easy to hear, but her attempt to turn her head toward the sound caused a stab of pain, forcing her to abandon the effort and close her eyes.

Maybe if I am still it will go away, she decided as it rolled over her in waves, each stronger than the previous.

For minutes she lay unmoving, until at last the agony eased and she felt the need to rise. Opening her eyes again to take stock of her position, she waited a few minutes to gather her strength and, with an effort, rolled onto her stomach while bringing her arms under her shoulders. Placing her hands flat upon the ground, she drew her knees to her chest and pushed against the dirt, at the same time straightening her legs to rise to a standing position.

When upright, she stood still, her balance dubious as the world spun in uneven circles and her vision refused to attach itself to any single point. She wanted to close her lids again but knew if she did she would fall. Shutting them as much as she dared, she waited for the dizziness to pass.

When it eased, she peered through slits opened enough to again inspect her surroundings. Hopeful that her world would remain settled, she allowed her lids to part until objects came into focus.

She stood in a tiny clearing not much larger than a widening of the woods, with a brook along one side and a path on the other. The trees grew close, branches entwining in a dense canopy that reduced the sunlight within, leaving her unable to approximate the time of day.

The path was faint, overtaken by weeds which grew in clumps on the surface. It entered the clearing at one end and disappeared from view at the other, with no indication of its source or destination.

Uncertainty taunted her, as if deriding the options and her capacity to choose. With no idea where she was nor how far to the nearest road, she pondered climbing a tree to answer the question, but knew she was too weak.

With an effort she shook her head, fighting a tendril of panic. Instead, she looked up and down the path again for any sign to suggest her way but could find none, which angered her, itself surprising in its appearance.

The danger of a night alone in the woods at last overrode her hesitation and she moved along the trail, hopeful she would find a road, or a more substantial path. Her steps were tentative as the dizziness returned, threatening to impede her paltry headway.

In desperation she clutched a low-hanging branch and stood while the trees whirled in ever bigger orbits, her grip alone keeping her upright. She fought the discomfort, her will battling for control of her body until at last her balance recovered.

Again she set off, this time confident in her ability to demand the obedience of her muscles, despite doubts in her body’s reserves of strength.

She could not tell how long she struggled on, whether minutes or hours, the unseen sky masking the passage of time. She refused to heed the growing protests from tired flesh and aching head but kept going, despite a desire to find shelter beneath a tree and give herself over into the blessed arms of sleep.

No, she demanded, annoyance at the weakness pushing misgivings aside, I will not give in!

The image of an estate sprang to her mind, its clarity and detail shocking. An unassuming house, well-kept but not large, with surrounding grounds maintained and beautiful in their simplicity tugged at her memory, the knowledge of its relevance out of reach. The familiarity of the property was both tantalizing and disheartening. She knew that house and had been there, she was sure of it. In her mind she could see the estate master, though not his visage; she had met him, though his face was unrevealed.

If she could only see him her confusion might retreat, and with it her unease.

So preoccupied was she with the mystery that she stepped onto the road before she saw it, her feet kicking the edge and pulling her thoughts back to the present.

Tears welled and coursed down her cheeks as she stood upon her goal. With a sigh, her muscles released their control and she allowed herself to collapse against a tree, this one welcome company.

She surveyed the road, first one way and then the other, but it was empty. Content with the achievement of her immediate objective, she closed her eyes for just a minute to regain her strength and was soon fast asleep.

“Should we wake her?” pulled her from a dream of soft beds and warm blankets.

“Well, we cannot just leave her,” said a second voice, “She is alone and might need our assistance.”

Her eyes opened to the sight of a carriage stopped on the road and its occupants, a man, and a woman, bending over her.


There you have it. Please give me your thoughts, either yea or nay, as to the quality, or lack of, what I have written. I value your opinions.

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December 25, 2020 11:24 AM

I think the excerpt is great and would love to read more.

Gianna Thomas
December 20, 2020 11:39 PM

Welcome back, Colin I hope you become the winner. As to your excerpt: well done. I look forward to more, and hopefully, you will deliver more as well as answer all the questions it raises. 🙂

Jen D
Jen D
December 15, 2020 11:37 PM

This was quite descriptive, and I felt as if I were trying to survive and escape through some woods. I would feel motivated to read of more of before or after if possible. You are a strong and sacred soul, and thank you and your writing for being here.

Bronwen Chisholm
December 15, 2020 8:15 PM

I agree with Regina, your imagery is amazing. You have caught our interest and we want more, more, more. So many unanswered questions!

I have heard many writers list dialogue as a weakness. The best advice I have heard is to listen to people talking and note the rhythms in their speech. Then, read your dialogue aloud, or better yet, have someone read it to you and see if it sounds natural. Dialogue can be learned, but imagery is a gift that I am sorely lacking.

Like the others, I am glad you are back and praying for your continued recovery. Stay safe and be blessed.

Linda A.
Linda A.
December 15, 2020 3:53 PM

As noted by others, this is nicely depicted. You mentioned in your response to Regina that you were going to work on your dialogue next. A suggestion on that front – the best dialogue I have read in books are the times when, if you say it out loud, it sounds like something someone would say. And, one of the other things that bugs me is, when someone says something in the story, they add the person’s name to the dialogue that they are speaking to. “Right, Colin?” “I think you are correct in this matter, Colin.” An indication who they are speaking to or who is speaking should be given periodically in a long conversation and more in the he said/she said text, but constantly saying someone’s name, especially when there are just the two of them, seems weird to me. I hope that helps.

Robin G.
Robin G.
December 15, 2020 3:00 PM

Glad to have you back, Colin! The excerpt is incredibly descriptive, and I could easily imagine myself in that situation. (Not that I ever want to be. 🙂 ) In your response to Regina you wrote that you wished to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Well, in my opinion, you did exactly that, and did it very well.

Teresa Broderick
Teresa Broderick
December 15, 2020 2:38 PM

The very best of luck to you Colin. I think you’re a brave man to keep writing with all you’re going through. Hats of to you, as we say here in Ireland.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
December 15, 2020 1:52 PM

‘Chemo brain’ is very common with cancer patients. I know because my husband struggled too when he was taking chemo. This year he went into remission and subsequent tests show his cancer indicators are stable. I will keep you in my prayers.

As for your story… great grab at the first. OMG! My brain was flying as to who was fighting and what person were they fighting over. Did someone throw a rock… what hit her in the head? Then who found her? Where is she? What estate is she at? Who is the man and woman? Wow! See??? You have really started something. Well done!! Blessings, Colin. We wish you all the best.

Katie Jackson
Katie Jackson
December 15, 2020 1:03 PM

What a fantastic hook! I’m intrigued and want to know more!

Walter Krause
Walter Krause
December 15, 2020 12:11 PM

Having experienced cancer, chemo and surgery several years ago myself I can well feel with you and am impressed by your strong will to concentrate on such a task that indeed may help to counterbalance your troubles. I remember that during the breaks of my chemo treatment my body (and consequently my spirit) every time regained rather quickly enough power to remain optimistic. And I kept saying to myself: “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker!” (I’m an Austrian, therefore my self-talks are in German) = “What does not kill me, makes me stronger!”

The excerpt seems to me a fine piece, intense and just the right amount of mystery, pace and rhythm (even in the short dialogue) excellent. Far better than in the “Parson’s Rescue”! Language and feeling are well corresponding. Sometimes it helps indeed to develop special talents because of some desperation. When I, ages ago, wrote my doctoral thesis I couldn’t find the right beginning. Only suffering a broken heart suddenly awaked the ability to overcome the lock.

Therefore, I hope you’ll be able to continue – yet, of course, without further chemo “support”. Best luck!

Riana Everly
December 15, 2020 10:57 AM

I’m sorry you’re having trouble focusing. BTDT. It does come back, but it’s not always easy. Hopefully you’ll be back to normal soon, and with your fingers behaving themselves as well!
The excerpt was great. You really paint a great picture with words, and you’ve left me wanting to know more. Who is she? (We can guess, but we want to know.) Why was she there alone? What happened? Was it an accident or was her injury deliberate? What does the disappearing orb at the beginning have to do with it? Who are the people in the carriage?
I hope you continue this and weave it into a longer piece. Do you have a general plot in mind? Or are you waiting to see where the story takes you?

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
December 15, 2020 10:44 AM

Welcome back glad you are doing ok! Yes I am curious too! Who is she ,where is she and who found her!lol I love mysteries!

nikki chicotel
December 15, 2020 10:29 AM

This excerpt leaves me definitely wanting to know more! Who is she? How did she get there? Excellent storytelling!

December 15, 2020 7:29 AM

I truly admired your use of description, Colin. I wish that skill was in my repertoire. I blame my lack of details on script writing, where one allows the acting to demonstrate what the viewer sees, or perhaps it is my journalism training, where each paragraph is no more than 30 words. Either way, your strength is my failure.

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