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Mommacrit Sept 08

IN DEFENSE OF HIS COUNTRY                                                                          

by R. Ruehrdanz



Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, CA, July 1953 – the third year of the Korean War


Chapter One


 Before sunrise, the Coca-Cola thermometer attached to a guard shack registered eighty-two degrees. Not far from the shack, two-thousand Army combat soldiers stood at attention while commanders shouted transportation instructions to their respective units.


 “Truax, James?” yelled his company commander.


Hearing his name, Jim answered loudly, “Here, sir.”


“Bus thirty-eight,” his company commander replied.


“Yes, sir,” answered Jim as he lifted his duffle bag onto his shoulder and marched toward his bus. He dropped his duffle bag next to the large luggage compartment beneath the bus. Boarding, he found the isles narrow with little legroom for his large combat boots. The buses loaded quickly and on command, they rumbled out of the camp bound for Fort Mason in San Francisco some fifty miles distant.


Clouds of diesel smoke and dust billowed in the open windows irritating the cramped soldiers. Heading west on Highway 4 the buses rambled past the low hills Pittsburg covered with dry grass and a few homes. Out the right side of the buses, the view was of the Sacramento River delta and miles of marshes and lush farmland. 


The buses drove in single file west on Highway 4 past Martinez to Rodeo. GIs saluted the men, women and children standing along the way who waved at them. Jim Truax was sad but his sense of pride seemed be the greater of his two emotions he felt. He was both excited and scared about going to Korea, but he looked forward to the adventure.


Jim had been tested and qualified for specialized training in Intelligence Gathering with the Army Security Agency[1] and sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He’d spent three months there waiting for his Top Secret clearance to come through from the FBI and Army CID[2]. In July, he received orders stamped SECRET in bold red letters telling him to report to Camp Stoneman for assignment in the Far East. He was to travel by troopship to Japan and then to a Top Secret location in Korea. 


He looked out the window at the small oil refinery town of Rodeo, where the buses turned south onto Highway 40, a two-lane highway that skirted the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. At Albany, they passed a racetrack and miles of shoreline at low tide. When they reached Berkeley, Jim could see the Oakland Bay Bridge off in the distance and further to the right; he could see one tower of the Golden Gate Bridge sticking out of the fog. Jim had never seen this part of the country squirmed to get a good look out the windows as they rode across the Oakland Bay Bridge.




[1] The Army Security Agency, a Top Secret entity within the U. S. Army, that trained qualified applicants to be specialists in intelligence gathering


[2] Criminal Investigation Division within the Military Police [MP] Corps, US Army




Reaction from Mommacrit


First off, has R.Ruehrdanz followed the guidelines?


“Send Mommacrit the first page of your story or novel. It must be less than 501 words. Label it clearly with its title, your name or a nom-de-plume, and its genre.”


This first page is less than 501 words. It is labeled clearly with title, name and genre (historical fiction). The Momma is surprised and pleased to receive a submission that follows the guidelines.


Does R.Ruehrdanz write a damn good beginning and hook Mommacrit into wanting to read more? 


Well …


Some people might think that Mommacrit would have a soft spot in her heart for a story about a soldier who’s going to put his life on the line to save others.


Those people don’t know Mommacrit very well. 


A writer needs to get everything right – theme, setting, plot, characters, voice, grammar, dialogue, point-of-view, showing rather than telling… all the myriad components of good writing. It is not enough to write about a topic that will appeal to readers’ patriotism.


Not all editors are as kind and compassionate as Mommacrit. Imagine an Evil Editor, squatting at his desk, ready to stab and slash at errors with his Red Pen of Doom. This guy feeds on typos and unnecessary attributions. Give him a slow start and you’ll make his day. He’ll cackle as he feeds your ms to the shredder. 


R. Ruehrdanz writes with detail and probable authority about the setting of this story. From the moment the Momma reads about the Coca-Cola thermometer attached to the guard shack, she’s taken into a world of heat and dust and diesel fumes. R. Ruehrdanz sets the scene very well. That’s a great skill for a writer to have.


It’s not enough. This is the writer’s chance to hook a reader, to make the reader want more. The first 500 words need to showcase the writing and persuade a publisher to take on the manuscript. There is more chance of that happening, especially in a story about war, if you start with action and emotion.


What happens here? A guy gets on a bus and we read about what he sees through the window. The action highlight is when he squirms in his seat. And emotion? Ouch! R.Ruehrdanz breaks a cardinal rule and tells us, rather than showing us, what his character feels: sad, excited, scared and proud. That distances a reader from a character. Again, that’s not what you want in a 500 word hook.


Add in some typos: ‘Jim had never seen this part of the country squirmed …’, ‘seemed be’.


Add in work needed on dialogue attributions:


 “Truax, James?” yelled his company commander.


Hearing his name, Jim answered loudly, “Here, sir.”


“Bus thirty-eight,” his company commander replied.


“Yes, sir,” answered Jim…’


And the Momma sure doesn’t have to look far before joining the Evil Editor at the shredder.