Sunday, January 27, 2013

Engaging the Senses

Turtle Crick below Otter's merestead
At a recent lecture on sensory writing--engaging the five senses--I was reminded of a short scene in my recently released historical novel, RIVER OTTER. Readers of CUT HAND and RIVER OTTER will be familiar with the character of Joseph Strobaw Otter, also known as River Otter, or just plain Otter. At the beginning of Chapter 4 (on page 25) he has left his life-long home at Teacher's Mead to join Major James Morrow in order to establish a merestead (a farmstead) on the banks of Turtle Crick some seven miles north of Yanube City. The following scene, does just what that lecturer described, engages the five senses. I hope you enjoy reading it.


     I was tired. It had been a long, demanding day. The shooting of a man took its toll on any caring, feeling human being, and I considered myself to be of a sympathetic nature. I picketed the horses on opposite sides of camp to double the chances of detecting unwelcome visitors. Patch was trained to give warning of predators. The mare was a shadow jumper.

     I settled on the coarse blankets of my bedroll and breathed a silent song to the Great Mystery. The spread of the heavens—shot through with glittering stars, both noble and mean—made a vast dome of the black sky. I studied the Seven Persons, which Billy had called the Big Dipper. A faint breeze cooled my face and carried the comforting rustle of swaying boughs gently to my ear. The heavy fragrance of pines on the hummock—so different from the scant perfume of cottonwoods along the crick bank—laid the sharp taste of resin on my tongue, or so it seemed. I stilled my doubts, calmed my breathing, and closed my eyes to slip away into sleep.
Short, sweet, and seems to do the job doesn't it. A pastoral scene, it lets the reader down easy, yet the "shooting of a man" and picketing the horses on opposite sides of the camp "to double the chances of detecting unwelcome visitors" remind us of the dangers that lurk all about. I like it.


  1. Thank's Nick. And I couldn't find a more exquisite word to describe your continuing support. Thanks

  2. Mark, I will be enjoying River Otter for several days as the story rewinds and replays in my head. A very nice beginning blog...I will be adding my name to your list to receive up coming blogs. And I have discovered that my wish has already come true...a sequel to the saga of Cut Hand and River Otter! I will wait with baited breath for Echo's publication.

    And I would agree with Nick...Exquisite is a terrific word to describe your work!
    Sleep tight...and keep the words coming!

  3. Thanks, Dennis. You and Nick keep comments like this coming, and I'll keep the words coming. Glad I can provide some entertainment...and maybe some history...for readers. Thanks for being a loyal reader.