The Voices of Angels by Gil Miller


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Post March 08, 2010, 01:41:10 PM

The Voices of Angels by Gil Miller

Mr. Miller has written a poignant, bittersweet story. There's a lot of wisdom packed in here, reflecting a lifetime of experience. Harvey comes across as very real. He's a character with whom we can sympathize and empathize. The prose is clean and the dialogue well portrayed.

I do have some issues. The pacing is slow. That may befit the character and theme, but I do believe it can be tightened up quite a bit without losing its human touch. The fantasy elements do not come into play into much later in the story, which gives it a literary feel. Although I enjoy literary pieces myself, the audience for Aphelion may not be as patient.

The supernatural elements seemed odd to me. Martha's voice from beyond doesn't quite gel with how the story is written (it's difficult to explain without reading it). What really threw me for a loop, however, is the introduction of the ETs/angels. At least I believe they were ETs, as they had almond-shaped eyes and the associated body types. While I thought the idea of tying together the two concepts intriguing, the execution failed since there was no lead in or foreshadowing. It's too jarring.

One minor correction. During a dialogue, the characters says "pitcher" when he meant to say "picture". Other than that, I didn't catch any GSP errors.

Overall I enjoyed it, issues notwithstanding.
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Post March 08, 2010, 07:46:36 PM

The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

Good story and good job, Gil.

Jaimie - "pitcher" in this case is a southern colloquialism for picture.

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Post March 08, 2010, 09:48:31 PM

Jaimie,
I wondered about using the word "pitcher" when I wrote the story. To me, as a native of the area I'm writing about, it's an obvious usage, but maybe I'm being a bit provincial. Many of the old-timers pronounce "picture" as "pitcher," and that was the only (onliest? lol) way I knew to convey that.

And, yes, now that you point it out, some more foreshadowing of the ending is needed. I kept feeling that something was missing, but for some reason couldn't put a finger on it.

As for that vague ending, I did that on purpose. I wanted the reader to interpret it for him/herself. Perhaps that's too trite?

Thank you for your comments. I will keep them in mind.

Gil
"The weak shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars." - Robert A. Heinlein (paraphrased)
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Post March 08, 2010, 10:01:26 PM

Re: The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

Good story, VERY real characters. In many ways, more 'literary' than we are accustomed to at Aphelion.

Mr. Miller. . .excellent. I was entranced to the very end. At 50, I'm starting to feel what your protag felt.

And I think you nailed it. Absolutely nailed it.

Good job.

I don't even mind the alien/angels insert. Which I can't help but feel you put in there to 'tweak' the story to this venue.

And even that, I found interesting, on several levels.

One of the best I've read here-from a depth of character-point of view, that I've seen in a long time.

Very touching, on both the 'men communicating with men' level and the limited omniscient POV level.

This one will stick with me for a while.

Bill Wolfe
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Post March 08, 2010, 10:16:35 PM

Re: The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

jbhogan22 wrote:Jaimie - "pitcher" in this case is a southern colloquialism for picture.


JB,

Don't you dare call that a Southern thing. I've lived in Tennesee for over 30 years and I don't ever use pitcher for 'picture.' I hear it every once in a while, but it's usually from transplants (Northerners, who've enjoyed the Heaven, that is the South, for a while.)

Now, this being said. My children in Minnessotta, do say this. . .every freaking time. It drives me crazy.

Go Figure.

Besides, this guy was a Yankee. Obviously.

And having met Jamie Elliot. . .he has lived in the South more than long enough to know the difference.

That's one of your Yankee terms, that you just like to blame on us.
:roll:

Bill Wolfe
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on March 09, 2010, 08:03:01 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post March 09, 2010, 12:02:13 AM

Good one, Bill

Good one, Bill. I laughed out loud. In the interests of full disclosure, I'm from Arkansas and after a 40-year runabout have returned home. Don't be callin' me no Yankee - ha, ha.

Also, in the interests of full disclosure - Gil Miller is my cousin. I'm proud of his success with this story.

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Post March 09, 2010, 12:49:07 AM

I liked it a lot. I creak more all the time, and this story felt strangely comfortable to me, partly by identifying with the problems of an aging body. Yet, he takes time to deliberately absorb the beauty around him.

And, apparently, he gets an easy exit. This has power. I had to kill off a favorite character of mine once . . . he took time to look around, too.
As to the ETs/angels . . . I'd have just used purebred angels; they'd go along with the other religious references better, and the reader would be more comfortable with them, if you like comfortable readers. Personally, I was expecting fairies; maybe something to do with the night, the water, the quality of the light . . . ET was a little jarring; maybe just too many things at once. Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind meets "Little House on the Prairie."

I liked the story's long, slow, smooth rhythms. I think it actually relaxed me to read it. I know it's not to everyone's taste, and personally, I could have done with less religion, but the story has a depth of feeling that's rare. Very nice job.
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Post March 09, 2010, 08:54:37 AM

Re: Good one, Bill

jbhogan22 wrote:from Arkansas and after a 40-year runabout have returned home. Don't be callin' me no Yankee - ha, ha


When Bill Clinton was The Prez, it always amused me that he was considered a Southern President.

Wrong side of the Miss'ipp, for that. What's next, southern California? Really?

Arkansas is dang-near Texan or Louisianan. And let's face it, both those cultures are unique, vibrant, but not Southern.

The South, is below the Mason-Dixon and East of the Mississippi.

Deal with it. (You with me, bottomdweller?)

Bill Wolfe
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Post March 09, 2010, 09:36:33 AM

Re: The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

Bill_Wolfe wrote:JB,

Don't you dare call that a Southern thing. I've lived in Tennesee for over 30 years and I don't ever use pitcher for 'picture.' I hear it every once in a while, but it's usually from transplants (Northerners, who've enjoyed the Heaven, that is the South, for a while.)


Bill, I think you're right. I pronounce "picture" like "pitcher" and my subconscious thought the words were homophones. I do think it's a northern thing.

As for how to represent the colloquialism without confusing the reader... I'm not sure. It sure confused me. :lol:
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Post March 10, 2010, 09:12:42 AM

Re: The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

Jaimie wrote:As for how to represent the colloquialism without confusing the reader... I'm not sure. It sure confused me. :lol:


Actually, I think it was represented quite well. I knew right away that the protag meant 'picture,' he just talked funny. We’ve all heard the bad people say ‘pitcher’ when they meant ‘picture.’ The only problem is, that as a reader, you're not sure if it was a typo that slipped by, or it was meant as a colloquialism.

Both are real words, one just means a large, handled-vessel meant to hold quantities of liquid for later dispersement into smaller vessels. And one means a graphic representation of a visual image.

Kind of hard to see how folks could confuse those two words, but many do. Either way, it takes the reader ‘out of the story’ trying to figure if it was on purpose, or by accident. This is a bad thing.

Maybe if it were represented in prose as: "picher?"

It's the same word, same enunciation, but at least the knowledgeable reader knows that what the character was saying was a common mispronouncement of the word 'picture.'

Other ideas?

Bill Wolfe
"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
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Post March 10, 2010, 10:43:11 AM

Re: The Voices of Angels - Gil Miller

Bill_Wolfe wrote:Maybe if it were represented in prose as: "picher?"[/size]


"Picher" is perfect. Then you know it's not a typo.

In defense of us Northerners who grew up in Western NY... we don't mangle the language as badly as other Americans. Sure, we say "pop" instead of "soda". But at least we keep our R's where they belong (I'm looking at you, New Englanders!) :wink:
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
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Post March 10, 2010, 11:27:34 AM

"Picher" is perfect. Then you know it's not a typo.
Well, I for one would definitely think it was a typo. I understood the original just fine, though I knew some people would have problems with it. Probably best to use the conventional, correct "picture."

"Pitcher" might work better for this if the speaker were using a lot more phoneticized colloquialisms. Then the reader would expect it. It really isn't bad as is.

In the larger scheme of things, I'll say that, if this is the worst we can find to pick apart in Mr. Miller's story, then he's doing a bang-up job.
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Post March 10, 2010, 11:51:41 AM

Lester Curtis wrote:
"Picher" is perfect. Then you know it's not a typo.
Well, I for one would definitely think it was a typo. I understood the original just fine, though I knew some people would have problems with it. Probably best to use the conventional, correct "picture."

"Pitcher" might work better for this if the speaker were using a lot more phoneticized colloquialisms. Then the reader would expect it. It really isn't bad as is.

In the larger scheme of things, I'll say that, if this is the worst we can find to pick apart in Mr. Miller's story, then he's doing a bang-up job.


I'd have to disagree. Since the writer used colloquialisms earlier and later in the story, I think the reader would figure it out.
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Post March 10, 2010, 05:19:23 PM

The South will rise...

According to Wickedpedia - the Depp South, distracted sorry - the Deep South included Texas and the 'Delta Areas of Arkansas', both of which are west of the Mississippi. Kentucky joined the rebels a couple of months before the end - we're always routing for the underdog I guess. I was born in SOUTHERN Indiana, just a stone's throw away from the Ohio River.
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Post March 10, 2010, 10:23:25 PM

To All,
I would like to address some issues I see coming up in this thread.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King said that if you find yourself answering a critique with "Yeah, but..." you have already lost the argument.

Having said that, there is a difference between the Deep South dialect and that used in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Deep South is what we hear in movies when people want to sound Southern (and usually do a poor job of it). But the hillbilly spoken here where I live is different. My father, who passed away at age 77 last November, used words like cheer for chair, hit for it, and, yes, pitcher for picture. In writing this story, I tried to convey the flavor of this dialiect without actually writing it out phonetically, a no-no as I understand it. Trust me: in doing this, I have done the reader a favor as it would be all but unreadable.

Lester, as for the religion,I have to agree to an extent, but I have to tell the truth in my story telling and many of the older generation here are deeply religious in the same way the American Indian was: there is no separation of religious and secular life, at least not as it is for many people. Relating everything in a religious context is very common here, which, to me, helped define the characters more.

Bill, the scene at the end was actually the first thing that popped into my head, and it was simply "What would a local farmer do if a UFO landed in his patch of woods?" I gave it a couple days' thought and, at some poinnt, decided to make it an older man. The story was originally supposed to be much shorter and not so much of a character study, but the more I wrote about Harvey, the more I liked him and wanted to learn about him. So what started out to be about 4000 words at most (I'm not good at short stories; my works always want to be much longer) ended up clocking in at over 11,000. The story grew in the telling. And I would also like to point back to my first post here: I was intentionally vague as to what the beings were. I have to admit that the mishmash of Close Encounters and Little House didn't occur to me.

In all honesty, this is an unusual story for me. Mine tend to be more action oriented, but venturing into "literary" territory was a good exercise (though I thought of it as being character driven rather than literary). As an example, I am writing a three-volume space opera that involves things like cyborgs and other space opera goodies, and I often wonder if I'll write another like "Voices."

Thanks to all for your comments. This is the first time I've submitted anywhere and the critiques help, as always.
Gil
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Post March 10, 2010, 11:28:55 PM

That's pretty high quality stuff for a first submission. You've been working at it, and it shows.

I understand about the religion, too, and why it's such a prominent fixture of the characters, and it's very authentic.
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Post March 11, 2010, 04:23:24 PM

UFOs

As far as talking about the UFOs in your story earlier, maybe this will help. One of the first times I remember being abducted I was on a farm. It was night. A buddy of mine came into the farmhouse and said I should come outside and see the owl in the tree. So I went outside and looked up in this big old elm tree that stood in his yard, up against the wire fence, and there was a bright light coming down through the branches. He kept saying, do you see the owl? I told him all I could see was the light, and he says that’s just the moon, but it was blinding. And then I saw it. The owl came into focus gradually, I saw the huge eyes first, and then it’s totally white body maybe 3 foot high, sitting in the branches, looking down at me. I couldn’t look away.
Suddenly it felt as though someone had punched me hard in the middle of my chest. I looked around and I was in the middle of a field. I reached out in the dark and a shock of electricity ran through my body, and I finally realized I was touching an electric fence. My eyes adjusted to the night and I saw my buddy. He was walking out of the fields, but seemed to be dazed himself. I told him to watch out for the electric fence and he looked at me as though in shock.
When we got back to the farmhouse, the people inside insisted we had been gone for two hours, although it just seemed like ten minutes to me.
There are lots of freaky things going on out there in the countryside. You could really space this story out, if you wanted to, by doing some preliminary research into UFO sightings. You might say that Mr. Marrs brings up in conversation that he saw a huge white owl in the branches of a tree on the old man's property. You might have the old man loose some time after seeing two moons in a tree. It's spooky out there in the hills - take advantage of it.
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Post March 11, 2010, 04:34:43 PM

Some practice, then submit. Others...

Lester Curtis wrote:That's pretty high quality stuff for a first submission. You've been working at it, and it shows.

I understand about the religion, too, and why it's such a prominent fixture of the characters, and it's very authentic.


Ah, if only all would-be-writers would polish their skills that much before actually submitting anything! But then, what would editors use for funny anecdotes?

Oops. Maybe I shouldn't have said that... (sound of angry mob pounding on door)
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