Honest Critiques

No, I mean it. REAL honest. Email your excerpts or full stories, up to 1000 words or so, to honestcrits [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk. Synopses would also be welcome. My backlog is so daunting now that I recommend not submitting anything you are not prepared to wait a couple of months for a response on.
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  • Thursday, September 01, 2005


    I'm bumping this up the queue. David says, "I am a first time author who is looking to publish a first person story about a vampire's search for the woman who changed him. The story is titled The Light in the Darkness, and is told in three books.

    "As this excerpt takes place at the very end of Chapter Nine, allow me to set the scene as quickly as possible. This is the scene in which the main character, Vincent Walker, captured while searching for Raine (his love), is changed by the ruling body of vampiric society. The woman in this (Lannis) scene has been described earlier in the chapter. When Vincent first meets her, Lannis' eyes are black, nearly all pupil. At this point in the story several other Chosen (the ancient and formal name of the vampire race) have restrained Vincent using Psalms (spells)."

    They were taking no chances this time; all eight webs remained on me as Lannis' face came into view. I tried not to look, but trying not to breathe would have been easier. I had to look, I had to see.

    Lannis was dark and beautiful, yet hideous. The evil in her made her appearance appalling, it clung to her features like rouge. Between dark red lips, two sharp points emerged, and as I saw them I knew my own death was near. I thought of Raine, and the tears flowed freely. Lannis saw this, and laughed.

    She brought her wrist to her face and bit deep, savoring the taste of her own flesh. Her expression then was one of exquisite pleasure; almost erotic. Blood flowed around the edges of her lips and ran down her chin, much as my tears coursed down the sides of my face. Eyes closed, she let out a soft moan that spoke of an ecstasy beyond my comprehension. She was clearly lost in her own taste and touch. Lost in the blood.

    Then, in one unforgettable moment, her eyes opened, and they were no longer dark and foreboding. Instead they glowed with a welcoming, pinkish light. She removed her wrist from her mouth.

    "And now, Vincent," she said, "I will show you the Light in the Darkness." With that, she placed her torn wrist against my lips.

    "Drink," she commanded.

    I tried to resist, but all at once the hunger swooped in like a raptor, devouring my strength. My insides burned with it. If the webs hadn't held me in place, I would have doubled over with the pain. The urge to feast was maddening, the Hunger demanded to be fed. Here was blood, right in front of me. It poured from the wound in Lannis's wrist and made a macabre goatee around my tightly closed lips. I could smell it. God, but it smelled wonderful! The heady aroma filled my nostrils and whispered the truth of Life as Chosen live it. Predators feeding on their prey. All creatures must eat, and I was no exception.

    And so, with the hunger pounding nails into me, the scent and feel of her blood on my face intensified the already incessant need to taste... to feed... to live.

    "Drink," Lannis said again.

    ...and, God help me, I did.

    Why am I bumping this up? Because I have a complete blind spot for vampire fiction, and I think I should mention it ASAP. I can't get excited about something like this. It pushes buttons that I don't have. So, apologies, David - but I'm going to have to leave this one. (The same thing goes for inspirational religious fiction - find another editor, I'm afraid.)

    Actually, Salem's Lot was pretty damn scary. Maybe it's vamp-as-hero or vamp-as-glamourpuss that I can't get along with. Anyway, it's my problem, not David's.

    I will say that the phrase that caused me the most horror in David's email was 'told in three books'. I rarely see an unsolicited trilogy that is not stuffed to the gills with padding, and which would not be a leaner, tighter, more focused story in one volume. Editors I work with have been known to weep at the sight of a fantasy trilogy.

    Then they heave them over to my desk...
    Torgo, 11:39 pm


    i wonder,
    do people realize that their definitions of good and evil are quite narrow. for instance jesus chirst, himself, encouraged people to practice a type of vampirism.
    Blogger john doe, at 12:02 am  
    Well, that's disappointing. I knew the trilogy would be a hard sell. I might have to put it on the back burner. The problem is, I can't trim it down to just one book. I might be able to cut it to just two, but I'm betting I'll run into the same problem, won't I?
    Anonymous David McAfee, at 12:03 am  
    I can't believe I forgot this, but thank you, Torgo, for reading it and commenting, even it it wasn't something of interest to you. It's very nice of you to share your time like this.
    Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:14 am  
    BTW, that "anonymous" was me, in case anyone was wondering. Forgot to type my name. Old age, you know...
    Anonymous david mcafee, at 12:15 am  
    Well, it's not a rule, it's a prejudice that editors have developed over years of seeing huge baggy trilogies. If you have a great, original story to tell and three volumes is the absolute minimum space you need, go for it. I'm betting you can cut it in half, though.
    Blogger Torgo, at 12:43 am  
    If I might make a few timid suggestions?
    You do have a little show, not tell, in spite of this being a vivid scene.
    You don't really need "the evil in her made her appearance appalling." You convince the reader by saying "The evil clung to her features like rouge." ( which I think is a very good simile).
    When you say "swooped like a raptor", you then don't need "all at once". The immediacy is already there in your imagery.
    And it is enough to say "her eyes glowed", you don't need the "dark and foreboding" reminder.
    Trust the reader to grasp your visuals, and don't be anxious that you have to specify each minute action or they won't get the fright and horror.
    And I hope I have not been rude here.
    Blogger Bernita, at 1:08 am  
    Not rude at all, bernita, thanks for the advice, I appreciated it very much.

    Torgo, I probably could trim it to half the length, but that would make for one very long book. Isn't it generally considered a no-no to have more than, say, 120-130,000 words? Especially for a first book?
    Anonymous David McAfee, at 2:05 am  
    If all the words are good, and necessary, then word count shouldn't be so much of a problem. Of course, editors will try to cut a long book right down to a more manageable length.

    A trilogy, on the other hand, means asking a publisher to take a chance on three books rather than one. I know sometimes the sequels never appear, but that has to be the attitude taken by someone who wants to buy the book.
    Blogger Torgo, at 10:30 am  
    Thanks again, Torgo. You've definitely given me something to think about.
    Anonymous David McAfee, at 1:28 pm  

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