Wednesday, June 5, 2013

first impressions - AND WE ARE ALL DAMNED

  Our second submission of the month comes from Sarah Turnbull, AND WE ARE ALL DAMNED, a Gothic horror novel, which Sarah describes as of a similar vein as A Great and Terrible Beauty and Clockwork Angel. You can follow Sara on twitter @thesaturnbull. My comments will be in purple and if you want to see what Dianne Salerni thinks of this page, head over to her blog, In High Spirits


“As Raymond would have wanted,” Veanne said, clinking her clay mug to her brother’s. She took an inexperienced mouthful of foamy pine cider and burped, immediately pleased by the chance to be improper.
“Bless you,” said Haeden.
“‘Bless you’ is for sneezes,” she replied, pinching his arm. Veanne took another sip, smaller this time, and admired the mirror behind the bar, etched with climbing ivy and forget-me-nots. At the top, a pillar and scroll clock sat, wooden dial stopped at the doctor’s time of death.
Veanne’s heart sunk in her chest. The aromatic scent of brandy and hops was a warm reminder of the man who had raised her and Haeden as his own. If Raymond was important I might add a little more about him here.
She slid off her bonnet, even though she knew her ears were still red, and toyed with her curls, attempting to arrange them into some sort of acceptable shape. (Toyed seems like the sort of thing a girl would do to attract attention to herself while arrange is a different thing entirely - imo.) Without her hat, the bustle of the alehouse streamed louder and more chaotic. A welcomed distraction. From what? Her grief at Raymond's loss or something else? Show us or tell us if you can.
Peasants (I'd like something more specific than peasants. Tradesmen? Ragpickers? If you name them they'll make a better picture.) made up the majority of space and noise, happier away from the cold scrutiny of the upper class. Few of Haeden and Veanne’s age, and those that were carried steaming cups of coffee and mulled wine to patrons. Extra hands hired by the Vintner.
In the center of the house, a pair of familiar faces invited the siblings over.
“Welcome, young bantlings,” cheered Seamus Hartwell, pulling out a chair. “Here, have a seat.” What's a bantling?
“Thank you,” said Veanne, accepting.
Haeden followed her lead.
“Put your stampers up,” added Deri Wren. The cobbler’s untidy, red hair had achieved an unusually chaotic arrangement that night. He gestured to the misshapen platter of stacked smoked ham, charred apples, and crumbling fire-cakes on the table in front of them. “Fine fare tonight.” Like this description.
“Seems so,” said Haeden, pinching off a piece of cake before downing another swig of cider.
Seated and silent, Veanne observed her surroundings.
The Awry Anchor’s oil lamps, sporadically placed and too numerous to count upon first inspection, hung on cherry cedar walls. In the back of the alehouse, haloed by an engraved whitewashed mantel, a cold hearth rested. Four marble-coated posts divided the room into neat quarters, interspaced (do you mean interspersed?) with a mixture of russet-colored chairs and walnut box tables, overflowing with boisterous patrons.If this is YA I'd suggest a single description of the place with a few telling words.
One or two more blas√© gentry littered the room, out of place in their fine apparel. They sipped dainty beverages and murmured in low tones. (Why are they here? What brings the rich to this place and isn't anyone curious why they're there?) Veanne assumed they discussed the political repercussions of Raymond’s death. That or finances.

Aside from the few places where I had questions this reads fine. What's missing for me is a connection to one of the characters. I assume Veanne is the mc and if that's the case I want to be in her head more. I want to know how she's feeling about Raymond's death. Is she grieving? (she doesn't seem to be) Is she and her brother underage? Will this change their circumstances? I want to hear some of the thoughts flitting through her head, especially the worrisome ones because those are the ones that will connect me to her and make me want to read on. Does this make sense? 

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Do tell.


  1. It does seem a little distant.
    And instead of toyed maybe played?

    1. maybe if she was playing with her hair out of habit the way some girls do without realizing it - esp. if it was something she only did when she was upset.

  2. I agree with Alex but what do I know?

  3. sometimes I think we really are.....

  4. I agree that Veanne doesn't seem to be grieving. Pleased from burping cider isn't the way I would expect her to act. Yet her heart sinks in her chest when she looks at the clock. And why was the scent of brandy and hops a reminder of him if he was a doctor? I almost thought Raymond owned the bar, at first. :)

    It sounds as if Raymond was a wonderful man, having taken in Veanne and her brother (presumably orphans). So yeah, I'd like to know more. Less description of the bar and more of her thoughts/feelings. Deeper, closer POV would help.

  5. This is a little nit-picky, but the phrase "inexperienced mouthful" threw me for a sec. I realize the intended meaning is that Veanne is unaccustomed to drinking alcohol, but the wording makes it sounds as though the mouthful is inexperienced. Maybe, she could take a tentative sip, wrinkle her nose, and then take a big gulp as if it were cod liver oil, or something along those lines. Her behavior could show she isn't used to drinking alcohol without saying she (or her mouthful) are inexperienced.

    All in all, I liked this piece. Great start!

  6. The thing I liked the best was the mature and contemplative tone. I specifically liked: Peasants made up the majority of space and noise, happier away from the cold scrutiny of the upper class. That was a good point.

    Things you might reconsider.
    She took an inexperienced mouthful of foamy pine cider and burped, immediately pleased by the chance to be improper. Too many adjectives, and "inexperienced mouthful" and "immediately pleased" are telling.
    Most of the descriptions are static lists, not worked into actions that should describe more subtly, particularly the boy's hair and the second-to-last paragraph.
    I was confused about whether Raymond was the doctor and why the clock had stopped at his death. Did he own the bar? Were they having a wake?
    My biggest problem is I didn't get a feeling of tension or conflict. It just seemed like a bunch of people in a bar.
    (I love the pic with the cat!!) Good luck!

  7. Thank you so much for the critique, Marcy and Dianne. This was so cool. And thanks to all the peeps for their comments. Lots to work on and think about. So appreciate it.

    Happy writing, peeps! And have a lovely weekend.


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