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Old 2nd October 2011, 12:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

So, the curse of the 000th post has come upon me again, and with it the compulsion to abide by the terms of Ancient and Revered Custom (was it engendered by a prophecy we wonder...?).

My previous entries have fought shy of my WiPs, but following where others, not least TEiN and Ursa, have bravely led, here is the opening of Black as Night -- which is meant to be the first book of The Mapmaker's Daughter trilogy. *cue hollow laughter once more*


The first bit isn't a prologue, so all prologue-haters can calm down. I'm intending to drop in similar first person monologue bits every few chapters in order to info-dump her background and some history. After that non-prologue, it's straight into chapter one, first scene.

I've a few specific concerns, which I'll wait to see if anyone else raises, but basically, does this make you want to read on? For those who like to start with action -- there's a sword fight in the very next scene, but the three together go way over word count so you'll just have to imagine something really dramatic and exciting. (And then write and give me the details...)

*


Father was a mapmaker. So they killed him.

They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power. They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild.

The summer-pole stood behind him, the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him; both still wreathed in their new ribbons, still garlanded with flowers, though the precious rosolacci had already faded and died, their red petals dropping to the bone-white paviors beneath.

I remember nothing of his torture. I know that I remained there, at the Palace window, looking down onto the piazza. I know that he never spoke, never recanted his heresies, and that he died within minutes, thwarting the Inquisitors and their thirst for his suffering. But those minutes are closed to me, save for the memory of Mother at my side, her scent and her voice, and the crushing pain as she held my small hand tight in her fierce grip.

Mother. Dark-skinned. Sloe-eyed. Sometime slave. Wife. Witch. Whore.


*

(Chapter One)



“The black? You are certain?”

The sharp voice pierced the thickness of the closed door. Chais stopped, her fingers already at the handle. Were they talking of her, or of her mother?

“I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile. “She has no idea of the honour being accorded to her. The filthy whore.”

Ah. Her mother, then.

“What of the daughter?”

Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood.

“The Calte said nothing of the heretic’s spawn,” Ardesine replied. “But it would be impious, surely, for it even to be considered.”

“My Lord and impiety have been bedfellows these twenty years. Why should we expect better of him now?”

“I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.”

“You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.”

Chais straightened. She knew what would follow. The tearful response, the further spite uttered with increasing venom, and, at length, when her own malice was sated or the overflowing tears had tried her meagre patience too far, the Lady Sindretzine’s peremptory command for both the younger women to be still. Impassive silence was the only armour against both malice and spite, as Chais well knew; a lesson Palaina never seemed to learn. The disadvantage of a happy, loving childhood, no doubt.

Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza. With all the evidence of the earlier incident cleared away, nothing remained for her to do until the Calte finished his audience with his sons and kinsmen. She hoped it would be soon.

No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.

Standing again, she remained still for a moment before the sound of laughter drew her out onto the balcony-loggia. Palaina’s three older children scampered along the walkway of the inner curtain wall making a game of the crenellated parapet: ducking their heads and crouching low at the embrasures, popping up again as they reached the tall, swallow-tailed, merlons. Further back, muttering soft reproaches, a plump nursemaid laboured up the stone flight from the courtyard one step behind a toddler, his two hands held high in both her own, while at the base of the wall another maid carried the imperious bundle of gold thread and fine linen that was the Calte’s youngest grandson.

That Palaina adored her children wasn’t in doubt, but Chais secretly wondered if her motive for always bringing them with her to the castle wasn’t just as much driven by the prospect of some small revenge. Parading her impressive fecundity, and her husband’s affection and marital diligence, had to go a little way to avenging the many slights she received from the bitter, barren, Ardesine.

The battlement game continued as the children raced towards the east wall and the Rivergate, the maid and toddler still trailing in their wake. Chais watched until they passed out of sight. She knew she ought to return to the Lady Chamber – her long absence had already stretched the courtesy due to the Calte’s wife and daughters-in-law – but for once duty could wait.

She moved to the balustrade. The first real chills of autumn were still two or more weeks away, but as Chais stood looking down over the city, its splendour dulled and dying, a cool sea breeze seemed a harbinger of what approached ever nearer. She shivered.


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Old 2nd October 2011, 01:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Ha ha! With the curse almost upon me, a chance to exorcise someone else's demons first. Although there are some weird symbols appearing, which I hope will disappear when it's posted... They weren't there until I pressed the 'quote' button at the bottom of the page, and if they're not they're as you read it, then ignore these ravings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
So, the curse of the 000th post has come upon me again, and with it the compulsion to abide by the terms of Ancient and Revered Custom (was it engendered by a prophecy we wonder...?).

My previous entries have fought shy of my WiPs, but following where others, not least TEiN and Ursa, have bravely led, here is the opening of Black as Night -- which is meant to be the first book of The Mapmaker's Daughter trilogy. *cue hollow laughter once more*


The first bit isn't a prologue, so all prologue-haters can calm down. I'm intending to drop in similar first person monologue bits every few chapters in order to info-dump her background and some history. After that non-prologue, it's straight into chapter one, first scene.

I've a few specific concerns, which I'll wait to see if anyone else raises, but basically, does this make you want to read on? For those who like to start with action -- there's a sword fight in the very next scene, but the three together go way over word count so you'll just have to imagine something really dramatic and exciting. (And then write and give me the details...)

*


Father was a mapmaker. So they killed him. [COLOR="Red"]Great opening lines... You could understand if they were killing a thaumaturge, or a bastard son of the emporer, but a mapmaker???Intriguing and enough to carry us eagerly through the opening section. Sorry, but I'm going to post this to see if the ten brackets that have appeared will go, and then have to carry on in 'edit' [/COLOR. Yes they have, but very off-putting, and I hope it's just my computer...]

They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power. They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild.

The summer-pole stood behind him,? a semi colon here? the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him; both still wreathed in their new ribbons, still garlanded with flowers, though the precious rosolacci had already faded and died, their red petals dropping to the bone-white paviors beneath.

I remember nothing of his torture. I know that I remained there, at the Palace window, looking down onto the piazza. I know that he never spoke, never recanted his heresies, and that he died within minutes, thwarting the Inquisitors and their thirst for his suffering. But those minutes are closed to me, save for the memory of Mother at my side, her scent and her voice, and the crushing pain as she held my small hand tight in her fierce grip.

Mother. Dark-skinned. Sloe-eyed. Sometime slave. Wife. Witch. Whore. ooh, tell it like it is... I'm uncertain if this is the narrator projecting her feelings, or recounting the feelings of others, so some slight confusion, which I assume will be cleared up as the story progresses.


*

(Chapter One)



“The black? You are certain?”

The sharp voice pierced the thickness of the closed door. Chais stopped, her fingers already at the handle. Were they talking of her, or of her mother?And I've naturally assumed that Chais is the narrator above, since you mention 'her mother'.

“I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile. “She has no idea of the honour being accorded to her. The filthy whore.”And that reinforced it, and led me to believe the narrator had been projecting a view of others...

Ah. Her mother, then.Now I'm more convinced chais is the narrator

“What of the daughter?”

Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood.

“The Calte said nothing of the heretic’s spawn,” Ardesine replied. “But it would be impious, surely, for it even to be considered.”

“My Lord and impiety have been bedfellows these twenty years. Why should we expect better of him now?”

“I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.”

“You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.”

Chais straightened. She knew what would follow. The tearful response, the further spite uttered with increasing venom, and, at length, when her own malice was sated or the overflowing tears had tried her meagre patience too far, the Lady Sindretzine’s peremptory command for both the younger women to be still. Impassive silence was the only armour against both malice and spite, as Chais well knew; a lesson Palaina never seemed to learn. The disadvantage of a happy, loving childhood, no doubt. So Chais didn't have one? The fact that she's said this, speaks of her own experience, and I'm still thinking back to the descriptions she used of her mother.

Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza. With all the evidence of the earlier incident cleared away, nothing remained for her to do until the Calte finished his audience with his sons and kinsmen. She hoped it would be soon.Now I assumed the 'earlier incident' was the torture and death of her father, so assumed it was right after his death, and then I thought: ah Chais (Chaos in feminine mode?) said she couldn't remember it, so are we really just after his death, or has some time passed? Because she said 'her 'small' hand was held by her mother, I sort-of thought some time had passed, but this 'incident' tripped me up, as it appears the women are talking about the mother

No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.

Standing again, she remained still for a moment before the sound of laughter drew her out onto the balcony-loggia. Palaina’s three older children scampered along the walkway of the inner curtain wall making a game of the crenellated parapet: ducking their heads and crouching low at the embrasures, popping up again as they reached the tall, swallow-tailed, merlons. Further back, muttering soft reproaches, a plump nursemaid laboured up the stone flight from the courtyard one step behind a toddler, his two hands held high in both her own, while at the base of the wall another maid carried the imperious bundle of gold thread and fine linen that was the Calte’s youngest grandson.

That Palaina adored her children wasn’t in doubt, but Chais secretly wondered if her motive for always bringing them with her to the castle wasn’t just as much driven by the prospect of some small revenge. Parading her impressive fecundity, and her husband’s affection and marital diligence, had to go a little way to avenging the many slights she received from the bitter, barren, Ardesine.Who? Chais or Palaina

The battlement game continued as the children raced towards the east wall and the Rivergate, the maid and toddler still trailing in their wake. Chais watched until they passed out of sight. She knew she ought to return to the Lady Chamber – her long absence had already stretched the courtesy due to the Calte’s wife and daughters-in-law – but for once duty could wait.

She moved to the balustrade. The first real chills of autumn were still two or more weeks away, but as Chais stood looking down over the city, its splendour dulled and dying, a cool sea breeze seemed a harbinger of what approached ever nearer. She shivered.


But a great opening and I want more. Still uncertain about the time between the opening and the main section, and, indeed, if Chais and the narrator are one and the same. The use of 'intelligent' archaic language tended me to think that the narrator was chais, but the main section was many years later, when she was more educated.

Last edited by Boneman; 2nd October 2011 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 2nd October 2011, 02:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Wait, we're meant to submit stuff for critiquing every thousandth post? Nobody told me!

Anyway, to the Critique-Mobile!

Mini-prologue first bit:
Really liked this, especially the last line.

Main scene:
"...her. The filthy whore." I'd make that one sentence with a comma, rather than two.

Er, I don't have much else to say, except that I liked it. That's not very helpful, alas.

I think it'd be interesting to know more about the general plot the story will take.
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Old 2nd October 2011, 02:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Blimey, that was quick! Thanks, both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boneman View Post
And I've naturally assumed that Chais is the narrator above, since you mention 'her mother'.
Good-oh, because that's right. I was worried it might not be obvious, so that's one concern out of the way.
Quote:
Now I assumed the 'earlier incident' was the torture and death of her father, so assumed it was right after his death, and then I thought: ah Chais (Chaos in feminine mode?) said she couldn't remember it, so are we really just after his death, or has some time passed? Because she said 'her 'small' hand was held by her mother, I sort-of thought some time had passed, but this 'incident' tripped me up, as it appears the women are talking about the mother
This hadn't occurred to me as a problem, so I might have to rephrase this, then. In fact, the earlier incident she's thinking of is just an accident in the hall when wine is spilled, apparently innocuous in itself, but it's enlarged in her next scene when we see her with her mother.

And yes, twenty years have passed since her father's death, but I wasn't quite sure how to get that fully across immediately, which is why her had "small hand" trying to show she was only a child then.

EDIT: forgot this bit
Quote:
Who? Chais or Palaina
Palaina -- I'll add her name again to make that clear.

Quote:
But a great opening and I want more.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by thaddeus6th View Post
Wait, we're meant to submit stuff for critiquing every thousandth post? Nobody told me!
Well, you know what it is with these ancient and venerable traditions. And you know now -- so no excuse when you hit 2,000!

That filthy whore sentence I always hear a pause as Ardesine speaks, but I'll try it again and see if I'm envisaging it as too long a pause.

Quote:
Er, I don't have much else to say, except that I liked it. That's not very helpful, alas.
That's very helpful -- and thanks!

Quote:
I think it'd be interesting to know more about the general plot the story will take.
Yes, I'd be interested to know that, too...

Last edited by The Judge; 2nd October 2011 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 2nd October 2011, 02:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Nice spotting of spicy wordage; rosalacci, paviors, faience,credenza, fecundity and so froth, so one doesn't feel impelled or required to look them up.
It reads OK, even in Starbucks at 9 AM.
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Old 2nd October 2011, 03:55 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Thanks, JR.

The "rosolacci" was one of the concerns I had, since it's an Italian** word just dumped in the text for flavour despite the fact I could have translated it, and I was worried it might either put people off, or seem a bit daft stuck there on its own. But if everyone is happy to accept it just as some kind of unidentified red flower, that's good enough.


**albeit one my partner's 18 year old Italian cousin didn't know, so it might be obscure or simply old-fashioned, both of which are fine by me.

Last edited by The Judge; 2nd October 2011 at 06:23 PM. Reason: spooling yet again
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Old 2nd October 2011, 06:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

oooh! WiP! tasty!

First lines: good hook. the whole first-person section is tight - the only thing i would add is a sense of distance in time to reinforce the "small hand" description of Chais as a child. you can tell it is reminiscence, but the scale of distance isn't immediately clear. (Oh, and Butchers' Guild, rather than Butcher's Guild...)

Second section: i got a bit distracted by trying to work out who the new characters were, so i couldn't focus fully on it. when the narrative came to telling me who Palaina was, i was still puzzled over Lady Sindretzine. perhaps i'm a bit slow. or maybe i need more fights.

very interested in the world here though, especially one that detests cartographers. there's clearly something to hide...
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Old 2nd October 2011, 08:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopper View Post
the only thing i would add is a sense of distance in time to reinforce the "small hand" description of Chais as a child. you can tell it is reminiscence, but the scale of distance isn't immediately clear.
Good thinking!
Quote:
(Oh, and Butchers' Guild, rather than Butcher's Guild...)
Eek! How did I miss that??

Quote:
Second section: i got a bit distracted by trying to work out who the new characters were, so i couldn't focus fully on it. when the narrative came to telling me who Palaina was, i was still puzzled over Lady Sindretzine.
I was worried about introducing all the names too quickly, so I'm not sure how best to get over that. Back to the thinking cap.

Thanks, O Progenitor of Great and Revered Customs!
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Old 2nd October 2011, 09:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Like the others I have to say: my word what a great first line.

I don't have much to say apart from that. I loved the rest of it too.

This sentence bothered me: "Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood." -- I think it's the 'and' or perhaps it feels to me like it could do with more of a break between 'breath' and 'and' -- is it legal to have a comma there?

I loved the exchange between Palaina and Ardesine.

Sorry I don't have more to say. I want to read more. More more more.

(It also really reminded me of Carol Berg, which is a Very Good Thing).
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Old 2nd October 2011, 10:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

This is very good. My only problem with it is this one

Quote:
I was worried about introducing all the names too quickly
although it's not so much a problem of the names as it is of introducing so many characters so quickly. If you can find anyone you think is extraneous to this particular scene, I'd say send them away to do something else for the the time being. (I suspect that some of them at least might have pressing engagements elsewhere.) When we've had a chance to straighten out all the other characters in our minds, you can being them back.
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Old 2nd October 2011, 10:43 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Not much to say about the overall high quality here, but I have a couple of points. I'd actually prefer the first two lines joined together, separated by a comma. There, I said it -- hopefully everyone else won't want to torture me in public.

At the risk of exposing my ignorance of furniture and crockery, I had to look up credenza and faience, and I made a guess at lustreware. I know what fecundity is, but I think the average reader may not, although they might also guess. What I'm saying is, dem dere's a lot of fancy words might leave folk scratching their heads. On the other hand, Fantasy may have moved on a lot since my heavy reading days, and I may not be the target audience.

Apart from that, I understood who was who easily enough, and the leap from part I to II felt natural and easy. I look forward to publication!
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Old 3rd October 2011, 07:12 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

3000 posts is it? Well I never, I remember when you were just 500 posts high to a grasshopper.

Brave indeed - Nerve racking isn't it. It took me a week to build up the courage to post some of my WIP and then only after Mrs Tein had given it a good going over.

Before we start - I think it's excellent.



Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
So, the curse of the 000th post has come upon me again, and with it the compulsion to abide by the terms of Ancient and Revered Custom (was it engendered by a prophecy we wonder...?).

My previous entries have fought shy of my WiPs, but following where others, not least TEiN and Ursa, have bravely led, here is the opening of Black as Night -- which is meant to be the first book of The Mapmaker's Daughter trilogy. *cue hollow laughter once more*


The first bit isn't a prologue, so all prologue-haters can calm down. I'm intending to drop in similar first person monologue bits every few chapters in order to info-dump her background and some history. After that non-prologue, it's straight into chapter one, first scene.

I've a few specific concerns, which I'll wait to see if anyone else raises, but basically, does this make you want to read on? For those who like to start with action -- there's a sword fight in the very next scene, but the three together go way over word count so you'll just have to imagine something really dramatic and exciting. (And then write and give me the details...)

*



Father was a mapmaker. So they killed him. (Great opening line. However, why a mapmaker should be singled out for this treatment isn't clear. Have mapmakers always had the heresy label? pardon my ignorance if so)

They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power. They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild. (this is an excellent picture build up - All the tools are described and the 'what is to come' is left to the imagination, without the gory details)

The summer-pole stood behind him, the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him; both still wreathed in their new ribbons, still garlanded with flowers, though the precious rosolacci had already faded and died, their red petals dropping to the bone-white paviors beneath. (Is Keth the god or the old king? I assume king, as God is singled out as such, but as they both get the ribbon treatment it's unclear. Plus would so pious a community have a may pole [heathen] symbol)

I remember nothing of his torture. I know that I remained there, at the Palace window, looking down onto the piazza. I know that he never spoke, never recanted his heresies, and that he died within minutes, thwarting the Inquisitors and their thirst for his suffering. But those minutes are closed to me, save for the memory of Mother at my side, her scent and her voice, and the crushing pain as she held my small hand tight in her fierce grip. (I think it would be better if it went on a bit - and that she remembered, so whatever it is that drives her [if this is it], is understood. Plus would a mother do this to her daughter - Come on Chais, I have special treat for you - were off to see your father being tortured - A "we were forced to watch from the palace window" maybe )

Mother. Dark-skinned. Sloe-eyed. Sometime slave. Wife. Witch. Whore. (Lovely line)


*

(Chapter One)




“The black? You are certain?”

The sharp voice pierced the thickness of the closed door. Chais stopped, her fingers already at the handle. Were they talking of her, or of her mother?

“I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile. “She has no idea of the honour being accorded to her. The filthy whore.”

Ah. Her mother, then. (possibly in italics to show self awareness)

“What of the daughter?”

Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood.

“The Calte said nothing of the heretic’s spawn,” Ardesine replied. “But it would be impious, surely, for it even to be considered.”

“My Lord and impiety have been bedfellows these twenty years. Why should we expect better of him now?”

“I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.” (Seems an odd change of topic. The conversation continued in this manner for some time until Paliania suddenly announced - possibly, even with a reference to the mother's whoring ways thrown in: in a he's a odd one maybe he's after something from her fashion - in true bitchy style)

“You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.” (again odd - they were best mates a moment ago - below I get there is more than two women in the room. I think the nature of how and what Chaisis listening to, described below, would be better if it was placed earlier somehow)

Chais straightened. She knew what would follow. The tearful response, the further spite uttered with increasing venom, and, at length, when her own malice was sated or the overflowing tears had tried her meagre patience too far, the Lady Sindretzine’s peremptory command for both the younger women to be still. Impassive silence was the only armour against both malice and spite, as Chais well knew; a lesson Palaina never seemed to learn. The disadvantage of a happy, loving childhood, no doubt.

Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza. With all the evidence of the earlier incident cleared away, nothing remained for her to do until the Calte finished his audience with his sons and kinsmen. She hoped it would be soon.

No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, (I don't get why the lack of servants would make a difference. If it's that she was really a none believer, then making it clearer would be more informative. Nonetheless, just in case she was observed, she paused and genuflected as she passed etc - maybe) as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.

Standing again, she remained still for a moment before the sound of laughter drew her out onto the balcony-loggia. Palaina’s three older children scampered along the walkway of the inner curtain wall making a game of the crenellated parapet: ducking their heads and crouching low at the embrasures, popping up again as they reached the tall, swallow-tailed, merlons. Further back, muttering soft reproaches, a plump nursemaid laboured up the stone flight from the courtyard one step behind a toddler, his two hands held high in both her own, while at the base of the wall another maid carried the imperious bundle of gold thread and fine linen that was the Calte’s youngest new or latest grandson.

That Palaina adored her children wasn’t in doubt, but Chais secretly (hardly something she's likely to blurt out) wondered if her motive for always bringing them with her to the castle wasn’t just as much driven by the prospect of some small revenge. Parading her impressive fecundity, and her husband’s affection and marital diligence, had to go a little way to avenging the many slights she received from the bitter, barren, Ardesine.

The battlement game continued as the children raced towards the east wall and the Rivergate, the maid and toddler still trailing in their wake. Chais watched until they passed out of sight. She knew she ought to return to the Lady Chamber – her long absence had already stretched the courtesy due to the Calte’s wife and daughters-in-law – but for once duty could wait.

She moved to the balustrade. The first real chills of autumn were still two or more weeks away had not yet arrived, but as Chais stood looking down over the city, its splendour dulled and dying, a cool sea breeze seemed a harbinger of what approached ever nearer. She shivered.


OK obviously,as I said, its excellent and I have had to dig deep into the pickiest regions of my mind to find something to comment about.

I would buy it (but then I'd buy it, knowing you wrote it, anyway)

I agree with alchemist that some of the words seem over complicated. As he suggests this might put off the casual browser in the book shop. Waiting a few pages before you hit them between the eyes might make sense - Get the money in before they back out etc.

Hope I helped

TEiN
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Old 3rd October 2011, 10:11 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Now that someone else has said it, I will confess to being a bit overwhelmed by the number of words I didn't know.

I know lots of words (even fecundity) but I will admit that the rush of unfamiliar ones gave me the tiniest feeling of being lost. I agree that readers should be prepared to Look Things UP (dammit) but there are three words in the sentence below that I didn't know (although I think I have some sort of mental image of lustreware and credenza, I had no idea at all what faience was).

The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza.

I'm a reader who's normally pretty happy to go: OK I don't know what lustreware is but it sounds like shiny pottery so that's the image I'll have in my head. A credenza is obviously something you put things on. I would have missed (because I rarely, actually, look things up unless it seems absolutely central to what's going on) that faience is also shiny pottery, and the point of this sentence is that the table is set with the cheaper shiny stuff, while the expensive things are still on the sideboard.

There's nothing wrong with the words. It's just that the three of them together were, well, a bit of a barrier.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 01:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

May it please yeronner,

Genuinely literary fantasy is a rare bird and I think you do it well. Good pace, good character development and plenty of hints of a broader and well-defined world. It's good. It reminds me slightly of Marion Zimmer Bradley, but that's no bad thing either - and perhaps just underlines what often seems like a lamentable paucity of work which actually puts the underrepresented female persepctive at the fore.

Two issues did spring out. Firstly, your choice of a very precise, flowing literary style means that you have set yourself a significantly higher target when it comes to self expression. To pull it off, each sentence therefore has to be as tight as a gnat's chuff and polished up until it glints. Occasionally, a sentence falls short which runs the risk of undermining the effect you are so carefully creating:-


Quote:
They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power.


The third sentence goes on too long and undermines the punchy staccato you are aiming for with the first two. At the very least, I'd lose the dash and make that last clause a sentence in its own right.


Quote:
They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild.


I don't know why I don't like this, but I think it is perhaps because of the rather clumsy "instruments". Later on, you are talking about faience, pavior and so on. "Instruments" has none of the subtlety or poetry of your other word choices and comes close to sounding like "stuff".

I also feel that the last sentence detracts from the image. I suspect you are drawing a link between the butchers' guild and the imminent butchery of pater, but, if so, I feel it is a little sledgehammer. The character would be highly unlikely to notice where the chair came from when she can see what is about to happen to the old man. It might be that you mean this passge to be a recollection rather than what she thought at the time it happened. If that is the intention, I think you need to make that more explicit.


Quote:
The summer-pole stood behind him, the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him;


To balance the image and make each end of the sentence talk to the other, don't you need another "stood" in there ("...stood before him")?

Quote:
Sloe-eyed.


Sloes are purple (although they look black on the tree), but it's still a nice image. Unfortunately, many readers will unconsciously read it as "slow" (as did I) and may be jolted out of the passage whilst they do a double take. Picky, I know......


The other issue is your slight tendency to come out of your chosen narative voice to give a little bit of infodump. It's pretty subtle, but on two occasions it strains a bit:-

Quote:
“I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.”

“You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.”



This is perhaps not an entirely convincing version of what the character would actually be thinking - and you have gone to some trouble to let us know that we are indeed hearing her thoughts at this moment. I reckon you could make all of the same points but keep it tighter to the character p.o.v.

Quote:
Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza.

If we are still close in to character p.o.v, I think the same applies. She might use a somewhat catalogue-ish phrase like "imported lustreware", but might she not be more likely to say "French crockery" or whatever.


Quote:
“I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile.


I think you could work the dialogue so as to show us her bile and peevishness, rather than just telling us about it. Maggie Smith's lines on Downton Abbey come to mind.


Quote:
No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.


This might just be me, but it looks as though she is only obliged to genuflect if servants are watching.


It's all minor stuff, I grant you!

Regards,

Peter
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Old 3rd October 2011, 02:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Fantastic to see your work darling. Thank you for such rare privilege. I haven't read any other comments but Peter's as it's rare to see him commenting, and it also marks the quality of your work!

I'll skip some of stuff and do my contextual analysis for you if you don't mind.


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
Father was a mapmaker. So they killed him.


Although great opening line, I'd like to see pain included in it. Maybe you could add there a slight swear word, or even drop "bastards" on its own line.

Why?

Well, you want bring in the character straight in and show the readers great personalisation that you are able to weave in the prose.

Quote:
Quote:
They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power. They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild.

The summer-pole stood behind him, the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him; both still wreathed in their new ribbons, still garlanded with flowers, though the precious rosolacci had already faded and died, their red petals dropping to the bone-white paviors beneath.

I remember nothing of his torture. I know that I remained there, at the Palace window, looking down onto the piazza. I know that he never spoke, never recanted his heresies, and that he died within minutes, thwarting the Inquisitors and their thirst for his suffering. But those minutes are closed to me, save for the memory of Mother at my side, her scent and her voice, and the crushing pain as she held my small hand tight in her fierce grip.

Mother. Dark-skinned. Sloe-eyed. Sometime slave. Wife. Witch. Whore.


I know this a high order and so far you have done well, but if I look this as personal entry in a diary or as a story she's telling to someone, it falls short on personality level. And it is almost as if she's telling this through a third person as she's skipping over all the personal painful thoughts that someone could say to another, or even disclose to a diary.

Think about those memories that are most painful to you and how you would disclose them to another person. Would you or would you not include there swear words, or even start ranting?

For example you could write:

My father was a mapmaker. So they killed him.

Bastards.

You know they just didn't kill him. They tortured him. Can you believe that? Someone told me that they dragged him through the streets...


I really hope this helps.

Quote:
Quote:
“The black? You are certain?”

The sharp voice pierced the thickness of the closed door. Chais stopped, her fingers already at the handle. Were they talking of her, or of her mother?

“I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile. “She has no idea of the honour being accorded to her. The filthy whore.”

Ah. Her mother, then.


What can we do? We cannot shoot them, we cannot divorce them, we cannot leave them behind. They stick with us till the end of days.

Great bridge. You have learned well and started being innovative on how to weave scenes together and on how to present information to the audience. So allow me say this: you are going to be as great as Ursula Le Guin one day. And people will know your name.

Are you ready for such fame?

(I'll leave word choices to those who are better at that.)

If you don't like naming the first bit as first chapter then don't do it else where as you can separate chapters with a single asterix.

Quote:
“What of the daughter?”
Quote:

Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood.

“The Calte said nothing of the heretic’s spawn,” Ardesine replied. “But it would be impious, surely, for it even to be considered.”

“My Lord and impiety have been bedfellows these twenty years. Why should we expect better of him now?”

“I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.”

“You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.”


Last dialogue line and a response feels as if they are out from the context and you put them there as a filler. I might be wrong. Maybe you need to add there a bit of description or an image that the character conjures in her mind.

Quote:
Chais straightened. She knew what would follow. The tearful response, the further spite uttered with increasing venom, and, at length, when her own malice was sated or the overflowing tears had tried her meagre patience too far, the Lady Sindretzine’s peremptory command for both the younger women to be still. Impassive silence was the only armour against both malice and spite, as Chais well knew; a lesson Palaina never seemed to learn. The disadvantage of a happy, loving childhood, no doubt.
Quote:

Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza. With all the evidence of the earlier incident cleared away, nothing remained for her to do until the Calte finished his audience with his sons and kinsmen. She hoped it would be soon.

No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.

Standing again, she remained still for a moment before the sound of laughter drew her out onto the balcony-loggia. Palaina’s three older children scampered along the walkway of the inner curtain wall making a game of the crenellated parapet: ducking their heads and crouching low at the embrasures, popping up again as they reached the tall, swallow-tailed, merlons. Further back, muttering soft reproaches, a plump nursemaid laboured up the stone flight from the courtyard one step behind a toddler, his two hands held high in both her own, while at the base of the wall another maid carried the imperious bundle of gold thread and fine linen that was the Calte’s youngest grandson.

That Palaina adored her children wasn’t in doubt, but Chais secretly wondered if her motive for always bringing them with her to the castle wasn’t just as much driven by the prospect of some small revenge. Parading her impressive fecundity, and her husband’s affection and marital diligence, had to go a little way to avenging the many slights she received from the bitter, barren, Ardesine.

The battlement game continued as the children raced towards the east wall and the Rivergate, the maid and toddler still trailing in their wake. Chais watched until they passed out of sight. She knew she ought to return to the Lady Chamber – her long absence had already stretched the courtesy due to the Calte’s wife and daughters-in-law – but for once duty could wait.

She moved to the balustrade. The first real chills of autumn were still two or more weeks away, but as Chais stood looking down over the city, its splendour dulled and dying, a cool sea breeze seemed a harbinger of what approached ever nearer. She shivered.
You move nicely and so elegantly out from the close personal remarks to show grand scene. Very well done. I wouldn't add there much. And what I personally would do is by showing some of the character thoughts. And I know that it's about personalisation, but how much you can have that in the close third? Not enough, if you ask me. Then again, it's your prose and you are a master of this craft. So well done.
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