Book Jacket

 

rank 591
word count 36804
date submitted 05.10.2010
date updated 26.08.2011
genres: Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance, Comedy...
classification: moderate
incomplete

Castle of the Shimmering Sands

Georgette Overton

Naive and sublimely happy with the essentials of life, Valerie Hansen finds herself an heiress and a potential murder victim.

 

Valerie Hansen, a descendant of the Hightower nobility of England, has been raised to find joy in the simpler ways of life until she finds herself in a unique position. Her missing uncle, presumed dead, has left her the object of hostility by a family she has only known from the stories of her grandmother. She must determine who to trust within the family and those who serve them, including the mysterious man who was closest to her uncle and has been stalking her within her own home in the East. The accidents that befall her, the hidden passages and rooms, and the unusual history of the Hightower family come together in murder and mystery with a touch of humor.

 
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gothic, humor, murder, mystery, romance, suspense

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Chapters

4

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Chapter 3

    I must have passed out on the bed because I awoke with a chill and no covers.  I fumbled for the nightstand lamp and knocked the electric clock to the floor.  After flicking on the small luminary, I picked up the clock and through blurred eyes saw that it was nearly 7:30 a.m.  I ached from the cold and my head felt like a bubble about to float away, and I had a desire for a big cup of hot coffee that was too strong to ignore.  I stumbled toward the shower, removing my gown as I went.  When I reached to turn on the water as hot as I could, I noticed that Aunt Liv's ring was gone from my hand. "Where could it be?"  Chilled as I was, in the buff, I hurried back to the bed and tore it apart searching.  I could have sworn I put it on my hand.  "Oh, well.  I'll have Maricela look more closely later," I said, muttering aloud, "I really must quit this irritating habit I'm getting into of talking to myself.  Humph!"  Still feeling uneasy about the ring's disappearance, I took the journal from under the mattress into the bathroom with me along with some clothes I grabbed from the closet.  After carefully locking the door and testing it, I climbed into a steaming shower.

    The hot, piercing beads not only warmed my body, but also helped settle the bubble more firmly on my shoulders. This having been accomplished I felt more in control and able to initiate my quest for coffee.  Slipping into my slightly worn, but comfortable, blue jeans gave me an at home feeling, just what I needed for the kitchen.  I wasn't sure what kind of reception I would receive since servants can tend to be territorially protective, but one thing I was sure of was that I wouldn't find any of the rest of the family there.  I just couldn't feature Sarah or her offspring encroaching on the servants' domain.  Well, I wasn't like any of them.  I was raised with a much more liberal view of servants and quite prepared to make friends – if they'd have me.  "After all, I'm just as good as they are!" I concluded.  I arranged a few hairs and applied my lipstick after pulling on the sloppy, blue cowl-collared pullover from home.  One look in the mirrors and I was ready, but what to do with the journal?  I didn’t know why I felt uneasy about leaving in my room, but after the disappearance of Aunt Liv’s ring I just didn’t want to leave it there unprotected.

    I decided to have another go at the fascinating closet behind the tapestry and sure enough I found the latch.  The big door swung open without a sound, but as I looked around for a satisfactory hiding place, something occurred to me.  How many people besides Maricela knew about the closet?  She admitted to being new in the role of ladies maid, so others before her had to have known.  Gardner had obviously been a long-time family domestic for many years.  And then someone has to clean, make household repairs, and so forth.  No, this wasn't the best place.  Then I remembered an old saying of my dad's – "Hide in plain sight" – and where else should a book hide than with others of its own kind.

    I grabbed a dark brown cape from the coat section to conceal the journal on my way down to the library.  Coming down the great staircase I thought I saw a shadowy movement in the study.  I heard a slight scraping noise as I approached the slightly gaping door, but when I pushed it open there was no one.  Walking slowly around the room, I found it hard to shake the feeling that I was being watched.  "Ridiculous," I said and mentally berated myself for my foolishness.  Just then I noticed a rather sizable walnut bookcase crammed full of old books of all sizes and thought how conveniently located it was.  I wouldn't have to wander through the house searching for the library after all.

    I had just slid my little volume in behind them when something else grabbed my attention.  On the hardwood floor next to the bookcase, ashes from the fireplace were scuffed and partially tracked over to the huge wooden desk, but I didn't have time to think about it then.  The cleaning crews were already spreading out across the lower floor in preparation of the family's appearance.  While they moved about as silently as they could, there was still the unmistakable noise of brooms, dustpans, vacuums and other apparatus.  Rather than be discovered there by a curious servant, I decided to move on in my search for the perfect cup of coffee.

    Since the kitchen had to be in the back of the house and directly connected with the formal dining room, I kept moving in that general direction, starting first with the drawing room.  A grandmother clock in the far corner struck eight just as I pushed open the big dining room doors and startled an attractive young woman in the same kind of table maid's uniform as was worn the previous night.  She bore a striking resemblance to Maricela, but a little older and much fairer.

    "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to frighten you, ah . . ."

    "I am Esmeralda, Miss."

    "Thank you.  Is the kitchen this way, Esmeralda?" I said with a sweeping hand gesture in the direction of the door from which all that scrumptious food had flowed in wave after wave of culinary excellence.  As I started through the door, I heard her draw in her breath, but I fearlessly pushed forward.  Soon the aroma of hot, strong coffee wafted over my nostrils and carried me along through a long pantry and a swinging door at the end.  When I stepped into the vast, old-fashioned kitchen, all activity came to a dead halt.  Undaunted, I put on my best smile and marched right over to the not-so-old-fashioned coffee maker and chose a mug from a nearby selection.  The steaming brew warmed me thoroughly and the former bubble began to resume it's rightful place as my head.

    As I sipped, I looked around the room until I found the most obvious choice for the cook, a rotund little woman peeling potatoes.  "Good morning.  I'm Val Hansen."

    "Yes, Miss," she answered nervously.

    "I wanted to tell you what a fantastic meal that was last night.  I've never tasted anything so . . . out of this world!"  Something in the look on her face told me that I'd made a big mistake and a movement from the distant corner told me that I was right.  The person responsible came quickly into view and was none other than the walking mountain from the plane.  His attire, from white puffy hat to sharply creased white uniform, testified that he was unmistakably the chef.

    "May I be of assistance, Miss Hansen?" his resonant bass voice asked.  "We were not yet prepared to serve the family, but will adjust to whatever hours you choose to set."

    I felt ashamed of myself for intruding unannounced on their schedule.  Seeing my embarrassment he successfully set about making me feel comfortable.  "And thank you for your compliment."  As he reached for the coffeepot to warm my cup and fill his own, everyone in the room seemed to breathe a deep sigh of relief.  He led me to a small table in the corner where he had evidently been planning the menus and timetables for meal preparation and service.  Pushing the papers to one side, he offered me a chair and took the opposite one.  "Now that we're away from the rest, so to speak, we can talk."

    "You were on the plane watching me," I said as resentment began to replace the embarrassment.

    "It's time for an explanation, I guess.  My name is Aloysius, Luke if you please, Merriweather and yes, I was watching you.  In fact, I've been watching you for about a year."  The beer, frosted mug, and peignoir all started to make sense.  A flush filled my face as I realized something else.

    "How well were you watching?"  He immediately realized the implication of my question and his tanned complexion took on a definite reddish hue.  His blue eyes opened wide with surprise and the deep voice stammered, "Oh, not that well! Let me explain as much as I can.  A little over a year ago, Hugo came to me at my home nearby.  We'd been friends since I was a kid, and my father having passed away, Hugo became sort of a second father to me.  He had some crazy notion that someone was trying to kill him.  He was sure that it had to be for the estate."

    "He suspected me?"

    "No, no, but you as an heir might be in danger.  Fortunately on that count he was wrong.  My job was to protect you if the need should arise and . . ."  His face reddened a little once more.  "And find out all your likes and dislikes."

    The full impact began to set in and I was furious. "You were in my apartment!  You must have gone through everything I own taking notes!  The perfume, the clothes, even my under . . ." I drew in my breath sharply.  "No wonder everything fit so perfectly!  How could you!"

    "Shhh!  Keep your voice down!" he warned.  “I am sorry, but Hugo wanted everything, right down to the honey pot in the kitchen."  Then indignantly he added, "And yes, I took notes and photographs for him.  Don't tell me you haven't enjoyed the rewards of that deception.  By the way, the peignoir was my idea.  I saw you admire it week after week and knew from the way you lived that you'd never buy it for yourself."

    I was beginning to forgive him.  I could see him as a . . . small(?) boy and the devotion he must have felt for Uncle Hugo.  And he was right – I never would have bought it for myself.

    "Okay, a truce.  Then it must have been you that sent the peppermint tea and honey to my room last night?"

    "Peppermint?  No!  Rosehips with honey and lemon just the way you like it."  He paused with a puzzled look, his brows deepening, and his voice took on a concerned tone, "Tell me – how did you feel after you drank it?"

    "Tired.  Terribly tired.  In fact, I must have passed out after all the alcohol and food served last night."  I brought him up to date from my waking, to the coffee compulsion, to the need for a refill.

    "Sure, just a minute," he said as he arose.  Before he left the table, he leaned over and conspiratorially whispered, "Don't eat or drink anything from now on – unless everyone is having it.  Hugo may not have been so crazy after all."

    I enjoyed the following cups of coffee while listening to stories of his boyhood.  He told me about the fishing trips out into the bay in all kinds of weather and the skill with which Uncle Hugo handled a boat.  I learned of Hugo's early morning rowing excursions, especially in inclement conditions to keep testing his skill and strength.  I began to get a picture of him as an aging man's man, afraid to admit he was finally facing the old overstuffed arm chair till the end of his days.  One thing was especially clear though.  Luke loved him.

    The kitchen clatter was beginning to move out through the pantry door.  I looked at my watch.  It was going on 9:30.  "Better hurry for brunch, but I wouldn't let the rest of your family see you coming in by way of the kitchen.  Things have been hard enough around here without asking for more static."

    "Well, then, we won't," and I started for a Dutch door at the back of the kitchen.  "Besides, the day looks like it's off to a great start."  I was aware of a certain exhilaration.  "A brisk seaside walk will do me good!"  Out the half-open door I went before he could say anything more.  About three city blocks (it's the only way I could measure distance) from the well-manicured yard was a sandy beach, glistening in the mid-morning sun.  I stood on a slight rise and looked back at the house.  The shining sandstone exterior made it look like a shimmering, fairy tale castle about to disappear.  I would awake back in New Jersey from a strange dream, but the dream wasn't over yet.

    I was about to turn and step off the rise when I tripped over something just beyond the edge and rolled down to the beach below along with whatever it was.  As I pulled myself to my feet and brushed back my sand filled hair, I saw the object in question.  It was Uncle Joseph.

    I screamed like I'd never screamed before and almost instantly Luke was there, holding me and smothering my screams into his chest.  "I saw you fall over the rise and thought something had happened to you!"

    "No, but something has happened to him," I said with a quaking voice as I pointed to the lifeless mass.

    "Go!  Go quickly back to the house.  Use the French doors on the patio to the right of the kitchen.  You'll be in the dining room.  Get a cup of coffee from the buffet and compose yourself."  There seemed to be urgency in his voice as he snapped out the orders.

    "All right.  But what about him?"

    "I'll take care of everything," he said as he pushed me in the direction of the house.  "Whatever you do, don't say anything of this to anyone!"

Chapters

4

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fh wrote 1345 days ago

CASTLE OF THE SHIMMERING SANDS
DearGeorgette,
This is simply lovely and I remember when I read and backed it some time back. You have masses of drama and intense intrigue in your book. It moves with a timely pace, lots of excellent descriptions and everything appears in a light-hearted and easy fashion, which makes for an easy read. Lots of possibilities are drawn throughout your chapters which kept me captivated and wondering.
Very well done
Faith
The Assassins Village

CarolinaAl wrote 1380 days ago

A charming dramatic story. Appealing characters. Great character dynamics. Strongly imagined settings. Believable dialogue. Intriguing storyline. Exquisite writing. An enthralling read. Backed.

Seringapatam wrote 463 days ago

Georgette. In a nut shell, its great..It flows so much and without any effort at all you seem to be able to be able to engage the reader without any further effort. I was hooked into this book no problem at all and other readers who are into this genre are going to love this. A really believable and delightful story. So so well done and I loved this and will be scoring this high.
Sean Connolly British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

georgigirl wrote 573 days ago

Thank you for your comment. It has been a long time since I even checked Authonomy and coincidentally had been on the site only about an hour before your comment came to my email. I'm planning to download a revised edition of Castle I've worked on, and hopefully will be able to finish my book soon. It's funny too, that I was just reviewing earlier and thinking that why wouldn't she use an ATM card, but I think that when I began writing I was stuck in the '60s mode.

patricia mc a wrote 573 days ago

Passaic, New Jersey! I know I am going to love reading more about your 'Plain Jane.' Hopefully, I will soon learn her name. You have opened with an original and compelling hook and I will be back for more. Your style is very much your own and not reminiscent of authors I've read. Yet, you are easy to read. I did kind of stop when your character stops to buy Travelers Checks. Does anyone do that anymore? Even AAA has stopped carrying them. Debit cards and ATMs are all over the world. Or . . . maybe this is your character's eccentricity and I should wait and see? All best and I can't wait to get back to this.

Wanttobeawriter wrote 874 days ago

CASTLE OF THE SHIMMERING SANDS
Wow. This is a book based on an interesting premise: would it be a good or a bad thing to learn you’ve inherited money? I like the way Valerie is so modest in her description of herself. Made me like her immediately. I think when you say she was relieved of her purse, that’s understated. Surely she’d be angry about that. The scenes where she tries to “fit into” her family are well written; I could feel her tension at realizing these people are not the kind of people who usually lists as her friends. Overall, a good read. Highly starred and added to my shelf. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

Nigel Fields wrote 1086 days ago

Happy to reshelve this fine book.
John

katjay wrote 1089 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands
Hi Georgette, this is a lovely, entertaining story. Val is very appealing and you handle the 1st person POV with great skill. Good pace, great characters and the dialogue is spot on. A classic murder/mystery!
Kat x Hens from Hell

Intriguing Trails wrote 1092 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands
Premise, when a Plain Jane inherits a potential fortune she becomes a target for mayhem.

Pitch - both long & short are very good.

Plot - Through Ch 2 - The story takes off with the news of a disappearing uncle. Plain Jane hops a plane and meets a mountain of a man on-board.

characters - good descriptions and very believable

Mechanics - some of the sentences were rather involved with some comma splices. Other than that, I didn't notice much wrong.

Pacing - IMO, it is very slow to start and I wonder if the plot could be developed a little quicker.

Hook at the end of Ch 1 (preface) is good, but lacking at the end of Ch 2 (book Ch1) It is imparative to have a strong hook at the end of Ch 1 to keep the reader engaged. Also, there should be a strong hook on the first page of Ch 1 as well. The first paragraph in Ch 1 (book Ch 1) is good and captivating.

POV - 1st person is difficult to write, but IMO, the author executed it very well.

Overall, this is an entertaining story with good characterizations. It might benefit from some careful ediiting to simplify the sentence structures and maybe push the tension up a notch. Great premise!

Raechel
Echo

Orlando Furioso wrote 1138 days ago

Greetings Georgette,

I started reading and commented on CASTLE OF THE SHIMMERING SANDS for you, but I don't recall hearing back form you. Are you still active here? Were my comments OK? Let me know if you wish me to read more.

Best regards

Orlando
WATCHING SWIFTS

CarolinaAl wrote 1153 days ago

I first read your marvelous story nearly eight months ago. I returned today to do a detailed critique of your preface and first chapter.

General comments: A captivating start. A fascinating main character. Vivid visuals. Good tension. Good pacing.

Specific comments on the preface:
1) You use the word 'others' three times in your opening paragraph. Is that intentional? If not, consider using an alternate word for at least one of the 'others.'
2) 'There were no strings attached' is cliche. Consider writing the same idea, but in a fresh way.
3) 'Either way, I wasn't satisfied and I felt compelled to go.' Try to avoid using the word 'felt.' Just describe the onset of the feeling so the reader can experience it along with Valerie. When you do this, the reader will be drawn deeper into your story and 'I felt' will be implied.
4) Excellent hook at the end of the preface. Who wouldn't turn the page after reading that line?

Specific comments on the first chapter:
1) "He must be at least 6'7" if he's an inch," I thought. Spell out numbers 1-99. Also spell out the feet and inches symbols. There is another case of this type of problem in this chapter.
2) ' ... or to be politically correct, female flight attendant that crossed his path.' 'That' should be 'who.' Use 'that' for objects. Use 'who' for people.
3) "I'm with the firm Ellis, Ellis, Dormer and Cookson", he said ... Put the comma inside the closing quote mark.

I hope this critique will help you further polish your all important opening pages. These are just my opinions. Use what works for you and discard the rest.

Would you please take a look at "Savannah Fire" and keep it in mind when you reshuffle your bookshelf at the end of the month?

Have a splendid day.

Al

Orlando Furioso wrote 1161 days ago

Ch 2

I lik,,e the description of the maid 'gliding gently through her tasks.' And I smiled at 'I wandered about the bedroom until...' Sounds like a prarie! Ach, and there is the gown on the bed! Dreams do come true.'Everything was new and a perfect fit' -- we are in utopia. And why not? We have to be able to imagine perfection to make progress towards it.And the notion of co-operating with the servant for fear of offending her is spot on. I think many wld do that in that they wld identify with how the servant felt. A rich person wld not. And o to own a hundred acres of Surrey, England. Actually, make that a thousand acres of Oxfordshire, or, better still, Dorsetshire. One wld not wish to be too close to Madonna. The mirror moment is delightful. 'The stage is set...' Now that grips the mind. ~Ach, Gardener's English accent...I wonder where he is from. Wld I be able to pin him down? Ah, yes, that is a delightful line '...there seems to be a sort of tension building...' Perfectly understated. And I understand perfeclty over the martini vs beer issue. I think a lady wld be perfectly within her rights to request a small beer. And to do so wld show a ceratin independence and determination of spirit. And of course it wld totally wrong-foot all the snobs awaiting her.And yes, majestic bearing can count for a lot. I try to walk straight when I see myself slouching along in shop windows.'...vast brown eyes with long lashes...' O bring them on! Eeeek, 'mischief'! Perfect! '...everybody was his friend...' o I know that moment, when my my new friend for life puts his arm around me. '...to cope with those strange people...' is a feeling I have often, too. Ach, and what a delightful end to the chapter after such social stress. Bliss. Sleep.

Orlando
WATCHING SWIFTS

PL Green wrote 1163 days ago

Georgette, Just from reading your pitch I find myself wanting more. What a great way to capture a readers attention.

Thanks for letting me look at your wonderful story.

P. L. Green
The Sorrow Within

Dwayne Kavanagh wrote 1165 days ago

This is good....full stop. The money worked. The voice was your strength. I think it was how you played the contrast in the opening paragraph that pulled me in. I'm thinking ego...nope. You proved that rather quickly, which made your character more empathetic. Good mystery hook with the Uncle. Although I don't read this genre, I wanted you to know how much I truly loved your writing! Very good indeed!

Cheers,
Dwayne

Orlando Furioso wrote 1167 days ago


It is a great privilege to visit this place and read fantastic stories from such a range of wonderful writers doing their best to make their mark. We are so lucky to be able to create as we do and to read others' efforts is the purest of joys.

ch 1
V is one of us. We are with her on the plane and understand the annoyance of Mrs. Whozitz. She is unusually prone to eyes, thouse of the man mountain and then Gardener's laughing eyes. She might be the poor relation, but she is canny, hiding her real possessions so that the purse snatcher gets... There are some good observations, esp of the effete Cookson and the rakish uncle. But the best dab for me is, 'Your Coors, Miss.' Now THAT is the life!

Orlando Furioso wrote 1167 days ago

I'm in.
I like the prologue. I too am a plain Jim and understand entirely the early comments. But that aspect is soon forgotten when the intrigue takes over and events accelerate rapidly until whoosh, we are off to the airport.
The arousal of V's curiosity is natural and understandable and arouses its like in the reader. We want to know. We wld do the same as her. We have to find out.
The Brit angle intriuges as I am sat in England! Researching family history is very popular on both sides of the Atlantic. And a dash of mystery is compelling universally -- as is the prospect of being lifted from out plain lives by sudden wealth!
Watchlisting. Will read more.
Orlando
WATCHING SWIFTS

Mr. Nom de Plume wrote 1169 days ago

A suggestion is to use italics for "Well, Plain Jane has arrived..." Great style of writing. Backed. Chuck

Bill Carrigan wrote 1174 days ago

Dear Georgette,

I promised to read more of your novel and to back it if it continues to sing. And it does. There's one passage, though, that needs some editing. In your Chapter 4 (Authonomy's 5). Cedric docks in S. America, sails for the West Indies around the Horn (so he must have been in the Pacific Ocean). But next he's on the WEST coast of S. America (?). He sails north and reaches the West Indies (!). Then he sails south to England (!). This will need some adjustment. But the characters come alive, the dialogue is realistic, and the mystery story advances. So I'll be glad to clear a space on my shelf very soon

I hate to say this, but many more authors have praised my novel than backed it, and I'm stuck at rank 167 after nearly two years on the site. I hope you'll read "The Doctor of Summitville" and, if you really like it, put it on your shelf for a few days. I'd be enormously grateful. --Best of luck, Bill

Walden Carrington wrote 1175 days ago

Georgette,
Castle of the Shimmering Sands was a pleasure to review. You have a richly detailed writing style and a protagonist with an intriguing family history. As I read the preface, I only wished the cashier's check had been made out to me so I would no longer have to be concerned about minimum balances. Your descriptions create vivid images and one has to slow down and take notice of all the details relayed in the prose. I think Valerie Hansen's tale has great appeal to the intelligent reader who wants to be swept away by an enthralling work of fiction. I enjoyed my visit and am pleased to place Castle of the Shimmering Sands on my bookshelf.

Walden Carrington
Titanic: Rose Walsh McLean's Story

D'Osborne Hughes wrote 1178 days ago

Hey there georgigirl

I expect you get tired of people introducing themselves with that, but it is a fond memory from my youth.

I have just read your preface and it got my interest going; you give enough of the charactor forward with lots of interest and questions and the last paragraph made me want more, which I will no doubt do, but for now you are on my watch list.

David (The Last Celt)

Bill Carrigan wrote 1178 days ago

Dear Georgette,

I've read nine chapters of your novel with pleasure and admiration. The title seems apt, since it all sounds like a shimmering fairy tale, but then again . . . the sinister events . . . I really don't know what to make of it yet, except that it's very well written and keeps me in suspense. Tonight I'll read the other chapters you've shown.

We both need lots of backing if we're ever going to make it to THE DESK, so I propose to back yours when I free a space. I hope you'll take a look at "The Doctor of Summitville" and back it if you find it deserving. Best of luck, Bill

Mike Kavanagh wrote 1180 days ago

Hi Georgi,

This is extremely well-written and grammatically perfect which enables your flowing, pacey dialogue to really shine. The plot is intriguing and opens a lot of questions that I'm sure will be answered later as I read on.

I usually try to offer some suggested improvements but as yet I haven't found any areas to comment on. I have no doubt that you will reach the editor's desk with this novel and wish you the very best of luck with it.

Kind regards,
MK

Stark Silvercoin wrote 1180 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands is a bit outside my normal comfort zone in terms of genre, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reading deep into the story. Author Georgette Overton has created a very believable character in Valerie Hansen. She’s very much the every-woman type of person, and I think most readers will be able to identify with her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She’s not a shrinking violet or anything, but we do get to experience her fears through inner-monologue, which is a great way to establish a main character.

The story really picks up when Hansen arrives at the Hightower mansion as an heiress. The home’s many secret passages and dark nooks are a joy to discover, and I feel like I’m right there with Hansen as she explores. When it becomes obvious that someone is trying to harm her, she smartly begins to use what she discovered to her advantage.

Castle of the Shimmering Sands combines a fine mystery with a bit of a gothic flair and some chick lit to boot. While anyone would find this novel appealing, I think that people who normally read chick lit would especially be drawn to it, as there are not too many true mysteries in that genre. In fact, I think because of that, this will be a very popular book when published.

John Breeden II
Old Number Seven

elmo2 wrote 1184 days ago

i read the first few entries in you work "Castle of the Shimering Sands". I was looking to get a bead on it so i could comment. when i went back and looked and found you used the tag "gothic" it came into focus. you have a gothic mystery and it is one way to approach it. one should be on the lookout for hidden passageways and stairwells. i think it succeeds on this level and will put it on my watchlist to come back to and read more when i get the opportunity. one little writing thing, try taking out a lot of your that's. i have a habit of using the word that a lot and it is suprising when you go back through a piece you find you can eliminate many of them and not ruin the movement and sense of your work. your piece does move well nonetheless. if you have the time would you please look at my piece "ghost dance". best of luck.

Kari2010 wrote 1186 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands
Georgette Overton

Good short pitch. V. good long pitch. Reader pretty much has a clue what the story is about. I read the tags and from the pitches couldn't see it as being "chick lit" but I read on.

Preface.
First thing I notice is that you do not mention her name in the preface. I only know her name is Valerie from your long pitch but had I not read it I'd have finished reading your preface with no idea what her name was.

Fourth paragraph: Your second sentence is a tad long. You might consider breaking it up. However what I did notice that you should definitely change is:
"...and although we had never met I felt like I knew them and lived life with them through her life, and her stories."
I'd consider removing some of the references of life as they are too many. Maybe go with: ...and although we had never met, I felt that I knew them and experienced living with them as a result of Grams stories.
(something like that).

Chapter One:
Okay, I see where the chick lit comes in ... the beginning of Chapter One does sound like it would fit the genre with the description of the 'ruggedly handsome' man in the airplane and her attitude towards herself vis a vis his impression - 'plain jane'
Oh, I felt her pain having to sit next to a non-stop talker in the airplane.

You write: As I left the luggage claiming section....
Consider: As I left the luggage claim section

I notice we first get a mention of her name some paragraphs down in chapter one. Is this your intention? to stall the revelation of the name for so long? I'm not saying it is a good or bad thing, its just something that stuck out. I'm used to books introducing at least the first name early on and in this case where you even have a preface, at least at some point in the preface. But I'm only making an observation so please feel free to ignore if this is something you intended.

So we close chapter one with Valerie meeting the family members, some are welcoming, some not quite so.
The story is told in first person and Valerie carries the narration with a light, humorous tone. The cast of characters is introduced well and one can only imagine the machinations that will go on as they strive to protect their inheritance. Of course we have no idea at this point whether her uncle is alive or dead and thus the reader is vested in the outcome from the start. There are also questions of why she got a check of $100,000 which would likely be unveiled as the story progresses.

Apart from some sentence structure issues (some too long, some can be clearer etc) the story promises to be eventful. The narration is lively and will capture the attention of readers.

I wish you all the best with this.
Cheers, Kari.

PCreturned wrote 1188 days ago

Hi Georgette,

I just spotted your book, so I popped over to have a read and leave a comment. :)

I'll comment as I read since I find that the easiest way to keep track. Please don't be offended by any suggestions. After all, they will just be my thoughts. You can always ignore me if you think I'm wrong or stupid. ;)

(Sorry in advance for any typos, but my keyboard’s a bit knackered :()

Preface : Interesting intro. The mention of things through the ages hints at the timeless nature of love. I like the way you break into the musings with an unexpected "That last 1 was me." I almost laughed aloud when I read that. I guess I can understand her envy. Women seem to be judged on looks far more than men. It is grossly unfair :(.

I'm intrigued when I learn of the letter from the uncle and mention of a will. Could this lead to untold riches for her perhaps? ;) Seems there's lots of mystery surrounding his disappearance/death.

1 tiny suggestion here. Occasionally, I think some of your paragraphs feel pretty long eg as in the paragraph "Hugo's bequest...". They could make for pretty intimidating blocks of text on printed pages. Is there any way you could paragraph a bit more often to make the reading easier and quicker for thickos like me? ;)

Reading on...Woah, I blinked when I read of the cheque for 100,000. Looks like riches really are on the cards ;). No wonder she hurried to get off to California.

Chapter 1: Her attitude really comes through when she gets on the plane. I like the way she describes the travellers, especially the "matronly type" with her "steel probes" ;). Hmmm I'm curious about the huge man, though. He seems overly interested in her. Suspicious.

I've 1 tiny suggestion here. I think, occasionally, your writing could be even more involving if you found ways to show more and tell less. eg "I was fascinated." is you telling the reader a fact. It's a bit like lecturing them. I think in this case you could just cut that bit as you've already done a great job of showing us her fascination by her thoughts and actions. The reader can then infer the meaning for themself. I think it's sometimes a mistake to spoonfeed readers by telling them too much. Showing them things and letting them draw their own conclusions should actively involve them in your story more. ;)

Reading on... This guy really is huge and imposing, isn't he? I wonder why he's so interested in her. Has he been paid to follow her? Or is he perhaps on his way to the same place as her? Curious.

I was surprised when her purse got stolen, but she's savvy enough to have hidden the important stuff. Phew. The house seems v impressive. Eerie that she's being peeked at, though. I think there are lots of secrets here. Ah and there's an anachronistic butler. I smiled when he gave his last name as the way to address him. He's a walking, talking character from a former age. ;) This whole place feels like it's somehow set apart from the modern world.

The young man seems out of place in such a hidebound setting. Ah he's the lawyer. That explains it. He gets straight down to business. I wonder if this means she's really in for a fortune. Good dialogue between them. It reads like an interrogation. I can almost feel her confusion/irritation. :)

I've a tiny suggestion on dialogue. I don't think you need beats and speech tags simultaneously. eg in " "I'm with the firm Ellis, Ellis, Dormer and Cookson," he said as his eyes flickered with humour" we know who's speaking from the action. I think just " "I'm with the firm Ellis, Ellis, Dormer and Cookson." His eyes flickered with humour” would work fine and use fewer words. ;)

Reading on... I smiled when the butler turned up with the beer. Is he psychic?:) Uh oh the man in his 60s seems furious, though. It's really starting to look like she must have inherited a serious amount ;). Eventually, they're all happy Val is who she says she is, though. Will things go smoother from now on? Lots of interesting characters in the family. This is starting to look like a lineup of suspects in a murder mystery ;). By the end of the chapter, I wonder what new mysteries Val will uncover...

Chapter 2: Val's suite's really OTT. Looks like she's fallen on her feet here. When it comes to her job, Maricela's like a force of nature ;).

I've a tiny suggestion here. I think, generally, it's best to avoid adverbs as a strong verb almost always does a better job than a verb-adverb pair. eg in “...glide gracefully through her tasks..." the verb describes the action perfectly, so I think the adverb's not needed at all. I only ever use an adverb when there isn’t a verb that completely describes the meaning I want to convey. Increasingly, I think a large part of writing comes down to just picking verbs. ;)

Reading on... Val seems in heaven with all the fancy surroundings, especially the bathroom. Sounds like Maricela's family's been working here a looooonnnngggg time. No wonder she knows the job so well. Val's overjoyed at the results of Maricela's attentions. Looks like Val's finally got the appearance she envied in others ;).

Hmmm there's mention of tension. When Val gets to the drawing room, things are obviously coming to a head. Looks like Joseph's about to blow! I’m guessing he's impatient and wants to find out what's in the will. I think you do a great job of painting in details of the characters here. I can really picture them.

It's no surprise when Joseph gets drunk at dinner. He seems the ah... emotional sort, shall we say? ;) At least he seems less aggressive when he's drunk. Val really doesn't fit in this family in 1 key way. They seem obsessed with money. She understands it's not the most important thing in the world. I'm not surprised she eventually makes her excuses and retires.

Hmmm I wonder what secrets the journal and the ancient coin hold. Interesting hints at the end of the chapter of secret hiding place. Will Val find such a place, I wonder?

Oops I just saw how long this comment's getting. I guess I better stop before it grows to a ridiculous size. I'll sum up now, and then shut up. :)

I think you have a great story here, filled with mystery and tension. Your descriptions are well done, and really paint pictures of what's going on. And the dialogue is believable and feels real. I especially like the way you stretch out the tension by releasing information, little be little. At the end of each section, I want to read on and find out what new developments your story has in store.

I've rated your book as highly as possible, and hope you get noticed by an agent. I think there's a real audience out there for your work.

Best of luck,

Pete


subway_man wrote 1196 days ago

i like how the story slowly built up but still kept u in suspense. i am not much of a reader but from what i did read i enjoyed. i loved the detail in the book almost makes u think u are there.

subway_man
Andrew

SusieGulick wrote 1263 days ago

How totally wonderful you are, Georgette!! :) Thank you so very much for again backing my memoirs/testimony book :) May God richly bless you. :) Love, Susie :) p.s. I have gold ******-rated your book :) - hope you've ****** 'd mine, too. Every ****** -ing & backing more than 24 hours moves our books up authonomy's lists. :) I want to ask you if you could please keep my book on your bookshelf because, I'm #1 on the editor's desk & I don't want to lose traction & to remain in the top 5 to be chosen February 28. :) Please read my profile page: I had a mini-stroke Nov. 10 with slurred speech for an hour & numbness of tongue still & over 24 smaller ones where I couldn't speak since & I"d sure like to cross the finish line of the editor's desk after almost 1 year of trying on authonomy. :) Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me :) - I have lost 3 sisters to strokes & my last sister, Mary had 2 heart attacks this past year.

Nigel Fields wrote 1281 days ago

Georgette,
I read up through chapter 9. I feel pleasantly strung along with this story. Very well done. You also handle first person narrative, dialogue and character development extremely well. I can now offer you what I'd imagined from my first read--6 stars! Brava. There's a very special Georgette in my novel. Would love your comments, if you can.
Cheers!
John Campbell (Walk to Paradise Garden)

Nigel Fields wrote 1283 days ago

Georgette,
Val is immediately likeable. I enjoy your crisp, clear prose. The premise drew me to read your work--good pitch. But, I'm fading in the wee hours. So, WL'd to come back to. Looks promising.
Cheers!
JBCampbell (Walk to Paradise Garden, historical fiction)

mvw888 wrote 1298 days ago

Your narrator has a very interesting voice here; puts me in mind of the Brontes or Jane Austen, sort of an old-fashioned cadence to her speech but then we have that she's a computer technician (which, by the way, is nothing like a typist, is it?!?). Really it's quite interesting. What I will say about your narrator, however, is that sometimes she intrudes too much. Try to watch over-describing everything she's thinking. For instance, at the start of Chapter 1, where you say "the most massive airplane I had ever seen"--the voice has already been sufficiently established in the preface, so "a massive airplane" would be fine. There are over-shares here and there, where it slows the pace a bit. But overall, it flows. Lose the ' in Medusa's--it's plural, not possessive, and take out "literally" at the end of the preface. Never, ever use that word! Just my opinion :-). I love the beginning of this, the story that promises a journey, a great change, and adventure. This seems like a sophisticated type of mystery, maybe a cozy mystery? Really enjoyed it, needs a bit of polish but a great start.

---Mary
The Qualtiies of Wood

Hill10 wrote 1318 days ago

Go Georgette!

Hannah Reeves wrote 1320 days ago

Georgette you are AMAZING!!!! I have great confidence that you will get your book published and become FAMOUS!!
Love,
Hannah Reeves

Kaimaparamban wrote 1333 days ago

It feels like a real incident. The heroine in your novel Velerie Hansen, is a rare character. It proves your skill in characterization, because the characterization process becomes perfect only when conveying all emotions to that character. You succeed in it.

Joy J. Kaimaparamban
The Wildfire

fh wrote 1345 days ago

CASTLE OF THE SHIMMERING SANDS
DearGeorgette,
This is simply lovely and I remember when I read and backed it some time back. You have masses of drama and intense intrigue in your book. It moves with a timely pace, lots of excellent descriptions and everything appears in a light-hearted and easy fashion, which makes for an easy read. Lots of possibilities are drawn throughout your chapters which kept me captivated and wondering.
Very well done
Faith
The Assassins Village

karenrosario wrote 1348 days ago

Wonderful line: 'Mother always said (...) but deep inside I know how plain I was.' Your protagonist has a clear, endearing, no-nonsence kind of tone about her, evident immediately. The only thing I'd say is I'm not so sure about the very first paragraph as it did not seem quite as stong as the next.
best wishes with it
Karen

HanyHash wrote 1363 days ago

Georgette, I loved reading your book - pure pleasure. I find through your words, intrigue, suspense and lots of drama within a well paced action. There is no wastage of words - you use just the right words to build the wonderful imagery and yet these were perfectly suited to describe the storyline - I am sorry, I am a visual person therefore words that I read must be able to build a moving imagery in order for me to get the meaning. Backed. Hanyxxx

xmopper wrote 1364 days ago

What? That's all? You can't leave us all here (Chap 13) with JR Fikuart!!! Actually, I know a JR Fikuart, he's a real person, a pharmacist in SE Iowa. I'll tell him to read your book, he'll like it. Got you backed, baby girl. (You are a girl, aren't you? No pseudonym, right?) Great comments received. Want to see this published too. NOW FINISH IT !! AND START THE NEXT !! And when I submit mine, "The Janitor Went 'Ape'", I'll let you know!!

PATRICK BARRETT wrote 1368 days ago

Lots of drama & intrigue in your book which moved at a timely pace with lots of descriptions presented in a light-hearted & easy to read fashion. You cleverly weave lots of possibilities into your chapters which certainly kept me captivated & wondering which paths you would follow & how you would develop the threads. I am sure your book will do well & should certainly appeal to a wide audience. It is refreshingly different & I was more than happy to write this comment & show my support of your work. Best wishes - Paula Barrett (Cuthbert: How mean is my valley?)

Bocri wrote 1371 days ago

The Castle of the Shimmering Sands is a cleverly constructed tale that allows the narrator to tell it like she sees; with no false modesty but also with dry acerbic wit. Sharply defined prose with no rough edges allows the plot to develop at the optimum pace facilitating the pleasure of a good read. BACKED. Robert Davidson. The Tuzla Run.

Vanessa Darnleigh wrote 1371 days ago

I reached Ch 4 without encountering a throbbing member or a wet pussy...is this really chick-lit? Entertaining in a dizzy-blonde kind of way...good luck!
Stewart

Owen Quinn wrote 1371 days ago

lovely written story that has believable characters and a vivd setting, one to watch

child wrote 1371 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands - There is an old world feel to this book or there is in the chapters I read. The author injects plenty of mystery into her telling but the pace is slowed by descriptions of the ancestral pile and of characters which, in my opinion could be placed elsewhere with the exception of obnoxious Uncle Joseph.
I liked the conversational tone Val uses to speak to the reader. I found it strange that solicitor Cookson wishing to validate her identity feed her the information, this didn't ring true. Val meeting Luke (purportedly a chef) in the kitchen who turned out to be the mysterious stranger she had noticed staring at her on the plane could have been exploited more and increased the both the mystery and tension building, but his all too ready confession I felt, was premature and contrived. Val finding Uncle Joseph was inspired and this is surely the hook that will keep readers turning pages.

Child - Atramnentus Speaks

georgigirl wrote 1372 days ago

A very entertaining read. Would love to finish it, but time is my enemy. Backed with pleasure.

Cat
"Twisted"
"Lies & Love"



like you time is the greatest enemy; had intended to only read enough to get the feel of your "Twisted" but found myself caught up in the suspense! Wonderful story, I have backed it happily! Geo

HannahWar wrote 1373 days ago

My very first impression to the preface was: skip the first paragraph. the second stands out and is a brilliant start (according to me). Second impression: make your work even more powerful by deleting all unnecessary adjectives, see if you can do without them. You have a really nice and accessible style which will attract many readers. Good story too! Just keep polishing (as we all have to). Best of luck Hannah

precious larriot wrote 1373 days ago

Good book to read. I finished it. And I can't wait to see the next Chapters! When will you finish it? I really got caught up in the story!!!

--Precious ♥

Cat091971 wrote 1373 days ago

A very entertaining read. Would love to finish it, but time is my enemy. Backed with pleasure.

Cat
"Twisted"
"Lies & Love"

Jedda wrote 1374 days ago

Have read and enjoyed the first 6 chaps. I like its simplicity in as much you leave out things like the frustrations of airports.The mystery of the beautiful clothes chosen with perfect taste is soon revealed and Uncle Joe's death is a hook. Shelved, Regards, Anne

mturner wrote 1376 days ago

Read you preface and it flows well and sounds like an intriguing story

Could go down many paths so could make for a great story

I will try to read more and if i do will be sure to leave a comment or two

Matt

akemidawn wrote 1376 days ago

Hello! I read the first couple of chapters of Castle of the Shimmering Sands and I am very much enjoying it. I really like your main character; her sense of humor and the way she describes her observations is very endearing. I love the gothic feel of your story as well, and I am anxious to find out how this mystery is solved. Your writing style has me hooked, and I will be back to read more when I have time. Great job!

Akemi Maruyama
The Black Diamond

zan wrote 1377 days ago

Castle of the Shimmering Sands

Georgette Overton

An "heiress and a potential murder victim" would go well together to describe Valerie, or anyone else who was an heiress. Makes one wonder whether newfound wealth is really worth it! Looking forward to her meeting family members in California. Great plot and the writing is very readable. Will be back for more when I can find some additional time to spare. Good luck with it.

georgigirl wrote 1377 days ago

Tight writing, and an enjoyable read. I think you made the right choice telling this story in the first-person because it draws me in as a reader.

Patricia
Super-Nature Heroes



Thank you for backing my book; I have read part of yours and while spiritual-type reading is not my thing, I have backed yours for the time being. Wish you success, Geo

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