Book Jacket

 

rank 55
word count 12228
date submitted 31.08.2011
date updated 06.08.2012
genres: Fiction, Crime
classification: universal
incomplete

Savannah Oak

Alan Chaput

When Savannah socialite Hayley Falcon intervenes to rescue her daughter from her abusive boyfriend, everything Hayley holds dear is threatened.

 

Meet Hayley Falcon, a gun-toting matriarch, and her defiant daughter, Maxine, whom she loves unconditionally. Meet obese, sociopathic Tater, a computer technician who has lived with and exploited Maxine since she graduated from college. Follow Hayley as she is plunged into chaos in order to rescue her daughter from self-destruction. Watch as Maxine’s amoral and purposeless life blows up, literally.

Plot twists abound in this contemporary Southern suspense novel. Think "Dallas" meets "Fatal Attraction."

Complete at 80,000 words.

Advisory: Adult content.

Revised: June 6, 2012

 
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tags

crime, savannah, southern, suspense

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152 comments

 

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Marita A. Hansen wrote 768 days ago

What a daughter Hayley has, I feel sorry for her. Maxine is one bad, bad girl, but one that makes for an interesting read. You really have a great mix of characters in here, from Max's mother, her boyfriend, the grandmother and now Chris, the hot new neighbour. This is definitely your best book out of the series and one that I would read right through if I had the time. The first 3 chapters by the way flew by fast, because they were captivating, but I really need to get back to work, which is the only reason I had to stop.

Unlike my previous review of one of your other books, I could not find any typos, the writing extremely polished, the language perfect, and the flow as I said was great. I liked how you did different character points of views, because this kept everything at a nice, fast pace, which is what I prefer in books.

All up a very impressive story with lots of intrigue. 6 stars.

Elizabeth H wrote 772 days ago


Hi Alan,
I thought my comments would help your book the most by posting them here. Maximum stars.

The Savannah Oak is listed as fiction/crime. First, I have to say that this is not they genre I usually go for, but the extract was stunning. I have never been to the deep South, and yet I got a very real sense of the heat and the humidity. Al brought the location alive with all sorts of deft touches like the moss on the oak trees.

I got the feeling that there was a lot boiling under the surface as I read. Max, the daughter, has some huge hang-up and it seems to revolve around her mother. She is rich and well-educated, and yet chooses to live like a slutty tramp. I get the impression of an almost hopeless reaching out for the affection she never received as a child.

Hayley, the mother is one of the best character creations I have come across. The real woman has been suppressed, but little glimpses come through. The persona she projects is an artificial construct of how she has been taught to perceive herself in the structure of her powerful family. Her voice is utterly unique. Her inner musings end on three power words, which solidify her self-constructed character. That is a really neat trick.

Two things came over as potential flaws. The first was the smell of cat piss in the daughter’s apartment when no cat was in sight. The second was that neither the mother, nor the daughter appears to use the name of the now vanished husband and father. Their name comes from Hayley’s father. Maybe this will be explained later in the book, but those chapters aren’t posted.

I very much enjoyed the read and I am putting this on my WL with the intent to back it.

EMDelaney wrote 894 days ago

SAVANNAH OAK / Alan Chaput

Engaging, character-driven crime fiction brew here. Ingredients: A hand full of clever writing, a pinch of crafty word usage, several cups full of desriptive narrative with a perfect balance of 'show me' dialogue, spoken by perfectly characterized participants. Topped off with the right amount of southern charm, this book is one that should be read by each and every new member of the Authonomy community as a 'How To 101'.

E M Delaney

Bill Carrigan wrote 913 days ago

Just finished the five chapters you've shown, Al, and I'm quite impressed. The characters are vivid and their interactions entirely convincing. I understand and feel Hayley's anger and frustration at Maxine's dissolute life style as well as Maxine's rebellion at her mother's banal ambition for her. The recurrent images of Savannah's stalwart oaks are an effective symbol. And the absence of explanation for the characters' respective attitudes is realistic. No Freudian theories; just the incalculable mystery that blights innumerable families. There's tension, too--the impression that something sinister is brewing and no good can come of it.

My only concern was the need to reread the opening paragraph a few times. I'd change "Maxine's" to "Her daughter's" to nail the relationship. Maybe it's just me, but I like clear beginnings. Then, a little later, when Hayley sees Maxine with a man, I wasn't clear which one it was. Did she mistake Ronnie for Tater in calling him Maxine's live-in guy?

But these are rare exceptions. There's no mistaking who's speaking or thinking as your universal author passes from one character to another. The transitions are smooth and impressive; the descriptions of atmosphere and ambiance, always sharp but not overdone; and the back stories, never disruptive. I think you've really got something here, and I'm eager to read on.

Bill Carrigan
("The Doctor of Summitville")

Kipper wrote 945 days ago

Dear Alan,
This is amazing. There is some beautifully crafted writing here. I love the way that in a single chapter you set the scene so well. The expectations of her family, the Savannah Oak that's so symbolic of the family tradition, the conflict between Maxine and Hayley.
Little phrases like the ‘weed-rimmed lot’, the snub-nosed colt bouncing reassuringly on Hayley’s hip… somehow environment and characters intertwine seamlessly and you reveal so much about both in so few words. I sense both female characters are forces to be reckoned with and the tension between them, combined with the obviously fierce love of Hayley as the Mum set this up well as an explosive read.
This crackles.
Back with pleasure.
Kipper

Chris 1 wrote 234 days ago

I've been through quite a few books recently so it was with quite a lot of pleasure to have found this one. It's so well written and presents characters placed in an authentic world. I like the balance between prose and dialogue, the tensions between Maxine and Hayley, Maxine and Elvin. Maxine is a mystery, poor little rich girl gone off the rails pursued by a wealthy, accomplished albeit guilty mother trying to offer her guidance away from the rundown seedy world and partner she has chosen.

You've set up the beginnings of an interesting, intriguing story here that makes me want to read on.
BACKED

TheEyesHaveIt wrote 285 days ago

You're not kidding with the comparison, Al. Dallas meets Fatal Attraction, indeed. I needed to take a Xanax with this. But you are such a lovely writer. I hope to back Savannah Oak soon. Tight month this month, but I'll get there. Wishing you all the best. High stars.
Divababe

MC Storm wrote 410 days ago

Hi Al:
I've read two chapters and must say you've done it again. You paint your characters so well.Maxine is somewhat a rebelious young woman. I feel sorry for high society Haley, yet i understand Max's nature. So very well done.
High starred and will definately come back to read more.
MC
Exposed

Seringapatam wrote 413 days ago

Alan, I have to agree with the comments below. I was so there when I read this and struggled to put it down at times. Its a fantastic story with brilliant pace to it. I like the way you use descriptions mixed with the pace of the book to keep the reader gripped int he belly of this book. That in itself is intelligent writing and I loved it so well done for this book. All you need to do now is get on here and push it like mad.
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

Andrea Taylor wrote 492 days ago

This is really well written, almost too perfect! The atmosphere was set early and I was there, even though coming from an English town where guns are never used (well, hopfully hardly ever!), it was a world away. It made me glad to be here and that was its art, or should I say, your art!
Andrea
The de Amerley Affair

GILLIAN.M.H wrote 521 days ago

the relationship between Max and Tater, reminds me of one a friend told me about. My friend's daughter was in a dodgy relationship, with a control freak. The daughter said to her mum, "X is like a pack of cigarettes. I know he is bad for me, but I can't give him up.

I found Max an annoying character, but I think you meant her to be. This book, and your others, would make a good soap opera for TV.

Lara wrote 543 days ago

This cant fail given the success of the earlier Savannahs. This time an obese character grips the imagination of the reader and we have to keep reading to see how Maxine will fare. Backed. Lara
A RELATIVE INVASION

Tonia Marlowe wrote 558 days ago

I think your books get better and better with each one, Alan. Backed and starred!

Tonia
~SB~

Abby Vandiver wrote 568 days ago

The story is interesting. I don't understand Maxine at all. Most people that want to get away from the influence and prestige of their southern money and family don't become dirty, grimy, stinky people. They do public interest kind of work. She seems crazy, although I really don't understand her. She writes nicely, though. The book did hold my interest but was not a "pageturner." The writing was good and the flow was easy and enjoyable.

Good job.

Abby

patio wrote 577 days ago

Wow, what a start. This is the most explosive start I have read for a book.

MAX STARS

Kaychristina wrote 587 days ago

Al, another winner, I think. I am invested in these characters - and I am still reading. I just wanted to pause for now, as it's late, and paste in my thoughts so far, up to 3. And, so far, I think you sure could give *Dallas* a run for its money... but with the Falcons being tighter than the Ewings, the women tougher, and the family fighting anyone who threatens their whole, rather than each other! Hayley appears to be a woman of real substance - complex, with a vulnerability that touches the heart, yet no one will ever be allowed to see it, not while she has that gun and the Falcon name to uphold. Her daughter, Maxine, is just as complex. and we must hope she'll eventually live up to the genes surely hidden inside that insouciant mind. Hope is what we have for her - it's quite a legacy she has to bear.

Here's some thoughts as I read --

Don't care for the crudeness with the boys... his finger - although pretty realistic, I guess!.
Typo, I think -
*Her mother had used her weapon when threatened?* (Should that be a period?)
Not sure you need slung her back over her shoulder. Then we have it as a purse - which I know, of course, is American-ese for *bag*! Just felt you don't need the fact she slung the bag/purse over her shoulder there. It kind of intrudes on the following sentences re the oaks - beautifully envisioned.

Not sure you need *Wham! Wham!*... and then a second para starting with *When* again...
Hayley asks Maxine who she's living with now, but there's nothing really to denote Maxine hesitating, not answering, evading.

Then, Hayley leaving - I think... you have a couple of comedic touches, which I think are mis-placed here. Hayley leaving Maxine's, she *..wanted to kick something, but she had open-toed shoes*. I laughed, when really, I should be feeling empathy with Hayley. Hayley, who's obviously come to a kind of crossroads, realizing that although she's given her daughter an expensive education, sent her to the best places, she's not given her a childhood - and she wants to make up for that, to hug her and take her *home*.
I wonder, too, if you need a line within all of this, about her regret, perhaps, at kicking Maxine out - as we find out from Maxine, that's what happened. Well, at least that's how Maxine appears to see it - *the door was closed to her*. That they had pushed her out. So it doesn't quite fit, to me, how Hayley feels now - Perhaps we'll find out that one or the other has the facts wrong in her head. Or perhaps Hayley should have a thought or two added, that she HAD thought, with all that privilege and education, Maxine would've grabbed life in the big bad world by the horns, used her trust fund to set herself up somewhere nice, found a good career, husband, just as perhaps all the women in her family had done. They'd been bestowed with money, education and gumption, and yet her Maxine had *failed*. Perhaps this could mix with her motherly instincts, at last coming to the fore. In short, I think it just needs a little more confusion in her mind here, a grief mixed with anger at what her daughter's seemingly thrown herself away on.
Poignant end to this section - *Memories of--*

Now we are with Maxine. Profound thoughts from her. And she thinks of her boyfriend, this *Tater*... (Elvin Tait, I presume...). And she writes, for what we learn is a homeless charity. And what she writes is very good indeed.
Ah, one thing there - this is a very emotional section. But you have *She settled back in her chair and smiled*. I think you need something else there, or a little re-wording. A suggestion - Perhaps you only need the para to be: *Raw pain had tangled her words - however crude and unpolished, the words spoke to her... of her.*

And we find out she had actually been forced out of the Falcon home.

Typo? Maxine's website - *Savannah Sole* - should it be *Soul*?? Or even *Solo*. My first thought was that it should be *soul*... and at the end of Maxine's blogpost, she has *Feed a lost soul.*

Intiguing end to the chapter - readers' imaginations can run riot as to what she gets up to...although I'm not sure why she's removed a crystal bracelet - although, aha, I see it has a sad place in ch.2.

Ch.2
Tater... Elvin Tait. And he is a computer geek, able to watch what Maxine (*Max*) gets up to all day, living as she does in her fantasy world of online *flirtations*.
Interesting!
As are his motivations... a frightening man.

Now we're with Hayley again, at the Falcon Memorial Care Center.
GREAT atmosphere here, with those Oaks, and the Egret - and the moss-encrusted alligator. VIVID.
So is the scene with her Mama, our Patricia.

***
And we're with Maxine, receiving a birthday gift from Daddy, Shawn. We learn he is in Florida, and she hasn't seen him since she was 12.
A very POIGNANT passage.

With Hayley again, and find her with Zach, whose bed she shares. And he's her *go-to guy*. This frightening man her daughter is with had better watch out, I think.

EXCELLENT mix of characterization and plot, of course, as we've come to expect from this author. It's rare, these days, to find a book you want to keep going, save chapters for another day - as you do a tv serial in the class of Dallas or Downton Abbey; something to look forward to. Alan Chaput's books have that quality in spades.

A class act with stars to match.

From Kay Christine with love

J.Adams wrote 638 days ago

Okay, finished the last of chapter five. It closes with "What to do?"

I would like to answer that, Al. Post the rest! I can't stand this hanging!!!

Excellent stuff, Al. You already know what I think of your books. You are an excellent writer. I am looking forward to having all the Savannah books.

Wishing you all the best,
Judy

Bill Scott wrote 638 days ago

Al,

Your stories are always so much fun to read. In the forums I saw you post that this was still a work in progress and you wanted feedback. I hesitate to point anything out to such a seasoned writer, but really these are more of things I stumbled on as a reader.

"Tentative but precise." Made me pause. I had to think too hard about how darting eyes were both tentative and precise.

She pushed the yellow plastic entrance button." My assumption was Maxine buzzed her in, so I was a little confused that she was both surprised to see her Mom and wasn't expecting the knock. The button/buzz sequence must be somehow different than the way my apartment works.

Sorry, this is crass, but when I saw "Elvin Tait." I could get 'elven taint' out of my head.

"not a dictated one" she must be intelligent, It seemed rather old, something a mom might say.

I had to go back and re-read. She was a "spoiled brat" but "homeless." I was certain she had an apartment. I think I understand now that she is without a home. a sense of place, but does have living quarters. It threw me. When I read it the second time I realized I just didn't get it the first time around as you obviously had explained it.

chpt 2

The the one "smart" and two "smarter than" didn't bother me. but I found the third one — "he was smarter than everyone else" — too much. I think you could stop at He and he alone deserved her wealth.

I liked the image of the sterile, pine-scented hospital, but something bothered me about "sterile hospital." My head went to infertile. . . .compound — sterile, just like a hospital. Just a thought.

I knew she had Elvin Tait's name, but when did she get his plates?

Best of luck AL,
I've a good feeling you're about to bust out of this joint.

Bill

J.Adams wrote 638 days ago

I love that Max is following in the footsteps of her great grandmother, even if unknowingly. (Caring for the plight of the poor and downtrodden.) But I'm so sorry she has such horrible self-esteem, and I am frustrated with Hayley for not getting how much Max needed her father, and how his absence from her life, just as she was moving from childhood to becoming a young woman, did such a negative number on her.

Great name for a head shop - Cranium.

In Chapter Five, Should "multi-talent" be "multi-talented" in "...a voice that belied the hard-working, multi-talent woman within."?

I love that Hayley, frustrated and worried as she is about Max, also finds herself longing for the freedom Max is trying to carve out for herself - freedom, it seems, from being a Falcon, with all that entails.

I think the comma in this sentence isn't needed: "And I'm not, your debutante."

Damn... I have about three paragraphs left to read and the coffee shop I'm in is closing and the employees are glaring at me, I'll have to finish these thoughts when I get home. Arrrggghh!!

melonscallmebaby wrote 639 days ago

It is great to see that the professionals value your work so highly. Best of success for you, always.

f

Doctor178 wrote 653 days ago

Nice writing, it's interesting how you use short sentences to describe, nary a comma amongst them! Good characterisation and your hook is reflective, I find it all interesting. Very good.

Olivia wrote 660 days ago

Hi Alan, I don't normally read crime fiction, but I was intrigued by your pitch. You didn't disappoint as your writing is very strong and the story pulled me along right from the opening scene. I love your characters and you also give us a good sense of place. I have no doubts that this will do equally well to your other novels on this site and it is on my list for backing as soon as I can make a space available. Please read Elastic Girl when you get an opportunity. Olivia

Nick Goulding wrote 660 days ago

‘Savannah Oak’

A beautiful cover, drawing the reader into the tale.
Short pitch: Gets to the point. Promises conflict.
Long Pitch: Sounds like a promo for a t.v. series. Does the job in a clear and concise way, delivering the essence of character and tempting social explosion.

Ch1: Neat verb use (swaggered into view, angled toward the car) which is energising if not over-used. I like the use of italics for thoughts (I did this in my book but a few reviewers, early on, did not know this was an accepted convention, surprisingly, but it seems to be more accepted, now). ‘His eyes darted, catlike’ – elegant and punchy. I like the narrative voice which moves into the mc’s head over the gun issue.
The short sentences work well in developing a feeling of drama and tension.
The hints of issues with Hayley’s mother are tantalising and restrained. We follow Maxine’s changing thoughts clearly, leading to empathy with parent and daughter.
Maxine’s back-story is delivered fairly smoothly, and effectively. A neat division between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is developing.

Ch2: Again good verb use (‘scooted the chair in’) adds vibrancy. I was appalled at Tater’s ability to monitor Max’s online activity, and her excesses in same but surprised at Tater’s tolerance of this - until I saw his semi-rational justification of this. The characters are slipping into place nicely. Neat centring of viewpoint in Tater’s world through third person identification (‘Yeah. He was smart.’).
The sentence length and style shift subtly when we follow Hayley – more sedate, controlled, mature feminine power – until confronting her mother we see her vulnerability.
The burn back-story seemed a little compressed – I was curious as to the nature of the accident. The mother’s dementia is well-portrayed and moving.
There is controlled pathos in Maxine’s reactions to Daddy’s absence. Complex family relations are weaving well.
Zach arrives with economic but effective delivery and we learn more about Hayley’s motivations.

Overall – a fast-paced, punchy read that follows the behaviour and motivations of widely disparate characters in relationships of power and love. I enjoyed the southern setting and couldn’t help but see images in widescreen glossy t.v. mode – it almost read as a t.v. film script to me and I would not be at all surprised to see the rights picked up on this, and the other Savannah novels. A very visual piece, I feel. I liked the slipping into character’s heads, gradually but decisively as each scene develops. There are no wasted words here but I enjoy a little more description, but that’s personal taste.
Typos? I could see none. Alan knows his craft, and his fastidious reading of other’s works demonstrates this. A minor visual point – the paragraphs are not all similarly justified/indented (just a tad distracting).

This is a very accomplished and engaging work that draws me in. The writing seems effortless and that allows the reader to relax and enjoy a cracking good tale.

Nick Goulding
Where She Lies

JMF wrote 676 days ago

Returning your read and comment of my book, Shadow Jumper. This is your third book in a series and I have to confess that I haven't dipped into your other two. So, I am coming to this completely afresh. I wouldn't necessarily pick this up to read in a bookshop, but then I'd be missing out, wouldn't I? I was immediately hooked by your writing, Al and by your characters, which seem very vivid to me. I can see why your other books are so popular on here. I can't say I'm a great editor, but I couldn't spot any errors or typos and you seem to write without effort - I'm very envious of that! And what I particularly like is the fast pace of the writing. You don't hang around, no endless descriptive passages, but the reader doesn't feel rushed either. I enjoyed it. Highly starred.
All the best
Julia
Shadow Jumper

Kamaneeya wrote 682 days ago

I request you to find place for my father's book 'Ozoneraser'
in your shelf for some time.

thank you

upforgrabs wrote 682 days ago

Hi. Sorry it's taken me so long to follow up my last review. Hope you'll read and comment some more on "Tamria".

James

CHAPTER 4

“Dressed in faded jeans shorts and a white halter top” – need a comma here. –> “Dressed in faded jeans, shorts and a white halter top”

“The morning air was warm” – you had “morning” in the paragraph before. We’ve already been told it’s morning. Just “The air was warm”. Or you could have the chapter begin: “Around 9 a.m.” and keep “The morning air”. Your choice.

“Ever green.” –> don’t you mean “Evergreen” ?

“She looked on both side of the street for Mary” –> “both sides”, plural

“Max paused to look into the tattoo parlor where Tater had his stomach decorated.” –> “where Tater had had his stomach decorated.” It’s referring to a past event.

“making her salivate over the thought of” –> “salivate at the thought of” ?

“gave her the freedom to live as she wished” –> “wanted” instead of “wished” ?

“salty ocean air” – I think “salty sea-air” would sound better.

“This was real air.” –> how about “This was good, wholesome air.” ?

“She spotted Mary in the park, waved, and crossed the street to her.” – instead of ‘crossed the street” (the word “street” is reoccurring a lot) maybe “crossed the road”.

“dull wide set eyes” –> “dull wide-set eyes”. Needs hyphen.

“submerge her indignation” – good phrase!

“only a problem if she got caught, and she rarely got caught.” – to avoid word repetition –> “only a problem if she got caught, and she rarely did.”

“latte” – has an acute accent on the “e” –> “latté”

“took another sip of latte” – we know what she’s drinking. Don’t need “of latte”. Just –> “took another sip”

“Maybe, just maybe” – you had this earlier in the chapter. Lose the “just maybe”.

“cum laude” – Latin phrase (“with honours”), it’s always italicized

“Her heart pounded loud and fast and hard.” – “hard” appeared in last sentence. (“braked hard”) Just “pounded loud and fast”

“with no effect” –> “to no effect” ?

“And yet, easy-going had been what her ex-husband had wanted from her” – take out the second “had”, the sentence will flow better. –> “And yet, easy-going had been what her ex-husband wanted from her”.

J.Adams wrote 683 days ago

Al,

All I can say is I hope you'll remember all the little people when you're chatting with Ellen Degeneres!!

As always, wishing you all the best,
Judy

Cara Gold wrote 690 days ago

{Savannah Oak} – Alan Chaput
Chapter 5:

Another terrific chapter – I have to say that what I thoroughly enjoy most about your work is your depiction of Maxine and Hayley’s relationship. The dialogue at the end was particularly well handled, and I liked when Hayley observes her daughter and compares how she used to look, and how she looks now. Powerful stuff, with a powerful ending. Such a hook to leave readers with, on the last uploaded Authonomy chapter!

A line I really liked was; ‘The past was like that… frozen… unable to react, unable to change, even when a bird sat on its head.’ You demonstrate your ability to bring a unique flair into your writing, with fantastic descriptions and analogies.

Another thing is your style; you have a standout style of writing that makes your work pleasurable to read. The short sentences place us in the minds of the characters, enabling us to follow their thought processes. This works well overall.

Congratulations on a terrific read so far, and I wish you all the best!
Cara
---
p.s. Edit suggestions :)
1) First sentence, comma to break up; ‘The following morning, Hayley steered…’
2) Perhaps ‘She pulled in at her reserved spot…’ (eliminates having ‘parked’ after sentence previously has ‘parking’, potential for repetitive feel)
3) ‘was uncomfortable’ → I’d simply describe the discomfort. ‘hot, humid air made her clothes stick to her’ → conveys the discomfort without dictating directly
4) sentence ‘Hayley smiled, nodded…’ many actions in sequence, don’t work too well for me but that might be my taste… perhaps ‘Smiling, Hayley nodded, before proceeding down the wide, carpeted hall…’ I don’t think ‘turning left’ adds anything to the story, personally
5) I’d say ‘Turning, she stepped to the large window’ → this way, you vary the verbs more… an ‘ing’ instead of three ‘ed’ s
6) I’d say ‘Her life plummeted up and down like a roller coaster.’ → show more, remove the ‘was’. The ensuing descriptions are great though
7) comma after ‘bobbed hair, and brushed’ → need to separate actions more
8) I’d merge; ‘No. She shook her head angrily, chiding herself.’ So the short sentences in the rest of the para have more effect
9) I’d put ‘Never-the-less…’ on a line of its own for emphasis
10) I’d merge and reword ‘Pushing her briefcase aside, she took a seat and picked up the phone. Paused.’ → it is a stylistic thing of course (most of these suggestions). I do like your short snappy style, but at times, feel more variation would have greater effect. If you have a longer more fluid sentence, then the single word; ‘Paused’ stands out so much more. Just a thought!)
11) I’d say, ‘Anne walked in, a grim expression creasing her brows.’ → I think the ‘grim’ needs more description to give us the picture
12) I’d say ‘Anne handed Hayley a note and put a mug of coffee on her desk, before leaving.’ → otherwise ‘Hayley’ is repeated twice
13) comma ‘to her mother, and dreading the conversation’
14) I’d say ‘Harried, Hayley settled the phone in the cradle and closed her eyes. Slumping, she rested her face in her palms.’
15) I’d say ‘She picked up the report. Scanning it, she noticed he was much younger than she had believed, younger than Maxine.’
16) ‘The chilled air of the restaurant suddenly felt cold’ → not sure if this sentence works for me, because if the air is chilled, isn’t it already cold?
17) I’d say ‘Heart hammering and stomach surging, her hands twitched so much she had trouble opening the outer exit door.’

John Saville wrote 690 days ago

Impressive!
recommended by Cyrus

JS

VanoraMarie wrote 692 days ago

Hello! I read all that you put up of "Savannah Oak" so far and oh my! It's not anywhere near my usual drama but it hooked me in right away which I'll say for me is impressive. I kept asking myself why? Why was Hayley acting this way? What happened that broke her down? And her mother's inner fire seemed to jump off the page. That's one woman I wouldn't want to cross if she existed in real life. I really enjoyed the different POVs because it gave me a chance to get in the mind of your characters.

The sentences flowed, and I found it overall a nice read. I honestly have nothing to say improvement wise so I hope you are not disappointed. I feel that with such a thoughtful critique on your part I wanted to repay you but it seems I have fallen short. I am adding to my watch list and congrats on making it as far as 54! I'll be eventually reading the other two books in this series.

Cyrus Hood wrote 694 days ago

forgot to say, on my watch list with a bucket of stars- I keep books on my bookshelf for at least 1 month so there is a backlog but your work will make it.

Cyrus

Cyrus Hood wrote 694 days ago

Hi this is Cyrus,
This is lucid, sharp and contemporary writing that from the start paints a stark and authentic scene of the desperate life of a girl on the edge.
Very gripping, I would have liked Mom to be little wary of leaving her Merc in the yard while she called on her daughter - but I accept that that might not be with in her character.
Not sure about the 'frayed stairs' did you mean 'worn treads' or was the stair carpet worn?
Really though these are minor niggles and are probably down to our different use of the language.
I worked late tonight so I'm a little knackered, I will make a further comment when I've had a better look over the weekend.
best regards
Cyrus - Hellion 2

kokako wrote 700 days ago

Hi Al,

I’ve read three chapters of Savannah Oak. This is beautifully written, with a good pace and great sense of place. Your characterisation and narrative are excellent.

Below are a few chapter-by-chapter notes. These are just my opinions (and some, I suspect, are related to the fact that I'm a kiwi and we use English grammar rather than American), so take what works for you and discard the rest.

Ch 1

1) ‘snub-nose’
I thought it was ‘snub-nosed’ ?

2) ‘was taller, broader than the others’
I would consider saying ‘was taller and broader than the others’. The way it’s written, the reader (well, me anyway) gets thrown out of the story at this point as they’re mentally reading ahead - ‘taller, broader and…’

3) ‘Froze’
should be ‘Frozen’ (though maybe not in America).

4) ‘her weapon when threatened?’
remove ‘?’

5) ‘yellowed plastic’
hyphen or comma after ‘yellowed’ (depending on which image you want to convey)

6) ‘Hayley raised her hand once more when the off-white door swung open.’
This sounds as though Hayley raised her hand as a result off the door swinging open. Maybe say ‘Hayley was raising her hand once more when the off-white door swung open.’

7) ‘hair was dirty’
comma after ‘dirty’

8) ‘Unemployment had made living with Tater a necessity.’
Yet she has a trust fund, which, by the sounds of it, gives her a regular income. (Presumably this anomaly gets explained later?)

9) ‘Savannah Sole’
Did you want ‘sole’ or ‘soul’? If it’s a play on words, it’s lost me (which isn’t that hard to do).

Great chapter. Wonderful end hook.

Ch 2

1) ‘And he would because’
This doesn’t fit the line before. Either the line before has to be ‘plead for him to forgive her’ or this line has to be ‘And he would give it because’

2) ‘Hayley turned her car’
It looks as though you indent the starts to your paragraphs, but for five paragraphs at this point, they are flush. Very nit-picky, but I thought you might like to know. (Actually, looking back through the chapter, I see that they vary. You might like to choose one format and make all your paragraphs consistent throughout your ms).

3) ‘Patricia stared hard, trying to understand, but couldn’t.’
The tenses are muddled here, so it sounds as though Patricia couldn’t stare hard. You could say either, ‘Patricia stared hard and tried to understand, but couldn’t’ or, ‘Patricia stared hard, trying to understand, but failing.’ Or something of the sort.

4) ‘house coat’
one word

5) ‘toward the door, the corridor, the garden’
should be ‘toward the door, the corridor and the garden’ or ‘toward the door; the corridor; the garden’

6) ‘Steered her out of her cell…’
This is actually not a complete sentence. I would place a semi-colon in front of it and make it part of the previous sentence.

Ch 3

1) ‘an old grey frame house’
this needs commas and/or hyphens.

2) ‘pale yellow plastic soup bowls’
comma after ‘yellow’

3) ‘Everything in place to maintain’
there’s a big gap here before ‘balance’

4) ‘Sleep walking’
One word

5) ‘sleep walked’
one word

6) ‘But, she had to’
remove comma

7) ‘cute young guy’
comma after ‘cute’

8) ‘puppy dog’
hyphen

9) ‘door knocker’
hyphen

10) ‘Sleep walking’
hyphen

This is a nicely polished tale and the plot is developing beautifully. A great read. I noticed that you’ve already had two books at the ed’s desk. Have these been published?

Sue

R.J. Blain wrote 705 days ago

Greetings!

First, thanks again for reading Eye of God, very appreciated. Sorry this took so long to get to, things have been rather hectic lately.

This is really outside of my usually reading material, but I'll give it my best shot. If something is out of place in my comments, it is probably due to my complete lack of experience reading this type of story. :)

I liked the contrast between mother and daughter, but it really felt like a bit of a trope-type; the rich daughter of a powerful, confident woman digs into drugs and sex while the mother tries to rescue her... there wasn't anything about Maxine that made her really stand out to me. While I got the vibe she's a somewhat nice person beneath her rebel veneer, I really struggled to get behind her and feel a lot of sympathy for her. While in a few ways her mother wasn't quite as set to trope types, I still didn't get a vibe that there was something that made her unique or stand out. (Once again, this isn't usually my genre, so I'm not sure if this is actually the case, but this is what I observed as reading.)

As always, the writing quality is superb. Despite my reservations over genre, I made it through the first three chapters without a hitch. In some ways, I quite enjoyed the read, although there wasn't really anything to hook me personally since this isn't the type of story I normally read.

There were a few paragraphs here and there (albeit very rare) that I had to re-read to really get. Nothing one final run with the polishing cloth won't cure.

All in all, very well written and i think with the right audience, this will definitely be a hit. I hope that my comments were at least of some use to you!

upforgrabs wrote 706 days ago

Hi, sorry it took me so long to follow up my last comment. Been busy lately, haven't been on Authonomy much in the last couple weeks. Anyway, here's my ongoing critique right up to the end of chapter 3. Hope you find this useful! I'm looking forward to your opinion on the next chapter of "Tamria."

Just gonna go grab a beer. LOL!

James


Rest of Chapter 2:

“Time had passed fast and it had not been kind to her” – there’s nothing wrong with this but I wonder if a shorter “Time had not been kind to her” would be more effective.

“Shaken, Hayley’s heart lurched, but she dug deep and remained outwardly calm” – not sure what “dug deep” means, in this context. Do you mean she’s “digging deep” for a strong place inside her, to keep her composure? “Shaken, Hayley’s heart lurched, but she fought to remain outwardly calm.”

“terrible accident erupted” – is “occurred” a more appropriate word for this context? Or “happened”? Maybe even rephrase to: “On the third day, there was a terrible accident which changed both their lives.”

“In the months following” – would this sentence sound better if those two words, “months” and “following” were reversed? “In the following months, she received the best…”

“vague continuum” – I like this pairing of words!

“Oh, my God. Did Maxine see her life that way? Just vague memories?” – since this appears to be Hayley’s ‘thought bubble,’ perhaps it should be italicized? Thoughts that appear to be spoken should always be distinguished as such.

I’ve noticed you have three occurrences of the word “trips” in this chapter, all within close succession. There must be other words you can use, to avoid repetition. “outings”, “journeys”, “excursions” “holidays” – they’re a start.

“time to relax and take in the relationship she never had as a young girl” – think you might need an extra “had” here, as it’s referring to the past. “She wanted time with her mother, time to relax and take in the relationship she had never had as a young girl.”

“All her life she had sought her mother’s love. Other than the three trips to Paris, she’d failed” – would this flow better? “All her life she had sought her mother’s love. Those trips to Paris aside, she’d failed.”

“shriveled frame… shriveled mind” – thought this was a very clever phrase.

“Hayley had an urge to cry” – a more conventional “Hayley felt an urge to cry” might be better, but I seem to recall you warning me against using the word “felt.” I’ve seen it appear in plenty of books, though, so I guess it’s a matter of personal taste.

“steered her toward the door” – how about “steered her to the door” ?


Chapter 3:

“let his body calm, let his mind clear, let his soul mellow” – could sound better without the repetition of “let”: “Tater sat in his black ’84 Chevy wagon and let his body calm, his mind clear, his soul mellow.”

“Ronnie appeared in misery” – is this “telling”, not “showing”? Do you think you should “show” more here?

“The mildewed door swung opened” – typo. Should be “swung open.”

“Ronnie, in frayed baggy jeans and a limp white tee-shirt, gestured him in. An old Black Lab sat beside Ronnie.” – you use Ronnie’s name twice in two sentences. Since there can be no ambiguity who the Labrador’s sitting next to, why do it? “An old Black Lab sprawled on the floor beside him.”

I notice you use a lot of very short, choppy sentences, and often single-word sentences (like “Whimpered.”) This may be fine for the genre you’re working in and the kind of novel you’re writing, and it doesn’t seem to have done any harm to James Patterson (and his ilk…) – it’s very much the opposite of my style, which favours long descriptive passages. But I wonder if your writing might flow better in some cases if the sentences were joined up. There are occasions where the “choppiness” of the events described feels jarring. But this may just be me. E.g. –> “Tater entered, handed the pizza box to Ronnie. The prune-faced dog nuzzled the box, whimpered. Ronnie’s body odor was overpowering. Tater moved to the side.”

“Game on” – why is this underlined? Should it be italicized?

“Ronnie’s online life would never again be the same” – nothing wrong with this passage but why was “again” placed after “never” and not at the end? “Ronnie’s online life would never be the same again” is a more standard phrasing.

Why does Max refer to Tater as “Dude” in one sentence and “baby” a few lines later? Words like “baby” and “honey” are fine, considering their relationship; I can only imagine one guy saying “Dude” to another, not a woman using it.

“He crushed the beer can in his hand” – since we know it’s a can of beer – it’s been referred to several times in this scene – is the word “beer” redundant? “He crushed the can in his hand, tossed it in the trash”

Again with the “Dude”!

“she said, trying not to shout” – the word “shout” was used in the previous line. How about: “’Stop yelling,’ she said, trying not to raise her voice.”

“two hundred pound, six foot bully” – think “two hundred pound” and “six foot” should both be italicized, as they’re being employed as adjectives. “two-hundred pound, six-foot bully.”

“hundred and ten pound girl” – should also be italicized: “hundred-and-ten pound girl”

“Her emotions welled” – rather vague – what kind of emotions? -, and it brings to mind the “show, don’t tell” mantra we’ve all been taught. “She felt a flash of anger”, or something like that.

“She grabbed his beer can” – ok, that’s two uses of “beer can” in this chapter and nine references to “beer” (I’ve done the page count.) You don’t need to keep telling us what drink it is. Either, “She grabbed his beer” or “She grabbed his can”, or “She grabbed his drink”, to mix it up a little.

“She took a long swallow” – word repetition again. You used “took a swallow” a few lines before. Alternatives: ‘She took a gulp,” “She took a long draught,” “She chugged it down”.

“dodged the bullet” – maybe this is OK in a work like this but it is a cliché. I may have a few clichés in my own writing (every book contains some clichés!), but some are more acceptable than others. Some, like “quick as a flash,” and “like a bat out of hell”, are just so trite they’re inexcusable. Wonder if this belongs in that camp.

“thousand dollar birthday check” – is “check” an American spelling? I’ve seen it presented alternately “check” and “cheque.” And “thousand dollar” should be italicized. “She had a thousand-dollar birthday cheque”

“She shivered. Cold.” - 1, this is the lowest kind of “telling”, not “showing,” and 2, “Cold” is kind of redundant, after the word “shivered.” Why else does one shiver? Don’t be afraid to have a bit more description, your writing can afford to be a few words fatter here and there. “She shivered. Goosebumps prickled her skin.” That’s a start.

“pushed into a seated position” – don’t you mean “sitting position” ?

Should “sleep walked” be a single word (“sleepwalked”) or a hyphenated word (“sleep-walked”)? In published writing, I’ve never seen it as two separate words.

The word “beer” again!!!! You have nine uses of “beer” in this chapter. Why not “Too much booze, she supposed.” – That way you’re not reusing the same word.

“hung over” – this is another word that’s usually hyphenated: “hung-over”

“Her heart raced” – another cliché, or overused phrase. “Her heart thumped” - that might be better.

“God damnit.” – Should be either “Goddamn it” or “God damn it”. Don’t have the “it” as part of the word.

“Shivered.” – the same word again! You used “shivered” a little earlier. Try a different one.

“Being scared wasn’t an option” – how about: “She couldn’t let herself look scared.”

“beer breath” – aaaargh!!! So many BEERS!!!!! I think I might have to have one now!!!!! [zombie voice:] "Must... have... beer...."

“staggered by her” – “staggered past” ?

“door slam closed” – just “door slam.” “Moments later she heard his door slam.”

“She made a beeline to the bathroom” – hmm, it’s another modern, very well-wrung phrase. Again, maybe fine in your genre / type of fiction, but I’d avoid it. “She made for the bathroom” - there, that’s two words shorter and doesn’t lose any of the meaning.

MelissaBG wrote 709 days ago

Al,
Here are my comments on Savannah Oak. Hope you find them helpful:
• "had thrived in Savannah soil nearly as long as her family" is said as if she knows how old the tree is, which wouldn't make sense if its in her daughter's apartment parking lot. Maybe you need to say it "looked as if had thrived in Savannah soil...."
• $1,000 check, according to my style guide :)
• "court-trained" seems like an odd description. I wouldn't imagine you'd see much in a court. If she was used to seeing crime scenes or having to look at pictures for her legal career, that would make more sense. I'd suggest rewording....
• I don't follow the logic of the sentence "Like wearing outgrown jeans...." Don't know what you were trying to get at here at all. Makes more sense if "wearing too-tight jeans" but I don't know if that's the same meaning as what you intended.
• Max's mom and boyfriend make it sound like her trust fund checks are big, but she views herself as homeless. Maybe you need to qualify just how big they are in some way?
• Can you shower someone with sensitivity? I'm not sure that works...
• I'm in the third chapter and am wondering how on Earth Maxine hooked up with Tater. Doesn't seem like they'd run in the same circles. It would be good for that to be addressed her if it isn't later.
• At one point you say Maxine's condition, which makes it sound like a medical issue. You may want to phrase differently (i.e., Maxine's living conditions)
• You've got a comma you don't need in "And I'm not, your debutante"

Overall you have a great cast of characters. They are well fleshed out and I enjoy how different they are. By the end of the fifth chapter though, I'd like to see the pace pick up. While Tater is certainly a creep, you have yet to establish that he's an actual threat. Without that, it's hard to continue to sympathize for Hayley, who just comes across as a control freak...Hope to come back to it when I have more time.

I'd also appreciate some more backstory on Maxine. The way it reads, she went off the deep end when she graduated college. Was that the case? Was simply being given a trust fund and not allowed to move back home what triggered her lifestyle choices? If so, it makes her hard to sympathize with. Also, I'd like know whether she's doing something for the homeless beside writing a blog. Maybe she's volunteering in a shelter? Otherwise she seems to be pretty self-involved.

Hope you found my read helpful.

Best,
Melissa

Writer in Red wrote 709 days ago

Book Cover Critique

A very beautiful image you have chosen. The over hanging tree branches and the arch are wonderful design patterns; much character in those branches. Usually one does not want to put the center of focus down the middle of the page but since your horizon is low and the tree branches take up most of the negative space, I would say it is artistically pleasing. I get the feeling of calmness and a twinge of mystery as oak trees have a tendency to do especially with all that eerie moss hanging from them. The large branch near the top is a wonderful element that should not be covered up. You did good putting the title near the bottom.

As it seems you will be sticking with that particular image, I have a few comments that may improve your cover making it even more appealing. First off, as the image is a beautiful one the colors are very dull (most likely taken on a cloudy day around noon). A way you can fix this problem is to go to a photo editing software and enhance color saturation. Bring out more of those greens and yellows and a bit more light. I think a slanting ray of light would look nice coming from the branches but that may be too much.

Lastly, your title has a few problems. The font is very general and the color too dark. Because you have picture filled with curves and represents a more old fashioned feeling, might I suggest a more script-like font, one that will reflect the same feeling and motion as the oak trees. I can understand how the color of the title may be difficult since your image is very busy with much color. A yellow or a green would fit, but be careful not to go too light since the space at the bottom is composed of a white. To fix this problem you could add a transparent shadow behind the title allowing you to use a brighter color (photoshop has some nice ways of achieving this effect). As a final comment, keep the author name small but still readable. At the moment it almost looks like an extension of the title. Until the day you have a good reader following the author name (important-- that I understand) needs to be small like how an artist signs his work. I say this a lot but I find it to be very important and a common mistake among beginning authors.

I hope this helps. I love the cover so far and hope this may improve it.

Officer Fuzzy wrote 711 days ago

Hi,I read to chapter four and I have very little complaints.
Hook: It seems too wordy to me, I would cut “adult” out of “adult daughter”.

Pitch/Blurb: I think this is one of the better blurbs I've read. It seems to capture what the story is about and introduces a few key characters and makes the beginning chapters, which are a bit slow a little more suspenseful.

Chapter One:
I really like how the story dips into Hayley’s thoughts. She’s an interesting character with a clear voice.
One think I noticed about thoughts is the format. Most of them are in italics. “Oh my! He’s going to—“ But, “Ridiculous. Move on.” Isn’t in italics. I don’t find the lack of italics confusing or anything, but I think consistency is important, so keep all thoughts in italics or put none of them in italics.

“She supposed a dime qualified as a detail.”I love the idea of a wealthy woman still picking up a dime. I also like how the quote from the dad was slipped in.

I feel this description is lacking. “She stopped on the mildewed steps fronting Maxine’s building. Wood veneer peeled off the warped door.” The ending of it just feels abrupt to me, like one more thing should be mentioned.

I like that the story switches POV’s/ head-hops. I think it works smoothly and it helps make this story more complete, makes each character more interesting and the dynamics between them. It also make them more sympathetic and easier to relate to. Maxine isn’t a great daughter and Hayley isn’t a great mom and with them bouncing off each other it easier to be sympathetic to them.

Chapter Two:
I like that Tater is so creepy, but that isn’t really commented on in his sections, it’s just normal day for Tater. I also like that “Maxine” turns to “Max” here.

The setting is written well so it’s nicely prominent. I really liked the mention of the animals. “The moss-encrusted monster had been living in the pond since Easter and seemed to enjoy the place.”

I liked the scene with Zach, it added a nice bit of lightness and a little humor to the story that was kind of getting a bit too heavy.

Chapter Three:
Good believable dialog in this chapter.

“His eyes drilled her, as he lit a cigarette.”
I’m not sure about the comment before “as”. Just seems wrong to me, not sure though.

The argument between Maxine and Tater is well done it grows in intensity and then winds down smoothly.

Chapter Four:
I didn’t like the underline under “his” in “Though often his focus had been outside the marriage.”

Over All: Can’t say much more, but this is a good read, well written with layered characters and good dynamics. It’s slow, but there’s a good amount of tension to keep the reader going.

Karen Eisenbrey wrote 714 days ago

Alan,

I finally got around to reading a couple chapters of Savannah Oak, coincidentally just as you are doing some editing! The first two chapters quickly set up some dramatic situations and hint at troubles in the past. Lots of mother/daughter troubles! Maxine is an interesting character -- young and confused, longing for independence yet resenting the way it was thrust on her, and trapped in a relationship with a nasty jerk of a boyfriend. I suspect she really wants a relationship with her mother but can't bring herself to admit it. Her contrasting internet personas -- the socially conscious blogger and the slutty "Wild Tigress" -- reveal her desires to do good in the world and to be loved. I want to know how she gets out of this hole!

I didn't notice anything that needed correction. This is easy to back.

Karen Eisenbrey
CRANE'S WAY
ENDURANCE
TIME SQUARED

Jannypeacock wrote 714 days ago

Hi Al,

Sorry it has taken me so long to return the read. I wanted to wait until I had time to concentrate on it fully.

Here are a few of my thoughts after reading your opening couple of chapters.

You clearly are a master craftsman. There is no denying your technical ability. This is impressively polished writing. I doubt I could find a typo no matter how hard I searched.
You set the scene well. I can see and almost smell the Deep South. Your leading female characters are very well rounded and believable. It’s unusual to find a man capable of capturing female voice so effortlessly (Nicholas Sparks is the only author I know who does this well) so hat’s off to you for such convincing protagonists.

I really enjoyed Maxine, or to be clearer, I really enjoyed disliking her. She’s truly horrible and I feel she gives this story dept.
Haley, on the other hand, I liked very much. I have a suspicion that there is a lot more under the surface with her and the little glimpse you give into her hidden depts. are very intriguing.

Very impressive dialogue. There is never any confusion around who is speaking while at the same time there is no author intrusion to explain. You trust your readers to follow, and it pays off. I love this aspect of your writing.

My only concern in the opening is pace. You build tension well, but there are times where I did want things to move a little faster, I wanted to be hooked sooner. You have fabulous imagery but I think I want to see more action initially and let the description come later when I’m glued to the prose.

Janny :)

Michael Jones wrote 715 days ago

Hi, Al. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.

I read all of this. It's a good read. Well written, pacey, with a natural flow. I haven't read your other books but I'm thinking about it :)

Your characters are well drawn. Hayley, the worried mother. Maxine, the 'almost' daughter from hell! Tater, the deceptive and irritating boy friend. I'm drawn in and wondering how it's going to pan out.

I thought the dialogue was just right. Realistic and punchy. I like your use of quick, snappy sentences. Something I like to echo in my own writing.

I was thrown a little in C4 when I came across a few paragraphs that read the same as the beginning of C1 ... not sure if this is intentional or not ... just found it a bit strange. Nevertheless, I finished what you have here and enjoyed the read.

There's nothing I can fault in the technical aspect .. seems fairly well polished to me.

Best of luck in your endeavours to reach the desk a third time. Must be some kind of record, eh?

Mick

kshaw wrote 716 days ago

Hi Al,
Wow, are you sure you aren't spying on my family? :) You're depictions of Haley, her daughter Maxine and Haley's mother are so real that I was instantly drawn in. I was Maxine (well without the booze and sex) and my mother was Haley after I left for college. My grandmother is even starting to develop Alzheimer's. Your story brought me back to that time and made me see it in two different perspectives. I love that. I love how you are in both of these women's heads simultaneously and I think that it breathes life into the story.

I will definitely be back to read more of this, although I hope this story takes a drastic turn that doesn't sum up my life :)

Frith,
Kayla Shaw
PHILOSOPHIA

Cara Gold wrote 716 days ago

{Savannah Oak} – Alan Chaput
Chapter 4:
Great portrayal of Maxine in this chapter, and I truly felt the awkwardness between her and her mother, and Hayley’s difficulty with talking. You create a vivid picture of the feelings of your characters, and I like your writing style that is at times quite abrupt and to the point.

Good luck with your editing! Here are some more detailed thoughts ☺
Best wishes,
Cara

I’d merge sentences to read; ‘Flickering red and yellow neon tubes beckoned, making her salivate over the thought of more body art.’ → to reduce the number of shorter sentences, making those other short sentences have more impact

Next para I’d begin with ‘She sucked in a deep breath’ → more active. Then finish; ‘This was real, bringing with it the cleansing sensation of the outdoors.’ → also eliminate ‘air’ in ‘This was real air’ because you have just mentioned air twice, so we know what you’re talking about

I’d say ‘A nice walk she made once a week or so, but more than that, an excellent place to meet Ronnie.’ → again sentence merging

I’d just say ‘Ronnie was already there when she arrived, dressed in a NASCAR tee-shirt and jeans.’ → we know she’s going to the French Bakery so perhaps no need to repeat. Also, changed structure to improve flow, maybe? So the reader isn’t disrupted by the clothing description in the middle, which could be seen as irrelevant

I’d say ‘As she approached Maxine’s apartment complex, she saw a girl who looked just like her daughter come out of the bakery – with a much older guy in a ratty NASCAR shirt.’ → firstly, ‘daughter’ so that ‘Maxine’ isn’t repeated again. Then, the ‘much older guy’ separated as such for more emphasis and shock

‘Hayley considered intercepting’ → I’d have the comma in this sentence before the but, not after

‘Too riled to continue…’ I’d put another comma after ‘wouldn’t’ in the next sentence. Also in next para, comma after ‘stride’

Greenleaf wrote 716 days ago

Hi Al,

Sorry it took so long to get back to Savannah Oak. I’ve reread your first three new chapters. It’s been a while since I read them the first time.

General comments: Hayley is gutsy and motherly at the same time, and I think that’s a great combination. She’s obviously strong, intuitive, intelligent and sophisticated, and doesn’t miss a thing. She knows that her daughter needs help and she wants to help, but knows how stubborn her daughter is, too. I get the impression from the very beginning that Hayley will have a tough time getting Maxine out of her terrible situation.

I love your descriptions—I can see the big oak tree and the messy apartment.

Simmering tension. Never a dull moment. Great handling of thoughts and internal monologue. I couldn’t find any typos or grammar errors.

Specific comments on the first chapter:
1) One of my favorite lines: Gnarled branches soared, swooped and snaked overhead.
2) I’m not sure why some interior monologue is italicized and some isn’t.
3) I got a little confused when: Maxine gestured toward the door and moved nearer. Hayley backed up to avoid being nudged, then stepped out to the landing. I reread and then realized that Maxine had practically pushed her mother out the door. Maybe that could be a bit clearer, or maybe it was just me. It’s late at night here.
4) I love the sharp contrast in voice and attitude between Maxine and Hayley. The moment the viewpoint changes it’s immediately obvious. Great job!

Specific comments on the second chapter:
1) Again, the viewpoint shift is really good. Tater is so completely different and his voice comes through loud and clear. Shorter sentences, swearing, opinions all work to show the kind of person he is.
2) I like seeing Hayley with her own mother this time. A contrast between mother and daughter from chapter one. Some good backstory.

Specific comments on the third chapter:
1) Tater is obviously a bad guy and tension is building. I didn’t like him in the second chapter, and now I really don’t like him. I’m hoping Maxine will see who he really is and leave him.
2) The arrival of Chris looks like it’s going to open up a new set of problems for Maxine. Good job increasing the tension.

This is really good, Al. I'm giving it six stars and I will try to make room for it on my shelf soon.

Susan/Greenleaf (Chameleon)

Lourdes wrote 718 days ago

Dear Al,
I'm traveling, so my allotted time on the internet is strict, however, what i read of Savannah Oak i found impecably written. Your characters are funny and alive and i believe i have a daughter exactly like Maxine.
On my desk with all the stars.
Best,
Maria

angelwithabullet wrote 719 days ago

Hello Alan,
Thanks for inviting me to read this.
I've read the first chapter - and though thrillers are not my bag, you do have something interesting here. I think I'd like to read from book one - but this opening chapter of the third book brought the characters to life without a need to know the back story.
Your writing flows really well, but from reading some of your comments, I think you already know how well you write.
Only one negative point - and please don't get out the colt 45 on me for it. I think it reads more like a film script than a novel. Was it that at one time? Or do you have experience in that area? Something about the descriptions kept me from getting into the tale you were telling. I think I'd like to watch them as films rather than read the books.
Other than that one small point, I think you have something valuable here.
Keep up the good work.
Kaye x

upforgrabs wrote 720 days ago

I'm about to go to bed now but here's my follow-up on your first chapter 'review,' the first half of the second chapter.

James

***

“He sat down at his desk, scooted in, and clicked on the icon” – I’ve never heard the phrase “scooted in” before (so maybe I’m just ignorant on this) but there is no mention of him actually logging onto a computer here – we’re just told that he sits at his desk. Maybe need to mention a computer somewhere.

“continue through the day” – maybe “throughout” ?

“fire ant venom” – think “fire ant” should be hyphenated. “fire-ant venom”

“She intended to be unfaithful again” – think “meant” is a better word for this context. Or “she was going to.” “His throat tightened. Only one reason for that invitation. She was going to be unfaithful again.”

“would snivel and plead with him to forgive her” – feel a more compact phrasing would be: “His soon-to-be-disciplined girlfriend would snivel and plead for his forgiveness…”

“exquisitely landscaped” – since this is being employed as a compound adjective (or whatever the technical term is!) I feel it deserves a hyphen: “exquisitely-landscaped”

“centuries old survivors” – need an apostrophe after “centuries.” “centuries’ old survivors”

“pearlescent lagoon” – I think this description!

“large alligator” – I’d just drop “large.” It what you would call telling, not showing. And most alligators are “large”. So just “an alligator sunned himself.”

Three “lagoons” in this paragraph. Change one of them. “swamp”, “pond” and “lake” are viable alternatives.

“went in the frosted double doors” – “went” Is a dull choice of verb. Something better, “She left the car in the visitors’ lot, strode through the frosted double doors”

“the place smelled antiseptic like a hospital” – here’s how you might “show” a little more: “Despite the tasteful furnishings and soft background piano music, the smell of the place was antiseptic, sterile, like a hospital.”

“fretted the legacy would end with Maxine” – to improve flow of that sentence you should add “that” after “fretted.” …she recalled, with a bit of pride, the things her family had done for the community, and fretted that the legacy would end with Maxine.”

“’Hello, Mama.’ [next line:] Her mother…” That’s an unnecessary repetition of who this person is. And the next sentence begins “Mama.” Maybe replace with “The woman.” “’Hello, Mama.’ The woman, dressed in pink flamel pyjamas, turned.”


Sharda D wrote 720 days ago

Hi Alan,
returning your read of Mr Unusually's Circus of Dreams. Thanks again for that. I've used your feedback to make quite a few changes.
I read the first two chapters and loved every minute. This is quietly gripping, nuanced writing. I am interested in all three characters introduced and want to understand their lives and motivations, which is a fantastic achievement in just 2 chapters! Both mother and daughter were well observed (as a mum of three myself I loved all Hayley's internal questions as she notices the details of her daughter's apartment - how like a mum!)

There were no real slips in your writing, so I can't be terribly constructive. Once or twice I felt a word or two was slightly out of POV. But this may be because I'm a Brit!
e.g. Hayley uses the phrase "Sometimes life sucked", it felt too young/informal for Hayley's character.
In Max's POV there is the phrase "occasionally abusive boyfriend", I wondered whether she would see it like that, or if she would cover up for him more/or for her staying there and not directly label it as abusive. Not sure. Also "opened her word processor" didn't sound like a young person. I think only people over 40 even remember word processors! That includes me, but the young people I know wouldn't call it that. She'd probably just call it "Word", or just leave the reference out altogether, in her eyes, she switched on the computer and started typing.
Just a few very slight niggles as you can see. This was pretty flawless writing but captivating too. Brilliant stuff.
6 stars from me and a future spin on my shelf if at all possible.
All the best,
Sharda.

upforgrabs wrote 720 days ago

My return read:

I read your first chapter and enjoyed it. The topic - homelessness, especially among young people -is very relevant in today's climate, especially in America and some parts of Western Europe. So that should be reason enough for a publisher to sit up and take notice. Your writing is very sharp, concise and well-polished, though I did notice a few things, like typos, and instances where you might use different words. Since you pointed out a list of helpful corrections for me, I hope these will be useful for you.

Rated five stars. Thank you for the read!

James

***

“Oh my! He’s not going to” – if this is Hayley’s “thought bubble” shouldn’t it be italicized?

“Hayley stepped out of her car into the summer heat and slung her bag over her shoulder” – three “hers” in this sentence. Consider changing one of them. “Hayley stepped out of the car into the summer heat and slung her bag over shoulder.”

“She stopped on the mildewed stoop” – what’s a stoop? And “stop on the stoop” has a very amusing ring, probably not intentional! Don’t you mean “step”?

“harder this time to get over the pounding percussion” – rather than “get over” how about “be heard over”? “harder this time to be heard over the pounding percussion”

“Though afternoon” – doesn’t sound quite right. For one thing, afternoon is so vague – what time in the afternoon? If it’s late afternoon, the light wouldn’t be that bright. “Though midday” would be fine. “Though early in the day” is perhaps most suitable – since the light is generally brightest at that time.

“Where they cooking meth in here” – typo. “Were”

I think you need to describe Maxine and Hayley a little. We haven’t heard any specifics yet – only that Maxine is an “old” woman (though whether that means middle-aged or actually old isn’t made clear) and Hayley has hooded eyes. Is she skinny (if she’s a drug-user, very likely), what colour hair, does she have tattoos? That would be very indicative of a rebellious personality. Just telling us that she has blond hair would suggest something – blondes after all are generally perceived as being less intelligent than brunettes. Red hair might mark her out as “different,” having a fiery or unusual personality. These are all things worth considering. I gave Dio bright red hair in my novel deliberately to emphasize the fact that he’s got quite a quirky personality.

“thousand dollar check” – should be “thousand-dollar”, hyphen

Why is “her” underlined? The convention would be to use italics. I’ve never seen underlining used in fiction before. Yet you brought me up on use of capitals.

“shaking from frustration” – I feel “with” would be more appropriate

“Jack Daniel whisky” – feel you don’t need “whiskey.” Everyone knows that JD is a brand of whiskey, even me (I don’t drink much)! Just “pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured herself a stiff one.”

“A tear trickled down her cheek” – nothing particularly wrong with this sentence, but I wonder if it feels clichéd? Maybe a different word than “trickled”.

“heart-rendering pain of rejection”- should be “heart-rending”

“directed her browser to her Savanna Sale website” – two “her”s her, when one might be better. “directed the browser to her Savanna Sale website.” After all, you can’t really *own* a browser. A computer is an individual’s property, even a program on it, but internet browsing software is “public domain” – nobody owns it.


“Once the Internet video connection came on…” – nothing wrong per se with this sentence, and your writing is extremely sharp and to-the-point - but I wonder if all this information is unnecessary. Just tell us she longed onto Facebook and clicked on her profile. She’s turned on the camera, so we know what she’s going to do – make a video call; no need to know about waiting for the video connection to come on. Feel free to disregard this, of course. Most readers wouldn’t notice it.

“Her imagination swept her up. Anticipation built. Her body heated” – the first, I think “swept away” sounds better. The middle one is passive – it doesn’t happen to anyone, within the confines of the sentence. “She felt a surge of anticipation” or something along those lines. “Her body heated” is fine, but maybe show more than tell here. “She felt a flush spread across her cheeks, a swelling of excitement.” That’s just a start.

Cara Gold wrote 722 days ago

{Savannah Oak} – Alan Chaput
Chapter 3:

I loved the tension in this chapter; beginning with the opening – quite ominous! Good interactions shown between Max and Tater to develop their relationship.

The pace moved along quickly, very engaging. My main concern, however, is that sometimes (although I loved the short, snappy, tension –building sentences) I feel you need to break them up with more longer, fluid phrasing. This creates more variation and rhythm, so that when the shorter ones come, there is more bang and impact! : )

In opening para, I’d say ‘The man’s phone number was in Max’s call history, and a reverse look on it had provided the address – an old grey frame house on a block littered with pathetic, rundown ones.’ → you repeat ‘phone number’ twice, and ‘old’ and ‘house’ twice. Plus I thought a merger of the sentences reads better

I’d just say ‘… he called Ronnie.’ → no need to repeat ‘phone number’ again

I’d say in para “Don’t give me any of your lip”… ‘Tater leaned in, his big eyes widening into a glare.’ → just for variation. The short sentences here are great for the tension building, but sometimes too many can spoil the effect.

I’d say (after ***); ‘Max woke on her back with a start, head thrumming with a terrible ache. She lay on wet grass, a full moon hovering above.’ → again, sentence merging to make some more fluid, longer ones amidst all the short snappier ones. Also changed to ‘woke’ = simpler, and ‘was’ to ‘lay’ → more active

Last para; ‘She made a beeline to the bathroom to wash. For a moment she paused, looking deeply at herself in the mirror….’ → again, lengthening the short sentences

Hope this is helpful, as always!

Cara
The Awakening: Dawn of Destruction

Oriax wrote 724 days ago

Al,
Though this isn’t the kind of book I usually read, I can appreciate that it is very well-written and polished prose. The setting is sketched in deftly with minimal description without slowing down or distracting from the action. The characters come over very vividly, though none of them is particularly likeable.

Maxine I found convincing as a character in her relationship with Tater, her slobby behaviour and her withdrawal from her mother’s expectations. What I didn’t understand about her was why, since she is obviously meant to be an attractive girl, she bothers with an ugly creep like Ronnie. I can see her getting friendly with Chris, but Ronnie?
Hayley I wasn’t totally convinced by, but this whole world is so out of my experience that I might be completely wrong. I found it a bit perplexing that she allows Maxine to edge her outside, just to pound on the door to be let back in again. I wouldn’t have thought such a tough character would let herself be pushed around by such a limp rag as Maxine.
The conversation in the Japanese restaurant didn’t convince me either. The conversation is more like an interrogation, Hayley with her lawyer’s hat on. I realise though that this is the third in a series of novels, and might be completely in character.
Both Tater and Ronnie are both suitably seedy with an undercurrent of violence. The character of Chris might be a breath of fresh air, though he makes me think of the cowboy in Thelma and Louise…
Your use of the ‘following’ theme is very neat – Hayley tracking Tater, Tater tracking Ronnie.

Your writing is enviably clean and well-edited. I just noticed a couple of (minor) nits. You use the expression ‘centuries-old’ twice to describe the oak trees (once with, once without hyphen)
I’m not sure you need capitals for names of animal or plant species.

Thanks for drawing Savannah Oak to my attention, I wouldn’t have looked at it otherwise and would have missed a good read.
Jane

Kim Padgett-Clarke wrote 725 days ago

What a fantastic book. I read all five chapters which is highly unusual for me. I was very impressed by your style of writing which was easy to follow and flowed smoothly. Your main characters are strong and the dialogue is realistic. Hayley seems to be stuck in a bubble where nothing matters but upholding the family name. I got the feeling that in reality she found it a burden and longed to be free of the responsibilities and chains that this wrapped around her. Maxine on the other hand is the classic rebellious daughter. She despises everything that her mother stands for and seems determined to lead the kind of lifestyle that she knows her mother loathes. Maxine and Tater live a seedy warped kind of existence. Apart from the squalor they live in they seem to feed off each others depravaties. This is a real melting pot of emotions. There are things which only seem to be hinted at in these five chapters such as the scars on Hayley's arm and how they got there and her paranoia which manifests into carrying a gun around with her at all times. Then there is the issue of her distant relationship with her mother and the sadness she feels that it is now too late to start over. I like the way you have built these characters up before the reader is introduced to the crime side of the noveI and not rushed straight into the action. I can't find fault in Savannah Oak at all. I really enjoyed reading it and I have no doubt that it will do well. Keep up the good work!

Kim (Pain)

Jehmka wrote 725 days ago

Al,
I don’t have time to review books, so, like most here, I review small portions of books, and because of this, I avoid commenting on plot development… I stick mostly to nitpicking.

Savannah Oak threw a wrench in my spokes (not much to nitpick). I scoured two chapters, and here’s what I found: “Mom isn’t the(_)freaking center of the universe.” Stray underscore character… This is it… all I could dig up.

I suck when it comes to describing why I like a particular book. I'll give it a try though.

The language in Savannah Oak is plain − sentences and paragraphs are all easy to follow, smooth, clean and lean. The dialogue feels perfectly natural. The characters feel like people I’ve already met, but don’t yet know… real people… real situations. I used to read Anne Tyler’s books for the same reasons I enjoy reading Savannah Oak. The well-defined, interesting characters… personalities and situations I could relate to.

Alan Chaput, I believe, is among the top writers on autonomy.

liberscriptus wrote 725 days ago

Hi Al,

I read what you have posted of Savannah Oak, and the first thought that crossed my mind was: why is this not already on bookshelves? Your writing is professional and clean, moving forward at a fluid pace while still taking the time to delve into descriptions. You somehow managed to strike the perfect balance between rhythm and release in your narrative, allowing the reader to spend time with each character's internal thoughts while maintaining the story's momentum. I've very impressed with how efficient you make your descriptions, utilizing rich, almost poetic language in small doses in a way that allows the reader to envision exactly what the characters see or feel without tripping over overdone metaphors.

You have a real gift for showing the reader exactly who your characters are in a very short amount of time. I feel as though I already know Tater even though he's only had a few short scenes so far. And the two central figures, Maxine and Hayley, are wonderfully described. By showing what goes on in their heads, you've made them sympathetic and realistic. Hayley's devotion as a mother and Maxine's rebelliousness are two themes that have been explored countless times, and yet you managed to make it seem fresh. I find it especially interesting how sympathetic you make Maxine, who could very easily be nothing more than an unlikable, ungrateful brat. By showcasing her insecurities in a subtle way, you allow the reader to really see the world from her point of view and understand why she behaves the way she does.

Even though your story doesn't open like a typical body-was-found crime, there's still an uneasy suspense that looms over it, a sense that something bad is coming. You do a great job of setting up Tater as a villain while teasing the reader with hints about Hayley's past. Why does she carry a Colt wherever she goes? The feeling of looming danger coupled with the easy flow of your narrative make this an unexpected page-turner.

Savannah Oak is an immersive, engaging read, and it's easy to see how it's received so much praise. In fact, I'm surprised I'm reading it on Authonomy and not between the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble. Any publisher with an ounce of sense should snatch this up and parade it as this summer's must-read. Six stars, and I wish you the best of luck with this!

Cheers,
M.
Astral Sea: The Pandora Project

Cara Gold wrote 725 days ago

{Savannah Oak} -- Alan Chaput
Chapter 2:

I really like the tension you bring into this chapter with Tater and Max, and their relationship. You portray some of the issues in this relationship in a nice subtle way, through Tater’s reflective thoughts. There is a little hint of creepiness conveyed to the reader by the way he observes her. The short sentences later on near the *** break then help in your portrayal of Tater’s state of mind. He sounds almost slightly deranged, and a little possessive! Yet what I like is the reader doesn’t really jump to either side – both Tater and Max appear as complex human characters. We can understand why Tater is possessive if Max goes and cheats on him, but then who wouldn’t cheat on a guy like this? So both characters have their flaws, I like!

Smooth transition back to Hayley, and then we go into Maxine’s perspective. I like this a lot! You also break up the action and switch scenes at precisely the right moment, with lovely images – I particularly liked ‘Times like this she wanted to climb into a jet, kick on the turbines, and shoot into the sunset…’

Anyway overall great stuff :)
Have a great day!

Cara