Book Jacket


rank 469
word count 46076
date submitted 15.06.2012
date updated 09.07.2013
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Horror, ...
classification: adult


L. Sydney Davern

A gonzo-horror torture-porn cloaked in the skin of a transgressive Bildungsroman, “Stains” tells the tale of a hideous murder in a backwoods, white-trash neighborhood.


16-year-old Erin was powerless to stop her parents from abandoning she and her siblings. She could do nothing about her older brother and caretaker, Nate, going to prison, and even less about the sexual abuse he suffered while incarcerated or the stigma that he is branded with due to his perceived homosexuality. She can’t stop him from drinking himself to death or neglecting their toddler sister. And she tries not to care; after all, his despondence just means that he isn’t poking his nose into the adventures that she and her glue-sniffing crew embark on.

But when Nate kidnaps his rapist’s teenage brother, Erin and her friends suddenly have all the power in the world. With the helpless young victim at their mercy and the whole rest of the summer to keep themselves entertained, these youths are about to learn that when even God refuses to pay attention, nothing is taboo.

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abuse, child abuse, loneliness, murder., neglect, poverty, rape, romance, south, southern, violence

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PenInHand wrote 675 days ago

Author's Note: Contains graphic (non-pornographic) depictions of rape, child abuse, sexual content, substance abuse, and strong language.

Also, if you read this and do not add this to your bookshelf (or watch list in line for a spot on your bookshelf), please include WHY you chose to exclude it in your critique.

NowSpeakTruth wrote 514 days ago


"over the[re] starve to death."
Other than that no grammatical nitpicks. Though my stomach was churning too much to notice them if they were there. This is just mind boggling. You've given us a picture into the not-so-nice parts of the world that we often times prefer to ignore, and for that I respect this.
God bless

Renee Mieyerhold wrote 595 days ago

Return swap! (Sorry for the wait)

This is very hard to read, and not because of your writing style, which is excellent, but the content. Well maybe not the content but the way you write it, the way you describe it -- so basically you are really great at writing about really crappy things, which not everybody can do. So - kudos. I'm not particularly a fan of these more...gritty...stories, but you are certainly talented, and your tone is so perfect for the subject matter it's not even funny.

I will say the beginning paragraph is a bit confusing, since you kind of just throw us into the action. I'm not sure if it's something that requires any adjusting since the reader kind of gets into it and figures it out after the second or third paragraph. And maybe I was the only one who got confused.

Overall, I think this is a great piece. With a strong plot and the strong writing style you have, this novel can really say something!

Tod Schneider wrote 595 days ago

This is very dark, rich, but as well as it is done, it's overwhelming in its bleakness and dark characters. I'm not seeing redeeming qualities that make me root for anyone. Great balance of dialogue and narrative, and plenty of impressive description. This has a lot going for it that I think would appeal to a Goth audience perhaps. Nothing wrong with that -- it's just that I'm so far from Goth. I do have dark moments in my writing, just more humor.
I did find one errata, easy to fix: "...the reason them pretty little girls over the starve to death..." Maybe you meant "over there?".
Anyway, interesting, well written, dark stuff! Best of luck with this!
If you have any interest in children's literature,and want a change of pace! please come visit the Lost Wink.

Kate LaRue wrote 610 days ago


A gritty, dark atmosphere pervades this first chapter, with descriptions as dark and depressing as Erin's life. Definitely a character driven piece, and you certainly have a firm grasp of language. At times the prose is perhaps a little too verbose for a paint-sniffing narrator, but that is just my opinion.

I wish that I had more to offer in the way of constructive criticism. There was the odd typo, but nothing that took me out of the story and I typically refrain from commenting on that sort of thing. The 'sleepy Chris' metaphor was hard to pick up on at first and I had to go back and reread the beginning once I realized that 'sleepy Chris' is drugged and wants to stay that way rather than 'waking up' and losing his buzz.

There was one grammar issue that gave me pause as I read. You rarely tag dialogue, which is good, but there were instances where the untagged dialogue is connected to the next sentence with a comma, rather than separated by a full stop. For example–"Please," I wonder if Baby can feel it yet... "Sick," my mouth finally cooperates... There are several others. It is especially jarring when the speaker is not the person the rest of the sentence refers to.

Over all a powerful beginning to a gruesome story. Best of luck with this.

jbkirkpatrick wrote 610 days ago

L.S. I select books to publish from submissions to JournalStone Publishing. I would love to see a manuscript from you. Here is my profile on the publishing website:

junetee wrote 621 days ago


Nice work!
Love the graphic scenes. You pull them off beautifully with your bold and colorful style. Your descriptions are almost painful, and your characters raw. You have a few grammar mistakes, but don't we all.
An excellent read. Highly starred and watchlisted.
FOUR one.The Rock Star.
(sorry its taken so long to get to you. I look forward to the return read)

pickarooney wrote 627 days ago

We'll, you're not bullshitting when you say you can write. there's a lot in this first chapter to back up the claim. Too much, in fact.You establish your style early on and it clearly works. Your descriptions are bold and visceral, your characters firmly established as unlikable. You don't half go on, though. You could lose forty percent of this easily and maybe start getting the plot across at some point. I know you're not interested in proper spelling but with over twenty mistakes in this chapter alone you're pushing it a bit.

I might read another chapter at some stage and see how this develops.

D.J.Milne wrote 629 days ago

Hi PenInHand
I think I got to Stains before you got to the Ghost Shirt. So here are my comments
I can certainly see the Irvine Welsh oozing out the tip of your Pen, like a septic needle spraying a back-flush out of a junkies works. So, that is to say twisted, raw, painful, true to life in this setting, and penned to splat and stain. In other words, for this genre of book I feel it works well. You certainly have the style in your writing to carry this off. The paint sniffing scene in the woods, the description of the guy run over by the truck being so flat you could snort off of him, all descriptive stuff that makes you wince and squirm over.
As I see many people have already commented on the typo’ which you need to correct. For example electric whine not wine, in the first few lines. Although Electric wine could make for an interesting drink! But I am not one to talk about typo’s they are my ‘bête-noir’.
A good read and it makes a refreshing change from all the children’s book I have been reading lately. High stars and good luck.
The Ghost Shirt

Cupcake xx wrote 629 days ago

Here for our read swap!
Here’s my thoughts as I read:
- I like your opening sentence. It’s very intriguing and raises questions. Nice.
- I love the name Nate.
- Ooh…the way you describe the crack of his fingers….it made me feel a little sick. Ha. Very nice description there.
- I’m really enjoying chapter one; this type of book doesn’t usually take my interest, but I find your writing very refreshing and I’m enjoying it, finding myself glued to the screen.
- However, that said, I do think the first chapter may be a tad long? It might be an idea to consider breaking it up a little. Just a suggestion though. (:
- ‘since may’ <- do you mean the month? It just needs to be capitalised.
- Your first two paragraphs of chapter two are very nicely done.
- I read up to the end of chapter four - where I thought I should comment.

Now, this isn't my usual type of novel, but I found your writing very well done, and I thought you made your character's very real. I like the narrative.
There were a few odd typos and spelling mistakes, but nothing major at all. I like your wording choices, and your descriptions are good.
I think you could do with maybe slowing the pace sometimes? Like when they find Kent on the floor, maybe describe that a little more? Just a suggestion
However, a good book so far!
I'm going to add this to my watchlist to read more soon.


~Evangeline~ wrote 629 days ago

General Note: This is how I review. I start at the beginning and read until I lose the will to live or real life intervenes. I review as a reader, not an editor or a proof-reader. If I find myself annoyed by typos, bad spelling, or shitty grammar, it's safe to assume you have way too many of one or all of the above. Otherwise my comments will relate to your story and your ability to keep me interested.

Waiver: If you think my comments suck, ignore them. I'm only one reader and you need to have faith in yourself.


Stains - Nice title.

Sleepy Chris will be awake before the hour's up - Interesting line but when I see he's already awake - and pleading - I realize this is not to be taken at face value and I suspect literariness.

"Peripherals" - This is meaningless unless he's using a webcam. Again, I suspect literariness. I go check the categorization for the book. Literary fiction and horror. Good luck with that.

The sandman - I think you are taking this whole sleepy thing too far. It's not that good an image and it's over. Stick a fork in it.

Daylight slithers in skinny bars through the drawn shades ... veil of dark hair ... carniverous plant ... freshly fed snake ... - I'm done. Less is frequently more.

I read to the end of your first chapter, just to see, and apart from the last line - which is very good, it's more and more and more of the same. You even use "satiated" instead of "sated". This reads like someone who is desperate to prove that they're smart and literary and edgy, and is trying far too hard. I'm not convinced by your voice - the literary flourishes seem out of keeping with your protagonist's own voice, you haven't sold me any kind of story so far, and - long story short - it simply doesn't work for me. I suspect that if you had enough confidence in your smarts to focus on telling a story rather than drowning your reader with your mad lit chops, you could turn out a very decent book. I don't think this is it.

JMF wrote 635 days ago

Reading swap
I probably wouldn't pick this off a bookshelf in a shop because it is not really my type of thing, However, let that not take anything away from the fact that you write extremely well. There is a grittiness and fluidity to your writing and barring a few editorial errors I spotted in the first chapter (see bleow), it is well-edited.
I was a bit confused about the sleepy Chris scene at the start. I couldn't work out if he is asleep or awake. If he is awake why will he wake up soon?
I had to read the start a couple of times to distinguish between Chris and Nate, but that might just be me!
'wine' should be 'whine' - unless you spell it differently where you come from.
'it feel my features harden' should be 'I feel'.
Generally, a good chapter and one which would encourage the right reader to continue with.
Well done.
All the best with this. I shall star highly.
Shadow Jumper

Dean Lombardo wrote 635 days ago

L. Sydney,
I enjoyed your lengthy, but rich Chapter 1, and I will star this very highly. I took some notes which I can send to you in autho email, if you like. I can back for a few days, and will try to return for a Chapter 2 read when I can. Nice job; I really like the overall mood so far. ~ Dean Lombardo "Space Games."

SteveSeven wrote 636 days ago

This is a raw story full of typical scenes from the seamy side of life. You handle it well - and the dialogue creates a vivid picture of the characters who are stuck in their life of drugs and despair. Your writing is colourful and the plot moves fluidly. Well done, Steve

HateFaceCore wrote 636 days ago

First and foremost, I did enjoy reading your story. Unfortunately, when writing a book, you need to have the reader in mind. Here are a few tips that may or may not apply to you:
1. Know the ending beforehand.
2. Make sure there is some sort of resolution or closure involving the characters.
3. Make sure to have an editor lined up to go over your work. Not just family and friends. Nothing ruins the flow of reading like a error.

Your work will be added into my watch list which will soon be sent to my shelf. You have a great gift which i hope to see more of.

lisa85 wrote 637 days ago

Hey, Sydney!

Here for the swap. Below are my remarks and my personal opinion. I hope you find this helpful.

Chapter 1:

- Is Chris asleep or is he awake? If he's asleep, how can he talk to Nate? Reading further on, I suppose you mean that he is stoned, but the awake/wake up thing isn't all too clear in the first lines. And those are damn, important to agents, as we know.

- Seeing that Sleepy Chris is a nickname, I think that "sleepy" should be capitalized.

- "... them pretty little girls over the..." Should be be 'over there', I imagine.

- "...magma keeps pouring from every opening in her skull." I'm not sure what you mean by 'magma' in this context.

- four-year-old should have hyphens, I believe.

- "He's been out of almost a year..." Missing word, no? Out of what?

- "...identically-built one-story ranch house(s)"

- "Frankie stutters, I think..." I had to think over this phrase to understand it. Do you mean that their mother was pregnant with Frankie at that moment? It's not very clear.

- A common thing in your dialogue that bothers me. He looks, he sits, he smiles, etc aren't speech tags. Thus, there should be a full stop instead of a comma and capitalized he, she, etc.

- "Doubt it," Solomo(n) says.

- "she exaust(s) me."

- "You ain't coming..." Typo: 'is top' should be I stop.

Overall, for the chapter. Speaking of overkill, I think you have too many descriptions going on. Some of them are interesting and unique, but they're lost in the mass to me. The moment with Nate doing something to Chris' hand was completely obscure to me. Did he pull out his nail? Did he break or bend his finger off? Also, I'd shorten the dialogue. Some things can be cut off easily and careful with overloading the reader with characters. It's hard to keep track of all of them.

Chapter 2:

- Why are we talking about spit all the time? It is becoming an overkill, in my opinion.

- "My face has a heartbeat." Unsure what does it mean.

- "I sit myself up." I'd lose 'myself'

- "...foreign hookers. I've see(n) it a bunch of times..."

- "She gets to life in a dream house..." Should be live

- "I try to tell myself that I'm doing the right thing..." I;m should be I'm :)

Overall, for this chapter. It reads smoother than the previous one and is shorter. There are a few typos, but I like the general sound of the chapter. Try to be more careful while describing the particularly shocking passages. You tend to overwrite a little, to introduce too many descriptions, and I'm not appropriately shocked where I should be, because some fancy metaphors stand in the way. Where shock factor is concerned, less words is better. The sharper and more to the point your description is, the more chance you'll have to touch the reader. Just my opinion, of course.

I'll stop here for now, because it's past bedtime, but I'll come tomorrow for more, because I want to see where this is going. I feel like you have a beautiful prose, you certainly know your way around with words. Sometimes, you get carried away, which produces strange metaphors and imagery that I don't understand. I think that you'd achieve more effect if your text was sharper, more precise. I don't always clearly picture what's going on, like with the finger in chapter 1.

Jeanenne L. Cox wrote 637 days ago

You got a good writing style and with some work this will be great. Not exactly my type of novel, but I know friends and family that would probably really get into this;.

lucidreamer wrote 638 days ago

Other than a few grammar errors this is a really good chapter. Clean this up and fix the few things needed. I will back this....

lanetdelphinehane wrote 638 days ago

You are really strong, talented writer. I stopped reading partly through the first chapter just because this isn't really my kind of story. I usually read to escape the harshness of the world, so I would rarely pick up a book like this and read it through. Still, you are certainly skilled and capable; I have no doubt you will do well!

Eftborin wrote 639 days ago

I have read the first chapter and noticed many typos that could have easily been avoided; however, i am not here to pass judgment on simple errors.
What a miserable bunch of characters...even Baby had me me shouting 'hate those fucking junkies' .
I see that type of life almost daily in Dublin City centre and can't stand any of them. I don't drop a coin into their empty cardboard cups and firmly believe that their free travel passes should be taken off them.
I am safe and secure at home but you have sent me back into the city centre looking at junkies...thanks a bunch.
Fix the typos and i will read on. :-)
P.S on watchlist

LittleWhiteWolf wrote 639 days ago

This is gripping and oddly compelling, despite the grim subject matter. In fact, the bleakness and grittiness of it feels almost voyeuristic. I like how you show no mercy in introducing the reader straight into the unpleasant realities of Erins life; her brothers business, her resentful so-called parenting duties, her drug abuse, what the kids do for fun and out of extreme boredom. There are a multitude of characters introduced in a heap, but they all feel very real and fleshed out.

I know I'll need to read on in spite of the dire warnings about content.

evwalker wrote 643 days ago

Well, I'll say this much: you have talent, that's for sure. I'm not sure whether this will be the book that brings you success, because it is raw and spends a bit too much too much time dealing with the pure misery of your characters' lives to be appealing to anything more than a niche market, but your ability to evoke a mood, to get the reader to sympathize (reading about Baby was just heart-wrenching!) and to really bring your characters to life is something I've seldom seen on this site, or even in published books. Given a few years to really hone your skills, I think you could write something to rival the best fiction out there.
Happy to back this, just due to the sheer amount of potential I see here.

judoman wrote 646 days ago

Your good, really good. You put the reading smack bang in the middle of the scene and pull them right into the plot itself. Your writing is earthy and with a real "edge" to it.

It is very graphic and will not be everyones cup of tea "But it is mine"

I will read on a comment according on further chapters

Super work


Rough Justice

judoman wrote 646 days ago

Your good, really good. You put the reading smack bang in the middle of the scene and pull them right into the plot itself. Your writing is earthy and with a real "edge" to it.

It is very graphic and will not be everyones cup of tea "But it is mine"

I will read on a comment according on further chapters

Super work


Rough Justice

Nancy Lopez wrote 647 days ago


Here for our reading swap we spoke about a few weeks ago!

Okay, i read chapter 1. The beginning starts off a little choppy. Then it tailors to a much smoother flow. It's dark and grizzly, and that does come across. The strongest part of this chapter is the dialog. It leaps from the page, and so does the tone in each of your characters. This pushed the atmosphere to where it is stinking with so much disturbing rawness that I wonder if I read all of this you have posted, how sad will it make me?
But that's just me and not a bad thing.
This is edgy, and you'll need to find an agent that deals with edgy, dark material.

* good insight with the mom and the belt after she tried to do something nice with the flowers.
*the baby says "cock-sucker" well, yeah, I can see this happening..It's terrible, but I laughed-(bad of me)

okay, try this...these are only suggestions.
--- I stretch the top om my lip into a 'u' shape...maybe an upside down u becasue visually I'm having a hard time seeing this.
---in my way anymore : off the couch anymore: these are two sentences (closer to the top part) where they are
consecutive and the second 'anymore' feels awkward. ---go back and take a peek.

All in all you have protrayed this chapter 1 in a way that i feel it cannot be done any better. As for the structure and where you're taking this story I am unable to tell with this one chapter. All I know is that I would feel so empty and helpless because of the baby witnessing all this and not being able to do nothing. This isn't so far off from reality. So with this said, you moved me, and writers with talent moves people.

I do think you have something here and the way you tell it shows you have something you want to say.
It needs some coaxing, a dash of editing, and maybe a little tunnel of light or of hope, but perhaps it's in the next chapters.

Well, thats my two pennies worth of useless advice...
Backward Glances

jessicajones wrote 647 days ago

This is a very well written story, although not my normal type of read. It's faced paced ,and aggressive.
I'm not good on grammar so wont try and help you there. i did notice however a spelling error on the last paragraph on the first chapter, I think you meant to write" left" instead of " lift by a werewolf"
I will read more soon as I try to read a little bit every day. I have highly star rated your book as I do like what I have read.

jaymúndmisa wrote 648 days ago

This is raw, real raw.
Nate is a great character, I've known many drug dealers in my time and he fits into a Universal scale but without being too cliché.
The prose is fluent, and linear in a nonlinear way. It picks up, then narrates, then describes in a painting like sense, then narrates again. This is something I envy, I can't write so intricately between bars.
I'm going to read more tomorrow!

Tarek Kosar wrote 650 days ago

A brutal, shocking start, backed up by obvious talent.

scargirl wrote 650 days ago

this is graphic and raw. chilling and hard to read. the long pitch builds drama and suspense with success, drawing the reader in. but it has too much angst for me. you are a good writer and i pray you find your feet on the ground soon and go running into a new direction with your obvious talent. and then do something positive with your pain. you could touch and inspire others with such talent....
what every woman should know

Inqusitive Agie wrote 650 days ago

As far as it concerns me, I find the beginning somewhat confusing. First you say Chris is waking up within an hour and then he is suddenly talking. I am missing a surrounding environment. They are in the living room I presume but the story can use a few lines of description here and there. You don't have to litter the place, less is more. Also describe the characters. You have time enough as there isn't an action like a chase or something like that going on yet. People were sexually abused can turn out to be extremely nutcasses depending if they had psychological help afterwards. Doing the things and worse that they experienced to others. Yesterday on TV there was a woman torturing men, killing them and burning the bodies.

grahamwhittaker wrote 650 days ago

I'm going to be honest. Take the reviews you have had and look at their statements. "This is not normally the kind of thing I would read/buy" Even though they have done you the favour of reading and commenting, if this book stood among others in the bookshop people would not read/buy it.
OK that said, you have an exceptional talent and you are wasting it. I'm not going to go into grammatical errors "think " instead of 'thing" and "wither" instead of "either". They are editing problems and simple to fix.
You are writing this in anger, to shock and shake. That's not a bad thing given your genuine talent, and you are young which makes it even more remarkable. Wasted talent is wasted life. Get this out of your system and think about the writer you CAN become. And don't worry because I've been there in spades and you wouldn't want to know. My first book, when I was 15 was a horrible romance and I look back on it with personal distaste for the person I was and the anger and hatred with which it was written. I got lucky. This is a book offering catharsis. It's a book for YOU, to get it out, get it down and projectile vomit more shit than a human being should ever have to eat. (You might think I don't understand that but believe me, I do.) This book is a NOTEBOOK, essentially plot less and deliberately confrontational. But that's where brilliant talent comes from. Everything in this book has a place - in other books you will write. Not here like this. Given the opportunity I would take you into my home, sit you down and force you to confront your talent until you understood what makes great writers great. Not this book. You might think this is a rotten review. It's actually a review full of high praise for the writer. But the writer, like the book has no direction, no ultimate goal and no way out. Scrap it, create a plot, meet your characters, offer the reader some compassion and understand not only the motivation of your characters, but your own as an author. Rebellious dickwit youths with no talent and a hero to hang on to will love you. But they will cheat you, steal your work, revere your balls, and fuck your head up. Projectile vomit can be cool. Hitting someone over the head with a hammer can be so fucking satisfying. But it's not going to get you through life. It's not going to sell books or make you into an author with respect. Hunter S Thomson was the great Gonzo writer. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a book I would recommend to you. William Burroughs did it with Junkie, Hubert Selby Jr did it with Last Exit to Brooklyn. Nell Dunne with Poor Cow. You're not the first, and you won't be the last. What these writers had that you don't was mentors who all helped them to redirect their amazing talents and go on to write absolute classics. I won't even go into any detail about A Clockwork Orange (NOT the movie). I want to read a novel by you. This is the tryout. It proves a point. That you have what it takes to create brilliant work. But this work is not brilliant. It's a foretaste of what you have in writing talent. DON'T DRINK THE COOLAID! BTW I don't do read swaps so you don't have any obligation to read or comment on my book. Just know that I'm watching.

DDickson wrote 650 days ago

hello - I have seen you around on the forums and thought I'd just pop in and have a look at your book. It is harsh and hard hitting covering subjects that I don't particularly want to read about and so for that reason I have only read one chapter. However, I couldn't leave without complimenting you on your writing skill. I was impressed in spite of the subject matter and wish you the very best of luck. I won't shelve this as I only shelve books I would probably buy but I will star it very highly and wish you the very best of luck with your writing career which I am sure will be successful


John Lovell wrote 651 days ago

Hello Peninhand, how am I? I'm fine, thank you for asking.

You asked me about a week ago to check out your work, apologies it took me so long I was bombarded with lots of reads and didn't know how this site worked or even where I was, it was late at night.

Anyway. You actually have the perfect language for all of your characters. I found it a little bit tough to get into at the start with the very short sentences, followed by the descriptions of what was happening around them. That's not a bad thing, I just haven't read very much of this genre so I was just trying to get a feel of the atmosphere, which I did on a massive scale.

One mistake I saw

"and she's teach me how to sew" Typo I saw in chapter 6. Should be she'd.

What you did was draw me into all of the details of minor parts - the hate of the perfect barbie dolls, birds needing to mind their own business and then there was the imagining the grass turning to flames and apocalypse starting on the lawn.

"When we hear the doorknob, squeaking and the clicking of tumblers falling into place, nobody breathes. Then comes the witches-laugh screech of poorly-kept hinges and a single footstep. All we can do is freeze, brains gushing like beer foam from our pop-tan skulls and hope that adults' vision is based on movement. If I'm perfectly still, I can hide between the pollen and cat hair and powdered insect that saturate the air". - This I read three times over because I thought it was so cool. It shows how powerful you can make just a single moment feel. Congratulations for that.

This will remain on my watchist, I am a hench fan of fantasy aimed at young adults and children and at the moment I do have 5 books which I enjoyed loads. One is no2 overall and your work is something I'm likely to put on my shelf in the future. I found it very interesting and always felt I needed more.

All the best with Stains


J C Michael wrote 654 days ago


I just read your first chapter and by the end of it I was suitably impressed. I say "by the end" because the start threw me a bit as I didn't grasp exactly what was what in the first couple of paragraphs. I see that people have commented on this before and since the first few lines if any novel are amongst the most important of any I think yours could be stronger if I'm honest.
However, it doesn't take long for you to find your feet and once you do I have to admit to liking the way this is written. You haven't tried to have good or bad characters, you just have characters who do what they do and are all the more real for it. Erin isn't a "good" kid, she treats baby badly and sniffs paint to get high, but not is she a pantomime villain, she's just a kid finding her way through life and making the type of mistakes and bad calls thousands of kids make every day.
I also assume that you either have some first hand experience of this area of youth culture, or are close to someone who does. If you don't then you've done a hell of a job of coming across like you do. The scene where they are getting high is great.
Overall this is highly starred. My lengthy watchlist has stopped me from reading more but if I had the time I certainly would as your pitch makes the remainder of your story sound very interesting. Well done and I expect you to do well with this, particularly if you continue to polish it up as you work your way up the rankings.
Best wishes,

Writer in Red wrote 656 days ago

I have finally gotten around to reading your novel and before I begin, please understand I will be honest and point out things that appear odd to me. First, I was confused from the start. Had I not read the pitch, Nate would have been a complete mystery to me. The opening sequence introduces many characters that either have no physical description or arrive in the story like random thoughts. Who is Baby, Sandman, Sleepy Chris, etc.? I don't even know what Nate looks like or even his last name (apart from the pitch). Second, the plot does not appear to move forward. Nothing much happens between the beginning of chapter one to the end. Third, many typos and odd sentences litter the manuscript. Though these can be fixed easily, they are distracting. For example in the first paragraph, you state twice that Sleepy Chris will wake up soon. You do have good descriptions, it just is disappointing it takes so long to get to them.

I am sorry I could not provide a more positive review. There is something genuine and powerful beneath all this, you just need to get your shovel and dig. Best of luck

Eve Thomas wrote 659 days ago


Backed and on my bookshelf to read some more later :)

I will comment when I have finished reading if that is ok.

Heather Simpson
The Eyes

dave farrington wrote 659 days ago

I think a lot of what needs to be said has been said. Clever, original and sometimes slightly over the top description. A great evocation of the abusive, neglectful, depressed milieu in which these kids have grown up. A likeable main character, who works so well because it isn't too easy to pin down what is likeable about her.

I'm backing this and starring it higher than anything else so far. But I do think you need to attend to the typos which others have pointed out. The point of putting stuff on sites like this is not just to garner praise and encouragement, but also to make the work better. I'd also look over it for repetition as at the end of chapter two - 'Nate makes sure of that' - twice in a couple of paragraphs.

I also kind of agree that it's a bit light on plot. It's not that nothing happens, but that what does happen is just woven into the general description of the place. And so a truck-squashed baby becomes just another feature of a miserable landscape. I understand that the matter of fact tone is congruent with the characters but over-done it risks making the narrative too flat.

Best of luck with this,
Dave F

Bill Scott wrote 659 days ago


In my reviews I usually point out where I get confused or if something seems off to me. It's more valuable than praise, but in the end it's all just my opinion.

I got confused in the first paragraph. The first sentence says sleepy Chris will be awake before the hour's up. The second says "he pleads his case before my brother." Is 'he' sleepy Chris, is he asleep or pleading his case?

Is sandman Nate?

whine, not wine

"Nate's fingers curl up like a carnivorous plant with the weight of it, prodding at the webbing . . ." Not sure what this meant. In particular "with the weight of it" Did you mean the weight of Chris hand triggered Nate's fingers to curl up? It's unclear the way it's written.

opaque seemed like an odd adjective for squawking

I ain't her momma, she ain't my job. comma splice

sexless toddler body is weird

"feel kicking" is this right?

Their footprints as they walk ahead of me . . . you might re-read this sentence. I believe your modifier is misplaced and "were lift" seems off.

Your Author's note asks for explanation as to why, if read, Stains wasn't added to my bookshelf. The books on my shelf rarely change. I've three others that I think are very worthy of shelf space and have I hard time working them into rotation. While your writing is very colorful, phrases such as — "the dawn stirs threateningly, she ejaculates the words, she draws a long breath that sucks all the oxygen from the woods" — seemed either overwritten or were trying too hard.


Mindy Haig wrote 660 days ago

I've had you on my watch list for a couple of weeks, and I finally had a bit of time to take a look.
First of all, this is not a genre I would typically read. While I am not offended by drugs and violence, it's just not what I would choose for entertainment. That being said, you have a really intriguing long pitch so I started reading. I thought your writing was very good. It fits the character very well. You are very descriptive (sometimes a bit too descriptive for my stomach!) You set your scenes very well, however the story about the circus was a bit far fetched - not the descriptions, but the fact that a nice old lady who was planting tulips with a young, possibly six year old child would tell such a graphic story seemed unbelievable.
Erin is not a likable character. I wanted to find something about her in that first chapter that would make me believe there was some redemption for her, but I didn't feel that. The way she treats Baby more like a pet than a sibling and knowing she likes to watch Nate abuse the junkies really doesn't lend itself to her being sympathetic to Nate's would be prisoner.
I noticed a few typos, nothing major.
All in all, I think it is a very good, hard core piece of work. I think the writing is well done and the pacing is good.
IBest of luck with this!

Christopher D. Abbott wrote 660 days ago

I promised to read swap with you and have finally got my act together. My read list was big, so apologies for the length of time it’s taken me to get to you.

First off, what a great opening. I was hooked almost immediately. I enjoyed some of the very clever descriptive passages immensely. I loved the “sandman” idea. Your story flowed very nicely, the interaction between Chris and Nate was excellently written. You have real talent and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t picked up quickly; there’s a definite market for your work.

Frankly, your writing is so good that it would be hypocritical of me to suggest improving it. I’m not an expert in grammar at all; in fact, I suffer, like most people here, with a distinct lack of formal training and understanding of it. I do like readability, however, and this is generally where I give feedback.

The overall readability is superb. I didn’t stutter once. I found a few typos – most have already been picked up by other people – and I was sufficiently engaged by your writing that I actually stopped looking for errors and simply read it. The dialogue is also first class. I haven’t yet read everything in the story, and be assured I intend to, so I cannot really comment on plotting.

Well done. Highly stared.

I added this to my watch-list and will make room to back it as soon as I can!


Marita A. Hansen wrote 660 days ago

You asked for a read swap a few weeks back, but I didn't have the time to accept, but since I wanted a read this morning before starting work I decided to read your first chapter. First up, I'm not usually a fan of literary fiction at all, but I don't mind crime fiction and your synopsis and warning looked interesting. And the warning was apt. I thought I wrote harsh (my first book, not the YA one), but your book is way harsher. That's not a criticism, though it will put people off, but again, not a criticism, because if the story is about the harsh realities of life then you might as well not mince words and get down to the nitty-gritty as you've done. And since you're writing about drug dealers and paint sniffers then the type of language is fitting. Though I must admit I cringed in places, such as the description of the remains from that carnival ride and especially Darby's baby brother who was run over by the truck. If you get to the desk, and your writing is good enough to do so, you'll probably get them mentioning this, because my reviewer pointed out these types of aspects.

Now, onto what I thought was really good: Your descriptions. You have a style that allows the reader to see everything, whether they want to or not, but I think this is good, because I like getting visuals from writing. I could easily imagine that skeletal junkie with his drool and scared look, then the snappy of his finger. I could also picture the setting of Sorlen so well--that description was very well done and done in a fashion that didn't come across as laborious. I liked how you put a bit of background in through the tulips, giving the reader a view of the girl's childhood. I could also picture the paint going into her mouth later on, and her group of friends.

I don't usually like descriptive passages, but yours is an exception because you use words so well. But, I do have a few nitpicks/edit suggestions, which is understandable as it's rare when I find not even a typo on Authonomy. So, here are my nitpicks:
1) "You fucking junkies is the reason them pretty girls over the starve to death, you know?" ***Typos, alter: ...over there will starve to death...
2) ...through her sexless toddler body. ***I don't think the "sexless" part is needed as the toddler part is enough. You may not even have to put the "toddler" part in as we already know Baby's 4, you could just put "little" in.
3) "Calm down," I scold, but the magma keeps pouring from every opening in her skull. She dives back into the bed...
***Sorry, I liked all your descriptions, but the one above is a bit of overkill. I'd chop out: ", but the magma keeps pouring from every opening in her skull." Then I'd pop: She dives back into the bed... into a new paragraph.

That's all, I hope my suggestions are of help. If they aren't ignore me :) Everyone's opinions are different and those points are only minor as everything else was good, gruesome, but well-written. I'm curious as to what HarperCollins will say if you make the desk, because I haven't read anything like this on Authonomy before. It's definitely original, which is a good thing. All the best, Marita.

fictionguy wrote 660 days ago

So this is what you call literary fiction?

Dirty Bertie wrote 662 days ago

You definately have a talent for writing. At first I didn't like the short paragraphs but the story drew me in from the word go.
There is one typo in the first chapter I spotted but nothing serious. It was the use of the word 'fucktard' which earned my backing.

Cariad wrote 665 days ago

Read 1 and 2 and then zipped to five. This is really well written and I can tell it's doing its job because I felt the really nasty atmosphere as I was reading - a slightly sick feeling as to what was going to happen next. It's slick, it's spare, and it's full of atmosphere. Characters are well drawn - each one manages to be individual. Dialogue is individual, shows character and is believable. Main characters thoughts are just right - that mixture of her feelings (Darcy always wins), plain relating of what she sees, and her feelings, such as when they were grabbing the boy, excellent. Also like the details like the bitten nails and small observations. Watchlisted, stars for a cracking read. Let me know when more is up.

E.V. Morgan wrote 665 days ago


That is one well writen story! I have to say that i love your voice, and especially how just capture that whole feeling throughout the disjointed community. In all honesty i would never usually read this type of book, but haing read it, i wanna know more. I think your long pitch is really good, it got me intrigued to know the many dimentions you've implemented into the relationships. Despite my better judgment, i like Erin. There's some kind of broken strength and and partial understanding of the right thing that makes me stand on her side, as well as the way she seems to be at a small war with herself as to whether or not she should let her siblings turn out like everyone else or have a better future, which looks like a highly uncertain thing.
I havent backed this book, i dont know why, but for some reason i cant. I have rated it highly though, as it desearves, and am hoping that i might get to read more and see Erins friendship, as mentioned in the long pitch, develope with her brothers captive.

Lots of love (Because i am loving your writing)

Eponymous Rox wrote 666 days ago

I now have stains on my bookshelf.

(Just saying.)


Jilleigh wrote 666 days ago

I've made it to the first chapter, finally! I must say, something about your style of writing really drew me in. It's fantastic actually. The character's language and use of slang is very realistic. The dialogue flowed effortlessly as well. Your pitch really drew me in too. This is a dark piece that holds the reader in it's grasp. Your detail has vividly painted a picture of what your protagonist and secondary characters may be like and what type of life they live. It seems rough for them. I'm really curious now how this will all pan out. This is a great read, I'm glad I've finally got a chance to take a look at it.

Note: I apologize for not critiquing on grammar, etc. I'm not well with it myself.

Best wishes,

Jillian, author of 'Borrowed'

revteapot wrote 666 days ago

This isn't my thing, but you have a confident and colourful use of language.
I've sent a message with a some more detailed notes.

A Priest's Tale

ceejezoid wrote 667 days ago

Hello PenInHand.

So I watchlisted this, what, last week or something? Just finished reading the 4 chapters you have up. I'm a bit divided in my opinion, I've been trying to put my finger on why.

Your writing style is pretty close to stunning. Some incredible and unique imagery in here. Although I do wonder if a paint sniffing 16 year old would have quite such a grasp of metaphor, for the most part its a truly engaging voice. The landscape it appropriatley stark and dissolute, the descriptions of how and what she uses uncomfortable and unflinching, as are the descriptions of death all around her. I could feel my brain working as I was reading. The only bit I felt needed a little clarification was the opening couple of paragraphs. I love the idea of calling the drug dealer a sandman, but the sleepy references took a bit of working out until you used the word junkie, when it all became clear.

I think the main thing that is holding me back from being "wow, this is amazing" is the fact that, in the first 4 chapters, I have no real idea where this is going. Your pitch is great, and makes me want to read it, but at the end of 4 chapters there is no sign of the main story approaching. Without the pitch, I probably wouldn't have read past the first couple of chapters if this was a real-life-in-my-hand-book. Not because of the writing quality, but because, I think, I hadn't yet found a character I particularly sympathised with or a good idea of what I was getting into. Of course, this is just my opinion, and its always tricky to judge on the opening chapters alone. Normally, I would have read a couple more to get a better feel for the novel.

I've given this 6 stars for the strength of the writing. I like to keep books on my shelf for as long as possible, so only tend to put new ones up when I have space free (unless its a last minute sprint for the desk!) so I'm not shelving right now. However, be patient with me, I would like to get it on there at some point!

patio wrote 667 days ago

Thank you for sharing this fiction. I read chapter one thus far and starred it high

AudreyB wrote 668 days ago

Hi, there – this is your BHCG review from AudreyB. I am often accompanied on my reviews by my English teacher alter-ego, The Grammar Hag. If I say anything you don’t like, it was probably her idea.

Don’t panic. I know I’m not your target market, but I can offer insights about the writing, and how the writing contributes to your story. But now that I’ve finished all four chapters, I’m more familiar with this milieu than you might imagine; I grew up in the South and had friends much like this crowd in one neighborhood. And my brother is a drug addict. Never judge a book…

I know little to nothing about writing pitches, but I suspect your SP could be much more tempting. Remove the verb of being and give us something shocking. In the LP, you’ve got a synopsis of the story. What you want is an invitation to read that we are totally unable to resist. Lead us into the depths of Erin’s dilemmas so deep that we can’t put the book down.

I like this opening scene, with the tense conversation in one room observed by the silent sister in the other. I got lost only once: in the first two sentences. Do you mean that Sleepy Chris will come down from his high before the hour’s up? That’s the only meaning I could come up with. (I tried to make Chris into a napping younger sibling first.) What about a detail—can be very small—about Sleepy Chris that puts him in the room with Nate or identifies him as a customer? “Sleepy Chris will be awake before the hour’s up. I watch from the safety of the hallway while he pleads his case with my brother, shifting his weight from one leg to the other.” The paragraph is otherwise tight and meaningful.

Formula-wise, you’re on the right track. A strong opening scene that illustrates the characteristics of Erin and Nate. A few more scenes that establish the physical and psychological settings. And then the talk about the kid named Riley. I would keep reading if you had more posted.

“…knuckles where they thicken like a freshly fed snake…” well done Your images are incredibly strong and effective. “…families are slowly being digested…”

The image of selling instantly-replaceable organs for drug money really nails the hopelessness of this environment. Their bodies will be used up in the pursuit of their drug habits. Though it’s pretty well nailed already. I teach Title 1 kids and suspect they occasionally have experiences like the ones you describe. But more often, they hear the same talk and have the same fears of the dark side of life.

Of course, the most powerful image of all is the misguided attempt to keep Baby pure by locking her in a cupboard. It shocks the reader while also clarifying how Nate’s best intentions result in this heartbreaking treatment. The reader understands how these characters can’t quite grasp concepts like ‘choice’ and ‘opportunity.’

I sometimes lost track of which character was speaking when the kids sat around and huffed or drank or smoked. I wondered if this was intentional, meant as a way to involve me in Erin’s constant state of confusion.

Even after a thorough reading, I’m not certain how you showed me Erin’s worst qualities while also making me sympathize with her circumstances. She’s vulnerable when she is seldom the one who starts arguments (or, as narrator, portrays herself this way) and when she yearns for the mysterious Danny, yet reprehensible when she locks Baby in her cupboard. Much of it is her age (and mine); I think of her as a daughter or niece and know that she simply needs guidance. You really balance her qualities well.

Some nits from The Hag:
“…balls hot since may…” May needs its capital.
“Half because of the heat;…” you want a colon there, not a semi-colon
“It robs our mouths of spit…” you’ve got to where you want too.
You’ve got Janga blocks and I think the game is Jenga.
Bugs bunny needs to be capitalized.
“The kid with logos—I can’t make this sentence fit with the paragraph.
I think “low lives” should be “low-lifes.”
“…maybe he’d just teach he to be evil…”

I think you’ll see this rise pretty quickly, Sydney. It’s very well done.

Forgiveness Fits