Book Jacket

 

rank 5075
word count 52092
date submitted 25.06.2012
date updated 05.05.2013
genres: Fantasy, Horror
classification: moderate
incomplete

Sparks in the Night

Z.N. Singer

When a trio of weanling Vampire Lords target their wilderness settlement, its members must fight to survive until help arrives.

 

In a world where the power of humans and the power of the vampire race exist in precarious balance, Lucan and his family help to carve swaths through the forest, disrupting the Vampire's ability to travel in daylight. Most of the members of their wilderness settlement are Empowered, but when three Vampire Lords attack in unison, even they are forced to flee into the woods.

Help, being fetched by Lucan's mother, is at least four days away. They must somehow survive, on the run, cut off from their homes and shelter, while being constantly hunted, until Lucan's grandparents arrive. It would help if one of the Vampire Lords did not possess such staggering psychic power. It would help if that vampire's behavior was not so strange. It would help if Aefre had not been hiding the nature of her own empowerment.

It is an era of night for the human race. But those whose souls are sparks will survive...until one of them can become a flame.

 
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tags

battle, elemental, emotional, magic, psychic, shapeshifter, vampires

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27 comments

 

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Eftborin wrote 294 days ago

WFT

Hi Z.N
Having read the prologue, I continued to the 1st chapter. I tend not to read horror, and vampire stories especially; however, the prologue held me interested.
I have to point out that many of the paragraphs could be split and the same with over-long sentences; I feel it would help the story flow more. The characters are believable and I like the way you have working together more as a family than a group.
I have made a few suggestions that I hope can be extended to further chapters.
Chapter 1;
2nd para; comma after '...his father's death.' (sentence is too long)
Full stop after '...shapeshifter. He used bits of both...etc'
4th para; (sentence too long) full stop after '...chosen the Earth.' Then...'Since the age of ten, he spent close to two decades honing...etc'
Next sentence is way too long - 'He could have caused...etc'
New paragraph after '...Lucan to carry away.'
5th para; comma after '...grew cold,'
12th para; full stop after '...he wouldn't argue. Lucan was nobody's fool...etc'
13th para; '...Lucan's father had once been the leader...etc'
full stop after '...he had been.'
" '...incomprehensible.'
" '...wife to find. His body so burned and tortured, even Cwen...etc'
New paragraph after '...vampire since.'
No need for the 2nd 'Lucan' in 'And Lucan...Lucan...etc'
Try to replace some 'was' with 'remained; stayed; stood'. You tend to use to many 'was' in sentences and paras.
E.G - 14th para; 'When you had to do both what remained necessary for living...etc.'
If you only read through the entire paragraph, you will understand why I suggested alternative words for 'was'.
Very interesting read and will read more; however, I hope you make some changes to tempt me.
Good luck with it.

Pat

P.S I don't make suggestions lightly. If I didn't like the book, I wouldn't bother with them.

L.Lombard wrote 392 days ago

Hi Z, came back for a little more.
Ch. 6:
- … and they only stood to become less vulnerable as the battle dragged on, and they risked losing more of their minions. (I would drop the comma)
- … he may have been uncertain how the battle would go (this part of the sentence gets a little confusing)
- But all of that was only reasons why (were only reasons)
- The vampire weaknesses were a sort of psychological branding, passed on from the first Vampire, created by his death(.) (W)ith enough will and practice, all but the (memory of) the stake could be overcome.
- I like the part about the sword- Wind Claw.
- ugh, it will take forever for help to arrive.
- Jody is in over her head now.
- His eyes were wide open, but he wasn’t really paying attention to them. (to what he saw.)

Still enjoying SitN, I particularly like the scene of the sword coming to life. The same I mentioned earlier about sentences comes to mind. A couple of paragraphs could be tightened, but other than that this looks good.
:)

L.Lombard wrote 399 days ago

WTF – continued.
Hi again, Z. Back for more. The plot moves at a steady pace. I like that you’ve chosen to write about psychic vampires, and up to now you have done a good job of re-inventing them. I also like that they are vulnerable to these gifted humans, making equal ground for humans and vampires. Just be careful not to portray them more as a pests than the threat they really are. I haven’t felt it yet, but it came close to it before Iron Will stepped in at the end of the battle. Great battle scenes, by the way. I especially liked Seamere’s fight and the reaction caused by the criss-cross patterns on Jody.
The bonds between the villagers are clear and well-planned. Their abilities and how each uses his/her own gets more and more interesting. I’d like to know a little more about Jody, but we’re slowly getting there. I think your writing would benefit from making some sentences shorter (examples below), but of course that could just be me. I noticed it more in chapters three and four.
I took some notes, feel free to ignore whatever doesn’t suit you.

Ch.3:
- I love Seamere’s patience.
- even near the village, the forest was no place for Aefre… (how about: even near the village, with no Empowerment, Aefre knew the forest was no place for her to be alone.
- Yes, she can sense them!
- It’s cool that he can not only turn into a wolf, but change his appearance as well. (like becoming larger and having the extra patch of fur).
- I like how you describe the zombies and vampires.
- Interesting that the vampires smell human and alive- I really like “infused with sting and spark, crisp and crackling, like static electricity”.
- … let alone get through the boy’s terror: he finally had to resort to… (I think you could go with a period here. “…through the boy’s terror. He finally had to …)
- Dragons sear it and Wyrms swallow the ashes… I like this. Um, what are Wyrms? Oh, I looked it up, cool!
- I need you to find your mother and bring her here(.) (S)he’s making one of her rounds(.) (I) don’t want to use a signal the vampires might notice. (drop “for me” and break the paragraph into 3 sentences for strength.)
- But it was cozy in its way… (How about: It was cozy in its way and was big enough for them all. It had held many a friendly night of talk and food while the outside world howled.)
- And on the wall near the back was… this sentence is too long.
- Check your colons. I think you don’t need as many and your writing can flow better without them.
- “That would mean doing without Cwen(,)” …
- “Can we afford to send her?(“)
- I’ll probably have you on watch for exactly that when she does(,)Art.
- Then it doesn’t actually matter(,) does it?
- “… he may have left a mark,” Archard said quietly.” (drop the last quotations)
- I like the cliffhanger. Had there been a mark left behind?

Ch. 4:
- Significant for a human(,) that is—
- I love the idea of the Bondsmithed metal.
- Uh oh, she shouldn’t have told Cwen about Iron Will killing her husband.
- Should “vitality” be always capitalized? Sometimes it is and others it isn’t.
- The battle scenes are well balanced as you go from one battleground and character to the next.
- I had forgotten about Iron Will! His attack comes at a perfect time, as the reader is too engrossed in the battles to remember he’s observing, waiting.
- Nice twist, just when I thought it would be over…

Ch. 5:
- Always before(,) everyone else had insisted he stop and rest(,) while he insisted…
- … overwhelming then (than) he’d imagined it.
- Sweet Lucan, finally feeling like a child when he has to prove himself as strong as men.
- I really wish Cwen didn’t have to leave. I can’t help but feel a sense of doom with her leaving.

Top stars and I’ll be back for more.
L-
EBO

MrsGray wrote 410 days ago

Z,

I am thoroughly impressed by your re-write. You made an effort to address many of the concerns readers pointed out and made the story more solid. It says a lot about the commitment of an author to his audience when he is willing to listen to them. Additionally, anyone who has put so much time and effort to a story, and is still willing to do more to make it better is someone to be admired. Great work. I tip my hat to you.

April Gray
The Illusion

L.Lombard wrote 413 days ago

WTF Review

Hi Z.N. You have a very interesting writing style and my thoughts are that it fits well with your story’s time and setting. I really like Lucas’ and Cwen’s characters, and started feeling strong respect for Seamere towards the end of the second chapter. I’m a little curious as to why they must move the village from place to place, unless, of course, they are nomads living off the land. Yet farming kind of stopped that. Well, until the land gave no more. OK, maybe that’s it. I really like that the villagers are Empowered with different abilities and that they train and help each other to reach their full potential.

The prologue has a powerful ending. The paragraph before that, I would probably split in two. It’s good, but you’ve introduced a lot to think about and it might be good to give the reader a little time to breathe by splitting it.

Ch. 2:
- He seemed to have started categorizing tasks by how much receiving it took him seriously as an adult. (I know what you mean, but found this sentence a bit confusing and had to re-read it several times.)
- “Keep stirring that soup(,) cloud-head.”
- For me, it’s Cwen’s and Cearo’s conversation that really puts the villagers’ abilities into perspective- just thought I’d mention that.
- Nice foreshadowing of Aefre’s abilities (deduced by your pitch).
- Having Iron Will uncover Jody’s and Archard’s secrets is a good start to understanding his power.
- I’m curious as to why Lucan resents Seamere so much.
- There are a lot of or-elses, when you’re an Earth Mage. (I would drop the comma, hmmm, not sure, but I feel I might.)
- … to observe the living things around you, and then imitate it. (them)
- in and of itself (in itself)
- “I told you you wouldn’t get it the first time(,) Lucan.”

Very good writing and interesting way you have included vampires, mages, shapeshifters, zombies and minions, with even the promise of more to come.
I’m looking forward to finding out how it evolves.
L-
EBO

HariPatience wrote 430 days ago

Here from the WTF group.

I found this really compelling - it's good old fashioned fantasy, but it's fantasy the way I like it where all those little world building details are in place. Of course you would use bull and bear forms for strength work if you're a shape shifter, of course cutting down trees would hinder the passage of vampires during the day - everything seemed to fit and I really enjoyed getting all of these little insights into the characters and the world.

I read chapters 1-7 and really enjoyed them. I liked both Seamare and Lucan and narrators, though I will admit with Jody I at first had issues because it sounded like such a modern name. This might just be my prejudice but in a world of Cwans and Arats, Jody seemed like a really conteporary name, and I just kept imagining her walking around in denin cut-offs and hair spray! Curiously enough I didn't have the same issue with Bryan, despite the fact I actually know a Bryan who spells his name that way. I assume this is a personal thing for me but wanted to mention it anyway.

Overall your writing is very good, but occasionally, especially in the earlier chapters, a lot of the characters' inner thoughts felt like a lesson of facts. Obviously there's a certain amount of explanation you need to provide, but sometimes it felt badly placed. I make a note of any these places but if it would be helpful to you I'm happy to read again and highlight a few...

Apart that there was only one thing that stood. When Jody is fighting Cwan (who I loved as a character BTW) Cwan learns that Iron Will killed her husband. But then a chapter or so later when Cwan is fleeing to get help her internal monologue states that one of the vampires was strong enough to have killed her husband.... so that's something that needs some consistency.

All in all though, a great read. Have added it to my watchlist.

Hari

Michael Matula wrote 437 days ago

I thought this was very well done, with a great fantasy setting and very strong writing, along with a friendly tone of voice and some touches of magic and paranormal to keep things interesting. There were quite a few characters to take in during chapter 1, as each of the first three scenes introduced a new handful to wrap my head around, but I'm quite enjoying the story so far.

I also wrote down a few notes as I read:
PROLOGUE:
- “If you stayed in place long enough, you might get to see some of the larger ones.” - This line felt off to me; almost like it belonged in a book for younger readers. It might be the use of second person perspective.
- “moved stealthily where the villagers would not notice them” - I'd either take out stealthily, or I'd take out “where the villagers would not notice them,” as it seemed a bit redundant to me (it's tough to move stealthily if you're where people will notice you)
CHAPTER 1:
- Again, this is probably just me, but I wasn't quite sure about the name “Seamere” for a major character, as it sounded a bit like smear to me.
- In one sentence you have both “a powerful figure” and “most powerful Psychic” - I'd change one of the powerfuls to something else to avoid the repetition.
- I'm not a huge fan of parenthesis in fiction, as I tend to think the contents should be woven into the flow of the narrative, but others will likely feel differently.
- I'd try to cut back on the adverbs where possible, especially with the speech tags, as in one scene you have “Cwen told her hastily” “she said quietly” “Cwen said, very quietly” all in a row, with “Caero squeezed tightly” and “Cwen chuckled wetly” following right behind. (also, I try not to use more than one speech tag per paragraph)
- “Good afternoon(,) Lucan” - since they're speaking directly to another character, there should be a comma before the name.

Aside from a few minor issues, though, I thought this was a very good start.
High stars.

Oh, and if you happen to be interested in joining a reading group on the site (and if you have the time), you might want to check out Write the Fantasy (WTF), which I'm a member of.
Here's the link, just in case:
http://authonomy.com/forums/threads/106125/wtf-write-the-fantasy/

Mike
Arrival of the Ageless
What, the Elf?

superostah wrote 437 days ago

Vampiric fantasy, oh how I've missed it. In a literary world where vampires have become only interested in sex, it's good to see the monstrous side of them come out a bit more. Of course, even if I weren't feeling refreshed by a return to the vampire roots, your writing style here more than makes up for the damage that's been done to the genre. I've only read through the prologue and first chapter so far, but I can already tell that you've got a fantastic tale you're laying out on these pages.
Your prologue is beautiful. There's a dark evil that rings through the words, but also a wonderful amount of foreshadowing that forces the reader to want to push forward and see what's afoot. Then we get into your first chapter and right from the first paragraph you engulf us in this world, making us fully aware of the mechanics that motivate these characters.
It's great stuff. I'll be back to read more as time permits. But for now, a spot on my watchlist and a bunch of stars. Great work.

Sabina Frost wrote 443 days ago

Here for the read.
As always, this is very well-written already and I see nothing major that needs fixing.

Chapter 3
- ‘he took that (responsibility very seriously)’ is three ‘y’s in a row, and I think it breaks the natural flow of the text
- Ooh, I really like the way you describe the zombies. Very powerful.
- I know you’ve said before that I shouldn’t comment on your chapter lengths, but in all honesty, it would end perfectly just after Lucan has told Seamere about what he smelled in the woods. That it continues was kind of an anti-climax. Also, it would be a powerful opening if the next chapter could start with ‘Battle had come to Wedmoreham’ and then go directly into the discussion. The lengthy descriptions don’t add much to the story as they stand, but you could briefly mention how the place is built amongst the discussion. At least that’s my personal opinion.
- The discussion is also a scene fit for its own chapter, it’s got enough action and good length.
- Still a strong ending to the complete chapter, though!

From what I can remember, this is clearly an improvement.
Sabina Frost


Seringapatam wrote 463 days ago

What a book you have here with Jody as the bees knees and a story like this. I thought this was excellent writing. Someone has already mentioned it on here already the fact with Vampires you can take a story wherever you want it to go. The good thing is that you dont have to worry about that as its flowing well enough with a really good story line, you dont have to steer it anywhere. Good Luck with this and I score this high.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R). .Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you? Happy New Year. Sean

Sabina Frost wrote 463 days ago

Here for the read. I've done the prologue and chapter one as of yet, and this one has really improve, from what I can remember of it. I get a deeper connection to the characters since you don't jump between heads except for when you change scenes, and the information is given at a nice pace, without forcing it.

These are my notes. Take them or leave them as you see fit:

Prologue
- Powerful end to the prologue. I remember that it was longer before, with Jody and Archard talking to Iron Will. I think this is better as a standalone prologue. Short and concise, telling us just enough about the world as to not find it confusing. No real criticisms here.

Chapter 1
- I like this new start to the chapter, focusing on the specific scene with the rocks. We get a sense of their daily routines as well as their powers.
- “I’m running out of rock(!)’, he called
- I don’t think you need the last bit – ‘ the way a Contractor’s element was chosen for him(, once and for all)’. We understand it anyway, and the flow of the text is tightened.
- Similarly, I’d make it – ‘one had to choose a focus, and Seamere had chosen the Earth(.) He’d spent close to two decades…’
- It would possibly read better with – ‘the only friend he’d known longer was Lucan’s mother. This friendship made him feel personally responsible for Lucan’
- If you spell Earth Contractor with capital letters, shouldn’t ‘earth mage’ also use them?
- I’d suggest making it – ‘And Lucan… as best he could tell, he’d gained a chip in his shoulder…’
- I really like that you have decided on keeping one point of view throughout the scenes, first Seamere and then Cwen. I get a deeper sense of character that way.
- The introduction of Cearo’s child is too abrupt – is there any way you could tell us about her presence at the start of the scene?
- I’m not sure how someone can chuckle ‘wetly’?
- Now I came across a place where you capitalized Earth Mage. You must’ve missed it earlier.
- I like that you change between the settlement and the vampires instead of giving them separate chapters.

Overall, this is much improved!

Sabina Frost
Annie Get Your Ghost


Lucy Middlemass wrote 616 days ago

Sparks in the Night

This is a world where vampires need to form alliances to survive and humans who are sufficiently empowered stand a chance against them. I always enjoy vampire stories and here you’ve created your own rules. In the Prologue, Jody and Archard want to form an alliance with Iron Will, strong vampire with impressive mind-reading skills.

I like the haste/hesitation part of their dialogue in particular and their argument about how their time might be best spent.

One small thing - “He had now sheared…” You have “sheared” twice in this sentence. Just a typo.

In the first chapter, I think “practicalities sake” should have the possessive apostrophe.
I like the idea that the villagers need to work to remove the forests because the trees offer the vampires chance to move around in daylight. Very clever.
The shifting of the stones makes for a good setting for your explanation about the villagers’ various abilities.
I also really enjoyed the way you build up the characters of the women in this chapter.
“and they are often very nice people.” This made me smile. You have an original mixture of modern and archaic.
“mouth-muzzle-mess” is a very good phrase for creating the image in the reader’s mind of what Lucan must look like.

You have a lot of different magic going on - a mage, shape shifters, zombies and vampires, as well as minions and empowered people. I like that you’ve brought them all together into one story and the way you’ve used some of them to create your fuller characters, especially young Lucan. This will appeal to readers who want something extra from their vampire tale. Highly starred.

Lucy

Oriax wrote 635 days ago


Z.N.

Explain to me why they needed to leave the village, I feel as if I’ve missed some vital part of the plot. The village is in a larger cleared space than the one they camp in, so wouldn’t it have been easier to defend that somewhere in the depths of the forest? Is it because they want to get on the road to meet help halfway? And why don’t the vampires attack at night? The villagers didn’t even set a watch. They were vulnerable and they believe there is an extremely powerful Lord with the vampires, presumably capable of killing them all. They don’t know that Iron Will seems to have a different agenda, so wouldn’t they have assumed the vampires would follow through their advantage during the night?

I lke Betlic’s personality. Courageous because he isn’t Empowered and he still wants to play a part, but he also has a fair sized chip on his shoulder that makes him not an easy person to get on with.

‘Life is not an end in and of itself.’ Just ‘in itself’ is enough.
Iron Will appearing up close to Jody is creepy, and the fact that she is starting to be afraid of him.

‘Like the path it had carved in the air…’ Less colloquially would be ‘As if the path it had carved in the air…’

This chapter gets the story moving faster. In some ways I’d have liked it to linger more. For example, the villagers’ impressions being out in the forest at night, the night sounds, false alerts etc. Cwen’s leave taking made me think of old Westerns with all that ‘you’re the man around here now, son’ type of talk. I’d rather have had Lucan’s or Cwen’s interior feelings.
Your world is complex in terms of its organisation, but simple in its physical setting. I would find it easier to understand if the balance was shifted a little. At the moment, it seems to me that there is still a lot of explanation of this organisation and not enough of the physical and human (and I include vampires here) aspects. For example, Lucan and his little sister are centre stage for a while then Aefre drops out of it altogether. The relationship between Cwen and Seamere is hinted at but not developed. At first I thought Archard didn’t speak because he never seemed to reply to Jody. I still don’t have an idea of what he looks like, though as a character I think I would like him if I could get to know him. I think, and this is only me, that although it’s important to get it straight about empowerment and the different levels of vampires, it might be possible to do it by showing it in action. Show what a zombie does or a minion, describe what happens when Aart does his wind contracting. Byron, Aart and Cearo are not much more than names either because they fall out of the action or because they are known for what they do, not what they are.
What I’m trying to say is that the complexity of the set up would be more easily assimilated if the characters themselves showed us how it works. The trick is to keep all of the characters in the story and not let any get sidelined. If they are present in a scene, even if just as spectators, it’s an idea to show it so they don’t get forgotten about. For example during the fighting in chapter three, Lucan isn’t mentioned and I had to check I hadn’t missed a point where he leaves.

By the way, I think you have a very good pitch, great last line.

revteapot wrote 641 days ago

This good. You've put a lot of work into imagining a world, and it shows.
One little thing, I'd expect there to be some kind of cost to a shapeshifter becoming bigger (or smaller) than their 'default' shape, but of course, your world, your rules.
I was also (and this is also nit-picking) surprised that in a world where women apparently lead and are autonomous, a little boy thinks he should be responsible for his mother's protection. I would expect that attitude to belong in a world where women are always put under the protection of a man.
But, as a whole this is a good read, with good tension drawing the reader onwards. Thank you for the read.

Notes:
A good opening, I thought.
I think you need to explain this 'minion' thing a bit earlier. How do many minions make the vampire stronger? Can you pad it out just a little?
"third ally, they planned" - is this a rogue comma? The sentence makes more sense without it.
"He had now sheared sheared nearly every" - repeated word.
Good hook leading the reader to chpt 2.
"The man, Cwen thought with some exasperation," - probably being dense, but I can't work out who 'the man' is.
"Somethings out there" - missing apostrophe 

Lindsay
A Priest's Tale

Wanttobeawriter wrote 643 days ago

SPARKS IN THE NIGHT
I’m always drawn to vampire stories because vampires have power to do pretty much what they please; something all of us wish at some time we could do. Iron Will is a strong character; just what a lead vampire should be. You have a courageous character in Jody as well. I like the way she stands up to Iron Will even after he shows her he can read her mind. I like, also, the way you describe your settings; no elaborate descriptions; just enough detail a reader can tell where he/she is at; not so much you bog down your story. Keeps this moving. I’m starring it and adding it to my shelf. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

Sabina Frost wrote 643 days ago

I have now read the fourth chapter. I'm impressed! You manage to keep so many people in focus and it feels like I'm starting to know them better. Lucan, Jody, and Iron Will are my favourites. Every time Jody comes into focus, I find myself getting caught up in the story much more than when I read about someone else. I think it has to do with you using her alone as a character when she enters, instead of switching between everyone. It's easier to 'feel' with her and exist in the scene than when you use the overall view and switch between all characters at once. Also, I love her conflicts with Iron Will, who I'm starting to really appreciate now. He's really cool.

I also liked the scene where Betlic and Bryon fix the sword; I felt somehow closer to them through that scene, and it's obvious it's building up to something.

I see no real problems with this chapter, except as I've said before you should think about splitting the paragraphs. Also, the chapter is very long, so I'd suggest cutting it in half too. Shorter chapters make the reader read more (strangely enough!) - a long chapter feels like it drags on and on, while shorter ones let the reader decide if she wants to stop or continue, and often readers choose to continue, feeling refreshed after able to take a breath between the chapters. It's just something I've noticed myself, it's of course entirely up to you. :)

I'm looking forward to seeing where this will all lead!
Sabina Frost

Z.N. Singer wrote 643 days ago


I liked the tone of the first chapter much better. This is possibly where the book should begin. The prologue is maybe too close to the actual story, talking about the settlement, and how the vampires are going to attack it. If you keep the vampire opening, which as an opening is a good one, I’d keep it vague and atmospheric and less firmly anchored in the rather mundane drawing up of a contract. As it stands, it reads too much like a first chapter, especially as it immediately precedes the action in chapter one.



Very good feedback overall, thanks a lot. On this point though, I wanted to put forward an idea I'd been toying with: that of breaking up the events of the prologue and inserting them throughout Chapter One (From a Clear Sky). Obviously some further editing to smooth over transition and time matching would be required, but overall, I've been wondering how this move would work. Any opinions?

Oriax wrote 649 days ago



Suggestion for your pitch – split it up. It will be easier to read in short chunks.

Prologue
I’m not sure ‘bespoke’ is the right word here. I might be wrong and it might have another meaning, but usually it’s applied to tailor-made clothes. Would ‘betokened’ be a better word in this context?

It seemed to me that the immediacy of the forest description is lost when you go on to describe the abstraction of being a vampire lord. Instead of the detail here, I’d have thought the prologue might be the place to situate the action. Jody and Archard are just names to begin with. Who are they? Where are they? Jody seems like a young person, I’d have expected her to speak in a more natural style, but her speech is very much like Iron Will’s.
There’s something very businesslike in the vocabulary you use: empowered, risks, agreement, cooperation, resources, partnership, enterprise. They sound more like business partners setting up a deal, which to my mind diminishes the creepy tone you establish when Iron Will appears.

I liked the tone of the first chapter much better. This is possibly where the book should begin. The prologue is maybe too close to the actual story, talking about the settlement, and how the vampires are going to attack it. If you keep the vampire opening, which as an opening is a good one, I’d keep it vague and atmospheric and less firmly anchored in the rather mundane drawing up of a contract. As it stands, it reads too much like a first chapter, especially as it immediately precedes the action in chapter one.

Same point as in the prologue – you start with the character of Seamere and give a bit of vivd background to the settlement, Baudwyne and how he meets his end. But then you lose the tension by switching attention away from the immediate to give an explanation of why they are opening up the forest.
You tell us what Seamere’s specialities are where it would be more exciting to see them in action.

‘Cwen chuckled wetly and obeyed’ Not sure what this is trying to convey.

I like the concept of the shape shifter being able to assume the characteristics of something else without actually looking like it. The idea of the settlement of Empowered humans to combat the vampires is also original. Lucan is nicely filled out as a character, so is Cwen. Lucan seems very sensible for a ten-year-old when he goes after Aefre.
Wouldn’t the vampires have sensed Lucan and Aefre’s presence?
This chapter ends with a good hook. You build up the tension well with the two children as they approach the vampires.

In chapter three I didn’t understand everything that was happening, what roles the characters were all going to play. Perhaps because the pace quickens, the reader plunges ahead too fast to grasp all the details. In scenes as action-filled as these it might be best to keep the actual arrangement of them as simple as possible. I wasn’t sure why there were so few humans who participated in the battle if almost all the settlers were Empowered. It certainly kept me gripped to the end though.

This is a very unusual take on the vampire story, with a complex world to take on the vampire hierarchy. Highly rated and I’ll read more.
Jane

Sabina Frost wrote 649 days ago

Third chapter done, and this is definitely an improvement from the last chapter! The dialogue brings out so much about the characters, but also about the world, which the reader is slowly introduced to and diving into. I particularly liked that, through the dialogue, we learned how you have put your own 'unique-ness' on the vampires and zombies, that being bitten by a vampire you become a mindless zombie, but if you have some form of power, you turn into a vampire - impressive and creative!

If I could just suggest, however, that for every scene, you choose to become only one character? I know you said you liked to jump between them, and that's fine, many people do that, but it would create such depth if you stuck to one character per scene, and maybe changing character between the scenes so we get inside the head of everyone, but not everyone at once? Just a suggestion, of course. Your characters are, as I've said, really well-thought out and it would be a shame if we jumped between them every other sentence, because then you don't get that 'feel' for a specific character. Also, it takes you into the scene in a whole other way and lets you see everything with one character's eyes, and how the others react and move based on his/her assumptions.

Okay, so into the battle: I like that you choose to switch between the characters here, it gives a clearer perspective on the battle as a whole, especially since you include both the humans and the vampires.
In fact, I imagine this chapter more like a movie or part of a tv series than a novel, the way you change perspective every few paragraphs. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but have you ever considered writing scripts instead? I think you'd rock at it! You give such clear images here.

I like how the language flows, and it all feels very realistic. This chapter wasn't as much an info-dump, but you had a few paragraphs were you tried to explain things, and this is fine, as long as it doesn't stretch for too long. Again, these paragraphs would be easier to read, and to remember, if you cut the paragraphs up into shorter ones. And remember to trust your readers to remember what you have said, so don't repeat your information too much - I noticed that you reminded us about the powers of the vampires a few times, and this isn't necessary. If anything, we'll see all this in the way they act and speak.

I must add that I think you should remove the single sentence that Iron Will speaks; it breaks the whole action scene without really adding anything - you show us what effect he has on the humans, and Seamere even says that he can feel the third lord, and that is all you need. Let the reader figure out what happens from there. :)

Overall, this is a well-written chapter with a lot of potential. I can see your passion for fantasy novels in the way you write and with your great imagination, I think you'll do well as a fantasy author. In fact, I'm currently reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and I noticed that your writing is very similar to his. Seeing as he's quite popular these days, I may have been too harsh in my previous comment session - fantasy does tend to have a lot of explaining and a lot of characters to remember. I'm just not very used to reading such fantasy, I guess; as you probably have figured out, I love children's books and Young adult novels, not so much hard-core fantasy. As much as I love The Lord of the Rings, I just couldn't read past the first book. ^^'
Maybe that explains a lot.

I hope I've been helpful anyway!
Your comments are always very helpful, and it makes my day to hear even the smallest praise, even if I have a lot to improve.

Sabina Frost

Shelby Z. wrote 649 days ago

First off vampires are NOT my things at all. Sorry Vampires suck!lol (just a little jock.)
However you write well. You develop your plot and characters in a good way that catches the reader's eye.
There are few places that your writing seems choppy.
Otherwise, good job!

Shelby Z./Driving Winds

MrsGray wrote 650 days ago

Z,

I was truly drawn into this story and have read everything you have up. There are a lot of really great things in your writing. The storyline, so far, has a lot of potential. I loved seeing both sides of the conflict and knowing just a little bit more about what was going on than the characters did. You did a good job of telling me just enough to keep me guessing about the outcome. The dialog flows naturally. Great job on that. The characters are rich and diverse, and distinct enough for me to keep them all separated in my mind. I love the action scenes; they move along nicely and keep me on the edge of my seat. With these strengths, you have a very promising beginning.

Here are a few suggestions on what I feel could be improved:

- In the prologue you do a very nice job of introducing us to the impending danger, and making sure we know that the rules are unique in your world, but you overkill it just a bit. In this chapter you only need to make sure we know the rules are different, not all, or even many, of the ways they are different. We are perfectly willing to let you clue us into all the subtleties gradually, once we know to expect them.

For instance, you make it a point to tell us that sunlight is not necessarily a death sentence to vampires well before it is absolutely relevant (which would be when they plan to scout in the daytime), and you give us a lot of detail about how the vampire hierarchy works. Give us the nuances of your vampires and zombies in a steady drip, when we have to know. It will keep us guessing as to their tactics and keep things new.

- Also, you have a tendency throughout your writing to repeat information (in a 'telling' form, that is). Have faith in your words, and your reader's ability to remember what you told them. (We can always flip back a few pages if we forget.) You can use all that space to put in lots more exciting action!

A few examples: Seamere's reluctance to trust himself as a leader in Baudwyne's stead, that Baudwyne was a powerful physic (which means the one who killed him was very powerful), that Jody is in a hurry to climb the vampire corporate ladder, etc.

Feel confident that we are reminded of this information by your characters actions, which inevitably shows these integral parts of their personalities. And remember, it is almost always better to show us, rather than tell us.

e.g. "Ted was angry." vs. "Ted clenched his fists so tightly his fingernails cut into his skin." See how the second example puts more of a picture in your minds eye?

- Keep us fully imbedded in your world. You have a really good description beginning, "The night had begun to deepen: the moon, reflecting weak cool rays of borrowed sunlight, had risen high enough to begin to creep across the village..." but it actually distances the reader from the scene.

Try this: "The night deepened: the moon, reflecting weak,cool rays of borrowed sunlight, crept across the village..." . This invites us to participate with the moonlight as it creeps.

I hope you find this helpful! I know that sometimes cutting out information seems counterproductive, but think of it as making something wonderful lasting as long as in can!

I really enjoyed this! Good job! Keep writing!

April Gray
The Illusion


Sabina Frost wrote 650 days ago

I have now read your second chapter and I must begin with saying that you try to cover way too much in one very, very long chapter. I would suggest dividing it up into two or even three chapters. Trust me, your readers will appreciate it.

Okay, now to the heavy stuff. I don't want to sound harsh, but there are quite a few improvements that can be made in this chapter. You have a great idea - well, quite a lot of great ideas and I'm impressed by the extent to which you have created this world and manages to make it feel very realistic! But as always, I'm here to help you improve, and that's what I'll try to do.

First off, again, I want to point out that your paragraphs are way too long - I saw several places where you could cut them off two or three times in the middle and the thing would be so much easier to read without taking anything away.

The next problem is that this chapter is, quite frankly, just an info-dump chapter with the end having the action. I'm not saying action as in 'action', but in 'you're showing what happens instead of telling me about it'-action. It makes the chapter quite a difficult and tiring read, however interested the story and the world might be. I'd say SHOW, DON'T TELL is my greatest advice to you. It's also one of those very vital creative writing advice that we've learned in class. It's easy to say, difficult to perform, as I know myself. But the profits are greater!
Try to give us the info through dialogue and action, and only sparingly tell us things about the world - if you succeed, we'll know these things through the characters without you telling us one single thing.

The sentence "it must be because it's our last year here" caught me off guard because it's such an obvious info-dump and it didn't fit in with the above sentence.

Also, I found it difficult knowing how to pronounce all the names, especially Cwen and Cearo. Nothing to do about it, but just pointing that out.

Finally, how old are the characters? I see Lucan as ten in the way he acts....

Now I have to go.
I hope I was any help.

Sabina Frost

Maria44 wrote 651 days ago

Hello Z

You are almost the bravest writer I know mixing fantasy with horror which are two of the most difficult genres (science fiction and you would have had mission impossible)

Iron Will has potential to be a great character, your writing was good enough to almost exude his power as a premiership vampire. The dialogue is extremely good when Jody and Arshad meet up with him in the first chapter. In fact I would say from what I have read dialogue is the strongest area in your writing.

What I would ask you would do differently: It's hard with fantasy and horror and the writer is always keen to explain but you explain a little too much in my opinion but you are putting the reader into another world. If I was a professional writer and given your book I would have started it with a conversation between Jody, Archad and Iron will with Iron will peeling her psychic guard like an onion and drip feeding the reader with their circumstances and the world they live in, kill two birds with one stone. My opinion though and its your story.

The start of chapter 2 I found to be a slight anti climax. I was looking forward to their attack yet you introduced more characters which is justifiable but it affected the pace and you killed what was an excellent hook from chapter 1. There was also a lot of characters introduced which may have been a little too many, you may want to pace them out.

In short, a good book with a hell of a lot of potential (reminded me of Brian Lumley's vampire world). a bit more show and less tell and you will do well here.

Because I think its good. Four stars. Potential six. All the best.

Maria

Z.N. Singer wrote 653 days ago

First of all, thanks! It's been a long time, much too long, since I was able to get this level of feedback and insight into how I'm writing and how I can improve it. I remember that last time well and have felt the lack distinctly. Not that I haven't been showing my work to people of course...

Anyway, the bits about paragraph and pace of dialogue was gold, thanks, will be giving it careful thought. Many classics have been reworked here: vampires are NOT sparkly, but they're not really the cult classic either. I've thoroughly re-imagined them, and inevitably this fact must be trickled in over time, and this will confuse some people, as they figure out that vampires in my world are not un-dead, and that even zombies have never actually died, and all the rest of the details. Hearing how and whether you figure it out as you read will be valuable feedback for me, telling how and where I need to change, reduce, or add exposition. I'm well familiar with the perils of info-dumps and world exposition in fantasy in theory, but every novel's application of it is unique: I look forward your and other authonomy author's guidance.

There are two camps on whether it is better to stick to one person's viewpoint throughout a scene, or go ahead and jump about. Me, I do tend to lean towards jumping freely about. However, if you thought Iron Will was ever being used as a viewpoint in the prologue, then I need to revise those portions, so more details on that please. We never, ever, EVER see a scene that is truly from Iron Will's point of view, never learn what is going on inside his head - not until the end of his own 'arc' (the overall plotline he drives which, I might add, is a great deal longer than this book - five books worth at least). I have read stories, published novels, that cheat with their mysteries, using the point of view of the one who did it and just writing it according to our assumptions of the time. It is cheating, I refuse to stoop to it, and I will therefore both avoid this and maintain his aura of impenetrable motives by leaving his POV entirely un-utilized.

You say that 'after that' I lacked description. As far as place goes, well, nothing changed anyway. The rest, I'll need to examine the scene and see where such things might fit, if at all. Vampires by nature are not any less expressive than humans. However, you're recall that this was a high tension scene in which, at any moment, there was the potential to turn on each other. "They were predators: weakness was the signal to kill. Whoever showed it first lost." So they probably ARE both suppressing those kinds of things right now, but a little more than is currently present might be good to lessen that 'stilled' impression. All around appreciated feedback, and looking forward to what further chapters make you think.

Sabina Frost wrote 653 days ago

This is a good start. I have read the prologue and there are no major grammatical errors, the dialogue flows well, and it's building a plot-line, although I can't see where it will lead yet.

I would suggest, however, that you take some time to look at how you have divided your paragraphs; at places, they are a bit too long and I found myself half-skipping through it. Too big paragraphs have that effect. The story flows better with more, shorter paragraphs. Also, important sentences have a greater effect if they have a paragraph on their own.

But I like this. It has potential.
It was a bit confusing at times, because we don't know this world yet and it's terminology, or what creatures inhabit it, etc, so be careful not to do an info-dump. The dialogue could be quite rapid at times, and because they are highly intelligent creatures (I think?) it could be tough to keep up with them.

Also I was unsure who was the main character in this chapter. Are you being an author, trying to tell the reader everything and jumping between viewpoints (for I noticed you switched between Jody and Iron Will at some point) or is it Jody?
We don't see much of her companion.

I loved your description of the forest!
But after that you lacked a few descriptions about place and character looks, and I would have wanted more in-between-dialogue-movements, such as someone doing a facial expression or something. The lack of this made them feel a bit stilted, but maybe that's what vampires are supposed to be?

Anyway, keep these things in mind and I think you have a good start!

Sabina Frost

Samuel Z Jones wrote 657 days ago

I had the privilige of reading the early drafts of this book's first chapters, and then the later revisions. I've also read some of Z's short stories and other work. He brings a refreshingly original and heartwarming approach to Fantasy, while somehow weaving in chilling horror. What he does is very different to what I do; I couldn't do it like this.

Z.N. Singer wrote 664 days ago

There are only two more chapters written than posted here thus far. I'll get the other two up soon, I want to edit them a bit more first. But the whole book is still in early stages, and all feedback to improve its growth is welcome. Thanks for reading!

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