Book Jacket


rank 254
word count 27578
date submitted 20.08.2012
date updated 28.06.2014
genres: Fiction, Thriller
classification: moderate

Stonefish and the Salamander


Two enemies join forces to try to find a missing American philanthropist, but it seems the US army doesn't want them to succeed.


Notorious Australian assassin, Stonefish, and his elite squad of ex-military officers discover that their best client is missing. He is American billionaire, Saul Madison, a man not afraid of breaking laws to fix the world's problems.

The only way Stonefish can hope to locate Madison is by co-operating with his own deadliest enemy: Hiram Vanderlay, the top US civil servant who nearly destroyed his entire team. Vanderlay agrees to help because of the thousands of lives Madison's philanthropy has saved in the past and might save in the future.

These strange allies turn out to have even stranger opponents, including the US army as well as foreign terrorists. Someone who wields considerable power in America doesn't want Madison found, and Stonefish's squad rapidly becomes ensnared in a suicide mission.

(Complete at 80,000 words)

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, afghanistan, assassin, balkans, billionaire, general, military, new york, philanthropist, taliban, terrorists, washington

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P Clifford Mills wrote 6 days ago

"Stonefish and the Salamander"
by Sly

Very professionally and competently written. You have a great grasp of the elements of fiction.

The attention-grabbing prologue leaves two people dead, but seems unconnected to the early part of the plot. We discussed prologues. On your advice, I looked at one of Lee Child's, which I thought was a real teaser that led in well to the story.

Sometimes your characters veer close to stereotype, though I'm not sure if too close. We have Geet, the nuggety and loyal Ghurka, Kees the sociopath Afrikaaner, Arnaud the cerebral Frenchman. One minor character, Zoran Ivanovic the evil warlord, is definitely a cartoon figure. I recall a description of good characterisation - the surprise that works. You can have fun with your players by giving them odd traits.

Graham Greene did this well. So did Ian Fleming - James Bond's boss M sent men on death missions with a cat on his knee.

Heading up each chapter with a date and character seems a trifle lazy, and also undermines the illusion of reality. No doubt other writers do it. The date also forces the reader back to the start of the previous chapter to check if we're now in flashback, flash forward or contiguous reality. So much better, I think, to start with "A week later . . ."

Giving Sam/Saul two names is confusing and took me a while to figure out.

I love the change of pace in the section starting: Saul Madison, Somewhere in Southern Asia. Such a shift in mood from the terse dialogue of the previous section. Saul's thoughts in prison are very skilfully portrayed. He even quotes Shakespeare, and morphs from one random thought to another in a virtuoso display of writing. Very well done.

Many other sections are brilliant. Introducing a dog into the Elizabeth Pendleton-Smith scene is inspired, and shows us much about the hit squad characters, particularly Arnaud.

Sometimes your dialogue seems overly formal. The characters mostly talk in complete, grammatical sentences, whereas real people tend to talk in a mixture of sentences and sentence fragments.

Hiram S Vanderlay is a complex, rounded character, nicely torn between his personal morality and demands of the job. This should create some interesting conflicts in his dealings with Stonefish.

Maybe there are more negatives than positives in this review, which is unintentional. This book is superbly written on the whole and deserves the high stars and backing that I'm happy to award.

Cliff Mills
"Working Men"

Wiglaf wrote 24 days ago

The prologue's tense, fast-paced and hooks you right in. The rest carries on just the same; it reads like a Jack Reacher thriller, and your style matches the genre very well. I'm afraid I can't really find any flaws to highlight.

troy1174 wrote 28 days ago

I like these genre of books, a lot. I haven't read the first Stonefish novel, though after reading the first chapter of this, I don't think that's relevant.
The first chapter sets up the team and its goals really well. As mentioned by someone else earlier,KJD, there was no need for gore or violence at the end, the call said it all.
Just one minor quibble, as i'm not sure if it was me or not, however there was one line which said " We'll none of us will make old bones....." Is this meant to say this??

Chapter two to be read later

Ian Henson

Task Force

digsblues wrote 28 days ago

I seem to be following KJD around. He and I have similar tastes in writing. I read the first 2 chapters and will read the rest. On my W/L and high stars.

KJD wrote 28 days ago

Loved the Prologue, really pulled me in to the story and loved the writing style, which is tight and intense. Could do with a couple more attributions to the dialogue.
There's loads to admire here and the story moves along at a cracking pace.

"A scream tore the silence..." Excellent.

I love the name Stonefish and the change of POV to first person, brings us right into the story.
"Neither patience nor optimism..." tells us plenty about the narrator.
"... have the decency to sound knackered." Tee hee.

The way The Subject manipulates the boy is convincing.
"The steel wires of wealth... stitched Zoran into thee fabric" Love it very clever metaphor.
"...self indulgence that disguises a Ninja mind..." Tee hee.

The characters are well drawn even at this early stage. Kees might prove to be a bit of a liability, which is bad for the team dynamics, but great for the story.

Great ending to the Balkans scene - no need for gore or detail.

Very tight writing. Kudos.

CilWes wrote 30 days ago

This just gets better and better. Don't change a thing :)

Damon Stentz wrote 40 days ago

Good writing, good action. The prologue could be fleshed out a bit more, because it doesn't show a whole lot. Add some more tags in the dialogue of the prologue, too, because it gets confusing in some places as to who's talking. But after that it goes very well. I like this type of high-action, movie-like writing, and I try to do the same with my writing. You should check out my two books, "The Kraken Slayer" and "The Kraken Hunters". "Hunters" is very similar to your Stonefish in some ways. The biggest difference is that I write fantasy. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on both, especially which one you think is better.
- Damon Stentz

CilWes wrote 40 days ago

A well-written and intense thriller. Well set out and the characters are described so they are easy to remember. I am really enjoying reading this. It is the genre of book i enjoy and i hope to eventually read the whole book. In the meantime i will keep reading.
Good luck

Sheena Macleod wrote 40 days ago

Stonefish and the Salamander by Sly

Return read.

Genre- Thriller

I enjoy the thriller genre, and am interested in the pitches. Stonefish is an assassin with his own band of men.
A good first line, raising questions.
The prologue was well written, very visceral. The stench, sounds and emotions are well presented.
The time span moves forward six months, to chapter one.
I like the tension of Ricky under the water, will he succeed in his mission? Ricky survives and joins Stonefish’s team. The incident indicates the danger involved and the nature of the jobs his team will carry out.
Highly skilled, intelligent team members are a must and it is always risky taking in a new member.
The writing is smooth and the work well edited. Ivonovic is the subject for the next job in the Balcans.
Like – scratching some backs and stabbing others
Like the way you move the action between Stonefish and the subject.
The writing seems confident and well paced. Chapter one is long, but the breakdown into sections helps retain the tension.

I enjoyed what I read. This seems to be the making of a good thriller with rounded characters.

Conspiracy’s Child

Chris 1 wrote 107 days ago

I think this is an intelligently written thriller and displays a good knowledge of geo-politics, 'black ops', the workings of the 'powers that be'. Against this background are your characters strolling assuredly across the stage imprinting their personalities on my imagination.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - the first two chapters. My only complaint would be that the chapters - for a fast moving thriller - are too long. Chapter One (or the 'Prologue' - surely they can't be both?) could make three chapters I feel, and so on. I think if you divided them up a little more it would somehow sharpen the pace even further.

But that's my ONLY crib as a reader.


Fontaine wrote 217 days ago

I commented on this book before, but now I have read all the uploaded chapters. I love this book. I like the contrast between the scenes with the squad and the wretchedness of the cave. Very well described. Also, plenty of action to keep this bowling along, Well drawn, believable characters, and relationships. I would really like to read more.
Higly starred.

sherit wrote 334 days ago

Sly...I''m so sorry it's taken me this long to get back to reading! Life and my editing have sort of gotten in the way, plus trying to do some reads in an effort not to lose the paltry bump in the ranks I get at the end of the month. SOOO slow going at this stage. Anyway, it's my loss not to have returned sooner. I was so sad when I learned that Vince Flynn had died. I think I mentioned what a fan I am of his books, but you mister, you are a worth successor. Enjoying this ever so much. Wishing you all the are firmly ensconced on my shelf.
All the best,
Sheri Emery / Crazy Quilt

Sandie Zand wrote 468 days ago

Popped along to read a bit of this and devoured all you have posted and am now seriously miffed that it's all been left hanging at a crucial point! What's going to happen to the team, who are left staring into the barrels of machine guns? What's going to happen to Saul, who seems to be giving up? And what has happened to poor young Omar?

Overall, the story is strong, the cast impressive and varied, the locations well-evoked, the pace spot on. I was compelled to read on, there wasn't a point where i felt the pace or interest level waned so, in terms of the thriller genre, i think this hits target and is nicely pitched too - a good mix of guns n gore action and more relaxed, intellectual and character-driven scenes, conversations and observations.

The early chapters, compared to what comes, feel slightly forced - you don!t seem to relax into the story until the point where we first encounter Saul, kidnapped in the Afghan cave. The first couple of scenes i felt were straining a bit - perhaps it's the complication of needing to introduce characters and premise of the Stonefish's line of work to the new reader whilst not irritating the seasoned reader who already knows these people. It's a difficult balance to get right and i think in terms of info given you are getting that balance right, but in terms of how it's presented, it's maybe costing you a bit of pace and lure up front. If you get what i mean.

The opening scene worked for me, though I think it could be given a bit more oomph - it didn't feel quite as risky and fraught as i'd imagine it would be in real life. The scene following this, where the guys are at Stonefish's place for dinner and to plan the job, i felt this was the weakest scene - too much of their conversation seemed just a way of handing out info on each of them for the new reader. Also i felt here there isn't enough differentiation between the men - their speech patterns, their personal ticks, their attitudes - to bring each out as a clear individual. This thought about the men in the team stayed with me through all the other chapters. Even Arnaud, with his few french phrases, still (i felt) spoke just like the others.

The characters outside the team, on the other hand, are all very well drawn and differentiated. The early scene with Zoran and the young fall guy was a strong scene and gave good colour to what stonefish and his men were going to be dealing with. I was slightly confused when we then find the guys staking out the house of Ivanovic, who seemed to be the same guy??

Saul is a wonderful character, richly drawn and his despair in the cave plausible and moving, also these scenes balance out the more action-led scenes, so the alternating of locations/character was, i though, well judged. Young omar is lovely too - his english is perhaps at times a little too good, and saul's dialogue with him too advanced, not for his age but for the cultural and educational gap between them. But i did like the scenes, the young lad giving saul a reason and focus, his pain when this is then taken away...

Nitpick: How did ricky get his tools through customs?

The tension builds nicely with flicking between stonefish and team, washington and afghanistan, the strands weave smoothly and convincingly. The killing of the general was well done, slick and again convincing, though i have no idea how well the science works out - also was slightly concerned at their lack of concern for anyone else in the park who may have been walking their dog, pacemaker nicely regulating... Was almost waiting for a farcical scene where several aged types also keeled over...

The writing itself... Some lovely observations, saul's delirium is particularly well done, the contrast between the blood and bullets guys and the refined lifestyle of Hiram and his wife with their Mahler and fine wines adds a layer of richness to the story too, as does the evocation of contrasting settings - new york rain, afghan heat, wealth vs poverty, etc - all good stuff.

This is strong, confident story-telling, great plot, excellent pace and intriguing compelling writing... I would have read on had i not run out of chapters. You'd better put some more up because i want to know what happens!

AudreyB wrote 471 days ago

Hi, Sly--trying another method for posting my review.

Adding a bit at a time: Hi, there – this is your 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.

After I saw your lofty TSR I figured I’d best check out your book and fawn all over it. Nah, I wouldn’t do that.

SP…do you need a period at the end? And also (this may be a US/UK thing), I would say the US military doesn’t want them to succeed. But I realize someone in the UK would phrase it your way.

LP: Does Stonefish need to be set off with commas? I’d vote no. I’m not sure you need one after ‘officers’ either. And I don’t think there would be a comma after billionaire. I do concur with the one after Saul Madison as it sets off the parenthetical phrase following. This is all I will preach on commas today.

Also—I am way outside my comfort zone here. I haven’t read much in this genre so I won’t know what’s been done or how refreshingly original you are.

I had a little trouble understanding what Ricky was doing. Triggering the self-inflating raft? Don’t know what that means. Perhaps if you add a subject to “If he is seen in the dinghy…” I’d have followed a bit better.

Geet has been with you a couple years after that? I don’t think so.

OK, I really thought Kees would be a dog. Perhaps if he had a first name and a last name I’d have picked up that Kees was a person?

I love the international-ness of this group of men.

When you want to use a dash, instead of typing …space.dash space…, type two dashes without spaces on either side. It’ll make an em-dash. Like this: They get the picture—it’s a familiar one—so I continue. I first learned it in college, but re-learned it here on Authonomy.

“…snores like a tractor plowing the night.” That’s lovely.

When we visit Hiram Vanderlay in March 2007, I don’t follow what’s meant by “those camps.”

I admire your diction. You use words, and lots of them, very well. I like feeling as if each word has been carefully chosen.

At the end of two chapters I’m engaged and ready to keep reading. I like the way your initial plot events demonstrate the skill of these assassins and the way you are creating a scenario that will test their obvious superiority. It’s good.


CanteNagiTehila wrote 475 days ago

I have read your first chapter and I definitely enjoyed it quite a bit. You caught my attention and drew me into this story quickly, not always an easy task I find. I know that is one of my problems when writing.

Your characters are tough, no nonsense yet believable, the dialogue crisp and to the point between the men. They say what they need to say and that's it. Good job.


MJStar wrote 487 days ago

stone fish and the salamander


Ha, an assassin with a SIG Sauer P220, only the best.
The opening drew me right in was involved, you're style of writing I enjoyed.
And I loved the accuracy of the Balkans with the accent. I should know because my family is from that region.
I have a couple of cousins with that name, Zoran, and growing up in Michigan, Detroit, Balkan capital, there were a few kids with that name.
Characterization is believable and leaps off the page. The military background is also accurate and descriptive.
My husband being ex-military and doing some bounty hunting after some ex-con with his buddy, an ex-Navy seal, I didn't know what they did but I just knew not to question when he left with his two black bags.
So, yeah, loved all the the action and dialogue.
Great Job.
Maybe I'm biased b/c of my hubby but when I see a well polished work that speaks the truth, I can only give it well deserved comments.

Lovely Dark FAllen

Charles Knightley wrote 492 days ago

Stonefish and the Salamander

I've read the first two, quite long, chapters. The story is good, the characters developed are good as well. I would have preferred shorter chapters. But, being contradictory, would have preferred some expansion of the scenes - particularly as nothing seems to go wrong. It would add to the tension if there were a few hiccups along the way.

You mentioned P220 and SEAL. I had to guess what these meant but perhaps readers of this genre will know, although I read thrillers all the time!

Your writing style is good and I've given some high stars.

The editing was good, I did make some notes whilst reading:

But Ricky said he was confident. He's rehearsed the process over ...
Should "He's" be "He'd"?

I couldn't understand the following sentence:
We'll none of us make old bones, but we're having one hell of a good life in the meantime.

I've spent some time looking at the next two sentences. I think you need to rewrite them. I've tried thinking of some suggestions but gave up, I leave it for you:
Meanwhile, Arnaud, the extremely tall Frenchman, pours the drinks - everyone having agreed to bourbon on the rocks - aside from me, of course. I'm sipping the usual black coffee.

Charles Knightley
The Secret of Netley Abbey

Sly80 wrote 494 days ago

Edits have been made to address all the comments below

Adrienne Veronese wrote 495 days ago

Your writing is poetic and compact and I like that because it's given me a vivid realism to latch onto. I would have to say if there is anything lacking, it is suspense. I want to be clinging to the edge of my seat, eager to turn to the next chapter, my pulse pounding. Instead I'm left wondering what's missing from what is in every way a perfectly written first chapter.

There is almost too much precision in the operation, leaving no room for that surprise that puts me out on the cliff with your central character, dangling in midair and wondering what comes next.

Aside from that, I am astonished by your writing style and effortless storytelling, and am putting this on my watch list so I can come back and see where it goes.

~Adrienne Veronese

Mooderino wrote 497 days ago

In terms of writing and clarity the story comes across very clear. The writing style is simple and direct and it feels right for the type of story. I had no problems following what was happening or who it was happening to. Even the switches in POV were handled smoothly, so no problems on the technical side.

The opening scene of the boat blowing up felt very straightforward and simplistic. I wasn’t entirely sure what the purpose was there. If it was to just introduce the kind of work Stonefish is involved with in a quick and efficient manner, it does that but it’s a bit like the pre-credit scene in a Bond film if Bond walked into a building, shot everyone and then walked out.

It would show what he does and that he’s good at it, but it wouldn’t be very interesting. The same with the yacht. It shows Ricky can do the job, but at the same time it makes the job seem very easy. No conflict, no drama, no problems.

The one good thing is that it’s a very short scene, so it wouldn’t put me off, but I view it as a bit of a wasted opportunity.

The scene where you introduce everyone is okay, we need to know who everyone is, but again a very noticeable lack of drama. Very smooth, very easy. The lack of tension isn’t very entertaining, although the simple, matter of fact style keeps things ticking along.

With the first Zoran scene I started to feel the whole story was going to end up being way too straightforward. You even say it’s always that easy to convince the boys to do what he wants. If everything is going to be easy for everyone I’m not sure it’s going to make for a very thrilling story.

I’m not saying that will be the case, and it could be this is just an example of a smoothly handled assignment before things go haywire, but from the yacht scene, to the gang gets together scene, to the bad guy intro scene there’s a bit of a pattern developing which is both sides do what they want quite easily.

The way it’s setting up is like two fighters, both good, but one’s bigger than the other, and the bigger one wins because he’s bigger and stronger. That isn’t a very interesting dynamic because it’s predictable and expected, even though it’s realistic.

The scene with Zoran’s day to day life doesn’t feel particularly necessary or interesting. It’s not very specific and it feels like even if it was it still wouldn’t do much in terms of making Zoran a more compelling character. His stories to the boys are a bit too generic and his reasons for wanting to get rid of the journalist don’t really stand out. In fact if that scene where he wants Luksic’s details was the first scene where we met Zoran, I don’t think it would make any difference to how we viewed him.

The execution of Stonefish's plan goes smoothly, they get to the target without any problems. At that point I was baffled as to what kind of story this was. I’m pretty sure things are going far, far too smoothly. I would expect even the greatest action hero to encounter more problems than this.

I didn’t understand why they didn’t just drug Zoran too. You mentioned it in passing but gave no explanation. And Stonefish’s waking him before killing him didn’t seem to serve any purpose. He had no personal interest in him so why bother? It’s not like they shared any meaningful words or he needed to extract information from him.

By the end of the first chapter I would say I wouldn’t be inclined to keep reading since the story seems to have avoided any form of tension or conflict. Everything went to plan, without even the slightest of hiccups.

It may be that there will be repercussions from this mission later on in the story, but that doesn’t excuse quite how uneventful this first chapter was.

I would say the initial scene, if you feel it’s necessary, should be more demonstrative of how they operate and why they’re so good. And that means it can’t go quite so smoothly, since it’s impossible to tell the difference between competence and luck if nothing goes wrong. You may know which it is, the reader doesn’t.

I think if Zoran is a bastard who uses kids to do his dirty work then he deserves a more inventive and unexpected demonstration of how he goes about it. If it’s too easy then he won’t merit our interest in his demise.

These are all suggestions of course, and you have every right to ignore them (probably a good idea), but the one thing I would strongly suggest is to make the penetration of the villa a bit more tricky and requiring of some improvisation. A hero is only as impressive as his villain, and an action scene is only as thrilling as its opposition. Everything in the first chapter was just too easy, in my opinion.

Wussyboy wrote 503 days ago

Just finished chapter 2, Sly, this is great stuff...and I don't generally enjoy the genre!

A few thoughts:

1) you say that Sam, in his taped video recording, is 'in mid-tirade'. This indicates that he is shouting or ranting, or at least speaking passionately. You may want to add a coupla exclamation marks to his speech: "...want freedom! ...break loose!"
2) you might want to also consider putting these taped snippets in italics. The 'That's our man' straight after them otherwise jars out of the narrative.
3) 'his voice' is followed by 'these', shouldn't it be "it"?
4) 'FAT chance in hell'?
5) half a century (no dashes?)
6) 'known simply as "V", Hiram Vanderlay
7) 'Do something...', 'Stop feeling..' 'It's true, you do see stars' are all thought speech, better in itals?

Good luck with this mate, it's got legs.


sherit wrote 504 days ago

Dang it, Sly! Even though I'm a chick lit kinda girl, I love this stuff..what can I say? I've read every Vince Flynn book there is and I can tell now I'm going to be hooked on this..and then I'm gonna have to go back and read the first one. The big question is when!! well..thank god...only five chapters here. I'm still buried in reads I need to return but I'm excited about reading more. I'm in awe of the planning that must go into a book like this..the plot detail...hell, the detail about military/ex military that few of us could even pretend to know about. I'm no writing coach; just a gal that knows what she likes to read and this is a winner in my book. I will be back for more. Starring you the highest and leaving you on my WL (my shelf is kinda full with my chick lit girls. :-)...and clearly you know what you're doing. You don't need my damn help. :-)
All the best,
Sheri Emery / Crazy Quilt

Wussyboy wrote 505 days ago

Yay, Chap 1 ends with a bang now, and the new chap 2 opening looks great!

I'll be reading on, hopefully this evening...


Jimmy Wearne wrote 506 days ago

Chapter One

Stonefish -NY I want to know in beginning paragraph what Arnaud and Geet do in their pastimes when you introduce them. You set up the reader to be interested in that but then don't deliver. Then with the offer of bourbon - are they drinking it straight with coke on the rocks? I want more detail.
The Subject - The Balkans - I would cut the bit in the first line that he is next on Stonefishes list - it is redundant and as a reader I want to do some work myself - keep me questioning, for that keeps me reading -



Wussyboy wrote 507 days ago

Chap 2, initial thoughts...

1) the first line bugs me. Shouldn't it have a comma, not a semi-colon, as in: 'The office smells of polish, dark wood gleaming in the gloom.'?
2) the para starting 'Hiram, being a politicial animal' and ending 'seniority' is too much tell, imho. It jarred me out of the narrative, don't think you need it. The preceding para also, maybe?

Wussyboy wrote 507 days ago

Hi Sly, some thoughts on chapter 1:

1) Very slick, very professional writing, liked it a lot. I'm not generally a big fan of first person narrative but it worked for me in 'Stonefish' and it worked for me here. It's very fashionable in the publishing world too, so you could have a winnah!
2) The short bite-size POV switches within the first chapter are very filmic, as someone commented on your first book 'The chapters read like episodes in a TV series'. What did Autho say about this in their review, you can email me privately if you like, I'd be very intrigued to hear.
3) My ONLY beef with chap 1 is that it builds...and the killing of Ivanovic, and then, instead of ending, just carries on. The last words of this first chapter should, imvho, be "Yes. Dead." The ensuing chat in the plane instantly detracts from the tension (again, imvho), UNLESS you cut straight to Sam. e.g. "On the half-empty flight out of the Balkans, the men sip vodka and Coke while I force down foul-tasting coffee, and Arnaud leans forward and says, 'We've not heard from Sam in a while.'

Just a suggest, mate, feel free to ignore.


p.s. the script is very tightly edited, only found one possible nit. Shouldn't there be a comma after "do", as in "Feel, do, and..." It read awkwardly without it.

Jimmy Wearne wrote 510 days ago

Hey Sly -

Just read chapter Five - I noticed you have read Lee Child - one of my favourites and it definitely has a similar feel to Jack Reacher in places - However - with the opening Saul Madison - I did not like the shifting point of view - from third person, Saul to first, I, to second, you. Would be stronger with just one.
Stonefish - love the Killers reference - they say the devil's water ain't so sweet! only adjustment here is capitalise out West. love the firefighters!
Stonefish pakistan - love speaks a foreign language with all the faults of a native.
Stonefish Afghanistan - love - shoot like kids, no discipline and without aiming - you certainly have a handle on action.

Overall a great read - I like the end too - would make me flip to the next chapter to find out what happens when the professionals come.

If you can return a read sometime that would be awesome. Highly starred.



Declan Conner wrote 510 days ago

Sly, well you’ve done it again, another damn good book.

I think you know it doesn’t need much tweaking, making it difficult not to blow smoke up your ass.

Anyway, here goes for what it’s worth. I’m sure you’ll know if the following is worth considering.

Not a fan or the use of the three ‘who’ in the clauses of one 'long' sentence. I’d make it 2/3 sentences and bury the ‘who’s’ within, or maybe think of something like below to reduce the ‘who’s’.

I only ever employ ex-military officers, men that will only kill through necessity rather than pleasure. Those specialists with a predisposition to take as well as give orders, especially the ones who know how to occupy long periods of inaction, with pastimes that stretch their mind and body.

Sorry I can’t spot anything else. Too absorbed, in the read of this gritty assassins’ story. What I'll do is take of my readers head, put on my writers head and give it the once-over during next week.

Good Luck Declan.

wekabird3 wrote 513 days ago

Stonefish. Chap 4&5. 28/02/13

Hi again, The writing gets better and better. Plenty of tension, emotion, thoughts and always character development.

Hiram. 2007.
1). Given that he never lies...Tells us more about Hiram.
2). Fragile music. As above.
3). Just a small one. 'no love lost between him and Madison.' (I assume, The President and Madison?).
4). You're going to hate me... Just checked out 'Glendronach.' They don't seem to sell 25 year. 19, 33 etc.

Stonefish NY
1). Poule mouillee? Meaning? (Probably doesn't matter if not important.).
2). Bailey's. Are you sure about this? Okay, it's sweet but tends to be a lady's drink. oops, sorry madam.

Saul AF.
1). I like the implication Randy

The writing now is excellent You strike a nice balance between 'grunt' and serious maturity.
1). 'We've heard many similar stories. (Do you need 'many?').
2). 'Who are you guys?' After his earlier comments this comes a bit late.
3). Didn't realise that Stonefish had aborigine blood. (Good tracker Bluey?).

Hiram. Washington.
1). 'She'll never forgive me.' Maybe this would come over better if she would make no accusation but that her love would be decimated by his failure to have trust in her. [Unless, of course, the info would put her at risk.).

Stonefish N/Y
1). General disposal. Great double meaning.
2). 'stop fucking Chadburn.' (Maybe stop 'that' fucking Chadburn).

Saul AF

Stonefish. Washington
1). Lex Luther, Dr Death, Elmer Fudd. Don't know those guys.
2). 'bag of chips?' (Chips in US are crisps. Chips are fries).

Hiram. Washington

Saul AF
1). Disappointment: (would a period be more suitable?).

1). Who is William?

Stonefish NY
I like the Killers. 'Are We Human?

Stonefish Pak.
1). Sounds as if Kameran spent his early years in the UK like.
2 Glad that you have got to Quetta. (It's 200 miles north of Shamshie Airfield-US drone base.

Well created build-up to his leaving.

1). Over the horizon. For some reason I thought we were in border country, mountains and valleys.
2). If above is true then bear in mind that GPS are not good at the valley floor.
3). Okay. If on a flat expanse ignore 1&2.

Saul AF

Stonefish AF.
Great fire-fight. Could imagine myself there.

Like you mentioned earlier, the writing seems to improve when we get into the swing of things. Having said that I'm still pratting about with my Chaps 1-3. One day...

Chris. Sorting it Out.

wekabird3 wrote 519 days ago

Saul Madison. March 2007.

This first piece is, in my opinion, excellent. The to and fro, simply written, some inner feeling, the two way prodding. Plus the last para is great

Hiram. Washington.
1). Should there be a comma somewhere in the first sentence?
2). (Hiram knows who kidnapped him-just info for me.)
3). 'He has been...' (maybe; he's been..).
4). 'Cesspit's safe.' Small point. Can read as 'safe belonging to cesspit or the cesspit is safe).
5). 'Tired of the wall-to wall Hewitt' I really like that, sounds original.
6). 'evidence there is...' (comma missing?).

Stonefish New York.

1). I note that Stonefish is using Sam for Saul. Good continuity. Easy to lose this sometimes.
2). Maybe: 'It's in the command of...' (Is it really in command of a variety of Warlords/Government? Or do you mean that 'The CIA's local commander/man, is Randy?).
3). Never heard it referred to as 'Stan' before. Your word or real?

Saul AF.
Good writing

Hiram. Washington.

Saul AF.

Stonefish New York

Hiram Washington.
Some well written literary style here – not the first.

Stonefish. New York.

Saul AF.
Like your correct spelling of Qur'an. More well written style here.


In the last several sub-chapters, I didn't come across anything that looked out of place. But, then again, generally the everyday, gung-ho style, 'action' has changed to a more sedate, thought provoking style. It's great that you can swop from one to the other, almost different writing/author, gives the reader a break. It all seems to be settling down well and I'm only at the end of Chapter 3. Personally, I would like to see some more of the philosophical style at the start. But then you would have readers saying it was too slow/boring etc.

I have backed and starred this and will read more when the children get off my computer.

Chris. Sorting it Out.

wekabird3 wrote 523 days ago

The Balkans. (continued from: The local fixer).
Still think you ought to be careful re teenage boys. Unless of course the guy is a perv.
1). Maybe explain once the acronym NGO.
2). Can't believe that Ivanocic's Villa is empty/unguarded. Do you mind if I call him 'Ivan'-easier to type.
3) What imperfections? Trees, animals radios etc
4). 'spaceless distance'. Don't get the visual meaning.
5). Maybe a double-line space when shifting to Ivan's speech.
6). Then another double-line before 'Ricky spoke...
7).. PROBLEM. I thought that para: 'Back then ...' was Ivan's speech. Then Ricky says :'we swallowed..' This seems to be a continuation of Ivan's speech. Confusing.
8). 'Maybe we'll fight...' Start a new line.
9). Be prepared ,son...' (uum. There are three youngsters).

Balkans. 'Just a couple...'
1). 'One of the pile of newspapers...' (maybe 'one of the newspapers taken from the pile..
2). 'He added hinting at..' (maybe report what the hinting was).
3). Maybe 'Zoran notes that the reporter...'
4). 'Zoran puts a call...'maybe he needs to explain to the person he calls who Luksic is.)
5). Have just had to trawl back to find who is Zoran. It's Ivan. Maybe use Ivan for consistency.

Balkans. Shit, says Ricky...'
1). Maybe use a more 'forceful' word than 'says.'
2). 'I exchange a quick glance..' How do you know what his thoughts are? (Maybe 'he nods.' This shows not tells.).
3). Ah! The Villa is deserted. Not good practice for the local 'Big man.'
4). Maybe; The morning was blustery..'

Balkans. 'Zoran arrives...'
1). Zoran lights the oven... I had the impression that the villa is high tech. Electric.
2). Any reason/future reason that he doesn't eat the prepared meal. Where was the cleaner when the 'guys' were in the building?
3). 'Brandy gone..ashtray to go out. Bit clumsy. Maybe reword.
4). After reading on from (3). Glass empty, cigar half smoked.

Balkans. It's two am. (maybe omit it's).
1). They all frown...'WHY?' This is a highly co-operative trained group. Maybe Ricky's non-speaking response would be (a shrug).
2). Invariably, subjects who...' A great line.
3). 'What you want?' 'Where my men?' (If he speaks like that, then okay. If not then reword)
4). 'Watching other peoples thought processes. As earlier. You can't watch thoughts.).
5). 'rapid succession,' (maybe omit comma).
6). Maybe explain SADF
7). ADF.
8). 'I decide to elaborate..' ). 'I decide to elaborate..(basic business acumen. If you work for yourself you don't give out customer info because your workers will take over.).
9). Is Sam a client or part of the team? (Bear in mind that the 'team' are highly trained professionals).

Chapter 2. Hiram.
1). AF/PAK border. Maybe home in on a specific area. (Somewhere around the Tora-Bora?).

New York.
1). Not quite sure where Saul is so maybe 'interview of the eighteenth in Capetown or...'
2).CONFUSION. Israel pays a fortune...' To mutilate their own religion? (Israeli religion?). You follow this with, 'Those are the forces...' Confusing.
3). 'Ridiculous hats and sideburns..' Israelis or Taliban? If Saul is so 'politically big' maybe he wouldn't make a remark such as this.
4). PI?
5). MO?


1). Treat him worse than an animal. Your style so far leads me to believe he would say 'worse than shit.'
2). 'Habituates' (simpler word?).
3). Tepid water, bucket emptied daily. Pretty good treatment from Taliban.

Paradise Valley.
1). How does the old lady know they aren't plumbers?
2). Early Grey tea. (Earl Grey-not many English people drink this.).
3). 'on a plate on.' Maybe omit one of the 'on' words.
4). Sam then Saul? Have I missed something?
5). 'A friend of Saul's I thought he needed to talk with the PI. Or should it be 'Why do you want to speak with ME (old lady)/


Saul Madison
1). Saul sobs quietly. Seems out of character.

1). 'trust me, we're on the same side.' Doesn't fit with earlier info.

Afghanistan. 'Eat, the man insists.'

1). 'The tables have turned..' Nice writing here.
2). Maybe omit the 'zamman de' You don't need it.
3). Smashing the boot in... (In UK 'putting the boot in..)

The above are points easily fixed. The main thing at present is that your story has good pace, good story and is pulling the reader along. With reference to pace, I like the change when you insert the 'internal thoughts' pieces (Saul the prisoner etc.).

Chris. Sorting it Out

wekabird3 wrote 527 days ago

Stonefish and the Salamander By Sly. 14/02/2013
Hi there, Saw your book; looked good. I'm no expert on anything much but do give honest feedback. If not useful, dump it and I will delete same. No big deal as I don't get many acknowledgements let alone return reads.

Book Cover. Okay.
SP. Okay, gives the overall theme.
1). Ex-military Officers. Australian? Bugs me a little because all the officers I met (UK) tended towards, 'Follow me chaps,' then brought up the rear.
2). Should there be a comma after Billionaire?
3). 'Surgical means.' Sounds good. I think I get the idea but maybe a more descriptive word/phrase.
4). So, I'm expecting to see opponents other than the US or terrorists (which terrorists? There are so many today). I accept that an explanation/detail may come later.
5). 'Someone important.' Does this imply that 'someone' has the power to co-ordinate all the differing opponents? Again, it's up to me to read further but I now have a reader expectation.

Horn of Africa. June 2007.

1). 'Scorches up through my trainers.' I envisage a semi-desert terrain. Not a place to wear trainers, especially if on 'business.' But again, as the story progresses, maybe someone stole his boots.

Great opener.

New York Feb 2007.

1). Phrases that deviate slightly from the norm are, in my opinion, great e.g.
'Many of us make old bones. 'Offer welcomes.' They tell me that you have your own writing style and not attempting to be other than you.
2). The sentence, He doesn't have...a good few of which still remain. (Don't understand that). You probably do because you are 'there.' But the reader?
3). The flashing of tattoos seems a bit corny, childish.
4). 'African symbols.' Africa is a big place. (maybe tribal symbols).
5). Based on the gung-ho atmosphere at present, I find the word 'eradicating' out of place. (maybe 'taking out').
6). 'I re-run some memories. If you want it, put it somewhere else. It is a deafening interruption of your already created atmosphere. More important it doesn't much for the story.
7). 'Why him?' This indicates that Ricky knows the guy. If so, great. If not maybe 'Any reason?' or something like that.
8). 'Brainwashed teenage devotees.' (Maybe 'brainwashed teenagers' as devotees would be an automatic part of the brainwashing process.
9). 'I've a recent photo....boys leaving.' Maybe give this a bit of thought – double meaning.
10. West Asian languages. We are in the Balkans. (Maybe East European..).

The subject. The Balkans.
1). 'Consummate propaganda..' (skilful?).
2). 'Absorbs the heat.....great line.
3). 'Fervid.' (simplify?).

I'll stop there and catch your response-or not. If you want anything explaining get back to me. Looks like an exciting story. Who is your readership aimed at?

Chris. Sorting it Out

Sneaky Long wrote 528 days ago

Hey Sly,

You have a very engaging style of writing. It works well with type of action story. After watching the team take out a Balkan nationalist, Ivanovic, their methods reminded me of the renown mission impossible team. They have a complete assortment of electronic gadgets with all the bells and whistles, in addition to fire power. They are sort of a free lance impossible team. I did wonder about Ivanovic leaving his villa unguarded and unmanned during the day. I guess no servants or anyone remained inside while he went to the office. But overall you gave us a nice setup and a look at what they do and how they do it. Now we are going to find out what the real story is about.

I had a few Nit pics - Mostly subjective - Chapter 1 : You wrote ...I only ever employ ex-military officers,... perhaps drop "ever" You wrote ...We'll none of us make old bones... perhaps instead ...None of us will make old bones... You wrote a full team, one that he's now a member of. Perhaps instead a full team, of which he's now a member. As I said, all subjective and hardly worth mentioning.

I like your story and the intrigue so far. I will be back to read more to see how this develops. For now - High Stars and watch-list.

Sneaky Long

Jane Mauret wrote 529 days ago

Hello, Sly
Usually I always give some crit but am having trouble here.
However, I should say I have never read thrillers and I think that may make me less good at reviewing as I cannot make a comparison.
I see someone wrote they thought it was too diary-like (which is exactly my problem with my memoir as you and others have had the courage to point out!).
So perhaps that aspect needs to be altered; as authors, we know the story (fiction or non-) and might forget the audience does not have the advantage point we do.
I wonder too if we could have some slightly more original descriptors in place of, eg:
‘glitters beneath a relentless sun’
‘sleek hull gleaming with a reflected light’
‘ a heartbeat later’
For some reason I found ‘pastries and cakes’ jumped out at me as I imagined them tucking into doorstop beef subs or something rather than ‘petit fours.’
It was only recently I worked out why I have a very few books right through here on the site; it seems to be linked to the author’s ability to utilise novel ways of describing people/places/actions.
I have the feeling that this ability comes to writers naturally and is a harder road to hoe for the rest of us- but something to strive for nonetheless.
I wasn’t too sure about the speech commencing “Back then, I learned what it really means to be a man…” I tried to imagine hearing this in a film and wondered if it could be made to sound more realistic than a prepared speech (?).
Having said all that, …
I like the way the action moves around the various locations.
I could picture the team very well with your well-chosen words and phrases and their dialogue.
Grammar and punctuation slips were not an issue here which is shows real polish.
You clearly have a great deal of knowledge to be able to cover the varying subject matters in such detail and finesse.
You also have not over-written the piece which often happens; your phrasing is crisp and consistent.
There is a lot happening in this story but you have managed to covey the various threads to make them remain intelligible to the reader.
(I see we are both set in the Indian Ocean and we both like Hornby and Bryson.)
You say you don’t want to get to ED so does that mean you will go in for self-publishing – is that what you did with your first book?
Meantime, best wishes and thanks again for your insightful comments re my book.
Jane M

mvw888 wrote 536 days ago

Your first Stonefish was one of the first novels I read and backed when I joined the site in 2010. I remembered a sharpness to your writing, thriller with literary panache, and that's exactly how this new work strikes me. I will admit that I rarely read thrillers, so I am no expert. What I think they need, however, is an urgency to the writing, a vivid setting and tough but interestingly flawed characters. Off the top of my head. And this first section has all of that, everything that kept me reading along and drawn in. One small stumble: "nod welcomes," for some reason, that stuck but overall, your writing is top notch in every way. I had a difficult time keeping characters straight, seemed to be many introduced, but this is always an issue with me, so I don't think I'd worry too much about that. I actually liked the way you announced each character, either with a singular trait or something they said, or an astute observation; each one came to life but then for me, they crowded around a bit. In a movie, it would be easier to register. I'm assuming most avid thriller readers are sharper than I with this sort of thing, fast-moving plot and characters, lots of facts streaming in.

Real depth to your plot too, which promise this won't be just a shoot-em-up but something that'll leave ideas in its wake. Great beginning, really enjoyed this.


AVRAHAMANOUCHI wrote 570 days ago

I was mesmerized by the few sections that I read in this chapter. You chose an exciting subject.
I love your quoting Charles DE Gaul on the difference between Patriotism and Nationalism.

Writing in the present tense is not easy. We often not realize that we use past tense unintentionally, but you have done an excellent job.
In one place I am not sure if your use of past tense is correct or not. In any case, you may want to check it.

In the paragraph of "Ricky nods agreement......" you wrote " thing that worried me..."

Avraham Anouchi
Space Mission

Michael Matula wrote 577 days ago

Great, clean writing, with some vivid descriptions and a high level of detail and polish. The opening scene did a terrific job at kicking off the story, and I like the matter-of-fact flashes of violence, the diverse group of characters you've assembled, and the camaraderie between the team members. I thought the Stonefish scenes were especially engaging, though there were a couple of times (particularly with the scene with Zoran going home to eat pizza, and the 8 or so swaps in chapter 2), where I might have scaled back on the number of times I switched perspectives.

I only had a couple of notes from the two chapters I read, and they're all quite minor, and are likely subjective. Please do disregard anything you disagree with.
- I might have changed “brutal pirates” to simply “pirates”, or used a different descriptor, as the adjective didn't quite work for me
- I wasn't sure about the impromptu disrobing to show off the tattoos (it might have worked better for me if the tattoos were of a more personal nature than a dragon or a tribal – or something from their time in the military), though I did like Arnaud's reaction.
- “there's lunch in an elegant restaurant” - this was another time that the adjective felt off for me, as it didn't feel like how someone would describe a restaurant if they're used to living the high life.

As I said, though, I thought you did an excellent job with this, and the two chapters I read definitely left me interested in reading more.
High stars.

Arrival of the Ageless
What, the Elf?

Andrea Taylor wrote 580 days ago

This is very well written. Neat, tight, seamless. And the opener is magic. Nothing bad to say!
the de amerley affair

Parogar wrote 594 days ago

I was about to say, "I'd buy this book"--and then stopped as I continued to read.

The opening scene was fantastic. Active, powerful, and a great way to set the pace--and then you switch from first person to third omniscient, and introduce a ton of people somewhere else in the world, for a reason I can't discern. Immediately names start to flood my brain: Janko, Zoran, Kurepa--whoa are these people? Not that it matters, because 3 paragraphs later, we jump again.

More names now: Ricky, Arnaud, (Geet?)

This came off as overly disjointed, because you take the time to carefully set up scenes, and then you seemingly do nothing with them. You hop to another part of the world. Now, that's not a bad thing (normally). I mean, just look at "Game of Thrones"

The problem is you're not spending any time with your scenes before moving along. You do the basic setup (and they come along quite well) and then you hop over to somewhere else. Also, I don't understand the constantly changing POV. If you're going to be popping in and out of heads, third-limited is the demonstrably proven formula for this. The first/third omniscient switching confuses me. In the first chapter alone, you swapped ... how many? 7 times, was it? Actually, it was 9.

The problem is it feels more like a diary than a complex novel. My humblest suggestion would be to take more time with your Povs. Give them some more breathing room. Why not have Stonefish for one entire chapter and then the subject for another? If you switch back and forth, constantly, within paragraphs of each other, it makes the story difficult to read and follow.

I won't post this on your story until I have your permission.

Seringapatam wrote 599 days ago

Well done. I like it up until now. Its got a good flow to it although at first I struggled with the 'jarring'. A good story with a lot of description. I think its going to do you proud.

superostah wrote 606 days ago

Dude Lit review:
Underwater explosion? Check. . . right away in the first chapter? Of course. Second paragraph? Oh hell's yeah.

This is dude lit, without a doubt.

I'll be back.

RMAWriteNow wrote 611 days ago

Hi Sly; I have just read your first two chapters.
And a very tightly written two chapters they were. This is not my normal sort of read but I found the interchanging of characters and perspectives kept my full attention. I hadn't seen anything done quite like that before and it worked.
There is much to admire in this. I very much liked some of the little touches such as the tattoo comparing passage. These give the story a bit of depth that can at times be missing in some works.
I don't really know why but I found the Saul sections to be really good. Possibly as he is not as dynamic as some of the other characters but still manages to portray an inner strength. Particularly when his captors try to make him eat and he feels in control through them having to learn his language. That was a great touch.
I can't really add a lot to help as I found this very good. My only thought would possibly be in the short pitch which I thought possibly lacked a little of the edge that the actual book does. But that is being very picky.
Really well done and starred suitably highly.
The Snow Lily

Big Daddy wrote 613 days ago

Slick, hip and very cool Stonefish and the Salamander is a more than worthy follow up to the excellent Stonefish. Confident writing from a storyteller at the top of his game. Cry Havoc and unleash the Stonefish of war!

Alice Barron wrote 614 days ago

Hi Sly - swap read.

I don't think I am going to be any help to you at all. I read and re-read to try to find something of benefit to share with you. You are looking for positive feedback but the positive is in your book. It's very well written. I read two of your chapters which were quite long but that didn't matter as your writing is crisp and clear, easy to follow with a good story unfolding.
I think the headings are a great idea. We know exactly where we are in the story all the time. We know each character immediately without having to go back to check which is often the case in books.

I felt there were two sentences in Stonefish - New York which could possibly be tightened up a bit. Here goes.

"No, secutity at his place is high"......The sentence is perfect but for me reading it I though it would sound better as......"No, security at his place is tight.".......I felt there was a bite to it expressed this way.

"I've yet to find a security system I can't get past......Again, nothing wrong with the sentence. But how about......."I've yet to find a security system I can't unlock.

Good luck with your work. Starred.

Warrick Mayes wrote 618 days ago


I've just read chapter two, all its little subtleties of plot building, slowly enlightening the reader as to what's going on. It was an interesting and appealing read. It even grabbed my attention away from the England-Sweden game on TV.
It did not seem to matter that I had missed the intro of the characters chapter one. They came alive in the chapter, established by their conversation and the little nuances of the plot or the comments of others.

Each scene is nicely headed with a character and location to aid the reader instead of having to state it as part of the narrative. The dialogue is totally believable and in good proportion to the narrative.

There is a tensesness in the chapter, in the dialogue, the narrative and in the scenes that reflects the situation that Madison finds himslef in.

I found one very small thing for you to look at: "...between the fundamentalist who want power and the liberals who want freedom." Looks like it needs an 's' on 'fundamentalists'

Best wishes

Edentity wrote 639 days ago

Okay, for what it's worth. Bear in mind I don't read thrillers and this is only opinion. I really like your writing - you're confident and don't feel the need to overegg the pudding. The writing is, on the whole, taut and lean - like your characters. This is number two in a series, yes? Well, kudos for giving us all the info we need without having to have read the first book. Stonefish's character comes across strongly and sets the tone for the book. I don't usually like present tense narrative but you make it work well and it fits this story, giving it immediacy. Could see this as a film, no problem.
Nitpicks...cos you asked.
'Given that underwater...' bit clunky.
Maybe 'Underwater explosions are... so I breathe a sigh of relief as the waves rush... ???
Wet-suited Ricky sounds odd - I tried re-reading it several times but it still jarred. Maybe - 'Ricky hops ashore, sleek in his wetsuit (or his wetsuit still dripping)???
'This contract stays secret.' Maybe a little tighter.

After this opening, the writing seems to settle into itself and it flows much more easily. I often think openings are so damn tough.
The Subject
'In a much colder climate than Stonefish??? Sounds odd... than Africa maybe? Though I'd put Zoran up front as you're introducing him for first time... So maybe Zoran E I practices his consummate propoganda in a much colder climate...

What Janko's seen - the majority of this par feels a bit clumsy on the ear.

Stonefish - NY - few days' growth (missing apostrophe)
Love this intro to the gang - the tatt detail and convo is great - establishes their characters really well - lovely show.
Just wondering, do SEALs call themselves SEALs - amongst themselves, I mean.
Like the character of Ricky...

First chapter seems pretty long - or is that just my perception? I struggle reading online.

Hope this helps a little.

StaceyM wrote 663 days ago

Sly - a return read as promised (sorry for the delay - my computer was on go-slow).

I paid particular attention to the sections you asked - those of Saul and his mindset while imprisoned. I can't see any glaring issues and I'd say they're an as accurate as possible description of an educated philosipher losing his marbles ;)

My only problem is a personal one - I don't enjoy omniscient narratives and your first chapter, in particular, grated on me because it felt like a lot of tell with not much show. I appreciate that jumping from third to first person narrative is necessary for this book (it's something I did in Hospital Corners) but I'd prefer a close third person narrative. You got closer in once we were dealing with V; I guess it was just the first chapter with "The Subject". I don't know if there's any way you can change don't want to get too close into his POV because he's dead by the end of the chapter....but it's maybe something to keep at the back of your mind.

High stars, because the writing is tight and I can see the market for this book (just not my shelf - I like light and fluffy or deeply depressing!). My only proofing point is that you might want to capitalise "Coke" in Chapter 2....unless they're sipping vodka and cocaine? I'd also put President with a capital, and General....but these are minor points in an otherwise well-written narrative. I really hope your agent gets you some recognition for your hard work and skill.

Peter B wrote 663 days ago

I sure hope they are on our side! I spent 13 years repairing motor vehicles for the military, and my neighbor emailed me from Afganistan yesterday, so this really hit home. Thankfully I was able to heed my mother's call...
Don't be a hero Peter, stay in the back! The writing was like it was straight from Sarge, congrats. Peter B. Nagy

RW Andrews wrote 666 days ago

First of all I do not see any real changes that need to be made in the first chapter. It has a good flow, and plenty of variety along with definition of characters. The story has enough intrigue to draw the reader in. SO overall I see a polished MS in the making. The one problem I did have comes from the length of the chapter. I have read some authors who use long opening chapters and it works for them. I wonder if you could divide this up into two chapters and enhance it just a little more. Otherwise I really like what you have done thus far!

Tod Schneider wrote 678 days ago

Dynamite! An apt word, considering your opening scene. Although I'm sure your seal used something more interesting. Anyway -- great adventure writing, with endless action, heroes and villains, no space wasted and superb craftsmanship. This shows great promise! Best of luck with this.
My genre's on a different shelf, but if you think you'd like a middle-grade, tongue-in-cheek adventure novel, please do come visit The Lost Wink.