Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 11989
date submitted 24.10.2012
date updated 20.11.2013
genres: Fiction
classification: adult
incomplete

Dreaming in Colours That Don't Exist

E.J. Stephens

Vivienne escapes to Cornwall to rebuild her marriage. Instead she awakens an ancient, obsessive love. Now she has to choose – man or god?

 


Vivienne Crawley comes to Eden hoping to save her marriage and rebuild her life.


The house is old and beautiful, perched on a cliff above the pounding sea. But Eden has a curious past and a disturbing reputation. Once home to an esoteric religious community, it holds a legacy of passion, betrayal and violent death.


When Vivienne meets a man in a casual online encounter, she thinks it’s just a harmless flirtation, an innocent way of boosting her confidence and rekindling her bruised sexuality. But then a stranger appears in the village, and past and present collide with disturbing and possibly tragic consequences.



 
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cults, erotica, gods, mythology, religion, romance, sex, sexuality, supernatural

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HarperCollins Wrote

Plot Summary
Viv Crawley’s husband is horrific. A writer (who rubbishes Viv’s own work), Nathan cheats on her with a man and pulls her into hare-brained schemes with no regard for her feelings, and his newest project – the purchase of a vast Gothic house called Eden, threatens to bankrupt them both and pull Viv away from her home, London. As the moving date approaches, Nathan is called to go on a publicity tour, leaving Viv to move into ‘Eden’ alone, where she will soon learn of the secrets of the house.

But it isn’t only the world around her that is off kilter. Vivian meets a strange character on the writing forums where she takes solace. Moreover, even her dreams aren’t behaving like normal.

Similar Authors and Genres:

This romantic women’s fiction with a gothic element. It would fit nicely into the same genre as someone like Mhairi McFarlane, or possibly JoJo Moyes or Hilary Boyd. It is definitely a female-centric story, with a supernatural element, but it isn’t quite category romance. It has a pleasingly wistful quality.

Weaknesses

One of the weaknesses of Dreaming is the characterization, which can quickly fall into types.

Viv Crawley is definitely a victim. Whilst she has moments of fierce independence (such as when she swims in the sea naked), she is down-trodden and unsure of herself to an extent that makes her at time difficult to sympathize with. Although women do of course stay with their husbands through affairs, an affair in which she was publicly ridiculed makes it a different story and difficult to imagine that realistically, her character would stay with justification.

Additionally, men finding out they are gay or bisexual later in life is an issue fraught with complex emotion and, often, a degree of secrecy. For her husband to embark so casually on an affair with a man seems to stretch credulity. I think this element needs to be much more thoroughly explored if it is to work.

Another ‘eyebrow- raising’ moment is the purchase of the house – Viv and Nathan need to be richer, or she needs another reason to acquiesce to his demand for the house, because one writer and one unemployed person simply don’t have that much money!

The prose is generally of a high quality and your dialogue is good, but a little heavy handed in some places: ‘Hey, come on. Loosen up a bit. It’s Saturday; not like you’ve got anywhere much to go or anyone to see, right? You’ve just swum buck naked in the fucking ocean for fuck’s sake so hang loose, girl. I don’t know you from Adam but it strikes me you’re a spring coiled so tight you could burst.’ There is a bit too much explication here, and most people don’t speak in great long swathes. Try shorter bursts of dialogue, and remember to trust your reader and show rather than telling.

Finally, as a reader, I found the sex dreams jarring. Viv’s understanding of herself and her desires growing alongside her understanding of the house works brilliantly, but these dreams are too different in tone from the rest of the book – there needs to be a clearer progression in the mystery. The rumours, the disembodied voice in the house that is echoed on screen and the dreams all add up to be a bit much in an otherwise ‘realistic’ novel.

Strengths

You are an excellent writer, and should not be disheartened by some of the inconsistencies in this novel. Your tone is true, the dialogue often witty, Tom is a brilliant character and this has the potential to be a fantastic story. You do however need a little bit of clarity regarding what this book is – romance? Mystery? Make your decision and stick to it. You are certainly a strong plotter, and the pace never dips, meaning that this has the potential to be a real page-turner. You have an excellent commercial voice and write in good clean prose, so once you’ve made some changes to this, you should have a marketable book. The difficulties of genre, tone and creating characters that stand up to interrogation are all problems writers face regularly. Perhaps think about ‘taking your characters for a walk’ – what would they buy at the supermarket, who was their first crush, what do they dislike about other drivers? Until you feel they can stand up to anything.

Decision

This is currently not quite the right fit for HarperCollins, and it needs a lot of work. But the foundations are all here. With work, this could be a very good book.

IGottheReaderSyndrome wrote 353 days ago

It was a rough line between the dusky interiors and lusty dreams inside the house and the colourful almost hazy world that she lives in. And suddenly, from in between, she steps out of her house to inhale the clean, blue, pure oceanic reality set above a beautiful village that she likes to look at from a safe distance.
I loved it, and it leaves me wanting for more. But the transition from her dreamy state to the dusty reality inside the house is a little fuzzy.

Amanuensis wrote 355 days ago

The most intelligent and best written HC review. Positively distinguished. Cor!

Angietee wrote 355 days ago

Congratulations to you. That's a great and much deserved achievement.

MysterAuthor55 wrote 355 days ago

Review -- down-trodden and unsure of herself to an extent that makes her at time difficult to sympathize with--Just saying!

Luke Bramley wrote 399 days ago

Hi, absolutely loved your first chapter, finally a novel with real gravitas, something with a mind and a purpose behind it. I wondered if you wanted to do a deep read - starting with first chapters (though mine is very long!). This is the first time I've ever asked but I can see parallels between our writing styles and thus I think we can help each other. I genuinely think this has got a real shot - I felt like I was on that cliff top with them and I cared about Vivian and Nathan - and that's all you need! I wonder, have you publicised your HC review? I'm just curious what they had to say. Please get back to me and once again, bravo.

Edward Gardner wrote 411 days ago

Lovely writing - makes sense it's gotten the medal. Not really sure what the etiquette is for medalled books (i.e. what sorts of comments you're looking for) but thought I'd put in my two cents.

Chapter 1
This is a great first chapter. I think it's impressive how much you do in such a short time without making it feel forced. Your poetic and intriguing description comparing Viv and Nathan - one carved from something larger than herself, one built up layer by layer - felt completely natural in your narrator's voice. I found myself amazed Viv and Nathan were already looking at the house, walking around it, Viv reflecting on her complex feelings about it, when I'd only met them a page or two before. In fact I felt instantly comfortable with the narrator, never at arms length, never distanced by obvious literary devices or cliches.

Chapter 2
So much mystery about Viv's past, yet again I don't feel it's forced (ie. I don't feel I'm reading a novel about her)
loved this line: 'a dark fairy tale that had somehow beached here, up above the sea, begrudging the land that had claimed it'

nit: We didn't know the area at all before we bought [the] it.

Chapter 3
Again, Viv has a very comfortable voice - even her descriptions of the unusual and frustrating events told in this chapter flow easily.

nit: 'noticing the threadbare condition of the dusky red runner was.'
I'd say 'by the look of a couple [of] bedrooms papered in cool neutrals'

Edward Gardner

JEAhern wrote 413 days ago

What's that they say about a great performer leaving the audience wanting more? Well that's the closest I can get to describing how I feel after reading.

JEAhern wrote 416 days ago

On chapter 4 and at this point I like Tom Bailey as well. He has a natural charm that endears. I reckon, at the moment, that he gets on well with everybody. I'll comment further as I progress.

Mahoney wrote 425 days ago

Without belaboring the point, you are a talented writer and to repeat both praise and constructive criticism from others is of no value to you EJ Stephens

JD Revene wrote 426 days ago

EJ,

Long ago I promised to look at this. I imagine you'd given up expecting a read--and I'm embarassed to note that in the meantime you've made the desk, I don't visit often enough--but here I am.

Let's start with the pitches, short and long. On the short I'm afraid I wouldn't have read it. These are hard, but I feel you need something strong here, something like the last clause of your long pitch.

The long pitch is stronger. I have a few nit picks. I think it would be worth saying in the first paragraph that Eden is in Cornwall, in case a reader hasn't read the short pitch. I want a pitch to tell me who, what, where and when and give a sense of the sort of book it is. Yours does most of that, though you probably have enough words to expand the story arc: I have a sense of what starts the story (the online encounter) and where it heads (the stranger and the collision of past and present), but I'd like a little more about the struggles Vivienne faces. Oh, and a minor point, but I don't think you need the first comma in the first sentence of the last paragraph.

Onto to the work itself. I like to start, having read the pitches, by looking at the first page (roughly 13 lines of MS) and asking the question whether or not I'd then buy it in a bookshop. In this case I'm looking at the first four paragraphs.

And I certainly would read on. The prose is brilliant. You have rythmn and great word choices. It's simple, but the imagery is strong, and right at the bottom of that first page there's a hook: people are coming. You've also set up both intimacy and distance between the narrator, who I take to be Vivienne, and Nathan, who I assume is her husband. This is one of the stronget beginning's I've ever read here.

Of course, I have quibbles. They're minor, though, and as much anything reflect my likings. In the first paragraph you write of the drop to the sea below. For me 'below' is redundant: one could not drop unless it was below. However, given the rythmns of your prose I'd be careful excising words. That said, in the last sentence I wonder if 'small' adds anything to the observation of Nathan pulling out a notebook.

Next para 'the path itself' could simply be 'the path'.

Third paragraph, I think a comma is required after 'The path turned', but I'm not sure that the one before 'he stopped and stepped up onto the bank.'is required.

Apart from these insignificant observations, I have nothing but admiration for this first page.

Next para I love, except the last sentence: 'What a strange thought.'. To me, this is an add-on that almost shows a lack of confidence in the reader to judge what proceeds it.

There's a paragraph beginning 'Maybe I was tired . . .' which I think needs to be joined to the following one. Where to split a paragraph is always a matter of judgement, but the question asked in this sentence is not resolved to the end of the next paragraph, which for me makes it naturally one block of text.

Great natural dialogue. See this too rarely. I love it (oops, am I gushing a little?).

After Viv's wonderful, yes, no yes dialogue you proceed to her action, but then move to Nathan's. I'd break the paragraph here, so that only Viv's words and actions are in it. Nathan's actions can be attached to his question, which comes next. It's perhaps something of an old-fashioned convention, but when grouping narrative with dialogue, I find the convention of only having one character's words or action in a paragraph can aid reading (and I see, reading on, it's one you generally follow).

Later you have Viv fall into a 'reveries' lulled by the waves. This is the nearest you've come to cliche. I wonder if the waves could simply lull her?

When they're looking at the house, which is beautifuly described, Viv say 'Quite quite amazing'. I think perhaps a comma between the two 'quites'.

A very strong first chapter. Descriptive, giving insight to the characters and yet building tension through subtle references to back-story. And, of course, it ends neatly with one word raising the question that means a reader *has* to read on. Seriously, I defy anyone to stop here!

But before I read on, one more observation. You use a lot of semi-colons; I'm quite partial to these myself. But I tend to edit as many as I can out of my fiction. It's not a common punctuation mark, and it can have a fussy feel. This work has a literary feel, so perhaps a little fussiness is forgiveable. But what I'm loving most is how this balance lyricism with spare prose, and I think pruning some semi-colons might enhance that. Just a though--like all my comments. I'm certainly no expert, just a reader.

Chapter two opens as confidently and strongly as chapter one did. My first observation is in the dialogue with the ice cream seller: he's referred to twice, in quite close proximty, as the guy. In the second instance I think you could tag the dialogue with 'he said' and avoid the echo. And I'm not sure his next line requires a tag at all. It's apparent who's talking, and Viv's unwillingness to engage is shown in her response. Trust the reader a little more.

'Steel grey-blue' seems to me an adjective too many. Perhaps the first time I've found description over done. Not bad in such a descriptive piece.

You have a sentence 'Like in the fairy stories . . .' and I wonder if this is a new sentence or in fact a continuation of the one before.

When Viv talks to Van, the cat. You have her console him (?) before he yowls. I think this might work better turned right (I also know right away that it's a cat she's talking to).

Eden is just outside Temperance? I love it.

Then the description of the priest, this is another place I feel perhaps things are, just slightly, overdone. Particularly the focus on the open face. Do you need both the Slavice reference and then the elaboration?

In the priest's dialogue there are a few elipses, which nicely give the impression there are things he is not saying. The pedant in me, though, would like to see spaces between the dots.

The dialogue in this chapter is as natural in the first. Only one line did I want to prune (and I'm know for wanting to carve words out):

'But it's a beautiful place for sure and I wish you well [there].'

I'd also insert a comma after 'for sure'.

Once again the chapter ends strongly, perhaps not quite as strongly as the first. But it's no hardship to move on to the next chapter.

Chapter three moves perhaps a little slower than the first two, but has the same spare lyricism. The opening dialogue with the removalist works well to give an impression of something not being quite right. Then the description that follows is long but rarely overdone. The images are good and my interest was maintained.

However, when you described the fireplace I wondered if you needed the last two sentences. After 'Interesting.' I think the rest is probably redundant; I'm sure an intelligent reader will have made the connections.

In the dream seduction, which starts somewhat abruptly but works well, there's another paragraph where Viv's words and Nathan's action are conjoined (it's the one beginning 'Sssh').

Later on Viv 'clocks' the wiring, and, for me, this word didn't fit with the voice established so far, it jarred.

Oh and 'soft vermillion light' for a sunset is perhaps another phrase trying too hard to be literary, verging again on cliche (two in three chapters is really not bad, and I'm being picky because I'm loving it so much).

And, no surprise now, the chapter ends strongly.

Normally I review only three chapters but you also asked me to look at the sex scene in chapter seven, so here goes:

This didn't, at first, strike me as being as well written as the opening three chapters. I found the third paragraph a little confusing, I think perhaps you try to be too specific. I was trying to put the details together, but perhaps a vague, impressionisticc sense of the scene was all that was required. After that, though, as the sex began you found your rythmn. At first there's some tension between being in the dream and Viv's awareness, for example the paragraph beginning 'I felt a finger on my lips', but as the scene progresses the reader becomes more immersed. If I were you I'd see how many of the references to it being a dream you could cull, I feel they risk drawing the reader out of the scene.

Dream scenes are hard. For me, sex scenes are like any other action scene: there's needs to be movement, they shouldn't go on too long, and there should be character development. I also like sex scenes where things are real. Not everything goes right, there are condoms, smells, clumsy moments and wet patches. None of that is appropriate in a dream scene. You need more langour and things are often more perfect than perfect. You achieve this and the openning has a sense of ritual and mystery.

I confess I enjoyed the sex scene less than, say, the description of the house (never thought I'd say that). But this may well be because I jumped from chapter three to chapter seven: I'm lacking context.

When I have more time I will be reading chapters four, five and six to give me a better lead in.

When the mystery man joins the scen Viv exclaims to herself (if one can exclaim to one's self) how big he is. But at this stage he has only inserted an inch or so . . . at first I thought this exclamation should be deferred to after the thrust (I try and avoid that word in my sex scenes) but perhaps it was a reference to width, in which case I might say thick rather than big.

I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to read this: I think it's possibly a new Authonomy favourite of mine. I rate in the four best I've read here. (The others, if you're interested, are Loisaida and Daisychains of Silence, both available on Kindle and both selling well, and Ramdan Sky recently picked up Harper Collins.) I look forward to your review, I suspect it will be stellar.

Five stars and on my shelf--though that's rather pointless, given you already have the medal. But good writing deserves recognition.

Thanks for sharing this.

W.D. Frank wrote 430 days ago

Hello, Miss Edentity...Or Mr. Edentity..Honestly I am not sure which one is accurate.

I suddenly remembered you and decided to write a quick review for your book before I finally end up going to breakfast. (I am in serious need of some waffles right now)

Also, do note that I am really tired, so I hope you can forgive any errors or inconsistencies that you may encounter in my review.

Anyway, time for the review...

Your writing style is pretty good for the most part and the story flows well enough however the story itself feels too mundane to suit my bizarre taste in fiction. This isn't any fault of yours I assure you.
This type of tale just doesn't click with my personality.

The descriptions are well done and I have stored a fairly vivid image of how things are supposed to look in my head. I offer you my congratulations for this accomplishment.

The characters sort of bore me and I am not really sure why...Perhaps they are just too normal.

In my opinion the dialog isn't anything special either however it works so you shouldn't bother worrying about it too much.

Anyway, like I said this book isn't for me however it is well executed for the most part and I am not so self-absorbed that I cannot appreciate this quality.

I wish you luck on all your projects and I hope you have a good rest of the week.

Sincerely,

W.D. Frank

Carol Repton wrote 451 days ago

Have just read the first three chapters, and I was blown away by the quality of your writing! Amazing! It sucked me in as if you were casting a magic spell. From chapter 1, I could clearly picture the scene, with Viv and Nate walking along the coastal path. Taut, concise writing, with realistic dialogue and first person narrator's stream of consciousness.
In chapter 2, I like the description of driving down the narrow lane.
I'm not sure I like the quoting of other writers, e.g. Carson McCullers, Margaret Drabble. When your own writing is this good, you don't need to use other writers' quotes. Very evocative descriptions of autumn leaves, dragons on pillars. When Viv suddenly sees the little graveyard with that word 'Paradise' again, it all starts becoming gradually more and more creepy. I like Viv's musings about Coincidence and Fate. The vicar is rather strange - why is he asking her if she is married? Their conversation says a lot, though not in so many words.
In chapter 3, it's strange how the builders seem afraid of the house, in such a hurry to leave that they take their beers away with them. Again, the personification of the house is masterfully done.
Typo - delete "was" at end of par beginning "The entrance hall ...
The love scene with (was it a ghost?) is very creepy, and cleverly done with the cat appearing at the end. Did she dream it or what? There's dramatic irony with Viv blissfully unaware of the menacing atmosphere until she tries to light the fire ... Eeek! That was a very scary scene. And when she goes outside and sees the smoke billowing out of the house, and the sun sinking "into a bath of blood" (!),then thinks she sees someone in an upstairs window - omg!
This is so well written, with the tension building up to a crescendo, I'm totally bowled over by your writing.
And very envious, might I add.

Carol
Worst Case Scenario

Berta Eugene wrote 479 days ago

Well, I read through to chap. 2. What I loved, straight away, was your ability to make me see and feel. I just finished reading Winder Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, and her style of writing pulled me in the same manner. There are not a lot of stories out there that grab me right away and make me think about "what happens next: but your's has, and I will definitely be back to finish. Love your style !
Good luck,
Berta Eugene.

FrankBalm wrote 484 days ago

Hey there.


Started reading this when I first joined, but didn't want to post until I went through it a few more times. I'm glad I did since this is incredibly well crafted and down right captivating! Look forward to the paperback!

Seven Everson wrote 486 days ago

Hi EJ,

I liked this book quite a bit. I hope you have more of it tucked away somwhere. I love the gritty realism of life mixed with the heady fantasy of the "something other". When it's finally all up I will be back to find out what's going on!

xxxSeven Everson

WendyLou wrote 488 days ago

Hi, read a couple of chapters and it sounds like the beginnings of a good story. No obvious mistakes and nothing negative to say except your description of how she was feeling about going to the house in both ch 1&2 was good enough, meaning the explanation and hypothesising afterwards about why she felt this was not necessary and maybe even gives a little too much away, I don't know. Good luck, anyway. You seem to be doing very well.

CJBowness wrote 496 days ago

This is excellent; well written, easy to read, intriguing. I'm not surprised it's done so well. I have backed and starred it although you probably don't need any more of either! I look forward to reading the rest one day.
CJ Bowness
The Accidental Adventurers

Tottie Limejuice wrote 497 days ago

The fact that this has made the editors' desk says it all. I read the first two chapters and was totally drawn in, delighting in the easy style, the blissful absence of errors and the flow of the narrative. As I once heard Mariah Carey say on a talent show, I have no notes.

This deserves to do very well and I wish you lots of luck with it.

Tottie Limejuice
Sell the Pig

KodeBreaker wrote 498 days ago

Not my usual read, but very enjoyable, I will add this to my watch list and come back to it soon.

JulesW wrote 500 days ago

A good read, I liked the pitch and I enjoyed the story. I can't get on here very often, but I find such worthy books when I do.
Jules

Eileen Kay wrote 500 days ago


This pitch has a mysterious tone, and one which suggests it's a story for women readers mainly, I think, although "Chick Lit" doesn't sound like the right category. I don't know which one does, but categories don't always tell us everything we need to know, after all. At the end of the pitch, when you say "What happens when the one holding your hand isn't the one who holds your heart", I was hoping there would be something linked to your intriguing man-or-god mention, earlier on. Surely if we are getting a bit of the supernatural in here, we want to know? I get the feeling from all your key words that there's a lot more mystery than the pitch is letting on.

The feel is mysterious at the start of chapter one, as well. The writing style is assured, intelligent and smooth. I was easily absorbed into the couple's world, and the pace was good. The house's "entrance" was marvellous, as if it is the third main character here. If I didn't know better, I'd almost say it's a higher-class literary version of a haunted house tale.

I can only ever read one chapter of any writer on this site, but this is very promising, and I'd like to congratulate you on a elegant style.

best wishes from
Eileen Kay
Noodle Trails

stripyjumper wrote 501 days ago

Very captivating plot. Caught my eyes, I'll be back to read some more. Can't wait.

Lenny Banks wrote 501 days ago

Hi E J, I took a look at chapter 3, congratulations at reaching the top 10, I know how hard it has been. I like a mystery, and I have to say you captured my imagination. It felt like I had been there before, I'm not sure if thats a good thing or a bad thing! I noted you use single speech brackets, it's personal preference and I made the same mistake myself, but I found the double speech brackets seem to work better in a novel. You can use single brackets for thoughts or emphasis, I also noted you used numbers in the text, I wondered if written word would look more professional? Good work, I think it needs a little polishing but I am sure you will find people who will want to read this. Good Luck
Kindest Regards and Best Wishes
Lenny Banks
Tide and Time: At The Rock

Amersham wrote 502 days ago

Ok, you've got me hooked on this! I would buy it, which is not something I've felt about that many books on the site. It started a bit slowly for me but you kept me reading. There's probably a bit of editing you could do to increase the pace but it works well as it is. You're revealing the back story in tantalizing bites which I really like. I'm not normally keen on this type of story but you sold me on this one so it has to be good! I know it is doing well on the site already but I'm putting it on my bookshelf because that's where it deserves to be. Of course, if you do have time to cast your eye over Pushkin's Maestro I'd be thrilled, but this is a stand alone critique and you deserve success.

Nartana wrote 504 days ago

Very good reading.I have only started it again but really like it.

Jed Oliver wrote 505 days ago

This is truly masterful writing. Although I normally avoid books labelled "erotica," This book caught my attention from the start. Backed and starred! Very best Regards, Jed Oliver (Saving Bob).

Janet/Helen wrote 506 days ago

Dreaming in Colours That Don't Exist. Chapters 1 to 8.

I've had this listed for a read for what seems like years now. Finally got to it and Wow! I love this story. (Missed chapter 3 as there was a 'fault in downloading' Thanks Authonomy. I'm not going to bother with any other comments as with all you've already got and the ranking position you're in, you don't need anything from me.
Brilliant writing, onto bookshelf - better late than never. Janet

Janet/Helen
The Stranger In My Life

Nicky Morgan wrote 508 days ago

This is a cracking read!
High stars from me (and will keep on my watchlist)
Nik
Silver Bullet

MC Storm wrote 511 days ago

Hi EJ
Well i read through two chapters and really enjoyed it. I sense the suspense, the house, the people, countryside. There's a great deal of description, but for me I rather enjoyed that.The dialogue works great and again only my opinion, I would have liked to see more. Overall the wrting is engaging and have WL to come back and read more.
MC
Exposed

emarie wrote 511 days ago

Is there only this one chapter? I can't seem to get beyond it. I like what I read so far, but there isn't enough for me to do anything other than what I've done...read chapter one.
--emarie
Jackson Jacob Henry Brown, III

Leesha McCoy wrote 511 days ago

WOW - O.M.G @ the end of chapter 8!!!!
I think I noticed some out of place speech marks along the way but it didn't ruin the story for me. I will be honest and say that it took me a little while to get hooked, I kept reading and did get into it though.
Read all that is here - (where can I get the rest?) shocking and puzzling and a million and one other things all at the same time. Backed this and hope it makes the desk for march. Best of luck.
Leesha. (Becoming Aware)

Maevesleibhin wrote 513 days ago

Dreaming in Colours that don't Exist.
I read everything posted.
I will start out with my unqualified admiration for the great title.
I love the title.
However, I did not read the blurb, so I really had no idea what I was getting into. I expected literary fiction with a sprinkling of science fiction perhaps. But that's not quite what I got.
Overall, I have to say that this is really not a book for me. It seems to be doing very well, and I do wish you the best of luck with it. I will give you my comments and I hope that some of them will be helpful, but do take them with a grain of salt.
Hook and plot: This starts out as a very self-conscious book. The first person narrative is brooding and contemplative. But it does not hook very enthusiastically. The hike in the countryside and the discovery of the house are not what I would call gripping hooks. In fact, I think it is the language that hooks more than anything else. More on this later.
After the discovery of the house, the plot wonders rather slowly, the refurbishing of the house being the main driver. This, and a bit of town gossip and biblical references is all that we have going on until we get to the strange dreams, and then the Internet chat session. It is not until the last posted chapter that we get what I feel should be the hook to begin with.
From the plot point of view, I think this is a bit of an issue. As you are driving with character development it may not be an overall issue, but I think I would be a bit better hooked if you did not keep her betrayal a secret. Although doing this may eliminate the hook of curiosity (why is she so messed up?) , I think it would lead to a stronger driver at the beginning of the book.
There is also a bit of a plotline that develops late in the posting about what the house was in the sixties, and the whole concept of the nymphomaniac ghosts. I think that this plotline is interesting but, again, comes in very late in the posting.
I will admit that I found the Internet-possessing, dream-infiltrating, sexually liberating ghost a bit hard to swallow. I think you mitigate this a bit with the descriptions of the house, which for some reason gives a bit more legitimacy to the ghost story for me.
Character development- the posting is more or less marked by the opening up of Viv through the process of bringing the house back to its old glory. I think that this is very well done and successful. We see her losing her inhibitions and breaking out of her old habits as she cleans and scrubs and restores.
Even though this is very good CD,
I feel that I have not been given a reason to really care about Viv, so it is all but wasted on me. I think giving me a bit more background (in dialogue, preferably) would make her more endearing and interesting. The last posted chapter showed a lot of very good CD made possible by the conversation with Sandy which earlier chapters did not afford.
I feel there is very little CD of supporting characters, including her husband. This is not a huge issue, as it is a book about her, but rich supporting characters always add to a book.
Language/writing- Although I found the first chapter a bit oppressive, once I got used to it I really enjoyed the writing style, and found that this was what kept me reading more than anything else. There is a kind of stark warmth that is reminiscent of the house you are describing. Descriptions were very good and I got a very vivid sense for the ambiance.
I feel like I should say something about the sex scenes. I really liked the scene where V gets turned on by the wooden floor. I think the other ones worked well too. The ritual bathing in the last one helped make the scene a bit more mystical and less prurient.
Again, please take what I say with a grain of salt. You have great CD combined with lovely writing. I think some work on plot may help make this a stronger read.
Best of luck with it,
Maeve
(Fresh Meat)

JoMount wrote 513 days ago

What a beautiful voice you have developed, E.J. The title immediately drew my attention. It sounds like a really deep, thought provoking film title. Your style is very natural and easy to read. The words just flow off the page and it is clearly not over-written. How refreshing to see adverbs used to good effect here. Wonderful.
Jo

J.Adams wrote 517 days ago

First, this is one of the best titles I've ever come across. And since I had real difficulty with finding a title for my own novel, (I mean one that made sense and connected with the story,) I am particularly delighted with this book title. It's compelling and it works beautifully with this window into Vivienne's life and the peculiar circumstances she finds herself in the middle of.

Chapter One

I love the house and the location, and am looking forward to doing more exploring. I'm not attached to Vivienne or Nathan yet, and wish I were, but I'm old school and I don't believe an author has to snag the reader in within the first paragraph or page, it's good to take some time to get to know the characters and I'm inspired to move forward. Mainly because I can imagine loving such a location, myself.

There is a typo at the very end of the chapter in the second to last paragraph, second sentence. The word "set" is in here twice, the second one needs to be deleted. It reads:
"We sold the London flat, exchanged contracts, set a moving date set and then, suddenly, the day arrived."

Chapter Two

Just a thought - you probably put the names together for this novel before the popular Downton Abbey came into existence, but the last name Crawley is the name of the Lords and Lady's of Downton Abbey, and your Vivienne Crawley is being referred to as the Mistress or Lady of the Manor. It's been made clear that this estate was the grand estate for the area, so just wanted to point this out. (The Dowager Countess of Grantham's name is Violet Crawley, pretty similar to Vivienne Crawley.) I named my novel "The Existence Game" and committed to it before I ever heard of "The Hunger Games." It was frustrating to have the word "Game" in both my new novel and a novel that had become an overnight best selling book. Had I known about The Hunger Games, I would not have named my novel with the word "Game" in it. Just wanted to point this out in case you haven't watched Downton Abbey, but would wish to know of this coincidence.

There's a typo in the paragraph that begins "No, I'm afraid I don't." The following sentence needs to have the word "the" removed: "We didn't know the area at all before we bought the it."

I'm still not feeling any attachment to Vivienne, and I like to like characters. But I am intrigued to learn more about the odd history of the estate.

Chapter Three

Wow, if I were Vivienne, I would not tell moving people, strangers, that I was going to be alone in a secluded house for weeks on end! She's pretty naive for having lived in London. Or I'm pretty jaded, living in the States!!

Possibly a typo, not sure, English being different in the U.S. than in the U.K., but this sentence looks unfinished to me:
"The chimney probably had birds nests and all sorts up there."
I'm wondering, all sorts of what?

I'm sorry, maybe I'm being stupid, but I really do not understand why Vivienne didn't do everything in her power to put out that fire that wasn't venting properly. We have a wood stove and I can't imagine leaving it unattended if the smoke was billowing out into the house. I am very confused why she would just shut the door on that room and go outside to have some wine.

Chapter Four

Typo, the word "on" needs to be added after the word "agreed" in this sentence:
"Sitting at the kitchen table with mugs of tea, we agreed a plan of action."

I'm confused about Vivienne's wondering about the house and property, but not making any effort to look anything up on the internet, as the vicar had mentioned early on that there was quite a bit of information available. (Upon further reading I see that there wasn't Internet ability until a company came out to install wifi, but even then, she doesn't look up the history of this very strange house.)

Possible typo, I think the word "to" needs to follow the word "led" in this sentence:
"My mind skated away from the path those thoughts led, and I turned back towards the house."
Or, if you don't like the word "to" there, then possibly something like:
"My mind skated away from where those thoughts led, and I turned back towards the house."

I like Tom and his wife. I still don't care much about Vivienne, and I'm thinking that at this point, I ought to feel a bit more invested in her. I'm curious to learn what horrible thing happened to her, but I don't feel a connection to her, and I wish that I did.

Chapter Five

I've just had a hint of why I feel so indifferent to Vivienne. She has a seriously fatalistic attitude that turns me off. It's all being expressed now with this paragraph where she's musing that all her (so-called) friends don't realize love never lasts, etc.

Further down in the same scene... I've never known anyone who was truly happy who spent time repeating inspiring mantras. Inspiring mantras (affirmations) are for those who are desperately wishing they were happy. It seems that Vivienne wasn't happy during the time that she is now remembering as being a happy time, dancing under the stars and whatnot. She was trying to create a happy self, and for some reason, which presumably will make itself clear at some point, she gave up trying. But it doesn't seem she was ever happy.

I'm nearly half way through the posted portion of this manuscript. I'm hoping that Vivienne will learn something from Tom and his wife about living life outside of one's head.

Ah, finally, when Vivienne discovers the attic and the rocking horse, I am beginning to feel a genuine curiosity about her, and am beginning to feel for her. This is getting good.

But.... I'm sorry Vivienne is drawn to find out more about the Internet person she foolishly (at least to my way of thinking) had engaged. "Hell o" was obviously not a typo and it had seemed she was being foolish to assume it was, and even more foolish to engage this person. Now, she's had this opportunity up in the attic to learn some things about herself and move forward in life, and it seems to me that being drawn back to the computer and to courting something unsavory and possibly quite dangerous is a big and a dumb mistake.

Wow. What a different take Vivienne and I have on this. She's seeing this as lonely, beautiful and romantic and I'm seeing a serial killer. Gees!

Chapter Six

Possible typo, I think "tailed" is supposed to be "trailed" here:
"I shook my head. 'Nathan does. I always wanted to learn, but...' I tailed off and shrugged."

That's brilliant, imagining anything by Pink Floyd in the midst of this strange setting! I love it!

...I'm with Mike, this sounds like crazy stalker material to me.

Chapter Seven

Well, you really can write very erotic scenes. I don't generally care much for erotica, but this is really well-written, not trashy, as erotica often is. There's a difference between erotic writing and pornographic writing, and this is definitely not porn. Well done, here.

Again I'm finding I like Vivienne more. When she's reminiscing about her childhood beach vacation. I liked her more back when she discovered the rocking horse, too, and remembered her childhood "riding" adventures in the living room on a chair cleverly disguised as a horse. She seems more three dimensional when she's remembering snippets from her childhood, important times when she was genuinely happy.

Well, I like Sandie, too. And I like that Vivienne might make some friends here after all. Genuine friends, not house ghosts and crazy Internet stalkers...

Okay, finished with Chapter Eight, the last chapter posted, and I am genuinely curious about Vivienne, Sandie, Tom and his wife.

I don't like Nathan, and didn't like him from the start. I don't care that Nathan's lover, Vivienne's boss, was a man, either way, Vivienne ought to have dumped him. I would read the rest of this if it were posted, and would like to read it if you publish it. I hope Viv dumps Nathan, keeps Eden, braves meeting the villagers, becomes good friends with Sandie, and wises up and doesn't stumble into anything involving a serial killer. (It would be an interesting twist if the vicar was a part-time stalker/serial killer....)

I think you've got an interesting story here. I would have liked to have felt more interest in Vivienne sooner, but I grew up believing a book should be given at least sixty pages to get into it, and with those guidelines, this has worked for me. That said, I have to mention that fiction these days nearly demands that a book grab the reader right away. And I think publishers want it that way. People seem to have lost their ability to focus for more than a few minutes on something where nothing much seems to be happening. I have had people tell me that I should have made the first "event" in my novel pop out at the onset, rather than at the end of the second chapter. But I dug in my heals and kept it the way I wanted it. You have to have the opportunity to get to know the characters. I'm not sure what I would want to be different in your novel, I just would have liked to have wanted to know Vivienne earlier on.

Overall, this is a good story and I sincerely wish you all the best with it. And I hope Viv doesn't get murdered!

All the best,
Judy

Debbie wrote 517 days ago

Well I haven't commented on autho for a long time, but what can I say? This was recommended to me so I took a look and then stuck it on my shelf. This is as polished as anything I'd find in a bookshop. Well-written, every word earning its place and just enough description to feed the imagination without stifling it.

I like this a lot.

J. A. S. Gorsky wrote 519 days ago

Up to Chapter Four, need to put off the rest until little people are in school, so I can concentrate on your prose. Wonderful so far, very playful foreshadowing. Love it, and will be back very soon!

Judith

Christian Rogue wrote 519 days ago

Deep, earthy, authentic. If I could pin the words that struck me as I read this. Everything about it is beautiful. It charmed me. The more I read, the more I started feeling like Vivienne (is that how you spell it? I didn't see her name often enough to remember how to spell it properly). I felt charmed by this book and by the house and by your prose. The descriptions sing off the page. I could picture everything, the woods, the seagulls, and the house. The house has just as much character as your characters! Each one of them just leaps off the page from the protagonist, her husband, Van (the cat right?) Tom, the local, and the mysterious nobody in the forums. All of it just rings true. Each chapter plunges you into the next too. I want to know what happens at the end of each chapter and it shoves me to the next. Brilliant writing, really.

I don't know if this is intentional or is a typo, but it is the only thing that I noticed while I was reading. (I'm no grammar person either.) I think it's chapter 2, but honestly I've forgotten which chapter, but the paragraph starts 'No, I'm afraid...we didn't know the area at all before we bought the it.' I think you can omit the "the" and it will clean up this sentence, just a typo.

I mean to back this at the beginning of next month. I don't want to forget, so if I do just pop me a message and I'll remedy that. Thanks for sharing this, really!

-Christian Rogue (Beastia)

Duncan Watt wrote 520 days ago

Hi EJ ...

This a beautiful read with a good, strong plot and realistic characters. The two central characters interact well, but at the same time the reader gets a sense of distance in their relationship. You hint at a darkness in Vivienne's past and at the same time leave the reader wondering what she did to receive the silences when she enters a room. This leaves your reader wanting to know more. There also appears to be a dark relation ship forming between Vivienne and the house.

The only suggestion I would make, is check some of your dashes, some are 'odd' in appearence. 'N' Dashes and 'M' dashes can be achieved in Microsoft Office by holding down the 'CTRL' key and tapping the minus (-) on the numeric key pad (once for 'N', twice for 'M') Space before and after the dash. An ellipsis should also be treated the same. The space makes the pause more dramatic. I apologise for my pickiness. Rated and Backed. Regards ... Duncan.
A perfect ellipsis can be formed by holding down 'ALT GR' and tapping the full stop key

Deborah Aldrich Farhi wrote 525 days ago

End of chapter one- completely and utterly drawn in. This is not my full review yet, will be reading on and commenting later, but just one little tiny thing- why did you write 'set a moving date set..' that must be a typo?

Emily M wrote 526 days ago

I usually go into reading books here on the look out for the things that are good, the things that could use improvement, and for any typos or grammatical errors. I like to give balanced (and hopefully helpful!) reviews.

Unfortunately, I just can't do that in this case, because from the first chapter I was swept up in Vivienne's narrative. It's rare that even a published book can do that to me these days--the last one I read practically had me grinding my teeth waiting for the author to get on with it already--and it almost never happens to me here.
That's not to say that your book lacks description, but that your descriptions add to the narrative rather than just to the word count. I've been known to skim excess description, and I never felt like I had to here.

I liked how from the very first chapter you handled showing the distance between Vivienne and Nathan. It was obvious their relationship wasn't in a good place, although she never came out and said so.

The house is an important character, itself. I've always envied those who could write about an inanimate object, making it as important to their story as any living character. By the end of chapter eight I was just starting to learn about the history of the house, but I wanted to learn more. It's also nice to see Vivienne slowly get her confidence back as the story goes on.

I'm very interested in learning who Joshua is. Is he the stranger mentioned in your long pitch?

By the end of the upload, even as you address exactly what went wrong between Vivienne and Nathan, I have more questions than answers about what's going on--which is a good thing! I get the feeling there are some supernatural elements here, both with the house and Joshua.

The only complaint I have is that I wish I could read the whole thing--I really want to see how everything turns out!

AudreyB wrote 530 days ago

Hi, Edentity – 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.

I just have to read a book that reaches eleven after only five months. It took me eighteen to get there. I hope it’s because my genre is so tiny but sometimes wonder if the writing is a factor. (=:

You’ve probably heard all the praise I can muster but what really impresses me here in the second chapter is the pacing, the amount of information you reveal and what you keep back. You provide me with exactly the details I need to make me wonder all the right things. I need to keep reading.

OK, I’m not even noticing the writing any more. I’m at the bottom of the third chapter and there hasn’t been a false note. Really impressive writing.

Sorry this isn’t longer or more helpful. You’re just a better writer than I am.

~AudreyB
Steadfast

HariPatience wrote 532 days ago

Hi EJ

I've read all 8 chapters and I love it! Your writing is sumptuous and the sense of place is very vivid. I can almost see the house and the coastline. Viv is a great central character - I like her habit of bringing everything back to famous quotes - it highlights her education, literary ambitions and underlying insecurity about her own work really well.

While the introduction of the house on the cliff is really well done, I wonder if it might not have more impact to start with Viv arriving at the house alone. You could show their discovery of the house later in a flashback. I think starting with Viv alone would really emphasise her isolation and the distance in her marriage. It also could make Nathan a bit more of a cypher, which makes sense given the revelations in later chapters.

The only other thing that struck me was the revelation of the username at the end of the chapter. As you just wrote "nobody" I didn't quite twig that that was the username. But then maybe that's just me.

I'm eager to read more - will you be posting further chapters?

RVH wrote 539 days ago

I was able to read the first six chapters of your novel.

Your language and theme – utterly sumptuous.

Your erotic aspects compliment rather than dominate, which I liked. Another thing I enjoyed was that you wove the setting, introductions of characters and key info together then delivered it slowly rather than opting for an info dump (eg. tension between Viv and Nathan, the details of the house, hints of Eden’s past etc).

There wasn’t much I could critique so far, but I read in your post, you’ve taken down several chapters for editing. I look forward to reading the rest.

Highly rated and backed because you put me in my own Eden; went all in a quiver, wanted more and couldn't stop.

Robyn

Lyleth wrote 541 days ago

I just read two chapters and want to read more. You have a great command of the mechanics of writing, of dialog flow and rhythm. I am intrigued by the secrets of the house. The only slight criticism I might have is that Viv seems just a bit passive. Her husband does the house search, not her, and when Viv arrives, the priest finds her--she doesn't have to work to get the info out of him. I suspect she will become more active later, but as a first chapter, it might be best to press her a bit more. Great work! I am putting this on my shelf.

carol jefferies wrote 544 days ago

Hi E J,

I just read the first three chapters of your book, 'Dreaming In Colours That Don't Exist,' and loved your writing.

I especially liked the build up of suspense as Vivienne drives towards her new home of 'Eden.' The characters are realistic and the descriptions of Eden give a good sense of place.

I am backing it and will read some more,

Good luck with it,

Carol jefferies
(Love for Lilian)
(A Prince Unboyed)
(A Kinsman's Chattel)

Sebnem wrote 545 days ago

Dreaming in Colours That Don't Exist -E.J. Stephens
Hi E.J.,
I just read your first 6 chapters and I believe this is one of the best books on this site. Your writing flows easily with just the right combination of narration in the first person, original descriptions, and adequate amount of dialogue to complement the story. The unfolding plot hints at further suspense and developments regarding Vivien's internet affair and the mystery surrounding the house. Some of your descriptions are exquisite, yet at the same time they are injected in the right dose and do not distance the reader from the plot. This is one of the best examples of fiction I have read here so far quite justified by your high ranking position. 6-Stars, on my WL, congradulations and best wishes, Sebnem-The Child of Heaven

Madison A. wrote 549 days ago

“Dreaming in Colours That Don’t Exist” begins with the discovery of a sprawling house, known as Eden, by Vivienne, a woman endeavoring to save her unsatisfying marriage, along with her inattentive husband, Nathan Crawley, a freelance writer. The couple purchases the house and, as Vivienne attempts to adapt to Eden and her new surroundings alone, she discovers a connection with a man who not only mystifies and troubles her, but furthermore, intrigues her.

This dark tale encompasses an ancient legend surrounding Eden, incidences of betrayal and sadism, strongly interconnected with mystical and religious themes. With an otherworldly influence, the story pulls us along with Vivienne on her journey to discover who the enigmatic man is and what his connection is to her.

This unfinished story leaves us paused on the banks of Pan’s Pond, where Vivienne makes a risky, perhaps even reckless, decision that will, no doubt, have an irrevocable and long-lasting impact on her life and her marriage.

E.J. Stephens exhibits a flair for captivating storytelling and is gifted in her ability to reveal just enough to pique one’s interest and keep the pages turning. Five stars and backed.

Licudi wrote 550 days ago

Just the kind of book I can get really stuck into. I loved the descriptions and the characters and I felt involved at the outset. I really like the idea of coming across a familiar place but you're not sure why. The song that plays at the edge of your mind, what a lovely way of describing that feeling. The first chapter really pulled me in and I have to read on. I love the style of writing here: it has a traditional and comfortable feel but with a thoroughly modern content. The initial setting promises an intriguing plot. I am enticed.
Licudi

Juliet Ann wrote 552 days ago

I have read the opening five chapters. There is no doubt you can write and there are some lovely original phrases, however, watch for the cliches around literary quotes (like road less travelled) unless they are a truly clever take on the original, they don't work and come across as a little tired.

OK. I am going to be quite harsh here. I think you have started this in the wrong place. Up until now, all we really have is a lot of scene setting and background, a creepy vicar and some hints to a problem in marriage and or career, but nothing to really get curious about. I found myself wishing the actual story would start. Then in chapter 5 it seems to go off on a tangent with the forum stuff (which doesn't fit with her finding out more about this house and could have happened anywhere). I am afraid, you lost me at this point. I am not keen on forum posts in novels - and I particular dislike disembodied voices using the internet to communicate - however this is a personal hate (as a result of reading this device many times in unpublished novels) - doesn't mean you can't pull it off. I can't tell you where to start it, but I don't think what you have is really grabbing the reader's attention, nor does justice to your ability as writer.

I think you mention this is a 1st draft. First drafts are vital to get the story out (warts, backstory and all), but they don't always have the best structure (in terms of building tension and creating that important impetus to keep turning pages). My advice would be to sit down a plot this novel scene by scene, so that each one is compelling and increases the tension. Describing the house in massive detail, when I don't really know the characters is not going to keep me reading - what would is heart in the mouth stuff happening, either internally or externally to the main character. As yet, nothing has happened to her.

Other stuff that bugged me was the fact her husband is conveniently not around for the move or for ages afterwards (so she is alone). The face she never researched the house, but created mood boards. I just can't buy this, she is a writer, research and the internet is her life blood (particularly after the cryptic conversation with the vicar). The fact she hasn't gone to the village yet. All these omissions feel contrived - a way of holding back on the revelations about the house and its history. You've got to make me believe in the the actions of the character, at the moment she feels like she is being manipulated by the writer, rather than acting as a real person would.

As I said at the start, you can really write, and I hope (pray) my comments inspire rather than crush (that is not my intention at all). You can write, but, imo, you can write this better. Good luck. If you want me to read any revisions let me know.

wekabird3 wrote 553 days ago

Dreaming in Colours That Don't Exist. By E.J.Stephens. 18/01/13

I don't usually read books at this ranking as the majority of insights/hints on how to improve the story/writing have probably been made. Plus the authors always seem to be busy. Also, I don't usually read supernatural-sounds like a disaster but, here I am, stuck in the snow and can't ignore your title.

SP. 'Vivienne escapes to Cornwall to rebuild her marriage.' Seems a strange statement so, I cheated and read the LP because I wondered why no mention of her hubby. No doubt, this will sort itself out in the story.

LP.
1). Slightly different sentence from SP except that she is going to rebuild her life and save her marriage. Could this be the SP? Also, if she attaches importance to her marriage, why no mention of hubby?
2). I assume that Eden is the name of a house/estate.

3). Okay, the message I get is:
a). Her marriage is on the rocks, her life going downhill. Can she save it?
b). She is in a creepy house/environment/atmosphere.
c). She is a member of an online dating club.
d). A stranger appears in the village. (She is also a stranger so how does she know about another stranger? Probably is revealed later.).
e). Philosophic statement based around coincidence and love.

You are saying a lot there. Maybe tighten it up and try to focus on the essential pull which will attract the potential reader.

Chapter 1.
1). 'Haversacks.' I assume you have used this word to explain something later on. People used haversacks around 1950,s. I do a lot of hill walking and notice the many elderly people have adopted new 'with-it culture' over the last few years; they use lightweight day sacks; gaily coloured!
2). 'Sure it need some work.' (Maybe a comma after sure. However, they haven't looked inside yet and this could be an understatement).
3). The sudden jump between paras. 'We'll take it from here.' It's almost like a chapter change (time and place).
4). Repetitive words: 'The place, the place, this place...'
5). 'Set a moving date set...' (maybe omit second 'set.').

Chapter 2.

I like the subtle hint that 'something not very nice' happened in London.

Chapter 3.

1). Would she leave the 'smoking room/house,' especially if they'd paid a small fortune etc.

2). I'm not really convinced that Nat would be absent on moving day. You haven't built him up to be that insensitive, yet. Do they need an argument or two? Is his job more important that HIS (identified) house?

3). If she knew that Nat wouldn't be there, maybe she would have asked a friend/relative (I realise she may not have any) or hire someone from the village?

4). The last sentence is a draw. Could you insert something like that in Chapter 1, when they view the house from outside?

You say that this is a 'rough WIP.' Doesn't sound like that to me. Your writing is really good. Easy to read. Maybe you mean in terms of 'plot' (I hate that term-very Authonomy loaded) in relation to, maybe my point in (4).

So there you go, I'm not an expert in anything grammatical etc. Please feel free to ignore or use as you will.

All the best

Chris Sorting it Out.