r.j. blain recent comments

written 495 days ago

Hello, lovely Sue!

I figured if I was going to read through looking at your POV, I’d make a proper comment for you in the process.

Short Pitch: I liked it, sets up the character well, and the foreshadowing is well done. I think it would appeal to the audience for your type of book. (Granted, not me but hey, I liked it anyway.)

Long Pitch: My only real complaint is the first sentence. It felt a bit jarring to me. I think this could be rewritten to be a bit smoother. I do also think that paragraph breaks will make this a bit easier to read through too, but that’s just a reading preference. Content looks good, and the story seems interesting enough for one of this genre! (Of which I know very little…)

To answer your POV questions, first chapter was very solid in terms of third-person limited POV. The second chapter wasn’t quite as solid, and you slip a little into omni (Garry having glassy eyes, for example; it’s supposed to be Gary’s pov but we can’t tell when our own eyes are glassy...) Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it, but some may.

There are a few sections that could be a little stronger to Gary’s POV when he is with Julia, but it toed the line between sticking with Gary and head hopping. I’d probably rework the second chapter a bit (especially in the second half) to make it more strong in terms of limited-third.

As for the story itself, it is an interesting start, but I think that while you have the POV mostly nailed, you could be stronger in the active vs passive voice; there are sections where you’re really active, particularly when your characters are interacting with each other, but when you’re filling in the backstory, it gets a bit passive. I think you could ease the exposition a bit and dive right in without any loss to the actual story. Just a thought! Overall, writing quality was pretty sound, and I wasn’t jarred out of the reading as a general rule, which is very important for me while I’m reading.

Hope this helps a bit!

~RJ view book

written 507 days ago


Thanks for agreeing to do a reading swap with me; sorry this took so long, I was trapped in freelance hell and couldn’t spare the time earlier this week to read and comment!

Short Pitch: This felt a little weak; cut the ‘could’ and make this a bit more active. You could possibly cut the bank burglaries part altogether in the short pitch and focus on the meat; the mysterious pilot and the trouble he may get into dealing with it. Just a thought.

Long Pitch: This brings up a lot of questions, which is good. Something is nagging at me about this pitch but I haven’t figured out exactly what bothers me about it. I think you may want to include what Walter’s official job role is and how he is monitoring flight traffic; on one hand, I feel like he’s an air traffic controller, but they don’t deal with burglaries, so there is something definitely off about this. Right now, I think I feel that there are too many potential plot holes existing within the story based on the pitch that clarification could be used to make this stronger.

Prologue: Ouch.

The POV felt a bit weak here; ‘The Robber’ implies it isn’t the robber’s POV, but it is.You could easily resolve this by swapping robber for ‘He’ and maybe turning the first line into something like “Faster!” He yelled, watching intently as the store manager emptied the safe….

The prologue type is relatively strong; not into them personally, but this one works well enough.

Chapter One:

The opening paragraph lost me a bit; not because it wasn’t grammatically correct or confusing; the writing was fine, but at the same time, there is so much exposition here that my attention started to wander. The dialogue feels a bit contrived – I’m obsessed with my novel writing to the point Walter is about his pilot, and even I manage to talk to my spouse a bit. My spouse is obsessed with a computer game, but it doesn’t show up as he calls it an obsession. It shows in different ways, so this really came across as telling instead of showing.

There is a lot of information to digest here, and it doesn’t feel like a thriller right now; it feels like we’re watching a guy who just wants to find a conspiracy because a plane flies overhead more often than he likes. I think that this chapter needs a stronger hook if you’re going to classify it as a thriller. It didn’t hook me, and I think there needs to be a more ‘in the moment’ feel to it, but I’m going on to chapter 2 to see if the pace picks up.

A few things of note: Your writing is fine, but because I saw the thriller tag and the pitches kind of imply that there is a thriller and police drama element to it, I’ve been put in the mindset expecting that sort of book. If you want to start passive at the desk, I think you need to have a situation that has tension, conflict, and excitement thrown in to *show* us his role in the department and *show* us all of the things we need to know in order to make this a thriller-type read.

Chapter Two:

The opening to Chapter two, like one, involves quite a bit of telling and exposition, so the pacing is slow. This picks up when you get around to the bulg… bah, I hate that word. I’m just calling them all robberies…! Anyway, when you get to the robbery of the bank, the pace picks up, but at the same time, It is at a distance; he’s at his desk, he isn’t getting into the thick of things, and the immediacy that would otherwise be there is lost.

Just something to consider if you want to make this more of a thriller.

I ended up skimming through Chapter three; police dramas were never my thing to begin with, and while I’m all for a good thriller, I’m not really into romance and the more cozy style of mystery doesn’t appeal to me, so the elements I was looking forward to (the more thriller style of writing) wasn’t strong enough to lure me in personally. That said, I can’t fault your writing and I think there *is* an audience for this; it just isn’t me. I like my thrillers to be hit-in-the-gut active and they don’t pull their punches, just like your prologue was more immediate and didn’t pull punches.

I hope you find something that you can make use of in my comments; good luck with this. I do like the premise, but I think that for me to like it more in particular, it would need a much stronger focus on the thriller elements.

Good luck!
view book

written 513 days ago

Greetings! Thanks for doing a read swap with me! I had hoped to get to this a little sooner, so my apologies for the delay!

Short Pitch: I really like this, but the second line bothers me. I think there is a better way to write this without losing the punch. For the most part, though, well done!

Long Pitch: The long pitch didn’t work for me – you’ve basically used it as a vessel for exposition. I like the last paragraph, and I think that is where your starting point is. The first paragraph is more of a history lesson than a story, so it didn’t draw me in quite as well as the last paragraph did.

From your pitches, while this isn’t a story I’d usually read, it is one that would catch my attention long enough to potentially lure me in if it happened to be on top of a book pile.

As a bit of a note and warning, I’m going to have to try to rail my poor head to work around a children/YA type book; I’ve been reading and critiquing a lot of adult-centric books, so this one will be a challenge for me. If I say something obviously stupid, just ignore me!

Chapter One:

This is a pretty interesting start to the story. I think the language used is age appropriate to your audience, and I think that you’re starting to get the main players developed quite well. At times, the voice felt a little passive, with the children being held at arm’s length from the narrative. I think this could be made stronger if you strengthened their POVs but still kept the same general tone and word usage that you use.

The BBC South reporters had me a little baffled, however. I don’t follow BBC very much, nor am I into television, but I found it a little hard to believe how it was being produced. As a plot device, it worked very well, but I think that the tone of the reporter and how the incident is being set up should be handled… erhm… a little more professionally on their part. Just me, though – I’m from the other side of the pond, and I don’t even watch much tv!

General Strengths: Voice and general tone and word usage/choice, I felt, were pretty spot on for the age group this is likely meant for.

General Weaknesses: I think the scene with the reporters needs smoothed out, and I also think that the POVs and intimacy of the characters could use a bit more improvement. It was hard to connect with the family in its current state. (Using harry potter as an example, Harry’s POV is much more intimate, which made it very easy to want to follow his adventures.)

Chapter Two:

I feel that the story really starts taking off at this point; the POV is more intimate, the characters are more vibrant, and it is a lot more exciting in general Over all, I think this was a pretty strong chapter! Not really sure what to suggest to improve it since this isn’t the type of story I read or write, but it was enjoyable in its current form.

Chapter Three:

Chapter Three was a bit slower, but all-in-all, a good continuation of the story, and its nice to see it is modern and fitting with the times in terms of kids and knowing how to use the internet.

Chapter Four:

This is about the point where you lost me; I wanted more ruins and playing around and looking for ghosts, so the conversation wasn’t really able to hold my attention so much. (Classic short attention span; the books presented as an action adventure type tale, and there has been a lot more sitting at the desk looking for information than action, adventure, and meeting ghosts and aliens. As an improvement, I’d consider maybe a few more little trips to the ruins before digging itno the whys behind them? They’re kids, after all… and I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, research (even with the internet) wasn’t nearly as much fun as going to sneak out in the middle of the night and head off to somewhere I shouldn’t have been, especially if it was within an hour’s bike ride…

I hope my thoughts are useful to you. Good luck with this story!
view book

written 514 days ago

Greetings! Thanks for being willing to do a reading/comment swap with me. I hope you enjoy Storm Without End! I also hope that you find something useful in my ramblings.

Short Pitch: I think this could be improved. The repetitive use of ‘alien’ dampened the impact of the catch line, and I think there are ways you could make this more thrilling and immediate if you just use his name and put a little more risk / consequence to his being stranded on Earth.

Long Pitch: I think the key elements are here, but I think there might be a way to up the tension in the long pitch as well. The opening line puts it on a more passive note (just dive in, don’t have to tell us it is a tale… make it all the more real by taking it from Nikolas’s POV or just jumping right to the conflicts.)

I’ve seen your writing in the past, and I’m pretty sure you can make this into a really thrilling pitch to match the basics of what you’re telling us here!

I had a few problems with the opener of this – it drops right into the conflict of not dying by becoming splattered into the planet Earth, which is good, but I had a hard time buying the crash landing itself. In a functioning space ship, it is a 4 hour process to safely land, including prep. Speeds start at 17,500 MPH. In your scenario, your pilot is incapable of performing maneuvering. Instead of controlling the plummet, he’s trying to fix the ship. He isn’t in a bail-out shell to drop in the ocean, and has no way to do S maneuvers to slow his speed… ocean or land doesn’t matter. He’s impacting at 17.k MPH… he’s going to splat. (At least, that’s the impression I get from reading.)

I think you need to rethink the design and potentially make an escape pod. Either that, or make it so he is less dead in the water and capable of performing reentry. If his ship is that damaged, he’d break apart like Columbus did.

There are a lot of things to like about this chapter, but I also had a hard time with it because so much happens in such a short frame. Because you go through this first chapter introduction so quickly, I feel that the immediacy and intimacy that should be inherent with first person POV is lost. If you slowed this down and took the time to explore it, put us in the immediate world and made the nameless and faceless scientists and guards people, I think this would be that much more powerful to it. Nikolas is pretty alien as far as characters go, but at the same time, I couldn’t connect with him because he’s in a situation where he is little more than a trapped animal. I don’t have the experiences to draw on that he does to connect with him, and there’s so much cruelty that it becomes hard to suspend disbelief. (For example, you could have one character actually show kindness to Nikolas, and the entire situation would be more believable just because you’ve currently set it up where the entire human race is composed of, well, jerks.)

I do like the ending of the chapter and how he fails to cope with the situation, it felt very realistic.

Your writing and style work well, I just wish you’d taken a lot more time with this introduction. It could easily become 2 or 3 chapters, and be interesting and develop your characters, but it felt like it was being a bit rushed to get to Chapter 2.

I felt the same way until you reached the point where Nikolas could actually communicate with them; this, for me, is when the story actually took off for me and didn’t come across as more of exposition and backstory than tale.

For me, your real strength is when you get to the places where your characters react with one another. The more passive descriptions fade away right away to active voice and you launch into a totally different form of storytelling. It feels like you slow everything down and get immediate with the characters there, and that the rest is to get you from that point to the point where the characters are interacting with each other. I’ve seen this used in sci fi before, and I think it’s partly why sci-fi isn’t as much of my favorite as fantasy is. So, I think I need to slate that as a personal preference issue, since there are a lot of people who *do* like that sort of style. I like a more active, immediate stance and I like living and breathing with the characters through it. I guess maybe I feel like the way I do because the first four chapters, for me, is almost enough material for half of a book. It’s a lot to digest, and it blows by so quickly in numbs the impact of what is actually happening to Nikolas. Just my opinion, of course.

I’ve read through the first four chapters of this, and there is an insane amount of creativity here and delving into society as a whole – I just wish we were shown it a bit more. I hope you find something useful out of my thoughts. I think there is a lot of potential in this story, I just think that the execution of it could be a bit stronger!

view book

written 516 days ago

Greetings! Thanks for being willing to read Storm Without End. I hope you find my comments useful.

Pitches: Interesting pitches; I don’t really have much to suggest on ways to improve on it, so good work!

Prologue: My major complaint with this is that the italics have to go. I developed a headache from reading it by the end of it. You flag it as a prologue, there is no need to use italics. It makes it very hard to read and distracts from the story you’re trying to tell.

All in all, I normally dislike prologues, but I enjoyed reading this one. It was a good way to introduce the character. However, one thing I did notice is that there weren’t any real consequences to his claims. That hurt the credibility for me a little bit. The end was also more telly than I like, and I don’t think it was necessary to show the examples, unless they become significant later.

Thus far, an engrossing read. Good work.

Chapter One:

Amanda’s POV is interesting, but once again, it feels like there is a little more telling than absolutely necessary. But, that said, you have an interesting writing style and (for the most part) it works. If you cut out the telling bits and add more showing bits, this will be extremely strong.

Your grammar and writing style are fine and the small things I noticed were personal preference issues that don’t actually require resolving in my opinion.

Chapter Two: This one is brilliant. After reading it, I don’t think the first chapter is even necessary. Essentially, you *show* everything you *told* us in Chapter One. You could cut chapter one completely, and I don’t think you’d do any damage at all to the story. You bring the characters to… er… life.

Puns aside, after reading Chapter Two, I dislike how chapter one interplays with it. Just my personal opinion, of course.

Chapter Three: Holy POVs, batman! There are a lot of POVs here and their scenes are pretty short… While there isn’t anything really wrong with it, it isn’t my cup of tea. (I’m the kind where two at the front of a book is where I max out until I’m more invested in the characters, then I can deal with more being added.) Your writing is very good, but so many POV character introductions is making my head spin a little.

I wish there was a better way to do the time lapses / flashbacks. The italics are pretty rough on the eyes.

I’m stopping here, if only because I need to get some stuff IRL. This is a promising start, especially with your writing skills. I’d like to see this more centric on the main character, though, as you’re weaving together a lot of little threads right from the get-go without giving us a chance to get hooked on a single character first. Just my two-cents!

I hope you find at least one or two helpful thoughts in there!


view book

written 516 days ago

Greetings, Terry! Thank you very much for your comment on Storm Without End. Sorry this took so long to get to you, I meant to do it yesterday, but I was swamped with the paid writing and that had to come first.

I hope you find my comments useful. I hesitate mentioning a lot about what could use improvements on a book that is already published, so I hope that you don’t mind that I leave my comments in terms of what I think could be potentially improved for the next book.

Short Pitch: This didn’t grab me. It is too cliché for me, and doesn’t tell me anything about the character except he is a private investigator. Everyone has bad weekends now and then, and they usually do get worse, so I think there is probably a better way to have this be more hooking.

Long Pitch: This line naggled at me. I don’t think the ‘only’ fits, it isn’t really the right word, and I think there is a stronger way to phrase it. (he only spoke to her fifteen minutes earlier.)

That out of the way, the long pitch is much stronger than the short pitch. Not my usual style of book, but it looks interesting enough.

The first chapter is interesting – I think it takes off a bit slow and there wasn’t much to hook me in within the first few couple of paragraphs – once you get past telling us things and start showing them, your style is a lot more amusing and your character is a real doozy. He’s hard to dislike with his attitude, but at the same time, I almost had a hard time buying his general reactions.

What I liked: The humor. (However, that said, because of so much humor, it broke the conflict and tension and turned this into a comedy, effectively decreasing the cliffhanger factor for me at the end of the chapter. Just something you may want to be aware of.)

Your characters are pretty strong, though it did feel like a bit like everyone fit into neat stereotypes, especially the kingpin and the minion. You play the stereotypes well, but at the same time, it did give the whole thing a bit of a flat feel for me.

What I think needed improvement: While your descriptions are sparse to begin with, you rely on people’s comprehension of the time period (of which I really have no idea what time period it is in from reading…) to fill in the blanks where you should be maybe taking a little more time to do descriptions. I found it was hard to get mental images with this writing style because there is so much of a reliance on already having a sense of the era and time period.

You include the day of the week and the time, so why not include a year and an specific date, too? That’d at least give a solid image to work with. Just my opinion, though.

Your writing style works really well for humor, though I fear I wasn’t really able to take the characters – and his problems – very seriously because it has that irreverent style to it that almost ensures that it’ll work out somehow and that we’re really along for the ride to laugh at (and potentially with) the character.

Hope that you find something of use in my comments. Good luck with your sales.
view book

written 516 days ago

Greetings! Thank you very much for your read and comment of Storm Without End – very much appreciated. I hope you find my comments helpful! This is a WTF FCCG style critique.

Pitches: I usually leave a comment on the pitches, since I find they’re what often make or break getting reads on authonomy. I found both pitches to be a little lacking in terms of hook value – they get the job done for the most part, but it didn’t have a real hook that snatched at me and made me want to read more. Just something to think about if you end up having time to play with your short and long pitch a bit!

Chapter One:

The first thing I noticed about the start of your story is that your character mistakes smoke vs sulfur – if you’ve ever been to a hot springs or a place like Yellowstone and actually smelled sulfur, there is no way humanly possible to mistake those two scents. I think this needs cleaned up in order to keep suspension of disbelief going.

The second thing I noticed was that you use a lot of ellipses. They have their place, but I think that instead of getting the hesitation you wanted and the pauses you desire, there were so many of them that they drew the eye and took away from the ability to really read and get involved with the character.

While I like starting the story with a definite amount of conflict and quite a few questions on what is going on and why she has a critter that comes right out of Harry Potter, I found that I had a very hard time getting to know Lasciel. With how you present her text and dialogue, she comes across as a bit dim-witted and slow, and in later portions of the chapter, there is a lot more telling than showing.

That said, I like the inherent creativity and the parallel worlds effect that you’ve been starting to build. I think if you tighten the prose and clean up the ellipses (exchanging with the more mundane but more effective commas and periods), this really has the potential to be a strong start to your story. Many of the elements of a strong opening chapter are here, including conflict, a potentially strong cast of initial characters, and a lot of questions we can read on to discover the answers to. I just think that the presentation could use improvement to build a stronger, better hook, and to really smooth out the general writing quality.

I hope that you are able to find something of use to you here as you work on your revisions!
view book

written 516 days ago

Greetings! This is a WTF FFCG CWoG Critique. Far out!!

Title: It made me laugh. Good enough.

Short Pitch: Frankly, bluntly, honestly, I hated it. You can do so much better than this. It doesn’t tell me anything about the book on your own terms. In a store, I’d be long gone after see this.

Long Pitch: This is much better than the short pitch. Good feel for the potential storyline, the risks, the consequences, and the major parties involved. Good pitch all in all.

Chapter One:

Amusing, interesting opening. While this is contemporary, I’m immediately reminded a bit of Silk from the Belgariad, although Silk wasn’t nearly as guilt-ridden. A little bit of telling, here, though, even though the amusement value of your telling does ease the fact it is still telling by a notable margin. I’d still rather this stuff be shown though.

That said, I have one little problem with this. Your character tells us its dangerous, and that the doesn’t like the job, but he’s way too relaxed. No searching around, nothing like that. You’re telling us one thing, and the character’s behavior is telling us another.

“But it was the noise that still got him.” Got TO him, perhaps?

I think the biggest disadvantage of this opener is that you tell us things we either don’t need to know or you tell us the same thing many times. (For example, that What is a thief. We figured that out about the same time that he stole a diamond necklace and wandered off with it.)

The references to your lead as ‘the thief’ and similar removes the immediacy with the character, and makes it hard to get behind him and root for him. After the necklace has been pawned, the tension and pacing drops to almost non-existent. He’s happy, he’s content, and off he goes down the street without any risk to him at all.

That didn’t work for me, and I found my attention wandering.

When the police get into the chance, the action scenes feel a little jerky to me – you could make this smoother by improving the immediacy with What and make it so instead of glossing over the action, you embrace it and make it more ‘living and breathing’ with What. (Once again, cutting out things like ‘the thief’ will help improve this a lot.)

End of the first scene has a good hook. Needs to happen earlier or the tension needs to be upped to get to this point, but the hook at this point is quite nice.

The second scene of the first chapter is interesting, but I think it would be more effective to end the chapter with What being knocked out. You defused the tension before forcing me to go over to Chapter 2… just something to consider.

I think this one needs more work than your zombie story, but there are a few promising elements to it – if you can manage to up the tension and conflict in the opening paragraphs.

Good luck. Capt’n Mike!
view book

written 517 days ago


Thank you for backing Storm Without End, though I still don’t know what you thought of the book. I hope that you find my comments of use to you.

While I have been known to love quite a few Tom Clancy novels, I found that the opening to your story – particularly the all-important first two paragraphs, lacked one key element: An immediate and viable character. It was all told to us, and I’m the kind of reader who enjoys being showed what is going on. When I want to be told, I go find a non-fiction book to read.

The writing itself is well-done, but it lacked a truly compelling hook for me from the opening. It didn’t help that it was obvious what was going on from paragraph three. I have a very difficult time getting attached to a character (and thus a book) when it’s very obvious that they’re about to get blown up in a rather dramatic fashion.

I think there could be a better starting place for this novel, which would provide a much better hook (at least for me.)

That said, you’ve obviously put a lot of work into your basic writing skills. It is well written, and I think for a more hardcore fan of this sort of book, you’ll find a good audience base.

Good luck with it.
view book

written 520 days ago

I've only read the first scene, but I have to say, this was a hilarious start to the story. Tense in all of the right places, and your main character is a scoundrel. I liked that. I think there was a bit more head hopping than I liked, but beyond that, it was very amusing and helped me attention through the first scene.

So I'll say whichever answer agrees that the story has a nice little catchy opening. Probably yay! :) (Thanks for commenting on Storm without End!)

I kept my word, I kept it short... it was hard, though! view book

written 520 days ago

I’m so sorry I’m late with your comment. I ended up passed out in bed about two hours earlier than I expected. I hope you find these comments useful to you!

Short Pitch: Interesting pitch. I think it could be a little tenser and have a little more conflict, it feels a bit passive to me, but the concept seems sound to me!

Long Pitch: The short pitch, I admit, appealed to me more than the long one. My main problem here is while you have a concept, there are no characters. You tell us there are four characters, but who are they? What separates them from the rest of the world dealing with the end of the world? There isn’t anything here for me, as a reader, to grasp onto. No character that compels me to want to read further.

Just my opinion, of course, but I think this could be much stronger, especially considering the type of story it looks like you’re building here.

Chapter 1: Prelude to Normality

The title baffled me… if it is normal, how can there be a prelude to it?

Scene One: This is a pretty stereotypical scene in an average school, with average kids, the expected bullies, and a girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand above the others when needed. I like Iris’s character, but at the same time, I found myself looking for something – a conflict that touched her specifically – to bring me into the story more and engage me a little better. For all I like how she tries to help Elizabeth, there doesn’t seem to be anything that puts Iris at risk, which made it hard for me to really get involved with her as a character.

General characterization skills are quite strong, especially with meek Elizabeth and the football player.

One thing I’m noticing is the strange formatting. I haven’t quite figured out what the point of the italicized right margin’d text is?

Scene Two:

Interesting scene. I’m not sure what its purpose is in the grand scheme of things, but I liked the clerk’s reaction to the tv… (I used to try to scream the answers at the tv and get all mad at the contestants when it looked sooo obvious to me…)

Beyond that, not much commentary on this scene.

You have an interesting writing style, but in a way I’m a little too eager for the world to end already. :/

Scene Three:

This has a lot more tension and conflict, and I think shows a lot about the character and who she is and why she is like she is. Good scene. Your writing style worked quite well with it.

Chapter Two:

I liked chapter two a lot more. Elizabeth has a really interesting background and there is a lot of conflict and tension in this scene. I’m going to stop here, since I need to get to a few other return reads, but I do think that it needs to get to the end of the world stuff that was pitched a little sooner, or at least drop hints on the nature of the world’s end so as a reader, I can start piecing together what is going to happen.

Good luck with this story!
view book

written 520 days ago

Thanks for being interested in a reading swap. I hope you find my comments useful to you.

Short Pitch: Something bothered me about this short pitch, but I can’t really put my finger on what. I think, perhaps, that it may be because that the personified fire is missing the element that makes me want to learn more about the conflict. But, I’m not really sure which part of it threw me off. (I wish I could be more helpful than that… :/)

Long Pitch: This has a long of epic-feel conflicts to it, which is interesting. The stakes are for Egypt as a whole, which is interesting, but, I didn’t get a feel for the characters at all during the pitch, and for me, appealing and immediate characters are what attract me to a story. There were a few misplaced commas. Beyond that, I thought it got the job done saying what the story was about, even though it didn’t hook me in as much as I’d like.

I’m torn on the opening paragraphs of your story. You have a potential for a good start here, though I was a little disappointed to see it was a scene where the character was waking up, even if the character was waking up in a reallllly bad situation. I like that it starts with a really bad situation. It is a good way to establish conflict and consequence, which is something I like in an opening. There are a few spots that just confused me.

Why is he stretching out his fingers and straining against the chains? You mention this before he is waking up, which confused me. Also, “He had been poisoning him for weeks.” Didn’t make sense to me – who had been poisoning who? It isn’t clear. The ‘why’ to this would be a good hooking element, though, but I think the sentence needs revisited for clarity.

There is also a lot of exposition here and not enough immediacy with Kanja. I think if you trim out the exposition and make it more direct with Kanja right from the start, this will be a lot stronger.

After you get out of the cell with Kanja, the story’s pace picked up quite nicely. However, I do feel like the impact of Ulan’s death was lost to me because it took place so early in the beginning of the book. There just wasn’t a connection with Kanja or Ulan, so I found it very hard to sympathize with them.

All in all, I think once you get rolling, Chapter one is fairly strong and an interesting read. I like how much research you’ve done on Egypt, so you present an atmosphere that feels like Egypt and can even be verified in the details.

I think, however, that this book would be more hooking for me if there was more immediacy with Kanja right from the start.

I hope that you find my comment useful – I will watchlist this in the hopes of being able to come back and read more.
view book

written 520 days ago


Thanks for reading and commenting on Storm Without End – I hope you find my comments useful to you.

Short Pitch: Interesting pitch, I didn’t find anything wrong with it and looked intriguing enough.

Long Pitch: I was a bit neutral on the long pitch. While it didn’t compel me to want to read, I can’t exactly pin-point the reasons why this is the case. (It could very well just be that this isn’t the type of book I typically read.)

This is well outside of my general comfort zone, so many of my opinions are very likely colored by my personal preferences and tastes.

Chapter One:

Interesting beginning. There is a lot going on and a lot of questions you bring up. I don’t much for a feel for Kate, as there hasn’t been a lot of time to develop her, but I definitely pick up that she’s a smart enough girl to know a bad situation when she sees one, and she’s in it and won’t let Lauren be involved. I like that.

I have no sense of Kate’s age, however, which leaves me with mixed feelings. I didn’t see any noticeable grammar or spelling errors. All in all, decent first chapter. Not my cup of tea, personally, but it got the job done and I think that people who do like this type of story will enjoy it.

Chapter Two:

Chapter two continues where one left off, and maintains the momentum. The second part of the chapter is a little choppy, as there is no sense of how long ago the incident happened. I think it would be a bit smoother if there was an indicator of time frames.

Chapter Three:

I’m not sure if I missed this in the previous chapters, but there are punctuation errors in your dialogue that should probably be addressed in edits. Missing commas, misplaced commas, and missing periods.

Chapter Four:

Once again, the disjointed nature of the scenes left me a bit baffled as we go from segment to segment with little guiding through to how she got there. I think this could be really improved with a few lines to smooth the transition. Beyond that, I think this is a promising start to a novel about tragedy. I don’t normally read this sort of book, so I’m not sure what sort of commentary I can offer beyond that.

Good luck with the story!
view book

written 521 days ago

A CWOG Review

Thanks so much for your thoughts on Storm without End – very much appreciated. :D I’ll just jump right in. I tend to comment as I go, so if it sounds scatterbrained, that’s why.

Short Pitch: I like it. Short, sweet, and to the point. Grammatical error though.. One man’s obsession, since the obsession belongs to the man.

Long Pitch: I wasn’t into the first chunk of the long pitch. Doesn’t seem like the place to be giving a dictionary definition.

I like the pitch starting from “When…” but if I’d been cruising around in a book store, I probably would have wandered away from the initial start of the long pitch. Just my opinion, of course!

Chapter One:

It may become something of legend how much I cringe when I see a book that opens with a waking up scene that doesn’t result in immediate (and gratifying) tension and action. Well, there is some sexual tension, but it isn’t the same thing. Maybe it is because I’m not a huge reader of romance, but I couldn’t get into the first chapter. There is no real conflict or tension to carry it. The scene – while really well written – is very laid back, easy going, good couple with a good relationship (if young relationship) with good prospects on the rise.

Everything is picture perfect for them right now, except for poor Rachel who has to cope with their lovey-dovey flirtations.

In short, this doesn’t feel like where the story really begins to me. While we learn a bit about the characters and you develop them, I’m struggling to find the heart of the story in the opening pages.

Chapter Two:

The second chapter is a little slow getting to the Island and where the real tension is. You could probably get away with starting the chapter right when she’s approaching the island mentally cursing that she had to bring Ollie lunch because he had forgotten it that morning. With the character interaction that takes place between the new and obsessive owner and Oliver, I don’t even think that the preamble of their relationship is necessary. A line or two of backstory, and you’d be able to get into the heart of the tension and conflict right away.

Like Chapter One, this was really well written, so you get full points and high stars for that. I just think that the book needs a punchier opening with a lot more hook in order to give it that ‘can’t put this down’ quality I think your writing deserves as a general rule.

I hope that these comments are of use to you, and I never mean to offend! I really do think you have a great writing style and a very strong use of language, just that comparatively, the way you start just isn’t enough to hook me right from the get-go!

~Mistress RJ
view book

written 521 days ago

A CWOG Review of An Ill Wind

Yaarrr, Pirate Queen! Yer most humble Mistress comes to give ye yer just reward!

Short Pitch: I’m not sure that I like the dating since it is mentioned in the long pitch. There is conflict and consequences, which is good. Overall, I think it’s fine, though in a way it feels a bit generic. (But, I’m also not much of a historical fiction or romance reader, so… I’m a bad person to judge.)

Long Pitch: I really like the long pitch. It has tension, conflict, and everything that makes me want to read the book, even though I’m not into this genre necessarily. Good work!

Chapter One:

This is, for the most part, a really strong first chapter. However, there were a few spots where I had to read twice to make sure I understood your meaning (but this wasn’t often and it was me being a blond for the most part), and that it felt like you were telling us unnecessary bits of information. For example, you open up in the third paragraph telling us that it is their last day together. Please, please, please don’t do this. (I know you can’t really update it now, but… eh.) You’ve completely managed to break the entire tension of the entire scene by telling the result when you show it to us at the end of the section.

Overall, there is a lot to like here. You have interesting characters and show the accurate submissiveness of many women for the time period. As a little nitpick, I’d consider “I was a long time before they stopped.” – that’s much more active in terms of voice, and like the bit where you tell before showing, it removes that sense from the line.

Foreshadowing is great, except when it’s too obvious… just my opinion though. All in all, this is quite a good start to the book.

Chapter Two:

I really like how you waste no time skipping to the action and the departure. It’s a mixture of showing and telling, and in this case, I think it works well enough. The only thing I can think of to offer as an improvement for future tales is to watch the passive voice. At times, the narrative is passive enough where the immediate connection to Gabriella is lost for me. Once again, just my opinion!

I particularly like how it was planned in advance enough that she is given a slave even on the boat, and I also like the fact that Gabriella is the illegitimate child of a Lord. They’re nice touches, and I think really work in the setting you’ve chosen for this story.

Chapter Three:

You really don’t waste any time getting right to the nitty gritty of the voyage. In a way, I almost wanted this to be a bit longer to see her settle and the illusion of a safe and comfortable voyage before the reality set in, but the situation you do bring in is well done. You have a good set up, your writing style is easy to read, and despite a few personal-preference issues, this is the start to a good story. Good work with it, and I hope you reach your audience with it! (Good luck on your sales!)
view book

written 522 days ago


I think this has a lot of promise. You have spent the time building a complex and complete world. However, I had a hard time getting into this story because there is so much information about the world and the characters within it that you don’t get to telling us the story. The exposition gives it a very passive voice, which makes it hard to want to get to know Bunny and her terrible situation. I think that you can fix this by making sure you keep the story on Bunny, what she is enduring, and immediately start showing her captivity. While you’ve put a lot of thought into your world building (which is a very good thing!) I think it would be much more effective if you fed the exposition to us piece by piece instead of a full chunk right in the beginning.

It could be that I’m not the appropriate audience for this, but I think that with so much creativity put into the world, you can go up another level or two and show this world to us instead of telling it to us.

If you want to give us this information right away, you might have Bunny, who is imprisoned, perhaps with children or other young folk, tell it to them as a story in a more active voice. This would let you show us the world building, more about Buntline, and help eliminate the more passive voice.

I hope that my suggestions don’t offend you. I think that you do have an interesting premise for a story here, and I hope that you decide to do revisions and see how immediate and intense you can make Buntline’s POV.
view book

written 522 days ago


I haven’t read your first book, so I apologize if any of my comments were covered in what happened in that book. I just tend to ramble as I comment on what I notice as I’m reading, so I hope this doesn’t bother you.

I have mixed feelings about the first scene in the book. It has a bit of a passive feel despite the set up for a high tension moment. While I know describing characters is important to get a feel for things, I think that you could really strengthen this if you got a more immediate POV with the characters and worried less about feeding information and more about the big event – those trucks.

The dialogue was also a little off-putting, as the use of ellipses made the speeches feel really slow and drawled, which I don’t think is what you’re really looking for in this scene. (This is personal preference, though. I’d be happy if a book didn’t include a single ellipse since they aren’t used correctly most of the time anyway, so please feel free to discard that commentary if you’d like!)

I did like how you opened up with an event going on. The dialogue was too long for me to get the tension from the adults (When I’m in damage control mode, there isn’t enough time for speeches, people are usually talking in curt sentences and tossing ideas back and forth in a fast manner.)

You repeat ‘Take these boys inside’, I think it would be more effective if you cut the first request and kept the second one.

I do feel that this scene has a lot of promise, but it was a little choppy to read and could use smoothing out. At the end, the voice was a bit passive and I think could be made more active (and in the process, up the tension.)

Plot wise, I think you’re onto a really good idea and flow here. You have an interesting cast of characters, and I think that with a little grooming and polishing, they’ll stand quite strong, in my opinion. This reads like a first draft to me, so I’ll be curious to see what you do with it when you take the polishing cloth to it. I’ll try to be back to read the second chapter at a later date, so I’m going to WL this for now.
view book

written 523 days ago

Yaaar, Cap’n Sir John Mike of the Mutineering CWOG’ers

This here be a takeover of dis ‘ere vessel! Cooperate and read this comment quietly, and ye won’t be harmed!

This here be a CWOG review.

Short Pitch: I giggled. Good enough. Mission accomplished. That said: My knee-jerk reaction is that I hope that there is something that makes your zombies a little more unique than the 1,001 other zombie stories rampagin’ around these here parts.

Long Pitch: First paragraph didn’t cut it for me. That’s the stuff you put on the front of the cover, hopefully with some famous person’s name under it. Didn’t work for me.

The rest of the pitch is engaging and entertaining. I could cope with the second paragraph being moved down to the last paragraph, but that’s just me. This is the kind of pitch I don’t think needs a lot of work. It gets the point across, introduces some characters, and doesn’t beat us to death with that aluminum bat on the intricacies of the world or uses it as a vessel for exposition.

Chapter 1:

This is well-written, but I can’t help but feel like I have seen this out of a movie somewhere before. One about zombies, strangely enough. The tension is good, the creep factor is high, but so far, I’m struggling to see what makes this book stand out compared to the other zombie stories I read. (or movies I’ve seen.) Part of me really is sad that the bus incident from the blurb isn’t the opener. I would’ve been all over that. This must be some twisted part of my psyche that I wasn’t previously aware of.

Did I mention that this was really well-written? No? I’ll just say it again. Really well-written. I’m kicking and throwing a hissy that it starts off so B Zombie Movie style. You’ve proven you can write, so, where is the part that makes this unique? I really think it needs to stand out in the first chapter.

Your characterization is quite good. But, once again, it feels like you’ve picked characters that are able to fit into stereotypical roles. You have the quiet boy that no one notices and can slip away. You have the girl who is in the thick of things and the boys all like to talk to. You have someone who may have been bitten and may be a threat to the group… when the clock ticks down. I think you’ll get where I’m going with that. The characterizations are done well, but I’m a little forlorn that so far, I just can’t find that little gem that takes it from really good writing to amazing and creative for the zombie genre.

Just my opinion of course. (This is where I insert commentary about the table, and make a note that I make comments like this when I think a story has a heck of a lot of potential and just needs a few little tweaks to make it stellar..)

Chapter 2:

Ok, there is something different. They have *ink* for blood? I’m intrigued. Zombie plague: New inexhaustible source of writing ink. Writer’s worst nightmare coupled with a dream come true. Please tell me their skin can be converted to paper?!

Back to more serious commentary…

Like Chapter 1, Chapter two does deliver on great tension and continues to play the set up for the end of the world zombie plague that has killed everyone. It’s the Stand, except it’s a much lighter read and the corpses got back up to add to the fun. Still well-written, though I think I glimpsed one potential grammar error but I’m too lazy to look it up to confirm it’s actually an error. Characterization is still strong. I’m still very sad that the bus incident exists only in the blurb as backstory. 

Once again, my biggest problem with this is, beyond the ink-for-blood thing, I’m having a hard time finding what makes this stand out. The writing style is good, the conflict and tension is great, but the writer (and reader) in me wants something more from it, especially now that I’ve seen you can maintain a high-tension style through two chapters.

Chapter 3:

School bus scene! Time skip! School bus scene!

*Incoherent babblings*

(Notes: I sighed since I’m more into the linear style of book, but I’m not satisfied that the school bus scene is, in fact, present within the novel. I’ll just sigh that it isn’t in linear order and mope around a little while. That is totally personal preference and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with skipping back in time. I just don’t like it as a mechanic in writing usually… unless it is a time-travel story, in which case I significantly enjoy trying to puzzle the past, present, and future.)

I digress, back to my commentary.

This is the first time that I’ve felt a desire to make a comment on the writing style here. The descriptions, compared to the rest of the story I’ve read so far, are just overdone. Less is more, and I think this applies here. The descriptions of the town bogged things down. You could be much more efficient with the descriptions in the opening of this chapter and still get across that rich suburbia feel that I think you’re going for here.

I liked the mystery behind the zombie plague, and Julie seems to have become a vessel for expositioning what caused it.  This makes me sad. I was hoping we’d get to learn about what might’ve triggered it piece by piece as they struggled to survive. This felt like if we didn’t have a solid guess that this pill was what caused it, the world would end!

I don’t think there is anything wrong with not exposing it so quickly. Adds to the conflict and tension.

The inky mocha breath is acidic! I love that detail.

You can have some rum now, I’m saving another set of three chapters for another day. The third chapter, I think, needs a little work compared to the other two. I’d like to see it as a first chapter, since it would set up things better and all of that exposition about the pill completely removed with extreme prejudice, but… that’s just my personal preference. I think it would also give it a little bit of backstory before ‘surprise, Zombies!’

Tension was pretty decent, and I liked the development of the character. My knee-jerk reaction is that if this were first, the hook would remained intact, and I’d be even more sympathetic to the hours later as they’re sequestered in the house.

Just my two cents, of course. Over all, great read, highly entertaining. Despite all of my naysaying, I was entertained, which is important!

I’ve watchlisted this, and as soon as one of the books clears my shelf, I’ll be backing it. (Or as soon as I figure out which one to unshelve… eeesh!)

~ John 'The Mistress' RJ view book

written 524 days ago

A CWOG Comment

I wanted to thank you again for reading the first chapter of Storm Without End! I’m here returning the favor. 

You have an interesting start to this story. My knee jerk reaction was to wince at the use of a character waking up at the beginning (the past 3 stories I’ve read all started out like that!) but once I got up to the coffee-boarding, I was chuckling a bit at the character’s self-destructive things. You have an interesting character in Buddy, and Maggie amazes me with her patience.

One thing that threw me off is that if there was such a terrible earthquake, why hadn’t Buddy woken up completely buried in things from the pantry? Even if he slept through it, the things in the pantry would’ve been thrown around. And, Maggie would’ve known he slept through it because with how caring she is for her brother, the first person she would’ve checked on would be him.

Just something to consider as you’re working on this! All in all, excluding the stereotyped start, this was a really intriguing start to your book. You have quite strong characters and they’re very easy to like, even if Buddy is a bit of a fop and drunkard!

~John RJ (Yaaaarrr!)
view book

written 524 days ago

A BHCG Review

Greetings! I hope that you don’t mind blunt and direct honesty – I’m just spitting out my thoughts as I’m reading your story. So you’re aware, I’ve only read the first chapter.

Short Pitch: Didn’t work for me, but I can see how that sense of humor would work for others.

Long Pitch: The first half of the long pitch didn’t hold my attention, but I was a little more curious about the pitch after you introduced Solomon Rand. (I really like his name!)

Plot: There is a lot to like about your plot. You have a compelling situation where it is possible to bring the dead back to life. I like the logical way that you present the world to the newly-revived Solomon Rand. I like how you’re able to mix different times and places through your POV character and Rand, which enhances the introduction.

Opening: You present a lot of ‘what if’ situations which made this an interesting read. It isn’t as active as I would like, but it gets the job done. I think with a little tightening and cleanup of the sentence structures and grammar, this will be a lot stronger. It is almost there, though.

Narrative flow/momentum/Pacing: I think this could use a little improvement. At times, I felt that the pacing was just too slow as you go from group to group in the effort to explain all of the factions of this world. One problem I did have with this is it did very much feel like you were trying to tell us about the entire world in one go rather than showing it to me piece by piece.

Characters/Characterization: The characters – particularly the normal, nameless people seen through the window of the limo – are what make this such an interesting read. They are so close yet so far from modern society that I really enjoyed being able to put the pieces together and consider just how the society might have evolved to end up with this situation.

Point of View/Voice: I like that it isn’t from Rand’s POV from the start – we get a lot of insights from the POV character, which does enhance the world building.

Style: I don’t have any comments either way. The style didn’t grip me, but it also didn’t distract me from reading. It feels more like an invisible style, which is good for letting me get into the story rather than the craft of the story. (I hope that makes sense!)

Sentence level: There were quite a few punctuation and capitalization errors in this story as I was reading through, which distracted me as I was reading. I think this needs a very thorough combing through to pick up things that the word processors wouldn’t necessarily catch. Most of the errors seem to be surrounding dialogue. I think that you could also make good use of sentence variation to help increase the general readability and flow of the story. It often feels a bit formulaic as you’re introducing the world and telling us a bit more about the characters.

Dialogue: I didn’t notice any real problems with it, but it also didn’t wow me, either.

Originality: I think this scores very high points for originality. While futuristic has been done before, you aren’t ashamed of discussing how social elements – including sex and violence – may change over the years. That takes a lot of courage and skill to write.

Publishability: I don’t think this is ready for publication yet, but I think that with line edits and a little reworking, the first chapter will be quite strong and hooking.

Good luck with this story, and I hope that my comments are of use to you!
view book