john bayliss recent comments

written 42 days ago

'The Gentry' is an interesting read, and I think that you might have a good story to tell here. However, at the moment it does read rather like a first draft, as though you have thrown lots of ideas into the melting pot and you are leaving it to the reader to sort them all out. I can guess what an agent or a publisher will say if presented with this manuscript: 'This is all very good, but when is the actual story going to start?' If your intention is to write a kind of stream-of-consciousness narrative in which the story is presented like the pieces of a jigsaw, then you need to do more to intrigue the reader from the start and give them a good reason to read on.

I'm sorry if my comments seem a little harsh, but I do think that "The Gentry" has the potential to be a good novel. What it needs is a bit of 'polish' to make it a more attractive read.

There are two books that yours reminds me of, and it might help you if you take a look at them to see how other authors deal with similar ideas. One is 'The Chymical Wedding' by Lindsay Clarke, which uses similar themes to your novel (although it is set in rural Norfolk) and the other is 'A Glastonbury Romance' by John Cowper Powys, which incorporates Celtic mythology and the Grail legend into a contemporary (well, 1930s, actually) Somerset narrative. (A warning, though: the Powys book is a massive, War and Peace sized tome.)

I did like 'The Gentry' and I wish you good luck with it.

Best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 52 days ago

I have read all the chapters that you posted on authonomy and enjoyed reading them. You have the makings of an excellent historical-religious thriller here. I found the background relating to ancient manuscripts and palimpsests fascinating -- though I noticed at one point you use the word 'paper' when I feel sure that these manuscripts would have been written on vellum.

One criticism I do have is that I would have liked to know what Fr Romano looks like and how old he is. I assume that he is youngish, because of his attitude and junior rank, but we don't have any clear picture of his appearance. There is an opportunity to slip in a touch of description when Fr Mackey meets him when Romano is jogging.

Overall, I think this is one of the better novels currently on authonomy and I wish you every success with it.

Best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 141 days ago

I've read all that you have posted and I think it's fine. I do have a few nitpicks but none of them are too terrible.

Ch 1.
First line: Personally, I’d put a comma after ‘Quay’ as what follows is a subsidiary clause.
I'm not sure about the phrase “the rings of the last bell were dying away’ Suggest ‘the reverberation of the last bell was dying away’
‘She covered hair’ should be ‘She covered her hair’
If she has her hands over her hair, how can she push on the door? Presumably she is leaning against the door to open it, but on first reading the sentence gives mixed signals.

Ch 2.
Perhaps put a blank line between when Aisling goes to sleep and when she wakes, to indicate that time has passed.

I have no comments at all for chapter three. The story had built up a good momentum by then which is sure to encourage the reader to read on. If there were any typos, I was too caught up in the story to notice them.

Good luck with "The Light and the Dark". view book

written 169 days ago

Is this really your first attempt at fiction? If so, then you are a natural storyteller. Not only is "The Last Roundhead" a hugely enjoyable read, but I feel that I know a little more now about the Civil War than I did before I started reading it. I could nit-pick about your punctuation (to my mind, a few more commas would make some of the sentences flow a little better) and I could say that I would like a little more description here and there (such as the scenes in London, when I would have liked to have seen the hustle and bustle of the city, heard the street cries and smelt the stink of the place) but on the other hand Blandford is not a descriptive type of a narrator, preferring to get on with the action, so maybe that's not too important.

With just a little bit of a polish, I could easily see this book on sale in bookshops. I am backing "The Last Roundhead", and I wish you the best of luck with it. view book

written 295 days ago

I have read the first three chapters posted here. "Motherheart" is very original and imaginative, and it is a pleasant experience to read something on authonomy that is so original. I do have one comment, and that is that personally I would like a bit more description, especially of the characters and the places. It doesn't need to be very much -- perhaps just a mention of a character's height or build, his hair colour or the colour of his eyes -- just enough to help the reader visualise what the various characters and the locations look like, in the reader's imagination. Also, I don't think you need to put all the non-English words into italics. I know that it is the convention to do so, but as there are so many foreign words and names I think it might become a bit distracting to the reader.

Good luck with "Motherheart". You have an interesting idea here with some interesting themes that are worth developing.

Best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 379 days ago

White Matter has a strong and distinctive narrative voice, sparse and matter-of-fact, as befits this superior type of thriller. I have read the prologue and first four chapters. Although I admit I was just a little put off by the non-linear structure, I quickly realised how this has been done to raise a lot of intriguing questions that draw the reader in. Also, I rather enjoy the little hints of partly familiar and partly unfamiliar technologies that locate the novel in a future that probably isn't too far away.

I have one minor negative comment. The build up to the scene where Graeme and Kurt rescue Miranda was fine, but I felt it was slightly let down by the fact when they actually rescue her she doesn't seem to have any presence. I don't believe she even speaks, at least not direct speech. (I had assumed that she has been gagged by her kidnappers, though I don't even remember any mention of a gag. Presumably that would have been removed at the same time that Kurt removed her chains.) We don't need to be told who she is or any back story (that's revealed any way in the next chapter) but I would like some indication of her personality. I would have prefered less about Kurt's struggle to cut the chains and more about Miranda's reaction at being rescued. Does she get overly emotional? (She might, even if she's normally a tough cookie, and then get embarrassed about it and overcompensate.) Or is she sarky with them? Saying something like: "About time you turned up." In the present draft of this scene, I am sorry to say that she doesn't really have any more personality than her luggage. I believe she should have some sort of presence, otherwise her rescue might appear to be something of an anticlimax.

That's my only negative comment. Otherwise "White Matter" is building up to be an excellent techno-thriller. I wish you every success with it.

John view book

written 503 days ago

To my mind, "Dreaming in Colours that Don't Exist" reads like a published novel. I think all it needs is a few tweaks here and there and it could be published. I particularly like the descriptions of the house, which bring it alive.

One thought I did have: where is Eden supposed to be? I know its somewhere on the coast, and presumably in England somewhere, but I don't think that we are actually told. (In my imagination I have put it in Cornwall because I picked up a slight Daphne DuMaurier vibe from the opening chapter.) I think it would help crystalise the place in the reader's mind to be given a rough hint to the geographic location, even if it's just the name of the county.

I have read four chapters so far and fully intend to return to read the rest.

Good luck with this, E.J.

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 531 days ago

I was chuckling at this from the very first sentence. I read the first four chapters, though I have to admit I got a little lost in chapter four as I didn't recognise the film references. One criticism I do have is that I think there are a few too many "asides" in brackets, which disrupt the flow and make the story slightly harder to read than it needs to be. Under the principle of "less is more", I do think that if you removed some then it would actually make it even funnier. (A good trick is to try reading it out loud and seeing how well the writing flows. Anything you trip over whilst reading can then be re-written.) However, the situation and characters of "Is there something I should know?" are spot on for a comic novel, and I do think that with a touch of judicious editing this book has enormous potential. view book

written 585 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

Anybody who likes Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett (and there are a lot of them around) will love this book. I actually read three chapters as they are so short -- if I have any criticism, then perhaps the chapters are a little too short? Just as we are getting to know the characters, you jump to another part of the story and we have to start getting to know some completely different characters. All a matter of taste but I did find that a little unsatisfying. You could perhaps add a little bit of description of the characters or the places without slowing down the pace at all.

Tiny nitpick. I would put the sentence "The librarian went deep into thought." at the start of the next paragraph, so that it is in the same paragraph as the librarian's speech.

I look forward to reading more of this book.

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 586 days ago

Club Grmoire Review

I won't nitpick the grammar and the punctuation, because I know you are already aware that there are issues to deal with. So I am going to concentrate my comments on the story itself.

I particularly like the moment near the begining of chapter one, when Dracus enters the roundhouse, and the smoke from the fire hangs there "like a spectre ready to pounce." The language has a grand, almost biblical feel to it, like Icelandic Sagas or the Mabinogion. I know that there are plenty of readers out there who love this sort of Celtic mythology inspired epic. The big publishers are likely to pass, claiming that it is 'not commercial' enough for them, but don't dispair. When you get a better grasp of the technical aspects of writing, you'll be able to re-write to clear up all the gliches. I believe you have a draft of the whole series written already: that, in many ways, is the hardest bit done.

I do have one specific suggestion for "The Druids of Caer Gybi" chapter. A large proportion of this chapter is the conversation between Dracus and Barach. It would be nice if the conversation was broken here and there by something happening that isn't dialogue. It could be action, with one or other of the speakers doing something (there is a moment when Barach raises a tankard to his lips -- that is good, but it would be nice to have more little moments like that), or perhaps we could have more of Dracus' thoughts, or even the sound of something happening outside the roundhouse, like a dog barking or children playing. Otherwise the conversation can get a little bit wearying for the reader.

Best wishes and good writing, John. view book

written 587 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

A Georgette Heyer style novel set in a fantasy world with magic and vampires? A brilliant idea!

I like the way Erconwald capitalises certain keys words in his speech. I can't think of a better way of showing us how pompous he is (other than the fact he acts pompous, of course). Viridian is scatty and very-slightly-annoying as she should be, and Vermilion is a wonderful character. I'm really hoping she will find romance, even though she clearly does not expect to.

I had just one tiny quibble: I did wonder if it might be a little more natural if Vermilion's thoughts about using the apple peel to predict the first letter of a future husband's name (the paragraph in italics) was moved a few paragraphs later to the point immediately after Viridian mentions the game. I don't think that it would disrupt the dialogue too much. Where it stands at present, it seems to me to interrupt Vermilion's thoughts about the Zamorna family and the "Bad Blood". Then Vermilion's explanation of the apple peel game comes in response to Viridian mentioning it first, rather than seeming to preempt it.

I am looking forward to discovering more about Vermilion's world. I suspect that the dangers she will face will be rather worse than unruly children.

best wishes and good writing, John. view book

written 594 days ago

Club Agatha Review

Now, I thought I'd written the funniest book in Club Agatha, but it looks as though I've got some serious competition. Batty aunts have often been something of a mainstay of comedy, but Astrid and Aurora are up there with the best. The ghost of P.G. Wodehouse, if he's watching, must be getting very, very worried.

The story's nicely set up in Chapter One. We're going on a treasure hunt, and the narrator's family is raving bonkers. Who wouldn't read on?

"Mountains of Titicaca." Sorry to be picky, but Titicaca is a lake; admittedly one surrounded by mountains, but it did trip me up for a second. I know you're using a spot of poetic licence here, but some tiresome pedant is bound to point out that geographic detail eventually, so it might as well be me. "The shores of Titicaca" might be an alternative.

Chapter Two: I'm not sure why the manor has two names. Is it really necessary? If so, perhaps introduce the manor by the name it's generally known by (Wildeve Manor, I presume) then later on explain that the "proper" name is Tanglewood Manor. (Actually, I personally find Wildeve Manor a more evocative name than Tanglewood. To me, Wildeve Manor sounds like a place that could be haunted, Tanglewood makes me think of a music festival in America. That's just me, though.)

Perhaps a tiny grammatical error in first sentence of second paragraph. "I was 17 when I had first set eyes on it." I think this should be simple past tense, so doesn't need the "had". Try removing the "had" and re-reading the paragraph and see if it sounds better. Also a nit-pick: the convention is that the names of numbers up to twenty are generally written out, so it should be "I was seventeen when I..."

Some people are going to say that chapter two is all backstory, and start quoting slogans like "show, don't tell". Although I generally agree with that philosophy, I think this is a case where it doesn't matter too much if it is all backstory. You tell that story in an entertaining and enjoyable way, and that's what's really important. (A thought did pass through my head that a family tree might be useful, however. Perhaps you've already thought that thought yourself.)

All in all, Charades with a Lunatic promises to be an entertaining and funny read. Good luck with it!

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 601 days ago

Club Agatha Review

This review might come over as a little negative, but that is not my intention at all. I think you might have something really good here, but it may need a bit of work on it to reveal the diamond that I think is lurking inside. You make a few mistakes with punctuation and sentence construction which means that I had to work out what you were trying to say in a lot of places. This interrupted the flow and made it a bit of a struggle to read. This is nothing disasterious and are easily fixed; it's just a case of knowing how to fix it.

First, commas. In a couple of places your meaning will come over better by adding some commas. In one place Connor says "I had to leave Alex" which literally means he was with Alex and had to leave her. I realise what you intended to say was "I had to leave, Alex" i.e. he's telling Alex that he had to leave. I realised this was what you meant the second time I read the sentence, but really I should not have had to read the sentence a second time.

There are some places where you use commas it's probably better to split the sentence into two shorter sentences. (This is a common error. It's called the "comma splice".) For example, in one place you say:

"The Austin's soon got used to Alex's ways, one particular memory popped up in Alex's mind, one that was painful but proved a huge step in their relationship."

I would write this as:

"The Austins' soon got used to Alex's ways. One particular memory popped up in Alex's mind, one that was painful but proved a huge step in their relationship."

Stopping and starting the sentence at "One" helps to keep the two ideas separate and makes for a more comfortable read.

Also, you make a couple of tiny errors with apostrophes. For a plural possessive, the apostrophe comes after the s. So (in the sentence above) the possessive of The Austins should be The Austins'. You also have "enquiry's" in one place which should be spelt "enquiries" and "parent's" which isn't used as a possessive so should be "parents" without the apostrophe.

(If you already know all this and these were genuine slips of the fingers then tell me to shut up. I won't be offended.)

I can tell from the other comments that have been made that other readers have not been too put off by any of these technical factors and have recognised the great story that's trying to get out. But at the moment it's a bit like a fuzzy photograph, and making these edits will help bring the story into focus; and, I promise you, an editor or an agent would certainly be more impressed if you get these technical details right.

(Incidently, I learned most of what I know about English grammar from reading novels by authors I respected and working out how they did things, and not from school at all.)

Having got that off my chest, I have to say that you have the makings of a thoughtful, character-driven story here. I can see the start of a mystery taking shape here (I'm already curious about Phillip Barron and wondering what part he's going to play). There is some great imagery, too, such as Alex forcing her way through the London crowds whilst listening to her music, or Lucy dancing at the wedding. Also, what comes over most of all is Alex's sadness (perhaps melancholy is a better word). A reader would have to have a heart of stone (no pun intended) not to empathise with her.

Good luck with "Nothing's Set in Stone".

Best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 608 days ago

Club Grimoire Review (Supplemental)

I was fairly negative about your earlier prologue in my original review. I have just read your new prologue, and this is much, much better! Big thumbs up from me!

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 610 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

I enjoyed Liminal Lights very much. When I was very little, one of my favourite books was "The Borrowers" and Liminal Lights reminded me just a little of that -- except what the Liminals "borrow" is not physical objects, but a child's magic, which is a particularly interesting idea. I am interested to find out how that magic manifests itself and why the Liminals need it.

I rather like the word "Liminal." It's perfect for describing these creatures (and you're right to avoid conventional words like "fairy" or "pixie" as they come with all manner of negative connotations). However, I wasn't sure if Bean was supposed to be male or female. "Bean" seemed a rather masculine name, but "Zebeana" sounds feminine, so I finally concluded that Bean was a tomboyish girl Liminal. My only concern is that a boy might read this story, start by imagining that the narrator is a boy like himself, then a little later discover that she's a girl and feel a little let down.

The reference to Puck seemed a little out of place. It briefly pulled me out of the fantasy and back into "literature". I'd feel happier if Pritt's character could be established on it's own terms without needing to be compared to a character from Shakespeare.

I've written third-person narratives in the present tense, but never had the courage to use present tense for a first person narrator, so a big thumbs-up for doing that so well here.

If I was buying a present for a child who'd grown bored with conventional fairy tales, then I would be happy to give them a copy of Liminal Lights.

best wishes and good writing, John. view book

written 612 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

Arthur is often described as "The Once and Future King" -- there are plenty of novels about the "once" half of his existance, but this is the first that I know of to consider a "future" incarnation of Arthur, too. Interesting!

I have to admit that the only bit of this chapter that I really have to take issue with is the opening sentence. I suspect that you taken a lot of trouble to get this right and re-written it several times over, but by trying to get everything you want to say into this one sentence, it ends up far too complicated for its own good. (Sorry!) I don't understand how a landscape can "embrace" him, and I don't like "seemed to dissolve" which suggests that you're not sure if it dissolved or not. (Presumably, from Arthur's viewpoint, it did dissolve, so the "seemed to" is redundant, even though it did not literally dissolve.) The phrase "forced his head into contact with" is an overcomplicated way of saying "he knocked his head against".

As the first image in the novel is an action--Arthur being blown off his feet by a gust of wind and knocking his head against a standing stone--then just show us that action happening. You don't need to mention the landscape all at this point, because it doesn't matter. In the next paragraph you've got plenty of time to give precise details of the location and anything else you need to say.

The reason why I am concentrating on this one sentence is that the rest of the chapter was fine. It read well, I found Arthur an engaging character--a young man who knows he will soon have great responsibility placed on his shoulders and is eager to do the right thing. The dialogue is just right for a young Englishman who has obviously received the best education available. (Though who knows how anyone will be talking in 88 years time!) I would be more than happy to read on to find out more about him.

I like the image of the mist. I happen to live not too far from Glastonbury (right in the centre of everything Arthurian) and believe me, more than once I have a mist rising from the Somerset Levels that could very well be described as a grey wolf!

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 613 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

Prologue: I'm not convinced that it's a good idea to start a novel with a prologue that is (in effect) a geography and history lesson. It's not necessarilly wrong, but it does make it awfully difficult to keep the reader's interest at this early stage. I was so tempted to skip forward to chapter one and the start of the "real" story, and I suspect many of your readers will feel the same. If they do skip it, then it might as well not be there. Also, a part of this prologue could be replaced with a map. (Pity we can't upload maps and diagrams into authonomy.) Would it be better to delay this information untill we are a little further into the story? I know that Will goes on a journey: perhaps there is a point where he reaches a crossroads, with the different roads leading to each of the different kingdoms? Then we can be told about the different kingdoms and how they relate to one another. There's probably another suitable point where you can introduce the back story of the witchhunts.

The King and the Witch: The characters of the King, his son and most especially Miss Hale are very well drawn. The concept of the Rings of Intention is an interesting one, and I am interested to see how you are going to develop this idea. But it does make me wonder what the witch's actual "crime" is supposed to be. Not just practising witchcraft, presumably: if the King is able using a form of witchcraft against her, doesn't that make him guilty of practising witchcraft too? I sense that there is more to Miss Hale's incarceration than we have so far been told.

In the first paragraph, Wilvred is sitting at the king's feet, his back against the arm of the throne, and the King glances at the bou's face--I couldn't work out how the King could see the boy's face from that angle. Surely he's looking down at the top of the boy's head?

Good luck with the Witches of Syhe. I look forward to reading more.

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 615 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

The prime purpose of the first chapter is to hook the reader and you have certainly hooked me! In the first section, you communicate Shiren's sense of urgency so well that I found myself reading faster and faster to help him on his way. The relationship between him and his mistress is intriguing, too, and I really wonder how that is going to develop. Shiren is clearly a good man, from how he treats the girl; will he ever overcome his submissiveness to his mistress and stand up for himself? I'm looking forward to finding out.

I think you should state Shiren's name when he is first mentioned in the first sentence, rather than say "he", because it is easier for the reader to identify with a named character. You should definatly leave his mistress nameless, however--that adds to the mystery surrounding her. She is, quite frankly, one of the most villianous villianesses that I have ever encountered!

The girl suspended on invisible ropes and what subsequently happens to her is a truly chilling image. (I'm just pleased that I didn't have nightmares about that last night, after I'd read the chapter.) The section with the sentient mist navigating its way around the valley was a genius way of painlessly introducing the reader to the geography, too.

With my editor's hat on, I have a few little comments: No apostrophe is needed after "its" when it is a possessive pronoun, i.e. "its toes". There's a line: "This ones begs your forgiveness Great Lady." which I think (if Shiren is talking about himself) should be "This one begs your forgiveness, Great Lady," I didn't find any other nit-picks, but I think I was too caught up in the story to notice.

This is a very promising opening. I look forward to reading more. I don't often give a book six stars but I am for "The Green Eyed Girl".

best wishes and good writing, John view book

written 620 days ago

Club Grimoire Review

This is fun! If I had a face a long, boring train journey, I would be more than happy to take a book of these stories with me--it would make the journey zoom past in no time at all! In "The Musicians" I was having fun picking out the names of 60's pop groups; though I have to admit most of the jokes made me groan rather than laugh. (None of the animals got depressed enough to get the moody blues, however.) I can't fault the writing in the slightest; the voice is pitch perfect and the dialogue of the bickering animals is absolutely spot on. I am really looking forward to reading the other stories. Excellent!

best wishes and good writing, John. view book

written 624 days ago

Club Grimoire Critique

As a bit of an Anglo-Saxon geek myself, I immediately felt at home with your prelude, written in the metre of Beowulf (although IMO, a little more alliteration would make it more authentic). The character names and place names are clearly Anglo-Saxon, too. The geography of your story doesn't seem terribly English, although I suppose there's no real reason why it should be. I found the grandiose tone of the prose slightly off-putting to begin with, but once I got into the tone and the rythmn of it, I began to enjoy it. Some of the word choices (such as "charming" to describe the landscape, as has been pointed out by others) did strike me as not being quite the right vocabulary for this story. You might want to look at some of the words and consider alternatives.

(Incidentally, "charming" is derived from a French word; it might be better to consider a more Germanic sounding word, in order to maintain the overall Anglo-Saxon feel of the piece. I have consulted the thesaurus, but as yet can't suggest an alternative.)

I imagined the grizzlebacks as being something like the armoured bears in "His Dark Materials" (although brown or black in colour and without the armour). I hope this was the idea that you were trying to convey. I liked the phrase "bearish beasts" (an expression that I think even the author of Beowulf might have envied).

This is clearly more of a Ring of the Nibelung type saga than a conventional fantasy novel and I think needs to be read with that in mind. Not all readers will read it that way, unfortunately. If you want to write a popular novel that will have a large number of readers (and potentially make money) then you may need to "popularise" the style (or "dumb down" in common parlance) to make it accessible to a wider readership; if you are happy with having a small number of (potentially very loyal) readers who "get" what you are trying to say, then stick to your guns and carry on with the faux Early English style.

Good luck with The Circle of the Frealings. I will be back to read more later.

best wishes and good writing, John view book