Query: The Valley and the Shadow - new version page 3

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TheShadow
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Query: The Valley and the Shadow - new version page 3

Post by TheShadow » February 1st, 2010, 9:22 pm

New version on page 3

After so many brain-wracking nights in front of the not-so-soothing glow of a monitor, its time to unleash my query upon these wonderful forums. I drive myself mad wondering: is it too much tell and not enough show? Enough conflict? Too long/short? And to think it was enjoyable (mostly) writing my story only to stumble into the depths of the query writing process.

Don't be gentle, and now that my mind is somewhat free from this I can return the favor of query demolishing... i mean critiquing.

Dear Agent,

[Some nice words for said Agent]

When Lucinda's siblings become the victims of a centuries old religious schism she must escape the valley which had once been her family's home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary Wars - years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is taken by hunger and her first love by war. But when a mysterious and desirable man, Jacques d'Auvergne, offers her freedom from the cruel world she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It's easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.

But everything comes at a cost and for vampires the most terrifying cost is the desire for death with the blood. When Jacques is destroyed Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past before she succumbs to the lust for death like the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.

THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW, a supernatural fiction complete at 125,000 words, is my first novel. [Included and the first X pages [,along with a synopsis].] Thank you for your time and consideration.
Last edited by TheShadow on February 10th, 2010, 11:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by christi » February 1st, 2010, 9:38 pm

TheShadow wrote:After so many brain-wracking nights in front of the not-so-soothing glow of a monitor, its time to unleash my query upon these wonderful forums. I drive myself mad wondering: is it too much tell and not enough show? Enough conflict? Too long/short? And to think it was enjoyable (mostly) writing my story only to stumble into the depths of the query writing process.

Don't be gentle, and now that my mind is somewhat free from this I can return the favor of query demolishing... i mean critiquing.

Dear Agent,

[Some nice words for said Agent]

When Lucinda's siblings become the victims of a centuries (weird as it may seem, I think this needs to be possessive as centuries' ) old religious schism(,) she must escape the valley which had once been her family's home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary Wars - years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is (first) taken by hunger and (then man she loves) by war. But when a mysterious and desirable man, Jacques d'Auvergne, offers her freedom from the cruel world(,) she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It's easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.

But everything comes at a cost (price. 'cost' is used too close together) and for vampires the most terrifying cost is the desire for death with the blood. When Jacques is destroyed(,) Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past before she succumbs to the lust for death like the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.

THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW, a supernatural fiction complete at 125,000 words, is my first novel. [Included and the first X pages [,along with a synopsis].] Thank you for your time and consideration.

I'm sorry if my color coding goes askew. I kept forgetting which color I was using for what :-) It's nice and concise, but it needs some tweeking.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by Seadhlinn » February 1st, 2010, 10:03 pm

Image
Well, you asked =P
When Lucinda's siblings become the victims of a centuries old religious schism she must escape the valley which had once been her family's home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary Wars - years of famine, desperation, and lost love.
1. "Centuries old" may be hyphenated? Somehow "centuries-old" looks better to me.
2.Comma after "schism"
3. You lay your main hook right out there, but somehow this feels bland. Perhaps "she must flee the valley which has been her family's ancestral home". It might convey more of a sense of the upheaval that comes with leaving a familiar place, especially during such a chaotic point in history.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is taken by hunger and her first love by war. But when a mysterious and desirable man, Jacques d'Auvergne, offers her freedom from the cruel world she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It's easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.
An interesting twist. However, I'd go with re-phrasing the sentences. The first two seem like the main plot conflict is choosing between living as a mortal and suffering, or an immortal, and causing suffering, which is a very interesting intellectual/moral premise. Then the last sentence implies that she decides to take the plunge.
Here's how I'd re-write this (obviously you can ignore me): After Lucinda's mother starves to death and her first love is killed at war, the mysterious and desirable Jacques d'Auvergne offers her freedom from the cruel and unjust life she knows-- if she will just accept Dark Immortality. Lucinda takes his offer without hesitation, and thinks she's getting a good bargain.

But everything comes at a cost and for vampires the most terrifying cost is the desire for death with the blood. When Jacques is destroyed Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past before she succumbs to the lust for death like the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.
1. I'm glad you went the dark/intellectual/moral route, instead of the "vampire romance" route. The old terror-inducing blood drinkers of the night could definitely use a revival =P
2. The first sentence is run-on. It should read something like: "But everything comes at a cost. For vampires, the most terrifying cost is an urge to kill their human victims."
3. The second sentence is just confusing. I think I understand what you're getting at... at the same time, it's grammatically clunky, and leaves the main conflict ambiguous. You really want to just encapsulate the main premise here in one clear sentence. Something like: "...Lucinda must confront the pain of her mortal past... or she will become a mindless killer like the others." Obviously, you know exactly what is going on in your novel, so you can write a much better sentence.

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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by TheShadow » February 2nd, 2010, 7:12 pm

Thank you for the replies, Kay, Seahdlinn, and christi! You shed a lot of light on some things for me.

The 'centuries old' part is getting to me now. I'm far from great when it comes grammar. Word seemed to want it to be 'Century's old', possessive as chriti implied. Maybe I will just scratch it.

I agree that the hook isn't a powerful one, and maybe it would be better served throwing vampire right into the start, but I don't think vampire in and of itself is a powerful hook anymore (maybe I could rewrite for those agents who have rep'd books with vampires). In some of my early drafts I had a different hook but I had a hard time getting the query to flow from it which was why I chose the point I started at. The hook before was:

Lucinda d'Auvergne slept for twenty years. When the weight of a cursed existance became to heavy it seemed natural to let oblivion consume her mind.

From there I could come up with a way to fit vampire in and what would be the telling of her past, which is what I started with in the query. I didn't like how it flowed, though, and it seemed to drag on too much.

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. I do agree the last paragraph needs some work. I will come up a rewrite for destruction.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by Tycoon » February 2nd, 2010, 10:21 pm

TheShadow wrote:After so many brain-wracking nights in front of the not-so-soothing glow of a monitor, its time to unleash my query upon these wonderful forums. I drive myself mad wondering: is it too much tell and not enough show? Enough conflict? Too long/short? And to think it was enjoyable (mostly) writing my story only to stumble into the depths of the query writing process.

Don't be gentle, and now that my mind is somewhat free from this I can return the favor of query demolishing... i mean critiquing.

Dear Agent,

[Some nice words for said Agent]

When Lucinda's siblings fall victim to a centuries-old religious schism, she escapes the valley which had long been the home of her family's lineage. Struggling to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary Wars - years of famine, desperation, and lost love - Lucinda... what does she do?

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is first ravaged by hunger, then loses her first love to war. But when a mysterious and desirable man, Jacques d'Auvergne, offers her freedom from the cruel world she must choose between either the unrewarding life she knows or a Dark Immortality. Her decision is easy, thus she turns her back and accepts a power that will liberate her.

However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires the most terrifying is the desire for death with blood. When Jacques is vanquished, Lucinda must confront her shadowy past, or she may fall for the lust of death just like the vampires she believes to be the true devils of the night.

THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW, a supernatural fiction complete at 125,000 words, is my first novel. [Included and the first X pages [,along with a synopsis].] Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is just my opinion to spice it up and smooth it out.

regards,

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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by TheShadow » February 2nd, 2010, 10:47 pm

Thanks, Tycoon, this is very helpful.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 2nd, 2010, 10:50 pm

It's a hyphen. :)
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by TheShadow » February 3rd, 2010, 8:51 am

Ok, here's another go at it with some of the great advice given here. The first line and second paragraph are new, an attempt to have a more enticing hook along with the mention of vampires right off the bat. It adds nearly 50 words to the query and it can stay or go as far as I'm concerned, but I wanted to see what people here thought about it. I'm wondering if it flows, I can't really tell as I read over it now for the 100th time.
Also, I know vampires are all over the place right now and some may be sick of it, but please don't let that hold you back from the fun of stomping all over my query. =) Thanks in advance to any replies.

Dear Agent,

Lucinda d’Auvergne slept for twenty years.

As a vampire, when the weight of a cursed existence had become too heavy it only seemed natural to let oblivion consume her mind. After waking in a strange yet familiar New York, she recounts her tormented past.

When her siblings fall victim to a centuries-old religious schism, she escapes the valley which had long been her family’s home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary wars – years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is taken by hunger, then her first love by war. But when the mysterious Jacques d’Auvergne offers freedom from the cruel world, she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It’s easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.

However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires it’s banishment from the sun and God, and the terrifying urge for death with the blood. With Jacques lost to her, Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past, or she may become a killer the same as the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.
Last edited by TheShadow on February 6th, 2010, 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by christi » February 3rd, 2010, 12:44 pm

TheShadow wrote:Ok, here's another go at it with some of the great advice given here. The first line and second paragraph are new, an attempt to have a more enticing hook along with the mention of vampires right off the bat. It adds nearly 50 words to the query and it can stay or go as far as I'm concerned, but I wanted to see what people here thought about it. I'm wondering if it flows, I can't really tell as I read over it now for the 100th time.
Also, I know vampires are all over the place right now and some may be sick of it, but please don't let that hold you back from the fun of stomping all over my query. =) Thanks in advance to any replies.
(My apologies on the possessive thing. I googled and saw I was quite wrong)

Dear Agent,

Lucinda d’Auvergne(, a vampire,) slept for twenty years. (I only suggest the change because the following first sentence of the next paragraph doesn't make sense alone.)
As a vampire,when the weight of a cursed existence had become too heavy(,) it only seemed natural to let oblivion consume her mind. After waking in a strange yet familiar New York, she recounts her tormented past. (Does this mean the book is a flashback? If so, the following paragraph needs to be in past tense, I think)

When her siblings fall (fell) victim to a centuries-old religious schism, she escape(d) the valley which had long been her family’s home. She struggle(d) to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary wars – years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

The burdens of an unjust life become (became) too great when her mother is (was)taken by hunger, then her first love (stolen) by war. But when the mysterious Jacques d’Auvergne offer(ed) freedom from the cruel world, she must (had to) choose between the unrewarding life she knows](knew) and Dark Immortality. It’s (It was) easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate(d) her.

However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires it’s banishment from (the illuminations of both) the sun and God, and the terrifying urge for death with the blood. With Jacques lost to her, Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past, or she may become a killer the same as the vampires (nothing more than a bloodthirsty monster, a predator of men that) she had been taught are (always believed were) the true devils of the night.

Okay, I might have gotten carried away a bit and took some liberties. Feel totally free to ignore my suggestions. Or better yet, go rip my Time Tourism query to shreds :-)
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by JustineDell » February 3rd, 2010, 1:24 pm

[quote="TheShadow"]

Dear Agent,

Lucinda d’Auvergne slept for twenty years.

As a vampire, when the weight of a cursed existence had become too heavy it only seemed natural to let oblivion consume her mind. After waking in a strange yet familiar New York, she recounts her tormented past
. Here's the thing...I read your first query and I found out she became a vampire after all this stuff happened to her family. Now, I read this query and right of the bat, she's vampire, but they you take us back to when she wasn't (in the next paragraph) and then to when she was changed into one. It may just be me, but that was jarring and more confusing than the first one.

Not only that, but why does she have the same last name as the other vampire Jacques?

Here's a thought, maybe begin the story with a hook that implies she will become a vampire? Something like:
Lucinda discovers her life's pain can be taken away with just one bite. It's up to her to decide if becoming immortal is worth the cost. (That's not a good example, but maybe it showed what I meant?) Maybe not....



Then after that great hook, put the paragraphs in the right order, because right now the bounce around.


When her siblings fall victim to a centuries-old religious schism, she escapes the valley which had long been her family’s home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary wars – years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is taken by hunger, then her first love by war. But when the mysterious Jacques d’Auvergne offers freedom from the cruel world, she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It’s easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.


However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires it’s banishment from the sun and God, and the terrifying urge for death with the blood. With Jacques lost to her (what is "lost to her"? could you elaborate more and give us more conflict?), Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past, or she may become a killer the same as the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.[/quote]


Here is how I would put the paragraphs in order (and maybe re-word them some so the are more cohesive)
Black - 2nd group of paragraphs
Green - Last paragraph
Orange - Somewhere after the 2nd group of paragraphs.
1st paragraph you ask? That's the great hook that tells us she is mortal, but may become immortal because of her past....


Man, I hope I didn't totally confuse you. Take my advice wtih a grain of salt, but I'm the type of person that needs to have things in order and your query (while very good) didn't hit that mark for me. I realize that some others told you it would be good to mention the vampire angle from the beginning and while I think that's a good idea, I think there is a better way to do it than take the story forwards and then backwards, which is how your query reads to me now.

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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by Kirril » February 3rd, 2010, 1:25 pm

Dear Agent,

Lucinda d’Auvergne slept for twenty years.

As a vampire, when the weight of a cursed existence had become too heavy it only seemed natural to let oblivion consume her mind. After waking in a strange yet familiar New York, she recounts her tormented past.

Is this a frame? In other words, does this part happen as she's an old vampire and the rest she's recounting as the main part of the novel? If so, I'd skip this and get straight to the meat. In other words, I'd dump these first two paragraphs.

When her siblings fall victim to a centuries-old religious schism, she escapes the valley which had long been her family’s home. She struggles to survive during the tumultuous years of the French Revolutionary wars – years of famine, desperation, and lost love.

All of this is background which is then repeated with different words in the next paragraph. What's the part of this story where the fire is lit under the MC's backside and she has to take action? For me, it seems when she first meets Jacques. I think you can skip these first few 'grafs and go straight to your next one.

The burdens of an unjust life become too great when her mother is taken by hunger, then her first love by war. But when the mysterious Jacques d’Auvergne offers freedom from the cruel world, she must choose between the unrewarding life she knows and Dark Immortality. It’s easy to turn her back and accept the power which can liberate her.

The meat of the story seems to start with her meeting Jaque. I would start the query with him and then add in a brief recounting of her miserable life before.

When Jacques d'Auvergne offers Lucinda d’Auvergne freedom from the cruel world that starved her mother to death and killed her first love in war the choice seems simple. But Dark Immortality carries a heavy price: banishment from the sun, excommunication from God, and the terrifying urge for death with blood. This bloodlust destroys Jacque, her mentor, and leaves Lucinda alone to confront the shadows of her past.
However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires it’s banishment from the sun and God, and the terrifying urge for death with the blood. With Jacques lost to her, Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past, or she may become a killer the same as the vampires she had been taught are the true devils of the night.



As the bloodlust grows and Lucinda's desires overwhelm her, she reaches to her human past to prevent her descent into murderous insanity.


I took a guess as to how her past can help her, so I'm likely wrong.

It's good that Lucinda must do X too overcome Y here, but it's lacking specifics. "Shadows of her past" is very vague. In your query you do mention some of her issues, but it's still not clear how confronting her past will keep her from bloodlust. I'm also not clear on what this "urge for death with the blood" is. Do you mean the urge to kill mortals for their blood?

Overall I get a vague notion of where this query is going, but we need some specifics to make it stand out from other novels of its kind and also what it is about her past that will save her from this bloodlust that can destroy her.

Hope this helps!

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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by TheShadow » February 3rd, 2010, 9:04 pm

Again, thanks to everyone for such great help.

Kirril- It was a frame, and it didn't flow well at all, which was why I didn't want to use it in the first place. Thanks for your suggestions, if you have a query up and want my input, let me know. I'm trying to go through and critique others as I get the time to do so.

JustineDell- I totally understand what you're saying, thanks! Again, if you have a query up here I will be glad to look at it.

Christi- thanks again for your input. It probably should have been past tense, but I left it the same for whatever reason.

I've learned a lot about this process. One of them is there are so many ways a query can be written. I have a dozen queries for the same book. What I came to understand is that I could start it at any point in the novel and so long as I make the conflict, stakes, and MC interesting it can work. I could have started from the present and gone into a flashback (like I did here poorly). I could have started when she was already a vampire and go into all of the terrible choices she had to make. I could have started, as some suggested, with the choice to accept immortality or not.

I want to give some insight into why I went with the original query I posted, for whatever it's worth. I wanted to show, briefly, the characters terrible past, along with the timeframe which, at least to me, is interesting. Then I wanted to show that she had a choice for something else (to be freed from such a bleak existance), though it came with a price, and that she accepts it. Last of all I wanted to show the consequences/conflict, the stakes. All of this could be fit into the confined space we are given for a query.

I say this because I know how many others here feel when writing a query. We all want to put as much info into it as we can, because we slaved for months/years on the book and it seems such an injustice to leave all of this info out. I think that's the most important thing I learned over the long query process, it needs to be concise, it needs to draw the reader in, it needs to be interesting/have a hook. Too much info will bog all of this down.

Thanks again to everyone who helped. With the last query I posted I learned that it only overcomplicated it so I am going to stick to the original which you helped me polish up (the last query minus the first 2 paragraphs).
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by ivanpope » February 6th, 2010, 2:43 pm

My take on it: show, don't tell!
Lucinda d’Auvergne, vampire, slept for twenty years. After waking in a strange yet familiar New York, she recalls her tormented past.

After her siblings fall victim to an ancient religious schism, she struggles to survive the tumultuous time of the French Revolutionary wars – years of famine and desperation. Her mother is taken by hunger, her first love by war.

When the mysterious Jacques d’Auvergne offers freedom from the world, she must choose between her unrewarding life and Dark Immortality. It’s easy to accept the power which can liberate her.

However, everything comes at a price, and for vampires it’s banishment from the sun and God. With Jacques lost to her, Lucinda must confront the shadows of her past, or become a killer and one of the true devils of the night.

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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by TheShadow » February 6th, 2010, 5:24 pm

I think it's time I take a step back from this, as I have been thinking about it and working on it for far too long. My brain is frazzled . I liked the original concept I had been working on, but then I started thinking it was too passive and just wasn't gripping enough. Either way, this is the draft I am currently looking at (unfortunatly it reads too much like a synopsis, and still doesn't seem engaging).

***

During the years of the French Revolutionary Wars, Lucinda’s fate has always been dictated by circumstances beyond her control. When she is offered liberation from the cruel world as a vampire, she turns her back on the light of the sun and God and embraces Dark Immortality.

Distraught with the memories of her mortal life, Lucinda is tortured with the harsh reality of what she has become. She struggles as she searches for a place within the world, and with the distressing thought of eternity as a hunter and killer of what she had once been.

Lucinda hopelessly attempts to find some peace within herself before she falls to darkness and becomes a devil in the night like the vampires she abhors.

Complete at 120,000 words, THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW explores the life of a vulnerable young woman whose life had always been controlled by others, and the same woman when she is given power of those who had once oppressed.

OR, something I came up with real quick.

Lucinda is a vampire who hunts for blood in a France torn by revolution. With each death she loses more of what connects her to the land and people she had once been among.

Even as she tries to convince herself that there can be good found within the world, she hunts and kills with uncompassionate efficiency. The burdens of what she has become catches up with her and she grasps at the fleeting remnants of her lost humanity.

Lucinda must find solace within herself, and within her dark past, before she falls to the curse of what she is.

THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW is a supernatural/paranormal fiction complete at 120,000 words.

***

The second is fast paced, more action if you will. Who knows which agent would like which one better.
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Re: Query: The Valley and the Shadow

Post by christi » February 6th, 2010, 7:59 pm

That was fun. I did a sort of mix and match word puzzle! I liked bits of both so kind of threw them together in a way that made sense to me. Do with it as you wish.

Lucinda is a vampire who hunts for blood in a France torn by revolution.

Her fate has always been dictated by circumstances beyond her control, but when Lucinda was offered liberation from the cruel world to become a vampire, she turned her back on the light of the sun and God to embrace Dark Immortality. (not sure about the capital letters there.)

With each death she loses more of what connects her to the land and people she had once belonged to. Distraught with the memories of her mortal life, Lucinda is tortured with the harsh reality of what she has become. She struggles as she searches for her place within the world, and with the distressing thought of eternity as a predator of what she had once been. (I changed that a little, but ignore if you wish.)

Even as she tries to convince herself that there can be good found within the world, she hunts and kills with uncompassionate maybe apathetic? efficiency. The burdens of what she has become catches up with her and she grasps at the fleeting remnants of her lost humanity.

Lucinda must find solace within herself, and within her dark past, before she falls to the curse of what she is.

THE VALLEY AND THE SHADOW is a supernatural/paranormal fiction complete at 120,000 words.
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