Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

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Bohemienne
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Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by Bohemienne » February 12th, 2010, 2:46 pm

UNDER A DEAD MOON is a dark fantasy epic that follows a young noblewoman, Fierine, as she turns to forbidden magic to fight the winds of change in the kingdom she loves. There are some hefty themes in the story--an arcane-powered industrial revolution, social unrest, misbehaving nobles, magical and religious strife, and a deteriorating wall meant to keep the darkness at bay--but I wanted to first ground the reader in Fierine's situation before throwing open the gates on the main plot. Whether it works or not, I'd love to know! Thank you for reading!

========================

I am sixteen years old and tomorrow I will be dragged tear-streaked and hoarse-voiced to Mierne to train as a mage like my father. But I don’t want to be like my father, who treated the arcana like a relic to observe through glass, not a living beast to control. My father, who could have conquered a Dead Moon night and silenced the writhing underclasses but instead wrote his tomes. I don’t want to be like my father because my father is dead.

I want to savor the muggy summer days of Loureilles, when only the Western Sea’s delicate breeze can relieve us. I want to boss around the servants and buy new gowns for Mother’s parties and learn to bake with Gritta and steal tastes of wine with my best friend Lorna until we collapse, flushed and giggling, and gossip about simple things, not the encroaching demons or games of crowns.

But I’ve sensed the end of these days, ripening on the horizon bright as the dawn—I’ve seen the grand design for my intended life, like lifting away an engine’s casing to reveal its gears. Lorna, who cannot touch the arcana, has confessed her parents’ threats of arranged marriages. I’m no longer my Mother’s ornament to be glimpsed once at parties and never seen again, but a seat at the banquet table.

Gritta bundles up my clothing and treatises from my father’s library. Tears clean her cheeks and she says Oh, Fierine, I wish I could be your nanny forever. When she finishes packing she wraps one burly arm around my shoulders and wails her goodbye.

Lorna and I climb from my balcony to the shallow gable, our hiding spot, and watch the winking stars. We trade sips of Krytosian rum and choke on cigars. She says she wishes she could touch the arcana; I shrug because it’s not a thing I do, it’s just a thing that happens, and then only when I’m mad. Someone insults my father’s memory—a gush of flame at my fingertips. Baron Heaume tries to lure me back to him, and I feel the arcana hardening my veins, protecting me. She says I’ll learn, and become as strong as my father someday.

But in my heart I know the arcana is only a fragment of what I need to learn. I barely know why men watch me like they do, eyes chasing the curve of my hips, but ignore Lorna and her stick-straight lines. I can scarcely imagine Elanthine beyond our privileged enclave in Loureilles, hardly know the stink of the factories and the sweat of the fields. I’ve never surrendered to the power of the arcana—I fear it will shatter me and rebuild me; wash over me, more intoxicating than anything that can be sipped, heard, touched. I dread drowning in its undertow, breathing it in like water, until all I want is to touch the arcana, and when I touch it, then all I want is more.

I should fear the shadow cast beneath the arcana’s weave most of all.

Lorna asks if that’s Baron Heaume down in the gardens. I can’t tell her—can’t tell anyone—so I ask her to go back inside while I make him leave.

I beat on his thick chest and tell him I hate him once Lorna’s gone, but he plucks me up like a dead bud and takes me deep into the hedge, insisting he just wants to say goodbye. I start to cry. There’s a rum-laced tilt to my protests and I ask him why he couldn’t have kept his filthy old hands to himself at Mother’s gala. He fusses with my hair and says I should thank him for making a woman of me.

I’ll never thank him. I love him, in the helpless, self-loathing fashion of any girl melting at her first touch, but I won’t thank him. I don’t care what riches he promises me, what schemes he outlines. I just want him to leave the Baroness, which he says he’ll never do. But I’m too tired and drunk, and it’s written in my drooping speech. He undresses me and takes what he wants. His touch feels as mismatched as Gritta’s embrace.

I say I hate him again as I gather my clothes to scamper back to Lorna, but I’m sure he smells the lie. Quietly, I wonder if I could kill him. Then no one wins.

At some point in the night, or maybe it’s the blush of dawn, Mother interrupts our chatter to say farewell. She sweeps in and out of my room on a single swish of black robes, arcing across the floor, not stopping even for breath.

In the morning I will be baptized in the deluge of arcana.

MaryAnn
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by MaryAnn » February 12th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Very good, but lacks warmth. Maybe a little too fast paced. Maybe. Who am I to say--some other reader might think the pacing is great. I finished with a feeling of disconnection with the main character and no interest in what she did next.

No offense. Really, that's my opinion. Don't change based on one opinion or ten. Go with your gut and cross your fingers.

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RebeccaKnight
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by RebeccaKnight » February 12th, 2010, 7:29 pm

Bohemienne wrote:UNDER A DEAD MOON is a dark fantasy epic that follows a young noblewoman, Fierine, as she turns to forbidden magic to fight the winds of change in the kingdom she loves. There are some hefty themes in the story--an arcane-powered industrial revolution, social unrest, misbehaving nobles, magical and religious strife, and a deteriorating wall meant to keep the darkness at bay--but I wanted to first ground the reader in Fierine's situation before throwing open the gates on the main plot. Whether it works or not, I'd love to know! Thank you for reading!

========================

I am sixteen years old and tomorrow I will be dragged tear-streaked and hoarse-voiced to Mierne to train as a mage like my father. But I don’t want to be like my father, who treated the arcana like a relic to observe through glass, not a living beast to control. My father, who could have conquered a Dead Moon night and silenced the writhing underclasses but instead wrote his tomes. I don’t want to be like my father because my father is dead. I LOVE THIS! Seriously, I forgot I was critiquing and just kept reading because this is such a gripping opening--great job!

I want to savor the muggy summer days of Loureilles, when only the Western Sea’s delicate breeze can relieve us. I want to boss around the servants and buy new gowns for Mother’s parties and learn to bake with Gritta and steal tastes of wine with my best friend Lorna until we collapse, flushed and giggling, (the sentence gets awkward starting here--you may want to break this up) and gossip about simple things, not the encroaching demons or games of crowns.

But I’ve sensed the end of these days, ripening on the horizon bright as the dawn. I’ve seen the grand design for my intended life, like lifting away an engine’s casing to reveal its gears. Lorna, who cannot touch the arcana, has confessed her parents’ threats of arranged marriages. I’m no longer my Mother’s ornament to be glimpsed once at parties and never seen again, but a seat at the banquet table. ("a seat at the banquet table" was confusing, and I had to re-read it before I knew what you meant.)

Gritta bundles up my clothing and treatises from my father’s library. Tears clean her cheeks and she says Oh, Fierine, I wish I could be your nanny forever. When she finishes packing she wraps one burly arm around my shoulders and wails her goodbye.

Lorna and I climb from my balcony to the shallow gable, our hiding spot, and watch the winking stars. We trade sips of Krytosian rum and choke on cigars. She says she wishes she could touch the arcana; I shrug because it’s not a thing I do, it’s just a thing that happens, and then only when I’m mad. Someone insults my father’s memory—a gush of flame at my fingertips. (I love how you introduce us to what this power is--awesome! ;)) Baron Heaume tries to lure me back to him, and I feel the arcana hardening my veins, protecting me. She says I’ll learn, and become as strong as my father someday. (Here, I'm not sure what's happening. It jumps to a Baron, then back to "she," and it is a bit unclear.)

But in my heart I know the arcana is only a fragment of what I need to learn. I barely know why men watch me like they do, eyes chasing the curve of my hips, but ignore Lorna and her stick-straight lines. I can scarcely imagine Elanthine beyond our privileged enclave in Loureilles, hardly know the stink of the factories and the sweat of the fields. I’ve never surrendered to the power of the arcana—I fear it will shatter me and rebuild me; wash over me, more intoxicating than anything that can be sipped, heard, touched. I dread drowning in its undertow, breathing it in like water, until all I want is to touch the arcana, and when I touch it, then all I want is more. (I think this description is lovely, but could be pared down.)

I should fear the shadow cast beneath the arcana’s weave most of all. (Be careful not to mention "arcana" too many times in too short a space.)

Lorna asks if that’s Baron Heaume down in the gardens. I can’t tell her—can’t tell anyone—so I ask her to go back inside while I make him leave.

I beat on his thick chest and tell him I hate him once Lorna’s gone, but he plucks me up like a dead bud and takes me deep into the hedge, insisting he just wants to say goodbye. I start to cry. There’s a rum-laced tilt to my protests and I ask him why he couldn’t have kept his filthy old hands to himself at Mother’s gala. He fusses with my hair and says I should thank him for making a woman of me.

I’ll never thank him. I love him, in the helpless, self-loathing fashion of any girl melting at her first touch, but I won’t thank him. I don’t care what riches he promises me, what schemes he outlines. I just want him to leave the Baroness, which he says he’ll never do. But I’m too tired and drunk, and it’s written in my drooping speech. He undresses me and takes what he wants. His touch feels as mismatched as Gritta’s embrace.

I say I hate him again as I gather my clothes to scamper back to Lorna, but I’m sure he smells the lie. Quietly, I wonder if I could kill him. Then no one wins. (Powerful stuff! This part is well done. If you clean up the part above about the Baron, I think this could be even stronger.)

At some point in the night, or maybe it’s the blush of dawn, Mother interrupts our chatter to say farewell. She sweeps in and out of my room on a single swish of black robes, arcing across the floor, not stopping even for breath.

In the morning I will be baptized in the deluge of arcana .


I LOVE THIS :). I'm not even kidding. If I'd read this as a preview on Amazon, I would have already bought the book. I hope these suggestions help, and thanks for sharing this with us!

I think you have a very strong voice, a compelling start, and great tension. Rock on, and please tell me when you're published so I can throw money at you!
"The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want the most for what you want now."

http://rebeccaknightbooks.blogspot.com
@twoheadknight on Twitter

KappaP
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by KappaP » February 12th, 2010, 9:12 pm

You probably know this, but most agents consider writing the query in the voice of the protagonist (i.e. first person) gimicky and don't go for it. The book itself sounds super interesting, so I just want that to hurt your chances.
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Lunetta22
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by Lunetta22 » February 13th, 2010, 2:09 am

I really like the opening. This part especially is well written:
Lorna asks if that’s Baron Heaume down in the gardens. I can’t tell her—can’t tell anyone—so I ask her to go back inside while I make him leave.

I beat on his thick chest and tell him I hate him once Lorna’s gone, but he plucks me up like a dead bud and takes me deep into the hedge, insisting he just wants to say goodbye. I start to cry. There’s a rum-laced tilt to my protests and I ask him why he couldn’t have kept his filthy old hands to himself at Mother’s gala. He fusses with my hair and says I should thank him for making a woman of me.

I’ll never thank him. I love him, in the helpless, self-loathing fashion of any girl melting at her first touch, but I won’t thank him. I don’t care what riches he promises me, what schemes he outlines. I just want him to leave the Baroness, which he says he’ll never do. But I’m too tired and drunk, and it’s written in my drooping speech. He undresses me and takes what he wants. His touch feels as mismatched as Gritta’s embrace.

I say I hate him again as I gather my clothes to scamper back to Lorna, but I’m sure he smells the lie. Quietly, I wonder if I could kill him. Then no one wins.
I would definitely read on.

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Bohemienne
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by Bohemienne » February 14th, 2010, 10:13 am

Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback! I tried expanding it just a hair to give it some more warmth and intrigue--I realized I'd barely touched on the dark magic, which is a HUGE theme of the book. Maybe that will add the compellingness it needs, MaryAnn? In any case, I appreciate you all reading!

=================

I am sixteen years old and tomorrow I will be dragged tear-streaked and hoarse-voiced to Mierne to train as a mage like my father. But I don’t want to be like my father, who treated the arcana like a relic to observe through glass, not a living beast to control. My father, who could have conquered a Dead Moon night and silenced the writhing underclasses but instead wrote his tomes. I don’t want to be like my father because my father is dead.

A shadow has grown under my bedroom window, tucked into the rose bushes to keep from fluttering away. A remnant of the last Dead Moon. I stare into its heart now, and hear it whispering beneath the arcana; I listen to the darkness that underlines the handful of spells I know. Gritta calls me away from the garden and makes me come inside.

I watch her as she bundles my clothing, and treatises from my father’s library. Tears clean her cheeks and she says Oh, Fierine, I wish I could be your nanny forever. I wish she could, too. I want to savor the muggy summer days of Loureilles, when only the Western Sea’s delicate breeze can relieve us. I want to boss around the servants and buy new gowns for Mother’s parties and learn to bake with Gritta and steal tastes of wine with my best friend Lorna until we collapse, flushed and giggling, and gossip about simple things, not the encroaching demons or games of land.

But the end of these days ripens on the horizon bright as dawn—I see the life that’s been designed for me, like lifting away an engine’s casing to reveal its gears. Lorna, who cannot touch the arcana, has confessed her parents’ threats of arranged marriages. I’m no longer my Mother’s ornament to be glimpsed once at parties and never seen again; I command a seat at the banquet.

When she finishes packing she wraps one burly arm around my shoulders and tells me to leave the shadow behind. I didn’t think she could see.

Lorna and I climb from my balcony to the shallow gable, our hiding spot, and watch the winking stars. We trade sips of Krytosian rum and choke on cigars. She says she wishes she could touch the arcana; I shrug because it’s not a thing I do, it’s just a thing that happens, and then only when I’m mad. Someone insults my father’s memory—a gush of flame at my fingertips. Baron Heaume tries to lure me back to him, and I feel the arcana hardening my veins, protecting me. Lorna says I’ll learn, and become as strong as my father someday.

But in my heart I know its power is only a fragment of what’s ahead. I barely know why men watch me like they do, eyes chasing the curve of new hips, but ignore Lorna and her stick-straight lines. I can scarcely see Elanthine beyond our privileged enclave, hardly know the stink of the factories and the sweat of the fields. I’ve never surrendered to the power of the arcana—I fear it will shatter me and rebuild me; wash over me, more intoxicating than anything that can be sipped, heard, touched. I dread drowning in its undertow, breathing it in like water, until all I want is to touch it, and when I touch it, then all I want is more.

I should fear the dark fur of its underside most of all.

Lorna asks if that’s Baron Heaume down in the gardens. I can’t tell her—can’t tell anyone—so I ask her to go back inside while I make him leave.

I beat on his thick chest and tell him I hate him once Lorna’s gone, but he plucks me up like a dead bud and takes me deep into the hedge, insisting he just wants to say goodbye. I start to cry. There’s a rum-laced tilt to my protests and I ask him why he couldn’t have kept his filthy old hands to himself at Mother’s gala. He fusses with my hair and says I should thank him for making a woman of me.

I’ll never thank him. I love him, in the helpless, self-loathing fashion of any girl melting at her first touch, but I won’t thank him. I don’t care what riches he promises me, what schemes he outlines. I just want him to leave the Baroness, which he says he’ll never do. But I’m too tired and drunk, and it’s written in my drooping speech. He undresses me and takes what he wants. His touch feels as mismatched as Gritta’s embrace.

I say I hate him again as I gather my clothes to scamper back to Lorna, but I’m sure he smells the lie. As I pass the garden shadow, I wonder if I could kill him. Then no one wins.

At some point in the night, or maybe it’s the blush of dawn, Mother interrupts our chatter to say farewell. She sweeps in and out of my room on a single swish of black robes, arcing across the floor, not stopping even for breath.

In the morning I will be baptized in the deluge of arcana.

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Holly
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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by Holly » February 14th, 2010, 10:39 am

Hi, Bohemienne. I have some constructive criticism (sorry!). First, a compliment for setting the mood.

I can tell that you love language, but some of this borders on purple prose, at least in my humble opinion. Here is a good desc. of purple prose on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_prose

It would hold my attention longer if you could ground it with a mixture of the ordinary as well as the romantic/poetic. Language that describes the ordinary also makes characters and places seem real. All romantic/poetic language and it becomes like eating an entire dinner of chocolate -- does that make sense to you?

Also, you could expand any one of these scenes. I feel like you are skimming the surface, telling us about the scenes, instead of putting us inside them.

You write well, and again, these are just my opinions. Good luck!

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Re: Excerpt: Under a Dead Moon

Post by Lunetta22 » February 14th, 2010, 10:50 pm

I like the additions. This paragraph is definitely clearer:
But the end of these days ripens on the horizon bright as dawn—I see the life that’s been designed for me, like lifting away an engine’s casing to reveal its gears. Lorna, who cannot touch the arcana, has confessed her parents’ threats of arranged marriages. I’m no longer my Mother’s ornament to be glimpsed once at parties and never seen again; I command a seat at the banquet.
I like the pretty prose, and I would definitely keep reading. I'd need some real dialogue soon, but I think that this sets the tone for the story quite well.

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