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  1. #1
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    Excerpt from Tales of Erets Book Two

    So, below is an excerpt from a book I'm still in the process of editing, the sequel to the book I published to amazon.com. This is book two in the "Tales of Erets" series, and is the prologue, the hook. Thoughts? Please, if you think I need to change something be specific. Just saying "I don't like such and such" is not terribly helpful unless you throw out a few suggestions for alternatives, which can inspire my creativity.

    Prologue
    Fire burns everything to ashes, but it can also cleanse the foulest wounds, and close them up. It's a hideous scar, but it's better than bleeding to death or turning green from infection.
    Tyson was hardly a selfless man. As leader of the Dunn Banner Mercenary Company he'd showed time and again that he was willing to do nigh anything for the right amount of coin. And yet, on that night, as most of his comrades were drinking in the bar, he showed a soft and noble side that none of them had ever expected to see.
    Witnesses reported seeing Uri's house catch fire, and then seeing the tall, red-haired Tyson, wearing studded leather armor and with a long sword at his hip, breaking through the front door, rushing into the blaze. The house was clearly lost, they knew that when the main support beam broke and the thatch roof caved in, but the villagers heaped buckets of water and dirt onto it, hoping to kill the flames before they lit the whole town up. The smoke loomed over the rooftops, and some even said they saw Uri's face in the smoke, her mouth pulled back in a painful grimace and her eyes screwed tightly shut. All reported hearing the screams from within the burning house, both Uri's screams and those of her four-year-old daughter, Mahla.
    When they heard the screams stop, all of them were sure that Uri and Mahla were dead, and that Tyson would only find charred corpses in the house, assuming the smoke hadn't already choked out his lungs. Some were already saying prayers for the souls of the deceased, others finding themselves questioning how God could possibly let this happen to such a precious little girl as Mahla was. Still others hadn't given up hope yet, and waited, watching the front doors of the house.
    Uri's house had been one of the biggest in the town. Stories and rumors abounded about how it was that Uri had fallen into so much wealth, especially since she had neither a job nor a rich husband. She had simply moved into town one day, four years prior, shortly thereafter giving birth to her golden-haired daughter, a daughter who was obviously a bastard. Some speculated that she'd been a prostitute, or perhaps a successful thief, and that she'd made enough money now to settle down and take care of her girl. All in town envied that big, beautiful house, and the fact that Uri never had to work, but now they watched as the house burned down, and Uri's life came to a sudden end, many of them feeling horrible that they'd ever spoken an unfriendly word about her.
    Just as the walls of the house were starting to collapse, the last few support beams snapping and windows shattering, Tyson burst out the front doors again, carrying little Mahla in one arm and dragging Uri's limp body with his other. Both Tyson and Mahla coughed and gasped for clean air, letting the cool night wind sting their lungs as an ironically beautiful reminder that they were still alive. The wind was like ice hitting their skin, and it was welcome as it cooled their sweat. Mahla was still crying, the tears making lines in the soot and ashes on her face, but her throat was so sore from the smoke that she'd lost her voice, was no longer able to scream.
    Other villagers were upon them in seconds, taking Mahla from the sell-sword's arms and carrying away Uri's limp body.
    The other members of Tyson's company laughed and joked when they heard the story.
    “You're a regular bloody hero!”
    “Just rushed in there? Right into the flames?”
    “Fearless, eh? Ah hah!”
    “Any o' that pretty red hair catch fire?”
    All the while Tyson suffered their jests and insults in silence, turning down their offers to buy him a beer or an ale to celebrate his selfless courage. In his head Uri caught fire, over and over, and flailed and screamed on the ground, cries that he'd thought only beasts could make. He could see her skin melting and smell the stench of her burning hair all over again. Her cries were likely to haunt him for years to come, and Mahla probably would never forget them either. As a warrior he'd seen plenty of death, killed more men than he could count, but it didn't compare to watching an innocent woman suffer like that. That night he drank not to celebrate his own heroism with the others, but to calm his nerves, to stop his hands from shaking, and he bought his own alcohol, for he felt he deserved no reward.
    In the morning, before his company left the town, Tyson decided to check in on Mahla, and so he went to the temple, where he'd left her, to talk to the priestess there. Mahla was sitting in one of the pews as he walked in, staring off into the distance, as if she were asleep, but with her eyes wide open. “She's such a darling girl,” Tyson thought, seeing her with a clean face, the soot cleaned away, for the first time.
    “Ah, you're the one who saved this little one,” said the priestess as Tyson approached the altar.
    “Yes yes. What will happen to her?”
    “She has no known next of kin. If no one takes her in then the church will raise her. She'll be trained as a priestess, a monk, or even a paladin.”
    “If no one takes her in?” Tyson asked, “Why wouldn't anyone take such a girl in?”
    “Not their responsibility. You'd be surprised how rare it is to find people who would truly love a child not their own.”
    “And if she is adopted what are the odds of it being a good family that takes her in?”
    The priestess sighed, “I won't lie, a lot of families adopt children just so they can have someone who's virtually a slave, someone who does constant, hard labor for them, and they're very good at hiding it. I've sometimes kept children hidden, made sure they weren't adopted, just to protect them from that.”
    “Then I'll take her,” Tyson said.
    “You will? You're a mercenary! You're constantly going to war! How could you possibly be a good father to this girl?”
    “I went into a burning building to save her. I think I've already, at the very least, proven that I can love her even though she's not my own.”
    “But still...what kind of life would this child have in your care, being constantly on the move, sleeping in camps full of crude killers for hire?”
    “Watch your tongue, sister.”
    “Mother,” the priestess corrected him. Nuns and inquisitors were called “sister,” priestesses were called “mother.” Clearly this man wasn't even a member of the Agalmite faith, the priestess feared what sort of heathen life the girl would lead if she were raised by such a man. “And I won't let you take her!”
    In a flash Tyson had his sword drawn and the blade pressed against the priestess' throat. The priestess wanted to scream at first, but she immediately realized that he would likely slit her throat to silence her. The blade was kept sharp at the tip, sharp enough to shave, or to cut leather. Tyson's face was intense, focused, with the corners of his mouth pulled down in a scowl, his nostrils curled upward, and his eyes screaming his silent rage at her. “I'm taking the girl! I will not suffer her to become a slave, not yours or anyone else's!”
    “Alright! Alright!” The priestess said, holding up her hands in surrender.
    Tyson sheathed his sword, his face instantly changing to a much softer, friendlier expression, “I knew you'd be reasonable.”
    “If you're going to go you should take this,” the priestess said. She reached behind the altar and produced a small, gold-plated box. “It was the only thing that survived the fire. It's locked, and we couldn't find a key, but perhaps you'll have a use for it.”
    “Thank you, sister,” Tyson said, taking the box.
    “MOTHER!” The priestess corrected him again.
    “I'm not your mother,” Tyson said, chuckling to himself as the priestess rolled her eyes in exasperation.
    Mahla said nothing when Tyson told her that he was her new father, merely nodded her head and followed him, holding his hand tightly, and not speaking a word to anyone. On the road from the town to where the Dunn Banner Mercenary Company would make camp Mahla didn't even make eye contact with any member of her “new family,” she merely stared off into space, her eyes wide and terrified.
    Later that night, in the comfort of his tent, as Mahla slept on his bedroll, sucking her thumb for the first time in two years, Tyson took to picking the lock on the gold-plated box. The box itself could, obviously, be sold, but one had to wonder what was so valuable that you had to lock it in a box plated in gold. After working on the lock for over an hour he heard the right click and the box came open. Inside were letters with broken seals, and when Tyson read the letters he laughed so hard that he woke Mahla from her deep sleep.
    “You really are the one I've been looking for, girl!”



  2. #2
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    I probably should have mentioned the guidelines for this sort of thing: add an extra blank line between the paragraphs to make it more readable. Few people, and I'm not one of them, have the fortitude to grind through a massive wall of text. Also, keep the excerpts to about a thousand words or so (you have about 1500 here). Bite-sized segments work better for reviews and feedback.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Scanning it quickly, though, I think you need to work on your use of commas (a not uncommon issue). You're missing some where they're needed and include others where they're not.

    I'm not fond of your first paragraph. It sounds very philosophical, and yet the rest of the story is very action-oriented. I also suspect most readers would not build up a positive mental picture when presented with the words "green with infection". You want your lead-in to grab the reader and encourage him to continue.

    Some of your sentences seem unnecessarily long, with extraneous detail. Is it really important to know what Tyson was wearing when he broke down the door? Was his sword significant in some way? The rhythm of your prose needs to match the pace of your action: short, simple sentences when things get tense, longer sentences when things slow down.

    Chop this up and I'll come back with more later.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 08-13-2014 at 04:05 PM.

  4. #4
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    I can't find the "edit" button. Overall the book does oscillate between the philosophical and the action-oriented side, but for a first impression in a prologue you're probably right. Either it needs to be removed, or I need to put more philosophy in there. Certainly "green with infection" needs to go. Thank you for the bit on pacing the sentences.

  5. #5
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    Ok, couldn't find "edit post" so I'll just do it this way.

    Prologue

    Fire burns everything to ashes, but it can also cleanse the foulest wounds, and close them up. It's a hideous scar, but it's better than bleeding to death or turning green from infection.

    Tyson was hardly a selfless man. As leader of the Dunn Banner Mercenary Company he'd showed time and again that he was willing to do nigh anything for the right amount of coin. And yet, on that night, as most of his comrades were drinking in the bar, he showed a soft and noble side that none of them had ever expected to see.

    Witnesses reported seeing Uri's house catch fire, and then seeing the tall, red-haired Tyson, wearing studded leather armor and with a long sword at his hip, breaking through the front door, rushing into the blaze. The house was clearly lost, they knew that when the main support beam broke and the thatch roof caved in, but the villagers heaped buckets of water and dirt onto it, hoping to kill the flames before they lit the whole town up. The smoke loomed over the rooftops, and some even said they saw Uri's face in the smoke, her mouth pulled back in a painful grimace and her eyes screwed tightly shut. All reported hearing the screams from within the burning house, both Uri's screams and those of her four-year-old daughter, Mahla.
    When they heard the screams stop, all of them were sure that Uri and Mahla were dead, and that Tyson would only find charred corpses in the house, assuming the smoke hadn't already choked out his lungs. Some were already saying prayers for the souls of the deceased, others finding themselves questioning how God could possibly let this happen to such a precious little girl as Mahla was. Still others hadn't given up hope yet, and waited, watching the front doors of the house.

    Uri's house had been one of the biggest in the town. Stories and rumors abounded about how it was that Uri had fallen into so much wealth, especially since she had neither a job nor a rich husband. She had simply moved into town one day, four years prior, shortly thereafter giving birth to her golden-haired daughter, a daughter who was obviously a bastard. Some speculated that she'd been a prostitute, or perhaps a successful thief, and that she'd made enough money now to settle down and take care of her girl. All in town envied that big, beautiful house, and the fact that Uri never had to work, but now they watched as the house burned down, and Uri's life came to a sudden end, many of them feeling horrible that they'd ever spoken an unfriendly word about her.

    Just as the walls of the house were starting to collapse, the last few support beams snapping and windows shattering, Tyson burst out the front doors again, carrying little Mahla in one arm and dragging Uri's limp body with his other. Both Tyson and Mahla coughed and gasped for clean air, letting the cool night wind sting their lungs as an ironically beautiful reminder that they were still alive. The wind was like ice hitting their skin, and it was welcome as it cooled their sweat. Mahla was still crying, the tears making lines in the soot and ashes on her face, but her throat was so sore from the smoke that she'd lost her voice, was no longer able to scream.

    Other villagers were upon them in seconds, taking Mahla from the sell-sword's arms and carrying away Uri's limp body.

    The other members of Tyson's company laughed and joked when they heard the story.

    “You're a regular bloody hero!”

    “Just rushed in there? Right into the flames?”

    “Fearless, eh? Ah hah!”

    “Any o' that pretty red hair catch fire?”

    All the while Tyson suffered their jests and insults in silence, turning down their offers to buy him a beer or an ale to celebrate his selfless courage. In his head Uri caught fire, over and over, and flailed and screamed on the ground, cries that he'd thought only beasts could make. He could see her skin melting and smell the stench of her burning hair all over again. Her cries were likely to haunt him for years to come, and Mahla probably would never forget them either. As a warrior he'd seen plenty of death, killed more men than he could count, but it didn't compare to watching an innocent woman suffer like that. That night he drank not to celebrate his own heroism with the others, but to calm his nerves, to stop his hands from shaking, and he bought his own alcohol, for he felt he deserved no reward.

    In the morning, before his company left the town, Tyson decided to check in on Mahla, and so he went to the temple, where he'd left her, to talk to the priestess there. Mahla was sitting in one of the pews as he walked in, staring off into the distance, as if she were asleep, but with her eyes wide open. “She's such a darling girl,” Tyson thought, seeing her with a clean face, the soot cleaned away, for the first time.

    “Ah, you're the one who saved this little one,” said the priestess as Tyson approached the altar.

    “Yes yes. What will happen to her?”

    “She has no known next of kin. If no one takes her in then the church will raise her. She'll be trained as a priestess, a monk, or even a paladin.”

    “If no one takes her in?” Tyson asked, “Why wouldn't anyone take such a girl in?”

    “Not their responsibility. You'd be surprised how rare it is to find people who would truly love a child not their own.”

    “And if she is adopted what are the odds of it being a good family that takes her in?”

    The priestess sighed, “I won't lie, a lot of families adopt children just so they can have someone who's virtually a slave, someone who does constant, hard labor for them, and they're very good at hiding it. I've sometimes kept children hidden, made sure they weren't adopted, just to protect them from that.”

    “Then I'll take her,” Tyson said.

    “You will? You're a mercenary! You're constantly going to war! How could you possibly be a good father to this girl?”

    “I went into a burning building to save her. I think I've already, at the very least, proven that I can love her even though she's not my own.”

    “But still...what kind of life would this child have in your care, being constantly on the move, sleeping in camps full of crude killers for hire?”

    “Watch your tongue, sister.”

    “Mother,” the priestess corrected him. Nuns and inquisitors were called “sister,” priestesses were called “mother.” Clearly this man wasn't even a member of the Agalmite faith, the priestess feared what sort of heathen life the girl would lead if she were raised by such a man. “And I won't let you take her!”

    In a flash Tyson had his sword drawn and the blade pressed against the priestess' throat. The priestess wanted to scream at first, but she immediately realized that he would likely slit her throat to silence her. The blade was kept sharp at the tip, sharp enough to shave, or to cut leather. Tyson's face was intense, focused, with the corners of his mouth pulled down in a scowl, his nostrils curled upward, and his eyes screaming his silent rage at her. “I'm taking the girl! I will not suffer her to become a slave, not yours or anyone else's!”

    “Alright! Alright!” The priestess said, holding up her hands in surrender.

    Tyson sheathed his sword, his face instantly changing to a much softer, friendlier expression, “I knew you'd be reasonable.”

    “If you're going to go you should take this,” the priestess said. She reached behind the altar and produced a small, gold-plated box. “It was the only thing that survived the fire. It's locked, and we couldn't find a key, but perhaps you'll have a use for it.”

    “Thank you, sister,” Tyson said, taking the box.

    “MOTHER!” The priestess corrected him again.

    “I'm not your mother,” Tyson said, chuckling to himself as the priestess rolled her eyes in exasperation.

    Mahla said nothing when Tyson told her that he was her new father, merely nodded her head and followed him, holding his hand tightly, and not speaking a word to anyone. On the road from the town to where the Dunn Banner Mercenary Company would make camp Mahla didn't even make eye contact with any member of her “new family,” she merely stared off into space, her eyes wide and terrified.

    Later that night, in the comfort of his tent, as Mahla slept on his bedroll, sucking her thumb for the first time in two years, Tyson took to picking the lock on the gold-plated box. The box itself could, obviously, be sold, but one had to wonder what was so valuable that you had to lock it in a box plated in gold. After working on the lock for over an hour he heard the right click and the box came open. Inside were letters with broken seals, and when Tyson read the letters he laughed so hard that he woke Mahla from her deep sleep.

    “You really are the one I've been looking for, girl!”

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yeah, whole lotta clutter and unnecessary detail in there. You use a lot of "ing" verbs, which weakens your writing. Use simple past tense when you can. Kind of a cumbersome style too. Read your first six paragraphs cut by 40%:

    Tyson was hardly a selfless man. As leader of the Dunn Banner Mercenary Company, he did just about anything for the right price. And yet, on that night, as most of his comrades drank in the bar, he showed an unexpected softness and nobility.

    On that night, Uri's house caught fire, and the tall, red-haired Tyson broke through the front door and rushed into the blaze. The villagers knew the house was lost when the main support beam broke and the thatch roof caved in, but they threw buckets of water and dirt onto it, hoping to kill the flames before they consumed the town. Some claimed they saw Uri's face in the smoke looming over rooftops - her mouth grimacing in pain and eyes tightly shut. They heard Uri and her four-year-old daughter, Mahla, screaming within the burning house.

    When the screams stopped, they thought Uri and Mahla were dead, and that Tyson was perhaps overcome with smoke. Some prayed for the souls of the deceased. Others questioned how God could allow this to happen to such a precious little girl as Mahla. Still others remained hopeful and watched the front doors of the house.

    Uri's house was one of the biggest in town. Rumors abounded about how she fell into such wealth, especially since she neither worked nor married. Some speculated prostitution or perhaps thievery, but no one knew. She simply moved into town four years ago, and shortly thereafter gave birth to her golden-haired bastard. While everyone envied her house and leisurely life, as they watched it burn with her inside, many felt horrible they'd ever spoken unkindly about her.

    Just as the walls of the house started to collapse, Tyson burst out the front doors, carrying little Mahla in one arm and dragging Uri's limp body with his other. Both Tyson and Mahla coughed and gasped for air, letting the cool night wind sting their lungs back to life, a welcome relief after the scorching heat. Tears streamed down Mahla’s soot-covered face, but the smoke had silenced her cries.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 08-14-2014 at 08:56 AM.

  7. #7
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    Hmm...yeah, cutting down may be in order. Thank you, this is very helpful.

  8. #8
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    With this helpful critique in mind I made heavy edits to my novel, and I am pleased to announce that The Soothsayer's Sons, book two in my Tales of Erets series, is now published and available for purchase! Thank you so much for all of your help! You can find the novel through the following links.

    https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Erets-B...tales+of+erets
    http://www.alpinelinepublishers.com/..._s_casale.html
    https://www.createspace.com/6334646

    Or you can simply do a search on amazon for "The Soothsayer's Sons."

    I would also like to announce a contest. The cover has seven parts which are intentionally symbolic of things that happen in the novel (not just portrayals of stuff that happens in the novel, actually symbolic). The first person who can correctly guess four out of the seven symbolic parts and send me a private message over Facebook about the same will have a character named after them in a future "Tales of Erets" novel. Now, I reserve the right to change spelling of the name and such in order to make sure that the name still fits the setting, mind you. Please do not share your answers with one another. Anyway, let's have fun with this, shall we?

  9. #9
    Rogue Mutt
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    Probably should link to your Facebook page.

  10. #10
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    Here is a link to my facebook author page.
    https://www.facebook.com/talesoferet...homepage_panel

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