Monday, October 11, 2010

Hook, Line & Sinker Blogfest

Today's the day of my blogfest! Hoot and holler! Here's your LINK to the participants.

Below is my entry, starring Valence. He's been around in all the other blogfests. Returning readers get to meet him from the start now. Please use the questions below to judge your thoughts on the piece. These questions are only suggestive guidelines to follow.

  • Who is the character I am relating to?
  • Does he/she have a personality that I crave to read?
  • Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?
  • Are there secondary characters to assist the hook along, with conflict or pace?
  • Lastly: do I love the character? Do I want to read more about him/her?


* * *

Everything around Valence seemed frozen as he looked up to the speckled sky. Something about the night always fascinated him. Perhaps it was the partly heightened sense of seclusion, but he knew it was also the way the cosmos wrapped around the land—just like the daylight—and created a realm perfect for a Lunata. He sat amidst the moon glow and still air, thinking just how different the Lunata were from the myriad land-people of their world.

Can’t sleep?” a dry voice asked Valence.

Valence brushed the comment aside and unbuttoned his shirt. He walked his fingers down to the large incision that was shining red in the moonlight. Sighing, he took up a semi-damp rag and cleaned the blood away in soft pats. Sleeping hadn’t been an option for him in fifteen years.

He dropped his head into his hands, and murmured the words for comfort, “Irien’s death was an accident.”

It was all a misunderstanding, and that was a crime. The Lunata culture thrived on persecuting misunderstandings, even if the odds were in his favor. As much as he tried to assure himself he was wrongly exiled, the nightmare still found him.

Forgetting something etched on the soul is impossible, you know,” the voice said.

The grass ruffled near him, but it was tall and thick, and even he couldn’t see through it with his normal hawk-like vision. He whispered an incantation that sent out a powerful white flash and he scanned the area as the light peeled through it. Within the light, he also summoned an aura trace which propelled outward in a silver ring. His eyes instantly moved to a glow at his right, but it belonged only to the eyes of his mare. As the light died off, replaced by the moonlight, so did the trace.

He groaned in defeat. The ever present voice, however helpful or obscure it chose to be, was also poking around in his head and seeking painful memories. Valence raised his aura shields, creating a dull silver sphere around his camp, and a sharp pain instantly drummed through his skull. Despite his lack of vitality, he would make the shields hold. He removed a flimsy leather journal from his rations pack and flipped to the third page in. 

“Voice spoke twice with no counter-shielding,” he wrote with a dull pencil. “Aura trace comes back negative each time.” After heavily underlining his words, he tossed the journal and pencil aside frustrated. There was nothing more he could do this evening except try to sleep, as painful or impossible as it would be.

In the wake of yet another sleepless night, Valence broke down his camp and surveyed the tall grass one last time, again finding it empty. For all the time the voice had been speaking to him, he never once could make sense of it. He scowled at the voice while tying his packs back onto his saddle. 

Three leagues later, he arrived at the south customs gate of the Human kingdom with its sleek walls overshadowing him. His white hair was now dirty blond thanks to a simple incantation and he tugged his cowl low as he steered his mare under the arch.

“Welcome to Agress. Your papers,” the customs inspector said, hand stretched out.

Two other men, one thin-framed and the other more portly, appeared from the opposite side of the gate. 

Valence offered his traveling papers and merchant license. His mare scraped her hooves excitedly on the flagstones and he slid his hand down her neck, shushing her as the two other inspectors walked up to his side. “Is there a problem?” he asked after noticing the first inspector was examining every detail of the papers. 

“Where are you coming from, stranger?” The inspector flipped through them a fourth time, mulling over all of Valence’s previous destinations and customs checkpoints. “Your customs stamps aren’t up to date.”

Valence sighed and his aura surged while the inspector stared him down pointedly. Silver wisps smoked around his body, invisible to the men, and he invaded the inspector’s mind. The inspector looked up, his eyes fluttering, as Valence made him forget the issue with his papers.

“On second thought,” the inspector said, “you’re free to pass. We’ve simply been looking for a rat-faced swindler who has been dipping into the Advance Guard’s commerce vault. We believe he’s just a common drifter, so we have no true mark on him.”

“That’s a sin against you fine men,” Valence said, knowing they’d never catch the imaginary thief. “I’m certain the Agressian Duties Bureau will apprehend him soon enough. After all, the Advance Guard are the best in the land, don’t we both know.”

“Rightly so, good stranger. By the way, where do you hail from?”

“I’m just a lonely delegate from a tiny island off the southern Seringarden coast, a good three days from civilization.”

“Seringard is half a world away, friend.”

“That it is.”

“And the Villa-Idian depression hasn’t frightened you away yet?

Valence’s mare snorted and whinnied. “Not yet, Inspector,” he said. “Am I free to go? Forgive me, but I forgot to mention I was joining the congregation at the hour past noon.”

“Oh, of course, my friend,” the inspector said. He motioned the portly man to raise the gate, which he did immediately. “Please, my friend, go. You do have my greatest apologies, sir. Should I write a letter for you, in case you’re stopped again?”

“An unnecessary gesture, but appreciated all the same,” Valence said. “You good men need assurance that not all of your misdoings get made known publicly.” He pushed into a trot. “Good day.”


  1. I'm intrigued enough to read on, though I think I would have preferred slightly more in the way of description to get a clearer picture of the character and the city.

  2. I enjoyed your starting descriptions- the setting seemed to really go with the mood of your MC. He does start out alone- but we get some inner turmoil that way. I can't say I'm directly attached to the character to feel for him yet...but I think in another few pages I would be...
    I don't really crave the personality since he seems more sullen and guilt ridden at the moment- and I don't connect well with that to start- but he has great potential and the magic skills displayed had me very interested in the voice and encouraged me wanting to read on further.

  3. “You’re: things to ask yourself questions:

    Who is the character I am relating to?
    Valence, an exile Lunata on the move through Villas-Idun.

    Does he have a personality that I crave to read?

    Oh, yes! He’s haunted by the death of a friend and there’s a voice in his head. What more could you ask for?

    Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?

    Valence is in exile from his people and is traveling alone save for the voice. You drop in little bits of detail without assaulting us with it. And this is just the first 1000 words. After reading this, I would wait for more details in the rest of chapter one.

    Are there secondary character to assist the hook along, with conflict and pace?

    The guards offer us a glimpse into Valence’s abilities with magic. The voice--yes this is a character--offers us some of Valence's internal struggle.

    Do I love the character? Do I want to read about him?

    So far yes. And I have continued to read about him. He’s great throughout, and the voice gets pretty funny too.

    Thanks for the post.


  4. I like the "voice", but I think we need to know something more about "Irien's death" to make the beginning more cohesive. It's just thrown out there right now. Valence seems to be an interesting character otherwise.

  5. Great opening line. I do feel the dark mood of your character and it's heightened with the darkness around him. I'm wondering what happened to him and why he's hearing a voice. There's a lot to appreciate in this piece, but I'm with Stu, I'd like a little more description--but not much cause you don't want to weigh it down--just enough to get a better visual. Wonderful job! :D

  6. I love this line: "Forgetting something etched on the soul is impossible"--this one line seems to exemplify the character, his motivations and his inner conflict. I'm not entirely sure what's going on yet, but I'm intrigued enough that I WANT to know more about the crimes he was accused of that led to his exile and his purposes at his destination.

  7. You know I love this. I still think there's some excess words that need cutting, but I'm hooked on your MS.

  8. Greetings, I'm new and I found you through Carolyn at Serendipity.

    I don't know your story, but I agree with previous comments. It does snare ones imagination and makes me want to learn more. Two things stood out to me.

    1. I want to hear the incantation not just be told about it.

    2. I need a little more information about his aura and why others can't see it.

    I look forward to reading more.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  9. First of all, thanx for hosting this blogfest! Great idea for a theme.

    Here's my answers to your questions:

    1. Who is the character I'm relating to?
    Valence, who might be from Lunata/a Lunata

    2. Personality...
    He seems guilt-ridden over Irien's death, he has a voice in his head that he doesn't know the origin of and makes notes about...that's very intriguing.

    3. World setup....
    I like this opening scene, it flows nicely, but although too much description isn't good (see my entry for bad example), I would have liked a little more, here. You could also make the magic more active, letting him actually say the incantation or maybe think about how to change himself or something. As it stands, it's a little to far into the telling, not showing side of things. The aura is also interesting. Of course you can't put EVERYTHING into the opening scene, but I'd quite like to know why his is visible (to him at least) and whether or not others have auras, too.

    Although...what's with the congregation? That's just dropped in there with no real explanation, it threw me a little.

    4. Secondary characters...
    Well, the voice is fascinating. I'd count that as a secondary character, since he perceives it as seperate from himself. The customs officer is a nice foil to show a bit more of Valence's abilities (although I heard "These are not the droids you're looking for" echoing in my head LOL) (that's not a bad thing really it isnt).

    5. Loving a character...
    I like him so far, though he's a bit too...cryptic what with the passive magic description. I'd definately read on to answer the questions that popped up during this opening section!

    Hope that's helpful feedback for you,


  10. I like the first paragraph but the voice that comes up confuses me a little. There is this voice and then he unbuttons his shirt? I expected to have the speaker of the voice to be there and when I find out it's some random voice, by then I'm already a bit too uncertain in what I'm reading. There are some great details that occur in different paragraphs that get my attention and I do think I could want to read about the main character.

  11. well written. interesting points of note: 1) guilt ridden for irien's death, somehow responsible... leads reader by the nose to find out more (i might play that up a bit more)
    2)suspicious scar that still bleeds... curious about how he got it, how recent it was, and is it related to the friend's death

    So there are hooking elements, but is begins a bit slow for me. Also, like others have said, a little more description by way of his interaction with his environment.

    I'd read ahead.

  12. Hi,

    Thanks for hosting this bllogfest Justin - it's always fun reading others' works and passing comment.

    I love the reflective mood persona Valence portrays, and the descriptive passages illuminate not only the darkness dwelling within his soul but that of his surroundings and of unknown elements of the universe. Is he mad or on a higher plane where he sees and hears the voices of the conscious awareness few are able to reach?

    Yep it hooks, it has a soulful line, and sinker of whence did he come and where might he take me?


  13. Aside from this not being the genre of my interest, I will say that I can relate to Valence (interesting name) who is a loner and feels he was punished wrongly by the Lunata. He also seems to have a bad attitude and snaps when he is asked simple questions: can't sleep? how come your papers aren't up-to-date? Then again, this grouchy behavior could be due to lack of sleep.

    With the brief mention of Irien, I would have liked to have a little bit more info of her or at least a flashback dialogue between she and Valence to better understand why Valence couldn't sleep for the past 15 years. Everyone deals with death differently but what is it about her death and the circumstances that leaves him having sleepless nights? I think this would help the transition from his present state to him meeting up with the two inspectors.

    And speaking of the two inspectors, it seemed as though, the first who is thoroughly inspecting his papers takes his job very seriously but when Valence makes him change his mind, he becomes chatty. When he first inspects, I find that believable becomes he appears to be a "hard a**" but when he becomes chatty, I could see him reluctantly telling Valence he is free to pass and the second inspector (being more easygoing) saying, "pardon my partner. We’ve simply been looking for a rat-faced swindler.."

    I think it would be dope and definitely grab my attention is that as soon as Valence leaves the inspectors, the spell is gone and the first inspector realizes they've been duped. And then he says something like, "hey you" (Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat voice).


  14. hey there,

    thanks for hosting this blogfest! It was definately an interesting experience, although perhaps I chose the wrong one to start with...LOL

    Ok so since you provided such nice questions, I'm going to use them hope you don't mind...

    Who is the character I am relating to?

    Valence, definately. Although from reading that I wouldn't automatically assume he's a Lunata, just that he's thinking about them. Maybe Irien, who's death he obviously thinks he had SOMETHING to do with (fault or no fault) was one?

    Does he/she have a personality that I crave to read?

    He's conflicted (Irien), and there's that voice speaking to him. I like him making notes about it, that adds a sort of scientific feel to his mind, creates a kind of distance in his view of himself.

    And of course there's the magic (which, I'm going to agree with some of the other commenters up there, I'd like to know more about) and the auras.

    Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?

    Yes and no. You have world details there that mesh into what your character is doing/thinking, but I think you could add just a little more description (or rather explanation). You introduce the reader to a lot of names/concepts/ideas here that he/she knows nothing about, after all. A fantasy veteran (which I am) will read on anyway, but some not so well-versed readers might not.

    Are there secondary characters to assist the hook along, with conflict or pace?

    I agree with Tessa here, the voice is intriguing. The customs guards seem a little weak in the face of his magic, mere backdrop, really.

    Lastly: do I love the character? Do I want to read more about him/her?

    Love him? Not yet. But I'm interested enough - I'd probably pick up the book in a store if I read this.


  15. I was hooked at the pitch in the side box.
    I need slightly fewer introductory ideas - more about the bleeding scar - does he have a dodgy implant? Lesson getting through the gates implant a conversation and have done ;)

  16. “Forgetting something etched on the soul is impossible, you know,” the voice said.

    That is such a chilling, yet highly emotive line. The disembodied voice seems to be echoing Valence’s personal crisis.

    This is not “the” hook that has me wanting to read the entire novel. But it keeps me reading on; drawing me to this character to find out if I’m accurate in my assessment of the relationship between the voice and Valence.

    But I don’t read the beginning of a novel for a single “hook” line. I like the overall concept, and the character specifically, to draw me in. It is the emotional attachment I associate with your MC that sparks my interest.

    The next paragraph with the frequent use of “he/him” pronouns, disrupts that character connection somewhat. An easy fix; “The grass ruffled around Valence . .”

    From other posted readings, the over-use of pronouns in tags and description is a common event in your writings. Nothing an in-depth editing sweep won’t cure, however. When you’re ready for that phase; I hope you don’t stop your forward progress just to edit. Something to keep in mind, but not dwell on.

    This is too close to the Star Wars, Episode 4 line though: “On second thought,” the inspector said, “you’re free to pass. We’ve simply been looking for a rat-faced swindler who has been dipping into the Advance Guard’s commerce vault. We believe he’s just a common drifter, so we have no true mark on him.” If it read something like: My mistake, all is in order” without the rationalization I’d believe the change. I know you’re trying to show off Valence’s telepathic skills, but I’m sure he has more appropriate ways that an irrelevant mind construct.

    Unless there really was a “rat faced swindler” that Valence picked up on in the guards mind, and then you might want to show how Valence picked up the thought and used it to his advantage.

    The cover story seems overdone to get into the city. It is excellent world building, but not necessary to get past the guard. His simple use of Aura accomplished his goal, and I’d think Valence would want to enter the city and get lost as quickly as possible. His “Lunara” attributes should cause him ample opportunity to create an alternate personae. And in those moments of tension, we will get to know Valence’s world, and his place in it, better.

    Which brings me back to the beginning, and the “Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced” question.

    “He sat amidst the moon glow and still air, thinking just how different the Lunata were from the myriad land-people of their world.” Just a little world/character building here would go a long way to draw me deeply into this world. You don’t have to report on all the nuances of the differing peoples; just what sets the Lunata completely apart. And how Valence feels about the difference. Not much, just a paragraph maybe. And then, that would lead into his opening his shirt and examining his chest scar.

    And cement Valence’s ostracized place in the world, and his own perceptions.

    An awesome beginning Justin. But I have to admit, I’ve been a fan of Valence since the first excerpt I read. The way you use the Aura’s (love the introduction here), the racial tensions, the voice that drives him on . .

    I am hooked first on the character (more so by this introduction), and then on the magical elements of the realm. If you were to add more about the Lunata race itself, I’d be constantly begging for excerpts.

    Thanks for hosting this particular blogfest JW. It has helped me with my stalled fantasy WIP, and I’ve had the added opportunity to read the beginnings of some awesome novels. Well done on your blogfest and the posted excerpt.


  17. This is an interesting beginning and you do a very effective job of setting the tone. The dialogue certainly fits such a fantastical piece.

    Your first sentence is good but at the same time, it read more like the first sentence to a paragraph than the first sentence to an entire book. I can't think of what else to say to this but I hope it helps. Of course, that wouldn't keep me from reading on.

    But overall I enjoyed reading this and would like to learn more about Valence and the world he inhabits! Thanks for sharing and for holding such a fine blogfest. ;]

  18. I enjoyed the beginning. The wound and Irien's death drew me into the story. I think it petered off slightly when Valence tried to enter the city and used his magic on the guards. Perhaps some juicy tidbit about why he's there would help snag me for good! Not too much into magical fantasy, but I liked your description of his aura seeking ability.

    Thanks for hosting this cool blogfest! It's been eye-opening reading everyone else's hook, and I've gotten some great critique for my own! You have outdone yourself this time!

  19. How interesting. I'm always fascinated by how robotic some dialogue comes across in SciFi. You have that here, but it fits. For the most part, the inner dialogue and descriptions of Valence are quite human, quite tangible. It's great!

    I will say the first paragraph didn't hook me. I don't know that I'm intrigued until the 3rd paragraph beginning "Valence brushed..." That's a really strong paragraph.

    I was lazy and forgot about my commitment to your blogfest! I will post my entry on Wednesday, even though it's late.


  20. Well, I'm intrigued to know what the bodiless voice is all about... And I want to know more about Irien's death... So I'd keep reading for that :-)

    Thanks again for this blogfest :-)

  21. I found myself getting more involved in the story once he started interacting with the guards. It pointed out his differences more.
    You painted a world without wasting words. I wanted to know who these Lunata were. His guilt was thick, and I haven't decided if that's intriguing or a downer. lol
    Overall, it is a start of a story that would keep me reading more.
    BTW, I'm glad you did not include the words to the incantation. I've always found that to be both distracting and arrogant of the author.

  22. @Erin Kane Spock: thank you, Erin! You're the first to compliment on leaving those words out. I do it enough in future parts in the ms.


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