Hi, Shelby! I was really excited to draw your story this month. I've heard so many good things about it, and not just from Jami!
Every great story needs a great opening chapter to pull the reader in, and I think you have a real winner here. At first, I was scratching my head, trying to figure out what a scene from the 1400's had to do with Tobias and Eileen Snape, but it was so beautifully written that I was eager to find out how they were related. You did a fantastic job of capturing the horrible circumstances under which poor Reynold enters the world as Penelope sheds her mortal coil. The lightning in the distance made me immediately think of Lightning Crashes by Live, which made the scene feel even more sad to me.
Your descriptions of the scene were really vivid and intense. I would say beautiful, except that the subject matter is obviously anything but. You have a great knack for changing your focus -- from macro details like the weather to micro details like little fingers and toes -- and pulling it all together in such a way that you give the reader a really complete picture without the scene getting disjointed. I thought your choice of words and metaphors was elegant without sounding extravagant or foofy. Overall, you write really well.
Penelope's last moments with her newborn son were heart-breaking. You really hit all the right notes there, from Penelope's sad little lullaby to the way that poor old Ursula tries to comfort her until the end.
The pacing of your opening chapter was really good. I liked how you let the scene unfold at a very gradual pace. The reader has plenty of time to grasp the awful tragedy of Reynold's birth and Penelope's death without rushing into how it all fits into the bigger picture. The details about who these people are and what part they play in Tobias and Eileen's story can come later. To that end, probably the only thing I might have done differently would be to save Reynold's reading of his mother's letter for a later chapter, unless this is the last time we'll see him in the story. Somehow I suspect we'll see him again, though. The letter itself created an amazing air of mystery. Letting some of the words fade was a great idea.
I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this. You'll be hearing from me again before the month is out. Great job!
Author's Response: Hello Dan! Ahh, that makes me happy - sometimes I wonder if it's only ever Jami who likes my writing! :P
I'm so stoked you think so! I did want readers to be a bit confused, but extremely curious about how on earth these people would be connected to Eileen and Tobias. I love that song! I wasn't listening to it or even thinking about it, but that makes so much sense! I love it when my writing makes readers think of something in their lives or something they understand. The writing needs to connect to the readers in some way, I believe.
Thank you so much! That means a lot coming from such a wonderful writer! You know, it has taken me years to learn to write like that (of course). It's my style - that kind of description is difficult and has to be manipulated so very carefully. There's a delicate balance in place between the macro and micro. I think it's very important to focus on both without making it boring or overly-detailed. Readers need enough of a picture so that they love the scene and story, but enough room to be able to imagine the story for themselves.
Heart-breaking, that's what I'm here to do - make everyone sad and depressed, haha! No, I'm kidding, but I just can't seem to stay away from that angst and drama.
I thought about doing that with the letter, actually, but changed my mind. We will see Reynold again, definitely. As you guys come to see his character (he reappears in chapter 7), you'll understand why I chose to do it so early, I think. He's not going to be what people expect, to say the least. I don't know, maybe I should have waited? I just had this writer-feeling-thing and went with my gut! Hopefully it works out! :)
Thank you so much for the great review! I hope you continue to enjoy the story!