On the 10th of November, 2015, I submitted the first page of my debut novel, Nescada: Kindler of Flames for critique by the 2014 David Gemmell Legend Award winner, Mark Lawrence. He is a lovely human and a powerful author. It was an honour. Here is the page and what he had to say.
The critique came down to this: Be less indulgent and more specific, allow the character’s present experiences to tell the story rather than my often tangential authorial voice, pique questions for quality reader engagement, and create tension and characters the reader cares about from the first.
With this in mind, I penned the following piece of prose, inspired by a lovely image I had come across over the internet and was going to use in an informal flash fan fiction series here in my journal. Much gratitude to Mark for this newfound voice and direction of my writing … Enjoy 🙂
‘A Song in Red and Grey’
‘Oh, the red leaf looks to the hard gray stone
to each other, they know what they mean
somewhere, their future is still yet to come
in ways that are yet as of now unforeseen’
– Suzanne Vega, Song in Red and Gray
“I’m cold,” she says, looking into his eyes. Her expression is careless, the walls she had kept it behind long crumbled. The remains of his faded shirt are tucked around her more delicate areas. Her legs and back are bare to the frost that coats the walls overnight. Every night for the last ninety-eight days, they’d been held captive in the grey stone room. Every night for the last ninety-eight days, since they had been seized.
The only warmth she has felt during that time is the warmth she feels now. His fingers splay across her upper back, the cupping of her slender form in his arms, firm and protective. The promise to keep her safe flares unbidden in the gaze he returns as he pulls her closer. His head lowers towards hers own. Taupe-coloured hair falls around a youthful face, the strands mingling with her auburn mane, tangled from months of neglect.
His odour envelops her as she burrows in close. It has been days since they were last allowed to wash. That was when she had lost her own clothes, the guards who kept watch over them finding their absence … amusing. Until he had macerated the flesh of one guard’s nose with a blow, for touching what their absence revealed. They have been given no more clothing to replace the ones stolen and torn, recompense for the injured guard.
And no more baths either. His scent is pungent, and pleasant to her. She has come to associate that smell with his warmth, both now a source of great comfort.
“I’m sorry …” he says, his lips cracked from hunger. She nods thinking he means the cold. “… I didn’t think that when we left, we would’ve ended here.”
She plays with the thumb resting on her shoulder, her arm wrapped around her breasts concealing them from view. The gesture is unthinking.
“What we did was wrong,” she says, her words simple. They contradict the emotion raging in her heart. She shivers. The chill of the air intensifies with each moment as does the chill of their circumstance.