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alexandriadeloraine
February 21st, 2013, 05:49 AM
Hello there everyone. This is a short excerpt from a longer novel that I've been working on for a while. I've been interested in sharing it with some fellow bibliophiles for a while, so here it is. The style is a bit different from my usual YA fantasy and romance flair, so I hope it reads well. I look forward to hearing what any of you might have to say, and thanks for taking the time to read it.

Part I:

He wished to be free, and so he was restless as he paced indoors, looking out the windows to the sky and the wilderness. Yet it was not simply from the walls which he wished to be free. Also, he had found himself thinking lately, he wished to be free of the responsibilities that taking on his father’s estate had brought him. His heart was yearning to shed the mantle of family life and roam again, unfettered, as he had in the years before.

Sebastian was only thirty-one years old, but he was the oldest. As it was, his younger brother was married, with two young children and no time to manage an estate or care for their mother. Anna, his sister, lived nearby with her husband, but for her own reasons she too could not bear to be the only one looking after their mother, nevermind the estate.

So it fell to him, and he resolutely carried out his duties.

‘I am an honorable man,’ he reasoned to himself, ‘yet in my heart I wish to flee from all of this, not for the sake of the work itself, but for the place of it and the people I must endure. How long can I do this?’

When he went to the town, his eyes caught on the girls and from time to time his thoughts grew lurid, indecent, yet he restrained himself. Not for lack of fair females to choose from of course, but because he yearned for more than a pretty-headed simpleton. All people in their place, surely and certainly, but he had yet to find a proper match to his character, and so he remained a steadfast bachelor.

When he’d been younger, a student at the university, he had taken up with a girl who was virtuous and pure. By the time he realized she was too daft for him to ever truly love her, he had already known her intimately, and he regretted when they parted that he had not realized it sooner; so he chose carefully the next woman he took to bed.

He enjoyed the presence and touch of a feminine woman very much, but he respected them too much to dally with them physically if he didn’t think they were potentially marriageable. From his psyche he felt the compulsion to wait, yet as he grew older he wished for the wait to be over. For two years he had managed the estate, and things had developed into a pattern. But now it was within his means, and very tempting too, for Sebastian to hire someone else, a caretaker to live at the estate and tend to it... yet what to do with his mother.

She was an infernal creature, he had decided. Yes, he’d known it since he was an adolescent, but over the years apart he’d tried to give her the benefit of adolescent uprising, tried to think that perhaps he was just rebellious as any child would. Yet, the older he grew the more repugnant he generally found her. Perhaps she’d soon die of natural causes... oh, that wasn’t a thing to think about your mother, was it?

Sebastian entertained the thought a moment longer, then sighed again and gave it up, turning his thoughts back to the matter of leaving.

Where would he go? He wasn’t sure, but he wished to get away to somewhere, to see a change of landscape and to shirk his responsibilities to the estate, to the upkeep of his demanding, unloyal mother, with her sharp tongue and shrewish presence. Yes, to get away from her was the goal. Yet where to go?

Did it really matter? Yes, he decided it did matter. Although he could set off aimlessly, there would be no good point to the exercise and he’d soon find himself back at the estate. So, he had to plan his course of action.

There were many places he’d like to go, but perhaps he’d start with the Middle Kingdom, then on to the southern coastal city of Ründin, where the water was clear and warm and the flora and fauna were diverse, colourful and enchanting. Yes, he had friends he could visit, from his days as a student in the Middle Kingdom. He could certainly visit them there and spend a few days or weeks, whichever proved the more necessary.

Yes, the more he thought about it and how he could go about it, the more he liked the idea and the more he became certain it would be his course of action. A trip away from home, away from his mother and her awful whining, her inability to be satisfied by his efforts, and her complete lack of empathy or consideration… That was precisely what he needed to refresh his spirit, to cleanse himself of this dreadful unrest that now gnawed at him.

Looking at the clock, he realized it was time for dinner, so he left his study and went down to the kitchen where Evelyn, his housekeeper and cook, was just putting the soup bowls on the table. The soup still steamed hot from the stove, and the chandelier was alight, filling the room with a warm orange light.

As usual, his mother was there already, glaring around impatiently and wrinkling her nose up at the aroma of the soup. There was a covered pot set on the table with two pot-holders next to it and a carving knife, it contained a roast and potatoes, carrots, onions and herbs, no doubt about it, he could smell it and a tired smile emerged upon his face.

“Thank you,” he intoned as he sat, and Evelyn nodded, quietly leaving the room. She returned again with a dish of butter and a basket of warm bread, which she set upon the table between Sebastian and his mother, and then she left again to allow them privacy.

In the silence between them, it seemed to Sebastian that he could hear his mother’s very thoughts as she swirled her spoon around her bowl, a grimace of general dissatisfaction pasted across her face and her eyes narrowed and staring a black hole in the table. Her hair, nearly all gray and white now, was frazzled and seemed not to have been brushed or washed very recently. Her teeth were a stained yellow from decades of tea-drinking, and her hands were bony and knobby, with tapered nails that made them resemble claws.

‘My, what a harpy she seems to be,’ he thought as he ate his soup, and when he finished he picked up the small bell on the table and rang it once, drawing Evelyn out a minute later with a fresh plate for him and to take away his bowl and spoon. His mother had not eaten half her bowl, but pushed it away as well and beckoned for a fresh plate.

“Bring me my tea, with cream mind you,” if it weren’t so improper for him to chastise her in front of a servant, Sebastian thought he’d very much like to tell his mother that she ought, just once in her whole long life, learn some small measure of courtesy for the hired help who made her life so smooth and easy, who made it possible for her to spend her hours in luxury and boredom. Yet he could count on one hand the number of times he had ever heard his mother say please or thank you to a hired hand, and this made him feel incredibly ashamed of his relation to her. Still, one couldn’t turn their mother out...

His mind turned back to his plans for leaving. Yes, it must be done. Looking at his mother as she gnashed on a chunk of meat, Sebastian felt himself repulsed. Evelyn brought the tea and cream, and his mother took it without looking the woman in the eye, without seeming to even acknowledge that she was human. Nevermind that she was only a few years older than Sebastian, that he had known her since she was seventeen, and all that time she had been working and serving in their household, Evelyn was a nonentity to his mother.

After waiting a moment longer to see if there was anything more they needed, Evelyn made to leave the room again when, it seemed to him, Sebastian’s mother squawked at her, “the paper, you silly girl, the paper!”

He heard Evelyn sigh softly and she left the room in a rush again, returning in a few moments with the paper, which she placed on the empty side of the table next to his mother. They needed nothing further, and so she left again.

‘Perhaps I can make it to the capitol of the Middle Kingdom before spring is over,’ he thought, mechanically serving himself some roast and vegetables, cutting his meat up into bite-sized pieces. The thought of seeing Mördin in springtime again filled him with pleasure and memories of his prior days there. Mördin was the capitol of the Middle Kingdom, where the palace of the royals sat atop a hill in the northeast of the city and overlooked it all.

The city was surrounded by forests, and filled with many trees, and during the spring it was the most beautiful place to be, as he pictured it in his memory. He saw the cobbled streets as clearly as though he’d only just left, recalled the sweet smell of the air when all the fruit bearing trees were in bloom, the caress of the cool wind across his face. And he remembered the many warm shops, restaurants and cafes in which one could get a meal, purchase foodstuffs, stock up on pens, inks, paper, clothing, etc. etc. or where one could simply sit in a warm atmosphere, drink coffee or tea and indulge in conversation with educated men.

What a place to be! The more he thought of it, the more details he remembered, and the more he longed to set off at the first available opportunity. By foot, the journey would take nearly a month, but he knew he could go in a carriage or upon horseback and make it in about two weeks, perhaps less if he traveled very fast. ‘Then again, why bother to rush?’ he considered as he sat and drank his wine.

The sound of his mother’s voice, petulant and childlike to him, disrupted his thoughts as she exclaimed with a measure of indignation, “whatever is so important to you that you have not even said one single word to your mother today?”

He stared at her, unblinking and in silence, and apparently for too long, as she continued in an accusatory tone, “not a single greeting, and hardly a word last night at dinner, either, after you’d been out all day, and the day before. Well?”

It seemed, when he blinked, that the action took longer than usual, and he shook his head just slightly, thinking to himself, ‘out all day, indeed, as if I were strolling about town and spending myself in senseless luxuries...’ but he said aloud to her in a measured tone, “I’m sorry, mother, I was not aware you so required my conversation. Why-ever didn’t you say as much?”

She sniffed, her nose wrinkling up, and dabbed at the corner of her mouth delicately, “well, I wouldn’t wish to put you under any strain.”

“It’s no strain at all,” he took pride in that he did not clench his jaw, thinking to himself, ‘what fool does she take me for? When I do engage her in conversation, it always ends poorly on account of her own inability to be reasonable or grateful for anything at all.’ Still, it did not please him at all that he had to lie through his own teeth, and he felt very much like walking away from the table there and then, before he was forced to lie again.

Still, she seemed totally to ignore his comment anyway, and continued in her breathy way, “it’s not as though I could entertain any of my good friends here, with how barren and scrimpy you keep this place -- and I surely cannot speak to photographs or paintings,” it took a great deal of self-control to keep from snorting audibly, or laughing outright, at the very fact his mother could be so audacious as to state such a thing. This was an old point revisited, her complaint and nagging about the lack of hired hands for her to abuse and to put to work doing every manner of unpleasant and degrading tasks.

It was, evidently, beneath his mother to entertain on a modest budget, rather than to have lavish parlour parties as she was accustomed to enjoying both at her social engagements, as well as in her own home and on her husband’s hard-earned money. Well, Sebastian felt not a shred of guilt over the matter -- his father had left precious little money in the estate, and what Sebastian held in savings was mostly his own hard-earned money, which he would not allow his mother to fritter away on material indulgences.

He had not even cut her off, anyway, but simply placed her on a measured allowance each month, and if she chose to spend it all away on mindless, petty things -- new hats, dresses, coats, scarves, gloves, shoes, jewelry, dining in fine establishments and the like -- then that was her own decision. After all, she paid no rent for her rooms; she paid not a dime toward the cost of her food, nor toward the cost of employing Evelyn, without whom she would be lost.

In short, he had simply given her more than she already deserved, and so he found it incredibly impetuous of her to whine on at him about the matter, especially for years on end. ‘Why did he never put her in her place?’ Sebastian thought, reflecting on his dead father. His mother’s babbling faded away and he left the table without talking to her any further.

For his mother, nothing short of being the Queen would ultimately please her, and that was simply never going to happen. Once, when she was a girl of seventeen, she told him, a young crown prince had courted her. But, according to her story, those around him conspired against her and brought a beautiful princess forth to seduce him, whom he married. Thus she was left to marry his father, a landed man with a title and some inheritance. His father had been a hard-working man, who was, with the glaring exception of Sebastian’s own mother, otherwise very shrewd in how he conducted his affairs and in his decision making.

popsprocket
February 21st, 2013, 08:09 AM
I see what you mean about this being a diversion from your usual style. It's very forced and there are a number of errors (especially early on) as a result of trying to make your language too flowery. In particular your comma usage needs a lot of work. The forcing of this also comes through in some wording choices that don't fit particularly well with the flow of the sentence(s) around them.

To be honest I didn't get half way through it. If this is your first chapter, I'd revise it to bring the action to the forefront. Although I enjoyed the snark in the character voice, it wasn't enough to make me curious about the fact that he was planning a trip away to get away from his mother.

NathanBrazil
February 24th, 2013, 06:12 AM
I liked the mother. She's delicously petty. I did have some of the same issues as the previous poster. I had to question why this is a fantasy piece. I think this is very well written, but where is the heart of the story? Where is the hook? To be fair, I realize this is an excerpt, but I'd like to see some juicy bits that I can sink my teeth into.

Kentobu
February 24th, 2013, 06:40 PM
Having not had the pleasure of reading your other work, I can't reflect on the change of style. I also am not the best with grammar usage. I can offer these thoughts though.

1: I feel like the style of wording is hindering you a bit. The first sentence in the second paragraph was very hard for me to understand. That could have just been me, but it seems the others picked up on this as well. There were a few other moments where this occurred, but not as bad. I can't remember where they were off the top of my head(I didn't put notes about them) but if you wish I can go back and find other instances.

2: You did an excellent job visualizing and describing the places Sebastian wished to go. Having never heard of them before, I was able to clearly understand why he wished to visit these of all places. This aspect was very well done.

3: I noticed you used the descriptions "petulant and childlike" more than once to describe the mother. Whille this would be fine with more length between usage, it just bothered me hearing it word for word the second time. This may just be a taste issue, but it is also an easy fix with the use of an thesaurus.

4: At first, I was surprised that the mother was described as evil without having been characterized. I thought I wasn't going to like Sebastian when he had thoughts of his undescribed mother dying. When you gave examples I was about 25% convinced. She seemed somewhat bad. When she opened her mouth, I was ready to punch her in the jaw! I read quite often and I can honestly say it's very rare that I read something that actually makes my anger reaction go off like that. By the end I felt absolute sympathy for Sebastian, but also wondered why he hasn't kicked her out or killed her yet.

5: In regards to the above posters not feeling this was a strong enough hook, I felt it was. By the end of the reading I felt like I new Sebastian. Obviously I don't know him well, but I would have no problems continuing his story to see if he can escape from that despicable rotten waste of human life. I also felt for Evelyn. Maybe she can go with Sebastian on his vacation. Having not decked Sebastian's mother in the schnoz, she must be pure and smart enough for Sebastian, haha! Most of my reading is modern science based horror/action or epic fantasy, but I would easily continue reading this if a copy were on my shelf right now.

If you post more, and I don't see it, feel free to send me a pm and I'll check over it for you. Good luck, keep up the good work, and keep improving.

wehttam
February 25th, 2013, 02:10 AM
The coma usage could indeed use some work, and the flowery phrasing isn't consistent throughout, but the characterization of sebastian, his mother, and their relationship is very well done. One thing I didn't get-

yet in my heart I wish to flee from all of this, not for the sake of the work itself, but for the place of it and the people I must endure. How long can I do this?’
It seemed to me that the only person sebastian had any problem with was his mother.

alexandriadeloraine
February 25th, 2013, 11:14 PM
Hello there everyone;

I've got some other work I have to finish here, but I wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for your feedback so far.
I do think I'll do some work to tighten up the first few paragraphs, and try to contain my comma usage throughout. I know
sometimes I can get a bit comma crazy, so I'll work on cleaning that up and repost the revised content soon.

Kentobu, thanks for your feedback and I'm glad to hear that you felt such a strong response to Sebastian's mother. :)
Evelyn, though, is happily married and Sebastian's journey has many special things in store for him. FWIW, I was in the midst of
a serious love affair with classic Russian literature (Turgenev, Gogol, Chekhov, etc.) when I became inspired to start this story.

As far as the fantasy goes, I can only say that this is certainly a fantasy novel. Actually, this novel is set in an entire fantasy
world I have envisioned and drafted, and is only one of a group of 7 - 8 novels in total that are set there.

As soon as I have a bit of time, I'll update with some revisions.

Thanks;

- Alexandria de Loraine

alexandriadeloraine
March 21st, 2013, 07:36 AM
Hey there again everyone;

I've made some light editorial changes to the introduction, hopefully rendering it a bit more readable. Specifically, I made an
effort to break up some of my needlessly long sentences into shorter, more manageable sentences.

Thoughts? Suggestions for improvement? It's much appreciated.

- Alexandria de Loraine

VoidMoon
March 22nd, 2013, 11:42 PM
I'd definitely slow my roll on all those commas my friend. If you think you are using to many commas, you, probably, are.