Kelly Prior was the first female writer Lee had ever worked with. She supposed it was a kind of antique sexism on her part--the image of the beautiful seductress, haunting her love-sick poet as he pounded out the words on his clacking typewriter. But several of the other Leanan Sidhe had adopted women, and Lee had thought she’d give it a try.
The adjustment period had taken a little longer with Kelly. After all, she wasn’t particularly interested in Lee’s beauty. And she’d also been more skeptical of Lee’s ability to help her career. (Women were more naturally sensible that way.) But she’d been on the brink of giving up, after thirty or so rejections on her first novel, so she had decided to give Lee a chance.
Now, Lee stood at Kelly’s side admiring the heavy hardback--its cover embossed and shiny, with Kelly’s name in huge gold letters--that was Kelly’s third bestseller in a row.
"I couldn’t have done it without you," Kelly whispered. Even that gentle use of her vocal chords was too much, and she coughed, her face turning first red and then purple as she struggled for breath.
Lee's lovely smile brightened the room. "So, is being a bestselling author everything you dreamed it would be?"
"Oh, yes!" Kelly whispered.
"Any regrets about hiring a fairy to help?"
"Not really. Just . . . when all those agents said they wanted to see more of my voice in the manuscripts? I wish you hadn't taken them literally."
Opening: Jennifer French.....Continuation: Phoenix
As the first six votes to come in were all for the continuation I was leaning toward myself, I figured that was good enough. Some that didn't get used:
"I have another surprise," said Lee, handing Kelly a book. "Turn to page 245."
"Kelly's slender frame quivered with the effort of lifting the mighty tome. She flicked through the pages to 245 and read: "Kelly Prior was the first female writer Lee had--"
"No, not that part," said Lee. "Skip to the ending."
"Oh, oh! It's my continuation!"
"Anything to keep my minions happy," said Lee.
Three New York Times bestsellers in a row was sweet, Kelly thought, but now I've finally realized my dream: to be in one of Evil Editor's Novel Deviations books.
"Don’t be so modest." Lee settled into a soft leather armchair and cradled her coffee cup in her hands. "I only helped bring out the delicate beauty that was already inside you."
Kelly scratched at her throat. Her eyes began to bulge.
"This is great coffee." Lee placed her cup on the table. "You know, for your next book we should-- You’re not looking too well, dear."
As the pulsing veins stood in relief against Kelley’s temples, her legs buckled and she fell to her knees.
"Oh dear." Lee grasped the book and slammed it against Kelly’s back. A piece of double-choc-pecan brownie shot out of Kelly’s mouth, just as a young man rushed over to help. His Assistant Manager badge glistened under the fluorescent light.
"Oh, Jesus," he said as he helped the gasping Kelly to her feet. "This is the third time this week. I knew it was a mistake to open a coffee bar in the middle of a book shop."
Literary fiction be damned, Lee said to herself, watching Kelly gulp water from a pitcher, spilling most of it down her blouse.
No, Kelly Prior hadn’t quite been able to dip her wick into the mesmerizing flame of her muse, but that was all right.
While others of the Leanan Sidhe had adopted young geniuses, starved with all matters of need and living in garretts, Kelly had moved with Lee into their new McMansion. Now they had the huge gold lettering, they had the huge bestsellers, they had the huge house.
Who needs a Beckett, thought Lee, when I’ve just been bought a Beemer?
Lee crinkled her nose at the coughing and then looked away as she saw Kelly struggle for breath.
"You need to get better," she said in her dreamy rough voice. "I'm in real trouble here."
Kelly's face shone with sweat. "You did it! You made me a success." Her words degenerated back into coughing.
Lee nodded with a frown. "Yes, but that's only half of the bargain. I didn't want to tell you the full deal until you had the series going."
Kelly put her hand on the book again. "I am content," she sighed.
"Not yet, you aren't. I know you are happy about the books but I haven't finished. Muse and seductress, remember?" She sighed at the incomprehension on Kelly's face.
"We're supposed to have sex, woman! The job isn't done until you've been fulfilled at least once. So catch your breath and lets get this over with. I bought you a strap-on and everything."
I am so puzzled by this opening. It seems to start out all light and airy. It might be a drama, or a romance but it starts as fun. Then, it seems to end in her choking to death or dying of whatever. All in 150 words.
Even Violetta and Alfredo get to dine Al Fresco before she dies in four acts.
Even Mimi and Rodolfo get to Waltz with Musetta and share a cold flat before she dies in four acts.
What is going on in this opening? It's all backstory until the last two paragraphs and then it's like a writers "Portrait of Dorian Gray" where each book she publishes kills her a little more. And why do I keep guessing that she joined the Cirque du Soleil and had a bad accident with the fellow who breathes fire (a slight inhale on that last breath).
I was with you until the breathing problem came in. I hadn't a guess as to what was going on at that point. I would have read further, though, in order to decide if I wanted to read further. This story is a bit slower off the mark than some beginnings, so I think the 150 word limit is mostly at fault for my confusion.
I found the writing was a bit convoluted and contradictory, though. "Women were more naturally sensible that way" versus "a kind of antique sexism." She doesn't want to work with a woman on one hand, yet she thinks them superior to men?
Overall, I enjoyed how you write. But lately there is an overabundance of fantasies starring faeries, greek gods, dwarves, etc. that are exactly like we humans but with superpowers. What makes yours a standout from this crowd? That's what I'd be looking for as I read further.
I will respectfully disagree with Dave. I liked the opening. If I saw it on a bookshelf, I'd keep reading to see where it was going. I'm hoping it's crime/mystery and not chick-lit.
Phoenix, you're a riot! Very clever continuation!
I struggled just to understand the first paragraph, because of pronoun confusion. In the second line, "She supposed...", it took me a while to decide that "she" probably referred to "Lee" (the fact that the name is gender-ambiguous didn't help). The rest of that sentence confused me even more--who's the seductress? Who's the poet? Who's "he"?
Same problem in the next paragraph. "After all, she wasn't particularly..." I didn't know who "she" was until I got to "Lee's beauty" and figured it had to be Kelly. In fact, every "she" in this paragraph felt ambiguous to me, perhaps just because the first was ambiguous and that put the rest in question. Especially since all the "shes" in this paragraph appear not to refer to the POV character.
Aside from that, I liked the writing and thought this was a good setup.
What? There was a vote? Did I almost get voted off "Continuation Isle?"
Mckoala: you suck-up! :o)
Author: I was tripped up by the pronouns, too, and had to read this a couple of times to be sure I understood what was being conveyed. Instead of starting with the backstory, maybe start with Kelly admiring her third bestseller (thinking how it almost didn't happen and maybe wondering if there'll be a fourth -- try to get just a little tension in here), mention her physical problems if they're front-and-center important, and then fill us in on what Lee is and how she came to be there.
And if this is Lee's story, maybe think about placing us more firmly in Lee's POV. And, ooh, would a Sidhe be thinking about things in a radically different way than a human would be?
Tee hee, phoenix. Actually I vaguely think EE edited my continuation to make it more of a suck up than it was in the first place... Liked yours better anyway; much sharper!
I got massively tied in knots when reading the original, because I assumed Lee was male. Did anyone else, or am I just a furry fool? For you-oo-oo-oo-oo (insert musical break).
Like amyb and a few others, I was confused by the ambiguous names, pronouns, and antecedents. First sentence sounds like Lee's POV, but the second sentence shows a woman's POV so I thought it might be Kelly. But then maybe Lee is a woman. Is she also a fairy or some sort of muse? Have no idea who the poet and the seductress are referring to.
This could be intriguing, and the writing is otherwise fine--but it needs rewriting for clarity.
I struggled just to understand the first paragraph, because of pronoun confusion.
I would have read more, a little more, to really find out what is going on. I thought the sore vocal cords might be something I could do a cont. on but I never got around to looking up Leanan Sidhe. All in all this opening kind of annoyed me, for some reason. Don't worry author, I am not in your target market, so my HO doesn't carry a lot of weight here. (??as if)
Very very funny phoenix and ril.
Sylvia shocked me!
Androgynous names and pronoun confusion. When a reader has to work that hard to groove in on the first paragraph, it demands a rewrite.
I did think the story was interesting, though.
I should really clarify my remarks by saying I liked the writires style and the opening reads well, but I am completely confused by it. I always assumed Lee was a man (BTW) and this opening has a certain charm even with all those POV changes.
But again, that last paragraph is jarring.
While I can see the initial confusion with Lee's gender, in defense of the author, the first paragraph does include: "several of the other Leanan Sidhe had adopted women, and Lee had thought she’d give it a try."
A Googling of Leanan Sidhe brings over 16,000 hits, and reveals she's a beautiful vampiric muse who offers inspiration to poets and artists in exchange for their life-force, which might result in madness or death.
It is recommended that you not call upon her for aid, no matter how many rejections you receive, as there are other muses who provide inspiration to writers without such a high price.
Regarding other muse choices, would you have a rate sheet handy, EE? And some phone numbers?
The dictionary definition of "sidhe" is, of course, "the race of fairies," from the Irish folklore.
If fantasy's the genre you read, you instantly recognize terms like "sidhe" and "mage." They're like a secret handshake, separating them that read fantasy from them that don't.
What I find interesting is that while only something like 6-7% of the book market can be classified as science fiction/fantasy (discounting the YA/Middle Grade market), the percentage of SFF submissions here seems quite high. And while romance holds a 40-55% share of the market (depending on your definition of the market), we see a disproportionately small number of romance submissions.
Is that because it's easier to sell romance, so there aren't as many people needing help with their work, and SFF is such a hard sell that writers need every edge? Hmmm. Just musing this morning. My personal Leanan Sidhe seems to be hanging about...
Based on the labels I've placed on query critiques, most of which I relied on the authors to provide, fantasy is indeed the dominant genre. However, adding contemporay, historical and paranormal romances to romantic suspense and erotic, the romances are a respectable second. The breakdown:
Alternate history (2)
Chick Lit (9)
Commercial fiction (8)
Contemporary fantasy (7)
Contemporary romance (11)
Dark Fantasy (8)
Dramatic play (1)
Epic Fantasy (27)
Historical fiction (8)
Historical romance (11)
Literary Fiction (50)
Paranormal romance (10)
Religious fiction (2)
Romantic suspense (18)
science fiction (23)
Time Travel Romance (1)
Urban fantasy (6)
I'm guessing some of the reason is that these genres have better networking--more fantasy and romance writers know EE exists than do, say, religion and nonfiction writers.
Cool on the category breakdown, EE. Thanks for the research! Utterly useless in the grand scheme, I'm sure, but interesting nevertheless.
"Sylvia shocked me!"
*laugh* I really need to learn NOT to comment on the site whilst drinking, now that EE is showing all the continuations!
Leanan Sidhe is also a tale of a female fae who took a male lover. After a bit of red wine, it seemed to me that you couldn't borrow half the myth and not the rest. I probably could have been a bit more subtle with that point of view though ;)
I loved Phoenix's and agree it was the best (vote? what vote?)
EE, I just looked at your list of categories. What do you mean by 'Hoax?' Somebody submitting something just for a joke?
There've been five or six or more that I thought, on first reading, were hoaxes. Eventually I came to believe otherwise on all but two.
Hoax is a great name for a genre. Let's define it, then write it.
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