Jennifer M Eaton’s doing a blog hop critique–250 words (plus the end of the last sentence)–you post, critique others from the list, and critique back anyone who gives you a critique.


I’ve chosen a snippet from the beginning of the second book in my Witch of Atlas series.

Background: Humans found out 23 years ago that the fey–creatures like unicorns, elves, and pixies–are real, and so is magic. Althea Raven is a witch who works as a consultant, dealing with the problems that arise from supernatural creatures interacting with humans.

Here’s a link to Snippet 1, should you be curious. But I respect your time, so…

Bare bones summary: Two FBI agents knock on Althea’s door. As they’re talking, something screams in the backyard, and they all head back.

UPDATE: Took a stab at some of the issues. Once again the corrections made me go over… But not so badly this time. This is progress, perhaps.

*    *     *

Althea headed through the side gate, and followed a grassy path through the profusion of greenery growing in garden beds dotting the yard.

Stopping near her guest bedroom’s window, Althea looked down at the auburn-haired man pinned under one of her larger guardians. Two feet tall, the bronze dragon sat on the man’s stomach, feet tucked under it, tail curled around it like a cat. The little dragon figure on her windowsill still cried an alert.

“Peace,” Althea silenced her security spell. “Well, Agent. What happened here?”

“Can I move, please?” He shifted, and the dragon hissed.

“Sure.” Althea gave her guardian a nod. When the little statue hunched down instead, she pointed at the open window ledge, feeling like a mother herding her troublesome children. Her guardian jumped on the window ledge next to its smaller counterpart. Both bronze dragons watched the agents with glowing green eyes.

“Creepy spell,” the crooked-nosed man looked away from the animated statues.

“They’re security. I’ve got warnings posted; you ignored them. What do you want?” Althea couldn’t quite keep her growing irritation out of her voice.

“Actually, we need a favor,” the red head said, getting up and brushing himself off. He quickly removed any visible flecks of grass, straightened every article of clothing, and restored his auburn hair to its casual disarray. “We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Can we start over?” He offered her a bright smile, revealing a set of dimples.

He was good-looking, Althea thought, in a polished fashion. But his smile warmed his chocolate brown eyes a bit much to be believable. “Are you seriously flirting with me?”

The brown-eyed man fixed her with a puppy-dog stare. “Well, we really-”

Althea tipped her chin down so her black hair fell forward to frame her sharp features and ice blue eyes. Perhaps if she looked forbiddingly witchy, he’d stop playing around. “What’re three witch agents doing here?”

“I told you she’d know,” the woman rolled her eyes at the red head.

*   *    *

Click on over to these great writers to check out and critique what they’ve posted!

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

17 responses »

  1. Hi Caitlin,
    Interesting! I had to re-read this and also recap week 1 to clear up some confusion. I always get thrown by references to “first man”, “second man”. First to do what? Make an appearance in scene? First one to run out the back? Yes, the first man was the only man at that point it can be easy to lose track of numbers. For me at least! Perhaps describe him by a feature which is distinct from the guy on the ground, like his crooked nose, maybe.

    Also, paragraph use:

    He was good-looking, in a polished fashion, but his smile warmed his chocolate-brown eyes a bit much to be believable. “Are you seriously flirting with me? What’re three witch agents doing here?”

    This could be a quirk of mine but it begins with a description of the man on the ground detained by the dragon, followed by a quote which I would attribute to the man, despite the content. It became apparent that Althea spoke it. Perhaps if the description was written more from Althea’s point of view such as “Althea found him quite good-looking…”

    Love to find out what this is all about. Witches, witch agents. Very intriguing. 🙂

    • caitlinstern says:

      I tried to figure out a way to describe the second man (yes, he was the second introduced) before he speaks, but it wasn’t working for me.
      There was an ‘Althea thought’ in that sentence, but I cut it. That’s what I get for trying to trim again.
      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Ah, those pesky security gargoyles. 🙂

    I think what is really needs here is emotion. There isn’t a scratch of it. Parts of the dialog and action seem choppy, and I think it is because the emotion is missing.

    Now, that does not mean for you to say “she felt sad” but give us a little “something” a few times in here to let us know how she feels. Every time something happens to us, we have an emotional response. I don’t know what her response is. I still don’t know if she is scared, happy, or ready to kill these guys.

    You need to let us into her head so we have a better understanding of what’s going on.

    I hope this makes sense, because a little sprucing up is all this needs. 🙂

  3. Jenny says:

    Really nice story here, enjoyed reading and look forward to more! (here is mine if wanna read- x

  4. My only comment is about the first man, the second man, the red head, the woman. I have to work too hard to sort them out. Might they have some kind of identifier?

    Sounds like lots of interesting goings on here. I wonder who else will be popping in.

  5. Another great excerpt. Probably look forward to yours the most. Don’t tell the others. Haha. I do agree that the unnamed men are a bit confusing. The dialogue didn’t seem choppy to me (research shows that a lot of readers don’t even read the dialogue tags), and the emotion that I got was that Althea was irritated at the agents’ presence. Unless I’m wrong, then I think the emotional tone is fine. Can’t wait for next week!

    • caitlinstern says:

      You did get the updated version, I think, which makes me look better than I am on my own.
      I’ve been trying to cut the dialogue tags or make them action. It’s harder than I thought it’d be.
      You can’t name someone unless they’ve been introduced, right? It feels wrong to me. These three will be introduced in a few sentences and cease to vex me, thankfully.

  6. Hiyah. Something in your first sentence makes me struggle a little bit. I think it may be a bit long; perhaps it could benefit from being broken up.

    I understand (what I assume to be) your desire to maintain the mystery by having this agent be the ‘auburn-haired man’ or ‘the man,’ but too much of it threatens to be distracting.

    There’s something about the phrase ‘causal disarray,’ I really like it.

    I had to read the ‘he was good looking’ line twice because the ‘in a polished fashion’ confused me just a smidge. I understand it now, but if it muddled me, the phrasing may do the same to others.

    If Althea is suspicious of this chap’s smile, then I wonder if a generous description like ‘chocolate brown’ for his eyes is appropriate. The narrative doesn’t sit squarely in her head, but because chocolate is so nice and tasty, it’s a very positive descriptor of something Althea is supposedly disbelieving of. I hope that makes sense; I can’t think of how better to explain it, but I’ll try if you need me to.

    You’ve got it better in the ‘sharp’ features and the ‘ice’ of Althea’s eyes. They’re all words that give me an idea of what she’s feeling as well as what she looks like. In fact, as a result, you may not even need the ‘forbiddingly witchy’ line.

    Also, but this point, we’re around 500 words in, correct? Personally, I feel the need for a few more names, since avoiding using them makes constructing the sentences clunkier than they need to be.

    I am intrigued though; what do they want her for?

    • caitlinstern says:

      I’m getting to the introductions very soon, as a matter of fact. I don’t like naming people until the main character knows their name.
      Third person limited versus omniscient.
      I’ll work on that description. I’m trying to imply that he’s clearly put effort into his looks. And he’s a little pretty. You can find someone good looking and still be suspicious of their motives, right?
      Thanks for your detailed feedback–I’ve got some things to ponder now. 🙂

  7. […] a link to Snippet 1 and Snippet 2, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  8. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2, and Snippet 3, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  9. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2,Snippet 3, and Snippet 4, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  10. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2,Snippet 3,Snippet 4, and Snippet 5, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

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