RPT with Saranna DeWylde

Saranna DeWylde is our Red Pencil Thursday volunteer today. She’s been on the hot seat a few times before and just recently she had some fabulous news. She sold her HOW TO LOSE A DEMON IN 10 DAYS to Kensington (my publisher as well, incidently!) in a three book deal. I hope she’ll share more about that in the comment section.

Today she’s offering up a different paranormal story she’s playing with, one she admits may not find an audience. We’ll see. My comment are in red. Saranna’s responses are in blue. Please add yours in the comments section.

August, 1863–Kansas Territory

This is a tough setting for a paranormal. Westerns in general have not been terribly popular in recent years, though my friend Cindy Holby recently made a 2 book deal with Berkley for a pair of them, so perhaps the market is turning. Adding a paranormal twist to a western may be pushing the envelop a bit, but who would have thought a vegetarian vampire would catch fire? If a story moves you, you have to write it.

Yes, I’m certainly prepared this may not find a home, but it’s what called to me. It won’t shut-up until I write it anyway. These characters are loud. And Congrats to Cindy, that’s great news!

“Damn it, Jessie. This ain’t no place for you,” Frank James snarled at the hooded figure before him. “What maggot’s got hold of your brain, girl?”

Should be a period after the first bit of dialogue instead of a comma since you give us action instead of a dialogue tag (which I prefer!)

Oh geez! I knew that.

I understand using Frank and Jessie James, but making Jessie a girl is going to really weird out most of Missouri where the James boys have been turned into folk heroes. Ditto William Clarke Quantrill in the next paragraph. Choosing this name certainly identifies your villain since the real Quantrill was responsible for a massacre in Lawrence. History buffs will be ticked if you deviate from what they know about the real people. Is it essential to the story that you use these names?

It is, actually. Jessie’s conflict with Quantrill and keeping Kansas from entering the Union as a free state is one of my main plot points. I’ve seen this work with other pieces like ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER. Not that it will necessarily work for me, but I loved the premise.

Maybe I need to make it more clear this isn’t just a paranormal but an alternate reality? I explain more history as the story goes on, about Washington and his men selling their souls to the Devil to secure their survival at Valley Forge and the birth of a new country. That’s where my hero comes in, a demonic US Marshal. What gets Marshal Mordecai’s attention is the Lawrence Massacre. The Devil has decided he can’t wait for Quantrill’s or Frank James’ souls. I actually live within an hour’s drive of St. Joseph, MO and Lawrence, KS. So my research for all of this is homegrown.

Boy, I really need to start thinking out of the box more often!

“Where should she be, Frank?” William Clarke Quantrill asked as he approached beneath the shadowed arch of the barn door. “Darning socks in a church all night waiting to see who they’re going to take next? Get her a gun.”

“Who they’re going to take next” is an excellent hook. It’s so important to slip in these tantalyzing snippets of info. Good job!

“Brought my own.” Jessie pulled back her coat to expose the colts strapped to her shapely hips.

I think Colts should be capitalized to indicate guns rather than horses. Whose POV are we in? If hers, she probably wouldn’t think of her own hips as shapely. If Frank’s, would he think of his sister’s hips as shapely? The only other choice is William, but we haven’t had a very definite peek into his head. Whoever’s eyes we’re looking through, make sure we don’t have to wonder whose they are.

I fall victim to this all the time. :-) No, she wouldn’t think of herself that way and Frank wouldn’t want to think of her that way. We’re in Jessie’s POV, so yep, I’ll ax that.

“You got bullets?” William eyed her.

Jessie drew her weapon and rolled the chamber open with practiced ease to expose the silver bullets that glinted in the pale, yellow glow of the lantern.

Silver bullets. Another good hook and a definite indication that we may be in Kansas, but not really.

“Now, you know you got to get in real close? When you’re using silver instead ofGe lead, the mark ain’t as true,” he told her.

“I know what I’m doing,” Jessie nodded.

Period instead of comma again, because nodding is an action, not a dialogue tag. No one can “nod” words.

Geez. Second time. Smack my hand. Maybe use a riding crop. :-)

“This is madness,” Frank ground out.

‘Frank ground out’ stopped me. Do you mean he ground out the words?

Yep. Would something about his clenched teeth be better?

“No, what’s madness is for me to be waiting for a brother who might not come home when I can help make sure he does. I shoot as good as you do, Frank James. I’ve ridden with you before, this is no different.”

Period after ‘before’ and make that two sentences. It’s stronger that way.

“It is different tonight, Jessie. There’s two hundred wolves and they’re going to give that abolitionist senator the curse. They’ve already turned or killed everyone in Lawrence,” Quantrill said, his mercurial eyes shadowed.

Definitely not in Kansas anymore.

“If my brother would let me take the dark veil, it wouldn’t matter how many dogs there were,” Jessie said with a raised brow.

Dark veil is another good hook. Your raise a number of questions with just two words.

“Don’t start, Jessie. Not now,” Frank growled as he shoved the heavy barn door out of his way and moved with long strides into the sticky heat of the night.

“The dark veil? What do you know of demons and magic?” William snorted.

“The same as I know about Samuel Colt and his silver bullets and his stake gun,” Jessie raised her chin in defiance, daring him to argue with her.

How about “As much as I know” instead of “The same as I know?”

I was going for the less erudite approach to assist with characterization. She’s street smart, but her formal education is lacking. But if it fell flat, I’ll change it.

He laughed and it chilled Jessie to her core. Yes, she needed magic so she wouldn’t have to rely on the third gun strapped to her thigh. The one that instead of silver bullets bore the slender wooden ammunition carved from an Ash tree under the dark of a blood moon.

Not being a huge paranormal reader, I’m not sure what the ash wood guards against. Can you give me a hint?

In some vampire lore, the stakes used to kill a vampire have to be carved from a certain kind of wood, most often oak or ash.

His pale fingers tangled in her long, dark hair. He rubbed his fingertips over a stray curl, testing its texture. “Sweet Jessie,” he sighed. “Have you ever thought about the magic you could do with the Gift running through your luscious veins?”

You’re going to win my “Happy Hooker Award,” Saranna. Now we’ve been teased with the idea that your heroine has a mysterious Gift!

Yay!! I’m a happy hooker! WOOT!

Not sure about the ‘testing its texture.’ Seems like you could tighten there by removing it.

Will do!

She smiled at him, though it hurt her face to do it. Jessie didn’t want him to know he scared the drawers right off her. He got off on the fear. “No, it hadn’t crossed my mind.”

She stood up to her brother, but this guy scares her. Didn’t Frank know that before he left her with him? Brothers like to be protective. Maybe she could wish she’d shared that with him.

Frank knows it, but he thinks it’s the lesser of evils. Quantrill is strong and vicious, but he protects what’s his and if he gives Jessie to him, he thinks that’s the best he can do for her. Should I asdd some dialogue about this?

You might be able to add something before Quantrill appears. She might swear when she recognizes him as he approaches and her brother could reproach her for it because of the reasons you mention above.

He leaned in and inhaled the scent of her. “We’ll talk soon, Jessie. There’s much to discuss.” Quantrill smiled and showed his fangs in a proud display.

Oh, bad vampire.

It gave Jessie a hollow feeling in the pit of her gut to know he desired her. It made her a little sick and if she were honest, terrified her. Some vampires could take a mortal lover and not hurt them, but suffering was his pleasure. Not just pain, but a brutality like nothing Jessie had ever seen in her short, yet tragic life.

How does she know about his prediliction for pain? Did he kill someone close to her? Makes me wonder again about why she didn’t share her fear of William with Frank.

That’s addressed after this passage—why she’s afraid of him. She knows his crimes. And this fictional Quantrill is as bad as the real thing. He murdered up and down the border, freed werewolves, werewolf sympathizers and even other vampires who wouldn’t join his cause.

Thanks for letting us take a look at this opening, Saranna. It helps other writers when a volunteer takes her bath in public. If you’d like to learn more about Saranna and her work, please visit her website at http://www.sarannadewylde.com .

If you’re a writer and would like to be a volunteer for Red Pencil Thursday, please email me at miamarlowe at hotmail dot com.

Now it’s your turn to add your comments for Saranna. A critique group is only as strong as all its members. Don’t let us down now!

13 thoughts on “RPT with Saranna DeWylde

  1. Married to the Enemy says:

    This is my first Red Pencil, but I whole heartedly intend to pencil it in from now on.br /br /As for the story, I am a huge paranormal fan and would never have thought of it adding it to a historical western. But hey, there#39;s an audience out there for both so why not blend them together. After all, they are adding zombies to Jane Austen…br /br /I liked the diaglogue bit about the Sam Colt pistols and don#39;t think you should correct the grammer.br /br /I also thought the bit about the Ash was clear enough, most people picking this up will either be western fans or vampire fans. Western fans will figure it out soon enough and it would be insulting to explain it to vampire fans. br /br /I LOVE the stake gun!br /br /I#39;ll be more concise in the future, this was my first rodeo.br /br /Lea

  2. Saranna DeWylde says:

    Sandy- Mia always does a great job. :) Thanks so much for stopping in.br /br /Judith- Thanks!br /br /Theresa- Thank you for the encouragement. These crits are always so helpful. If you#39;re considering Red Pencil, give it a go. Everyone has been so helpful. Like I said, it#39;s helped me all along in the process.br /br /Nan- Yes, the pictures are just creepy. John Brown does have his own role to play. Thanks so much for the comments. Van Helsing meets Jesse James. That is such a cool pitch. You#39;re brilliant.br /br /Madeline- Lowly? Posh. Everyone#39;s opinion is important. Thank you for such an in depth reply, I really appreciate it. It#39;s so cool to see what others are thinking as they read my piece and to see what throws one person as opposed to another and then work both in to my piece.br /br /Mia-Thank you so much for having me! Red Pencil is always a blast.

  3. MiaMarlowe says:

    Madeline–There are no lowly writers at the Red Pencil table. Your comments are quite welcome (and spot on, too!)

  4. MiaMarlowe says:

    Obe– I like your casting. Anything that has Hugh Jackman without a shirt works for me. And the Vanhelsing meets Jessie James is usuable for a quick pitch.

  5. MiaMarlowe says:

    Theresa–I#39;m a misplaced midwesterner myself. Born in MO and raised in Iowa. Now sojourning in New England. br /br /Saranna is brave to set forward for a public critique, but my goal is always to be constructive. No snark allowed. If you#39;re game sometime, email me for the details.

  6. MiaMarlowe says:

    Dang it! I#39;m going to have to start wearing a name tag for myself. Repeat three times: It#39;s Mia now!br /br /br /Judith–Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you#39;ll make a regular visit to Red Pencil Thursday.

  7. EmilyBryan says:

    Sandy–I had to readjust my head a bit too because I don#39;t normally read much paranormal. However, I just got into Erin Kellison#39;s ShadowFall and I love her alternate realities of light and shadow. br /br /As with any subgenre, reader expectations are everything and Saranna is hitting the hot buttons.

  8. Madeline Smyth says:

    (CONTINUED FROM PRIOR COMMENT) br /br /“If my brother would let me take the dark veil, it wouldn’t matter how many dogs there were,” Jessie said with a raised brow.br /br /Comment: Jessie has ridden with Frank before this night. She shoots as well as Frank. She has guns strapped to her hips. She is ready to do battle, regardless of Frank’s disapproval. Why does she let her brother control whether she takes the dark veil?br /br /“Don’t start, Jessie. Not now,” Frank growled as he shoved the heavy barn door out of his way and moved with long strides into the sticky heat of the night.br /br /“The dark veil? What do you know of demons and magic?” William snorted.br /br /Comment: Why does William suggest she doesn’t know anything about magic, but then ask her below if she has ever thought about the magic she could do with the Gift running through her luscious veins.br /br /“The same as I know about Samuel Colt and his silver bullets and his stake gun,” Jessie raised her chin in defiance, daring him to argue with her.br /br /Comment: Is the stake gun a weapon she can use against a vampire? If so, I#39;d separate out those words for emphasis. For example: “The same as I know about Samuel Colt and his silver bullets…” Jessie looked at him from beneath lowered eyelids. quot;…and his stake gun.quot;br /br /He laughed and it chilled Jessie to her core. Yes, she needed magic so she wouldn’t have to rely on the third gun strapped to her thigh. The one that instead of silver bullets bore the slender wooden ammunition carved from an Ash tree under the dark of a blood moon.br /br /Comment: I’d split the first sentence into two. br /br /His pale fingers tangled in her long, dark hair. He rubbed his fingertips over a stray curl, testing its texture. quot;Sweet Jessie,” he sighed. “Have you ever thought about the magic you could do with the Gift running through your luscious veins?”br /br /Comment: Love this.br /br /She smiled at him, though it hurt her face to do it. Jessie didn’t want him to know he scared the drawers right off her. He got off on the fear. “No, it hadn’t crossed my mind.”br /br /Comment: Her reply surprised me. Given her feistiness, I expected her to say something challenging, such as, “Of course I have. Haven’t you?” br /br /He leaned in and inhaled the scent of her. “We’ll talk soon, Jessie. There’s much to discuss.” Quantrill smiled and showed his fangs in a proud display.br /br /Comment: I’d have him lean in so close to her that she feels his fangs drag slightly across her skin.br /br /It gave Jessie a hollow feeling in the pit of her gut to know he desired her. It made her a little sick and if she were honest, terrified her. Some vampires could take a mortal lover and not hurt them, but suffering was his pleasure. Not just pain, but a brutality like nothing Jessie had ever seen in her short, yet tragic life.br /br /Comment: Now I#39;m surprised that her brother hasn#39;t insisted she take the dark veil.br /br /I enjoyed reading this, and I hope it finds a home.br /br /Best, Madeline

  9. Madeline Smyth says:

    Hi, Mia and Saranna-br /br /I didn#39;t know whether you might be inviting a lowly unpubbed like myself to comment, but I decided to go ahead and put in my two cents, for whatever they#39;re worth.br /br /“Damn it, Jessie. This ain’t no place for you,” Frank James snarled at the hooded figure before him. “What maggot’s got hold of your brain, girl?”br /br /Comment: I#39;m intrigued by the idea of taking people from history and giving them an otherworldly history behind the recorded history.br /br /“Where should she be, Frank?” William Clarke Quantrill asked as he approached beneath the shadowed arch of the barn door. “Darning socks in a church all night waiting to see who they’re going to take next? Get her a gun.”br /br /Comment: I would like more of a description of Quantrill.br /br /“Brought my own.” Jessie pulled back her coat to expose the colts strapped to her shapely hips.br /br /“You got bullets?” William eyed her.br /br /Jessie drew her weapon and rolled the chamber open with practiced ease to expose the silver bullets that glinted in the pale, yellow glow of the lantern.br /br /Comment: Nice description.br /br /“Now, you know you got to get in real close? When you’re using silver instead of lead, the mark ain’t as true,” he told her.br /br /Comment: Is this William’s line?br /br /“I know what I’m doing,” Jessie nodded.br /br /“This is madness,” Frank ground out.br /br /“No, what’s madness is for me to be waiting for a brother who might not come home when I can help make sure he does. I shoot as good as you do, Frank James. I’ve ridden with you before, this is no different.”br /br /Comment: Give her a beat. I#39;d like to visualize her better.br /br /“It is different tonight, Jessie. There’s two hundred wolves and they’re going to give that abolitionist senator the curse. They’ve already turned or killed everyone in Lawrence,” Quantrill said, his mercurial eyes shadowed.br /br /Comment: He is William above, but Quantrill here.br /br /(CONTINUED IN ANOTHER COMMENT)

  10. Obe says:

    Ok, I#39;m a western writer. I have to admit I never thought of a paranormal western before. It intrigues me young miss. I immediately got the picture of Huge Jackman as Frank James ( hum maybe I just want to see him shirtless again) and the Debra Messing from Will and Grace as the heroine. WEIRD mixture. The dialogue was believable. I did get cold chills from Quantrill. I have to admit I can#39;t see why someone would not pick this up! Thanks too for the explanation of comma and period in dialogue I struggle with that. You#39;ve picked a good setting for this Vanhelsing meets the Pre Civil War. Does John Brown play into it at all? He#39;s very demonizing in old photographs. br /br /Nan.

  11. Theresa Romain says:

    I#39;m really intrigued by the setup of this story. Being a Midwesterner and a history buff, I am familiar with these Civil War-era events, and I love the twists of your alternate reality. I think Mia made some great suggestions to tighten up the flow and set up Quantrill#39;s character a bit more. I agree with her on your hooks — I#39;d definitely read on to find out more about the dark veil. Congrats on your book deal, and thanks for volunteering to get penciled!

  12. Judith Leger says:

    Great Post, Mia and Saranna! Your story is intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sandy says:

    Saranna, you brave soul. So much of this left me confused, but I do think Mia gave you some constructive comments that will take care of some of those spots. br /br /Another good job, Mia.

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