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First Page: Historical m/m

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Lucius Sentius Camillianus, Camillianus to his friends, Lucius to his family, armed with urgent news, marched across the city with the determination of a legionnaire. One of his father’s secretaries lagged behind him, wood-bound note tablet in hand, a pen case bumping on his hip. Lucius glared back at the secretary, a wan older man, who shrugged.

“You should have an entourage now,” the servant said without a trace of sympathy or apology. “Your father insists. You can’t wander about like a low-class truant.”

Lucius brushed a flop of damp black hair off his forehead. Summer had begun with a full-out assault on the city of Rome. The pavement radiated a fierce heat back onto legs and under tunics. He was wearing one of his better tunics, a blue thing with lots of pleats and extra fabric which, like Pollux the secretary, had been put on at his father’s insistence. He could feel the perspiration pooling at his waist. He would not impress anyone if his clothing became an unfashionably sodden mass of sweat. And he itched.

He made a turn onto the narrow thoroughfare of the Street of the Lampmakers and was pulled into the flow of pedestrians like water drawn down a funnel. Tall buildings, four and five stories high, rose on either side above a clotted mass of the carefully coiffed and the belligerently unwashed. Perfumes mingled with armpit stink, dusty dogs, dustier slaves, the smell of frying sausages in greasy waves from the recesses of shops, and, every now and then, a tease of pungent incense from some altar. Citizens poured toward the law courts and the auction houses, the taverns and the temples, and all of them were in his way. He ducked onto the less crowded Old Temple Street and breathed a sigh of relief, which turned to a sigh of disappointment when he saw he had not managed to scrape off the secretary in the crowd.

With Pollux right at his heels, he reached the mansio, the front of the large city house an imposingly blank face to the outer world. The porter who opened the door was a new boy Lucius did not recognize, but the Lucretius household was always rotating slaves. The boy wore a perfunctory chain around his ankle to show that, technically, he was not yet trusted not to walk right out and escape. But he was polite and efficient. The chain was not even attached to anything; the matching ring on the wall had fallen out a generation before, and no one had bothered to replace it.

“The master and mistress are out visiting, sir,” the porter said with a well-turned accent as he helped them change from their street shoes into indoor slippers. “I’ll announce you to the young master.” He led them into the atrium and ambled off, chain and all.

The atrium was almost as busy as the street. Its frescoed walls were obscured by wooden racks holding huge supine amphorae of wine, and servants bustled to and from the workrooms sprouting off either side. The atrium was also almost as hot as the street. Neither its height nor its skylight relieved the dense air. Lucius hoped the amphorae were empty, or the wine would be cooked, which would be a shame, considering that any wine in the Lucretius house would be of the best quality. He knocked on one decorated vessel, and the clay container gave a hollow, empty sound.

A metaphor for how he felt. Lucius looked at the secretary speculatively, wondering if his father would tease him for recording poetic inspirations. Probably.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

42 Comments

  1. Marianne McA
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 05:33:47

    I liked it – enough that I’d read on, and quite possibly buy it. (Even though I tend to avoid Roman settings. Latin was not my favourite subject at school.)

    Only minor, minor nitpick was that I read the sentence;

    ‘Lucius hoped the amphorae were empty, or the wine would be cooked…’

    as

    Lucius hoped the amphorae were empty, or (Lucius hoped) the wine would be cooked…

    - which didn’t make any sense – but when I reread it, I could see where I’d gone wrong. If it had read ‘or else the wine would be cooked’ that might have been clearer.

    Could just be me – other readers might not make that mistake.

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  2. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 05:57:59

    Nice! A few tweaks and you’re there.
    Cut “Camillianus to his friends, Lucius to his family” because it’s telling and it slows down your first sentence.
    “he could feel” might be better as “he felt” or even leave out the distancing tag altogether.
    There are a few “telling” parts where you slip into authorial voice, like the boy with the chain, and one or two sentences that need rejigging, but this is really interesting, and I’d certainly read on.

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  3. Laura
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 06:52:05

    I agree with the other two comments – good job & that 1st sentence with the four commas threw me off.

    The other sentence that got me had six commas; “Perfumes mingled with armpit stink, dusty dogs, dustier slaves, the smell of frying sausages in greasy waves from the recesses of shops, and, every now and then, a tease of pungent incense from some altar.” I like the descriptions (well not quite *like* since I got your intention), just perhaps if you could break up the sentence.

    Very nice first page and kudos for posting!

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  4. Karenna Colcroft
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 08:35:52

    Great job setting the scene! I agree with Lynne about “He could feel…” That sentence could just be “Perspiration pooled at his waist.”

    Most of the things I noticed that I would change have already been mentioned. The only other comment I have is on your choice of names. “Lucius” and “Lucretius” strike me as a little too visually similar; as a reader, I would probably end up confusing them.

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  5. DS
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 08:46:41

    Two really minor things .

    I did wonder if he would really notice “arm pit stink”, “dusty dogs” and “even dustier slaves”. I’m not sure what the last two would smell like– wet dogs are the smelly ones but if someone stinks it usually isn’t just the armpits. The other smells mentioned gave a good idea of what that might be encountered on the street.

    The second and this this just might be matter of taste was

    He made a turn onto the narrow thoroughfare of the Street of the Lampmakers and was pulled into the flow of pedestrians like water drawn down a funnel.

    I ended up stopping and pondering how this would look which threw me out of the story. The simile isn’t really needed and IMO doesn’t add much.

    Over all it seemed an interesting beginning.

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  6. Liz Talley
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 09:14:53

    I think it is well-done, and I love Roman stories. Actually the sentence with the “Lampmakers” and “water drawn down a funnel” worked well visually for me. It was a nice use of imagery.

    The only words I gave pause to were “it was blue thing” becasue it sounded modern. Maybe you could use “it was a blue linen” (or some other fabric) and it wouldn’t toss me into the 21st century. “Arm-pit stink” seemed an odd choice of words, and the fact the slave would tell them what the master and mistress are doing. Seems unslave-like. Seems as if he’s say, “The master is out” and that would suffice and be non-personal.

    Of course, those above things are very nit-picky. The writing is interesting and tight, and I like the imagery because I’m a visual reader. Thanks for being brave enought to share. I love these First Page Saturdays :)

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  7. Sarah Frantz
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 09:42:25

    I needed some hint of what the news might be. Not the whole thing, but something other than just that he had news. He’d be thinking about it the whole way, so I expected to get more hints to keep my interest. Also, if he’s worried about impressing someone with his clothes, then there should be some sort of indication who he was expecting to see at the house he went to. Was he expecting to see the parents? Disappointed/relieved for it only to be the son? He doesn’t say anything to the slave–is he expected or not? It was confusing.

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  8. theo
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:15:46

    I stopped at the word ‘pavement’ because it wasn’t used for the reason you have until around the 13th century. It threw me right out of the story which is not good in an opening. I finished reading to understand if it was my mistake and the story was meant to be more modern since the overall voice is, but no. I take it this takes place during Rome’s heyday in which case, the voice is just too current for me. With a few minor changes, this could be set now.

    Your first two sentences are 57 words. That also doesn’t bode well for me as far as nice, tight writing goes. Someone above mentioned the multiple comma usage and though that’s fine on rare occasion, reading sentences like that repeatedly can get old.

    Overall, I’m torn. I’m not sure I’d want to read on though nothing at the moment would be a DNF for me either.

    Kudos for putting it out there and good luck.

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  9. Someone Has to Say It...
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:18:03

    An m/m with a protag named Camillianus?

    Oh dear.

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  10. Anonymous
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:41:28

    I like it, overall, although I’m hoping you get to the point pretty much right after this excerpt. Good scene setting, good characterization, but I’m going to want plot pretty soon.

    Also, think I’d play with your sentence structure in the first paragraph. I don’t know the terms… subordinate clauses, maybe? There’s a lot of stuff between the subject of the sentence and what the subject is doing. It’s a relaxing, almost lulling rhythm, and I don’t think you want readers to be quite that relaxed right off the bat.

    I would rephrase a few other parts, too. “Summer had begun with a full-out assault on the city,” could have meant that someone had attacked the city in early summer. Maybe ‘Summer had begun its full-out assault…’?

    Those are just nitpicky, though. Overall, as long as there’s a bit more action soon, I really like it.

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  11. jayhjay
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:43:14

    I think it was really good but I agree with an earlier poster about the names in the first sentence. The last name is hard to pronounce and when it is repeated a second time I felt myself stopping to try to figure out how to pronounce it, which took me out of the story and bogged down the start a bit. Can that be saved for later?

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  12. nervous anonymous author
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:47:11

    Thank you to everyone for the comments so far. I have a question for theo but I’ll just be quick in responding until later. Except to say that ridiculously verbose sentences are my big weakness. It’s hard to step back and see them while swimming around in all the pretty words. And I may have gone too modern in trying to write with a lighter tone than usual.

    Hi, theo. Can you recommend a word for a paved road that would better fit an historical mood?

    And I’m afraid to ask what I’m missing regarding Camillianus. I’m prepared for major embarrassment.

    I look forward to hearing any other comments anyone might have. It’s so helpful to get feedback from the wider world.

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  13. theo
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 12:11:08

    @nervous anonymous author

    I can’t give you one word really. They were made with stone. Big, small, broken. Mixed with broken tiles and yes, cement though at that time, the word cement was not used either. The reason we see them smooth now is that they were worn over hundreds of years of use. But the stone was used in such a way to allow drainage and then were covered with tightly packed pavers. Stones that are chiseled flat on one side and fitted to make an almost solid, but not quite, surface. You could use just pavers if worded differently, but ‘pavement’ is a more modern variation of it and to me (and most likely not anyone else!) it jarred because pavement is a solid ribbon that I drive on every day and a far cry from the medium they used.

    Again, that’s just me but I’ve learned from writing historicals that there are a lot of readers who will call you out on anachronisms that are so tiny, most would never notice them.

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  14. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 12:57:32

    I’m all for historical accuracy, but when they’re all speaking Latin, does it matter? As long as you don’t have psychological terms used in the Freudian sense, and stuff like “television,” you’re pretty much okay.
    I think I’m used to thinking about Roman pavements, because that’s what mosaic floors are often called in museums. And I’ve read “I Claudius” which seemed to be fairly modern in tone. And of course the Falco books!
    But yay to the calling out of anachronisms. It’s the one you don’t look up that gets you.

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  15. Elle Goff
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 13:11:05

    @nervous anonymous author: I liked it, though you do tend to use overly complex sentences. A fault that I have myself so I shouldnt’say anything.

    As for the name, any name ending in ANUS is suspect. I was interested in continuing on with the story. Look forward to reading more of it.

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  16. Syd
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 13:16:32

    I enjoyed this — I’ve wished for more Greek and Roman stories.

    Pavement is complicated as the modern use of it as roadway is primarily North American. In England, it’s reserved for sidewalks — since few roads are rarely paved these days! I’ve been out of the UK for 20 years, but I still have to translate pavement to mean roadway and not sidewalk when I see it.

    Since everything is a translation, it doesn’t really matter that pavement, as a word, is 12thC — but matters is what type of road surface is being described.

    Nervous author — split the Camillianus name after the second i — he sounds like flowery-bum!

    I’d read on!

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  17. author
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 13:22:09

    @Elle Goff and @Syd: OH.

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  18. Pendantic Classicist
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 16:44:50

    I like the setting and descriptions. However, some of your wording is convoluted, and that put me off a bit. A few historical things also jumped out at me…

    First, a “mansio” is not a “mansion”! The Latin word means an official inn on the Roman roads. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansio] It would never be used for a private house. Also, the Romans sometimes cut their wine with hot water, so hot or room temperature wine would not have been a problem. You may need to double-check your research.

    “Cobbles” might be a good word for pavement, since Roman roads were sometimes paved in cobblestone. Roman men could be referred to formally by their second or third names, so the main character could also go by Sentius.

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  19. author
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 16:54:41

    @Pendantic Classicist: mansio is the unfortunate result of a global cut-and-paste. I’m utterly chagrined not to have caught that before submitting the page here. I do know the difference, honest! Sometimes you just don’t see the words anymore. But I stand by the difference between tasty hot wine and ruined wine o.o

    @everyone: I’ve started tinkering with some of the more problematic aspects of this page, and will review the rest of the manuscript with an eye to the same sort of issues (and other cut-and-paste boggles). Especially verbose sentences. There’s all sorts of stuff just on this first page that I would never have seen on my own, at least not without maybe setting it aside for a few months. And other things (thanks, @Sarah Frantz) I wouldn’t have thought of at all.

    Not sure what to do about the name, except to get unattached to any ones ending in “anus.”

    @Lynne Connolly: I’m used to seeing “pavement” for something underfoot made up of stones, too, and it never occurred to me someone would see it as meaning “blacktop.” It helps so much to have a lot of different readers.

    Thanks for all the comments.

    Yay, Falco.

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  20. theo
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 17:06:42

    @author

    And for me, blacktop and pavement are two entirely different things, neither of which has anything to do with stones LOL!

    Like I mentioned, it was most likely me and no one else here who would have noticed that, but Lynne’s right in that it’s the tiniest thing that readers will shred you over so you want to minimize those things as much as possible without harming the story. You can’t write for everyone obviously though. I’ve read many books by British authors where some of the words wouldn’t have been my choice were I the author because in the US, they may be used quite differently.

    And if I’m not mistaken, Lynne is a Brit so there will be differences right there in what one culture sees as nothing obtuse as compared to another. Mosaic floors for the most part in my area of the US are called tile. They’re lumped together with anything else that looks like a tile.

    Go figure.

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  21. DM
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 19:57:30

    @Theo and @Author

    Sorry, but Theo is wrong. Pavement is not an anachronism. Pavire, pavimentare, pavimentum. Vitruvius details both indoor pavements (floors) and outdoor pavements (roads). Translators universally choose to call these pavements in English, with good reason. It is the Latin-derived word which most closely conveys the sense of the Roman idea in English. The author here is speaking specifically of the surface, and pavire, the verb, means to beat smooth a surface. That surface is then called a pavimentum.

    Theo probably looked up pavement in the OED and came up with it being first attested in the 13th century. This does not make the word or the concept an anachronism in ancient Rome. Few of the words in the passage above existed in their present forms prior to the 13th century either. That does not make them anachronisms, unless of course you choose to write the book in Latin.

    Pavement is exactly the kind of word you should strive to use in a piece of historical fiction set in ancient Rome. It is a word that has survived little changed for more than two thousand years, meaning almost exactly the same thing.

    I would consider choosing even more Latin derived English words that convey the Roman sense of what you are trying to say. Plebeian, for low-class. Domicile for house. Porter is an excellent choice. The Spartacus television series does this kind of thing extremely well. They use “gratitude,” rather than, “thank you.” The Roman idea was a noun. A thing you could convey to another person. The English idea is a verb. It is something you perform.

    Not to beat up on Theo, but a dictionary is not a primary source. And many of your readers will be attracted to your story because they have a background in Classics. If I were writing something set in ancient Rome, I’d fact check like mad. It’s easy to do, with pretty much every ancient text available online in Latin and in a multitude of translations.

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  22. theo
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 21:14:45

    @DM

    You can beat up on me all you want :o)

    I’ve never come across the word pavement in my research until I get somewhere between C12 and C14. It may have been in use then, I haven’t seen it.

    However, that said, I was still struck with a vision of driving my car next to some guy in Roman wear. Not the kind of thing I would want my reader to see when they’re on the first page. With the millions of words we have to choose from, I would rather the author described what they’re standing on than use a word that has such a modern feel to it.

    As a side note, I agree. When was the last time you heard someone use the word plebian in conversation? Both may have been used then, but plebian is more in keeping with the atmosphere the author is trying to convey.

    My two cents! Which is about all I have with the economy and price of gas lately…

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  23. DM
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 00:22:03

    @Theo

    The author is describing exactly what the character is standing on. She could not be more precise. She is using as close a term as possible to the one that would have been in the mind of her character. The only closer term would have been the Latin word itself, pavimentum.

    There is simply nothing modern about the word pavement. It is a seven hundred year old term derived from a word that was in use during the period the author is writing about. It does not have any special association with automobiles or modernity. It is used by classicists to describe precisely the surface the author writes about, both in scholarly and popular contexts. It is fundamentally a Roman concept and a Latin word. Just because we still have pavements two thousand years later does not make pavements a feature of modernity.

    I am not suggesting “plebeian” because it is uncommon in speech or for an “old timey” feel. I am suggesting these words because they are derived from the language the characters in this story spoke, and have retained much of their original meaning and nuance.

    I have no doubt that the cognate, pavement, dates from the 13th century, but the fact remains that it is a cognate, and a very close one, of the Latin word for the exact same thing.

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  24. Joanne Renaud
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 02:22:03

    @Author

    I loved this. There were some things that could be ironed out (mansio, a few modern phrasings) but I think it flowed well, and I got a vivid picture of Rome and the main character’s world. Thank you so much for writing a Roman story where the characters have proper nomenclature.

    Do you need a beta? If you do, I can be found here on Facebook if you want to contact me (or you can find me on Twitter– I’m @suburbanbeatnik).

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  25. theo
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 08:04:10

    @DM

    Oh, I understand. I guess I’m saying I’d much rather read the root word, pavimentum, than the more modern version of the word. It keeps the feel of the story more intact rather than the variation we use today. I would have no problem with pavimentum or any of several dozen other words that, though still in use today, have morphed from their original to the current design.

    I know that thousands of our words today are derived from Latin. I think the author, any author, needs to trust her reader enough though to know or can figure out what paviementum is. I read a book last week where the time traveling hero had come 300 years forward, woke up and the word ‘okay’ just slipped right out. There’s a difference of course since there isn’t any root for okay (at least I don’t think there is!,) but the point is, keeping the reader in the time frame without making it impossible to read should be the goal.

    Anyway, like I said in my first post, for me, that word (along with ‘blue thing’ which again to me, really indicates a woman’s author voice or in this case, an effeminate man which might be what she was going for) pulled me from the story. For me, that’s not a good thing on the first page, but again, I’m probably the only one who had that problem so it’s probably moot. :o)

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  26. Charlotte
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 08:11:15

    I am confused (and intrigued) by the discussion on anachronistic word use.
    Here is how I see it:
    The story takes place in ancient Rome. The language of the characters is therefore Latin, not English. So inherent in the reading is the notion that this has been translated. Should it not be translated into the language that is intelligible to the reader?
    It should not be translated into the story’s contemporary version of English, ie Old English. Which is almost completely unintelligible to modern English speakers. So the notion of when a particular word entered English is beside the point.
    So the author should start with modern English and then word choices should be flavoured with phrases that can be traced to latin (as suggested above) as a world-building tool. But not in an attempt to use ‘historically correct’ language.

    Am I misunderstanding something? Because I don’t really get where anachronistic enters into it (‘television’-words exempted, of course).

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  27. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 08:36:41

    I’m really struck by the differences between language usage on this thread. “Pavement” didn’t stand out to me at all, and yes, the etymological origin is Latin, so it seemed fine.
    Look here:
    http://www.ahbtt.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tour/m–roman-pavement/
    Google for “Roman Pavement” in UK and European museums. You’ll come up with a ton of them.
    “Plebian,” actually I used the word yesterday in ordinary conversation. Well, almost. I said “pleb” in a joke to someone. Nobody thought it unusual.
    And yet I just got the edits back on a book I’ve written with American lead characters. I thought I was pretty good on the American idiom, but she’s spotted “Britishisms” all over the place. Thank goodness for American editors!
    In the right place. Perhaps that’s why American authored historicals don’t travel well (unlike Californian wine, which travels just fine!) They need British editors.

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  28. Karen Mercury
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 09:44:56

    OK, I’m in the midst of culling out a ton of my own flowery prose from a MS so this is right up my alley!

    Lucius Sentius Camillianus, Camillianus to his friends, Lucius to his family [Too convoluted for a first sentence. You can let readers know his names later Just say Lucius or whatever for now.]

    “You should have an entourage now,” the servant said without a trace of sympathy or apology [ said blandly, or apathetically? More succinct].

    Lucius brushed a flop of damp black hair off his forehead. Summer had begun with a full-out assault on the city of Rome. [Was the weather assaulting Rome, or an army?]

    The pavement radiated a fierce heat back onto legs and under tunics. [Just say “radiated a fierce heat.”]

    He was wearing one of his better tunics [“a good tunic” is more succinct],

    He could feel the perspiration pooling at his waist. [The perspiration pooled at his waist.]

    Tall buildings, four and five stories high, rose on either side above a clotted mass of the carefully coiffed and the belligerently unwashed. Perfumes mingled with armpit stink, dusty dogs, dustier slaves, the smell of frying sausages in greasy waves from the recesses of shops, and, every now and then, a tease of pungent incense from some altar. Citizens poured toward the law courts and the auction houses, the taverns and the temples, and all of them were in his way. He ducked onto the less crowded Old Temple Street and breathed a sigh of relief, which turned to a sigh of disappointment when he saw he had not managed to scrape off the secretary in the crowd. [This is all very good and descriptive, as well as funny.]

    The boy wore a perfunctory chain around his ankle to show that, technically, he was not yet trusted not to walk right out and escape. [Two “nots”—maybe “they didn’t trust him not to escape”?]

    The chain was not even attached to anything; the matching ring on the wall [Editors hate semicolons—maybe put an emdash? That’s humorous though.]

    and servants bustled to and from the workrooms sprouting off either side. [Were the servants sprouting, or the rooms sprouted?]

    The atrium was also almost as hot as the street. Neither its height nor its skylight relieved the dense air.[Maybe “its high skylight didn’t relieve the dense air.”]

    The rest is very good! Descriptive, humorous, and you get the idea he doesn’t like his father much. I would definitely read on!

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  29. author
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 11:32:31

    @Karen Mercury: I must snip the flowers of my beautiful prose! And also make the stuff that makes no sense make sense.

    I’d hoped the long name could be a look at the trappings Romans carried around in their nomenclature, like a Regency fellow with a string of titles and hyphenated last names, but can get that across elsewhere.

    @pavimentum: I’m considering these options:

    1. “stone pavement”
    2. “paved walkway”
    3. add more sexy-times scenes until no one notices

    @the discussion: Fairly or not, a word can jolt a reader. With a setting so far in the past, it’s all judgement calls. I’m discovering how many metaphors involve machinery, and won’t use those even if there’s equivalent ancient machinery. Especially >coff< sexy-times metaphors.

    One high school teacher made it his duty to make sure I wrote like an American. I still second-guess myself all the time–ALL the time (is it an American regionalism or did I get it from family? or from a book or television? does it sound like an affectation?). Spellchecker and that fiend Autocorrect catch spellings. I'm mostly cured of semicolons ;)

    @Pendantic Classicist will be pleased (or indifferent) to know the mansion->mansio search-and-replace error is completely fixed. Am still mortified. It cuts to look like I didn’t research carefully. I will own all genuine screw-ups.

    @Joanne Renaud: Thank you for the offer. I will absolutely be in touch!

    @Lynne Connolly: when I lived in London, I loved that I could occasionally go stand on Roman…pavement ^-^

    My friends and I as teens used to say, “Romans speak with an English accent.” It sounds ye olde to American ears. American English = modern associations, I suppose. Excepting, of course, Westerns. Pardner.

    Thank you all again–I can’t say that enough. If anyone has any other feedback, I’ll be keeping an appreciative eye on the comments!

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  30. Calista
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 12:39:00

    Yay! Loving this so far. Mostly agree with the other comments, though I liked it when Lucius referred to his garment as a “blue thing” because it demonstrates how very little he cares about it – a nice early insight into his emotional life and priorities.

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  31. Anonymo
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 14:50:37

    Your scene description was very good, real vivid; and you did a good job of showing his status,

    The first sentence too long for me and since the various names didn’t really seem to matter at this point, why show it when it does.

    Undecided if I’d want to read more, as unsure of what has actually happened or what the plot is from this page and what was he determined to do.
    And little nits that made me stop: water drawn into funnel – it isn’t drawn down, it flows down
    almost was/almost was
    Could alo be that I rarely read historicals
    Good luck. You write very well.

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  32. JenMcQ
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 15:58:44

    I totally loved this, but then again, flowery language is also my personal writing weakness. However, I would say plenty of historical authors (and successful ones, to boot) embrace their inner poet with their prose, so I say keep doing if it comes naturally!

    If I had downloaded this as a sample on my Nook, I would totally buy it after reading. Very nice job, Nervous Anonymous Author!

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  33. Joanne Renaud
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 16:15:52

    @Author

    Awesome! I look forward to hearing from you.

    I gave the excerpt another read-through, and I must like flowery writing too, since there was nothing that really tripped me up. “Pavement” is a word I’ve seen frequently in social histories by Carcopino and Stearns Davis– I even liked the nomenclature. (I’ve seen too many books set in this period where a high-ranking character is just “Marcus” or “Quintus,” which bugs the crap out of me.)

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  34. author
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 17:28:39

    @JenMcQ: Thank you! Sometimes what one needs at the end of the day is an encouraging thumbs up! So: thanks likewise to Calista and Joanne and everyone too.

    The description for Summer for Scandal made me want to read it right now. Is it published yet?

    @Joanne Renaud: I know! I feel like half the character is missing when it’s just the wealthy and lusty Marcus falling in love with the voluptuous Lydia or the voluptuous Quintus. Or both, whatever works for Marcus.

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  35. Joanne Renaud
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 19:16:12

    @Author

    Yeah, definitely. I especially hate it when praenomina and cognomina are all jumbled up (i.e. Maximus Decimus Meridius). It just seems so wrong to me.

    In your honor I posted my old essay, “Toga Porn,” on my site. It’s all about trashy Romansploitation novels from the ’60s and ’70s– I hope it amuses you!

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  36. Robin
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 20:52:08

    I really liked this snippet – more than enough to keep reading. I read through all the comments before posting my own, and I must agree about the first sentence. It does throw me off a little – makes it a little hard to dive right in to the story. Other than that, I like the author’s sometimes-flowery prose. :-) And I love all the little world-building details. I don’t know much about ancient Rome myself, so I wouldn’t notice anachronisms that weren’t HUGE (like a Mini Cooper motoring by), but that just means I do enjoy all the little details about the servants and the wooden writing tablet and such.

    Look forward to reading more.

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  37. JenMcQ
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 04:26:52

    @Author

    Thank you for the kind comments and checking out my website.Unfortunately, A Summer for Scandal has not… how should I say it… captured the imagination of an editor, to date. Apparently tales where the hero thinks the heroine may have contracted syphilis at the hands of a lecherous former husband are hard to sell in today’s historical market, LOL. Or maybe it’s just that darned flowery prose. I think this one has been permanently shelved, but you are welcome to beta read it if you want – [email protected]

    Kudos to you for putting this first page out there for all of our enjoyment. Your talent jumps off the page, fingers crossed you find a publishing offer for it!

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  38. Sirius
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 09:31:49

    I do not feel qualified to offer you grammar or style critique, but definitely wanted to let you know that the beginning grabbed me enough that I would continue reading based on it and I love stories set in ancient Rome.

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  39. Anon
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 10:05:54

    I think it’s well-written, but it isn’t exuding anything Roman at all. It sounds like your average England-set historical romance.

    Word choice is very important when setting a book in an ancient culture. It seems like the author has read a lot of historical romances and is doing their best to make it sound historical while not really paying attention to how to make it sound *accurately* historical for the place and time in which it is set. Pretty words do not make up for the lack of accurately used and carefully chosen time-period sensitive words.

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  40. author
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 12:42:50

    @Anon
    I’ve read, like, 3 Regencies, ever, so I don’t really know the tone. But I have some lovely offers for beta readers, so I’m looking forward having some new eyes to pick up anything jarring. I think Lindsey Davis’s Falco books have been criticised for sounding modern–to me, everyday Romans just do–and she’s probably lot of influence on me. Some of the other writers of ancient mysteries sound like they’re writing in the 1800s. Or at best the 1930s. That said, there may be an expectation that ancient cadence should be more formal and elaborate, declamatory and in Richard Burton timbre. A little more Cicero, a little less Martial. And sometimes expectations have to be considered. Thank you for the feedback–even harsh critiques are helpful.

    If you can think of any examples of books (especially romance, especially written recently) that feel like they really exude a sense of ancient Rome, I’d love to hear the recs!

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  41. Holly
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 13:51:45

    There’s nothing happening here. When I’m reading I look for a killer first sentence and immediate action to draw me into the story. You don’t have either of those happening, so you lost me very early on. You’ve written a lot of flowery language throughout the sample, but sometimes you have to kill your darlings in order to get your story moving. I like fast-paced stories so maybe this will work better for other readers…for me I like being dropped into the action.

    Good luck with your work.

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  42. dracsmith
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 20:46:30

    I’ve read the other posts and agree with some, disagree with others, and I thoroughly enjoyed the civil discussion about pavimentum/pavement! And I’m ashamed to admit that “CamilliANUS” didn’t even occur to me.

    I agree with the others about the first sentence (that “Camillianus to his friends, Lucius to his family” should die quietly). I would also delete “secretary, a” from the last sentence in the first paragraph, but I could be mistaken.

    I loved the way his tunic is like the secretary. It packs in a lot of information about Flowery-Butt – he doesn’t like to dress up, he doesn’t like having an entourage, and he doesn’t get along with his father but he does obey his father, at least in some matters.

    I actually liked the phrase “one of his better tunics” (rather than “a good tunic,” as another reader suggested) because it gives us the idea that he’s well off, since he has more than one “better tunic.” (Is it a good thing or a bad thing that it reminds me of the beginning of “Gone with the Wind,” when Scarlett is trying to pick just the right dress to wear to an afternoon party? Now I have a mental image of Lucius’s manservant lacing him into a tighter corset so he can wear the blue tunic.)

    Where was I? Oh, yes, the wonderful jumble of descriptions that echoes the way that a crowded street in a big city can throw a zillion sensations at you all at once. I especially loved the “pungent tease” of incense.

    I also liked his attempt to scrape off the secretary in the crowd, and I’m beginning to have a grudging respect for Pollux’s ability to keep up with Lucius. I hope we see this character developed!

    Is this the same Lucretius family that produced the author of De Rerum Natura? In which case you’d have to keep the name; otherwise you might change that one and keep “Lucius.” I agree about liking the name Lucius (as opposed to Quintus or Marcus), but I also agree that it’s somewhat similar to Lucretius, especially to a reader unfamiliar with Roman names. What I’m trying to say is that I agree with the recommendation to change one or the other so they’re not easily confused.

    On the whole, I found this highly engaging and would LOVE to read more!

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