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 18 Jun 2008, 23:45 #36507 Reply To Post
Title : Persona (Revision 1)

Author : Martine Lillycrop

Genre : Crime, Horror, Science Fiction

View Opening Chapters

In the final quarter of the 21st Century, sea-levels have risen. Disease, hunger and overcrowding affect the western world. Ex-cop, Flynn, is a police consultant specialising in analysing ‘squirts’--illegal artificial personas which people inject into their brain. There's a new squirt out there, and it knows Flynn's name.

The literary professional critique is displayed in the next post.
 18 Jun 2008, 23:46 #36508 Reply To Post
About the Professional Reviewer:

After a highly successful career in publishing, mostly as Editorial Director firstly of Corgi Books and later of Cassell, Michael Legat became a full-time writer and tutor of Creative Writing. He has published five novels and eighteen non-fiction books, the latter including the Best Sellers An Author's Guide to Publishing and Writing for Pleasure and Profit.


Martine Lillycrop

This is an interesting mixture of crime and science fiction, with a touch of horror, sparked by the excellent central idea of the ‘squirt’.

You use words well, and I was particularly impressed by your description of the scream, the frightening quality of which was excellently conveyed. The clipped style, using mostly Anglo-Saxon words rather than those of Romance origins, with a lot of short punchy paragraphs, descended from Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and used today by James Patterson, is entirely suited to a story in this genre, and the dialogue is sharp and always to the point. Generally the narrative flows at a good pace, but I shall return to this point later.

The characterisations are somewhat perfunctory, but that is only to be expected in a novel in which exciting action is more important than characterisations; in any case, Flynn and Sarah will no doubt become more rounded as the story progresses. Flynn is, of course, a typical thriller hero, who in future chapters will emerge at the last desperate moment from any number of near-death situations with scarcely a hair out of place – but of course for books in this genre readers happily suspend disbelief.

The synopsis is excellent, with plenty of incident, leading to a fairly explosive climax, and I like the idea that the ending foresees worse to come. The whole thing shows a great deal of imagination, and although I don’t understand any of the technical stuff, I am quite willing to be convinced by it. A minor (and probably quite unimportant) point in it – you say that Sarah seduces Flynn, and I am curious as to why you chose that word which suggests that Flynn was slow to take the first step, if not unwilling to do so, and that doesn’t seem in character.

It would seem from the note that you have put at the top of the first page that you have had some difficulty with the beginning, and I have to say that I think it needs more work. The problem with the text as it now stands, and I am referring to Chapters 1 and 2, is that they contain a considerable amount of information that you want to get across to the reader – introducing Flynn and Sarah and telling us what their jobs are, explaining the concept of squirts, giving some sort of topographical background to the story, and hinting that we have moved several years into the future – but they lack pace and tension. As I read I was thinking that, apart from the squirt idea, along with the occasional newspeak word like ‘magway’, to inform us that we are in some future world, it was all rather old-fashioned, reminding me of American private eye stories written when life was a little more leisurely and the reader didn’t mind waiting for the story to become exciting. (And by the way perhaps my mind picked up the American influence partly because of your use of ‘Mom’, which no Brit would use in preference to ‘Mum’.) Look at the first four pages of Chapter 1 and see how long and solid the paragraphs are. Chapter 3 changes gear, the pace steps up and almost immediately it all becomes gripping.

I would like to suggest that you should first of all go through Chapters 1 and 2 cutting anything which is not essential to the story, or which could be introduced later. One example is the paragraphs about Port Town, which are virtually repeated on page 20. Next go through the material that you have left, shortening it whenever possible. Then begin the book with Chapter 3, incorporating the pared down material that you have left from Chapters 1 and 2, using flashback and/or brief paragraphs of information. I realise that this is going to require a great deal of rewriting, but I think it will be worth it. It will also eliminate the bundle of rags on the magway, which don’t seem to have any relevance to the main story (or do they? – of course if they play a crucial part later on, you should certainly leave them where they are).

I don’t know if anyone has said that ‘Persons’ is a less than attention-grabbing title. I have to admit that at first I would have agreed. But that was before I had read even the synopsis, which I never look at until I have been through the text, and it does in fact fit the story very well and should not be changed.

A crime novel with a certain amount of sf in it (I wouldn’t say much about the horror aspect) is a popular genre at the moment. Of course there’s plenty of competition about, so it is essential to eliminate any weaknesses. If you can get the beginning right I think you would have a good chance of interesting a publisher. I wish you luck.

Michael Legat
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 18 Jun 2008, 23:47
 21 Jun 2008, 07:16 #36688 Reply To Post
If you can get the beginning right I think you would have a good chance of interesting a publisher. I wish you luck.

Hi Martine

Flower Maiden was one of the first things I read on YWO and I loved it. It's great to see another piece do even better. Congratulations.
Find out what life's really like in Spain. Please visit my blog: Tales from La Terraza
 21 Jun 2008, 11:48 #36705 Reply To Post
Encouraging and informative. A good review. Forge on!

 20 May 2013, 11:24 #167682 Reply To Post
I'm pleased to say I've finally completed 'Persona'. It's gone through several rewrites and evolved drastically from the first chapers I put up here. It's now called 'High Tide in the City'. Whilst I'm still trying to interest agents and mainstream publishers, I've put it out on Kindle. (Click link above) and as a paperback through

Flower Maiden has undergone a similar transformation. It's now called Blightspawn and is aimed at the young adult market. It is also available both in paperback on Lulu and as an ebook on Kindle.

 20 May 2013, 11:33 #167683 Reply To Post
Here's a taste of the new opening, for anyone who remembers Persona.

" Chapter 1

Always knew there was a chance I’d kill someone. It was bound to come down to it one day: me killing someone, someone killing me. When it finally happened, the penny came down in my favour. Can’t say I’m sorry, though there’s those who might wonder why, given this is me. There’s some who’ve seen and done the things I’ve seen and done and come through it feeling nothing any more. So I always hoped I’d feel something, taking my first life.
As it happened, I did.
Couldn’t have been happier deleting the fucker’s ass.
Seem to remember it starting out on a night pretty much like any other. But back then, for me, most nights tended to be pretty much like any other. This one adopted the standard format - it was busy and it was raining.
Most cases are easy. Some, not so.
I already knew this wasn’t one of the simple ones. I knew because when I swung my hydro-job into the car-port, the ambulances were already there but the sense of urgency wasn’t.
This was my third call tonight - one rapist, one joy-riding senior citizen and now this. Which brings me to my job. What I do.
There’s this Native American saying.
‘Don’t judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.’
These days that mile can get a person arrested. But it doesn’t stop them. If you’ve never tried it, you might wonder why. You might wonder what makes someone want a digi-chemical cocktail injected straight into their brain.
They say it’s for the experience - taking on a new persona, becoming someone else. Escaping themselves for a while. To an extent it’s true, but often it’s just for the needle. The cold, sharp stab at the base of the skull which gets colder and sharper as it goes deeper. Until your brain fills with stars like the universe has just been born inside your head and the endorphin rush hits, making you feel invincible. It fades as the squirt comes on. But some people do it, all of it, for those few seconds of feeling like God.
For others it’s the surrender. Because you have to, to get it in you. It’s impossible to upload a squirt yourself, get the needle just right so it goes in at the right angle, the right depth. Get it wrong, you’re blind or a vegetable. Or dead. So someone else has to do it. Usually the same someone who just sold you your black-market fix.
Handing your life over to a stranger, a criminal - letting them do something to you a qualified doctor would baulk at - it demands something of you. Gets to be a thrill, that total surrender, that flirting with death or coma.
Just so you can ‘Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’.
That was the tagline, back when it all started. Everyone wanted it then and everyone did it. Until it was found to be addictive, caused brain tumours, then suddenly doing it was illegal.
Then the trouble started for real, and black-market squirts aren’t clean - you can never be sure what you’re getting. Dirty squirt. The users mostly come off badly and their victims, worse.
Rain greyed out the street lamps like vertical smoke, but it hadn’t deterred the onlookers huddled outside the address. The night flickered white as two dozen data-cams strobed across me. Looked like someone had cashed in with a call to the Media Desk.
Media. I could almost read their minds: Photo opportunity - some guy stepping out of a car. They didn’t know who I was, why I was there, but they had to have me. Just in case there was a tasty morsel waiting there to be plucked over.
I might even make it onto the morning download again.
At least I’d shaved. Mind, eight hours later is long enough to make it look like I hadn’t bothered, but even so. Plus I always seem to miss that bit, just under the jaw - the bit the other guy never misses when he’s throwing punches at it.
Fuck ‘em, anyway. Wasn’t like I had to keep Public Relations sweet these days. With any luck the black stubble and sour face’ll keep me off the splash page. Ugly don’t sell.
I heeled the door of my converted Ford shut, blinking at the after-image scored across my retinas. Turned my collar up against the downpour and glanced round for whoever was in charge.
They saw me first.
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake!’
The voice came from behind - what I call clean British, not the cut-glass type, just clean. Barely any accent. The whip-crack tone made me wince.
‘Nixon. I forgot you worked nights.’
Yeah. Course you did.
I didn’t need to see the face to know who was standing there. My shoulders tensed anyway. I breathed it out before turning.
Rain had given her panda eyes. It dripped off the bun she’d pulled her hair into, turned escaped strands into slick dark lace which clung to her cheeks. The coat she wore fell to just below her calves and a stream ran off the bottom like a Japanese waterfall.
‘Need an umbrella?’ I asked.
She rolled her eyes. ‘My night’s already turned to shit. And now they send you? Who did I piss off this time?’
I managed a grin. ‘You look fantastic, by the way. Done something with your hair?’
She gave a sneer, but her bracer jangled before she could add anything. She flipped back the sleeve of her coat, turned away so the front fell open, showing me a tantalising glimpse of curvy figure beneath the fitted suit she wore. She twisted her wrist, so the screen lit her face, and gave the facia a brutal stabbing.
I sucked my teeth, feigning indifference while she answered.
Maybe I should explain. This was Lian. Detective Inspector Morrison. We used to be partners. Friends. More than friends. Before I got hooked. Before I got fired. Nothing like getting kicked off the Force for squirt addiction to turn a girl against you. But we’d been a team once. A good team.
Yeah, okay. Her approach and mine had always been different. Psychological profiling was her special skill, her strength. All very well for regular crims, but once we’d been assigned to the sparkling new Persona Task Force, all that extra schooling was pretty much redundant. Not according to her, though. I never understood why she didn’t get it. How can you profile someone who’s playing out a fantasy through another persona? Soon as the squirt dies, they’re different people - model citizens.
Me, I’d always gone for the suppliers. The sack-of-shit hard-asses who sold the squirts in the first place, after downloading them from some sad fuck arrogant enough to think other people wanted to be like them. So I went undercover. I entered that world. Did my best to turn it upside down.
I walked a lot of miles in that time, wore out a lot of different shoes. Closed down a few shoe-shops, too. Before it got out of hand.
I’d always known there was a price to pay - there usually is. But it was more than I’d counted on. Wasn’t the first time I’d heard that excuse from a user.
Pretty pathetic when I heard it from me.
 22 May 2013, 14:13 #167758 Reply To Post
Quote: martinelillycrop, Monday, 20 May 2013 11:33
Here's a taste of the new opening, for anyone who remembers Persona.

" Chapter 1

Always knew there was a chance I’d kill someone. It was bound to come down to it one day: me killing someone, someone killing me. When it finally happened, the penny came down in my favour. Can’t say I’m sorry, though there’s those who might wonder why, given this is me. There’s some who’ve seen and done the things I’ve seen and done and come through it feeling nothing any more. So I always hoped I’d feel something, taking my first life.
As it happened, I did.
Couldn’t have been happier deleting the fucker’s ass.

What a great opening! I also really liked the Professional review by you received. I've read a lot of them on here, and this is the first time I've seen anyone mention the writer's choice of Anglo-Saxon derived words over those of Romance Language origin. Just reading that review made one think of the subconscious effects of language choices. That was one perceptive reviewer. Don't think he does reviews here these days, unfortunately. What a treat to get a review from someone like him.

Best of luck with your books, Martine. I'll look for them on Kindle.

This post was last edited by whitehorse, 22 May 2013, 14:14
 24 May 2013, 09:42 #167828 Reply To Post
I remember 'Persona' (not 'Persons', which I agree is a terrible title) very well from all those years ago. It is certainly among my top ten reads on YWO. Good luck with the new version!
the long and the short of it

 12 Sep 2013, 13:09 #172398 Reply To Post
I came across your book accidentally on this site and then bought it from Amazon. I'm finding it gripping and am completely drawn in to the world you've created.
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