Isis gazed across the Nile and to the sable sky above Duat. Sirius had not appeared to mark the new year. Osiris and her sister, Nephthys had not returned from the fields. Osiris had promised to be with her for the Rebirth Festival. He’d never broken a promise.
She turned from the land of the dead and climbed the eastern bank toward her temple. At the Nectanebo Gate, she looked back to the river. A funeral boat rested at anchor just off the western bank. She ran long, slim fingers over her dress and flexed her wings. It was time for her grand entrance. Her concerns must wait. The people of Kemet demanded miracles.
Isis forced a smile and stretched her wings to the soaring lotus columns that framed her. Her prismatic feathers reflected...
----- REVISED VERSION -----
Isis stretched her wings to the soaring lotus columns that framed her and ran long, slim fingers over her linen dress. Prismatic feathers reflected the glow of the oil lamps, casting the light across the faces of her people. My neferu, where are you? Osiris had vowed to return from the fields to assist with the Rebirth Festival. Her husband had never broken a promise. She discarded the thought; her concerns must wait while the people of Kemet demanded miracles. Forcing a smile, she flexed her wings and reflected the lamp light to the fertility glyphs carved on her temple’s walls. The crowd roared and the hall shuddered. She raised an arm and her devotees grew quiet. She signaled the drum maidens. The crowd kept time with their feet and boys swung their side locks through the air.
[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited September 15, 2011).]
I like the writing. Smooth and easy to read. (Am I describing wine?) What hung me up a little were the plethora of learned words/names. I rolled with it, but I consider them speed bumps in a story, especially early on.
Also, because of the notoriety of the name Sirius, would you consider another star/constellation?
Can you come up with a more insteresting synonym for the word "boat"?
Look for phrases like "it was time for". Some people don't mind, and every story I read has them, but personally I prefer "the time had come for" The latter strikes me as more active.
I can definitely introduce Nephthys's name later on, and I think Duat later on as well.
I used Sirius to remain true to the actual legend (Isis is associated with the star Sirius in the mythos, but they called it something else of course), but I think if that poses a problem for readers I can just go with the indefinite label, 'her star'.
I used 'boat' here because much of the story takes part on a funeral barge, and I wanted to set the barge apart as something grander than the boat she sees in this scene.
I also like 'The time had come for...' better as well because it avoids the indefinite article.
No problem Osiris. I can't help but notice the word IT starting sentences. Grinds my gears.
As for boat, how about "funerary boat"? It seems to be an Egyptian term, but maybe it sounds cool enough that no other whacko besides me would Wiki it...
quote:According to Egyptian beliefs, the soul of the dead accompanied the sun on its eternal journey in the Upper Waters (the heavens) around the world. ... The form of the boat is very similar to that of the reed boats. Both the stern and the bow were decorated with lotus flowers.
Why is she gazing at the sky over Duat? Is she looking for Sirius, expecting to see a sign of the new year, or is she looking for he missing husband. Answering this may tell you how to parse this first paragraph to put the important information in the front and tell you what to move to later.
I'm assuming you are using Sirius to not the time of season, but I don't remember seeing any references to it later in the story. This may tell you that while interesting it's not that important to the story.
If by boat you mean barge, why not say barge. Better to be accurate if it provides clarity.
[This message has been edited by Utahute72 (edited September 06, 2011).]
Not sure if you regularly check the email account you ended up sending this to me from, so I thought I'd leave a note here...I just sent you your crit.
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I decided to move the opening in order to get right to the scene most readers said drew them in, which had the added benefit of cutting about 150 words. New opening is posted above.
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Thanks Oliver! I am not crazy about the title either. It used to be titled "For Want of a Child" and then I realized Mary Robinette Kowal has a story entitled "For Want of a Nail" and so I had to scrap that title. Never did come up with anything that I loved, so I just had to settle with this one.
quote:It used to be titled "For Want of a Child" and then I realized Mary Robinette Kowal has a story entitled "For Want of a Nail" and so I had to scrap that title.
I'm afraid I don't understand why you would have to scrap "For Want of a Child" as your title. "For Want of a Nail" is an allusion to a poem about how the loss one small thing (a nail) led to the loss of a whole war (google the phrase and you should find the poem), so Mary Robinette Kowal was already "borrowing" from something else.
Titles aren't copyrightable, and variations on titles are perfectly fine. So what if it makes people think of Mary's story, or (more likely) of the poem about the nail? Your story is nothing like either of them, and even if it is, you're doing something entirely different with the idea of something being missing.
So, please, don't change a title that works for you just because someone else has a similar title. There really aren't that many to go around.
Thanks Kathleen. I really struggled with the decision to scrap the original title. I wish I had the benefit of your advice before I submitted this to the contest, but alas, it has been sent already.
I think part of the reason I scrapped is because I'd read part of Kowal's story a couple of months before I titled this story, and thought I'd subconsciously come up with mine because of that. It somehow seemed wrong at the time, but I think really I just allowed myself to be concerned with what other people would think.
I'll go back to the original title if it doesn't get published at OTP, or if it does, I'll ask to change the title before publication.
It's funny, because in another story I wrote in which I use an Islamic concept of the 99 Names of God, some folks said I should be careful because of Clarke's Nine Billion Names of God story, and yet I responded with exactly the advice you just gave me. My story does something completely different, and the concept of the 99 Names of God predates Clarke's story by well over a century anyway.
[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited October 03, 2011).]
Thanks Cory. The story finished in the top third of the contest but didn't make it to the semi-finals. The nice thing is I was able to get a critique from the editor for $10 and I have some direction for how to improve the story.
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