Episode 003: The Changeling’s Mask & Belly Jewels

This podcast would not be possible without you brave souls who put your work on the sacrificial altar, I mean send your work in for reaction. I want to remind you that my opinions are just that – opinions. They’re just my feelings about the work, and are not judgement on your value and worth as writers or as people. My intention always is to be positive and helpful – but please remember that I am not an editor, agent, or industry professional. You may want to take what I say with several grains of salt.


by Julian Barr

The spine of the ancient tome creaks as I set it down on the table. It sounds like the gate of some forbidden crypt.

The rubies set in the cover shine in the morning light. Their red gleam tells me this book is deadly. It contains things unsuitable for a young initiate. Bloodshed, heathen rituals, sins of the flesh. That’s what my master has taught me.

This is a bad idea. Didn’t I promise Brother Franco? I puff out a long sigh, then strain my good ear for footsteps approaching the scriptorium. When I’m sure nobody’s coming, I peek inside.

I have actual chills reading that!

I have a confession, dear listener. I am a terrible fraidy cat. I have zero scare-tolerance. And yet I’m inexplicably drawn to the creepy, the spooky, and the strange. I routinely read, watch, and listen to, things that I know will creep me out – things that make me put the book in the freezer or tear the headphones from my ears, my heart galloping up my throat. I know that I will suffer sleepless nights because of it, but I can’t stop myself. 

In a way, I’m just like the protagonist. They’re drawn to this tome that they know they shouldn’t be anywhere near. They can’t help but give in to the siren. And I can’t help but want to know what happens next.

There’s a sentence that I particularly enjoy: Bloodshed, heathen rituals, sins of the flesh. It has the most delicious rhythm. There’s something about a list of three that is just completely satisfying. 

For once I have nothing negative to say. Julian, please, please, please tell me this will be available soon! 

Thanks for your submission!


by L.J. Shepherd

The good thing about losing my husband was that I no longer had to go to work. Okay, let’s be frank with one another (my therapist used to tell me that honesty is important): there were many good things about the death of my husband. 

The important thing with an opening is to hook your reader, to get them invested in the story. I think this paragraph does that rather neatly. After all, no one faced with the loss of their husband would think there were good things about it. At least no one normal. So, who is this not normal person? 

We know they have a therapist. That’s good. That’s something you would expect for a person whose spouse has died. But if we look closer, the line is actually ‘my therapist used to tell me that honesty is important’. The therapist, we can assume, predates the death of the husband. So why do they have a therapist, and is that somehow connected? 

Crucially, I want to know the answer to that question and at least a handful of others – and that’s what we want from an opening. 

L.J. has told me that this is a comic work, and the casual tone of it definitely conveys that.  In any other genre I would perhaps be wary of that interjection about the therapist, but I think it suits this work.

So, L.J., thank you for your submission, and I hope to read the rest of the story very soon!

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