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Reading Excuses 20150914 rdpulfer Scholomancer Chapters 9,10,11 and 12


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Previously, Robert Renfield, one time minion of Dracula has gone rogue, while vampire hunter Stephanie Van Helsing suffers from mysterious visions. Stephanie confides in her partner Jason Harker and mentor Hank Irving, unaware Irving has an ulterior motive. After blacking out from another vision, Stephanie finds her boss Jack Seward dead at her feet, prompting Stephanie to flee Jason and Irving and go on the run. Searching for answers, she instead finds Renfield in an abandoned safe house.


(FYI these chapters aren't very long, hence why there are so many.)

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Chapter 9:

I don't have much to say about this chapter. I though it was good.


Nice reveal at the start. Took me by surprise.


I could not remember if Python was a gun or not.


"a bunch of half-cocked hunters" This reference didn't work for me. The hunter-lore and examples does not paint them like this.


Chapter 10 and 11

Okay first off. I really liked these chapters. The action was a lot of fun for me to read. I like how when the pov shifts the feel/description of the fighting changes as well.


In paragraph 1 Renfield notice Stephanie is blonde, (although she has her hood) then she has dark brown tresses. This is inconsistent.


Nice with the little red riding hood reference.


Hoodie- So this is the main thing that threw me for a loop. What kind of hoodie is this thing? I will give you that a normal wool/synthetic bulky hoodie will obscure Stephanie figure, and cause overheating inside, but someone as fit as Stephanie won’t notice the weight of a thick over-large hoodie. Also i do not think a hoodie would offer much blunt force protection (i could be wrong but it feel off).  Furthermore, with the hood up, Stephanie will have limited puerperal vision (depending on the hood depth. 


Gun- Stephanie never loses her gun.  She should have shot Renfield in the leg at the end of page 7 when he side steps away or at multiple point afterwards. 


End of chapter 10 positioning- i am unsure why Renfield is grabbing the hoodie front since Stephanie has two free arms to hit him with. i would imagine he would try to pin the arms or something. 


Stephanie arms are never pinned/ trapped but you impliy this happened at the chapter switch on page 14.



Chapter 12:



Below are some minor comment and gramtical things I notice.


Page 5-  “He’s trying to help the poor defense girl....



Page 6- Renfield hated having his sleep uninterrupted...



Page 6- Thats when he opened his eyess to see...

This felt clunky/odd to me. i'd say cut the "thats when".

Page 7- ... but on rare occasion, he had been used firearms to end the conflict.

Delete been.


Page 7- Renfield balled his fist into a jab and thrust it quickly at the woman’s throat.

This sentence is slightly unclear.You can't ball fist into a jab. Jab and thrust are similar actions so unless he throws two punches just use one verb..i think. 


Page 7-The hunter immediately leapt back before responding with a punch of her own.

This is nit picky of me but Stephanie would punch before jumping back, or as one motion. I don't think she would jump out of distance and waste a punch when Renfeilds falls short.


Page 7- Her hoodie kept her from making a blow to the next or face....

Him and neck. also making does feel like the right verb, how about landing.


Page 8- Just my luck. I’m trying to get a woman to undress and she’s still  trying to kill me.

Delete still


Page 9 -She tensed up , her fist flying at she desperately thought to do some damage of her own.

You have established the hoodie is obscuring her figure so how is Renfeild seeing this.


Page 9 and 10 The thick hooded sweater might have obscured her body, deflected Renfied’s blows and protected her neck and face, but it also had its drawbacks. It slowed her down considerably.

 you already established these facts. it felt repetitive to have them stated again.


Page 10- Renfield cutting believe his luck.



Page 10 side with one hand and thrust his hand towards  just below the hunter’s chin.

Delete towards its unnecessary


Page  13 This put the bloodied hand right in her face.



Page 13 ...regained a grip of her jacket...


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Chapter 12:


I also like this chapter. When you dropped "Scholomance" i got excited.

I liked Renfeild trying to carry Stephanie out with out looking suspicious only to have to walk through a packed street.


Minor comments / grammatical thing (as my grammar is bad take them with a grain of salt).


Page 16-...until it collided with something warm, creamy and unmistakably alive.

~Creamy? not how i would describe skin but definitely sends an image.


Page 16 ...the empty brown eyes of the hunter.

~aren't they hazel in chapter 10?


Page 17 ...anxiety over the prospects of facing his friends  at the Council...

~Air quotes maybe or italics to imply sarcasm.


page 19- How bad would it lock  if the Master’s servant fled hours before someone found the source of said Master’s power?



Page 20- He was not sure how he would accomplish that last.

~the later? of just delete last?


Page 20- . He With the mutter hunter flat on his back, Renfield crashed through the threshold, nearly knocking the door off the frame when it collided with his head.


~Delete he, muttering? I don't remember Renfield being extremely tall or the doors being low. (this could be weekly reader syndrome)


All and all an interesting sequel to the action. look forward to the next chapters.

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This was REAAALLLLY long for a submission, but I get why you would want to send them all, as it's mostly the same scene and the aftermath.

That being said, realize that you've sent us a total of 12 chapters where lots of things have happened, and 3 of those chapters happened over the course of maybe thirty seconds of a fight. I feel like it's far too long to spend on a single fight scene. Some of the action is very good, and some of it drags on. As a single chapter from just one point of view, with a lot of the excess words cut out it would have a lot more impact. As it is, it was a decent read, but as a single tightened chapter I'm sure it'd be the best thing I've read of yours so far. For starters, everything about the hoodie can go - you refer to it far too often and unless it's a child's hoodie or a lead hoodie or a soaking wet hoodie there's no reason it should do any of the things Renfield sees it do, aside from keep her warm. I think the three combat chapters (made into one) could all be told from Renfield's POV without losing anything. I'd be much more interested in FEELING Renfield react to the blood that in Stephanie watching him react. I'd also much prefer having Renfield know she's doing it on purpose and finding himself powerless to resist it. Anyways, that's my preference, but it's your story.


I also dislike that Irving and his buyer are still talking and thinking around what they're actually doing. It's frustrating that we know that Irving knows something and isn't showing it to us as a narrator of his chapter.


I did like the interaction between Renfield and Stephanie (aside from what I've mentioned) and I like that the actions feels like it's moving the story forward. I'm curious to know what he's going to do with her now. The action was also generally well-done, but I'd avoid throwing backstory into the middle of it (Renfield's marine days, etc.) because it takes away from the tension. I do like the way the fight is approached analytically, since it shows that they know what they're doing, but you don't need much of that for it to be effective.


Would you be able to number the pages next time? I scribbled it in myself, but it'll help both us and you locate what we're reading.




 - "when you slit your throat" - his?

 - Irving has the presence of mind to make sure he's not in a No Parking Zone, but never checks if anyone's close enough to overhear him outright talking about a committed murder. He threatens to slit someone's throat, with a rising voice, even.


 - Pause what you're doing. Open your whole novel in Word. Edit | Find and Replace | Find What: "Westerna" | Replace With: "Westenra" | Click Replace All - That's several submissions in a row now with the same repeated error.


 - If "Her safe are our safe houses", why can't he guess where she might have gone?


 - "with the approaching nice, only a few hours awake" - This sentence needs a lot of love



 - Remember after your last submission, when I said that you don't get that close to someone when you have a gun (link here)? This is why. This is exactly why! Except that she's a Hunter. She knows how to fight (we get to see exactly how good she is). She knows better than this. The entire fight starts because she does something incredibly stupid and incompetent, and it really, really irked me. From a random person who found a gun and doesn't know what they're doing, sure. But not from her.


 - What happens to the gun? How did she lose it and why don't either of these people try to claim it for the advantage? This needs to be addressed.


 - "nearly eclipsed the room with her long, slender leg." - Either eclipse doesn't mean what you think it means or her leg is HUGE.



 - "mandatory tendinitis shots" - I'm sorry but I LOLed here. You want Tetanus. You don't catch tendinitis from a puncture by rusty metal.


 - By this point I'm again wondering "Where the hell is the damned gun?"



 - I don't buy the opening. He would have felt her fall or move away or at least let him go. They were in direct physical contact, and she didn't just disappear.


 - "the same gibberish-sounded ancient tongue." - It's not gibberish. Renfield knows exactly what it is.


 - I was already skeptical when he was carrying her on the street (they both obviously look like they've been in a fight), but on a street filled with commuters nobody notices a man dropping a body into the trunk of a car? I don't see how that could happen. If you need him to make a clean getaway, it needs to be a cleaner getaway than this.

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I also don’t have much to comment on with these chapters, they are reasonably straightforward with the confrontation between Renfield and Stephanie.


Too many POVs ruins the mystery: Sometimes it feels like you have too many POV’s in this story. Or rather, too many POVs on too many sides. You have Stephanie (hunter side), Renfield (monster side) and Irving (traitor/buyer’s side). I like having the perspectives of Stephanie and Renfield, but it’s Irving’s perspective that for me lessens the impact of the story. Every time Stephanie comes across a mystery we, as the reader, get the answer to that in the next chapter with Irving’s perspective.


Some examples:

  • Stephanie has visions and she’s worried she’s going mad like her mother. What’s going on? Why did her mother go insane, and why is Stephanie having those visions? Then Irving comes along to reveal he’s manipulating her to have those visions. Mystery gone.
  • Jack Seward is killed and Stephanie is confronted with the question of who’d done it, since she was the last one with him before blacking out and by that point he was still alive. So who did it? Did she do it? Stephanie doesn’t know and neither does the reader (at that point), so that’s a tantalizing question and a good reason to keep reading to find out. But then, next chapter, Irving comes along, to reveal that the Buyer killed Jack Seward. Mystery gone.


Red riding hood: Nice conversation. I liked this a lot.


Renfield doesn’t know who Stephanie is: Is it the hoodie that hides her visage from him, which seems odd for a simple hoodie. Or does he genuinely not know who she is? He treats her like just another hunter. As the right-hand man of Dracula, and after constantly being hunted by hunters, I’d expect Renfield to at least be aware of who the key players are in the hunter organization. Given the hatred Stephanie has towards Renfield I expected them to have crossed paths before – yet he doesn’t recognize her or her voice.


Strong while in perspective: There is a noticeable power shift in the fight. When  we’re in Renfield’s perspective he is the stronger one, and it seems like Stephanie doesn’t have a chance. Then in the next chapter the perspective shifts to Stephanie and all of a sudden Renfield doesn’t stand a chance. To me it makes the fight less believable, since it seems hero immunity kicks in the moment we’re in that character’s perspective.


Armored hoodie: Is it in some way armored? Because it seems to offer a lot of protection for a regular hoodie. Also, if the hoodie obscures much of Stephanie’s face from Renfield, it would also obscure a lot of her sight. If Renfield has had military training he’d know to take advantage of that. Likewise, why’s she got the hoodie up since it limits her vision as much as it hides her face – does she even need to hide her face during the confrontation?


Aroused by blood: Being aroused doesn’t mean being entranced, or spellbound to the detriment of all else around him. Even if the sight is arousing to him he’s in a fight. Of course he’d ignore the blood. It’s also seems like quite a stretch to refer to blood as his kryptonite, especially since he can just ignore it (unlike Superman, who can’t ignore kryptonite). Stephanie has this information from a file. I really thought they’d met before, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they never did. The previous chapters really hint at the fact that they did meet once. Why else the hatred for Renfield? If it’s because he works for Dracula and she as a Van Helsing who hates Dracula that seems like too little a reason for the hatred she’s shown.


Long fight: Fight is a blow by blow and not that interesting. Compare it to the other chapters and this fight is disproportionately long.

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I liked that half the fight was from Renfield's POV and half the fight was from Stephanie’s POV. I had a hard time following the fight. I think it is because of grammar errors and confusing sentences.


Why did Stephanie give up on the gun? I don't really like how the fight started. I think she is smart enough to point the gun at his kneecap if she wants to interrogate him, not his neck. Then when he moves, she shoots and incapacitates him, but he isn't killed. I understand how a normal person would be threatened by a gun to the face, but she isn't dealing with normal people usually.


-“He could have been handled. I was handling him,”

This sounds awkward. I think you were trying to get across that he is rambling as he speaks, but the way you did it doesn't work for me. The third sentence does a much better job of this.



-”And they will be looking for a scared little girl with a nervous breakdown, not ones such as us.”

I'm not sure what The Buyer means here. I thought he was referencing the fact the Stephanie is in the wind already, but he soon implies he didn't know she was missing.

If your intention was to make me ask, “what is up with The Buyer?” it worked, but I think Irving would have questioned the statement as much as I did.


Pg3:-”There might be a way we can track here there.”

I think you meant “track her there.”

pg4:-“He’s trying to help the poor defense girl”

Did you mean, “defenseless girl” ?

Pg5: -“hazel brown eyes”

You can just say “hazel eyes.”


-“He gained little advantage from his position when he saw the woman bounding towards, her kick nearly catching him in the stomach.”

Did you mean “bounding towards him”? Or “bounding forward”?


-“Renfield thought back to all that traing in the Marines”


-“Her hoodie kept her from making a blow to the next or face, at least directly, and obscured most of her figure.”

I think you meant “neck and face.” And I think you meant “taking a blow to the neck or face.” ? I don't think an oversized hoodie would protect your face with the hood down. If you meant her hitting him on the neck or face I don't see how an over-sized hoodie would prevent that.

-“Judging by the woman’s graceful movement and toned force, her steps forced and difficult against the weight of the hoodie.”

I don't understand this sentence.



-“pivoting her hips to build momentum on a right hook”

I think it should be “momentum for a right hook.”

-“Each one of the hunter’s blow came”

blows came”

-“Each one of the hunter’s blow came closer and closer to doing some real damage, if not knocking him off-balance altogether.”

I don't like the repetition of the idea of knocking him off balance so close together.

-“It’s time to drop the act. This has gone on long enough.” and later “It’s time to end this.”

Again, I don't like the idea repeated so close together.

-“Renfield’s posture loosened just as he brought a knife hand chopping down onto the hunter returning jab.”

That makes me think he has a knife, which I don't think he does.

-”She tensed up, her fist flying at she desperately thought to do some damage of her own.”

'flying as she'

-”Renfield had little trouble doing her blows.”



-“Renfield cutting believe his luck”

I think you meant couldn't.



-”Her right felt straight down”

I think you meant “fell straight down.”


-” She saw the Dracula’s servant salivating”

I think either remove 'the', or capitalize 'servant', or 'the', or both.

-“keeping balance while ensuring every step came out of a loss of control for Renfield.”

This sentence sounds awkward to me.


-”The last time she had seen the tattoos came to her. Stephanie remembered the crest from tattoo it appeared on a scroll. The last time she had seen it—“

The first and third sentences here say the same thing. The second sentence doesn't make sense to me.

-“When jagged streaks of lighting began in the distance”

'lightning' or 'light' not lighting. This sentence is a repeat of the third sentence, and I think the third sentence does a better job conveying the idea.





-”still lying unmoving on the cold floor in particularly uncomfortable position. “

'in a particularly'


-”I’ll be out of that country”

Forgot a period at the end.

-“A cold chill ran down Renfield’s spine like an ice cube falling down spine.”

This sentence is awkward.

-“How bad would it lock if”

I think you meant 'look'.


-” He was not sure how he would accomplish that last.”

I think you forgot the word 'thing' at the end of the sentence.

-“ He With the mutter hunter flat on his back...”

'With the muttering hunter...'

-“ he had came alone and planned on leaving alone”

'come alone' or 'he came alone'


- “ Renfield took the hunter by the arms, letting front completely fall in his chest, while he did his best to retroactively wrap his legs around hers”

This confused me, and I don't know how we got from this point to her being on Renfields back.

-“He said to an elderly woman giving him the stink-eye just as the hunter’s head fell hung unsupported off of his arms.”

I think you can remove the word hung, or I don't understand this sentence.

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- I apologize for the length. I think I really hit the maximum length this time. I'll make sure future installments aren't that long. 


- I'd be interested to know, going forward, how vital you guys think the Irving chapters are. I've been considering removing them and/or replacing them with Jason's perspective. This might be something to watch going forward.


- I think i definitely need to condense this fight scene, and it sounds like it needs to be tightened up anyway (namely the hoodie).


- One thing about the blood: a key part of Renfield's character is that he suffers from, well, the clinical term is actually Renfield's Syndrome. He is excited by the sight of blood, but I think it's more about the drinking of blood more than the sight. I might have to re-tool this element.


Thanks for all the feedback, and again, I'm sorry for the length. Just think of it as a make-up since I'll be gone next week :)

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I think the others covered most everything I saw.  I'll second that so many POVs in a short space is a little too much, and that the hoodie is a bit too strong for what it is.


There were a bunch of typos, but I think they've been covered above.


 pg 4 "“Stephanie Van Helsing is in the wind.” Irving said. "Oh?” the Buyer said, as if Irving had just informed him of the reason."
--"In the wind" is a strange phrase
--Not sure what the last part of the section meant
pg 6 uninterrupted -> interrupted
I like the Renfield chapter, lots of action, but the fight might have a little too much description.  I found myself scanning to get to the next paragraph
hmm...and then the fight gets continued on to the next chapter...definitely too much blow by blow.
pg 16: His eyes darted across the room. He didn’t see any sign of her at all"
--but she's just laying on the floor.  How could he not see her?
pg 17:  Aha!  We finally get to the title of the story!
pg 19: "source of said Master’s power?"
pg 22 "at least until he saw his car parked down the street, already filled with commuters getting out of work."
--I don't think his car is filled with commuters...;-)
The story is picking up, but I'm not sure I would have gotten to this point reading straight through.  I think condensing the POVs is a good idea.  I don't think taking out Irving's would make the story lose much, since we see many of the same scenes through someone else's eyes.  It would also give back the mystery of who the traitor is.
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Thanks Mandamon!


As I said, this is my first really choregraphed fight . . . I was actually looking up moves on Google, but now I see I probably had too much blow by blow as a result. 


I'll definitely think about losing some of Irving's POV, if not removing them entirely. I guess that's something to constantly keep in mind as I go forward through each chapter. Thanks again!

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Detail follow, summary below.


Chapter 9


 “when you slit your throat” – huh?


Your upset > you’re upset.


they will be sure as hell looking for her now” – Maybe it’s just his grammar, but “they will sure as hell be looking for her now” flows better, imho.


He doesn’t have much leverage now that Seward is dead – is that the friend the sentence refers to? Seems a confused statement.


What does “informed him of the reason” mean? I don’t understand that sentence.


The line about “the boy” is weird, unless the Buyer is really, really old and this is a little clue as to who the Buyer is.


the poor defenceless girl


the approaching night


Chapter 10


I like the line about her not being his type, but... I'm guilty of this too. You describe her figure and her looks, but don’t (in my recollection) linger on any of the male characters – I'm afraid it’s a sexist thing, and I tend towards it too, something to be conscious of and maybe try to even up.


Renfield thought back to all that traing training in the Marines.” I think this is way too slow – everything is moving, he doesn’t have time to reference his instruction manual, it’s got to be subconscious, surely.


the next neck or face


I don’t buy the hoodie hampering him – it must be hampering her more. Just hit her for f**k sake.


No, no, no – she is quite obviously not trying to kill him or she would have shot him. This is a rather obtuse thought from Renfield.


he excited executed it


You mention him being off balance altogether twice – awkward repetition.


had little trouble doing her blows” - ??? ‘dealing her blows, I think.


I like the fresh fruit image – nice.


There more repeated thoughts about the hoodie hampering her – I'm starting to skip bits that feel repetitious.


I don’t get this fight at all – why didn’t she just shoot him in the leg? She had him cold, there was no need for her to get into this situation – I'm not convinced. She’s supposed to be an experience hunter.


Renfield cutting couldn’t believe his luck” – All these typos really slow down the reading. I’ve let a few go.


his remaining arm” – LOL, how many does he have? I would suggest ‘other’ arm.


Five-and-half pages of fight. I’ve probably written similar in my current project – it starts to get repetitive pretty quickly. While they spend pages with each other, there’s almost no interaction. The banter in the first half page is easily the most interesting part of the chapter and, for me, that was a bit clichéd – the big bad wolf thing must have been used a hundred times before.


Chapter 11


How does Renfield make such a rookie mistake? He must have subdued loads of women, although less combative ones, I dare say.


Hang on – she’s already had a bloody nose near the start of the fight, but that doesn’t seem to have had any effect on Renfield at the time – this seems inconsistent. Then you say he looks at the blood like a shark, but next he is hardly distracted by it. I was down-hearted when the fight started up again in this chapter.


This put the bloodied hand right in her face” – isn’t it his face – isn’t that why he shudders?


If Renfield is aroused by blood, then it’s not his Kryptonite – which weakens and repels S’man – does it not?


I like the ‘eager lover’ phrase and the line about the hips – snappy. I’d like more of this and less slugging, personally.


The paragraph about the tattoo seems confused. It will be effective, but needs to be clearer. I also like that she ‘blacks out’ into dreamland after gaining the upper hand. Still think the fighting could be cut down.


Chapter 12


He’s looking around for the hunter and doesn’t see or sense her right next to him? I don’t buy it.


Renfield assured himself she wasn’t moving


I forget who Bannister is. Is he the buyer?


He couldn’t kill a defenseless hunter, even when he knew she wouldn’t hesitate if the tables were turned.” But she did hesitate, massively, and then didn’t shoot him. He’s not very perceptive and also, unconvincing here. How many pretty girls must he have procured for the master? Did he never hesitate then? My impression is that he did not, but now he does. It feels plot convenient.


I think you mention ‘the hunter’ way too much, I find it distracting. I think once per page is fine when she’s the only woman in the scene and there are only two people.


Is that the first reference to Scholomance? I don’t remember an earlier one. Do we know what that is yet?


Repetition of ‘spine’.


How bad would it lock look


the mutter hunter” ???


Renfield did not excel at acting naturally” Really, how did he con all those women then? Or did he always use the awkward nerd shtick?


Here, when you have him go across the lobby, we come back to an earlier problem I noted. It feels like the building is empty and again here you describe eyes on him, but I can’t picture the scene. I don’t feel the context. You mention one man, but there’s no blocking, so I can’t picture the space he’s in. When he gets outside you talk about the street being crowded, but again, I have trouble picturing it, because there’s no description and only a cursory mention of people.


I'm not sure why he is being so awkward. I would have thought he would have had more experience in doing this sort of thing. I feel he is drawing way more attention to himself than necessary. Is he not a strong man, can’t he just pick her up in his arms and carry her out?


In summary: I enjoyed the exchange between the Buyer and Irving more than the fight between Stephanie and Renfield. I would rather have read a page of banter, two pages of fight and two pages of aftermath – to me personally, verbal fisticuffs are always more interesting and lets you progress plot which physical fights are much less effective at, if they do so at all.


I had various issues noted above, but another prominent one was the lack of description of the lobby and the street. I might have felt more tension if I had really felt that there were a lot of eyes on him. Also, I thought his behaviour trying to get her out was comical, and rather incapable, in an area that I expected Renfield to be capable in.


Always interested to read more.

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