kais

05/25/20 - kais - Rosewood Chapter 8 (L) - 3156 words

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L for mild language

Changes since last sub - the railroad situation has been further defined. It is now clear that N’s motivation is to secure railroad tracks and trade for A. Grove, and is making a deal with the crown prince of T. Spires to do it.

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Posted (edited)

All things I love about the voice are back in full force in this chapter. 

As I read:

"Giant four poster bed" I sense an only one bed trope in the future. 

"really wanted to avoid their Plan B" Now I want to know what this plan B is! I assume you intentionally did not say what it is, which makes sense. Another reason to keep reading. I' wondering if it has something to do with the invincibility factor. And blood or spit or something gross. 

"...sucker for sad, hopeless things, especially when they had breast." Voice! And I laughed out loud. 

"Not a patronizing smirk, but a sunrise." Nice!

"...joys of being so rich, your food heated itself" I love N's reactions to all the wealth. 

"...to prepare my bath." I think the steamy things are coming. Pun intended. 

"This time, I'll be naked." Yup. Steam. 

Overall, I enjoyed this! It was a good balance of cute romance, lines that made me laugh out loud, and world building / politics. 

Maybe the switch from being mad to a sucker for tears was a little quick, but it still worked. 

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Didn't read previous comment, as per usual.

Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, " trapped no body heat against the frigid nighttime air" Personal experience definitely agrees.

Pg 1, " moved onto the Two Spire’s regional roads"

Pg 1, "a semi-decent [lady of the night] dress if she’d belted it" Hahahaha!

Pg 1, "It was a fine arrangement." That got a snort out of me. I love the sarcasm and snark in this story.

Pg 1, "were led through"

Pg 2, "the third door on the left" Everyone's rooms are literally accessible from the ballroom? Weird choice. I feel like that would be very loud if you decided to turn in early.

Pg 2, " tripping on the edge of a brown and white pelt and slamming her hip" I see my sense of grace as made it into the book.

Pg 2, “I’m going to throw up,” No, man, that's fashion.

Pg 3, "There was no way they were made with horse leather." I am assuming from this remark that horse leather boots are only ever made for the impoverished.

Pg 3, "she really, really wanted to avoid their Plan B." Now I'm dying to know what Plan B is.

Pg 4, "Yes, I have. Missing quotation mark.

Pg 4, “I didn’t want to stop.”  Mmm, but why? Attraction? Plotting? Control?

Pg 6, " I don’t have any power." Is that what she wants? Power? Potential motivation...

Pg 6, " said. "Tell me why you" Missing quotation mark between "said" and "Tell"

Pg 6, " Tell me why you need me here." Answers...I like answers.

Pg 6, "she let her fingers slide down"

Pg 7, "Friends don’t do this." But looooooovers dooooooo.

Pg 7, "with one of the princesses in particular." The aforementioned alliance? Are we get some answers now?

Pg 8, " which was set up as an all-monarchy reserve" Man, that sounds like a terrible idea, long-term politics wise. I can imagine some really nice, peaceful politicians came up with that brilliant plan, but some jerk is going to ruin it. 

Pg 8, " an electric contraption underneath." Have I mentioned how refreshing it is to read a non-medieval story?

Pg 8, " blue corn juice" I've got to try this somehow. When I Googled it on Amazon, I got snow cone juice. Where can I buy some? I found recipes, but I'm not always the best cook...

Pg 8, “It hasn’t gotten me killed yet,” That's flawed reasoning, but something I would say if I was annoyed, so I get the response.

Pg 9, "The owner was selling his daughter"   D: 

Pg 9, "added an age restriction" That cracks me up. 

Pg 9, "defending both of them from kidnappers." This makes me equally sad and furious.

Pg 10, " another ball" Did I miss the first?

Pg 10, "taking over the island." Can we talk about how the Big Bad literally has "Bad" in their name? I love the irony. 

Pg 10, " I’ll give you whatever you like." That's a dangerous promise.

Pg 11, "This time, I’ll be naked." Heh heh heh.

Pg 11, "Yeah. It’d be a start.” God, I love this response. Hit me right in the funny bone! This story is so much fun to read. 

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Comments:

(page 1)

- "shivering in a knee-length tunic" - Bit confused about the clothing. How does the tunic relate to the silk shirt she started in, and the jerkin that N gave her?

- "would have called it quits on the spot" - Why? Not clear, IMO.

(page 2)

- "had thought existed" - rather weak hyperbole. Low hanging fruit. I want to be surprised, I want to grunt in appreciation.

- "pointed to a woven reed mat at the foot of the bed" - Surely there is a wash basin that would be more appropriate?

- "Joke’s on you" - M says a fair amount of stuff that isn't clear, IMO. Why is the joke on N? What joke? > "I’m not the one who’s going to choke on lace" - Also, most of the time, she's not funny, just bitter.

- "smelled the crispness of fried egg" - I don't feel this image personally. That's not how I'd characterise the smell of egg cooking. Surely, crisp smells are pine and mint, etc?

(page 4)

- "I’m sorry, you have every right to be" - I just do not feel this. I feel far more sympathy for N than I do for M. I don't like M. She's whiny, ungrateful, entitled and pretty all-round annoying. I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time listening to her whinging. I still don't feel her motivations. M's motivation is to take thing from other people. Caring for J...I've talked about it before, I think, that not seeing him laid low, close to death, vulnerable, helpless and needing care, it seems like his affliction seems like a nuisance. Bottom line, M seems to do very little apart from complain, which gets old quickly, IMO.

And what is N apologising for? Taking M in; taking her friends in, who N knows are a bunch of thieves; giving M clothes; promising to return an important family heirloom which has, through time, come to belong to N (possession being nine tenths of the law, apparently)?

- Why is the palace so cold? Surely the residents would not put up with that. They've got paved roads, and railways, so presumably have steam. They have running water. They have all the components to make a rudimentary heating system. Even just a copper vessel that servants filled with hot water... Oh, is it the lack of trees, the lack of coal to burn? Other things can be burned. If there are forests there is undergrowth that can be burned, surely.

(page 5)

- "the power balance maybe being in her favor" - The emotional power balance has always been in M's favour, because she is pretty much constantly antagonistic.

- "I can maybe give you one, but the price is pants" - So mercenary. not becoming.

(page 6)

- "She’d always been a sucker for sad, hopeless things, especially when they had breasts." - To me, this comes over objectifying, and makes M more unsympathetic.

- "Yelled at herself for making a princess cry" - Why is she suddenly contrite? It seems like a little remorse, but... "Tears wouldn’t get her the comb" - Ah, no. It's just about her objective. "they didn’t both need to feel like rust" - To me, this doesn't feel consistent with M's POV in the chapter up to now. She shows no sign of feeling anything nice towards N, and then this comes from nowhere.

- "tracking a thin line of salt in their wake" - fantastic line. This moment feels really tender, but--for me-- there's no emotional weight behind the moment.

- "Imagine hearing that sigh again" - See, I really struggle to pair this tender thought with the crude line about breasts.

(page 7)

- "Seduction was a dangerous game" - I completely forgot about this, because M has spent the last day tearing into N and doing absolutely everything in her power to drive the princess away, and never once has she considered in her POV whether this might harm her chances at seducing the princess. M seems completely careless of her own motivations and intentions, too busy being surly and bad-tempered. Okay, this is to do with N "spying" on M but, to be honest, M robs people, steals stuff from them on pain of death or injury, so I've got zero sympathy with her taking the moral high ground all of a sudden, when it suits her. "A careful game. A game of patience." - Neither of which M is showing, IMO. There's not indication I can remember that this moodiness is part of the strategy and, if it is, (a) I guess I need a reminder, and (b) it's not sympathetic.

- "Too much would get J killed" - Huh? How?

- "import oak so we could have a railroad" - This seems extravagant for the purposes of railroad construction. I must look this up... OMG, there is a site called railwaysleepers.com!! Awesome :D   It says "The natural properties of wood (usually hardwood such as oak, but cheaper softwood has been used on lighter, less busy lines) are suited to providing a resilient track with excellent dynamic attenuation of impact loading as well as noise and vibration reduction." I was thinking that softwood like pine, etc. would be more plentiful, and therefore easier to source, and therefore cheaper than using oak for all the sleepers, the construction of the carriages, and then how too they make the steam, coal (also imported, presumably), or more wood? Would they burn oak just to make steam?

- "We have no other functioning commercial ports" - seems weird to me that no rival kingdom would set up a rival port, just for competition. There must be other ports, surely, even if they are only fishing ports? And if that's the case, you'd be able to moor big ships out in deeper water and ferry goods to shore in smaller boats. If they are no other ports, then you can't sail to BM from anywhere else on the island? Unless, I suppose, it was from a jetty or some such.

- 'pool' resources, like carpool.

- "Princess, could we have this conversation over breakfast?" - Good grief! M's tone seems to change completely here. I almost thought she was going to say 'please' :o 

(page 8)

- "an electric contraption" - My world view was just ripped up and thrown away. (1) where in the the name of heck do they get electricity from; (2) how does M know what electricity is; (3) if they've got the tech to make electricity, how do they not have warm water?

- "so rich your food heated itself" - But it doesn't. She doesn't really think that, surely? Clearly, the bit doing the heating is not edible.

- "doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen" - Confused. N is arguing that she's been okay travelling alone, but she defeats her own argument by saying this does not mean it couldn't (still) happen. This makes no sense to me.

- "The owner was selling his daughter to keep the tavern, and not by choice" - I presume what she means is he did not want to do it, but he still made the choice to initiate the transaction.

- "I bought the girl and the tavern, left his name on the deed" - But the deed is a certificate of ownership, surely. So, legally, she is not registered as the owner of the tavern, all she has down, it seems to me, is buy his loyalty, and possibly the girl.

(page 9)

- "like they were chickens" - excellent line, bravo.

- I feel there is a fundamental problem with the Bad Mill business model. They have the only port, right? So, they can totally control all good that come into and leave the island. So, why not just tax the sherbet out of everyone else, or, simply to impound any imports of wood to anyone else? Why let anything in that they don't want other folk to have. And/or, don't let any goods out? The answer, IMO, would be that someone else would set up a port at the drop of a hat, and I don't know why they haven't already if BM (titter) are placing trade restrictions on other nations.

(page 10)

- "I get it" - I feel like there was a lot of evasion and confusion in previous chapters that could very easily have been avoided if N had just laid this out. I don't see any real reason for her to withhold this information as soon as M was onboard with accompanying N.

- "keep BM from eventually taking over the island" - But that's not really how railways work. They are a network, or you can't get to where you want to go. They are not going to build a parallel network to the BM, they can't, surely? And why would BM let AG run on their tracks? BM would sabotage AG at every turn, would they not?

(page 11)

- "Don't feck up" - This seems out of character for N. Has she ever sworn before?

OVERALL   (rant ahead, proceed with caution ;) )

I struggled with much of this chapter, pretty much exclusively because of M's behaviour which, to me, seems inconsistent, self-defeating and just plain unlikable. For me, presuming I'm supposed to like a character that is brash and loud and has nefarious intentions, they'd better be funny, but M isn't, really, IMO, and I struggle to find any sympathy in me for her, or her position. It seems to me that she tries to 'borrow' sympathy because of J's situation, and she had a tough upbringing...fine, but she's not alone in that. Her quest for the comb is all very well, but what is she going to do with it? Sit it on a mantlepiece and look at it? I still don't feel the stakes*.

I can't help setting this--which is not dissimilar in dynamic--against Fox. We saw what the 'loss' of S's mother meant for the whole arc of her life. Her background was laid out in all its complexity near the beginning (I seem to remember) and we could see how it defined who she was. She had real struggles in her life, against prejudice, lack of understanding, bullying; there was real strife around her, and she was not the dominant personality, but she was resourceful and used her intelligence to navigate through the world towards a clear goal that she needed to follow for clear reasons. And, she had an absolutely crystal clear objective of wanting to be an alch.

Here, M wants money in order that she and her brother can continue to exist, and she wants a comb for reasons that remain unclear to me. I still don't know what she wants from life, what her endpoint is. I accept there have been some changes in early chapter in relation to this, but building the guild to steal more thing from more people is not a life goal, as such, IMO. She's not trying to save anything or find anybody, she's not trying to rebuild anything, or protect anything of significance in the world (sorry J). She is not pursuing anyone, for love or any other reason apart from monetary sorry N), and shows no aspiration towards a lasting, loving relationship, or to trying to build anything positive (sorry, criminal empire).

I don't find the dynamics or set-up of the world clear**. I'm tempted to suggest epigraphs at the start of the chapters to map that out. Okay, epigraphs--I strongly suspect--would not be accepted in this fantasy romance genre. What about excerpts from personal letters between and among the royalty or their servants, showing the dynamics of the island on a political level, but disguised as fluff?

Talking of fluff, I seem to recall mention of this being fluff romance. I don't really feel the fluff. When I think of fluff, I'm thinking of something much happier, more colourful, with less grimness, fewer dirty thieves living in forests, less shouting, anger, and bitterness. I'm thinking of CluelessLegally Blonde, Robin Hood (any older, swashbuckling version, not all that modern tosh trying to reinvent it as a gritty gangster story--poppycock).

BUT WAIT!! - in the last three pages or so, M's demeanour seems to change completely: the bitterness falls away, disappears, and she is all cooperative, willing to listen, hear another viewpoint. That's all great, but I don't see the stimulus that made the happen, and it's such a sudden change from the surliness that I was quiet disoriented. The change seems to be brought about by breakfast. Oh, of course, it's all clear now. She was hypoglycaemic before. (Sorry, natural hundred on flippancy roll there.) And then we get N's very reasonable explanation, and I don't know why N was holding that back when it would stand a high chance of unlocking M's cooperation. It feels like author ex machina to hold the explanation back when M is in the throes of her bad temper.

Did I mention I enjoyed the chapter? I enjoyed the chapter.

* Then we get N's explanation of the deal and everything, and that is great, now I understand N's stakes, but these are not M's stakes, not yet, anyway.

** I get that there has been revision to earlier chapters (I think) to rectify this to some degree?

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So, interesting, I have almost the exact opposite dynamic to the N/M relationship than @Robinski does. M's struggled her whole life to get by, taking care of her brother, and finds out N's been creepily spying on her the whole time and has done nothing. Only now she pulls M in and expects M to like her life being controlled. N is a pampered little rich girl and I fully agree with M trying to rob her for everything she has.

Though I will agree that M does a strange about-face halfway through the chapter. I'm also not sure of the reasoning.

59 minutes ago, Robinski said:

She was hypoglycaemic before. (Sorry, natural hundred on flippancy roll there.)

I might have laughed a lot at this...

 

Per the political/trade plotline. Also in agreement with @Robinski here. I have some notes below, but I see no reason B.M. (I am very adult) doesn't just smash through everyone's objections and take over the island, if they've got that much of an advantage. Now if A.G. can control of the wood or other construction materials, then they have something to bring to the table to bargain with.

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

Talking of fluff, I seem to recall mention of this being fluff romance. I don't really feel the fluff.

Have to agree here too. There's a lot of hardship on both sides and not a lot of happy yet.

(Also enjoying reading, by the way...)

 

Notes while reading.

pg 1: "A refined silk blouse"
--this sounds like it's repeating the first line. We already not that's not sufficient. it's the jerkin and blanket that also aren't warm enough.

pg 1: "likely bruised Js’ tailbone"
--is he the only other one in the carriage?
--Edit: He's not there at all. This makes it seem like he is.

pg 1: I feel like is a direct continuation of last chapter. The extra background in the first few paragraphs sorts of slows the transition, I feel.

pg 2: I feel like should at least be an acknowledgement that there's only one bed in the room...

pg 2: "Her left hip ached from the stone"
Is this supposed to be connected to N bruising her hip? because that seems like it's screaming 'plot point' but I don't think it should be.

pg 3: "There was no way they were made with horse leather."
--cow leather? Squirrel? What's the followup to this? I don't know why that's important.

pg 3: "tried to sit up"
--from her hip? Isn't she invulnerable anyway?

pg 3: "They needed to reconnect, soon"
--where did he go? WRS?

pg 3: "but she really, really wanted to avoid their Plan B."
--did we know about this? I don't remember any other option.

pg 4: “You could have told her to stop. You could have said no. You could have walked away.”
--Yep. With M on this one.

pg 5: "All your clothing requests have to go through me."
--did we get a reason for this? Dont' recall.

pg 5: “No one wears pants in Two Spires"
--I feel like this should be on the billboard when entering the country.

pg 5: "The same as you gave J, to allow him long sleeves.” 
--Ok, now I'm confused. Is J in the country with them or not? I can't remember where he went.

pg 5: "None of this is easy"
--None of what? They've been talking around something for a few pages and I don't know what it is.

pg 6: "This is important.”
--Again, I don't know why.

pg 6: "You’ll ruin years of work and potentially destroy this alliance. I need to blend in. I need you to blend in. Please.”
--Ok, so negotiating an alliance. But doesn't N need to to the exact opposite and stand out for that?

pg 6: "Tell me why you need me here.”
--Please!

pg 6: "given an entire gold star for one of the fried eggs"
--wait, what does this have to do with anything?

pg 7: "When B-- M--- made the deal with the Island of T--- to import oak so we could have a railroad, it changed things here in Y---"
--ok, we have an explanation for why N is being subservient, but I feel like I'm dropped in the middle of all these names. I don't know their connection with N's country. I'm not even sure what it's name is.

pg 7: "My family’s reserve"
--M's family reserve? I thought she grew up in a cave?

pg 8: "A---- G----, the guild was coming after T-- S----- and its very deep pockets"
--ah yes, those are the names...two more among 5? (and yes, I am aware of the irony of me saying this...)

pg 8: “You bought a girl,” she said, drawing out each word. 
--well it sounds bad when you say it like that...

pg 9: "Neither the King of T--S-----, nor the Queen of A--- G----, want railroads on their land. My mother won’t even let electric lights into the castle!"
--Ok, the political landscape is laid out. Now I'm wondering what A.G. has to offer in negotiation? It sounds like B.M. basically has everything they need. What's to stop them just riding over the other kingdoms?

pg 10: "“If I can broker this deal, if we can get a rail system started"
--so the deal is to let B.M. in to do what they want? That sounds unwise.

pg 10: "we can keep the queendom relevant"
--but they won't be. Now B.M. can just go right through their queendom.

pg 10: "He’s with the footmen and driver, probably gossiping in the kitchens."
--aha.

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36 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

So, interesting, I have almost the exact opposite dynamic to the N/M relationship than @Robinski does. M's struggled her whole life to get by, taking care of her brother, and finds out N's been creepily spying on her the whole time and has done nothing. Only now she pulls M in and expects M to like her life being controlled. N is a pampered little rich girl and I fully agree with M trying to rob her for everything she has.

I didn't get any sense that M was being controlled by the visions, or that N had any influence over events in M's life through the visions. She could have intervened directly to give M money, granted. Also, she could have stopped looking at the visions, I'll accept that, and the creepiness, fair enough. I also accept that people are driven to desperate action when they have nothing, and there is no kind of welfare state, fair enough again. But, pretty much M's only motivation now--that I can see--is to steal all the gold from all the kingdoms, thus setting herself up as a wealthy criminal with far more money than she will ever need. Has there been any suggestion that M is going to give this money to the poor? I can't recall if there has, and she does not think about anyone else (apart from J) when she contemplates stealing all the gold from all the kingdoms. If you turn this around and make the plot about M taking from the rich and giving to the poor, that's a whole different ball game, but I get no sense that is what the story is about. So, to me, she's still just a criminal, not a crusader for social justice.

Also, by emptying the kingdoms' coffers, all the people that the kingdom employed presumably would be out of work, the political system would collapse, and most likely warlords would take over and enslave the peasants and take their money anyway. N has been creepy, I should have accepted that before, but her goals now seem honourable and sensible: competing with the emerging monopoly to achieve some sort of stability. Okay she needs her eyes opened to social justice, BUT, she does appeared to have acted honourably and charitably towards the pub owner, and especially his daughter, who he was willing to sell.

I feel there is a harmonious balance point between character viewpoints and competing motivations, and I don't think this story has found it yet, personally.

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5 minutes ago, Robinski said:

pretty much M's only motivation now--that I can see--is to steal all the gold from all the kingdoms, thus setting herself up as a wealthy criminal with far more money than she will ever need. Has there been any suggestion that M is going to give this money to the poor? 

Also, by emptying the kingdoms' coffers, all the people that the kingdom employed presumably would be out of work, the political system would collapse, and most likely warlords would take over and enslave the peasants and take their money anyway.

Good point. I hadn't really thought about it like that, probably because it's in M's POV. Also, everyone likes to root for the underdog, and at this point in history I have very little sympathy for the super-rich.I guess I was assuming M would be setting up some other system with all the money.

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Good point. I hadn't really thought about it like that, probably because it's in M's POV. Also, everyone likes to root for the underdog, and at this point in history I have very little sympathy for the super-rich.I guess I was assuming M would be setting up some other system with all the money.

And maybe she would, in which case I most definitely could root for her, yes. Or, maybe she will change N, who already seems to at least be conscious of the harmful effect of the railroad. I'm not sure it's clear whether N wants to protect AG for selfish reasons of staying in power, or for socially conscious reasons, or a combination of both. I just thought we saw in this chapter that she had used her money to save the young girl from being sold into goodness knows what, which I took as a plus point for N. I'd love them to have a more structured / extended argument about the whole surveillance of M by N. I feel they only really broke the ice on that topic before.

Also, @kais, what is the age difference between M and N? This may have been asked and answered before, but I don't remember.

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Not much to add that hasn't already been said. And I don't typically read this genre (subgenre?). I enjoyed the dialogue and the description. The only issue I have with the writing is more of a personal preference than a true issue. On page one you give sentences their own paragraph to add emphasis. I feel this interrupts flow too much to be a useful method. But that's me. ;)

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Hi,

1) I thought you just said that her dress wasn't modest.

3) Now I'm curious what plan B is.

4) this really doesn't seem like a servant/master relationship, even disregarding the genre. Honestly, I feel like the roles are reversed.

7) I'm getting a name overload. Also, if B. M. a person, company, or a place?

7) what's the tech level of this continent

8) Why did she put an ages restriction on. If she needs the information, why weed out younger people. They aren't counterproductive.

9) thank you for not letting this devolve into another yelling match.

9) strange...I'd think that a monarch would leap at the chance to increase technology.

 

 

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On 5/25/2020 at 5:36 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I sense an only one bed trope in the future. 

A classic!

On 5/25/2020 at 5:36 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

And blood or spit or something gross. 

You know me too well I'm afraid. It's coming (as is Nu, soon...heh heh)

On 5/25/2020 at 5:36 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Overall, I enjoyed this! It was a good balance of cute romance, lines that made me laugh out loud, and world building / politics. 

Oh wonderful! I'm so glad it worked! It's their first sort of chemistry scene so it's always a hard balance.

On 5/25/2020 at 5:36 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Maybe the switch from being mad to a sucker for tears was a little quick, but it still worked. 

A few people stumbled here so I'm going to rework this part I think. Make it a little bit more natural and broadcasted.

Thank you, @shatteredsmooth!

 

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On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

Everyone's rooms are literally accessible from the ballroom? Weird choice. I feel like that would be very loud if you decided to turn in early.

Oh, it's going to end VERY badly

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

I am assuming from this remark that horse leather boots are only ever made for the impoverished.

Or just everyone who can't afford fancy imported hide. #worldbuilding !

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

Now I'm dying to know what Plan B is.

It's gross. 

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

But looooooovers dooooooo.

SUGGESTIVE LINES ARE BEST LINES

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

Where can I buy some? I found recipes, but I'm not always the best cook...

It's so easy to make! You buy blue corn (solid blue, not mixed color kernels) and boil it for several hours in a stock pot. Add just a bit of sugar and I think a touch of lime? And then drink. SO GOOD

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

Can we talk about how the Big Bad literally has "Bad" in their name? I love the irony. 

My actual thought process while naming things for this book: Hmm...names. Best not think too hard. It's a silly book. Also one of the monarchies should have a weird economy. Maybe a bad economy. Oh heck, let's just call it Bad Mi and be done with it. Saves time explaining

On 5/25/2020 at 8:01 PM, Snakenaps said:

This story is so much fun to read. 

Hoorah! I'm so happy it's landing right! Thanks for catching all those little typos, too, @Snakenaps!

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On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Bit confused about the clothing. How does the tunic relate to the silk shirt she started in, and the jerkin that N gave her?

Fair. Have clarified

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Also, most of the time, she's not funny, just bitter.

I think she is pretty bitter, especially at this stage. N has really upset her with the soothsayer reveal

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I just do not feel this. I feel far more sympathy for N than I do for M. I don't like M. She's whiny, ungrateful, entitled and pretty all-round annoying. I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time listening to her whinging. I still don't feel her motivations. M's motivation is to take thing from other people. Caring for J...I've talked about it before, I think, that not seeing him laid low, close to death, vulnerable, helpless and needing care, it seems like his affliction seems like a nuisance. Bottom line, M seems to do very little apart from complain, which gets old quickly, IMO.

It's hard to address the character concerns, as people seem to be split down the middle, either camp M or camp N. I think part of the motivations part has been retconned in edits, but I've added this beat now to this chapter, hopefully to call out that even M sees that her chasing the comb is silly:

Spoiler

N looked at her. “No one wears pants in Two Spires. The men wear hose. Ask me for anything else. Except the comb, of course.”

            The comb. Just the mention of it made her legs antsy. That ridiculous comb that she was gambling J-s’ life on, and the future of her guild, for no real reason except that it felt like a piece of her skin had been hacked away. She had to get it back. She was not complete without that comb.

The J-s thing was address the last time, with some adding of his issues in earlier chapters. Let me see if I can pull the relevant text:

Spoiler

“You needed someone to look after you. A horse tossed J-s into a strawberry patch and he swelled so badly-”

“Is he alright?” M demanded. The rushing sound of blood came to her ears again, hot, fast, and insistent. She looked at S. Stared at her breasts. Told herself to calm down. That if J-s was dead, S would have told her immediately. Or left a note and run far, far away. Told herself she couldn’t afford another flush, because two days unconscious had already threatened J-s’ life, from strawberries. “He almost died the first time he ate one. I thought I would have to cut out his tongue. Just touching the plant gives him a rash that swells and swells until he can barely see. Where is the patch? I’ll dig it up myself.”

 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Why is the palace so cold? Surely the residents would not put up with that.

I've hung a lantern on this. M also wonders about it, since even inns have radiant heating now. 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

To me, this comes over objectifying, and makes M more unsympathetic.

She is indeed objectifying! Which is one of the things her people and J-s are on her about in earlier chapters.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Why is she suddenly contrite?

I've reworked the lead up to this scene so that it has a lot more of M's introspection and realizing that she may have blown some things out of proportion.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

This moment feels really tender, but--for me-- there's no emotional weight behind the moment.

There is a much better lead up now! Here's part:

Spoiler

M silently sighed. Such sincere words, so contritely delivered. It didn’t erase the anger, or the ache, but it did ease it back some. She took the slippers. Slid them on and was surprised to find that they fit fine, in that they were slippers and served no useful purpose except to make her feet feel like they were still on bare stone. And since they were in this moment of contrition, of the power balance maybe being in her favor for half a minute, M asked for the one thing that would make the trip bearable. 


and another section

Spoiler

N came and sat next to M on the bed, her eyes wide, the lower lids damp. M sighed. She’d always been a sucker for sad, hopeless things, especially when they had breasts. It looked like N had power, but then again, what did M know about royal politics? Maybe they were more alike than she’d thought, except if M got mouthy with the wrong person, they got a broken hand or sword. N, well, she might get poisoned. Or disinherited. 


 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

There's not indication I can remember that this moodiness is part of the strategy and, if it is, (a) I guess I need a reminder, and (b) it's not sympathetic.

I've edited around this to make it clear that M knows she's being pretty trash at seduction at the moment.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Too much would get J killed" - Huh? How?

Have edited to: But if she slipped up, or angered the princess too much, she’d just end up getting J-s killed.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I was thinking that softwood like pine, etc. would be more plentiful, and therefore easier to source, and therefore cheaper than using oak for all the sleepers, the construction of the carriages, and then how too they make the steam, coal (also imported, presumably), or more wood? Would they burn oak just to make steam?

This is all correct and very plot relevant! 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

There must be other ports, surely, even if they are only fishing ports? And if that's the case, you'd be able to moor big ships out in deeper water and ferry goods to shore in smaller boats. If they are no other ports, then you can't sail to BM from anywhere else on the island? Unless, I suppose, it was from a jetty or some such.

I was trying to say that there are no ports used for export and import, so commercial, though there are many ports, of course. Just only one that is used for commerce. I'll try to clean that up.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

(1) where in the the name of heck do they get electricity from; (2) how does M know what electricity is; (3) if they've got the tech to make electricity, how do they not have warm water?

1) coal, though I'm not sure if this needs to actually be stated anywhere. 2) they talked about arc lamps in the underground walkway which I had hoped would indicate they all knew about electricity. M has a thought about how only large establishments can afford electric lamps, too. 3) the castle being frigid is currently being attributed to it being an old castle and not being properly retrofitted, although I think I have later that the people of this monarchy just don't mind the cold as much. They haven't turned the heat on yet!

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I feel there is a fundamental problem with the Bad Mill business model.

I have tried to edit this appropriately to make it more clear:

Spoiler

BM now has railroad connections across the entire duchy. They can get their products to the export market much more quickly than we can on horseback, and they already tax us to death to include our goods in the export at all. And the oak they’re importing they’ve taxed so high, its hard even for the monarchies to afford them, what few they let through. We’ve tried to set up our own ports, but BM has some agreement with the ship captains. They just won’t go anywhere else!”

and a bit later


N glared at her. “While I’m here, I’m working with Crown Prince T on a deal with one of the BM princes to get oak moving to TS and AG. The prince is doing this undercover, without his father’s approval. The same Tc rep I met with at the tavern will be there, too. It’s a delicate trade deal. It involves a lot of mutual respect, and understanding, and quiet. We are all going against our aging parents.

 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I feel like there was a lot of evasion and confusion in previous chapters that could very easily have been avoided if N had just laid this out. I don't see any real reason for her to withhold this information as soon as M was onboard with accompanying N.

I'm debating moving more of this information forward. I need to figure out a few more logistics.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

But that's not really how railways work.

Have tried to clarify:

Spoiler

And we can keep the queendom relevant, and keep BM from eventually taking over the island. Or at least keep up with their export movement. Maybe if we have our own railroads, the ship captains will start dealing with our ports, too. I don’t know.”

 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

This seems out of character for N. Has she ever sworn before?

Good call! She's not a curser.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I struggled with much of this chapter, pretty much exclusively because of M's behaviour which, to me, seems inconsistent, self-defeating and just plain unlikable.

I'm hoping the rewrites have smoothed this out a lot

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

but building the guild to steal more thing from more people is not a life goal, as such, IMO. She's not trying to save anything or find anybody, she's not trying to rebuild anything, or protect anything of significance in the world (sorry J). She is not pursuing anyone, for love or any other reason apart from monetary sorry N), and shows no aspiration towards a lasting, loving relationship, or to trying to build anything positive (sorry, criminal empire).

I was hoping to build, over the next few chapters, that she finds a lot of this purpose in N. Will definitely keep this in mind as I edit. But I think for a lot of people who have had to grow up in poverty, being financially comfortable is the ultimate goal. Because with that comes food security, family security, the chance to have hobbies, etc.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

What about excerpts from personal letters between and among the royalty or their servants, showing the dynamics of the island on a political level, but disguised as fluff?

Unsure? I'll have to think on this on the best way to present it.

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

Talking of fluff, I seem to recall mention of this being fluff romance. I don't really feel the fluff. When I think of fluff, I'm thinking of something much happier, more colourful, with less grimness, fewer dirty thieves living in forests, less shouting, anger, and bitterness. I'm thinking of CluelessLegally Blonde, Robin Hood (any older, swashbuckling version, not all that modern tosh trying to reinvent it as a gritty gangster story--poppycock).

ah, maybe I should clarify. I wasn't aiming for the comedy so much of Legally Blonde. I do struggle writing comedy, and know it isn't my strength. It's hard to balance having a strong enough B plot to drive the worldbuilding, while keeping the content fairly fluffy. But there are balls coming up! 

On 5/26/2020 at 6:17 AM, Robinski said:

I get that there has been revision to earlier chapters (I think) to rectify this to some degree?

Yes, I think some of the stuff has already been edited. I'm trying now to include the bulk of the revised sections in the response, otherwise I feel like the story is progressing on thin legs and the same issues will keep cropping up even if addressed, since no one has read the revisions.

Thank you so much, @Robinski! Many edits to work through, and all very good thoughts!

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On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

M's struggled her whole life to get by, taking care of her brother, and finds out N's been creepily spying on her the whole time and has done nothing. Only now she pulls M in and expects M to like her life being controlled. N is a pampered little rich girl and I fully agree with M trying to rob her for everything she has.

This was much closer to what I was going for here at the start. 

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

Though I will agree that M does a strange about-face halfway through the chapter. I'm also not sure of the reasoning.

I've smoothed this out I hope with a rewrite of the scene, and a bit more introspection.

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

Have to agree here too. There's a lot of hardship on both sides and not a lot of happy yet.

Hmmm. The silliness of it says fluff to me, but it does still have a strong B plot. Though it does have a fair amount of violence in it, especially later. I might end up stepping that back. Unsure.

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

I feel like should at least be an acknowledgement that there's only one bed in the room...

MISSED OPPORTUNITY! Going to fix now

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

Is this supposed to be connected to N bruising her hip? because that seems like it's screaming 'plot point' but I don't think it should be.

Artifact! Has been removed because she's invulnerable, so her hip wouldn't ache

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

They needed to reconnect, soon"
--where did he go? WRS?

He hopped off the carriage the moment it got in to the castle. We don't yet know where he's got to

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

did we know about this? I don't remember any other option.

We have not yet covered Plan B, but this is another lead in to the poison blood thing

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

but I feel like I'm dropped in the middle of all these names. I don't know their connection with N's country. I'm not even sure what it's name is.

I think this is WRS. We've had all these names a bunch of times before, but maybe it's been too long. I've added some qualifiers to them to hopefully jog memories.

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

M's family reserve? I thought she grew up in a cave?

WRS? Chapter 3 has a little patch about how M's family is the only one to own private land in the communal forest.

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

What's to stop them just riding over the other kingdoms?

I was trying to showcase that they are already, and a few of the other monarchies are trying to fight back economically, through alliances. I've added a bit more dialogue in to clarify this.

On 5/26/2020 at 7:19 AM, Mandamon said:

so the deal is to let B.M. in to do what they want? That sounds unwise.

Have clarified. The idea is to parlay basically with BM, with one of the prince's, to get some oak so AG can hope to compete in exports.

On 5/26/2020 at 8:13 AM, Robinski said:

So, to me, she's still just a criminal, not a crusader for social justice.

At this stage, I hadn't planned on her having a higher purpose. She wants a comfortable life for herself and J-s, where they can stop robbing and just exist, and where she can keep him safe. I think I laid that out okay? Also, I do want her to have a little hoarding tendency, because 

(BELOW IS A MAJOR SPOILER. YOU WERE WARNED)

Spoiler

she's a dragon, and I love the trope of treasure-hoarding dragons.

 

On 5/26/2020 at 8:13 AM, Robinski said:

I feel there is a harmonious balance point between character viewpoints and competing motivations, and I don't think this story has found it yet, personally.

Ooof, working on it! I think the edits I've done to this one have softened M a bit in this scene, and helped show her progressing towards N. I also hope the edit about the comb shows that M is aware she is being obsessive and ridiculous, but is committed now, can't seem to help it, and also, N is kinda cute. 

On 5/26/2020 at 8:20 AM, Mandamon said:

I guess I was assuming M would be setting up some other system with all the money.

Possibly? This was never meant to be a stand-alone book, but the plot arc has very little to do with M acquiring wealth, by the end of this, and much more with finding out about her family history (and bedding N, of course).

On 5/26/2020 at 10:51 AM, Robinski said:

I'd love them to have a more structured / extended argument about the whole surveillance of M by N. I feel they only really broke the ice on that topic before.

YOU WILL GET YOUR WISH. This is a big sticking point for M, and J-S, and it's death with several more times. It comes to a head at the ball, actually, if I recall. DRAMA in DRESSES (which would be the chapter title if they had titles).

On 5/26/2020 at 10:51 AM, Robinski said:

Also, @kais, what is the age difference between M and N? This may have been asked and answered before, but I don't remember.

Around a decade, slightly less. M is in her mid-forties, and N is in her mid to late thirties, around the same age as J-s. I wanted that age gap because I wanted M to get called out for her patronizing, which she does naturally with J-s (and which he hates, as we've seen), eventually, with N.

Thank you both! Good conversation! I think some of this will need to come into later edits, but I think I have the flow of this chapter a bit better now. With all the changes that have occurred, the narrative may seem a bit strange going forward. I'll try to keep everyone updated so it doesn't seem like things are coming from out of the blue.

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On 5/27/2020 at 9:10 AM, TheDwarfyOne said:

I enjoyed the dialogue and the description. The only issue I have with the writing is more of a personal preference than a true issue. On page one you give sentences their own paragraph to add emphasis. I feel this interrupts flow too much to be a useful method. But that's me. ;)

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed parts of it. The sentence-as-own-paragraph is a popular stylistic choice these days, especially in YA. I got into the habit a few books ago and decided I enjoyed it. I know its not for everyone, though. 

Thank you for the feedback!

 

On 5/27/2020 at 2:15 PM, Turin Turambar said:

this really doesn't seem like a servant/master relationship, even disregarding the genre. Honestly, I feel like the roles are reversed.

YESSSSS good. 

On 5/27/2020 at 2:15 PM, Turin Turambar said:

I'm getting a name overload. Also, if B. M. a person, company, or a place?

They've been pretty regular through the chapters but I think it's WRS. I've added some clarifiers just to help here, since it's a lot of names all at once

On 5/27/2020 at 2:15 PM, Turin Turambar said:

thank you for not letting this devolve into another yelling match.

I mean, enemies to lovers is a pretty solid romance trope, But they did need a yelling break, for sure.

Thank you so much for the feedback!

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6 hours ago, kais said:

hopefully to call out that even M sees that her chasing the comb is silly:

I feel this would help my take on M, for what that is worth.

6 hours ago, kais said:

not complete

Yeah. This level of blind desperation for something that she thought was gone until she saw it again works for me.

6 hours ago, kais said:

his tongue

Yes. This sort of recollection helps me buy into the whole J health issue. The odd recollection through the chapters of this or that nasty incident in the past would really underline that for me.

6 hours ago, kais said:

M silently

6 hours ago, kais said:

N came

I like these softer moments, moments of realisation, of self-analysis, balancing against the 'hotter' emotions. I think they'll work really well in punctuating the argument.

6 hours ago, kais said:

angered the princess too much, she’d just end up getting J-s killed

As in they would execute him?! I find that hard to believe of the princess. Also, it brings to mind that we haven't met anyone else in the court, almost no one apart from some guards. So, it's hard to judge the regime all by the behaviour of one person, N.

6 hours ago, kais said:

I was trying to say that there are no ports used for export and import, so commercial, though there are many ports, of course. Just only one that is used for commerce. I'll try to clean that up.

Yeah. From a business sense I do struggle with why someone on the other side of the island would not just build a port, set up in competition to BM. How could BM stop them? I get it if other countries were land-locked, of course, but if they all have coastline, I feel there would need to be a physical barrier, like really high cliffs all around the island apart from one bit that happens to fall in BM. 

6 hours ago, kais said:

all going against

Yes, I like this, especially the parents bit, and the captains bit.

6 hours ago, kais said:

taking over

This is excellent overarching motivation for N. It's simple and has huge stakes, for everyone.

6 hours ago, kais said:

our own railroads

Yeah. I mean, it would be crazy to build parallel routes, but AG is geographically different of course, so it would be more about opening up equivalent connections to the other states on the island, I feel.

Spoiler

What if part of the plan was that part of building their own railroad is AG was to connect to this bay inaccessible by road (because of mountains?), and that would enable them to develop is as a port of their own, which they would operate fairly. This makes me think that BM would send out agents to try and stop the plan, quite possibly through violence.

 

7 hours ago, kais said:

I was hoping to build, over the next few chapters, that she finds a lot of this purpose in N.

I'd certainly root for that.

7 hours ago, kais said:

who have had to grow up in poverty

I'm not sure I ever got a strong sense of that: maybe that's WRS. Lost parents, yes. Lived in the forest and stole from the rich, I seem to remember them having quite a bit of wealth lying around.

7 hours ago, kais said:

But there are balls coming up!

Excellent. I should probably have footnoted that comment by saying that I'm not investing in the story for the fluff, but for the characters. I suppose what I meant was, if I read the back blurb and it used the words 'fluff romance', I probably would think while reading that that tone is maybe not a light as I would expect for something referred to using the word 'fluff'.

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3 hours ago, kais said:

Ooof, working on it! I think the edits I've done to this one have softened M a bit in this scene, and helped show her progressing towards N. I also hope the edit about the comb shows that M is aware she is being obsessive and ridiculous, but is committed now, can't seem to help it, and also, N is kinda cute.

Definitely. I think they help a lot, personally.

3 hours ago, kais said:

Around a decade, slightly less. M is in her mid-forties, and N is in her mid to late thirties, around the same age as J-s. I wanted that age gap because I wanted M to get called out for her patron

That's cool. I think I'd have guessed that if I was to have guessed. Thanks!

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