shatteredsmooth

3/1/21_ShatteredSmooth_Earth Reclaimed (Ch. 2 & 3 Sub 2) (V)

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Posted (edited)

Content Warnings: Mild violence, reference of off-page murder, reference to transphobia and homophobia, verbal harassment,
gender dysphoria  
 
Hi,
 
So here is more of Earth Reclaimed (Ch. 2 and some of Ch. 3). I have a feeling this will feel like an early draft because a lot of it is brand new (original Ch.2 was only 900 words) and I feel like I am re-writing the opening chapters of someone else's book. 
 
I know the prose tends to be rough in my submissions and I'm sorry if this one is worse than usual. I meant to take one more look at it today but work was too busy and now I am too tired. I don't need detailed line edits. I'm more concerned about content. Character, motives, stakes, world-building and emotions...
 
I did make some big revisions to Ch. 1, but at the moment, I don't plan to resubmit it. There is a rough summary of the changes in the header of the attached doc.
 
Thanks!
 
-Sara 
Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Ch 2

I love the opening paragraph, nice tone. 

Fishing boats loaded with bait - and nets. I'm not sure if you have a specific kind of fishing in mind, but most fishing methods that I am aware of that involve nets don't require bait. Or were they different boats, some with bait and some with nets?

M works outside all day, I have a hard time seeing him keeping 'pasty white' skin. I suffer from that complexion myself, and eventually a tan and or freckles will stick. Or the freckles connect into a psuedo-tan like my dad sports year round :-)

"If these monsters realized E was like the person they killed..." this seems like a huge assumption and leap of logic from what E overheard them say, which was violent sounding but general. 

I have a hard time buying the pirates losing their balance and falling in the water when the fishing lady jumps. Based on their description, I assumed these were seafarers who would be used to standing and walking on swinging/bucking docks and dinghies. Also not clear if she is just abandoning her boat?

I like E and his voice is this chapter, I'm not sure what to make of him as a character though. He felt like the designated love interest in chapter 1 if the story was a romance. In chapter two, he's the protagonist but doesn't seem to have much going on outside of his current situation to pull him along in the story, aside from concern for S. I can't say I'm curious to follow E and find out more about the jerks on the docks since their motivation is clear and they don't seem very threatening compared to the river or other elementals. 

Chapter 3

Parts of this seem to be repetitive world building from chapter 2, primarily the descriptions for the groups of antagonists. One or the other makes the point well enough I think. The explanations in chapter 3 also seem to steal the thunder from whatever E may learn. It kind of feels like seeing the monster too early in a Godzilla movie.

In closing:

At this point, I am much more interested in the mechanics of the world than what's happening. The political gathering is there, but I'm not particularly excited or concerned about it. I'm more curious about the apparent personalities of the elementals and what tech is coming back into the world. It seems like if S's concerns were valid, there would be elemental vessel puppets roaming around and acting directly for them all the time (startrek Borg-like). Or maybe I just watch too much scifi :-)

I was wondering if all the people on the solar barges were women, or if that was a generalization! Question answered!

Thanks for sharing

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Overall:

So, by saying that LBLs aren’t needed, I apparently went into full-world-building-commentary mode.  I think partly because I really like the world-building and setting, and am excited about the things that it seems to be setting out to address.  So when I’m in a world I’m excited about, the things that strike as having potential problems with realism or consistency really bother me.  Some of said thoughts are just based on the characters’ biases or levels of knowledge, which may conflict with the actuality of the world. So feel free to ignore those.  I don’t need to know what the reality is (except for the part of me that just likes knowing ALL the information about interesting worlds), but I want to poke at it to make sure that you’re not oversimplifying things. 

I enjoyed these chapters (or chapter and a half) a lot.  I like E- wrestling with understanding his anger.  Ser- trying to be a spokesperson to improve the world around them.  I really like the world they’re living in (with caveats that some things might need some additional color or depth). 

I do think some of the characters are coming across as a little simplistic in their beliefs or biases, though, and are coming across as caricature representatives of a belief or ideal (that’s probably exaggerating it a little bit, but I’m not sure of how to describe it better).  Adding some nuance and more realistic ideologies (even for the horrible people.  They may be twisted, misinformed, bigoted ideologies, but at least those people need to think they have "good" reasons for what they're doing) would go a long way in making them feel like real people instead of characters whose main purpose is to represent a viewpoint.

Pg 5:

“Me- and Ma-“  Hmmmm. Well this was a surprising way for me to pick up some context on where in the former US we are.  Now I’m even more curious about the area geography post-flood.

For someone who is horrified by the very idea of murder, E- seems pretty quick to intentionally feed into his anger here.  He has good reason to be angry, but JW’s question there seems rather apt.  Even if it’s the river doing the actual punishing, he seems to be pushing the elementals toward it. And seems to come very close to killing the guy.  If that’s something E- is supposed to end up wrestling with, that’s all well and good (and I may get more of an answer reading further).  But he seems to be in slightly murky moral territory otherwise.  Obviously he has reason to be angry.  But to intentionally feed into that anger seems like a dangerous step if he knows the river is going to be vengeful.  I’d wonder where the responsibility lies if an ambassador riles up a spirit that kills someone, even if the person isn’t doing it themselves.  Are they allowed to be fine with that death if the elementals carried it out? Even with the general acknowledgment that the elementals can get out of hand.  Is the justice of the elementals generally accepted as the ultimate say in the matter? Or are they wrong sometimes? What is their ultimate goal in all of this?

Feel free to throw the moral quandaries back at me in a million years when I get to submitting chapters that incorporate aspects of leaving ultimate justice to the supernatural powers that run things.

Pg 6:

“Figure out how much of that rage…” Yes. These questions are good ones to be asking.  Good job, E.

Pg 7:

“did not believe in things like…” Wait. What? When they are living a short boat ride away? And trade with the people there (unless that has changed since the previous version of Ch1).  There’s a place for assuming things are myth and story, but when you’re living right next door to people who are periodically possessing or being possessed by various sentient spirits, straight disbelief seems unlikely. Like. E-just almost had the river spirits drown a guy.  That’s a very visible event.

The perspective also leads to a  science vs. religion false dichotomy, which always makes me twitchy when it’s a commonly held belief among a group.  There will be some people who insist it’s myth, and who probably never leave their barges. But anyone who interacts with the “other” is going to start understanding them.

Ser- seemed to be able to see beyond that split, so I’m hoping we aren’t jumping in that direction, but I will be disappointed with my solar barge ladies if they are all intentionally blind to the supernatural.

Pg 8:

These are rambling world-building thoughts raised by T- and E-‘s conversation. Some of my concerns are probably covered by it mostly being character biases showing through, but the impression they’re presenting is seems a little simplistic in some areas.  It obviously doesn’t need to be fully portrayed here, but I have questions about what the reality of the world is like to have created those biases. Feel free to ignore any of said thoughts that are already consistently represented in the worldbuilding.  I just like to poke at these things to see if they hold water.

Sort of like the barge ladies’ disbelief: It’s hard to have false religions if there are real visible, summonable supernatural powers proving them wrong or actively suppressing them.  You’ll still have intentionally blind bigots who are horrible people.  And I fully support your raking them over the coals. But if there are river spirits drowning people who are murdering people, it seems like they’d be wiping out people groups tending largely toward abhorrent behavior before those groups can get much of a footing.   Which makes the Al-‘s survival a little surprising.  Why have the powers that be allowed them to survive this long?

How do the elementals feel about these new religions? And why haven’t they done anything about them?  Do they have a moral standard that they’re holding people to? And if so, why are they letting people break it? It’s been mentioned that they’re involved in the carrying out of judgments or punishments, but is that them making the moral standard? Or is that As- or community leaders making that moral standard, and using the elementals to carry it out?  Are there true religions (and related deities) that exist that the elementals would be in some sort of conflict with (or in cooperation with)?

Also, you mention that the elementals aren’t gods, but I assume that there are groups that would treat them as gods.  Are they affected enough by people’s opinions and actions to turn into beings that demand worship or service or offerings or whatever?   Where they might be treated like deities? I don’t have a good sense of their motives or

Pg 10:

“The had survived…The Flood.” How long has it been since the flood?  And were the houses above the waterline during said flooding?  Has the flood receded in the current world? Or is it still “flooded” where most current land masses had been reasonably high altitudes before?  If the houses had been fully flooded and the water receded, I would find it hard to believe that could happen without significant structural damage that wouldn’t leave them standing much longer.   If they are just above the waterline, that’s less of a problem. If they weren’t, then goodbye, pretty old New Englanders with fieldstone foundations (*cries*).  Or any building with a basement, really.

“They had to make people listen to them.”  A seventeen (right?) year old trying to get a bunch of politicians to listen to them….oof.  good luck, my friend.  Sounds miserable.

Pg 11:

If Ser- is supposed to be representing her region/people/etc. why would As- not tell them everything they would need to know to be prepared to deal with the problems they’d raise.  If these problematic/monstrous people are attending these meetings, how does it make sense for her to just “deny their existence.”

“…believe the Mother is angered…” so this touches on some of the world-building things above.  Does the behavior of the elementals where these people are from support these codes? Are they twisted in such a way as to support the roles that these people are enforcing?  Is there some holy book or writ or scripture or whatever that is giving them their supposed moral code?  Where did these roles come from, and what do they get out of following them?  And if the elementals are some sort of force in support of the world, why haven’t they done anything about them?  Also, do they view “the Mother” as a female deity?  If they are worshipping a female deity and basing their actions and roles on what she would find offensive, I find it odd that the society they’ve formed would be oppressing women.  If they respect the “goddess’s” anger and power, that’s going to color their social structure.

Ser- and E-‘s greeting is clear about their relationship.  Much better than the confusion from the initial chapter 1.

“red as boiled lobsters.” Perfect character/setting/etc.-fitting description.

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Posted (edited)

@C_Vallion These questions are incredibly helpful for the situation I am in with this book. I'm going to copy them all into a word doc later and use them as jumping points for a brainstorming session. I may have known the answers to all them once, but right now, I don't. And I should. 

I remember intentionally making the Atlzi's caricatures of Twitter trolls, and some of the other minor characters caricatures of other things but looking at it now, a few years later, I see it really doesn't work with the overall tone of the book. If the whole thing was satire, it would be different. But it's not. 

There are a lot micro societies in this world that for decades, were isolated from each other either by water or hostile forest, but gradually they've been allowed to intermingle more. The Mother doesn't really have one unified set of morals she wants people to follow, but not all the characters realize this at first. Basically, she doesn't care what they believe as long as there aren't war (because that is one of the things that made parts of the world un-inhabitable) and the types of industry that destroyed the climate.

The elementals all have different personalties and can definitely be influenced by the the beliefs of the people around them.  The answers to some of your questions about the elementals would actually vary from society to society, which you will see as S travels to NUNES. A lot of this book is the actual journey. Kind of like the hobbit, but instead of sneaking into Smaug's layer, stealing something, and having a whole big battle, there is the big political gathering where people are voting on elements of the constitution. The Hobbit was actually a big source of inspiration for this, even though it is set in a completely different kind of world. 

The people on the solar barges are only more recently trading. The barges come from larger ships much further out to sea that are comparable to generational space ships. Now they're venturing back to shore to see if it's habitable. Not realizing some areas have been all along. By the end of the book, they're at a place where they're attitude is sort of a, "we won't deny what you can do, but we're not going to call it magic" type thing, and they want to find the science behind the magic. For example, they want to isolate and identify the genetic difference between mages and non-mages. It's kind of a "magic is science we don't understand" type attitude, though I admit, I would not be able to back up all the magic with science. Thankfully, I don't have plans for a sequel. :-)

With the old houses, what I imagined happening is that mages with strong connections to Earth elementals actually raised portions of land so they would be above the waterline and created sort of magic domes to shelter areas from the worst of the wind and rain. It would've been a huge feat that would've taken the cooperation of multiple mages and elementals working together. Some, but not all, of the water receded, so the landscape has changed. Some of the places have the same names or similar names to present day places, like Attitash (the lake I live on) though in this future, it is a lot bigger and has merged with other bodies of water.

I made everything ridiculously complicated and I'm sure I was skilled enough to pull it off when I wrote it. I'm not sure if I even am now. But it would cost me money to get out of my contract since the publisher has already paid for the cover and edits. So I'm just going to do the best I can in the time I have. The further I get into the book, the less changes I have to make. I hope that if I can just create a strong foundation in the first four or five chapters, then I will be revising and editing existing chapters instead of completely re-writing them. 

 

Edit / added after I posted: And re the moral issues, I do need to work that out more. I think E didn't expect  the elementals to take it so far, so I need to make that clearer. I think I'm being very confusing about how often the elementals really take over people. It doesn't happen often, but one of the few times S saw it happen to their mother was traumatic for them, and they've had a huge amount of anxiety about it since. E understands S's fear, but doesn't think it could happen to him. Until it does. 

Most mages don't share Seren's fear of magic and elementals. I just need to figure out how make this clear early on. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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Posted (edited)

@shatteredsmooth I figured you had answers to some of those questions, and am glad to see I wasn't wrong.  I'm also glad that at least some of my rambling thoughts were helpful. I know I sometimes end up off in weird corners when my mind takes off on some of those things. :D

I think the one additional point I'd poke at based on the above is whether or not all of the barge ladies have the same opinions on the matter.  Probably more than you need to get into, if you aren't going to be digging too far into their culture, but I like them, so I don't like one whole people group (specifically a bunch of lady scientists) being brushed off as having one single identical understanding of the world. 

The " 'magic' is just science we don't understand" certainly works for most cases.  And I think in some especially hard magic systems, those lines can be really fine, when the "magic" is tied enough into the natural laws that it's not really a supernatural thing.  But it seems like the sort of thing where even if the vast majority of the ladies fall along those lines of beliefs, there might be a few who are more sort of agnostic about it (not quite the right term, but the closest I can think of).  Where they think it might be a sort of magic, but that's not going to stop them from trying to understand what it means from a scientific perspective.  Because it is interacting with the laws of nature in observable ways.  So even if there's something more going on, there's something to be known about it.  And if they are new to the area or the concept, I could definitely see a subgroup forming that would be deeply "religious" (again, not the right word, since it's not really a religion...) about it.  Or fully believing that it's something along that fine line of "super"natural that makes them even more fascinated with the world and how it works. 

I'm glad you saved the old houses.  They are very important to me.  I spend far too much time trying to keep ours standing to comfortably watch them get washed away in a flood :P

Edit:

I figured there was a good chance that it had been more a case of things getting beyond what E- had expected, but that should be clarified a little better.  Especially because there is a good moral conflict there of feeling a very legitimate hatred that would understandably make him want to lash out even though the ultimate end of feeding that hatred and anger (killing them) is repulsive to him.  It's a fine line that our senses of morality tread sometimes. 

Quote

I made everything ridiculously complicated and I'm not sure I was skilled enough to pull it off when I wrote it.

I feel this deeply as I'm going through submissions... and I do not have the stakes of a contract to add to the pressure of it. Best of luck to you while you're working through changes!

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall, I like seeing more of this story, but I feel like it needs to be more focused. As @Sarah B said, chapter 3 has a lot of the same worldbuilding as ch 2, and it seems repetitive. I was expecting S to show up somewhere else, but then they are with E at the end. I thought they were going somewhere they hadn't been before?

Is the plot going to be stopping the Altzi's from taking over? Because that's what it seems to be right now.

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I remember intentionally making the Atlzi's caricatures of Twitter trolls, and some of the other minor characters caricatures of other things but looking at it now, a few years later, I see it really doesn't work with the overall tone of the book.

For me, seeing the Altzi's now that segment of the population is basically getting their own political party, this actually rings very true that people like this would survive in the cracks of civilization. Sort of like The Handmaid's Tale. I think maybe if you change the name to some not quite so on-the-nose and maybe remove a bit of the over generalization, they would be effective foils.

That said, I don't think anyone reacts to them strongly enough. See my notes below.

I also had some other thoughts on genders. below, feel free to disregard if it doesn't fit with what you're thinking.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: Not sure we need a history of why and how E/M were hired. Is this important?

pg 2: "the person they killed"
--wait, that just escalated. There wasn't anything about them killing earlier.

pg 4: "what happened last time there was a murder"
--yeah, if murder is that rare, there definitely needs to be a big stink about E overhearing they killed someone.

pg 6: I feel like there's a disconnect between what the A.Z's are plotting, E's reaction, and the fact that he doesn't tell anyone what he's heard. Like he's focusing on the wrong reaction or something? If they don't have a jail, shouldn't he be alerting the elementals to remove these men from their land to keel them from killing again?

pg 7: "But they think if enough of us suffer tragic accidents"
--okay, so this seems like a much larger issue. These people are also invited to nunes? Do we know what that is, or is that WRS? I feel like no one is taking appropriate action against murders freely coming to the conference.
--Edit, from later page it seems like Nunes is a big political conference? I can't remember if it's specifically to start or stop something.

pg 9: "stop the Altzi’s from grabbing power"
--I think the question here is, who is LETTING them grab power?

pg 11: "they had no beard, and their hair shorter"
--Just an idle thought here, and feel free to shoot it down: Since this society has made multiple genders so normalized, would it be better to have a defined third or fourth gender? There are a lot of people with they/them genders, which to our society is sort of an "uncategorized." I'm wondering if this society has evolved beyond "male/female/other" to "male/female/definition x/definition y/etc."

pg 12: "genders shifted from time to time"
--another example of this. Do they just shift between him, her, and they?

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Posted (edited)

31 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

--Just an idle thought here, and feel free to shoot it down: Since this society has made multiple genders so normalized, would it be better to have a defined third or fourth gender? There are a lot of people with they/them genders, which to our society is sort of an "uncategorized." I'm wondering if this society has evolved beyond "male/female/other" to "male/female/definition x/definition y/etc."

 

I have gone back and forth with this throughout the process of writing this.

I don't always like defining third genders because it feels like just adding another box or fixed point on a spectrum, which yes, some people might fall into it, but others wouldn't fit in any defined box. Society could evolve to have a third or fourth gender, but I might still not fit in that new box any better than I fit in man or woman, so I tend to steer away from defining new genders in my writing. However, I have no problem with other people doing it. I just don't think it's for me. 

Granted, when I do read stories where the are alien species with multiple genders, no matter how many there are, I wonder if there are people who still don't fit with any of those genders. Maybe one day, I'll write a society that has 3 or 4 genders, with an mc who doesn't fit with any of them. 

I have toyed with the idea of having S's society generally see gender as a wide spectrum, and in one draft, instead of non-binary, Seren used the term mid-spectrum. In fact, they might still call themself that later in the draft. I vaguely remember flagging it a few weeks ago when I did a full read through and making a note to decide if I want to use that term or not. This would be less structured than a set 3rd gender. But then it's also a new word readers have to learn.

Lots to think about.

(Goose just hit post before I was done typing, lol)

 

 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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31 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 1: Not sure we need a history of why and how E/M were hired. Is this important?

 

We might not. There is a reason I put included it, but I might not need as much. If I do sub the next E chapter, I may ask you about this again.

34 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

--Edit, from later page it seems like Nunes is a big political conference? I can't remember if it's specifically to start or stop something.

 

I have to double check, but I think I added a paragraph about this to ch. 1 after you all read it and have more details about it later in 3 after this sub cuts off. It definitely wasn't clear enough in the version I submitted. 

Right now, there are lots of very small nations that are trying to form one larger one. At the NUNES convention, they're voting on the final version of a constitution. 

43 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 6: I feel like there's a disconnect between what the A.Z's are plotting, E's reaction, and the fact that he doesn't tell anyone what he's heard. Like he's focusing on the wrong reaction or something? If they don't have a jail, shouldn't he be alerting the elementals to remove these men from their land to keel them from killing again?

 

Noted. I will revise accordingly. If he is going to report to another person, he could run up to JW, or use the river to send a message to As. 

I could also take the murder mention out of this chapter and work it into the next Erik one so the danger the AZs post is more gradually escalated. 

48 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

I think maybe if you change the name to some not quite so on-the-nose and maybe remove a bit of the over generalization, they would be effective foils.

That sounds good.

51 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

--I think the question here is, who is LETTING them grab power?

 

Someone is letting them. There is a twist at the end that I keep forgetting needs better set up.

 

Thank you! 

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Hi! :) Glad to be reading another one of your submissions. 

My overall engagement here was pretty moderate. I was never really bored, but I never really felt like all that much was happening either. I think this has a lot to do with the characters, which I'll talk about below. Another point is that the "oh no someone's missing and late" thing just happened two chapters ago so it was hard for me to get super invested in it. 

I do really like the characters here, but I think I need a bit more from them for how they fit into the story. I'm happy to see E as a PoV character since I like him but his PoV chapter doesn't really do much for him specifically. It sets up the Altzi group that he seems to have no prior connection to, and I don't get a feeling for what his character conflicts and motivations are. Assuming he's going to be a major PoV character I need to more clearly see the arc that his chapter is setting up. I do really like D and R, though. Especially that R seems to be the only one taking the Altzis seriously, which they have reason to do since the Altzis are trying to erase them. Them talking about this reminds me of me trying to tell my parents that America (where we live) is getting to be pretty dangerous and could keep getting worse. And finally, I don't feel like I get a great read on S here, and it doesn't seem like we learn much new about them. But I guess there's the potential for the rest of the chapter to flesh that out. 

Main worldbuilding questions are about the Altzis. I feel like I need to know more about these groups, and in particular how they formed/continue to persist. "All the people in X area became Altzis and are bad" reads a lot different from "Altzis seized power in X area and are bad news for the regular people there," which reads different from, "A small group of people from X area broke off and formed their own Altzi community." The last two explanations are fine, but I was worried the story was going for the first one which would really turn me off of the story. 

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Overall

Not much to say about the last chapter since it isn't finished, except that it seems exceptionally heavy-handed with gender-based ideology. It makes our main crew seem deeply hypocritical, and I think playing up the assault line more and less about omg they don't believe in enbies will help that a lot. 

The first chapter seemed to not advance the plot and I think could easily be removed. I remain overwhelmed by information being told to me when I'd much rather learn it organically and experience it. I need these plot points and world building introduced slowly while I get to know the characters and their motivations. Right now it's all just a great big jumble in my head.

As I go

- the opening paragraph doesn't carry any real tension and I wonder if it is the best place to start from

- pg 3: worldbuilding wise, I am confused as to what is going on. I get that E is a transman. Check. There may or may not be magical body transformations happening. Other than that I'm just super confused and not yet hooked, either

- pg 4: That man had just propositioned <-- it's more powerful if you don't restate it, I think

- pg 5: Murdering people like him<-- I don't see where they threatened trans people. Just women who don't want to sleep with them

- pg 6: I'm unclear how the interaction with E and the men advances the plot. Is it just there to show us how his power works? I'd rather it do so for a plot pivotal moment

- pg 8: I remain deeply confused with the world building. This is post apocalyptic but after that I'm confused. They are talking about how people used to be trash, but from the opening of this chapter it appears people still are so...I'm not clear what has changed or what this conversation is about

- end of first chapter: I... I do not know what the purpose of this chapter was. I can see that E has made a decision, so excellent. But it seems like there was a semi-pointless water element scene that told us men are lecherous, and then discussion about how men used to be lecherous. And then E makes a decision. 

I think there's just too much discussion about the world, not enough showing, and too many threads. This is an early chapter and I need it to simply and clearly lay out the world and stakes. I still don't really know what they are, or what E and S are going to be fighting against other than the generic 'the man'. Yes there is the end line about unifying mages (what mages??) and a sisterhood (only have a vague idea what this is) and stopping A from grabbing power, but I don't really know who A is or what the trouble is, as its only been talked about and not really shown

- again, not the most dynamic start to the chapter

- pg 10: issue with the flood situation. This pulls Judaic (and Christian, and a bunch of other religion) flood narratives into play. As Christianity is a dominant religion in the USA and I'm critting from the USA, I was immediately thrown from the narrative upon reading this since it isn't referring to the religious flood, but a later flood. And that makes my brain scream GOD PROMISED TO NEVER FLOOD AGAIN. So then that makes me wonder if old religions were wiped out or if we are saying they never existed and are all wrong or what? It's a place I hang up, so I thought it worth mentioning

- pg 10: Now they had a purpose: try to convince the mages and the sisterhood that they actually wanted the same things. They had things to say. They had to make people listen to them. <-- which is what?

- pg 10: too much telling. I don't care about any of this yet. I want the characters to do something. 

- pg 12: this is very... they're going to try to deal with people with strict ideology, but this convo on page twelve makes them look like they have just as strict ideology, just on the other side. Assault of course is not okay but they way they are talking about it they aren't highlighting the assault so much as the 'they believe different things than we do about gender and they are therefore wrong.' Of course nonbinary people exist but this comes across as the author beating us over the head with it, instead of a natural part of the world and world building. 

 

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Overall:

The presentation of the Alts in Ch2 was a little much for me. I’d easily believe a group of narrow-minded people who are out for their own ends, I think it was the fact that the moment they’re introduced they’re immediately and openly talking about war (plus the octobone – I have been trying and failing to come up with a good/funny portmanteau of ‘bone octogon’ but you get the idea.)

I thought chapter 3 started off pretty well but it feels like it’s starting to drag a bit in the middle; the scene with the twins goes a little long, and then it transitions to this scene in the bar that I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but I wonder if we could do a scene change here?

As I read:

The Alts read as a little… moustache-twirly to me. Just a conglomeration of ALL THE WORST THINGS, even skulls. That said, I think the actual confrontation between them and E is quite effective.

“The man leapt into T’s boat… T leapt from her boat to the floating dock.” I like idea, but 1: seems a bit counter-intuitive for T to abandon her own boat and 2: wouldn’t everything already be rocking from the first jump?

I do like the way the rest of the scene plays out though. It occurs to me, one way to make the Alts at least a little-less cardboard villain is to have them react to E being so young. It could give readers something a bit more relatable to help fuel the tension.

This scene is actually a very effective explanation of why S is so afraid of magic, by the way.

“I’ll be shocked if we do [leave today]… acting like it’s a race.” Getting mixed messages here. Is it important that the barge people leave quickly, or not?

Was quite surprised to learn the Alts are part of government. I think the presentation as obvious villains, along with the skull-and-bones thing, led me to assume they were just pirates.

“Some of the more extreme followers of your religion…” This seems like a non-sequitur.

“...not a religion.” The capitalization of She/Her in reference to the elemental in the last chapter definitely suggested some religious undertones.

3rd paragraph on p8: not sure this is deliberate, but there is a reference to T-a-v with an “I” instead of just T-a-v :P

“...and the sisterhood [solar…]” I’m guessing the square brackets are a placeholder that hasn’t been edited yet? Anyway, the sisterhood in reference to the barge people definitely needs to be slipped in earlier in the conversation instead, or even in the previous chapter.

“A ringing bell… a second struggled… a third kept overshooting…” Had some trouble with this paragraph. I think that’s partly because some of the individual sentences need to be workshopped, and partly because the chaos very politely waited for E to finish this plot-relevant conversation. I think some of it needs to happen (or E needs to notice it) more gradually; maybe he tells someone who needs help to just hang on a second, or there are people irritably yelling at him, or we see M attempting to help people in the background, or something. Even seeing E deliberately brushing people off because he’s worried about S and wants to finish this conversation would help, I think.

Onto chapter 3:

“Now they had a purpose…” Yes, this is better. Its effectiveness will definitely depend on the setup in the first chapter but I like S having a much clearer purpose here and the fact that they’ve had a bit of a fire lit under them.

P13: “S shuddered.” Paragraph break here that I suspect is probably extraneous, but at first I read it as a scene change, and thought “that’s a great end to the scene…”

R is kind of a tool, aren’t they?

“...but the kinds of creaks and groans…” Nice.

Okay, whoa, it’s possible that I’m overtired and just misread, but I thought S was starting on their journey and was real confused when E suddenly came into the picture. Why does S have an armed escort if they’re just going home?

Or… I guess E works somewhere a little farther away from where S lives than I thought? I’m definitely confused about the geography and where S is going vs. where they're coming from.

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As I read:

Chapter 2:

Personally, I'm enjoying this chapter. The pacing is good and keeps my engagement up.

on pg 5 I feel a bit confused about the elementals and how they work. E seems to be able to control the river elementals to his exact whim. Is it that some elementals are more easily harnessed than others? Or some have more agency than others? And if they hate murder so much, why would they seemingly go along with E and drown these bad guys?

pg 6 okay, so partly the rivers want them dead. But why would the elementals care about what these skull and bone guys did? Yeah, they're obviously jerks, but it seems a bit extreme for an elemental to want to kill them for that.

So just skipping ahead a bit, overall I enjoy your writing style but I get a bit tripped up at certain parts. Like these Alt's, were they mentioned in Ch 1? Cause I feel like I'm missing something here. And they seem a bit comically bad, which is something I'm guilty of as well. I'd be curious to see where all that goes, but for the time being I feel like the main plot has been sidelined in this chapter. In Ch 1 we were getting hyped for S to go to NUNES and we thought AF and his old school thinking was the problem, and now we're seeing there's a bunch of other problems as well. Not to say I don't like it. Only that I would prefer to stay with the initial issue a tad longer before exploring the various other issues with the society.

Chapter 3:

Good descriptive opening, really enjoy that part of your writing the most. But I'm confused about these bodyguards. Is valley-port big enough to warrant having spies or worldly bodyguards? That wasn't really the vibe I got from the place. I thought it was a small fishing town that just so happened to be big enough to deserve an ambassador.

I'm having a hard time with the good guy/ bad guy element of this story. Yeah, the Alts are obviously jerks; terrible jerks in fact. But when I see S and E react to this group as enemies that need to be taken down, well I wonder if they're any better. They are, but it's still an us vs them situation. I would be much more invested if S believed that the Alts were redeemable and first thought how they could bridge the gap of understanding. Or at least, not paint everyone with the same brush, as they accuse the Alts of doing to them.

After reading this chapter (what's done so far) I feel like it does a good job of progressing the plot forward. The descriptions are lovely as well. My only problem is that this chapter makes the chapter before it completely redundant. Which is not a bad thing. But the issue is the same, only this time we see the continuation of the thread from chapter 1.

I also must mirror Silk above, like how are the Alts even anywhere near being a part of government if they're basically just a bunch of marauding, chaotic thugs (by the looks of it.)?

Not sure what else to add, but I am certainly curious to see what happens next.

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Late to Da Party:

Chapter 2:

Pg 1, "doldrums days," Is it doldrums or doldrum? Have I been saying this wrong for all of my life?

Pg 1, "the ancient mage" In a world with magic, do we mean ancient as in old, or do we mean ancient as in 200+ years old?

Pg 1, "E had thought" Are we in E's POV? I suppose that will be clear soon.

Pg 1, " when [Mr.] Bottom retired" I can think of many jokes of poor taste about this man's surname.

Pg 2, "A skull, surrounded by an octagon of bones," Pirates?

Pg 3, "The man looped his thumbs through his belt loop." I'd like to give this man a swift kick between the belt loops, if you know what I mean.

Pg 3, "fear was a heavy mooring" I really like this. 

Pg 3, "Two landed flat on their backs on the docks" Must not be very good sailors if a floating dock can dump you on your bum.

Pg 4, " he might never eat another apple again." I have questions I don't think I want the answers to.

Pg 5, "the two river elementals" Is this a reference to the old jump rope song "Ms. Mary Mac, Mac, Mac/All dressed in black/black/black?"

Pg 5, "M-i" Different spelling. I or Y?

Pg 5, "Like War." Unsure if you specifically capitalized this or not. 

Pg 6, "a rush of anger. A splash of mischief" A rush of anger, or a wave? A current? Heh, heh, word play.

Pg 7, "did not believe in things like magic and sentient river spirits." Man, that'd be a hard thing to convince yourself of in this world, but, hey, look what idiots convince themselves of in ours.

Pg 8, "But he didn’t know how to convince Tavi." You know, I don't know how to convince a dog about religion vs non-religion either ;) 

You keep switching between A's and As for the jerkheads. 

Chapter 3:

Pg 10, "were slowly killing Her" What's really amazing is that She waited so long to act.

Pg 10,"  it would all be washed away." Quite possibly literally.

Pg 11, " the twins’ weapons were poorly concealed." On purpose?

Pg 12, "One particularly pointy rock had shifted closer to the center of the channel." Like...the rock literally moved?

Pg 12, " women who refuse to wear dresses" Damn, I'm out of luck.

Pg 13, " tree roots twined around their limbs and dragged them down." Ah, yeah, that'd put you off apples.

Pg 14, "repurposed sail yachts." Confused. Do we mean, like, 21st century yachts repurposed into glorified islands or what? 

Pg 14, "the ships were angry" Ships are not elementals. Is this a metaphor? 

I swear to God I'm usually not this thick.

Pg 14, "The ships didn’t resume their original courses" So the ships are sentient?

Pg 15, " the compass rose," Is this a name? Should it be capitalized?

Pg 16, "The smell of chowder and pies" Makin' my stomach growl.

Pg 17, "I ran out of energy." Yo, me too. I have to stop critiquing on Sunday nights.

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Sorry I never got to this, and many congratulations! :) 

When can new get the book again?

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