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5/30/16 - neongrey - waning02


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The city of Ilidria's living goddess is dead, one more drain upon a fatigued by decades of war. As Lasila, the last daughter of the faded Vahendra merchant family, makes plans to honour her remaining social obligations, her brother and guardian Varinen brings more news. He is to leave the city, seeing to the security of a Senator who hopes to bring an end to the war. Lasila is neither enthused nor hopeful; though he will leave her in control of the family finances, she is in no way prepared for this responsibility. She objects, but Varinen is resolute. He asks her to make her offering to the goddess in his name as well; he must prepare for his departure.
Lasila goes to the greatest temple of the goddess to make an offering unto her remains.She attracts attention, and is presented with an opportunity that is categorically too good to be true.
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ETA: oops, I did the first one you sent, not the second. Sorry!



As with the last submission, I really liked this. There were places were the description dragged and I wanted the plot to move, and they are noted below. Things really picked up when we got to see the dead goddess, and even more when the protag moved into the temple. I'm intrigued, already picked my 'ship, and am ready to read more. 


As I go:

- page 1: inky plumage? These are the wings, yes? Black wings?

- the third to last paragraph on page one reads.... difficult. Sentences need to be shortened and clarified. I'd also like more information on their banking issues. What I'm getting from that paragraph just confuses me. Are they or are they not in financial trouble?

- by the end of page one, I have a hard time suppressing a desire to skim. I like world building, but its too much without action. Suggest making the financial discussion shorter and more succinct.

- page four: 'breathless pink' is a hell of a descriptor. Love it.

- I love the imagery of the goddess strung up and ashing from her extremities. Awesome. With all the other deep descriptions though, a bit more on the goddess would be nice. I'd especially like to know if she was nude, or clothed. If clothed, in what? Clothes and colors seem to have meaning, so her clothes would be of interest. If not clothed, is her skin flawless? Are there scars to remind of battles or rituals or something?

- so by page six I am totally pulling for a f/f scene with Lasila and Maranthe. Shipping hard!

Edited by kaisa
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No worries if you read the first, I just had some changes (some proper nouns shuffling) to finally commit but after I sent I noticed Word wanted me to save again; I don't know if there's any actual difference in the files, but I figured better safe than sorry. If you're not really confused by changes in terminology then we're probably good.


'Are they or are they not in trouble' is probably where you should be at right now, actually; Lasila isn't sure herself. She knows the money's been draining but she hasn't had access yet to see how fast and they've been frugal. And as should be growing clearer and clearer, Lasila wouldn't know actually poor if it threw her out into the street. That said, deffo room for tightening.


I believe it says right off that the goddess is nude... yeah "she was nude, and her form a perfection"


Lasila is regrettably maybe five, ten years too young for Maranthe to consider seriously. That said, I'm glad the vibe is there and, oh, I don't think you'll be displeased, at the very least.



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Argh, then I missed the nude bit. LOVE. More description PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE.


And dude, seriously. If this manuscript has lesbians and you want a full beta reader, PM me. This is totally up my alley.

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There are probably more bisexual people than lesbians (and it's not a huge sexuality-as-identity culture) and Lasila has a soft preference for men but she definitely kisses girls.


I think I'm good on readers for now but I might take you up on that as I get further along; I'm somewhere between a third done and halfway through, at least by my target word count... I just find it a lot easier to keep going as I have people reading, and it helps to have the notes for when I go back for revisions; certainly where exactly I need to go to tighten isn't going to change as a consequence of later stuff, haha.

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Starting the first line with a pronoun rather then the pov's name is awkward for me. 


I felt like you spent to much time telling me how poor they where on the first pages. i liked how you showed the poverty with the flowers after that  which was very nicely done and could have stood without the lead up.


The temple was over described for me and i found myself skimming until she entered the inner sanctum.


On page 9  there is a small blocking issue for me. The priest escorting her becomes a priestess or does he depart after she reaches the alter and a priestess comes along later


Intriguing end that had me wanting to find out what the priestess wants and why she is so interested in Lasila.

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I'm with the others on the amount of detail at the beginning.  I thought it really picked up toward the end though, and that started to pull me in.  If I just started reading this blind, I might think about putting the book down in the first couple chapters as it is (before I got to the end of this submission, that is.)





Pg 1:  We don't need three paragraphs on what she's going to wear. 


Pg 1: "home a full family" ->house


Pg 2: why is understandable italicized? 


Pg 3:  By now, not a lot has happened.  Things could go a little quicker.


Pg 3: "A crimson-robed acolyte,"

--Incomplete sentence.  Something is missing here.


Pg 3: "small golden wings"

Again, I had complete forgotten about this, and it should be one of the most interesting things in the story. 


Pg 4: "Above, the walls were painted with scenes from antiquity, before the city fell, and the aelin flew on full wings and named the skies their own."

This is more interesting than most everything this chapter.  I want more like this (which you do deliver, but I also want it earlier.


This continues to be sort of slow.   Only near the end of the chapter do we start to see some things develop.   I'm interested to see where this goes and how the new goddess is chosen.   Again, I think this is very well written, but needs to have a little more to it to keep the reader's attention.

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- I'm a little confused what "age of majority" means. Did you mean maturity? Or am I just missing something here.


- I like the interaction as Laslia enters the temple, and how her circumstances complicates her interaction with the priestesses.


- Overall, I liked this section and I continue to like the character, but I feel like the chapter may be moving at too languid a pace. It might help if the character gets to the temple sooner, or perhaps, there is just less description overall. 

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Hey Neon!


Line by Line First Impressions & Notes


  • Rags for curls? I don’t really picture this. Is this how she ties up her hair when she sleeps or something?
  • “inky plumage” – I’m not sure if she’s got real plumes on those vestigial wings you mentioned or if you’re just speaking of her hair in metaphor
  • Halfway down the second page and my attention is wandering. I’m getting so much tell and so little show and so much repetition of the money, money, money. You’ve already made your point in the narration last week that they’re barely holding things together. No need to keep beating it into the narration at this volume.
  • Why is she walking back? Walking back where? That phrase makes it sound like she’s returning somewhere when the rest of the narration implies she’s moving forward.
  • Floating carriage? I can accept htem, sure, but I would like more detail.
  • Attention wandering and skimming through the first half of page three
  • “golden wings” – So Lasila’s wings are gold, not black
  • Oh, that was the acolyte. Maybe take out the ‘to Lasila’ earlier and then the pronoun would be clearer
  • “blonde haired and winged” – This seems to suggest that not all the inhabitants of this town are? Hm.
  • “a relief on her back to sit” – But Lasila is young? Do her wings make walking harder on her back muscles…?
  • Skimming the first 3 paragraphs of page 4 because it’s all description and there’s no tension or suspense being built
  • While I’m curious at the conversation between Maranthe and Lasila, the dialogue holding to such an elevated tone puts me out of the story. I now you’re going for a tone as an author because they’re in a temple and what not, but every line I read of it reminds me I’m reading a text rather than listening to two people talk.


Overall Impressions:


The continued descriptions of setting that aren’t impacting the plot is continuing to drag the narrative to a crawl. Those words might sound harsh if you haven’t gone through a lot of critiques, but you should know. Also, you don’t need to add anymore description to the goddess’ body. You evoked the moment just fine. I was hoping that there would be some surprise to draw me in to a real plot when she passed out and the priestess took her to another room for a private recovery and conversation, so the exaggerated apologies fell flat for me. I really wanted my curiosity piqued in some way, and it wasn’t.


I see from your comments you’re 1/3 or so from your goal for the manuscript. Keep going and finish telling the story to yourself (as Stephen King says of any first draft), but I still suggest you take a heavy hand to revisions in the area of show vs. tell after you finish the novel.


Thanks for submitting, and I hope to see you submit again soon, regardless of the severity of my critiques thus far. :)

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I'm not dismissing anything out of hand, no, just taking my own notes and setting aside so I have all of this for later when I go back to redrafting. I make a habit of not talking too much in response to critique unless i have something specific to say, lest that lead down the path of arguing, is all, lol.


Rag curls, though, are quite a common means of setting a curl without heat, been around for ages.


And blonde-haired and winged because it's not at all expected that they match (see Lasila, with blonde and black).



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Also, you don’t need to add anymore description to the goddess’ body. 


I'd love more descriptions of the body. That was a major pull point for me, and really drew me back into the narrative.

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What I will say, by the by, is that you're wrong about the reason for the dialogue being the way it is; the deferential mood used here is a cultural point rather than authorial embroidery. Which doesn't absolve me of the need to make it readable ofc so there's deffo work I can do with it, but it does mean that while the chains of ritualized apologies can get skimmed over later, they need to hit you full in the face at least once.

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I enjoyed this submission. It’s a bit slow in places, but I'm okay with it at this early stage, and matters are still progressing. I'm hoping that there will be some variation in pace, some faster sections to give contrast and excitement / tension / drama.


I like elaborate language, but sometimes I feel that the phrasing is over-elaborate, and would flow much better if streamlined in some places. Complexity is fine, I think, but when there are excess words that don’t add anything in terms of style or meaning, then it’s time to get the shears out! I think you said this was a first draft, in which case it’s entirely normal of course for pruning to take place later – so I won’t harp on about it. Use of the word ‘unto’ did bother me though – too much, I think.


I'm intrigued to see if Alisa can make her way in this rarefied world of political manoeuvring without resorting to deploying feminine wiles, if indeed she attempts to avoid this. I don’t think you can ignore that issue, because there are bound to be predators in such circles (as life proves only too well).


Good job, I'm looking forward to the next submission.






"With luck they would prove to be in better shape in that state of benign neglect than if they'd been living directly from the funds therein" - I find your style very readable and easy to enjoy. I think that, generally, it has maturity and depth, and a line like this illustrates that very well. 'Benign neglect' is an excellent phrase.


"It was meant to home a full family" - I don't like 'home' used in this way. It is a verb, of course, in terms of homing pigeon, but it would be more correct to use 'house' as the verb in relation to a family. I think 'accommodate' would be a better word here.


"not just because of feelings" - This phrase is rather basic, I would prefer something like 'not just for emotional reasons', which retains the more complex and mature tone of the writing, I think.


"if it went on too long the damage would be unrecoverable" - This word struck me as odd. Why would one want to recover the damage. I feel that the word needed is 'irrevocable'.


"It just seemed that if there was more water in general, it might be easier" - This thought seems blindingly obvious and therefore beneath her. I don't think it needs to be stated.


"hide the damage picking them would take" - would do.


The question was, was she liable to run into anyone from those circles today?” – Awkward.


Things were still fairly quiet here” – This is a very imprecise word. I think you could do better, using a word that is more descriptive.


Lasila picked up the pace as she drew near them” – Another modern phrase. I would appeal to you to use something more in keeping with the overall tone.


walking back as quickly as she could without sacrificing dignity” – This sounds like she’s returning home, unless she’s walking backwards, which doesn’t seem likely.


When she got more onto a main thoroughfare” – Another awkward phrase.


market stands turning a brisk business


two austerely-dressed men” – You said earlier that everyone was a ‘sister under the light’ – I thought at that point that perhaps only females were permitted to enter the goddess’s temple. Presumably, men are brothers under the light?


it was a relief on her back to sit” – When did she hurt or strain her back this morning?


the tip was open, allowing sunlight to fall shining through” – By definition, that is going to be a small aperture at the top of the spire. The amount of time during the day that any decent amount of light is going to come through that makes me think the interim would be quite dim. There’s a perfect example of this in the Pantheon in Rome which has an oculus (I think). It’s about 40 feet up at the centre of the Pantheon’s dome. My hesitation is that a spire would be much higher up, maybe double the height or more if it pierces the sky, therefore the amount of light admitted could be significantly less. I'm struggling to picture a harsh light shining on the alter unless the sun was in the precise single position overhead that would shine directly on the altar. That might happen only once a year.


Her small bouquet of flowers felt small and sad in her hand. Hanging above the altar... there hung the shell of what had once been a goddess.” – Awkward wording here due to two instances of repetition.


than much many of the other floral offerings


Instead, the priestess pressed one hand to the small of her back” – Instead of what?


To adorn beauty so simply” – The use of adorn here trips me up. To me, it’s a positive action, not a passive word, as used here. I don’t think it’s the right word. She might wear beauty so simply, or be adorned by beauty.


there was somewhat something in her voice


The priestess must have gotten her name from the attendants” – But she seemed aware that the chimes were transmitting the words spoken into them; why would this be puzzling?


rubbing the sweat that beaded on the side of the glass” – Beads on the side of the glass will be condensation, caused by water vapour in the warm air condensing on the colder surface of the glass – unless you mean that it is sweat from Alisa’s hand, in which case, I still don’t think it would be beading on the glass.


to attend such an event would poise her higher than she had ever dreamed” – position, I think, poise being a noun.


Then I shall commend unto you the name of a seamstress” – I enjoy elaborate language, but your frequent use of ‘unto’ is bothering me. I think it’s too much. It might be the sort of archaic language used in formal scripture, but its use in everyday conversation is over the top, I think.


enmasked” – this is not a word.

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This is absolutely a first draft, yeah; hasn't had much more than a typo pass over it.



I'm intrigued to see if Alisa can make her way in this rarefied world of political manoeuvring without resorting to deploying feminine wiles, if indeed she attempts to avoid this. I don’t think you can ignore that issue, because there are bound to be predators in such circles (as life proves only too well).


Feminine wiles is not a phrase I would use here appreciably, nor do I have any particular intention of placing her in any sort of sexual peril. That said, there certainly are sharks in the water, and we've already encountered at least three of them thus far.

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Feminine wiles is not a phrase I would use here appreciably, nor do I have any particular intention of placing her in any sort of sexual peril. Good.


That said, there certainly are sharks in the water, and we've already encountered at least three of them thus far. Good. Three, really? Wow!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Catching up! I liked this - I enjoyed how Lasila starts the chapter off very insecure of her social and economic status and then ends on a high note. My main problem was the pacing and occasional over-description . I think it takes away from some of your most powerful descriptions - so I tried to point out where cuts could happen to pump up the pace and yank the reader in more. Of course, these are all suggestions. :):)

"The next morning, Varinen woke her on his way out. Lasila lingered in bed until well after he'd gone; "
Just a note on this - I didn't remember from the last chapter that they were brother and sister - so I was under the impression that they were lovers until it became clear that they were not.

If you are looking for places to cut, I'd consider this paragraph - as I think the paragraphs above give sufficient detail at this point...

Well, things were secure enough that she wasn't being put out on the street any time soon. She had time to pick a direction. Perhaps she could lay some groundwork today, if she managed to run into any of her family's old connections. Never too soon to get on that, and while her and her brother's insularity since their mother had passed was understandable, if it went on too long the damage would be unrecoverable.

The three paragraphs on her making the bouquet could also be cut down - I think it's enough for her to make her own bouquet - the other details are semi-relevant but in toto slow down the story too much, I think.

This paragraph too - I started to skim. I want to emphasize again that there's nothing bad here, but the pacing as a whole could be improved so I'm just trying to point areas where you could cut (should you wish) - I liked the bit about her name still meaning something so if you straight from that to her entering the temple - my interest is kept fully engaged - whereas when you start describing the group, my brain felt it was distracting more than enticing.

The gardens could wait, she decided. She had been walking for some time in the summer heat, and the prospect of being inside appealed far more than even the compelling beauty of the works on display surrounding the temple proper. The main path from the gate was all white marble, polished to gleaming; a few people passed her by going the opposite direction as she walked. They were a small group: two austerely-dressed men who looked similar enough to be brothers, blonde-haired and winged, both taller than Lasila by an inch or three. A slim small-sword rested on the younger's hip, the hilt ornamented with gold. Between them was a young woman, with hair as bright as the sun that fell pin-straight down her back, unfettered by any bead or tie. Her dress was black, slashed with breathless pink, skirts afroth around her ankles. Lasila bowed her head to the group; whomever they were, it was quite likely they stood above her in some way. They paid her no mind.

Well, better that than paying her too much mind.

The waiting here could also be cut:

The groups ahead of her came and went through the inner doors, escorted by acolytes who seemed little more than children. Lasila supposed it must take some great deal of coordination to have so many people going through this place, all the while ensuring none felt crowded. The priests at the door passed messages via the chimes almost without pause; in the absence of much else to do while she waited, Lasila kept one eye on their graceful motions. She ignored the sweat that dampened her scalp as best she could, but when one of the young acolytes offered her a glass of cool water, she accepted it gratefully, savouring the echoing taste of lemon and mint.

I like the description of the goddess.

It's cool that the story ends with the priestess's invitation.


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