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20160606 - Escapade of Silence part 1 - 4917 words - Mandamon


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Hi all,

Here's a new piece in the Dissolutionverse.  I'm planning on self publishing this together with "The First Majus in Space" later this year, and need some eyes on it.  You shouldn't need prior knowledge of the first published story to enjoy this one, as I intend these to stand alone.  Of course, you might get some other tidbits of backstory if you have read the others.  Let me know.

What I'm looking for

Mary's "ABCD" reviewing system:
--what you think is Awesome
--What you are Bored by
--What you are Confused by
--What you Don't believe

Specific things:
How does Amra's character read to you?  Is she too whiny?
Is there enough/too much description of the universe?

LBLs and grammar comments are also welcome.

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I'm not sure where the narrative is going right now. They're leaving a planet, I got that, and they trade in spices. It's an ensemble crew. Check. However, without being given any real clue as to why the MC is dumping spices and hauling anchor, I'm more confused than anything else. I like the diversity of the cast, and the interspersed world building caught my attention. Some aspects of the WB, however, were repeated several times. These instances could better be used to introduce more information, not repeat previous information. I am definitely interested in reading more, but at this point I am much more interested in the politics laid out than the characters.


Your Questions:

Awesome: As you likely know, I am a lover of the non-gender binary. Two males and a female to reproduce? Sign me up for more information.


Bored: The spice dumping. Too many pages discussing spice dumping. There should be two pages, max, of this interplay before action is taken. You could move the actual movement sequences up five to ten pages or so, which would then give you room to insert a run-in with the authorities, or protestors (that would be amazing), or some other source of world-building tension that would keep the chapter moving alone.


Confused: Did I miss MC's name? Assuming male gender due to facial stubble. Possible I just missed it in reading


Believe: It's all believable right now. The interspersed steam and coal tech is a little eyebrow raising, but within the bounds of possibility


Amara: I don't have much of a read on her yet. None of the characters are particularly fleshed out at this stage. She seems... dependent. Willing to take a more submissive role. There is no inherent problem with this, but if you were designing her as a BAMF or something, she isn't tracking that way currently.


Description: Yes and no. I'd like some areas filled out more, like the protests. Some things are repeated too much, between thoughts and dialogue. I'm a lover of rich detail in writing, or, in the void of that, hard hitting action. This chapter introduces a lot of characters in a very short time span, with nothing really to hold it all together. I'd suggest picking one to two elements of WB to highlight each chapter, and maybe one character to really delve into each chapter. Let the world build though context, slowly, to make it more immersive.



Some as I go stuff:

- page one, your Latin genus and species (I assume). Genus is capitalized, species not. So 'labat' should be lowercase. Also, it's referred to as a 'capstone'. Capstone what? Capstone species? If you're hitting botanical, this has a lot of implications and makes me super interested in the ecology of this world

- page 3: dryer 'than' most, not 'that'

- page 3: I'd love a tad more expansion on the protest

- page 4: it strikes me as very odd that an accountant has no sense for a good deal. 

- page 5: we've been discussing dumping the spices for five pages now. Time to move on, or raise tension, or something.

- page 9: I'm not convinced here that Amra shouldn't be allowed to sell the spices. They're going to dump them. How could she possible do anything worse than give them away? If this is a purposeful catch indicating something like, I don't know, a problem with gambling or trusting or making deals, it'd be nice to have that hinted at just a bit more.

- page 11: 'toed'? Did you mean 'towed'?

- page 13: LOL at the gesture that ain't called for.

- page 14: why is the MC upset about the price she got for the spices? MC was going to dump them. Surely some money is better than no money, unless MC was planning a tax write off or something?

- page 15: ah I see, the explanation comes next page re cost of fuel and such. This should probably be moved earlier, or explain some fundamental aspect of Amra better, so the reader isn't left confused about WHY she isn't being encouraged to get some money for the spices that would otherwise be dumped

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I'm up and running straight out of the gate with the title. Escapade in Silence? Somehow ‘of’ bugged me. Anywho, I'm nicely engaged by the tension of the scene, and the bookkeeper’s emotions come across nicely, but the p.o.v. character is harder to pin down. I see that he’s nervous, but I'm not really getting as strong a sense of his character as I would like.


Now I'm at the end of the first section and I'm engaged. You’ve played that lever trick of separating the group early on, for very good reason, but in that way that makes the reader think ‘Oh-oh. This situation could go south very quickly.’ With there being five characters, it’s hard to connect to them all or even picture them distinctly.


My first big issue the economics around the spices. Their discussion when Amra sold them is way off for me. If they dump the spices they get nothing, so any money that she can make on that baseline is good, but they both accept his position that she has made a loss. She has, but she has massively reduced the loss that they would have made from dumping the spices, so she has rescued a much more dire situation. I really think you need to review that section.


Second large issue is the timing. When Prot jumps down to speak to Amra when the cargo section appears, it feels like only minutes have passed from them arriving first at the warehouse. In fact it must be at least an hour, because she needs time to meet and trade off between two families then off load all the spices before travelling to the warehouse. But, when Prot jumps down, the boiler is still cooling. Also, surely the cargo unit is slower under its secondary power than the main unit, so that’s more time that Prot and the others have to kick their heels before Amra arrives. I think you need to show the passage of time with Prot and the others spent in waiting for Amra.


These problems can of course be fixed, the third difficulty I have is that none of the others ask what the mysterious cargo is. I don’t buy that at all, I think it would be the first question out of their mouth.


I think these are significant issues, and I significantly dislike use of the word ‘mafia’, but I still enjoyed the submission greatly. I'm very pleased to be back in the Dissolutionverse. Bring it on!






and, yes, war, between (among?) the ten species that make up our coalition of worlds” – I'm thinking ‘between’ sounds like they are all fighting, whereas among could be just a couple, which I thought was more what you intended. In fact, ‘wars among’ might be closer still.


“down the length of the old cargo train from which we sold our goods” – I'm not quite picturing this. What I imagine when you use the word ‘train’ is an old fashioned train carriage, a la Murder on the Orient Express. Is that right? If so, they would be quite high up above the level of the street. Later, I see you mean wagon train (I think!), so I'm back to not quite grasping the blocking.


“dryer that than most”


“I was told it was the height of summer.” – lol.


After the first page, I'm intrigued by the character’s willingness to blow a profit, but I'm not quite clear on what’s going happening or expected. He is awaiting a delivery from the Frente family, which he is then going go transport off-world?


“to keep from getting caught up in the display” – This makes me think of their window display, but you mean caught up in the protest, I think. I feel there is a better word here.


“But the Sureriaj were the most xenophobic, one of the least populous, and the slowest to reproduce” – The Sureriaj planet would be the least populous, but the race themselves would be the least numerous, would they not?


I'm a bit puzzled why they have to dump the spices. Can they not just pack them up and leave? I would have thought a merchant would be more of spendthrift and look to win on both counts. So, there must be some reason that they cannot take the spices too, but I haven’t been provided with it.


“but the profit’s bigger than anything we’ve sold in one day” – Sounds like one thing – is it rather ‘one day’s takings’? Another reason I might be hazy about the need to dump the spices is my lack of grasp of the size of their vehicle and how they are travelling.


“and kept our little enterprise afloat, but she had no sense for a good deal. If I had let her run our little shop-on-wheels,” – Repetition.


Back to the spice dumping thing, I count that there are five of them? That seems like a lot for one wagon. What do all the others do? Does it really take five of them to run this show? Do they in fact have more than one wagon? Will I ever stop asking questions?


The wagon has a corridor?! There goes my perspective again; I'm back to considering a train carriage.


“squidhead’s foot” – lol, but makes me think of Star Wars.


“I said, without any real hope of that happening” – Phrasing, this kind of seems to mean without hope of no arguing happening. It feels like a double negative.


“which lent a lot of weight to her words. Or at least a lot of violence” – It’s only potential violence, or the threat of violence, not actual violence that’s leant.


“pronouncing her vowels thoroughly” – lol.


“I had no problem with their odd pairing, unlike some others” – This sounds like he has problems with some other pairings.


“I had used benefited from their skills more than once” – I think.


“With such a large profit from this contract…” she began, looking wistful” – I'm confused here. Amra seems to have changed her tune, but he says ‘Don’t start’ as if she hasn’t. I see that resolves into a discussion about something else, but I feel she should say ‘Even if we made a large profit from this contract...’


“We have to be at a warehouse in the city” – This sounds like the first warehouse they come across.


“and windblasted buildings flow buy by


“the Naiyul.  It consisted of those Sureriaj from all families, large and small, who had been disowned” – Fantastic notion, even the disowned must belong to a family – a new family.


“mafia groups” – this clashed for me. I feel there is too much history in fictional and factual baggage associated with the actual Mafia. When you drop this word, I instantly think of Robert de Niro and Ray Liota, spaghetti and Tommy guns. To be honest, I think it’s too easy to use the word ‘mafia’ as shorthand, when a more elegant description of organised crime would be more original.


“purposefully misinterpreting” – purposely?


“You might also remind me what assurance we have these goods will sell” – I think, before anyone asks this question, they reasonably would ask ‘What are the goods?’ It could well be contraband and the lack of information from Prot should be making them suspicious. I feel like you might be holding that back for a reveal, but it’s starting to feel unnatural.


“to get her to do something”


“The cargo section of my wagon rolled up a little while later” – I found this imprecise. How much later, half an hour? It feels it’s only minutes, but how can Amra have sold or tried to sell the spices in so short a time? In fact, “I was the last out of the main wagon, to a chorus of hisses and creaks from the cooling engine” – There’s something wrong here. There’s isn’t time for her to do the bargaining if the engine on the main unit is still cooling down, I think you need to tag the time better.


Another thing, Prot is completely wrong. If they dump the spices they get... nothing, so giving her a hard time is completely wrong. She has also protected them from the risk of being fined or arrested from dumping the spices in the street somewhere.

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Awesome.  Thanks to both of you so far!


By the way this story is about 25K words long, which I forgot to mention.  Does this change your perceptions any on timing or characters?



I think you and Robinski have both twigged to the weakest point of the story--the spices.  I like your suggestion of focusing on the protest (which will be important later) rather than the spices, which will not.  Hopefully that will also give me the chance to flesh out some more of the worldbuilding and description, as well as show the characters in action.


MC's name:  It's in there, but I might need to repeat it some more.  His name is Prot.


Amra: I like your assessment of her character.  I was trying to make sure I could write a more "dependent" female rather than an over-the-top warrior, since Kamuli and Bhon both sort of fit that description.  Didn't want to fall into steriotypes, though.


Thanks for the LBLs.  I will put them to good use.



@ Robinski

Great editing and grammar comments as always!  And the title is totally changeable.  I'm not sure I'm happy with this one.


Spices and profits:  Yep.  See above.  I think this whole section will be cut, maybe just have them selling the spices and encountering the protest.


The merchandise: Also good comments.  I don't think I clarified Prot's first meeting very well, and I may just need to write that section out.  I can add in that the contents are medicine earlier, so they're not surprised.


Mafia: yep.  I'll edit this out.


Wagon description:  I think it's more precise later, but yes, it's shorter than an actual train.  I've used that and wagon interchangeably and I think I need to settle on one descriptor.  Would "transport" work better?  It's not a very well known piece of machinery in their universe.

I can beef up the description, but let me know if your image of it becomes clearer as the story progresses.




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Yes! If the story is a short, then it does change my perceptions. Speeding up the movement of the plot for shorts is absolutely necessary. This sub is 1/5 of your entire story, so we def can't spend ten pages talking about dumping spices. I do also wonder how you will work in that many characters in a 25K story arc, but I am open to the idea. I think it could totally be done, but might require some very tight writing.


From your description of what you want for Amra, you're doing well. It may be difficult to establish her as dependent but not 'pathetic' (where pathetic is not the word I was looking for, but my brain isn't working), but it's going well thus far. In many ways I think dependence in an adult female can be the hardest to write if you're trying to make well-rounded, live characters. Good luck!

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Awesome - I like the bit about the spices, but as we might have gathered I'm a fan of the mercantile stuff. Still, if it's not going to be important, then yeah, it's taking up too much space.

Bored - the narration diverts into overt asides a few times that just kind of hit my snooze button. You're also introducing a lot of characters really fast for such a short piece and then kind of setting a lot aside right away, which doesn't do much to make them stick.

Confused - early on going back and forth between 'Amra' and 'My accountant' it took quite a bit too long for me to realize they were the same person.

Don't believe - yeah again, the fact that they have any liquidity here they didn't before is a benefit; it's not ideal but when the alternative is tossing it, yeah.


I have no particular line-by-line callouts that weren't already covered. Aside from being a bad negotiator, Amra feels like she's got a better head on her shoulders than Prot does, to me.

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- One thing I like about this universe is the diverse amounts of aliens that populate it. Does Amara's skin darken and hair lighten as a result of her biology, or is this just how it looks in the sunlight? You might want to clarify what race your characters earlier on.


- In keeping with the previous remark, I really like the motley crew assembled around the spices.


- I like that you have characters who need to distinguish between having a tail and being tailed.


- You compare some aliens to gargoyles twice in the section - once in the beginning and once on page 15. It feels a bit redundant.


- Overall, I like it. My only complaint is there's a lot of dialogue for not too much action. But the characters work for me. Amara isn't too whiney - she reads as someone with a lot of book smart but not street smart. 

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Thanks neongrey, rdpulfer!


@neongrey: glad you liked the spices, but yes, I think these are getting the axe.  As you say, the liquidity aspect doesn't really work.  I think I'll take the focus away from this to some extent. 

Your assessment of Amra is spot on--glad that got across.


@rdpulfer: Re Amra's skin/hair, that's just normal UV effects.  The Methiemum are basically human in appearance.  I"ll make sure that comes across. 

I'll retool some of the Sureriaj descriptions and find some other words to use.

Glad Amra is coming across as intended.



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Hey Mandamon,

I’m excited to have something of yours to read and comment on. You’re so faithful commenting on most everything submitted, and last time you were submitting, you were so deep into The First Majus in Space that I felt too intimidate and disconnected to jump in at end of novel.


All that said, here goes line by lines and first impressions:

  • (Full disclosure: I skip all poetry and chapters intros in italics)
  • Opening paragraph: I like the first line of dialogue, but I might wish (as an outsider to your world) for the physical description of Sureriaj first and then have the narrator name them. I liked the description, just wished I had the reverse order of info presented.
  • “Amra’s eyes…” – I read her dialogue in a different emote in my head before I got to her expression. I heard her sounding a little annoyed, too.
  • “You know they get up my nose.” – The paragraph breaking here felt a bit off. I think this is because you went from focusing on Amra, to the foodstuffs, to the sneeze, but since the sneeze is attached to MC, I felt like it ought to go together. I might break right before “I felt my mouth screw up…” instead.
  • The rest of this paragraph feels like I would understand it better if I had read other books.
  • Oof. Their homeworld sounds like a terrible place to live. Fry your skin but the ground isn’t good for cultivatinganything (I presume.)
  • I can immediately tell what kind of person(alien) Saart is. I like that.
  • Cooking grease = machine lubricant – LOL
  • “Why aren’t I part of it?” – I really like the way you’re introducing characters
  • “I loved my wagon…” – This is another narrative focus shift where I’d feel more comfortable with pronouns if it were aided by a paragraph break, joining it to the MC’s dialogue in the next paragraph.
  • “Reluctantly she nodded.” – Same thing here. I’d like this in a different paragraph because it just makes it easier to follow the narrative flow.
  • “little dance we all adopted” – I like this. Makes me feel what life’s like.
  • Banging the finger – Hm. This seemed an odd distraction. Like, I like how you’re giving lots of business to the characters’ blocking and what-not while they talk, but I don’t feel like this bit added anything, you know?
  • “Who thought this would be a good deal?” – A tad maid and butlerish, but not enough for me to complain loudly
  • “purposefully misinterpreting” – As what? I don’t get the full play out of this here?
  • “who did you say was supplying the deal?” – After this many words of narration I’m feeling a little bothered as a reader that I haven’t really been clued in as well as I want, even if the rest of the team hasn’t been
  • “that ain’t called for” – LOL




  • Character introduction; each has a different personality from the others and you establish it very quickly
  • The descriptions and stuff on end of 13/14. I couldn’t tell where the narration was going anymore or why I cared, so I checked out of the description paragraphs and skimmed fastforward to the next dialogue scene.
  • I don’t understand what the new cargo is or why it’s getting them so much money or why we had a scene break and where they were going?
  • I didn’t have any problems with believability. I’m not a sci-fi buff, so I won’t be the person calling you out on combobulators and stuff like that.


Amra: I don’t think she was whiny, but I’m not really a fan of her either. I like that her relationship feels real enough with the MC. There’s conflict and desire in their lives together, but there’s also a kind of weird thing with her being so booksmart but crappy at selling and calling her out on it so openly. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It just made me question what kind of person she is. She isn’t clear in my mind yet.

The big universe stuff seems clear enough; in fact, on the first page or so I felt a little too flooded with jargon, but I got my mind mostly around it as the text continued to flow.


Looking forward to your next submission, but I do hope you get a few narrative plot points a little clearer—even if I can’t point exactly to what was a bit muddy for me.

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I'll be the contrarian here and say that I have absolutely zero issue, sensewise with Amra being so bad at negotiating deals-- that's a wildly different skill from being able to do the bookkeeping; the one's raw math and the other relies heavily on being a people-person. It's certainly possible to be good at both (goodness knows thats what I'm writing) but they're not transferrable or even appreciably related skills. If there's anything I find odd about this, it's that the text seems to take it as a given that they should go hand-in-hand.

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I agree. Those are totally two different skill sets, and it makes perfect sense to be good at one but not at the other.


But that's not what felt off when I was reading Amra's stuff.


What seemed off, if I muse on it further, is that she's so smart that she handles the bookkeeping but then suddenly is so daft that she doesn't see/accept that she wastes everyone's time when attempts trade. I would think if she were smart enough to do the bookkeeping efficiently that she would be smart enough to see the debits she creates as a pattern, not just this one isolated incident. When the MC points all the logistics out to her after the fact and she's accepts the corrections so passively that I thought it made her seem less intelligent than before. It's not that people don't forget or overlook things--that happens all the time, but the advancing plot/dialogue made me pause and question what kind of person she is. I'm getting mixed messages from the text.


So like I said before, I'm still not really clear what kind of person I think she is yet from a reader's perspective. It's still early enough in the game (chapter 1) that I'm perfectly fine as a reader not having decided. Mandamon has done a good job at introducing the other characters in a way where everyone is distinct and adds something to the plot rather than being the same trope over and over again, so for the moment, I'm trusting the author to take Amra's character somewhere with this as a starting point.


Therefore, I keep with the same opinion as I put yesterday in fewer words that I'm not sure that she's been painted 100% clearly yet (some of the logic stuff earlier in the story made it hard to follow some of what happened) and that I'm going to keep reading and see where she's going.

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Krystalynn - thanks for all the feedback!  I think you've latched on to similar things the others have, and a few scenes might be bound for the cutting room floor.  Great minor points too--that will give me some more direction in editing.


I have to call blasphemy on skipping the italics, but then, I'm also the one who read all the LoTR appendices...


Glad the character introductions are going well.  I hoped this story would be a little easier to get into than the magic-heavy ones.

The cargo manifest, as the others pointed out, seems to be too complex and unnecessary.  It will be clearer with the next submission, but I'll work on cleaning it up beforehand.


On Amra (and thanks for the extra feedback from Neongrey as well!):

I think you're both seeing the problem I did, in that it's not neccesarily unknown that someone is book smart, but can't negotiate deals.  However, I don't think I'm getting it across correctly, and sending mixed signals.  I want her to be intelligent and competent, just intrinisically not good at the social side of that skill.  Great feedback, and I'll use it to ponder a better way to write her character.

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I have no problem that she's good with numbers but not forceful or shrewd enough to negotiate with traders. I thought that the main criticism (and forgive me if I'm restating the obvious) was that she is intelligent enough to know her limitations and not to exceed her abilities.

I will rest on the fact however that her actions reduced their losses by 80% (20 instead of 25), so it's Prot's analysis that she barely exceed what they would have got if the spices were dumped that seems uncharacteristically off-base to me for a shrewd operator like he is supposed to be.

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