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JINJUP6RICHARDS

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  6. Thanks so much Minglu! I'll definitely work on the repetitiveness, I appreciate that feedback a lot!
  7. Thanks everybody for your suggestions and comments! I've incorporated what I could, and wrote out the rest of the first scene, which I include here below. Thanks again for reading! ---- The feather was blue, bright blue, as blue as the sky on a clear arctic day. It gleamed against the red and gold-turned grasses of the tundra, outshining even the lakes and ponds that pooled up every summer on the treeless plains. “Look,” Yoonis whispered to her daughter. “A firebird feather.” “Really?” Jayu breathed. The awe in her daughter’s voice echoed Yoonis’s own sense of wonder. A firebird, rarest of all magical creatures, here, on the grounds of Lady Twazi’s plantation? Yet where else could the blue feather have come from? Even Yoonis, nomag slave though she was, could tell that the sheen on this feather was different. Flickers of yellow, of orange, of warmth and flame danced along its vane; Yoonis was almost afraid it would burn her if she picked it up. With a single, cautious finger, she reached out to touch the very end of the feather’s hollow shaft. Before she could get close enough to do so, she felt Jayu tugging on her sleeved arm, pulling it back, restraining her. “No, Umma,” her daughter said, with all the earnest seriousness of a four-year-old. “You can’t. You’re not a magician! Only they’re good enough to touch magic things. Not us.” Only they’re good enough… Anger ripped through Yoonis. She could feel it burning in her chest. It was a familiar rage, one that uprooted every other emotion. I’m angry, I’m angry, she said to herself, a desperate chant to keep herself from grabbing and squeezing Jayu’s hand as hard as she could. I’m angry, but I’m not angry at Jayu. It’s not her fault. It’s the fault of the magicians, God, how I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them! The hatred felt good. It allowed her to feel without hurting. It allowed her to be alive without pain. “Come with me,” Yoonis said sharply, placing her hand on Jayu’s shoulder. “This way, come on, watch where you’re going. No, not that way, we’re going to the relic pool.” “The relic pool? But that’s too far, Umma. Lady Twazi doesn’t like us to go that far.” “This, Jayu. This is why we have to go to the relic pool. You almost broke your neck trying to get those stupid cloudberries for Lady Twazi’s offering, and you’re still obsessed.” “But Umma—” “I don’t want to hear another word about what Lady Twazi or any other magician wants, you hear me?” “But Umma—” “No!” Like saying no ever worked. But Yoonis managed to ignore Jayu’s continued protests by keeping her focus on a patch of wind-sculpted spruces up ahead. Stunted and half-stripped of their leaves, the trees all pointed leeward. When a gust of wind blasted into Yoonis and her daughter from behind, sending them stumbling in the direction of the pointing needle-leaves, Yoonis took it as a good sign. For the relic pool was over this way, just beyond the next rolling hill, yes, there it was, shielded and surrounded by a soapstone paver and even more flag trees, but still visible, its bright blue waters raining up into the bright blue sky, blue like the firebird feather Yoonis had not touched because she was no magician… Her throat tight, Yoonis pulled Jayu to a stop right at the edge of the burbling waters. “Take your clothes off,” she whispered. “Here, I’ll help you.” The wind was rising once more, blowing into the hot drops of rain that cascaded up from the surface of the relic pool. Yoonis took Jayu’s hoodless parka and tucked it under her boots, then peeled off each of Jayu’s underlayers until her daughter was trembling naked in the autumn chill. When Jayu began shivering, Yoonis’ anger dissipated in a flash. My poor sweet daughter, my poor sweet Jayu, my little Freedom, she thought, as she knelt and wrapped her arms around her. Then, with one swift motion, Yoonis bowed over and dipped Jayu into the steaming shallows of the relic pool. Beneath her knees the stone paver was sharp, as were the dark green needle-leaves of the tree behind her. But her grip didn’t falter. Not even when Jayu cried out “Hot!” did Yoonis pull her out. She waited until she was sure that every bit of Jayu’s skin had been touched by water – head, heels, all of it – before she drew her out and back into her arms. She could tell at once that her daughter was mad at her. Glaring, crying, pulling on the back of Yoonis’s neck, insisting on comfort with rough, uncareful fingers. “I told you it was hot!” Jayu wept. “Did it work?” Yoonis replied. She hated how desperate she sounded, but it was only Jayu there, and besides, Yoonis was desperate. The relic pool is the most powerful old magic artifact left in the entire continent, Tomxai had told her, back when they were kids and he’d still lived on the plantation. It’ll heal anyone of anything. Of anything. Even mental states, even attitudes? God, Yoonis hoped so. Jayu was still crying. Yoonis cradled her in her lap and kissed her forehead. “Tell me about Lady Twazi,” she told her daughter. “Tell me what you think of her.” “I don’t know,” Jayu sobbed. “Shh, shh, just tell me what you think about her, what do you think when you see her?” “I told you! I don’t even see her!” Yoonis hesitated. What did that mean? It was true enough that Yoonis and Jayu didn’t see much of Lady Twazi. They were nomag slaves; Lady Twazi was a master magician. But the distance between them had never put in a dent in Jayu’s adoration before. “Jayu, stop crying for a second, please, I need to know—” “But I need to cry!” Jayu screamed. Yoonis took a deep breath. When Jayu was this upset, any expectation of reasonable conversation had to be thrown out the window. Forcing down her impatience, Yoonis turned herself toward comforting her daughter. “Shh, shh, it’s okay. It’s okay. Here, let me help you put your clothes back on. Hold still. No, don’t lean on me like that, I can’t get your arm through the sleeve then. There you go, good girl, good girl.” Skin stockings, skin underslip, fur overdress, skin inner slippers, fur outer boots, hoodless parka. By the time Yoonis had finished re-dressing Jayu, she knew they had to get going back to the inner plantation. For months and months, Yoonis had schemed how to get a half day away from her duties for a trip down to the relic pool. Today there had been some sort of fuss going on in Lady Twazi’s south-facing house where Yoonis worked; she’d seized the opportunity to flee amidst all the excitement. Now she had to return before her absence was noticed. But Yoonis still didn’t know whether or not the relic pool had cleansed Jayu of her obsession with the magicians, and she had to know that before she could face the prospect of returning. Then it occurred to Yoonis. Maybe instead of asking Jayu what she thought of the magicians, Yoonis should test the pool’s power by putting Jayu in front of a real-live magician and seeing how she acted. After all, that was the only way to really make sure the cleansing had worked. Yoonis took Jayu’s hand. “Jayu,” she said, deciding to try one more time. “Do you like magicians?” Jayu was still sniffling, and her eyes were rimmed red. She didn’t respond. “Jayu—” “I want to go home.” “To the magicians?” “No, just to home.” Yoonis’ heart lifted. That was encouraging! Maybe the relic pool had worked. Maybe she didn’t need to test it after all. Which would be nice, as she’d rather not if she didn’t have to. The idea of putting Jayu in front of a magician and just waiting to see what happened sounded, well, terrible. Then again, Yoonis did have Tomxai’s ring. She could feel it even now, inside the pocket she’d sewn into her underslip, doubly secured by the string that also kept it tied to her belt. Letting go of Jayu’s hand, Yoonis pulled her arms back through her sleeves so that her hands were inside her parka. She drew the ring out of her pocket then untied it by feel. “Here,” she said, re-threading her arms through her sleeves. “Put the ring on now.” At that, Jayu shook her head. “No, Umma, I don’t want to!” Fighting the anxiety that leapt into her heart – Jayu always claimed the magicians didn’t like her wearing the ring, was that why she didn’t want to wear it right now? – Yoonis grabbed Jayu’s hand and forced the ring onto her daughter’s finger. As soon as it was on, Yoonis crouched down and urged her daughter to climb onto her back. “You’re grumpy because you’re hungry,” Yoonis told her, trying to will her heart into not beating so fast. “That’s all. You haven’t eaten since the noon meal. And you’re probably tired too. I’ll carry you, okay?” Yoonis had to reach back with both hands to tug Jayu up and onto her back, but once her head was against Yoonis’ shoulder, Jayu relaxed and let Yoonis lift her. Staggering to her feet, Yoonis began walking as fast as she could back through the tundra. She felt better now that Jayu was wearing the ring. It’ll make you unnoticeable, Tomxai had told her when he’d given it to her. Nobody, nomag or mag, will notice you even if you’re standing right in front of them. I’ll take Jayu to the library, she decided. It’s the one place inside Lady Twazi’s house I’m allowed to be where a magician might also be. I’ll pretend to be cleaning something, and then when a magician comes near, I’ll take off the ring, and see what happens. I won’t leave her side. If the magician tries anything, I’ll put the ring right back on her. It’ll be okay. It’ll work. It’ll let me know for sure. And what if Jayu’s still obsessed? a dark voice inside her asked. What will you do then? Pausing for a moment, Yoonis pulled Jayu up a little higher onto her back. I won’t stop looking, she answered. I’ll find a way. I’ll keep looking and looking, and looking, until I find a way for her to be healed. But what if that book you found on it is right? What if Jayu is obsessed with the magicians because she was born a slave, and not captured into it, like you? What if the reason you’re different from her and from all the other slaves is because of something you can’t replicate? The thought was too agonizing to bear. Bowing her head, Yoonis forged onward, struggling against the gusts of wind that blasted and bent the red and gold grasses of the tundra. More than once her long, dark hair went flying into her mouth and nose. It was still light enough outside to see clearly, but soon the sun would begin its crawl along the edge of the horizon. Winter wasn’t upon them yet, though, so it wouldn’t set. “Umma,” she heard Jayu say from behind her head. “Umma, look!” Blue, shot through with fire, flashed before her eyes. Yoonis gasped. Her heart racing, she watched with wonder as the firebird stopped in mid-air, untroubled by the wind, his wings and his magic keeping him floating in place only a few paces in front of her. "I think he wants you,” Jayu whispered. Yoonis could tell Jayu was right. There was an impulse within her, like a response to a call, something she couldn’t control, something she didn’t need to control. She let Jayu slide off her back, then, step by step, Yoonis stumbled through the dying grasses towards the shimmering, pulsating blue-feathered beast. A handbreadth away, Yoonis stopped. She could almost feel the touch of the firebird’s wings on her skin, and then she realized, with a shock, that she was feeling it, that his feathers were brushing not only across her face, but that the firebird was flying around her, circling her like a spiral of fire, trailing the edge of his burning wings—yet there was no pain—against her back, her arms, her legs, and finally, the crown of her head. Yoonis was encircled by fire, a blue fire, one that she could breathe in and touch, a fire that could not harm her. Tears came to her eyes, but she didn’t know why. Then all at once, she felt the wind once more cold against her skin. The fire—the firebird—they were gone. “Umma!” She stumbled back to Jayu, half-falling as she embraced her. “Umma!” Jayu cried out again. “The firebird—the fire—” Both of them were crying. “Oh, Jayu, oh, Jayu,” Yoonis wept. “I wish—there’s so much more I wish I could give you—I wish—I wish you had a better mother—” “No, Umma, you’re a good Umma, you’re a good Umma, I’m sorry I didn’t listen, I’m sorry!” Despite her tears, Yoonis found herself smiling. “You’re a good girl,” she said to her daughter. “Don’t ever think different, okay? Don’t—I wish—you’re as good as—” As good as a magician, Yoonis wanted to say. And she almost did. But she couldn’t get the words out of her mouth. What if Jayu argued with her? What if Jayu affirmed, once again, her own worthlessness? Yoonis couldn’t bear it, she couldn’t bear it, God, she would give up everything, anything, to take this curse away! “Come,” she found herself saying. “Come. We have to get back. We have to go to the library.”
  8. I agree that my first sentences need word. I'm still not sure how to address that need but I am noting both your and Shola's advice to rework that bit. For now I decided to shorten some of the dialogue immediately following that sentence to get to the characters as fast as possible. I changed the word damnable to stupid. I think that Yoonis as the story will show is under a lot of unique pressures and is the type to curse in front of her child but that word is not integral to the story and I'm fine with changing it. Good to note about the confusion regarding the relic pool and why they need to go there if Jayu's obsessed with the magicians. I wrote the rest of the scene which includes the explanatory link between these two variables. If you don't mind taking a look at it I'm posting it below! Thanks so much.
  9. I have also cursed in front of my children, I'm sorry I am not as responsible of a mother as I ought to be! But I don't want to trip anybody and I can replace it with the word stupid which I think many four-year-olds also think is a big bad word. I appreciate hearing about your confusion regarding the relic pool, I was able to write out the rest of the scene in order to explain more the connection between the Jayu's obsession with the magicians and the relic pool. If you don't mind taking a look at the full scene now that it's written I'm posting it here below! Thanks so much.
  10. The unmistakable scent of burning flesh rushed through his nostrils having been carried inside by the newly opened door. The burning flesh catches my attention. I am confused though by what's being carried (the scent?) and how a newly opened door can carry a scent. Can you instead say something maybe about the "scent wafted through the open door"? Something like that. A trio of papal enforcers entered in from the tower’s staircase. I think I need more of a scene set. Right now there's a door, and a tower, and a room? Is the room inside the tower? Is the room at the base of the tower? So these guys are descending down toward the Emperor? But now the smell is coming into the tower from outside? I am engaged by the threat hanging over these men, and you make it nicely clear that they are ringleaders against the powers-that-be. That said, there are way too many characters for me to be able to keep track of in a first scene. Could it be just Jacques for now and maybe two interrogators? I like the character and the strength he is showing and would like him to persist and his accusation against the pope are clear. I don't think you need that paragraph explaining Clement V's efforts at crusading, it's clear enough already that he's a bad guy and motivated by greed. It feels like it takes away the tension in that scene to step back and explain the historical context. It gets really good when we get down to the direct one-on-one conflict between Clement's polite murderousness and Jacque's resistance. It's this back and forth that I mean when I ask above if it could be juts Jacques and maybe two interrogators although I understand that you need the other prisoners there to distinguish between Jacques' fate and theirs. Maybe just get rid of the nephew. Your descriptions of the corpse burning are unnervingly vivid! The once bold Collectore, newly depleted of courage, knelt in obeisance. So I've been noticing lines like this, basically where you the author describe with adjectives what the characters are like. It seems like you're doing 3rd person omniscient POV, am I right? Where you don't limit yourself to any one character's POV but instead step back more like a camera viewing everybody. also that you plan on attracting the Jews back in order to seize their properties again. To be honest this plan on the part of the pope doesn't make much sense to me. Does the pope think that the Jews are going to come back in full trust, yes, the pope stole everything once but he surely won't do it again? If it's not something the plot depends on I'd get rid of it because it makes either the Jews attracted back or the pope look very stupid. the truth behind Nuremberg and the pogroms. Is it a very big deal that the pope is secretly behind the pogroms? My (limited) understanding of pogroms is that they happened openly with state sanction and everyone knew the ruling authorities were behind them but their knowledge didn't matter because they could do nothing about them. Would people be outraged or something if they found out the pope was behind the pogroms? Is that why he's keeping his involvement a secret? Maybe my view of historical people is cynical but I didn't think they'd care much if pogroms were happening to not-them. "As you wish, sire. It is rumored by both the Spanish and Granadans alike that the Sultan Yusuf is to receive visitations from some relatives of the dark continent.” Is it at all possible to start the first scene more around here? Medieval torture can be engaging but it's also been done many times. This, though, is new. I'd love to see the story begin with introducing the key historical difference. Obviously it has to somehow be done in an engaging way which you do well in the first half of the scene. Maybe get rid of all the secret pogrom stuff and instead have Jacque's confession be more directly related to the Sultan Yusuf and his visitors from the dark continent? “So it’s true?” Rigault asked slowly standing to his feet. “That is why there’s been no penetration into the continent’s interior?” Like this line is cool. Maybe the secret that Clement is trying to repress is not "I'm behind the pogroms" but rather "we utterly failed to penetrate the dark continent's interior/suffered a massive rout" “Our position at the apex of military capability must remain unquestioned for our authority and influence to be maintained. Considering the interests of governance, the public’s awareness of a foreign power that rivals said apex position is dangerous. It is best to keep the flock in the dark regarding such things.” And there you go, you already have it as a secret that has to be kept. Hugues remained in the background as he watched the event unfold. His temples pulsed and throbbed as he continuously clenched his jaw in angst. This is kind of what I mean when I say there are too many characters. I've already forgotten who Hugues is. Or why he's so sympathetic to Rigault at the end. Nawaa had forgotten how obsessed the Yahwudin people were with the preservation of their Fire Sand machinery. He had heard stories of fabricators and technicians destroying freshly made weapons, vehicles and other technologies for fear of outsiders acquiring remnants or parts initially considered refuse and using it to their advantage. Is Nawaa not Yahwudin? So these two lines: Though they supposedly bear us no ill will, that is no protection from the lusts that may excite them upon seeing our Waterscrews. Best to not allow even the possibility of provocation.” and He had heard stories of fabricators and technicians destroying freshly made weapons, vehicles and other technologies for fear of outsiders acquiring remnants or parts initially considered refuse and using it to their advantage. are confusing me a little. The Europeans seem waaaay behind technologically, are they really even able to understand the technology of the Yahwudin such that the Yahwudin need to keep everything such a secret? Or is it more that the Yahwudin had a recent jump in technological evolution and so they want to keep what is a more recent advantage secret? If it's the former and they're just way ahead, why haven't they taken over more by now? I know nothing about boats but the impression I'm getting is that you have either a lot of research on them or have a lot of experience (or both) with them. I like the detail I'm reading! Conclusion: Nawaa is intriguing me as a character, the last line you have him mutter makes him quite sympathetic. I really like the setup wherein you introduce the dark continent and its superiority as a secret to be suppressed in the first scene, and then follow up with a point of view character living out the said rumors. I think if the first scene could be simplified so it's easier to get through that would be great in terms of keeping the reader's attention. This premise has intrigued me from the start, I want to know what happens next!
  11. As part of her recent nightly routine, Alex Mercer watched from across the street as Henry Shen stepped out from his doorway with his briefcase and firmly locked the door behind him, oblivious to her shadow across the street cast by the streetlights. I got confused by what seems to be a POV hop. Alex seems to be the one whose viewpoint we're following, but when you throw in "firmly" and "oblivious to her shadow" I start to think we're hopping from Alex's POV to Henry's. Adding a "seemed to be" might help like "he seemed to be oblivious to her shadow across the street…" so that we can stay in Alex's POV. ran around his orbits Does this mean his eyes? I haven't come across orbits used in this way. Unless this is a specific technological/fantastical term in your story? I like your detail about SF's Chinatown night market. I've never been so I can't testify to how it's like but I've been to open air markets before and you capture the sense well. I'm surprised there's no food though that's the main thing I think of when I think of these markets. ever-growing homogeneous Why are they ever-growing? And why are they homogenous? Do crowds generally just get bigger and bigger over time? And as to homogeneity is it because they're all Asian? Like I said I've never been to SF's market but the ones I've been to in NYC are a little more diverse just by virtue of being in America. I like Alex's internal voice. Shen's head swiveled, eyes scanning Seems to be POV hopping again. Can you add an "Alex watched as Shen's head swiveled…" or something like that? Alex rubbed the corroded flakes off her hands when she reached the roof. Nice detail. Also, in general I like this stalking scene, it's intense and keeps me engaged. missing money. What kinda asshole steals from honest, hardworkin’ whores who barely speak English? For a few nights, watching those working girls had unearthed childhood memories Alex thought she buried. This is very interesting, but the phrase "missing money" throws me off. "Stolen money" I think would be better, followed by Alex's internal dialogue explaining who the money was stolen from. With her yearning veins screaming, she climbed back down the ladder and waited at the back door, hand on her waist. Her fist tightened as she swung. Three knocks interrupted the premature fun. The door opened just enough to reveal Alex’s scarred face under the pale moonlight. A fresh claw-mark slashed across her exposed abdomen. A second deep one ran vertically through her right eye, stopping at the tip of her nose. The last one was barely visible through her maroon camisole. Only the curved start was visible, slithering down the left shoulder to her chest. Each scar was a different story told across a pastel battlefield. Dark rosewood hair parted over her right eye, flowing down her shoulders. Striking emerald eyes gazed indifferently. I am very confused about what is happening here. She seems about to attack… but then she knocks on the door instead? Or is interrupted by a knock on the door? And then all of a sudden we're looking at Alex as if from another person's POV, no longer in her mind looking out? Because I don't think she'd stop to describe herself and the scars she has and her hairstyle and eye color. Alex thought with a dry heave. I don't think you need this. The italics interjecting Alex's thoughts have been working well by themselves. The confrontation between Alex and Shen is engaging and tense and explains at a good time why Alex has been stalking Shen. It's also deflated by two paragraphs of Alex reflecting on her past. I don't think right then is the right time to do that reflection. Can you instead open your second scene with a little of Alex's backstory? Conclusion: Interesting and compelling character! Her internal voice is quite striking and does make me want to learn more. My only issue is that we're not staying with her enough throughout the scene, the aforementioned POV hops are throwing me off. I think maybe you're doing 3rd person omniscient and I keep trying to read into the scene 3rd person limited. Either way, I'm intrigued.
  12. Your beginning is very good, gets my attention right away. I like this line as an explanation to her feelings: Why am I not freaking out? A wave of hysteria should be hitting me like a wrecking ball, but for some strange reason, it’s not. Normally, I have a panic attack by lunch. However, I notice this same explanation comes up several times in this same chapter. "Why am I still so calm about that? Trying to parallel park normally has me short of breath, blood pounding in my ears. Maybe that's it: no blood, no anxiety." "that was always one of my biggest fears, yet I'm picturing it happening to me now, and the idea doesn’t scare me at all. It's kind of nice." I understand that you don't want to get caught up in describing her trauma as too much focus on that will divert your entire story, but I think there needs to be some sort of explanation for why she's so calm. I see you're referring to it with the concept of Transition Numbness, maybe if it could be made more explicit like instead of "It's normal to feel a bit out of it" to say more clearly "It's normal to feel calm and collected despite having just died." I like the apocalyptic Western setting you have going on. I like a lot when you show off her attitude like in the line "Did I really just finish my junior year of high school, only to die and end up right back in classes? I have the worst luck." and I think more of that would be better. More of an emotional reaction to the broken downness of everything, for example. Not necessarily a negative emotional reaction, I like the snarky and irreverent tone you have going on. She seems rather indifferent about what is being described as rather poor living conditions. In fact, I think that's the main issue I keep struggling with as I'm reading this. It almost feels like it's not quite determined whether this story is going to be lighthearted and funny or serious as it keeps flirting with the trauma. I'd almost rather the entire attitude be that she's thrilled to be dead after the initial shock of realizing that she's a ghost. Conclusion: You have great wordsmithing skills; this chapter was very easy to read. No confusion about what is actually happening and everything is described clearly and vividly. I personally am not super into ghost stories but I like your tone enough to want to keep going!
  13. Hild was reminded of stories of desert tribes and unmarked paths across dangerous territories, but only warriors leave Buclaminta, and only the best return. Hild sighed. I'm not sure why you changed tenses here "only warriors leave Buclaminta." It reads better to me to keep it in past tense. "only warriors left Buclaminta, and only the best of them returned" something like that. Also, I get from reading your opening that Hild is sighing because he is not a warrior but a slave and therefore cannot leave (is that right?) but I don't think that comes across alone. Could you put here something about how he's a slave? "only warriors left Buclaminta, and Hild was not a warrior" even would help. The lowest boundary is for beggars, slave. I'm a little confused about this. I thought at first he was in some sort of city and that there was a lower ring reserved for beggars, but then I was like no, he's on a mountain, but he's going up, he's ascending, so why does the guard tell him that the lowest boundary is for slaves? The entire confrontation between Hild and the Kadai guard seemed almost too personal to me. The way they were interacting it felt like there should be some history between them, like this wasn't the first time Hild had confronted this guard, but the way it's written I don't see that. There needs to be something to explain each of their motivations at any rate. Why does Hild mouth off to this guard and fight back if he's just a slave? Right now it seems just to kick off the story, that there's no inherent logic to his actions. Like I said, I feel like this interaction would make a lot more sense if this Kadai guard and Hild had a hostile back and forth generally and this one time it got out of hand. How does a trip through the desert to the Floarelands sound? I am intrigued, trying to figure out how a trip through the desert to the Floarelands would be a punishment. Is it some ritual that slaves can be put through? Hild ducked and deflected the blow with his arm, then lunged toward the Kadai. Hild and the soldier rolled off their horses and hit the dusty road. I don't ride horses so maybe this kind of jumping off of horses is imminently possible but it strikes me as the kind of thing a trained horseman could do. Is Hild such a trained horseman? Actually, this reminds me, does Hild own this horse? When the guard said it could cost him his horse I thought hmm Hild must be an educated or valuable or otherwise different sort of slave for him to own property himself. Is this true? As he rode onto the lawn of the estate, Hild recognized a horse being tended by the stable help. Razya's face flashed through his mind at the sight. The horse belonged to the Sheehan, Kasyl, from the northwestern neighboring estate. I don't get why Razya's face would flash through his mind. Is Razya from the northwestern neighboring estate too? I think you should include that detail in here if so. "The horse belonged… the northwestern neighboring estate where Razya lived as well" or something like that. The interaction between Hild and his masters was very interesting! Totally different from what I was expecting. I feel like it explains more of the dynamic between the Kadai and Hild. I'm torn between suggesting that some of this context be included earlier so that it makes more sense when Hild has his fight "a Kadai guard, send by an enemy to patrol the lands of Hild's master" or whether the twist is better. I'm leaning towards more context/better explanation up front so Hild can be properly seen as a loyal slave of his master and just against this Kadai guard. Which would explain the horse too. he dawned wavy auburn hair and a coarse beard. I think donned is the word you're going for? Although I'm not sure how one dons hair growing on one's body. Reinick scoffed, “Corovnica.” He muttered, rolling his eyes. A degenerate, worthless kingdom of less-than-humans. I started to get confused at this point (up until the line “Hold your tongue Reinick.” His father reproached.) I think there's too much exposition. I like the line "they should all be Sifted" because it brings up obviously a main theme in your story, but introducing geopolitics at this point seems a bit too much too fast. Maybe someone can express anger at the Kadai guard saying he should be Sifted? To keep this introductory scene focused on the problem at hand? Also, I lost sight of who Kasyl was. Is there a way to have his rank be indicated? Is he a visiting doctor? Why is he tending to a slave? The Sheehan sounds cool but it doesn't give me much of a sense of who he is compared to the other characters. Reading a few lines ahead I see the reference "Sheehan warrior." If that could be pulled forward to the line "The horse belonged to the Sheehan warrior, Kasyl, from the northwestern neighboring estate." I think that would solve my confusion. Lord Krise glanced uncomfortably between his sons and Kasyl, “I cannot. I am a simple steward, not a Sheehan warrior like yourself. I’m not equipped for much more than I already do. Kasyl, there is much at stake you know. I do implore you to reconsider your actions." He lowered his voice, "Her life here is rather comfortable, don’t you think? Are you willing to give up everything for your sentiments?” From this paragraph on I find myself confused. There seems to be a lot of hinting about Ryaza and I think it would be better served if Hild just told us who she was. What does Ryaza have to do with politics? What does she have to do with Lord Krise being gone a lot lately? Also has everyone forgotten the Kadai guard? I think focusing on the one problem of the Kadai guard, and then maybe either introducing one more problem, like who Ryaza is/where she's been, or the kingdoms and who belongs to which kingdom, would be better. If you're going to introduce the Kadai guard I would choose to lay out who belongs to which kingdom (like the Kadai come from the Saegaeta but Hild and his masters come from XXX) and not mention Ryaza at all. Although I get that she's your main character but honestly she seems shoehorned into this first scene. Conclusion: Your details are amazing. Your prose is extremely easy to read which I normally do not find to be the case when the details are so vivid. I could picture everything without getting caught up on what I was picturing. I think I struggled mostly with feeling confused with character motivation which can't be shown so I'd go on and tell us a bit more about why each character cares about what he cares about. Question: Where is this set again? Is it secondary world fantasy?
  14. I was confused by the first paragraph, too many new names and new places, Lydia, Marcus, Forum, the Theikos. It took me a few re-reads to realize that Lydia and Marcus were investigating the Forum because the Forum was being noisy in a new way (since marketplaces are usually noisy this wasn't an easy concept to follow). I think you show what the Forum is and why Lydia might want to investigate it in a much better way with your second paragraph. Would it work to go from your first sentence "Lydia stopped…" straight onto a second sentence "People were crowding the city square, pressing up against…"? That way you show right away what a Forum is (the city square) and why Lydia might be looking at it (the people crowding and raising their fists). Lydia tapped Marcu's hip struck me as odd. Do people tap each other's hips? It might work better to introduce Marcus here. Lydia turned to her friend/fellow sorcerer/brother-in-arms Marcus. "War?" I'd get rid of "on their way here." I'd also get rid of "white" unless her breath is actually white for magical reasons. Nice bit of characterization. I feel like I know what she wants now, that I'm into her goal. I'd add a comma after screaming crowd. I like the idea of mercy being death, it is intriguing and sets up Lydia's power nicely. Couldn't they mutilate a dead body? Would it work to say they were probably going to come back to pick up the woman's body? I'd add "gotten to Lydia, too, if the Theikos…" Why are they walking now? Weren't they running before? I like the placing of the historical exposition around why the people were shouting about Saguntum. I think it's good to put it where you did. I found the whole bit between Briseis and Lydia confusing. I was getting amped about war and revenge on Rome and then all of a sudden I'm reading about a love curse that isn't even effective? Why do Romans buy these curses at all if they don't work? I think you wanted to set up the idea of inscribing a curse on a tablet so that Lydia can compose her later curse at the end of the scene. In that case, could you have Lydia note that Briseis was writing a curse on a wax tablet without going into what exactly the curse is about, and then move Lydia to the hearth where she composes the curse on Rome in her head? That way the tension that you've been building up doesn't get prematurely released into a digression about fake love curses. Maybe "nothing but ashes" or "nothing but shame"? I feel like it cuts a little at the power of the line to include two things instead of one powerful curse. Conclusion: I didn't think this scene sucked at all. I thought it was clearly well-researched and vivid in its details. The conflict you set up between Marcus being from Roman background and Lydia hating all Romans is one I look forward to seeing expanded, and I think I remember from your pitch that it does get expanded. I'm interested in what happens next!
  15. Hello, these are the first 500 or so words of my novel/my first scene. My goal is to set the scene and introduce my main character Yoonis. --- The feather was blue, bright blue, as blue as the sky on a clear arctic day. It gleamed against the red and gold-turned grasses of the tundra, outshining even the lakes and ponds that pooled up every summer on the treeless plains. “Look,” Yoonis whispered to her daughter, pointing to the feather. “What, Umma?” Jayu asked. “A firebird feather.” “Really?” Jayu breathed. “A firebird?” The awe in her daughter’s voice echoed Yoonis’s own sense of wonder. A firebird, rarest of all magical creatures, here, on the grounds of Lady Twazi’s plantation? Yet where else could the blue feather have come from? Even Yoonis, nomag slave though she was, could tell that the sheen on this feather was different. Flickers of yellow, of orange, of warmth and flame danced along its vane; the autumn landscape all around seemed but a reflection in comparison. She reached for the feather, thumb and forefinger extended to pinch its hollow shaft. But before she could pick it up, she felt Jayu tugging on her hand, pulling it back, restraining her. “No, Umma,” her daughter said, with all the earnest seriousness of a four-year-old. “You can’t. You’re not a magician! Only they’re good enough to touch magic things. Not us.” Only they’re good enough… Anger ripped through Yoonis. She could feel it burning in her chest. It was a familiar rage, one that tore out every other emotion. I’m angry, I’m angry, she said to herself, a desperate chant to keep herself from squeezing Jayu’s hand as hard as she could. I’m angry, but I’m not angry at Jayu. It’s not her fault. It’s the fault of the magicians, God, how I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them! The hatred felt good. It allowed her to feel without hurting. It allowed her to be alive without pain. “Come with me,” Yoonis said sharply. “This way, come on, watch where you’re going. No, not that way, we’re going to the relic pool.” “The relic pool? But that’s too far, Umma. Lady Twazi doesn’t like us to go that far.” “This, Jayu. This is why we have to go to the relic pool. You almost broke your neck trying to get those damned cloudberries for Lady Twazi’s offering, and you’re still obsessed.” “But Umma—” “I don’t want to hear another word about what Lady Twazi or any other magician wants, you hear me?” “But Umma—” “No!” Like saying no ever worked. But Yoonis managed to ignore Jayu’s continued protests by keeping her focus on a patch of wind-sculpted spruces up ahead. Stunted and half-stripped of their leaves, the trees all pointed leeward. When a gust of wind blasted into Yoonis and her daughter from behind, sending them stumbling in the direction of the pointing needle-leaves, Yoonis took it as a good sign. For the relic pool was this way, just beyond the next rolling hill, yes, there it was, shielded and surrounded by even more flag trees, but still visible, its bright blue waters rising into a steam that disappeared into the bright blue sky, blue like the firebird feather Yoonis had not touched because she was no magician… Her throat tight, Yoonis pulled Jayu to a stop right at the edge of the burbling waters. “Take your clothes off,” she whispered. “Here, I’ll help you.” The wind was rising once more. Yoonis took Jayu’s hoodless parka and tucked it under her boots, then peeled off each of Jayu’s underlayers until her daughter was trembling naked in the autumn chill. Unable to handle watching Jayu shiver, Yoonis knelt and wrapped her arms around her. Then she bowed over and dipped her daughter into the steaming shallows of the relic pool.
  16. Assignment 1: Story Statement Mayah works to discover why the serfs took her as a baby. Was it to rescue her from the fate of being an oppressor, or was it to kidnap her to use as a tool for their Uprising? Assignment 2: The Antagonist Lady Nari is both extremely violent and extremely principled. She lives her life for one thing only: the good of the serfs. The daughter of a castle serf, who in turn was raised by a Matterist prophet, Lady Nari comes from a long line of resistance fighters. None of her ancestors, however, had her single-mindedness. It was Lady Nari, and Lady Nari alone, who turned her family’s informal religious network into a serf army dedicated to the Uprising. And dedicated they must be, for Lady Nari demands nothing but the highest levels of commitment from her followers. Whatever she is willing to do, they must be willing to do as well, whether it be murder, torture or enduring a lifetime of lying and manipulating those they love. She is no hypocrite, however. She cares nothing for her personal comfort or glory; her love for the serfs is genuine. Her arrogance convinces her that she knows best what is best for the serfs, and nothing can change her mind on that, which results sometimes in incredible acts of grace, and other times, in the absolute devastation of those who live by her word. Assignment 3: Breakout Title Raising the Promised Daughter The World Beneath the Hollow-Trees Hunt’s Table Assignment 4: Comparables Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (in that the novel is deeply focused on a non-romantic but still intimate relationship, the one between the two main characters, while drawing a world around them and a plot through them) Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (in that the novel takes place in a complexly ordered society with multiple different identity groups clashing politically, forcing the main characters to balance their allegiances) Assignment 5: Conflict Line Anguished by the revelation that she is not a serf, as she always believed, but is instead a child of the oppressive upper caste, a young girl struggles during a perilous journey through the bio-dome to find out: when her beloved serf guardian/political handler stole her from her people as a baby, was he rescuing her or kidnapping her? Assignment 6: Inner conflict: Mayah is torn between the various pieces of her identity. Although she grew up as a serf and thought she was one, she later finds out that she is actually a Rajas, a child of the oppressive upper caste. After this discovery, she is thrust into the Rajas world, and slowly learns to desire to be accepted by her fellow caste members, which involves forgetting and even denying her serf upbringing. By the time Mayah is brought back out by the serfs to participate in their Uprising, she feels ambivalent toward both the Rajas and the serfs. On the one hand, she is eager to return to familiar serf settings. On the other hand, she is hesitant to throw her lot in with those who want to destroy the Rajas ruling class. She is particularly anguished by the revelation that her beloved serf guardian, Sukren, is in fact her political handler. She begins to wonder whether Sukren hid the truth of his political allegiance from her because he feels contempt for her Rajas background. Fearful that Sukren never truly loved her, Mayah radicalizes in favor of the Uprising in an effort to become worthy of his admiration, to the point that she escalates beyond Sukren, even becoming furious at him for what she perceives to be his own lack of full-throated commitment to the serf cause. Secondary conflict: When Mayah decides that she no longer trusts Sukren, he cannot bear it. He forces her to flee with him to the edge of the bio-dome, beyond the reach of Lady Nari, or so he hopes. Without knowing it, however, he plunges them into an even worse situation. The edge of the bio-dome is populated by a people who deliberately limit the extent of their technological development. They live, in fact, as hunter gatherers, for the most part ignoring the rest of the bio-dome. Normally they are a stable, happy people, but Sukren and Mayah arrive during a social crisis triggered both by a series of unsuccessful hunts and a rapid increase in the number of refugees coming from the bio-dome proper. Thankfully, through his devotion to Mayah despite Mayah’s increasing bitterness, Sukren manages to win the admiration of a young hunter named Rajani who, despite the looming famine, takes both Sukren and Mayah under her protection. Rajani, in addition to finding herself drawn romantically toward Sukren, wants to continue her people’s tradition of welcoming refugees into her society. She is resisted, however, by the rest of her people who apply more and more pressure to stop her efforts. Eventually Rajani’s entire family is ostracized, forcing Rajani to make a choice between her deeply-held convictions and budding feelings, and her family’s fate. Assignment 7: Setting The planet Chudami’s atmosphere clings weakly to its surface, which means both glorious visions of auroras every night, and nearly unbreathable air. It is only beneath the bio-dome that anyone can survive. The bio-dome itself is made up of hollow-trees. Hollow-trees are native to Chudami; indeed, they are the only type of flora or fauna endemic to the planet. With leaves that gleam green and blue in the dark, hollow-trees also produce fiery-red and orange breathflowers that emit oxygen. The original colonists who crash-landed onto Chudami created the bio-dome and set up a rigid, stratified society underneath it. One of the scientists, Sarana, who became known throughout history as the Eternal Queen, decided to establish a dynasty of her own lineage. She did so by gene-locking the Dome Ring, a ring used to catalyze the breathflowers into producing enough oxygen to last through each winter. Her descendants became the Rajas while everyone else became their serfs. The serfs live generally in greenhouses villages scattered around the bio-dome. Because the breathflowers create too much oxygen for Earth flora to handle, massive greenhouses were built and serfs moved into them so that whatever carbon dioxide the serfs breathed out would stay inside the greenhouses for the plants to absorb. The Rajas, on the other hand, live in massive hollow-trees they call castles. Some serfs also live in the castles, as servies to wait on the Rajas, as soldiers to protect the Rajas, as doctor-priests to tend to the Rajas’ physical needs, and as regents to handle the Rajas’ administrative concerns. Population pressures due to the bio-dome dwellers’ limited space means serfs are considered disposable. Anyone who cannot in full health serve the Rajas is killed. Doctor-priests and regents are banned from reproducing. A legal system has developed that requires serfs to successfully apply for protection from a patron--or be considered fair game for abuse and murder at anyone’s hands. Not all the serfs, however, buy into this Rajas-centered worldview. And for the past several hundred years, they have been organizing. The Uprising is at hand, it is whispered, from one end of the bio-dome to the other. Only one corner of the bio-dome remains ignorant of these sweeping changes. Indeed, the people who live on the other side of the shelterbelt, along the edge of the bio-dome, don’t care about the bio-dome proper at all. They live their lives as they have since the crash-landing, hunting mammoles (descendants of Earth moles mutated into giant, but still low oxygen-needing creatures) for meat and gathering nectar from breathflowers to drink. They are not a primitive people though. Scientifically-minded, they deliberately curtail their technological development in order to live out the rhythms of the truly good life. When a season of unsuccessful hunts collides, however, with an increasing number of refugees fleeing the bio-dome proper, the tribe is forced to respond to the pressures their neighbors face, or risk being wiped out themselves.
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