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Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Voting Thread Congratulations, @Lordoftheword. I voted for you, because I thought the story had good pacing and characterization, and I really wanted to know what would happen.

I also voted for @Jmack and @m3mnoch. Both of your submissions were well written and worked really well for me. There were a lot of other close ones, but your two rose to the top.

Also, thank you to everyone who voted for me! It was a month with a lot of great submissions and I am honored to have received so many votes.

January 02, 2017, 06:46:48 PM
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Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Critique Thread I'd be interested in critiques for "There had to be a reason".

Here's one for @Nora for "Time's Arrow."

Spoiler for Hiden:

Selected Quote: "At the bottom of his message are some universal scribbles, present over all the greatest buildings of mankind and whatever school desks might have survived the ages: a B+E in the middle of a heart, and under it 2030– and the looped symbol of eternity."

Something Awesome: I thought the relationship was really well done – particularly the bantering dialogue.

Theme Appropriateness: I tend to be pretty lax on the interpretations of the prompt, so re-interpreting 1750 didn’t bother me too much, but it might have been better if the start of the new calendar could have been explicitly tied to the event that Bobby and Ellen were escaping from.

Conflict and Tension: Was there a particular reason they chose that day to enter stasis? I felt the characters’ desperation, but didn’t quite understand their urgency, since it seemed like they had been planning this for a while. What was the tipping point?

Strength of Characterisation: As I said before, the relationship was great. If it wasn’t well done, the message from Bobby wouldn’t have had the impact that it did. I think this was due to the dialogue, as well as the way Ellen talks about Bobby.

I wasn’t bothered by their use of names in the dialogue. I think people are sometimes more likely to use names with people they are close to, in the same way they would use monikers like “sweetie,” “honey,” “darling,” etc. That being said, I agree with m3mnoch that non-verbal communication is important, and I think some of that was lost when there were multiple lines of dialogue without any tags. That would be one thing that might help improve the portrayal of the relationship.

Something Confusing: The first time through, I got confused by some of the jumps in time and place. In particular, the segment “One day I had offered to exit…” confused me. I didn’t realize that we were still in the present, not on the day that Ellen had offered to exit stasis.

January 04, 2017, 04:37:27 AM
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Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Critique Thread @The Gem Cutter

Thanks for the thoughts. I have been surprised to discover that the most problematic part of this story was not the science and my convenient interpretations of quantum mechanics, but the characterization problems that arose from how I dealt with with the science.

My intention through the final switch to Plank's POV was to show that there is something going on that is much greater than Sam as an individual. I didn't flesh out what that is during my brainstorming, but if I had, maybe I would have been able to more effectively show that in the story and set it up for the darker ending. Or, as you suggested, another solution might have been to give Sam some closure through the conversation with Plank, and at the end show Plank upset about what he had to do.

Thanks again! It's helpful to see where the weaknesses were so that I can know what questions to ask when I write future stories.

January 04, 2017, 11:47:01 PM
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Re: [Jan 2017] - Urban Fantasy - Discussion Thread Finished a first draft today, so I should be able to get it through an edit and down to 1500 words by the deadline.
January 26, 2017, 01:34:16 AM
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Re: [Jan 2017] - Urban Fantasy - Submission Thread The Boy Who Spoke Dakota
1418 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Anthony swerved around a rock and rolled down a short drop, savoring the freedom of aloneness. He stood, cranking the pedals of his mountain bike, and charged up a steep slope before carefully riding over a fallen log. He loved the trails at Theodore Wirth Park and completed another three circuits before pulling off in the grassy lot at the south end of the course.

“It went that way!” shouted a boy somewhere behind him. Anthony did not wait to see what was going on; he clipped back in and sped into the woods.

Clamping his fingers around the handlebars, he dropped to a lower gear and powered through the course. He focused on the angles of the turns, the burn in his muscles, the momentum of the hills. He danced.

Approaching the last little uphill before the end of the loop, a blue blur darted in front of him. He braked hard and jerked his right ankle, unclipping. He teetered dangerously to the left, and then shifted the front wheel to tip him to the right. Balance stabilized, he glanced up the hill before him and sighed. He would have to walk it. After unclipping his left pedal and putting his foot down, he swung his right leg behind him and dismounted.

Three kids bolted from the trees, crossing the mountain biking path. One of them hit Anthony’s front wheel.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Watch it!” Nobody looked back.

Walking his bike up the hill, he could hear them yapping.

“Did you get a picture?”

“I can’t believe how blue it is!”

“Is it slimy?”

“Help! Please, help me!” At that, Anthony looked up. That wasn’t English.

He mounted his bike and reluctantly rode toward the noise. A boy with the stature of a hockey player had his arms wrapped around a blue creature. It looked like an octopus, blobby with lots of limbs that could propel it forward. It squirmed in the boy’s grip, and Anthony watched as a round hole appeared in the side. A mouth. “Please, help!”

Was that thing really speaking Dakota?

Before Anthony knew what he was doing, he found himself saying, “Stop.”

“Why?” He recognized that voice. His neighbor, Ashley, stood with her arms crossed.

“He’s upset.”

“How do you know? Maybe it likes being held, like a cat.”

“He told me. He’s speaking Dakota.”

Ashley rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows animals can’t talk. Not even Native American languages.” What a know-it-all. Mom said Ashley was jealous that he could speak two languages. Anthony said that if that was true and Ashley was as smart as she thought she was, she should just learn another language. Mom didn’t like that.

“Ashley, let him go.” She pulled out her phone, probably taking pictures. He gripped his handlebars so tightly they dug into the tendons of his hands.

Then Ashley shrugged, putting her phone away. “Come on guys.” She stalked off. The hockey player put the creature down, surprisingly gently, and then followed.

The creature had eyes on the top of its head, and he watched the kids until he couldn’t see them any more. Then it turned to Anthony.

“Thank you,” he said, again in Dakota.

“No big deal.”

The creature seemed to accept that, but he made no move to leave.

“Are you hurt?” asked Anthony.

The creature seemed to turn a darker shade of blue. “No.” Were his eyes watering? “I’m lost,” he sobbed.

Anthony put his hands out, trying to make calming gestures. “Where do you need to go?”

“Bde Maka Ska.”

“The lake?”

The creature nodded.

“That’s kind of far away.”

“I know.” Tears streamed out of the creature’s eyes.

It felt like somebody had taken a hex wrench to Anthony's heart and twisted. “I know how to get there.”

The creature sniffled and wiped his eyes with a tentacle. “You do?”

“Yes. You follow the bike path and head south.” He pointed toward Bde Maka Ska.

The creature’s gaze followed Anthony’s arm. “What if I get lost again?” he said, quavering.

Anthony hesitated. His legs ached and his stomach grumbled. He leaned over his handlebars, watching the creature. Eventually, it turned toward the bike path, raising half of its tentacles, preparing to move.

Anthony read reluctance in every slow-moving tentacle, each lurch of the body.

“Alright, I’ll take you there.” The creature’s eyes stood straight up and it spun around faster than Anthony would have believed possible. It windmilled toward Anthony, reached its tentacles up around the frame of the mountain bike and hung underneath the top bar. It looked like a sloth from the pictures Anthony had seen of the Amazon.

“Watch out for the gears,” he warned.

He clipped his left foot in and forced the pedal down. No wonder the hockey player had grabbed the creature; it was heavy. They lumbered across the grassy lot until they hit pavement.

The riding became easier, but remained slow. A mountain bike did not make for fast riding, especially when weighed down by a lump of an animal. The creature stayed quiet. When they rode over I-394, the blue ball shrank to half his size. Anthony took Kenwood Parkway to the trails over by Cedar Lake, and merged onto the Greenway. As he rode, he tried to process the fact that an animal spoke to him in Dakota. How much truth was there to his grandmother’s stories?

When they arrived at Bde Maka Ska, Anthony rode his bike as close to the water’s edge as he could without riding in.

“Thank you so much!” The creature leaped off the bike, straight into the water. He made a small splash, and Anthony watched a wave of ripples, like the trail of a muskrat, head towards the heart of Bde Maka Ska.

He leaned on his handlebars, staring until the water grew still. Eyeing the sinking sun, he mounted his bike, bemoaning the pain in his sit bones. It would be a slow ride home. He followed the bike path as it wound away from the lakes and back toward the Greenway. As he merged onto the bike path, he looked toward the canal connecting Bde Maka Ska to Lake of the Isles and saw Minnie, the lake monster. It was a sculpture the city rotated between the lakes during the summer. It looked like a plesiosaur, or the Loch Ness monster.

The park system had put her out early this year, it seemed. Then she dipped her head down.

Anthony missed the turn onto the greenway, barreling down the running path toward the canal. He barely unclipped in time to avoid crashing into the water.

“My name is Minnie,” said the plesiosaur, speaking Dakota. “Who are you?”

“Anthony.” He continued staring.

“Hoghen says you brought him home,” she said, nodding to a little blue ball floating alongside Minnie.

“Is that his name?”

Minnie scolded Hoghen. “Didn’t you introduce yourself?” Hoghen trembled.

Minnie sighed, turning to Anthony. “I’m sorry about his behavior. He’s young, and few speak Dakota any more. People scare him.” Anthony gritted his teeth, thinking of Ashley and her friends. “Can I give you anything for your trouble?”

Surprised by the question, Anthony said, “No.” Minnie looked him in the eye, challenging him to change his mind.

Hoghen bumped into her. She looked down at him, then swiftly dove below the surface. Hoghen followed.

Anthony watched the water settle, unable to muster the energy to leave. He took a deep breath, but as he kicked a pedal up, the creatures surfaced. Hoghen propelled himself to the water’s edge and clambered up the shore carrying a small glass bottle. Minnie, her head level with Anthony’s, spoke. “I can’t do as much as I used to. Algae taint the water. But I can still do something.”

Anthony took the vial from Hoghen, peering at its blue green interior. Then he reached for the wooden stopper.

“It’s not for you.”

Confused, he looked at Minnie.

“It’s for the other kids,” she explained. “You accepted Hoghen; they did not. A few drops of this will weaken their preconceptions and open them to new ideas.” Minnie hung her head. “It does not always work as you expect, so be careful.” Anthony took his hand off the top of the bottle and carefully placed it in his pocket. Hoghen scrambled back into the water, snuggling up to Minnie. She looked down at Hoghen but spoke to Anthony.

“You are welcome to visit any time. Spending time with people would be good for Hoghen.”

January 31, 2017, 04:53:22 AM
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Re: [Jan 2017] - Urban Fantasy - Discussion Thread Well, what I thought was going to be an edit became a re-write (followed by a quick edit). I've decided that I prefer editing to re-writing. Re-writing feels like such an inefficient way to arrive at a story.

But, I got something posted. We'll call that a success, regardless of whatever messes and loose ends I left in there.

January 31, 2017, 05:01:53 AM
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Re: [DEC 2016] - Dragons! - Voting Thread @Jmack  I write a few notes after I read each story to help remember my experience when it comes to voting and critiquing. The only thing I wrote after yours was "Creepy." Well done.

I voted for @Bradley Darewood (I really liked the concept and setting), @Nora (Your opening line was fantastic and set up the character really well), @tebakutis (I liked the concept and Sekia's horror), and @m3mnoch (Great writing and twist)

Again, there were lots of other worthy stories this month - these were just the ones that ended up getting my vote on that day.

Also, thanks to @tebakutis and @TOMunro for the votes!

February 02, 2017, 02:49:21 AM
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Re: [DEC 2016] Dragons - Critique Thread I'm always up for a critique of my writing.

Here's one for "Hunt" @Roelor

Spoiler for Hiden:

Selected Quote:  “I enjoyed that satisfying, rustling sound of membrane slowly peeling from one another as my wings unfolded.” I can hear the wings opening, and it’s a slightly alien, yet familiar sound.

Something Awesome: I liked the setting and the way the airplanes were described. I haven’t seen dragons and planes often.

Theme Appropriateness: Very high.

Conflict and Tension: I think it should have been higher than it was. More sentence structure variety and shorter paragraphs may have helped. There were a lot of “I did this, then I did that” sequences that caused the writing to fall into a rhythm that dulled the tension.

Some of it also comes from the “Show, don’t tell” adage. For example, “I could feel the projectiles trail of fire warm my scales as the barely hissed by,” could be replaced with, “The projectiles’ trails of fire warmed my scales as they hissed by” or "A screeching hiss crescendoed, and a tingling warmth spread along my side." (That's a little weird, but I hope it conveys the idea - it's definitely something I'm working on myself)

Characterization: I sort of lost the character in the action. There was a mix of arrogance, frustration, and pride at the beginning that got lost by the end.

Something Confusing: N/A

February 04, 2017, 03:18:06 AM
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Re: [Feb 2017] - Fanfic - Submission Thread The Woman from Oxford
1395 words

Spoilers for Phillip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass and Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance.

Spoiler for Hiden:

“Do you remember what Xaphania told us about traveling, all those years ago?” Lyra lay back in her plush armchair in her room in St. Sophia’s College, the alethiometer on her lap.

“Lyra…we’ve been over this.” Her pine marten daemon perched atop the armchair, resting his head on Lyra’s shoulder.

“I know we can’t travel to see Will and Kirjava, but we’ve been having such trouble with the Republic of Heaven, and Xaphania called it a ‘form of seeing.’ Maybe we could see something from another world that would help us.”

Pan held still, letting Lyra know he was thinking about it.

She continued. “Lately, when I’ve been working with the alethiometer, I’ve been able to enter a sort of trance, almost like in the old days. I want to see if I can use that state of mind to travel, in the sense that Xaphania used it.”

Pan climbed down to nestle at her side, and Lyra scooted over to make room for him. He said, “Be careful, Lyra. I agree that we could use some help with the Republic of Heaven, but I don’t want you to do anything reckless.”

“I would never do such a thing,” she said with mock outrage. Closing her eyes, she added, “Not anymore.”

Lyra placed one hand in Pan’s fur and the other on the alethiometer, relaxing and searching.

*

Jasnah stood in the prow of the boat as it sped across the ocean of beads.

“They are coming,” said Ivory. He sat in the stern, watching for pursuit. “We should leave.”

“I will not leave until absolutely necessary.”

“I would argue that we are at that point.” Jasnah glanced back. The boats had doubled in size since she last looked. Unfortunately, Jasnah and Ivory were still far from Alethkar and could travel much faster in Shadesmar.

“We wait as long as we can.” She tightened the bandolier around her chest and the pack on her back. Ivory hunched over, fondling his sword. The stern darkened, the color of fresh ink.

Jasnah watched their pursuit. She had hoped to have more time before some of the highspren decided to punish Ivory for bonding her. Regardless, now she knew. The Desolation was coming.

“Jasnah…” The highspren had halved the distance to them.

“Wait.” Every minute traveled here saved them hours of walking in Roshar.

She mentally reviewed the process for Transportation. As she checked her spheres – she would have just enough – a splash interrupted.

She spun to starboard and saw a woman sinking. Beside her floated the strangest spren Jasnah had ever seen. It was a reddish-brown color, long, and looked kind of soft. What kind of spren was that? It wasn’t an inkspren or a Cryptic – was this woman a Willshaper? It didn’t match any descriptions she had found in the archives.

“Ivory! To starboard!”

“Jasnah, the highspren-“

“Do it!”

The boat turned hard to starboard, effectively stopping them, spraying beads everywhere. A few smacked her arms, sending images into her mind. Jasnah tried not to slip as she reached a hand out to the woman. Her spren followed, hauling itself up the side of the boat.

“Thank you!” said the spren. The woman slumped against the side of the boat, coughing.

“What are you doing here?” asked Jasnah.

The woman started to speak. “I thought…I thought I would just be looking. Pan! Why didn’t Xaphania tell us we could physically travel?” Did she think she was Soulcasting? That was an odd description of it, if she did.

The spren – Pan – sidled up to the woman and leaned his head on her. “Probably because it would take us so long to learn. She did not want us to waste our time looking for Will; we had to focus on building the Republic of Heaven.”

“Jasnah!” She spun around. Now she could make out individual highspren.

Jasnah whispered, “You need to leave. The highspren are coming, and they do not appreciate our presence.”

“Highspren? Are they like angels?” Angels? Jasnah would need to look into that term.

Pan twisted to look behind the boat. “They don’t look like angels.”

“You don’t look like a spren,” said Ivory, glancing at the interlopers for a moment.

“What’s a spren?” asked Lyra. “Is it this world’s name for a daemon?” Pan climbed into the woman’s lap. Jasnah blinked. Was he…paler…than before? She shook her head, speculating that spending so much time in Shadesmar was affecting her mind.

“You’re not from Roshar,” said Jasnah. A statement, not a question.

“No, we’re from Oxford.” Another name to research.

“You should go back. Now.” Ivory had drawn his sword.

“We will,” said Lyra. She dug in her pocket, extracting a small golden instrument.

“Is that a fabrial?” Jasnah found herself asking.

“I don’t know that word.”

“A fabrial is an object powered by stormlight.”

“This is powered by a particle we call Dust. Perhaps you call it stormlight.”

“Interesting. May I see it?” Jasnah held out a hand.

“Lyra,” said Pan. He jerked once, then slumped to the deck.

“Pan!” Lyra grabbed her chest. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.” Jasnah watched and concluded that the daemon had indeed lost some of its vibrant color.

“You need to leave,” said Jasnah. “Pan is fading.” Facts, with no explanation.

“He…he can’t…he’s part of me!” shrieked Lyra. She threw herself at Pan. The spren collapsed a little under her weight.

Was there something Jasnah could do? She could try to transport them to where they had come from, but then she wouldn’t have enough stormlight to get her and Ivory out of Shadesmar. She glanced at her bandolier out of habit, knowing she did not have enough stormlight.

Her eyes widened in shock. The gems were full.

She looked at the dwindling spren, hypothesizing.

Jasnah hurried to Pan’s side and placed a hand on him. Lyra shrieked louder, if possible.

“Get your hands off him!” She thrashed on the deck.

Jasnah ignored Lyra and focused on Pan. Could she Soulcast a being made of stormlight? She closed her eyes, envisioning the transfer of stormlight from her gems to Pan, willing the light to become Pan.

She felt him stiffen, and then her hands clasped short, soft hairs. Exhausted, she opened her eyes, and released him.

Lyra shuddered, taking gulping breaths. “That was...” Another deep breath. “Pan, are you OK?”

The spren rolled over. “I feel…better…but still odd. What did you do?”

“I Soulcasted you, in a sense. You must be constructed of what we called stormlight, and it was leaking from you. So I forced it back. I don’t know how long it will hold.”

Pan crawled over to Lyra, and she embraced him. After a moment, she looked over at Jasnah. “Thank you. We will leave, but I wish to do something for you first. She held the golden instrument. “This is called an alethiometer. It answers questions. I can try to answer one for you, although I don’t have my books here.”

Jasnah held up a hand, forestalling Ivory from protesting.

 “Ask it this. Should spren bond humans?”

Lyra sat with her back to the hull of the boat, knees up. She grasped the alethiometer in her hands, resting her elbows on her knees. Pan curled next to her.

She flipped up a cover, and Jasnah could see moving hands, surrounded by dozens of symbols.

Lyra gasped.

“What did it say?” asked Jasnah.

Lyra ignored her. “Pan, I can read it! Just like I used to be able to, without the books and everything.”

“Really? I wonder if that has to do with the traveling. Or with the amount of Dust in this place.”

Jasnah waited, and Lyra quieted, focusing on her instrument. It seemed to be a very powerful fabrial.

Moments later, Lyra let out a sigh, leaning her head back. “Yes.”

Ivory let out a long breath. Jasnah felt the satisfaction of proving a hypothesis.  “Thank you,” she said.

Lyra nodded, and closed her eyes. Her breathing slowed, and soon she and Pan faded from the boat.

“Stop!” The highspren had arrived. Jasnah could see the beads around their boat transforming.

But she had already grabbed Ivory and seized her remaining stormlight. A streak of light surrounded her, spinning into a vortex.

It faded, and the afterimage blinded her momentarily. She groaned a long groan, then looked to the side, where Wit stood.

February 20, 2017, 02:16:32 AM
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Re: [Jan 2017] - Urban Fantasy - Voting Thread Congrats @Jmack! I loved the setting and how it impacted the story.

I also voted for:

@m3mnoch - I liked the twist at the end

@DevinBM - I was impressed by the strength of the MC's personality

@Rukaio_Alter - I've definitely never read anything that funny about coffee shops and chain letters

Also, thanks to @Lady_Ty , @tebakutis , and @Elfy for the votes! I haven't read much urban fantasy, so I just took the city I know best and added a fantastical creature. Maybe that's why what I wrote ended up on the lighter side.

March 04, 2017, 02:48:43 AM
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