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Messages - Nora

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I work in book retail. My month has been mental. I literally had 2 days off for Xmas and I spent them relaxing. I have a story in mind, but I'm working late shifts now right up until my next day's off 31st and 1st.... so if we stay open the 1st, and I'm able to write a story in two days.... it'll be hard.
It's just the long hours of nonstop running around and talking to people after people. It sucked the motivation to do anything out of me.

[OCT 2018] Small Magics / Re: Small magics - Critique Thread
« on: December 21, 2018, 11:59:25 AM »

Christmas is a fucking nightmare atm. My shop goes from doing a normally busy day of 20k sales to a busy day of 80k sales, so I've been an automated puppet all month, and a soulless zombie each evening, making me keep away from reviews. Today I am off and I am dealing with all the stuff I should not have delayed.


Here's for you @Jake Baelish :

You're gonna hate me, because I really enjoyed your story. I loved the idea, though behind a beer I'd argue that your magic isn't a small one. It was well written too, better than most. The only reason I ended up withdrawing my vote was that you came shoulder to shoulder with other stories, less masterfull but that had in my eyes a more agreeable story.
Hear me out : I was kinda flabbergasted by the choice of the young man. I thought it was horrible, in the same sense that in the theatre, I found that Rose saving Fynn from sacrificing himself was horrible. Then upon reflection, I saw that his sacrifice was pointless, and so him being saved was good, thought I still didn't appreciate the way it came about.
I still kind of feel the same way with your story. The gran REALLY wants to save people. The boy is being incredibly selfish by wilfully killing a stranger his Gran wishes to save.

But then, I'm Nora, right? The one who wrote a pseudo-rape-referential red riding hood story where the wolf is little's red's dad turning into a monster and eating people, as my 2nd submission to the contest! I'm the one who wrote about dog eating fairies, and I'm in Jmack's quote too...
So why would I disagree of your ending?

I feel like the problem in my eyes comes from the love they just exude to each other in the end. A more satisfactory ending following the same idea, in my eyes, would have been a focused pov on the man baking a second bread, and then standing there in front of the adviser, who looks grateful and hopeful, and making the choice, in this man's face, to hand him the wrong loaf. You could even make it entirely unclear which he gave out. "I gave him the bread" kind of sentence.
Then you'd cut to him looking down on his Gran, admiring her strength and her dedication, feeding her bits of bread throughout the night, and him smiling, as she slowly regains her strength. Ending on something chilling ("I simply can't let her go like that" - and I know she'll despise me when she wakes up and realises what I've done) or sad (speaking to sleeping grandma, as her colours return, "I know I've done the wrong thing, I know I've chosen selfishly, I wonder if you'll forgive me?" - bells toll, and grandma wakes at the sound of them, looking back up in his face -end).
I think an open ending, as to whether the gran would forgive him or damn him for abusing her magic and her confidence, would have been better. The fact that she seems to instantly forgive him and smile in the wake of a little girl's death left me feeling like the bleakness of it was not intentional.

Though I could be entirely wrong about it, and you may have wanted to go really bleak, it came across like you wanted to make this a close and lovely story of love and kinship.

So my issue with you is entirely with the tone or your ending, and nothing else. It's not even a bad story, it just left me surprised and thinking how to better it, and what did you mean exactly, etc. So that was a drawback that pulled you to second vote, and then enough good story emerged that I had too many second votes and decided to give none.

The bright side is, this was still a winning material story, and obviously others thought so too, so here we are. Votes reflect personal taste, so you're bound to have the odd person like me not feeling it. Hope it doesn't make it sound too harsh though.

@JMack :

I'm kind of ashamed to say I felt the same about your story. Well written as usual, but it was a plot issue that held me back. In you case, the one that held me back and made the story feel flatter, was my lack of understanding of what the magics were, or looked like.
I was first confused by the kids crying and rushing their mom. They seem seriously clueless and very young, since they won't seat still and it never occurred to them that everyone has a Da, including their mom. So why would they cry? I would only picture them being puzzled.
We don't see them receiving their magic, and the following time jump of their mother dying as very unclear, leaving me only more confused.
The fact that the magics could be buried was interesting, but another confusing element. Since I had no way of knowing what the magics were, looked like, or how they worked (like, maybe they're highly personal? It never occurred to me they could be stolen, but I might have guessed so if I'd known they were physical objects), the reveal of the brother stealing them and returning it felt a bit gimmicky. The whole time I thought, 'well, no matter how the dad died, it brought some seriously happy consequences and he was a prick'. Aullie doesn't seem to be suffering from that much remorse. You do mention a weight lifting off of him, but if his remorse is what made him work his ass until the farm looks fantastic and he can give comfort to his wife despite the lack of children they crave, then imo 100% worth it...

Anyway, I felt like the whole story was full of great ideas, used to little emotional impact. Some suggestions might be :

- Let us know the magics are physical things that can be handled and stolen.
- Make the mom's choices starker. As it is she's speaking in riddles and doesn't make her use of her magic sound like something bad or silly, but like a weird mystery, like she's embarrassed to come clean. Making her a once-dumb-girl who judged a man on his looks and not his character and ended up stranded with a violent husband would be more potent.

- What if Aullie knew his brother stole his magic bead? But thought it had been used anyway? by him or by his brother? When he returns, he'd have more than simple estrangement to be prickly about, and it would come as a big surprise if Padden had actually saved his magic, and returned it, or never used his after that, and is offering to wish a thing for his brother as a reparation.

- If I was rewriting this, the way you did mine, I'd make Padden unbury both beads, and confront his brother. They fight, the father comes around and menaces them. Extremely weary and disheartened Aullie wishes really hard his dad would just fucking die. One bead in one of Padden's hands explodes and dad dies almost on the spot. Both brothers stare in horror, and Padden bolts with remaining bead and is not seen again.
Aullie plagued by doubt and some remorse, but wants his bro back. When padden returns, it's a wish come true in its own way, even if it reopens old wounds. Then Padden comes clean : It was his bead that burst, his wish of death that was heard (maybe you need to hold it yourself to work?) and he left in dread and shame, feeling like a murderer, and later like he abandoned his brother.
Came back to make penance and return his brother's bead back, so the bro can have his kids.
I'm a bit on the fence about the values of having the wife once pinning on the brother. It adds a lick of flavour to her but really just hints at possible future complications which feels unnecessary.

Still think your final line is great.
So yes, the plot and characters felt a bit flat and their motivation was questionable, despite the fairytale idea being good, and the writing being up to your usual standard, so I couldn't pick you above Jake, for example. T_T
Of course I can't repaint your story, it's rude, but I guess it's the best way to carry my point across too.

@ryanmcgowan :

In the case of your story, my first problem was the formatting, which really put me off. My instinct when I see such great slabs of text is to not read at all, and I usually keep such stories for last. It was a shame because you have a nice, pretty poetical prose, though at times your vocabulary choices made it look like it needed more editing, like when the same character is "surprised" twice in a row, and both use of surprise appear on top of each other in the text.
Another thing that felt a bit odd was how the father and mother never seemed to stop believing that the MC is delivering Death magic, even as she helps the daughter. I felt their lack of progress or change was a bit off. Why keep the MC in their home if they this obviously don't believe her? "A smile even touched the girls lips, another small magic." That was a great line though.
The idea of your magic was really good too.

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Voting Thread
« on: December 21, 2018, 10:46:43 AM »
Finally voted. I read everyone a while back, and left it to simmer, coming back now to see which one stand back in my mind. I'm actually voting for one whose ending is completely unclear, and I can't tell if the MC is good or bad or what, but the idea had too much charm for it to be detrimental.

I'm a bit of a prickly reader for boat stories, as I was a rabid fan of the Aubrey and Maturin series as a teen, and The Terror is on my top 5 books of all time list. I'm used to excellent naval stories, so I have a bit of an overly critical eye with them, which also completely keeps me from even trying to write a story from the pov of a normal ship. Hence why I went the land-lubbers way and picked the wreck as my image. A ship without sailing  ;D

It was very fun to see so many picking the same image and coming out with completely different ideas.  :D
I like months with pictures, when they offer enough choice, because I tend to browse pictures for inspiration anyway as I cook up stories.

[OCT 2018] Small Magics / Re: Small magics - Critique Thread
« on: December 16, 2018, 06:59:44 PM »
Sorry Jmack, the weekend hit me like a 20 ton truck. I was exhausted on Saturday, and crippled further by a bout of insomnia brought on by the coffees I drank to stay awake, like a total dolt.

Anyway, I'm barely alive rn, so I'll do a quick answer to your review, but keep my own critics for tomorrow, after when I've had 12h of sleep. T_T

Possibility: Turn the stakeout into something that matters. For example, he’s sketching the Artist’s latest foray in his notebook, revealing the difference between normal sight and magical sight. (If you want, put a normal human partner with him to argue about what is seen.) End with him noticing that she’s inserted a message to him. In fact, it’s so fresh and recent, he knows she must be watching, but he’s a total failure seeing her; he gets lost in her work, instead.

That's a fantastic solution and gave me one of those "oh shit" moments, when you see the solution to a problem that seemed stuck.
I don't agree with any instances of the Artist being around, because it entirely defeats the point of leaving messages painted on walls. Same with the magic idea at the end: though it's a lovely idea, it means the Artist anticipated him, not that she's come by, seen his work, and replied. It also must mean something that he leaves the spot alone, and doesn't stalk it.
But yes, the idea of him and his partner discussing outside, and seeing the art instead of referring to it, is excellent.

> Problem/Possibility: Back to the partner, turn this into conflict. You say he’s a cold shoulder to cry on, but he immediately offers a donut and patiently walks through the case with our hero. Instead, make him a jerk who would like nothing better than for Iain to fall the rest of the way from his formerly high perch. The realization that Iain should take another road can come more as something Tom didn’t know he was saying, but Iain makes a connection.

On this I disagree. He's meant to not pity Iain, but he's not meant to be disparaging. He also doesn't need a life or agency... I'm surprised you even mention this. He's such a minor character, I never try to give life or agency to side characters. In a 1500 short story, they're all only ever around to paint in decor or add flavour or enable the hero/story.
But that doesn't excuse how weak the partner character was, and a scene where the two of them discuss actively in front of a painting would have been infinitely better.
It almost makes me want to re-write it!

So no, don't worry, I'm not bothered that you gave stark examples, because even if I wouldn't follow them entirely (or it'd be a jmack story), most of your suggestions open clear and very good avenues. It makes my mistakes painfully clear.
I knew the story was clunky, and you've helped me pinpoint exactly why!

Now I'll pay you back with a review tomorrow!!!

[OCT 2018] Small Magics / Re: Small magics - Critique Thread
« on: December 12, 2018, 02:48:23 AM »
Keen for critics as always, but won't be able to retaliate until Friday when I have the day off! I'll take an hour to do the rounds of people who've logged interest by then.

Honestly not sure I'll even try this month. I'm so dead each day after work. It's mind numbing and back breaking, and my story ideas are pretty shit and rusty.
December is not a good month. Less free time than usual. I'll try but no promises. I don't have a single idea so far either.

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Discussion Thread
« on: December 01, 2018, 01:04:51 PM »
Handed mine in too against all expectations. I'll do some extra editing tonight, but my word count is 1500 SHARP so I better be happy with what I've got...

[OCT 2018] Small Magics / Re: [Oct 2018] - Small Magics - Voting Thread
« on: December 01, 2018, 12:08:13 PM »
Congrats @Jake Baelish !! You were one of my very potential second choices, so I'll be sure to give you a review if you want one, but my vote went to @Carter this month!

Plenty of excellent tales, it was a hard choice. Thanks a lot everyone!

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« on: December 01, 2018, 11:58:08 AM »
Picked Ship 2.

1500 words - Angel Plague

Spoiler for Hiden:

Angel Plague

The old bird says they came on a ship. And she's that: old. Her wings huddle featherless behind her warped shoulders, twitching as we pull the story out of her. She claims to be old enough to remember the messenger who passed through her village to tell of a ship like a city, come to Dieb in splendour, and that was before rumours of coastal Gamar and Drasel falling to a plague, before the plague itself came to dispel the rumours.

'So many places burned along the coast that month, people forgot where it started. It wasn't like knowing who died first would save your life.'

I nod in agreement. To this day there is no deciding which city had burned first, which village turned into a charnel before its neighbours.

'I remember suckling my mam till I was twice over the age of weaning, because corpses were the only crop around. People always jabber about Dulik since that's where the first angel came from. Before that poor girl it was just plague, and then it was angel plague. But it was them strangers on their death ship that came to Dieb with it.'

Nobody likes the idea of riding to Dieb, even if it is our most solid lead. Some grumble the word of old harpies isn't proof enough.

I flap my wings angrily, rounding on my men.

'What other rumours would you have us checking first? Whether the dead princess Mia lost her virginity to the Devil? Whether Carusians were sinning with their chickens?'

'No, Alessar, we only mean–'

'You mean you're terrified of going cross-country. Your nannies told you it's full of ghosts and entire villages dead and unburied, with bones scattered by animals and the wind.'

God knows it's the truth, for the bones at least, if plague-country is half as bad as what we've seen so far in the borderlands.
I pitch my voice to sound reasonable, encouraging.

'Yes it's plague-country, and nobody knows what goes on further down the road, but finding this ship, its people, are our orders. It's the rumour our King believes in. We will go and be safe, because the plague won't touch us. And if men try...'

I raise my spear up and look sternly at each of my men: four angel-born like I, and three plague survivors of middling age, Damian the only one among them changing, the bony stumps growing out of his back hidden under leather wrappings.
All soldiers, handpicked.

'Don't lose heart now.'

I mount my horse, a deep-chested stallion very willing to take me in any direction so long as he can gallop there.

'We ride to Dieb,' I say, and my men follow, putting up a show of enthusiasm that is more for their own sake than mine.

The  map says that the road–really a trail we barely make out through the encroaching wilderness–passes through several villages on its way to Dieb.
In the first, everyone is winged. The children look up in wonder and the adults flock to us, eager to trade for news, but they can't tell us what lays further down the road.
There are open-air ossuaries, but we expected them. The real blow to morale comes from the hamlets where, more and more often, half naked farmers turn the tools in their hands into weapons and give chase without a word, without a shout of warning.
When the scouts spy a village without an angel in sight, I send Lud and Mallory through, human as they look, with instructions to make themselves perfectly agreeable while the rest of us give it a wide berth. They rejoin us with provisions strapped to their saddles and a grim set to their mouths. We avoid all the villages after that.
Finally there is salt in the air, and the murmur of the sea beyond the swishing of palm tree leaves. There are more ruins of old farms too, as we near whatever is left of Dieb. So when Damian is taken by plague-fever, I'd consider calling it a day, but the men are having none of it, reeling with impatience, several of them going ahead to scout the shore.
He lays on his belly, to accommodate the bony slabs that one day will form useable limbs. Maybe. His eyes, bloodshot, the irises slowly splitting three-ways, are starring into whatever inward hell the plague crafts for him.

Bruno squats by me, giving me a hand unwrapping the wing stumps.

'Alessar, let's strap him to his horse.'

'I don't know,' I whisper, waving at the spasming muscles, the snarling lips revealing bleeding gums. Soon his teeth would need filing again.

'Well, he'll hurt either way. Plus, look,' Bruno says, waving his hand in front of Damian's face. 'There's nobody home.'

I scowl at the feeling of burning flesh and sickly sweat under my fingers, an unwanted reminder that we are the product of disease, but we saddle him up like a bag of potatoes and move on. We're too close now.

We come upon it not in the main harbour, but beached in the cove south of it. The masts, which guided us from afar, should have prepared us for the sight of it, but even presented with all its broken splendour, I struggle with the size of the thing.
It is a monster beyond my wildest dream. As if I had gone out to the beach with a stick to poke at jellyfishes, only to stumble on the carcass of a whale.

It's gutted, split in half, its seven great masts lolling haphazardly, connected by the last remnants of rotting rope and shreds of sails long lost to the wind.
People made a staircase out of driftwood, going up and up, into the great wound itself.
Still, several thousand people could hide in this wreck without crowding its crumbling decks. And yet, most noticeable is the figurehead: a gigantic woman, winged like the angels of lore, holding forth objects whose meaning I cannot guess. Her beautiful form bitter irony.


I look to where Lud points at a lone fisherman pulling traps out of shallow waters, not far from the much smaller wreck of what must have once been a dinghy.
We ride down to him, holding hands in signs of peace, but the man welcomes us with a bout of spitting.

'You gulls lost or something?'

I laugh.

'Quite the opposite, fisherman. We come from the new Altan court, in search for the ship that brought strangers to our shore. This boat,' I say, pointing up over my wing at the behemoth eating half the sky.

'Is that so?' the man says, looking vaguely amused. 'The ol' king's still kicking?'

'His son,' I correct, 'Altar the second. He believes the people came to our shores carrying angel-plague with them, and so maybe they know of a cure. We were sent to investigate, seek their healers–'

The fisherman laughs then, in disbelief or mockery, I can't tell, but it shakes his whole body, sends crabs rattling in the trap he's clinging to.

Bruno flaps his wings in irritation, making the horses dance nervously.

'Are the ship people still alive? Tell us man! This is no joke.'

'Oh, aye,' the man whizzes, 'they don't really like birds like you though, so good luck talking to them. They first settled on top of Akram,' he says, pointing at the tall cliffs that cut the northern horizon, 'and resettled a lot of Gamar. But they come here often enough, especially the young ones. Kind of a pilgrimage, maybe? Not like they'd tell old Beko here.'

The men cry out, calling out to each other about our good luck, and I feel a hand slapping my shoulder, but I only have eyes for the little man whose own eyes have gone up, past my wings and into the sky.

'Well, aren't you gulls lucky!' He exclaims, pointing. 'Here's one of them now, and no kid either!'

So I look up too, just as a shadow passes over us.

It is an angel, and it isn't. It is more, like the ship is more than a ship. Maybe three times my size, with a far larger wingspan, its arms are human enough, holding a bag to its broad chest, but the legs are disjointed, ending in terrible talons.
It flies over us without slowing or looking down, uncaring for the humans floundering in the shadow of a ship whose size suddenly makes more sense. Whose figurehead is nothing more than a herald of her species, and no angel at all.

'Still want to go ask the cure for bird-plague?' The old fisherman asks, smiling sadly. 'They call themselves something chirpy. Sounds like 'Titwak'. Usually they kill people like you, so we do the same. When a little gull is born, we offer it up to the sea.'

He shrugs, turns around to empty his trap.

'Go home. No point in you dying for a cure that doesn't exist.'

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Discussion Thread
« on: November 30, 2018, 10:57:11 PM »
I wrote most of my final 500 words in my notebook today, so I'll have to seriously beg for the extra saturday-till-late-evening time please! Hopefully everyone seems last minute this month.
I'll take my computer to work tomorrow to spread the work out. 

^ ;D

@Nora, in the contest thread you mentioned being very busy and classes: give us an update of your life now, you're also being missed in the forum :) Are you studying, then? What, exactly? And still at Waterstone's?

(nosy Bea, you can ignore me at will, hehe)

It's ok you're not nosy.

I'm studying Japanese. I'm struggling, my brain is not as supple and fresh as it once was. Also it's christmas time now and the shop is horrible. I often come home drained with no desire to either write or write about writing, so I've been extra lazy, even with my lurking.
Also I've been planying Warframe, and that does suck up time!

Speaking of time I have very few minutes left before compulsory bed time, so I need to go work on the ending of my monthly short!

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Discussion Thread
« on: November 28, 2018, 10:48:29 AM »
I'm still keeping this open at least on Saturday 1st December, give you some part of the weekend :)

That's cool! I only need to work on the last 500 words for mine, and maybe try to shift everything to past tense, but I also have a class friday that I need to study for and it's my only day off, so any extra time saturday will be a life saver.

[OCT 2018] Small Magics / Re: [Oct 2018] - Small Magics - Voting Thread
« on: November 12, 2018, 11:12:33 PM »
Right, voted. I'm being cruel this month and voting for only one person, because it's a story that clearly stands out as the best to me, but at least 4 or 5 others stand completely shoulder to shoulder for a second place, none distinguishing itself clearly.
I'll give them all quick reviews.

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Discussion Thread
« on: November 02, 2018, 12:23:23 PM »
Sorry Nora, but you can turn any of the official images into a SF story - I know you can ;D

(who says that the whirlpool in photo 1 isn't in a weird planet, and the spaceship turned into a water-based ship in order to get through and reach the planet's centre?)

I won't though, I'm neck deep in fantasy horror right now. But for photo one... I guess I can't scifi it because I know it's from Pirates of the Caribbean? Can't separate it from its scene. But the idea of accessing a lower level through isking your ship down a sinkhole it quite good. Maybe find Atlantis down there.

[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Discussion Thread
« on: November 01, 2018, 10:11:20 PM »
What about this ship??

Is it intentional that all our ships are fantasy exclusively? :p

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