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Messages - akoebel

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Reading Excuses / Re: July 18 - Will777r - Soul Yearning - Chapter 6
« on: July 24, 2011, 02:45:38 PM »
I don't have much to say about this chapter.

It felt more like a waiting part than anything, so I don't have much more information now than I had before.

The thing that stuck out for me was his disproportionate reactions towards the Militia, in particular in the "he's the man who ruined my life" sentence. This was Albione's choice to heal him, so at best, it should be "the man I ruined my life for". Also, the scene between the two seemed a little too harsh. The man looked grateful to Albione, and he's attacked viciously (even if only verbally). At one point, Albione notices that he goes a little too far, but decides to continue nonetheless. This felt a little too much.

When Benda mentioned his pregnant wife, I thought it would bring memories of Ronar's children at the burial ceremony. I was a little disappointed when this wasn't mentioned.

The "because it was the right thing" felt like a resolution to me, but we find out on the next scene that Albione is still troubled (in my opinion, he expects too much). It worked as if the resolution hadn't even occurred, which is a pity.

Reading Excuses / Re: 2011 Jul 18 - cjhuitt - Second Son Chapter 2
« on: July 24, 2011, 02:13:26 PM »
Yes, this was a very enjoyable chapter, much more than the first one (which was fine by itself).

I liked Sancha's voice, and the fact that while very competent, she still lacks some skills for her chosen profession. This gives her some room to grow, which is good.

I agree with Hubay that I would have liked Miki to be a prankster - everybody loves a scoundrel.

A couple of points I noted:
* If Jorvail knows she's acting, how can she complete her assignments? He should be able to resist her. It would make more sense to have her practise on random people instead.
* The ministry (I suppose it's the Information Ministry) acts like an intelligence agency. Those rely more on covert operations than on any other means. Using women to extract information through seduction seems too overt for this sort of job (though you might have shown us a small part of the curriculum).

Details are a little fuzzy in my head since I read the piece a week ago, but here are my feelings on this chapter.

As the others said, having a character plot his moves in advance, then seeing them executed as planned can be boring : there is no tension (since we know everything), and no expected surprises.
You have 2 avenues to fix this:
* remove the strategy meeting - if we don't know what is supposed to happen, we can read and enjoy the action. The Trodoon might face no real threat, but there is still some interest, since they don't use the same tactics in every system;
* introduce some trouble in the plan execution - the heist genre is entirely about how a plan known well in advance will go awry once it's set into motion. The tension is not about how the plan unfolds, but more about what could go wrong and how the characters react to that. Having the Trodoon encounter unexpected reactions which could force them to change their tactics would be way cool.

Now, some minor points/questions:
* The first paragraph was very slow to read (lots of had here).
* The convention for naming planets within a system is to count every celestial body of interest in ascending distance from the star (ex : Earth is Sol-4).  You described the 3 planets in the first system as Zaria-1, Zaria-2, and Zaria-3. I very much doubt Zaria-1 is really the closest planet from the star (it could be, but it's very improbable). In the same vein, having a system with only 2 planets, both supporting life is really improbable. I think you meant to say "only 2 inhabited planets" on the last paragraph of page 4 instead of "only 2 planets"
* I also noted the part about the station building more ships than entire shipyards. Where are all the raw materials coming from?
* Dispatching 2 small ships to secure a planet when you're seeking to prevent people from escaping seemed odd. All it takes is 3 small ships for 1 to break the blockade while the other 2 are engaging the 2 Trodoon cloaked ships. This seemed like a major hole in Darkclaw's strategy here.
* Darkclaw dismisses the 3rd system as unable to defend itself, so it's obvious things will get wrong there. Having him do that is like raising a big red flag for the reader.
* Darkclaw's interrogations about what it would feel like to have emotions were a bit strange. Curiousness is an emotion in itself.
* Like cjhuitt, I was a little disturbed by Darkclaw riding along on the shadow scene.
* We've seen instant planet to planet communications here : this means that I can raise anyone on the other planets of the alliance in a matter of seconds. I'm willing to overlook the fact that no-one realized that communications had been severed by the cloaked ships, but when Darkclaw asks the ministers to surrender, he has to allow that message to be broadcast, meaning that anybody can communicate with the other worlds at this point.
* People tend to think about space battles as in 2D, while there is a third dimension to use. Darkclaw positions himself in an arc with some ships a little under the battle plane, but it's about it as the battles went. I would have liked to have the other commander put his forces all over the space, and not bundle them together where a hit on one ship might damage the surrounding ships. It made no sense for him to do that when he had a whole section of empty space to fill.

Thank you all for your critiques.
I was a little anxious to see if Lorn's character would be well accepted here (one of my alpha basically hates the guy and put the book down every time she came to one of his POV, while another alpha said that he was the best character). I'm glad to see that you like him. I was aiming at someone whom you might not approve of, but you would understand why would someone do these sort of things.

@cjhuitt : The technological level for that book is early 20th century. You can find automobiles, but they're still rare.

The 3 people dialog was difficult to convey. It plays well in my head, but I guess it didn't translate that well to paper. Only Darl should have a particular dialect. If Fit is saying "me" instead of "I", I need to switch those sentences and give them to Darl.

Fit saying "we can't go through the gate" was meant to show how disbelieving he was. He can't get used to the idea.

The "common room" is a common trait among the less wealthy people in this city. As space is quite costly, people only rent a sleeping room and share common rooms (dining and kitchen mostly) with other tenants. In Lorn's case, he managed to gather his 4 "henchmen" in the same building. The common room might seem like a public place, but it's restricted to this particular group so they can plot on without fear.

I should have mentioned that the grate is useful for keeping other things than fish from cluttering the sewer's entrance (aquatic plants and garbage mostly). The two grates are from distinct tunnels which are connected farther up.

Thanks for the Jim Butcher link!

@will777r : Lorn's use of Chin and Tof is one of the major holes I have to patch up. Yes, their job was easy and Lorn doesn't have much of a choice, but that's not enough, considering their risk of being spotted. I have to find some way around that.

Reading Excuses / Re: July 11 Hubay, Lord Domestic Ch13
« on: July 19, 2011, 11:18:30 PM »
As always, the chapter was quite interesting and a fast read.

I do have some concerns about the placement of the scene with Lexio. If this had been placed just after the battle, I could have believed the Jackal's explanations (they do make a lot of sense, even if this reeks of deception). However, when placed this far apart, my expectations have built up that this is going to be a violent scene (which you've led me to believe). As it turns out quite differently, I'm left a little disappointed (no one gets even punched in the face, and all the tension falls flat). I'd have preferred a cleaner resolution rather than being left like this with a supposed traitor still roaming around and me cursing the lead character for being a complete fool (seriously, who could believe Lexio right now?).

For the act's ending, I'm also left with mixed feelings. You provided a neat cliffhanger, but this didn't feel like an act's end.
(note : You said it was the end of act 2, so by the wordcount (40k?), this will not be a 3 act novel (unless the novel is 200k and this is the end of act 1). I will try to treat this as the end of act 1 in the traditional 3 act structure, but I could be wrong).
The opening conflict (the Nothroi) has evolved into something bigger (the Chell), and the main character has started to take things in hand, so we have our first act threshold  : things are bigger than we think. By this reasoning, the end of act 1 should be the end of the battle. If you do need the cliffhanger, I would suggest bringing it closer to the battle, to bring a more powerful moment (right now, things are looking better for the army. Losing their new commander right after the battle would have been much worse, and much more powerful).

Some comments on the chapter itself:
* Ezlio and Jhuz's discussion is nice (if a little too technical), but I don't feel it's at the right place. They're rushing to remove Lexio from the play, and this is no time to discuss Ezlio's particular fighting techniques.
* For Ezlio's fighting style, I would expect him to be a clumsy swordsman and use only thrusting moves, never slashing ones (stick them with the pointy end). Fencing is half foot placement and half wrist position. As Ezlio cannot use his wrists to change his attacks, he should have a hard time fencing. If the quills are weak at the base, why do they not bend, making them useless for parrying?
* I  liked that the Jackal can feel weakness thing, though I also expect Jackals to work in bands, not alone.
* I agree that giving a list of the empire's mistakes was a bit too much. About Jhuz's father, when I read it, it felt like Ezlio knew what had happened and wanted to tell Jhuz, but couldn't speak up when Jhuz flared. I never considered Ezlio was testing his new commander.
* I agree with the others. After seeing the footsteps, Jhuz should have raised the alarm.

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 15, 2011, 09:08:10 PM »
Follow people and they start reading your blog :-)

This was from a time where I had read a number of very dark author blogs who were advocating to go all out into self publishing, since the gates are kind of closing on regular publishers.

Since then, I talked a little with Brandon on the subject and I went to a con where the discussions revolved around this, and I feel a little better.

First off, you have to be the kind of person who can do it (part of what you called marketing). I may have the technical skills (even thinking about creating my own software to do it), but I've never been good at selling anything (least of all myself), so I'd rather sell my work once to a publisher than to any number of readers. In fact, I'd rather have an agent do it for me, even for 15-20%.

Then, as you said, there is the audience problem. People advocating self publishing tell that you have time to grow your audience, but let's face it, a midlist book sitting for 3 months on a bookstore shelf will sell a lot more than a one in 10 millions e-books sitting on a website for a couple of years. If I could be published, and then go put my backlist on Amazon, great, but starting there all alone by myself? I would consider it sheer luck if I managed to sell more than one copy a month.

A point Charlie Stross made at my con was that right now, the market for e-books is all open, but there is an increasingly large number of copyright frauds being sold at $ .99. So much that Amazon doesn't even reply to injunctions to remove them unless they come from writer's organizations. In the near future, Amazon will be forced to put restrictions on our capability to upload our books there, so that gate might not be as open as we'd like to think.

Ah, and yes, David Farland said that to be really successful in the e-publishing area, you should have a whole series ready to sell, which is contrary to what we do in the traditional way where standalones are easier to shop. For now, I feel more like writing different stories in different settings or genres each time, so definitely traditional publishing for me.

All those considerations are far away for now since I have 35 chapters to edit before my book is fit for Agents/Publishers inspection

What am-I doing here? Shouldn't I be blogging ? :-)

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 15, 2011, 07:10:34 AM »
Hi Fireflyz,

Glad to see you're getting some feedback for your work. 5 requests out of 8 queries look like a high hit ratio, so the queries must be good!  I hope they gave you some useful pointers.

Just one question : why not also submitting directly to publishers? If I remember correctly, about half of the authors were unagented when their book sold.

Hi everyone,

This is the seventh chapter from my first novel, The Fifth Compendium.

Last time on "The Fifth Compendium" : Destra, throws herself into the river to
prevent Lorn and his men from taking away the book she's carrying. Ciera, a
librarian, discovers the book while doing inventory and finds an old friend in
the process. Lorn discovers that the book is still hidden in a library he can't
enter. Onmk tries to help Ciera perform her library's inventory.

Chapter 7 : Lorn finds a way into the library.

Note : I changed one of the side character's name (Morn to Darl) because the name clashed a little with Lorn.

As always, comments will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the comments Will777r, I'm glad you liked the chapter, even after coming in late.

I can send you the first six if you want.

@cjhuitt : Thanks for the reply. I think you're right. I'll try to reveal more from the POV characters in the next rewrite.

Reading Excuses / Re: Email List + Submission Dates
« on: July 10, 2011, 04:49:00 PM »
My next chapter (7!) is ready for the group.
35 to go :-)

None of these issues is bad in itself (though I have strong feelings about Troodon tactics). It's the accumulation that threw me off.

Your admiral might want to live the life of a young combat officer, but I doubt people in the admiralty would allow him to do so, and if they did, they would insist on him taking 50 bodyguards and a fleet with battleships.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday : I found some word repetitions throughout the text (for instance, 'investigation' in the middle of page 2).

Shoot, this was a minor viewpoint? I enjoyed it, so if you can bring more of his POV, I'll be happy.

My troubles with this chapter are almost all related to things I couldn't believe in a SF story. I got the same feel I had from the first Darkclaw in space chapter - namely too Trekkie - but it was much more disturbing this time.

The second paragraph didn't work for me. We already know the situation, so I didn't feel I needed the history of the library stations. This guy is going to inspect why some station didn't communicate, period. I don't need any more than this.

End of page 1, you talk about the 'lead scion', but after, we have 'first scion'. If this is the same person, it should be the same title for now, or it gets confusing.

The cape made me laugh. In a starship, a cape would be not only useless, but I imagine also dangerous. As it was, I got the impression I was looking at a comic where every hero has to have a cape.

The high admiral went on a simple reconnaissance mission. This is really quite a stretch, even with the fact that one of his relatives lived here. People this high are mainly bureaucrats who never see a day of action. For one of them to leave the high command and go on a simple mission like this is highly improbable.

A few Trek words here and there : 'scan for life-forms', 'reply to hails', ... You might want to use different wording in those instances.

The high admiral wants to lead the away team (part 1) - no objection whatsoever? You're boarding an unresponsive station, potentially in enemy hands, and not even an objection to your highest fleet officer leading the away team?

Dalcon forgot his gun. He could have asked one of the other away team persons for their weapon (or even thought about it), yet it is never mentioned. I get he has some cool personal weapons, but what is he to do if he's attacked by some enemy with phasers? I doubt his blades would protect him much.

He goes to a station without a helmet. Doesn't he have regulations preventing him from doing so? There could be life support malfunctions here.

They split up their forces : this looks like a bad tactical choice. You're in potentially hostile territory, you don't split your forces and allow your opponent to finish them off one by one. I know it's often seen in film/TV, but it's also very often used as a way to create trouble.

The admiral leads the away team (part 2) : this time, we get a mild question asking it it's wise. A good officer shouldn't have asked, he should have put the foolish bureaucrat in the next lift and left the pros do the work.

Now, my biggest issue : the trodoon took great pains to make it look like this was done by random bandits, yet they left 70 witnesses ready to tell everything? In the same area, they killed the technicians so the transmitter wouldn't be repaired, but didn't even think the scholars could do it? Someone could have had a hobby. Given what we know of Trodoons, they shouldn't have had qualms killing 70 scholars when they already disposed of the technicians.

All the data is reputed public, yet you need a security code to access it?

Don't get me wrong, the piece was interesting (especially the last scene), but the sheer accumulation of small details made me jump on my chair.

Reading Excuses / Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« on: July 06, 2011, 09:19:39 AM »
The piece was enjoyable to read, albeit a little too lighthearted for my taste.

The main character is likeable, so this is a good point. We don't see him do much yet, but I can see the potential for trouble in him.

As Asmodemon mentioned, there are a lot of "had" in there. As people already mentioned this about my writing, this is something I watch closely, so yours leaped to my face. You also seem to use a lot of adverbs at times (one short sentence held 3 of them!).

I had some trouble with the part where he described the geography. You referred to the place as "his country" a lot, and it made the whole section look cumbersome. It would have been easier to simply give the place's name (as you did later), and just compare the countries by name.

Are his teachers so mean (or stupid) as to actually schedule overlapping sessions (and in different places?) or is it just the skewed view of a teenager? I would expect tutors for a prince to actually come to the prince's room to do their lessons, instead of having the prince run around.

In a similar vein, does the queen actually ask him to scrub floors? Maybe this is a cultural thing, but having a prince actually perform servant's work could be seen as a sign of weakness. Will people follow someone in battle who spent his childhood doing a servant's work?

Having a ministry called 'ministry of information' struck me as strange. Spying is usually a pretty hidden activity that is not known of or talked about. Naming a ministry for that, with an official spymaster figure surprised me.

The most enjoyable part was the three siblings conversation. I didn't connect with the elder brother (looked too stiff to me), but the sister was nice. The conversation between the three felt very sibling-like.

So, nice start. I'm waiting for the next part, including I hope some genuine mischief!

Thank you all for your comments.

Onmk is a very tricky character to write, so I'm walking a very fine line here. Maybe sometimes, I get it wrong.
Initially, I wrote him as really unreliable : he has things to hide that I didn't reveal until mid book. I understand it's a little untenable with a POV character, so I'm rewriting him to share more of his secrets. I still haven't told you all of them, hence the "consequences" part. If you feel I should reveal more, I'm open to suggestions.

@cjhuitt : In fact, the entity Onmk was extracted from Ciera's memories. He experienced all she experienced for the last 15 years, so he knows her really well. On the other hand, he has a mind of his own and doesn't understand all that she does or feel. For the POV problems you felt, some of them might stem from his intimate knowledge of her. In other instances, I may have slipped. I'll check them out.

I should have put mischief instead of malice. Sorry for the mix-up.

For Onmk's change of attitude, he doesn't have much of a choice. He has to back down or she'll never do what he asks. His mentioning of the cipher was a very dumb mistake on his part, he should have realized it would backfire on him.

@hubay : glad you liked him as a POV character. I tried to make him more understandable (there were no mentions of "Memories" in the previous draft).
Yes, he's a trickster, and as Asmodemon put it, he's in love with the sound of his voice :-)
Yes, the Covenant are an underground cult. Nice catch.

For your suggestion, I'll try to have a short viewpoint of him sooner. I might have to break my 1 chapter = 1 POV structure to do it, but it might work better. Thanks for mentioning it!

Overall, I really liked this chapter. It read really well and fast; I reached the end without even noticing (shoot, no more pages?).

Now, I feel a little unhappy about a couple of things :

* Albione's mind always seems empty. On numerous occasions, you describe his mind as numb, empty, blurry. It's very hard for me to sympathize with someone who has that little emotion inside him. He can have emotions and not show them, but here, I feel the character is really just an empty shell, a mindless automaton. The only emotions I get from him are fear to be discovered or expelled. I really hope he gets more in the coming chapter. This wasn't such a problem in the action scenes, but now...

* I was really looking forward to the interview with Rook-Sha, but I only got a small diner scene with very few dialog. The bits about her knowing what was inside his mind were certainly interesting, but really, what was the point in her inviting him to have diner? I expected her to go at length about his actions (both in the temple and on the walls), or to tell him that she was interested in his future, but I only got cheap mentalist tricks from her. A little disappointing. Really, your main character gets to see the high priestess and all they do is eat?

Now, some small things:

* She uses a large fork. Unless this is an unusual item to eat this type of food, Albione shouldn't even think of the fork as large. I'd drop the fork reference altogether if it's the case.
* "When he reached for his own food, the table appeared larger and the distance slowed his heart rate down a bit" : that sentence confused me. It looks like the table is actually growing?
* "A middle-aged man with a receding hair line stepped into the room." : Ernan should know Pate really well. He should recognize him on sight.

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