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for Halite

1/4/2017 c1 3RaisinBrahms
Damn, your writing is super poetic and flows really well. I love all the imagery.

I wish I could write a longer review, but it's 3 am where I'm at, and I'm about to die, but I just had to at least let you know that I really enjoyed this. I'm so glad I found it!
10/31/2016 c1 4InkWellWisher
Congratulations on winning this month’s WCC! It is well deserved; like the story you wrote, Halite has a wonderfully inviting voice, a credit to your skill as a writer. It successfully initiates the reader into the narrative while simultaneously informing us about the world in which this takes place, and about the protagonist narrator themselves.

The setting is particularly well done, with references to motifs of putrefaction and purification intermingled in an ecosystem, an indigenous culture ravaged by the invading forces of a more advanced culture (colonialism) and chemical warfare. It is a society in flux, trying to restore a sense of balance, a society formerly rooted in mysticism and gods, but now in a crisis of faith, reflected in the destruction of the trees, the burning waters.
Also, really brilliant world building here, with words like “bark towers”, “token names” and names like “Crale”, “Handtooth” –even spelling “gater”, as opposed to “gator” creates a different semantic and situates us in a place we recognize but is somewhat removed. It has an “otherness” to it, not unlike the character of Halite, who is an outsider.

One of the reoccurring themes I find rather intriguing is the use of the gaters. Their significance is obvious, but also kind of eludes me in the same way. They could the manifestation of the powers that Halite was first marked by, something ancient and primordial, and perhaps even representative of what lurks in the subconscious. The gaters are instruments of Halite’s will, and also that of the forgotten gods, perhaps creating a parallel to unseen and hard to control powers of the secondsight, the divine will. They are consumptive, compulsive animals of instinct, not unlike Halite herself.
The other meaningful repetition I’ve noticed was the use of “song”—songs of the frogs, often used to indicate the beat of the scene. It’s a simple yet thoughtful device to indicate the intensity and turning point of a scene.

In terms of structure, this is a really, dense packed story with the dialogue and descriptive language doing more than half of Halite’s carefully threaded exposition. However, I have encountered some confusion in the timeline of the first invasion with the “hellbirds” and the interference of the “Clean Men”—two incidents that were a little tricky to decipher, but not a big deal. In fact, to call attention to the help from the Clean Men, perhaps something textural could define the nature of the “robes” and gloves given to the tribal people to differentiate the foreign material, even just a word or two—I didn’t even notice the real significance of the gloves until reading through a second time. In addition to this, perhaps separating the present action with more suggestions of time and specific place might help to thread the narrative a little more strongly—there is a meandering feeling that makes me feel unrooted and unsure of where I am in the story,how much time has passed between Halite and Belemy’s conversation, and when the ritual cleansing of the villages have begun—but then again, it also reflects back into the very environment this story takes place it. I’m torn if anything really needs to be done or not.

The most meaningful exchange for me comes very early on in the narrative, in the scene between Halite and her brother, Belemy, who is handsome and whole, who bring with him the full figured metaphor of fertility, Junara, who’s token name is a frog.
“I know you were searching for secondsight. But I thought, perhaps, we could go frogging. Like we used to.” This is Belemy’s attempt to return to the past, to even undermine his sister’s authority, her power. We learn later that show commands respect and power over a group of her believers—but this dominion is fleeting without validation of her prophecies.

Halite then rejects her brother’s attempt to restore balance, to make things as they once were. She rejects a future engendered from an act of creation and foreshadows a new world born from the act of destruction, of sacrifice. In this context the character of Junara, who represents fertility, hope and rebirith, becomes a threat to Halite, who compares her to poisonous frog.
Then, when Junara is finally sacrificed at the conclusion of the story, is Halite performing a sacrifice of cleansing, or a sacrifice that could have been the hope of a new world? I prefer the ambiguity, it makes the ending more rich for interpretation.

I could read in this voice forever—it’s richly layered, everything seeped in the descriptive language of the swamp and the gators, making the reader effectively wade through contrasting metaphors for life, death and rebirth. Once again, wonderful work, I’ll have to check out more of your writing! I’m curious to see if you indeed will be working more with this material.
9/9/2016 c1 1ScarletD
Wow, this is beautiful. The cadence of the poetry was haunting and powerful and the prose itself was incredibly poetic in it's imagery as well. I don't often read horror, but this may have convinced me to start...
The descriptions were very effective and did a great job of engaging all the senses, so much so that I was well immersed in the narrative and felt very present in the scenes. Well done, excellent introduction. This is truly some of the best work I've read on this website. :)
5/25/2016 c1 8Barbados
Saying the opening out loud was totally the way to go. :)
5/10/2016 c1 TheBeastlyP
I also find that I like repetition because it gives whatever you were talking about much more emphasis. And I love absolutely love you short sentences, they give it such a cold simplicity. I think my favorite short sentences of yours were. "The splash is pleasant. Sounds like peace."

The ending was very dramatic, I really liked your use of simple and short sentences. It makes it very cold and again I feel the slightly evil or insane feel. I can see her smile..gods its very enthralling!

I love the line. "I am never wrong" It's very arrogant and it also brings the reader inside your character's head. That is one of you strongest points of this work, the inner dialogue is so masterfully done you bring us right inside her head.

Generally I found this piece very enjoyable and haunting. I was slightly confused for a while about what was actually happening, but I felt like that was a part of the magic of your story. It is a strange and mysterious gem. I love it.

Kind regards and best of luck with your future work!

5/9/2016 c1 9TheBeastlyPrincess
Heyy Victoria.
I'm incredibly sorry for the late review. My laptop was malfunctioning ahh! Plus I am a terrible procrastinator.. anyway on with the review.

I have honestly never read a such wholly unique piece. Everything about this is strange, strange and beautiful.

I love the opening, I read it aloud and it was like reading something from Shakespeare, it didn't make sense to me entirely but it that's why I liked it. The mystery of it gave me chills and it some ways it frightens me a little but, well done. I strive to be as good as writing as you are.

I like your style of writing, primarily the way you repeat words like: "Fools. Fools. Fools." and "Rise, rise." It gives it a slightly insane and powerful feel. I also find that I like repetition because it
5/1/2016 c1 4m. b. whitlock
Hi Vicky!

Apologies for being a bit late with this review. I’ve had a lot to deal with lately… Anyway, I must tell you that from the very first words this is a powerful piece. The themes of ritual, invocation, regression, pollution––both external and internal/spiritual––are deftly woven through the narrative. Hale is a remarkable character. I get a sense of her hardness, her ‘saltiness’ the moment I meet her from her name (obviously). Her inflexible, hard crystal will makes it impossible for her to accept any deviations or questioning from others. Her second sight is crystal clear (she believes), rock solid. Hale’s portrayal is multi-faceted but I like how her hard confidence remains constant throughout the story. Keeping in mind the prompt, this makes ‘the offering’ to the Gods at the end all the more harrowing.

Wonderful language throughout, esp bits like “Handtooth”, “Clean Men” and “Hellbirds”. There’s a chanting rhythmic quality that rises and falls as the story flows which emphasizes the themes of ritual and invocation and prophecy, as well as the apocalyptic ‘End of the World’ vibe. I would say the only aspect that I think you might want to work on some is the formatting. I didn’t quite get why you were using italics in a few instances.

Great work on this!

Okay, here are my notes:

Love the opening. Great visuals and sounds and rhythm. It kind of sets down a beat, a rhythm track for the story. Very cool!

This is the only line that gives me a little pause:
“The swamp is swept and the people dead”
It’s just that you can’t ‘sweep’ a swamp, with a broom anyway which is the image the line conjures for me. Maybe go with a water-based word…? It’s not a big at ALL though. I enjoy the alliteration here and throughout! Funky, freaky, poetic…

Great last line of the section:
“The Gods are gone and the people dead.”

This line begins beautifully:
“unwound from the waters *to which they are bound*, and will rise, rise,”
I don’t think you need the ** marked clause though. It breaks up the spell you’re weaving. Just think it flows better without it.

Since you come back to the broom metaphor here it might be fine to keep “The swamp is swept” above…

I am curious about your formatting choices throughout the section that ends here:

I'm so tired, tired, burntlikefire of blackness.”

I don’t quite get what the italics are supposed to mean. I like that you are writing in an ‘aural/oral’ style, and I think the musical/song/invocation quality here works wonderfully. But the changing format seems to indicate more than simply emphasis. I’m wondering if it’s a different voice…?

Very good dialogue, as well as setting/background expo/development in this scene between Hale and Belemy (and Junara):
“It shudders his pointed shoulders and pulls his taut face tighter.”
Love “pointed shoulders”! You parcel out background information perfectly here. You give little bits which peak our curiosity yet are never too weighty, so they don’t slow down the pacing.

Little confused here:
“It is why his token name is the same as *his* – fire.”
Are you saying that Belemy’s token name is ‘fire’ or another word which means ‘fire’? Also, does ‘his’ refer to Belemy’s father “his – fire”?

Really wonderful paragraph overall! Very cool use of emotional expression to paint a striking portrait of a character with “He's handsome. Until he's angry.” That’s great!

Here I start to wonder if italics indicates the voice of the Gods:
“Always the same voiced fear. Forgive us for deserting you.”
Or do they perhaps indicate when Hale is directly conversing with them?

Nice description of what it’s like to be in a hot humid environment:
“I close my eyes and drag in the thick, humid air, forever wet. So wet that sweat cannot dry, and so our clothes cling soaked to our skins.”
Lovely alliteration and assonance at the end with “so our clothes cling soaked to our skins.” :D

Really like all the different frogs and their names. It shows how unique this world is, how it is truly an amphibian realm.

Missing ‘been’ here?:
“The pain was so much that I could have ** crippled.”

The Reed God cutting open Hale’s second sight, like a ‘third eye’, with his Handtooth is awesome! Has such an ancient/primal feel, really works with the dark, swap folk world you’ve developed.

Amazing section here:
“But the birds breezed like bouts of disease, ripping through our once rich home and slipping poisons into our waters. With their needle-shaped beaks, they impaled our children and lifted them away to be peeled skin from bone. And throned upon their honed backs were not Gods, not monsters, but humans. Other humans.”
I like how I often can’t tell whether Hale really lives in a fantasy/post apocalyptic world that is reminiscent of US swampland communities, or if she is just a person with fantastically vivid delusions who lives in the Everglades ‘Lake Okeechobee’ or the Mississippi River Delta region. Great edge to play. Keeps me intrigued!

I’m a little confused where ‘the Servants’ came from:
“My group of a dozen Servants have followed me since then.”
Perhaps bring them in or refer to them earlier. I had the sense before that Hale was off one her own, solitary most of the time.

Really like the ending. Especially your writing here:
“I drop the crate that holds Junara's writhing body. The splash is pleasant. Sounds like peace.”
I do wonder if I’m supposed to believe that Hale has the strength to lift Junara’s whole body in a crate by herself…

I like the repetition of “Fools. Fools. Fools.” It re-establishes the rhythm, the chant-like pacing, themes of invocation and (obviously) sacrificial rites that is so mesmerizing in the beginning of the story.

Congratulations again. This is a great piece!


4/30/2016 c1 Shampoo Suicide
So I read this (not out loud I must admit) with the rhyming in mind this time and I think it's very well done. You don't even necessarily need to read out loud to appreciate it. Whether that is a function of me looking for the rhyming scheme purposefully or if you have edited it to some degree to make it more prominent I do not know, but I do like it all the same. That added quality enhances the poetry of the story for me and the feelings it evokes.

It goes hand in hand with what I mentioned last time, your use of invented languages and your interesting turns of phrase in our own language. I like the expanded discussion of the language, such as token names and such, with this edit. You use it to show character traits and everything very well. And with more room to work with words than the constraints of the WCC allow, you've really taken this piece to a whole new level of beauty with the words. I love that.

I like the scene where the Reed God comes a lot. It feels sharper image wise than anything I remember about the piece as it was before. The imagery of the tooth piercing her head was rightfully gruesome and vivid. It led to the next line about being devoured with duty, which I remember from before, perfectly and it made the line all the more powerful.

So it feels less ambiguous now that it did in the previous version, at the end. But there is also still some doubt about how reliable a narrator Halite is for me, and I really love that. As far as the ending itself, I think it's a really great stopping point. I love picturing how her brother will react to this when he learns. You get the sense this is almost a beginning of sorts, the start of Halite being truly unhinged by the madness (if it is such) that consumes her, this secondsight. Great stuff.
4/25/2016 c1 82Solemn Coyote
Review Game has never been my favorite format for reviews, especially when I'm, reviewing way outside of my ability to write. Nevertheless, I will try.

Up front: I am unlikely to be very objective.

First thing I see here is the disclaimer, and I dig it. I've read pieces meant for reading aloud before, but I don't think I've seen any (short of Lewis Carrol's "Jabberwocky") that were specifically about the language being used. Probably there are slam poets who do this, but I haven't seen it in short fiction.

That intro rhyme is magnificent. I've seen a lot of fantasy begin with mediocre verses, trying to squeeze foreshadowing and prophecy into a few quick lines. It generally doesn't work. This does. Maybe it's because you went for establishing a mood instead of a specific chain of events. Maybe it's because the words you picked paint a very visceral, foreboding picture. Either way, it's excellent.

burntlikefire is a wonderful descriptor of that kind of exhaustion.

I did the Amazonian backdrop, and I love the wordplay on gaters/gators. It emphasizes their role as a transitory thing. Neither surface nor depth. Neither land nor water. Neither open nor closed. I'm sort of hoping that they do actually come from somewhere else, and that the name is a lingustic echo that shows they're not native to the setting.

"And devoured with duty" is a lovely line.

I find myself hoping that the Hellbirds are not actually helicopters, but something a touch stranger. This story feels like it could absolutely be set in the modern day, in a lost tribe's settlement, during a border ward or peacekeeping action, but I *like* the fantasy elements. I want them to at least be half-real, even if it's unclear to the narrator what is truth and what is illusion.

Like your other short stories, I would love to read more of this. It's an excellent piece on its own, but it paints such a vivid picture that I can't help but wonder what the broader setting looks like. The world around this mire.
4/23/2016 c1 8LorrahBear
This was spectacular. I enjoyed every moment of it and found nothing to critique at all. It was the perfect combination of abstract and detailed, with the opposing sections intertwining just enough. Well done!
4/11/2016 c1 10The Drive To '17
Whew. I feel Clueless and Slightly Slack after this one. This type of genre isn't my cup of Joe (to put it nicely) but I read a experienced writer's words and not appreciating that is hearsay. As for critique, I have none because I feel I'm not a position to give you any words of criticism or praise.

...I end abruptly
4/9/2016 c1 C. V. Atwood
I got shivers from this. You did a very good job with a very dark tone, but almost childlike storytelling. Opening with the poem starts the piece off right, and lets the reader know Hale is off, and the way you use short sentences, sometimes single words reinforces this. Also, the description of the swamp is fantastic. Humid air, forever wet, and mud that sucks and gurgles. I spent a ton of time in swamps growing up, and those are very great descriptions that really took me back.
4/9/2016 c1 4lookingwest
Have you ever read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell? It's totally different, but the atmosphere in the swamps reminded me of the second part of that book. More magical, here, but nonetheless dangerous. I think that's the strongest thing about this piece and the thing that I like most - is atmosphere... Yet I felt overall because much of the setting was veiled via double-meanings, I couldn't get quite the right grip on the setting itself. I like that you included a cover art, actually, because it helped me see I think what you were going for - I'm not sure I totally would've imagined Hale as totally human, or Belemy for that matter, though I think overall I got the best description of him. I think the only thing that can get conflicting in a piece like this is whether or not the reader is supposed to be taking the figurative lang literally or figuratively - like for instance, does Belemy literally have skin like a snake, or was it just an image that clicked along with the setting? That sort of thing. But maybe that interpretation doesn't matter so much, either, though I'd say that the /tone/ of your piece does indicate that you want some really concrete detail and world-building going on, because we get such richness of religion, etc.

Anyway, my musings, haha. I thought the overall plot worked really well in this piece too. Your anti-hero Halite had a voice that was just driven enough to believably follow through with Junara's sacrifice. I wonder if it really did work or not - that's another odd thing with this piece tone-wise. I couldn't figure out if Halite was supposed to be unreliable as a narrator, or not. I sort of felt that she was - which made me again, read the ending with some ambiguity on whether or not you wanted us to see her as the fool, or believe her. But again - maybe it just doesn't matter because either reading is the point. Lots of blurring going on in this piece, I'd say that's a strength depending on your intention!

The opening was lovely - I like how you threaded it through with Belemy's dialogue later on in the piece. The song itself is haunting and well done - I really enjoyed the last line of it. I think my favorite visual images involved the description of Bel, yes, but also the description of the Reed God, even though it was hard to get a sense of concrete setting in that scene - I don't think that's necessarily the point. I thought you captured the pain factor right well, then blurring again in the next scene when doubt is cast that she even had such an experience. And then - again making me wonder if you were veiling real-life things with metaphor - when the Hellbirds were described, I saw them like fighter-jets and could imagine that this community was wiped out by war or something, directly a nod to our world. But the men with the white robes? I couldn't figure that out. Didn't know what to correspond it with in our world. So then I was uncertain again, of how to read the piece in terms of if it was supposed to be marking context with our world or if it was separate. So much ambiguity in terms of reading, heh.

Really enjoyed this overall, Vicky! Great piece. I'm assuming you did not grow up in the FL swamplands (which is kinda the setting I was going for), so I thought this captured that setting/atmosphere in a really inventive way. You have a crazy good knack for interesting world building that you can compress down into short stories - I envy you that! Best of luck in the WCC!
4/8/2016 c1 20Ventracere
Oh man, I'm a fan of the starting tone. It goes off with a darker mood, with your character watching over her gators. I'm sort of amused, as to what she is doing with her gators. But it's a symbol of her darkness, yet she wants to get rid of the blackness, though creatures generally has a negative connotation.

Oh, so now we have more info on your protagonist. She's a bit of a dividing factor isn't she? Not a bad thing, definitely gives her a little more depth. She starts in on her brother's companion right from the get go, and her disdain is right out in the open. That's not to say that her brother is much better, though it's understandable why he acts like that. To him, the protag is insane, playing around with a legend, when there are people falling dead around her, and the gods have abandoned them.

And that was a turn that I should have expected. Considering the set up and how her feelings were towards Junara. I guess it wasn't much of a turn, but it was a climax of the story that kind of slipped up to you. The tension was pretty consistent throughout the piece which was something I liked, also at the pace that slowly crept up and I didn't really notice until I was on the edge of my seat and Junara was... well, swimming with the gators.

Thanks for the read!
4/8/2016 c1 14Shampoo Suicide
I love your use of language in your writing, not only the interesting uses you have for different words, but the way the meanings and connotations of words have such an important place in your work. As in the discussion in the beginning of Junara's token name. And to my other point, your interesting wrangling of words to suit your purposes, it was done to great effect here. I loved, for example, describing her as "devoured" with duty and the creeping of the moon, the way sharpness "stabs" Belemy's eyes. It evokes a poetic quality but also renders really clear images of what is happening/being felt for the reader.

I'm very intrigued by Halite as presented here, and her secondsight. It seems this is an early civilization still prone to human sacrifice and strange beliefs, and I cannot tell if she's totally wrapped up in it and convinced she's right and doing the correct thing, or if she's just a monster. I like that quality to the story/her character though. The ambiguity of it for me really rests on her brother's denial of her ability and the fact that she has only a dozen followers, though I don't know how many people would even be around to follow her XD. But it's interesting, as I said, the lack of concreteness to this.

I really love your take on the prompt in this piece, as well. It again works nicely with the ambiguity of it all that I mentioned, because you can come away thinking as she does that the others are the fools, or you can think of her as the fool getting around a foolproof system (which, I suppose, would have been the song that convinced the others that this was all mythical nonsense). Clever stuff! You can also think of Junara as one of the fools, too, for trusting someone so obviously warped haha.

So, overall, very enjoyable piece for me! That enjoyment lies mostly in picking through your gorgeous description (even though you often were describing decidedly un-gorgeous things XD) and the fun use of language I mentioned earlier. I will always love that in a story and envy those able to do such things. But the plot, I thought, was nicely handled as well and really drew me into a piece I wouldn't have thought I liked as much as I did. Again, shouldn't be surprised, you've yet to fail to impress! Well done, and good luck with this in the WCC :D
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