So as I mentioned late last year, I got Southern Discomfort back from a second publisher, once again with feedback. The rejection letter emphasized it made it much father than the majority of submissions, and that they think it has “some merit” — just not right for them.
Pluses: Story is well done, characters are likable, I know my elf lore and add some good twists on it (I won’t go into detail on the specific twists).
•Events move along for reasons that don’t make sense.
•Maria isn’t likable. She lacks agency and is pulled along by other people’s actions.
•Gwalchmai’s motives are hard to follow.
•I put message before story.
•The racial subplot adds little and might distract readers.
•The dialog, like double negatives, didn’t work.
•FBI wouldn’t have carried semiautomatics.
The mixed: Worldbuilding is competent, dialog is competent, dialog moves smoothly, characters voices are distinctive but the whole is less interesting than the individual parts.
There is enough stuff there to think about that I’ll reread the book soon and see if I agree (it wouldn’t be the first time an editor’s been right). They’re definitely right about the semiautomatics — it would have been revolvers back then. Other comments are in conflict, which is the problem with any group review: my plot is competent/my plot doesn’t make sense; Gwalchmai’s compelling/Gwalchmai’s motivations are confusing. Doesn’t mean the negative comments are wrong though.
I don’t have a problem with the dialog — as someone who’s lived in the South much of his life I think it works. The “message” comment puzzles me as I didn’t think I had one. I’m guessing it refers to the general exploration of race and politics in Pharisee, but that’s definitely something I’m keeping. That could also be the racial subplot or Maria passing as black but I think I’ll keep both.
The comments about Maria are fairly accurate, though I think I’m okay with how I’ve written her. I’d originally had her more heroic but I just couldn’t buy it — that required a very good reason and she doesn’t have one. I’ll keep the comments in mind (and the comments from my first round of feedback), but I don’t know that it’s fixable without changing Maria more than I want.
I appreciate the feedback — not as much as a sale, but a form letter would have been a lot easier.
To give this post some visual kick, here’s the chocolate chip chocolate muffins I made Sunday.