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Concrit much appreciated. This is chapter 6 of Cliffton book 1, now rewritten and hopefully beta-ready. If you are looking for the older version for comparison purposes, it is here.

If you're reading Cliffton for the first time, here are the previous chapters so you can catch up:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5



"We need a new source of income," Devin grumbles into his SynthBrew. "Fucking expenses have gone way up."

I glare pointedly across the breakfast table at my new housemate. My life is so unfair. I can shoot lasers from my eyes and yet I'm not allowed to use them on him. Not that Devin's even really done anything to deserve being lasered, but I can't stand his pretty face or his smug smile or the way he never does anything useful.

In the two weeks I've been living here, I've never seen Devin do anything resembling work. He did help Kalen build me a new body, and I suppose I should feel grateful for that. I didn't enjoy looking like a terrifying insect. Except that's all he's done besides sit around and play SimFighting while Wes does all the cooking and the housework. The pretty ones are all the same - expecting someone else to take care of things while they lie about and bark orders. Just like Morgan.

"Have you considered getting a job?" I practically spit.

"Maybe you should get a fucking job." Devin slams his mug down on the table and glowers at me. "You're the one not paying rent. Wes and I were doing just fucking fine here on our own. With the amount of food that one consumes - " He turns his glare on Brendan, who winces and looks away. "Grocery bill's more than double what it used to be."

"Robots can't get jobs," I snarl, "and just how, pray tell, did you pay for this house before we moved in?"

"None of your fucking business." Devin turns red and pushes his chair back. He's probably going to storm off like the entitled little man-child he is. They really are all the same, aren't they?

"Anyone want more SynthBrew?" Wes chirps all too brightly, appearing out of nowhere with the steaming pot in his hand. "Oh, and I'm making bacon! And eggs! You guys hungry?" His grin's almost as irritating as his nauseatingly cheery tone.

"Robots don't eat." I glare at Wes, wishing I could laser him too.

Wes looks hurt, but then his forehead creases as if he's deep in thought. I wait for the inevitable stream of pointless babble to spew forth from his lips. Instead, his eyes grow wide and he practically leaps across the room to Devin's side. The pot of SynthBrew in his hand sloshes perilously.

"Don't worry, dude." Wes refills Devin's cup and gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I know how we can get some more money. Leave it all up to me!" Breakfast apparently forgotten, Wes puts the pot down and runs from the room without another word.

"Hey!" Kalen calls after him. "I wanted bacon and eggs."

"So did I," Brendan says sadly.

What in the name of the gallivanting ghost could Wes be planning? Something tells me the ridiculous fool's no better equipped to earn an honest living than I am to flap my arms and fly. But you know what? I'm not going to bother worrying about it. Because as Devin's so eloquently pointed out, the finances here are none of my fucking business.

* * * * *

"I'm home!" our esteemed provider shouts, flinging open the door with startling enthusiasm. "Anyone miss me?"

Not only have I not missed him, I'm wondering if there's a way to make him leave again. All I've done today is sit on the couch while Kalen and Devin play game after game of SimFighting. Actually, that's not entirely true. For about ten minutes, I sat on the couch while Kalen and Devin argued about what toppings to order on their pizza. It's been incredibly boring, but it's also been infinitely preferable to most of the days I've spent in this house so far. A day without Wes is like a day without... well, without noise.

I'm not pleased to see him - and what's worse, he's not alone. A boy of about my age follows Wes inside and shuts the door behind him. Just what I was hoping for. Even more company.

"Fucking magnificent," Devin grumbles. "Like this house isn't crowded enough already."

For once, he and I are in agreement, and that makes me feel a little dirty.

"Aw, Devin, don't be like that." Wes puts his arm around his roommate and squeezes him so hard he yelps.

"Who's your friend, and how soon will he be leaving?" I ask Wes. "Can he take you with him? Preferably permanently?"

"Not just a friend," Wes announces proudly. "Everyone meet Zack Tyler, our new hostage."

For a moment, I'm too busy marveling at the way my insults don't even permeate Wes's thick skull for his actual words to register. When they do, my metal jaw drops. "A... what?" I think my brain might explode. "How did you manage to capture a hostage? Why are you on a first-name basis with him? What are we supposed to do with him?"

"I didn't capture him!" Wes has a goofy grin plastered all over his face. "Zack's my little brother's friend from back home. He agreed to be our hostage. See, Devin? I told you I could take care of our money problems."

"What kind of person agrees to be a hostage?" Devin eyes Zack suspiciously. "Do you get off on this shit?"

"You're just mad because he's prettier than you are," I snicker.

"No, he's - " Devin stammers. "Uh, I mean... don't call me pretty."

"Excuse me?" Wes is still grinning like the fool he is. "There must be something wrong with your robot eyes, because Devin's by far the prettiest one here. He's my pretty, pretty princess."

Something tells me it's better not to point it out, but Devin's also blushing.

"Uh, Wes?" Devin regains his composure and raises an eyebrow. "The whole point of your plan's to get money, right? How're we gonna do that if our hostage is just some random guy you know?"

"Devin, dude?" Wes looks shocked. "Did you live in a cave before we moved here? Zack's not 'some random kid'. He's Zack Tyler. His parents are right up there with mine, y'know."

Devin blinks at Wes, and I can practically see the gigantic question mark floating above his head.

"Yeah, dude." Zack adds helpfully. "Both our fathers are pretty well-known back home - Bing Jansen and Rich Tyler? Most people have heard of them. They're the two biggest names in surveillance equipment."

Even I've heard of them, and I grew up on a piddly little farm. I'm not sure if their names are known on this side of the fence, but even Kalen has the sense to do a double-take at the implications of Zack's revelation. For a moment, the room is dead silent. I'm incapable of words.

"You - " Devin's deathly pale, and he's staring at Wes like he's just stepped off some sort of alien spacecraft. "Your family owns Jansen Technologies? They're fucking government spies?"

"Y- Yeah, dude." Wes squeaks out, his face scarlet. "You really didn't know? I'm sure I must've told you at some point. Besides, I'm kinda... " Wes trails off for a moment and blushes even harder. "I'm kinda used to people recognizing me back home. And where'd you think I got all our surveillance equipment? It's not like that stuff grows on trees, y'know. And also? They're scientists, not spies." There's a hard edge to his voice and a hurt look in his enormous eyes.

Well, this is certainly awkward, but as much as I'm enjoying watching their little lovers' spat, we've got more pressing concerns. Like the fact that Wes could get us all thrown in prison and probably worse.

"Please tell me you're joking." I snarl. "You've got a houseful of fugitives and wanted terrorists, and it never once occurred to you to mention you come from a long line of security barons?"

"No, why would it?" Wes looks completely mystified. "It's not like they'd spy on me or anything." He shoots Devin another wounded look and then turns to Zack. "C'mon, dude, let's go check out that new glideboard park." They're both out the door before I can ask any more questions.

* * * * *

"Hi, CallaBot!" Wes bounces into the living room, Zack in tow. "We're gonna go play MegaFighter! Wanna come?"

I snort and make my eyes glow menacingly. Of course I don't want to come.

"I guess not, huh? Too bad, because it's this awesome virtual reality fighting game and we're gonna have the best time! Do robots play fighting games? You never play SimFighting with us. You, should, you know. I bet you'd love it and you should really get out more and - " There's more, but I tune it out and wait for him to leave.

Zack's paying enough attention for both of us, his cheeks pink and face wreathed in a goofy grin. He grabs Wes by the arm and pulls. "C'mon, let's go, dude. This is gonna be amazing. Bye, CallaBot!" The door slams behind them, and I'm alone again.

Oh, sweet solitude. It lasts all of an hour before Devin destroys it.

"Seen Wes?" His tone's offhand as he flops down beside me on the couch, draping his legs across it casually. I narrow my eyes, disgusted by his long, lean body and his perfect, self-assured face. The pretty ones are always the same.

"He and Zack went out." I shrug.

"Should've apologized," Devin mumbles. "Think he's still mad I called his parents spies." He shifts uncomfortably and pulls his legs up beneath him, biting his lip as he stares at the ceiling.

Not so smug now, is he? A nasty little thrill shoots through me. Except I almost feel bad for that, because Morgan never would've apologized. Why'd he ever need to, when everything I offered him was his due to begin with? And leaving the house without permission? An agreeable partner'd never do that, and he wouldn't stand for it.

Wes isn't a woman, but Devin's not Morgan, either.

"He doesn't seem the type to hold a grudge." It's the closest to comfort I'm going to offer. "I'm sure if you say you're sorry, everything will be - " Except I guess Devin's done talking about this, because he cuts me off.

"It'll be fucking fine. Me and Wes - " Devin picks at the threadbare knee of his jeans. "We're best friends. Even if his parents are fucking... scientists. Just don't know about this Zack kid. Something not fucking right about him."

"Oh, Princess," I snicker. "You're just mad he's taking up all your boyfriend's time."

"That's not - Don't call me - " Devin sputters. "I... Wes isn't my fucking boyfriend."

"Whatever, Princess." This is better than Robot Scrabble. "Give me one good reason you don't like Zack."

"Stop fucking calling me Princess!"

"I'm waiting..." I tap my toe for emphasis, and it makes a satisfying thunk against the welterwood floor.

"He, um..." Devin looks almost panicked. "He used my deep conditioner without fucking asking. Do you know how hard it is to find that shit? Don't have it in any fucking stores here. Have to order it on the Splinternet. Takes fucking weeks to be delivered."

"Oh, well I can definitely see how that's a huge issue." I roll my eyes.

"...And he squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube!" Devin's face is flushed, his pale brown eyes glittering feverishly. "Fucking left a wet towel on the bathroom floor. Right behind the fucking door, couldn't fucking open it all the way. And... and... he put my tools away wrong." Devin grabs my arm and yanks on it like an over-excited child. "Look, I'll show you."

It's either laser him or let him lead me down the hall, and I don't have anything better to do anyway.

Devin pulls a small device from his pocket and points it at the ceiling. A flight of stairs materializes and he practically pushes me up it. "Have this fucking system, see?" He gestures wildly. "Organized by type, then size and color. How hard is it not to screw that up? It's simple. Fucking intuitive. Green, pointy things are over here - "

The sound of feet stampeding up the wooden stairs beneath us saves me from any further explanation.

"We're home!" Wes yells. "Anyone miss us?"

Devin looks up from his tools, a half-smile on his face.

"Hey, dude! How's it going?" Zack smiles broadly at Devin and throws his arm loosely around Wes's shoulders. "Can I borrow your tools again? My glideboard's been acting funny."

"Oh, fuck no." Devin growls, jamming his hands into his pockets and clenching his jaw. "Aren't your parents ever gonna pay your ransom? Too many people in this fucking house. No respect for my personal property at all."

Personal property? As if Wes belongs to him. I'm going to give Devin the benefit of the doubt, just this once, and assume he's only talking about his tools. Besides, he's got a perfectly valid question.

"Why haven't we heard from Zack's parents yet?" I wonder aloud. "It's been a week already."

"Maybe they don't want him back," Devin grumbles. "Can fucking see why."

Zack's too busy ogling Wes to notice the jab, and Wes's too focused on Devin to notice that. He steps away neatly from Zack, crossing the room to wrap his arms gently around his roommate from behind. "You okay, dude?"

"I'm fine." Devin blushes and wriggles out of Wes's grasp. "Just been kinda... bored without you around."

"I hate to interrupt this little lovefest." I smile as all three boys jump. Forgot I was here, did they? "But we've got more important concerns at the moment. Why haven't Zack's parents tried to get him back? Wes, what exactly did you say in the ransom note?"

Now it's Zack's turn to flush bright red. He shuffles his feet awkwardly, his eyes on the floor.

"You." I fix my laser eyes on Zack, and he flinches under my gaze. "Pretty boy."

"Wh - what'd I do now?" Devin demands. "And don't call me - "

"Not you, Princess." I snort. "The other one. Zack, you're as red as a three-tailed lobster. I've got younger brothers, and I know when a boy's been up to something. Tell me what it is now, and I won't have to hurt you."

"I - well, see..." Zack's nearly purple as he fumbles for words. "I just - it's so dull back home and I wanted to get away for a while. Thought it'd be fun to go somewhere and have no one recognize me. Like a vacation. So when Wes wasn't looking, I kinda... I took the ransom note so they wouldn't be able to find me."

"Little shit's been messing up my things all week for nothing?" Devin glares at Zack.

This seems like as good a time as any to make my exit. Without a word to any of them, I climb down the stairs, snickering as I go. Something tells me Devin can handle this situation just fine on his own. And as he'd say, it's none of my fucking business.

* * * * *

Four in the morning, and all's silent. No SimFighting, no arguing, no assorted racket of a house full of boys. It's glorious.

Imagine my surprise when the front door creaks open and Devin tiptoes inside. He's so busy trying to be stealthy he doesn't even notice I'm there. It amazes me how often that sort of thing happens. I'm a six foot tall metal woman. You'd think people would notice me, right? The reality is, if I keep my mouth shut, I can fade into the background pretty easily.

It's a useful talent in a houseful of people with no idea how to keep their own mouths shut.

I think about letting Devin make it to his room without ever knowing I've seen him. That lasts about a nanosecond, because messing with him is really my only source of entertainment. Robots don't eat, sleep, hug - don't do most things humans get to enjoy. It would be unfair to deny myself this one tiny pleasure, wouldn't it?

He's almost in the hall by the time I speak. "And just where have you been?"

Devin jumps about a foot in the air and screams like a little girl. He's so twitchy, I almost feel bad for scaring him like that. Oh, who am I kidding? "Wh- what are you doing up?" he stammers as he turns to face me.

"Robots don't sleep."

"Oh. Yeah." Devin backs away from me slowly. "Well, um, I sleep, so..."

"Not so fast." I step forward and stare him down. "You didn't answer my question. Where were you?"

"I don't have to tell you anything!" Devin glares at me. "Anyway, it's late and I'm tired - "

"You're right," I step quickly into the hallway, blocking it. "You don't have to tell me anything. Guess I'll just make up a story of my own. Hmmm, better yet... Wes knows you pretty well, right? Maybe he could help me figure it out."

"No! Please don't tell him - " Devin's horrified expression is priceless. "I mean... it's just that Wes and I don't - we don't talk about our, um, personal business. I'm a private fucking person, okay?"

"Of course you are, Princess." I give him a reassuring nod. "And what exactly is it I'm not supposed to tell Wes?"

"Nothing!" Devin doesn't even protest the nickname. "I was just... I went to see a friend, okay?"

"A friend." I make my eyes glow as I stare him down. "Until four in the morning."

"I fell asleep!" Devin protests, his voice soaring into the upper octaves. "We were, um, playing SimFighting, and I got sleepy. You're, um... you're not gonna say anything, right?"

"I don't understand." My voice drips innocence as I casually step out of his way. "Why would Wes care who you - " I pause, my metallic hands making air quotes. "Why would he care who you 'play SimFighting' with, anyway?"

"Yeah, um, exactly. G'night!" Devin mutters as he dashes off toward his room.

I watch him go, shaking my head. Too easy, really.

It's only an hour later when the front door flies open and Wes whispers, "I'm home. Anyone miss me?"

Since I haven't missed him at all, I hold my tongue. Maybe he'll think I've turned myself off for the night, even though I don't really do that. If I'm really fortunate, he won't notice me at all.

No such luck. Wes looks straight at me and asks, "CallaBot? You awake?" When I don't answer, he even goes so far as to knock on my arm. Eventually, he gives up, muttering, "Must've turned herself off," as he heads off down the hall.

"Devin!" I hear Wes shout joyfully a moment later. "What're you doing up?"

"W- Wes?" Devin stammers. "N- not doing anything. Couldn't fucking sleep."

I snort, even though there's no one in the room to hear me. Very convincing, Devin.

"H- hey," Devin's speaking in hushed tones, but I can still hear every word thanks to my enhanced robotic hearing. "Kinda early even for you, Wes. You're wearing the same clothes you had on yesterday. Where'd you go?"

"Oh, I just went to drop Zack back off at home." Wes isn't even bothering to keep his voice down. "I figured there was no point in keeping him here since we were never gonna get any ransom without a note. He's never crossed the fence on his own and I didn't want him to be scared. Then I was gonna spend the night at his place, but I missed you too much so I came home instead. And now here I am!"

"You shouldn't be crossing the fence alone either," Devin grumbles. "Gonna get yourself fucking killed."

"Don't worry, Devin." Wes's voice is so cheerful, I'm sure it would give me a headache if I were capable of having one. "I go over the fence all the time, and I'm always fine. Nothing bad's gonna happen to me."

"Better fucking not." Even with my robotic ears, I can barely hear Devin now. "It'd fucking kill me, too."

Never mind the fact that Wes's lack of concern for his own safety could get us all killed. And what about Wes's continued jaunts to visit people back home whose business is spying? Shouldn't Devin be worried about those things, too? He's the one who set up the security system on the house, after all. Does anyone here have a shred of common sense?


(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-02-05 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] winters-queen.livejournal.com
Callabot is awesome, really. :)

Oh hell, Devin. Living with the guy for HOW long and you don't know what Wes's family did? Guess as long as he got you the toys you wanted, that was all that mattered.

And you almost had competition for Wes's attention. Good thing Wes is so incredibly blonde that he doesn't really notice.

Date: 2013-02-05 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I'll tell you a secret. I love writing from Calla's POV. :D

I really need a scoreboard or something to keep track of how many chapters it takes for Devin to get people good and pissed off.

Date: 2013-02-06 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh, oh! And I only have one more beta-ready chapter after this one that I think you haven't read yet, but I'm posted the one after that tonight unless something goes horribly awry.

(I'm sure this excites me way more than it does you, but I thought I'd let you know.)

some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
"We need a new source of income," Devin grumbles into his SynthBrew. "Fucking expenses have gone way up."
GREAT opening line. Probably your best scene opener yet. It just sums up everything that happened in the last chapter perfectly.

I glare at Wes, wishing I could laser him too.
My point, again, about Calla and expressions. Unless Devin and Kalen built her a face that can approximate human movement she won't be able to "glare". She could think she's glaring but when she gets no reaction she'd remember she can't actually glare then choose to flash her eyes or something to signify how pissed she is.

The last paragraph of scene 1 seems, I don't know--wordy and doesn't quite fit. I think it would fit better if she at least makes an internal comment about how selfish both Kalen and Brendan were by complaining about their missed breakfast since she was so pissed at how useless Devin is.

"I'm home!" our esteemed provider shouts, flinging open the door with startling enthusiasm. "Anyone miss me?"

Not only have I not missed him, I'm wondering if there's a way to make him leave again. All I've done today is sit on the couch while Kalen and Devin play game after game of SimFighting. Actually, that's not entirely true. For about ten minutes, I sat on the couch while Kalen and Devin argued about what toppings to order on their pizza.

This bit made me laugh. You're a lot better at these little descriptive scenes than you think. This is perfect. I think it really captures Calla's new found robot attitude towards everyone.

Ooooh, loved the twist of Wes being the heir of some surveillance company and Devin not knowing. Oops.

I do think that all the questions Calla asks when Wes first brings Zack back might work better coming from Devin. He's be worried someone saw Wes or that he could have gotten hurt and realize the implications of what he just did. He'd be pissed. Probably ranting again. Until he sees Wes' hurt face and then calm down.

Loved Wes' "I'm sure I told you," response. Classic. And he's so completely clueless at the end of the scene. The "who's prettier" exchange was hilarious but might be a bit overboard. I like that Devin kind of blushed with the implication that he's prettier than Zack (maybe he has some insecurities buried under the hard exterior?)

Scene 3 was really funny and I loved the exchange between Calla and Devin. But it all seemed rushed. I still think the thing with Devin and Wes could be drawn out more. But the princess thing was priceless. No matter what you do that conversation has to stay in somewhere in something resembling what you have now. Is she going to keep calling him princess until he explodes?

(ugh, and sadly my het preferences rear up because right away I go to a whole set up of Devin and Calla hooking up--if she weren't a robot--have to remind myself that's not how the story goes--I think it's because that is how most of the stories I read go. And I love Devin & Wes together. Stupid brain. Maybe it's because I love the kind of relationships that start of antagonistic.)

Anyway...
Calla's questions at the end were some of the questions I had, lol. Especially about Wes' family and the spying. Wouldn't they be wondering where Wes ran off to? Couldn't they easily find him if they wanted and make Devin's life hell?

(more)

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis42.livejournal.com
It will be fun to see how much of this my toddler will let me answer. He's 2, so I'm sure you understand, ha. Let me go ahead and apologize in advance if anything seems short or defensive because I'm trying to get as much down in a comment as possible before my kid does something like refresh my page by accident while he tries to play with my mini-mouse thingy.

Calla and expressions. I want to say at this point, she's still getting used to her body, so you're probably right. I think at some point, she has enough control over it that even though her face doesn't look any more expressive than it did before, she can "glare" and it automatically makes her eyes glow. If that makes any sense. So I need to show a progression of her figuring things out and getting used to how they work.

I do think her voice has the ability to vary based on her emotions, though. Brendan is pretty clear about that later. Maybe there's a benefit to having a variable range of sounds a robot can make (one tone to warn off intruders, another to welcome guests, I don't know).

Oh, and before I get into the rest of your comments, let me just address what you said here (sorry, jumping around because child keeps interrupting me).

Part of that might be that the story is getting far removed from your new revised plot so I don't know how to judge it. A lot could be changed based on what you rewrite.

As far as I know, what I'm changing in chapters 1-5 should support all the rewritten chapters I've done so far. So the majority of the events and relationships and stuff should still be happen. Obviously, I could rewrite and find out that's not true, but I'm going through to the end under the assumption that minus the events of chapter 4, things more or less pick up the same way in chapter 5 and go from there.

The elements of the overarching plot I've recently figured out relate to (a) Brendan's female friend/crush/rival I'm going to add into my edited chapter 3 (thanks for the idea!) and (b) some subplots I've only touched on and am only about to start developing more.

So that's where things stand now. Unless I tell you otherwise, I still think everything in the chapters going forward from here happened. So far. :D

This is that chapter I mentioned a while ago (when you were going through chapter 4, I think) where I was like "oh yeah, Calla needs to have more thoughts about Kalen here". Because she does. She's still mad at him, and she doesn't get why he's been so useless ever since the explosion. And she eventually confronts him about it (actually, that happens fairly soon), so it's not like she forgot. So why does she barely spare him a second thought in this chapter?

Her opinion toward Brendan overall at this point is neutral to semi-positive (which I will hopefully manage to show in the new last section of chapter 5 where they're all awkwardly hanging out together for the first time). He hasn't done anything to piss her off since they've moved in. Although you have a point that she might be annoyed when Wes ran off and he and Kalen were both all "Hey! But breakfast!" because she's already kind of equating Wes with an agreeable woman here (was that clear?). So yeah, I like that idea. Thanks. :)

Devin doesn't know about Wes's family because he doesn't like to talk about his family and I guess it's never come up? Wes is used to people just knowing who he is. Etc.

One thing I think maybe needs to be clearer (or maybe it doesn't matter?) is other than the free surveillance equipment Wes is apparently getting from them, they aren't living off Wes's parents. I kind of don't exactly know how they get their money, but Devin's in charge of that.

Ummmm, I kind of ship Calla and Devin. That wasn't supposed to be a thing and I am 100% sure they are not paired in this book. But somewhere along the way in this rewrite I sort of started shipping them, so there is that.

Okay, I am answering stuff all out of order and it's going to bite me in the butt later when I don't remember what I've answered and what I haven't.

And I am going to go comment to one more thing and then stop until my kid goes to bed because he's driving me nuts trying to get at my netbook so I'm guessing he needs attention. :D

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Maybe the problem I was having was because most of my notes were just repeats of things I'd said in earlier chapters. And when I do my "eyes of the reader" thing it's hard to critique through that voice since all my problems with the chapter would be how it relates to the previous chapters which are going to change.

Hopefully now that I'm into the "not gonna change" parts my brain will start working again.

Definitely need more inner Calla going on. She's a fascinating character being a robot and all and I'm interested in how she's processing things, adjusting. I also like to see how she relates to the people around her. The fact that she can't really show emotions would be difficult for everyone. Because Calla can't really get a point across with a look (other than the glowing eyes--which was exactly how I pictured her intimidating people since that was Brendan's reaction to it) and no one else can read her to get an idea of how she's feeling. It would be nice if someone makes a connection to her and tries to help her deal with it all instead of just ignoring her and acting like her being a robot is just an every day thing. Which, now that I think about it, is a really weird reaction.

You need to write the scene where Devin tries to pick apart her insides to figure out what happened to her. They you can have more highly entertaining Calla/Devin bickering.

That's what got me with the two of them. They were going back and forth with the princess thing and I was like... that's kind of hot. Of course, there's the problem with her being a robot.

Hmmm, I'm going to have to write fanfic eventually and use up some of these random plot points I come up with. Like some scientist learns about Calla and wants to experiment on her to find out how her consciousness transferred and he figures out how to put her into a real body and then Devin has to rescue her. Okay, that's horrible but worthy of fanfic (I've heard of worse premises).

I like the thing about Devin being clueless about Wes family. It's a nice touch because Wes seems so clueless about everything else. It's like Wes moment where he knows something Devin doesn't. I doubt Devin felt good about not knowing but then has the whole thing about how he's never said anything about his family so he can't really talk.

I love that you're adding Brendan's nemesis to the mix. Sounds interesting.

And my responses were just as random and all over the place as your comments, lol.

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh, Calla does keep calling Devin Princess for a while. After a while, he stops bothering to tell her to stop. I think even though he hates the nickname, part of him feels grudgingly special to have one.

The problem of her being a robot... it's a problem because although she's having to re-learn how to feel human, she still is.

OMG, I would die if you wrote fanfic. I've written like one fanfic ever (in the process of doing the final chapter) but OMG having people write fic of your stuff is like the best drug ever. And it's an amazing premise for fanfic of my 'verse, because my 'verse lends itself well to stupid plots. It's supposed to be a little tongue-in-cheek with the sci-fi aspects, even though it ends up having serious plots eventually.

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
ZOMG that first paragraph just makes me all sorts of stupid happy for some reason. And Devin grudgingly accepting... You are giving me way too many shippy ideas. I still have to get her out of the robot because that's just kind of weird.

I don't get published authors that are all uptight about fanfic. Doesn't the saying go: imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If I was published I'd die if people thought my books were good enough to write fanfic for. Not sure what I'd think if they were doing it because they thought my book sucked but I'd still stick with them having the right to write what they want, you know.

One of the authors I follow (for a mystery series) was elated when her daughter came across a LJ community I was in where I (and a couple others) posted fanfic for her books. It made me feel all fuzzy inside even if she couldn't read it for legal reasons.

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I totally don't get writers who are uptight about fanfic, either. Fanfic is kind of the best gift a writer can receive -- it means people care about your characters and/or your story enough to want to expand on it. How can that not be good? :D

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Okay, so of course now that my kid is asleep, I'm sleepy too. But I'm trying to come back and respond to what I left out of my responses in the first comment.

I can see Devin being the one to interrogate Zack, and it would bring out the side of him you like so much, which would be a nice contrast with the side of him that shows up later when he's alone with Calla. It could really be either him or Calla, because Calla takes on sort of a leader-esque role after a while. But maybe not so much yet.

Scene 3 feeling rushed -- do you have some advice on how to make it feel less so? I'm thinking that despite what I mentioned in a comment below (about Devin being drawn to Calla because she hates him), it might take a little bit more for him to open up. Like, he might show up and then just sit there and not say stuff. To the point where Calla would say something snarky, wanting to know why he's bothering her, and eventually he'd end up talking more.

Wes's family. The basic gist of it is that his parents are some of the "naive scientists" I mentioned when I explained in a comment to an earlier chapter about the very rich. They have some sort of code of honor that involves not spying on their own. Wes trusts them, because they raised him to be trusting and trustworthy. They're honest people.

And it never gets explained in the story so far. His family is plot-relevant in book 2 but I need to explain at least the above about them soon, I think. I have an idea for splitting (and probably expanding) this chapter that I'm going to explain below when I talk about the kidnapping thing. But if I do that, maybe the section where Wes and Devin are talking alone and Calla's eavesdropping could explain that Wes's family's code of honor more through the dialogue.

Hopefully my thoughts are more coherent than my brain feels. You always give me so much to think about!

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I can see Devin being the one to interrogate Zack, and it would bring out the side of him you like so much,
Yes please. :)

I think part of the problem is the way Calla just blurts it out while sitting there. Or maybe it's because she's a robot so there isn't a lot of passion in it (despite her being mad). Maybe she just needed to get up and be intimidating with flashing eyes. Which is how I picture Devin going about it (minus the literal flashing eyes or course).

I'm thinking that despite what I mentioned in a comment below (about Devin being drawn to Calla because she hates him), it might take a little bit more for him to open up. Like, he might show up and then just sit there and not say stuff. To the point where Calla would say something snarky, wanting to know why he's bothering her, and eventually he'd end up talking more.
That would work so much better. You could have him snark back a bit, snap at her. Then next time he opens up slightly (unintentionally) building up to him being more comfortable.

If you do you could also switch the POV for one of these so you could see Devin struggling with the urge to blurt things out to Calla and he doesn't understand why he's drawn to her since she hates him. Maybe he even gets an intense urge to find out why she hates him since he's never done anything to her. Just to quell his curiosity. See, now I get more fanfic plots in my head. If I give them all away what will I write?

Interesting about the families. I'm intrigued.

Re: some thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, I think when I rework this chapter, I'm leaning toward more of a progression like that.

Devin would probably be curious about why he's drawn to Calla. He's "not a fucking people person". As far as Calla hating him, he might not question why. He's used to coming off as unlikable and I think he's mostly comfortable with that. It's easier than being close to people. He'd be much more puzzled by someone liking him, really. :D

some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I must be out of practice because I'm having trouble with coming up with constructive things to say like in the other chapters.

Part of that might be that the story is getting far removed from your new revised plot so I don't know how to judge it. A lot could be changed based on what you rewrite.

My initial thoughts were again about Calla's emotions and their portrayal. I like that there was a theme of Calla wanting to be alone but it being impossible in a house full of men. I was wondering, though, if in the last scene it wouldn't be a good time for her to get a little introspective? Have her thinking about what it's like to be a robot, notice her missing emotions and how that affects her relationship with the guys. Something to explain why she's been trying to be alone all day (or however much time has passed). When I was reading that just seemed like a natural spot for it. In fact the moment popped right out at me and my mind started asking some of the questions above. But then the story jumps right to someone interrupting her calm again.

I think Wes was pretty good in this chapter. He's toned down from chapter 2 so I think it was just a problem of that first chapter not fitting with the tone of the rest of the work. There's a good balance to him now.

Devin, though... he seemed way OOC to me. I like the gruff, didn't give a fuck guy from the previous chapters. This version blushed and got flustered, stumbled over his words. He totally needs to tell Calla to just shut the fuck up and ignore her for most everything she says. You could have him thinking about how her words affect him because I don't picture him stammering at her about his relationship with Wes. He'd probably deny it and tell her she's crazy then leave the room because in his head he just got slapped by reality and now has to reprocess everything that's happened between him and Wes recently.

That was my main issue with this chapter. I wanted to slap Devin most of the time. The first scene he was okay, though.

Also the whole kidnap thing sounded contrived although the introduction of it was hilarious. I think it should get drawn out instead of wrapped up in 2 scenes. Have him stay with the group as they try to get his family's attention to get the ransom. All sorts of shit could happen (like no one wants to pay the ransom) to make their lives miserable. It could all end with them practically throwing him back over the fence, lol, because he's such a pain. Especially if Devin considers him a threat in regards to Wes' attention.

This would be a good spot for some character development for Calla. Also, Brendan and Kalen just disappear. Where did they go? What were they doing? Were they around but not shown?

I know I said this before but I think some of these scenes can be made into their own chapters where you could put more detail in. It's an ensemble cast that is all living in one spot so the other characters need to be around or off doing feasible things with logical explanations. The fact that Kalen is a fugitive makes it seem weird that he'd traipse off all the time. He'd be pretty much stuck in the house. Brendan could be off doing something, though. Unless they think it will look weird to the neighbors that there are suddenly 5 guys and a robot living in the house.

I'll try to think of more constructive things to say (and questions) later.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis42.livejournal.com
I will give you a more in-depth answer later (to whatever I didn't cover in your first comment and the rest of this one) when my kid isn't going to drive me crazy.

But... Devin.

One time I took my 17 month old on a 4 hour plane flight and when he absolutely couldn't sit still anymore I walked him up and down the aisles for a while. As in, tried to get him to walk with me while holding my hand. What actually happened was he kept trying to pull away and run down the aisles. Anyway, this is about Devin and not Wes, I swear.

My point is, he found the one dude on the plane who obviously hated kids. Like, it radiated off him. You could just tell by looking at him from like across the plane. So my kid ran straight up to that guy and started trying to play with him.

Anyway, that's Devin. He is drawn to Calla because she hates him (and he knows it). And despite the fact that he doesn't particularly like to express emotions or admit that he has them, he does have them.

So in the rare situations where he decides it's "safe" to express emotion (or he just gets overwhelmed to the point where he has to), you get emo!Devin. I want to slap him a lot of the time, too. This wasn't one of those times, but chapter 11 was.

Which means I totally get your wanting to slap him, but if it also reads as OOC for Devin, then there's somewhere I'm not doing my job as a writer. So I need to figure out how to present it in a way that makes sense. If the kidnapping story gets drawn out more, maybe Devin's "opening up" *facepalm* to Calla does as well. Hm.

And I will say more stuff later because my kid clearly does need attention and blah. But thank you again for reading! :D

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Ah, I get it.

I was thinking after I wrote that that maybe it wasn't so much that he does it's just that he does it a lot and seems like a completely different character.

If he let himself slip once or twice but then locked it all down, became a little more vigilant it would work better. Then later he could have another smaller slip and work up to him losing his mask around Calla.

That's actually pretty much how I'm writing the relationship between Zoe and Colby. The start out with a mutual animosity but Colby is going to start feeling comfortable with her and some personal stuff he has no intention of telling her will slip out. Each time he's going to open up more until Zoe starts trusting him so she opens up and before they realize it they have an actual friendship (even if they still fight all the time).

I think the relationship between Calla and Devin could be fun to explore (the friendship thing... I'll just keep dreaming the shippy dreams). :)

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, I re-read the chapter and tried to collect my thoughts. Devin is... I don't want to say "complex" emotionally because he's emotionally kind of immature. But what's on the outside and what's on the inside are not always the same, and what's on the inside can shift in the space of like three seconds.

What might be OOC, now that I've re-read the chapter like three times tonight and ruminated a little:

- In my original version, Devin was pretty intimidated by Calla. Not in Brendan's "she's mean" way, but in more of a "you can kick my fucking ass" way, because she can. In the original version, she was pretty mean to him and they had sort of a half-assed, grudging friendship after a while. In this version, he's less afraid and more drawn to her, and she's less mean and more fascinated by him. Eventually. So, like, the parts where he acts intimidated by her may be less in-character.

Although Devin jumping and screaming when she sneaks up on him like that in the final section? Totally in character. He's, um, jittery.

Ways he is in-character:

- Wes is his soft spot. Devin's going off and doing stuff in the middle of the night (slutty things) and he doesn't want Wes to know. He also has feelings for Wes he doesn't even want to admit to himself. You bring up Wes or his "friends" and he gets really thrown off balance. So those moments probably are in-character, even with people around.

- Calla notices a lot. She's super-observant, fairly insightful, and apparently pays a lot of attention to Devin -- first, because she's watching him because he reminds her of Morgan and she doesn't trust him, and later because she's sort of fascinated by him (because teenage girls are stupid and always want to fix the bad, broken ones).

I do think more of a progression would be better. Because I like the idea of stretching the kidnapping out a little too. Not a whole lot, because I think it will keep me from devoting enough time and words to my larger plots and subplots, but enough to make it feel less contrived. Wrapping it up neatly in one chapter kinda bugs me too.

For a while, I was questioning whether the next two chapters (7 and 8) actually went before this one. They'd need a tiny bit of editing to do that, but it could work. So I'm thinking I could split this one, have the kidnapping and the initial confrontation between Devin and Wes or Calla and Wes or whatever about Zack.

Maybe have something where Calla gets a little actual solitude and thinks some thoughts about Kalen and Brendan. By the way, Brendan is mostly hiding in the basement because he's uncomfortable, but maybe he'll come up and cautiously bond with Calla a little while Wes and Zack are out somewhere. Kalen's around but kind of avoiding people because he doesn't want to deal with the situation. Maybe Devin will also hang around Calla silently but not really say stuff (unless she asks him what she wants, and then he'll just wander off). You know, more random awkward interactions and stuff so we can see how everyone's adjusting to each other.

Anyway, then I'd have chapters 7 and 8. In chapter 8, I'd have to make an edit to have Brendan get Zack out of the house (you'll see why later) but otherwise this would mostly work.

And then after that, I can add the rest of this chapter in. Calla and Devin's conversation about Zack, why the hell isn't anyone trying to get him back, etc. And maybe in the final section I will add in more information about Wes's naive scientist family and why they'd never spy on him. Devin's paranoid as shit and shouldn't accept this, but probably will because it's Wes.
Edited Date: 2013-03-20 01:51 am (UTC)

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
good comment is good.

Lots of good stuff in here. Clearing up exactly how Devin relates to Calla will probably help. I prefer the standoffish, slightly intimidated Devin. But that's me.

I definitely got the thing about Wes being a soft spot. I like that idea that he feels guilty and stuff for sneaking out because he doesn't want Wes to know (and feel bad... so. much. denial.) It's kind of sweet. I didn't think his reaction to Calla sneaking up on was OOC although I'd think he'd yelp instead of squeak. I could even see him being freaked out she'd tell. Although I felt the stammering was a little overkill. Not sure how I would fix it, though. Sometimes it's really hard to not take a whole chapter and just rewrite it myself. Not that I think it's bad just that I can see all these improvements I would make based on my writing style and I'm like... oooh, I could do this here, and that there and rearrange this. Then I have to slap my hands.

I'm learning, though, to transfer that excitement and way of looking at what's written to my own writing. I was having so much trouble even starting rewriting. Didn't know where to begin or what to do. I made a comment to my husband that it was so easy doing it to your story because I could be objective so why couldn't I do that to mine. So I did. I sat down, thought about what worked in the story and what was extra and just started cutting stuff out. Like I've dropped like 10 scenes I wrote (using bits and pieces of some of them). I've cut out entire characters and changed other characters, added some but tightened up the arcs. And I'm open to the possibility of killing their storylines in favor of expanding the main characters arcs.

Now that I'm getting the hang of it I'm having fun. Like taking the urge I have to rewrite your stuff and channeling that energy to my own, thinking the same way about it. It's hard to explain but it's working. I doubt I could have done it without first doing the concrit here. I would have been so lost.

Anyway, now I'm interested in reading 7 and 8 to see what you're talking about. I like the idea of splitting this chapter up to draw out the kidnapping some (as long as you add the kidnapping to the other 2 chapters some, of course).

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Your comments are helping me look at my story and my characters more objectively, too. For example, the relationship between Calla and Devin changed significantly in this rewrite, so while just about any random-ass behavior can be in-character for Devin in the right setting (because he's kind of nuts), what's in character for the two of them while interacting isn't always the same anymore.

This is also true of my other characters and their relationships, but that's the relationship that's changed the most so far on this rewrite.

Even though I don't think I'm as good at it as you, I've also been enjoying the exercise of looking at your novel and offering thoughts and questions. Like you said, it's reminding me to think more critically (in a useful way) about my own book as well. :D

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I think it's great we're learning from each other as we go along. We'll both be better writers for it.

I've actually wrote a ton the last two days and didn't even really realize it. All I was doing was editing chapters and writing things from Colby's POV and next thing I know I've written almost 5000 words since yesterday.

I put up the new and improved revised chapter 1 where I changed the entire last scene. Then there's a completely new, unread chapter 2 from Colby's POV. And even that was changed from my original version.

I've completely reworked chapter 3 using elements of several different chapters (essentially combining the key elements into one chapter with a lot of new content), wrote a new chapter 4 from Colby's POV and reworked a scene from my original chapter 4 into a completely new chapter.

I was going to start chapter 5 (from Colby's POV so it's all new) but instead I went back and started editing chapter 3. I've gone over it like 3 times now, including reading it out loud (which I highly recommend--I found so many spots that just didn't read well audibly...now I have to go back and do the other chapters like that). I'm still finding things I want to change about it, though. Totally not satisfied.

This back and forth has been working pretty good for me. Last night I totally reworked chapter 1, then wrote chapter 2. Then went back and edited chapter 1, then looked over chapter 2 then started to write a little of chapter 3 then went back and really edited chapter 1 and then 2, lol. It was like leapfrog or something. Up a step, back two steps, up two steps, back one. But I got a lot of work done.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yayyyy... that means I can read your revised chapters at some point here and think of questions, too. I have to try to write now but I will see if I can devote some quality brain time to it soon (tonight or tomorrow night, I hope). Usually, I'm awake enough to read stuff (or outline) in the evenings but not write it.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
It's still just 2 chapters.

I might put chapter 3 up because I'm having trouble with it and maybe you could see where it doesn't flow. I made a freaking ton of notes but they are too general like, "this is choppy," "this doesn't feel right." Stuff like that but my brain doesn't want to look at the details of it. I probably need to ignore it for a few days and go back later but it's bugging the crap out of me for some reason.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I was going to suggest that! Even though my chapter 4 was a little painful for me with all the ripping apart, it really helped. Because even though I knew it was weak and not working I just couldn't even begin to figure out what the hell to do with it.

If you want to put it where I can see it, let me know. :D

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Okay.

I'm like afraid to look at it because I know I don't like it.

For all I know everyone else that reads it will think it sounds fine but it doesn't to me and that just bugs me, you know. Maybe if I put it up then I'll be able to focus my attention on something else (like editing chapter 4 or writing chapter 6).

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Although I can see Devin slipping up and collecting himself around people somewhat at this point. The other thing is, having all these people move in violated his, um, safe zone. He comes off as all don't-give-a-fuck and when it was just him and Wes he was in a pretty good place. But as soon as all these people move in, that starts to fall apart.

So what's in character for him starts to change. And then he might get a handle on things for a while. And then not.

And by the way, this is why I'm torn on your comments/suggestions about slowing down or toning down the relationship between him and Wes. It stinks because I can't explain the details because it will mess up your objectivity. Let me think on this one some more.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I can picture that. It's pretty obvious he's struggling with all the people in the house (as I would be... I'd have to just lock myself in my room and never come out).

Okay, that last part is just frustrating because I obviously don't know enough to help you then.

Now that I've read these two chapters I think you toned Wes down on your own before I even came around. He works much better for me now.

Even the obviously strange reaction of hugging Devin from behind in front of a bunch of people worked because Devin wiggled out... he's still uncomfortable with people seeing that although I assume he doesn't make as big a fuss if it's just the two of them (he's such a tease to Wes, lol). I should probably read like the next 3 chapters before commenting on 7. I'm afraid I'll forget all my comments or I'll get all confused (as I tend to do).

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 02:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, I have some social anxiety too and I am a massive introvert so having a million people suddenly living in my house would kind of destroy me. Devin's... a lot less stable overall than I am. Even if he's sort of made out of a lot of my own personal insanity in some ways.

It's okay... just keep offering your ideas and we'll see how they evolve. I just didn't want you to feel like I'm ignoring your ideas on toning Wes and Devin down. I'm just not sure what to do with them yet, so I'm keeping them in the back of my mind to possibly use for later.

Wes is toned down at times. And not so much at others. Eventually, he does get toned down quite a bit, but a lot of things happen before that. There are times he shows his deeper/less ridiculous side and times he's a total spaz for a while.

I really like having you comment on each chapter as you go -- it's good to get your impressions even if they might change as you get farther in. That way when I'm outlining I can note all the stuff that brings up questions and look at it all as a whole as things progress. :D

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Well, if it's working for you then I'll keep doing it. :)

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Although also to an extent I want you question Devin's behavior always. So I don't want it explained too smoothly, either. I just want it to be more of a "wtf is UP with this guy?" thing than "shit, this is OOC and this girl doesn't know how to write so I'm going to put the book down" kind of thing. If that makes any sense. :)

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I have nothing to add but this cracked me up.

Re: some more thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
It's a delicate balance. ;-)

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