As in “Rain,” I really enjoy your minimalistic, poetic style, and it works especially well here. Mysteriousness and ambiguity are definitely essential to suspense, and you use “just enough” words to motivate the audience to read on. It’s the little touches that help to slowly reveal the mystery of just what is going on here, such as Dot’s glassy eyes (is she high? keep reading and find out!), It’s interesting how this piece is quite literally character-driven; it seems that characterization moves the plot forward here - and it works. The ending of the chapter - Dot and the vial - begs me to continue reading. It sort of seems like there might be a science-fiction element heading our way in the next chapter; for some reason, I thought of cloning or some type of lab experiment, but I could easily be way off. I suppose that’s the fun, though. Nice work!

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Nov 12, 2022Liked by Matt Bartle

A sequence of random impressions, more or less in story order…

This line is brilliant: “We didn't say much, the music was so loud we just read each-other’s subtitles; telling what we each wanted to hear, not necessarily the truth.”

“In more industrial clubs…” Should this be “most” instead of “more?” Also, I would capitalize “Industrial” to make it clear that we’re talking about a music genre, not manufacturing.

I had a bit of trouble picturing what the protagonist actually looks like. He’s got fangs, human-looking hands, a “muzzle” (metaphorical usage?), but can apparently pass for human in public. It’s not clear to me how much “fur” (or just human-looking body hair?) he has. Maybe this is established earlier in the work?

I like the protagonist’s strategic use of body contact with silver to keep himself in check. And the strong emphasis on scent imagery is highly appropriate for a canine character.

As with “Rain,” I struggled with understanding the choreography — e.g. how Dot transitions from being eye-to-eye with him to (apparently) mounting his face.

“Her skin against my cheek has the texture of teeth.” So he’s feeling the sensation of his own teeth against his own cheek?

I think that a lot of the imagery is effective, but that it gets a bit overpowering in places. E.g. I think you could get rid of the line “Flint and slate and stone and rainfall” and not lose anything. In fact it would tighten things up a bit, in my opinion. I had trouble trying to connect those words with anything concrete or specific.

All in all, it strikes me as a very effective, updated, and original take on the werewolf trope (coming from someone who is a casual consumer of horror movies who basically never reads horror fiction).

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Nov 8, 2022Liked by Matt Bartle

Interesting subject matter, Matt. Werewolf, power, sex, transaction, duplicity - not your everyday themes! Your intentions for the narrative really come across and that ironic power change between the characters (he's a werewolf, so bloody hell, he should be in control) works well. I love the idea of Dot capturing him as a rare item for the wealthy. To me, that's very dark with almost colonial undertones, but it's also very witty - 'the blindness of wealth' sort of thing. My only real problem is the occasional complexity of the phrasing, but maybe this is intentional as the piece is very much about sensory overload, especially smell and touch. It wasn't a big problem it's just that a few times I had to keep re-reading to fully understand that fullness of the 'sensory experience'! Having said that, I really liked the sardonic comedy -"I could be weighed in for scrap" - nice shift in tone from the danger of fetish to the archaism of "pretty penny". Also that image of grinding sea salt onto steak - comic and witty again, especially considering the sexual emphasis on both the male and female body. I could yap on about that more as it suggested such a lot - both domestic and sexual details. And last thing - the name 'Dot' - blimey, she's more than an insignificant dot. Love that!

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I enjoyed reading this story of possession and madness. It was clear early on that he was destined for a collection so I think you can delay that slightly in the story. I love how he smells and tastes too but he seems more dog than werewolf. It works just as it is, and if you wanted to do any reworking, I'd like him to be a bit more wolfish.

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Good stuff, mate, although the meaning of the ending's a little bit confusing (to me), but I'm thinking maybe that's your intention.

The visceral imagery and smells really does the job in this one. I feel like I've watched a film.

One thing I think might help the flow would be to lose some of the speech marks and put it into more active sentences:

Dot says my hands are so rough, dogs have softer paws.

Looking at her out of the corner of my eye, I tell her they’re working hands.

I remark that it sounds fancy.

Feeling myself far too sober, I ask if she wants another drink.

I ask who keeps four sets of handcuffs.

-- Also, maybe this:

Replace "Something to scratch an itch. Something to stop the beast running rampant through the streets and, instead, staying indoors and screwing," with simply -- "Had an itch that needed scratching. "

"With a full moon shining down" could become "Under the bright spotlight of a full moon" or something a bit more visual

And finally, I would change Dot has the slightest hint of a French accent, to Dot had the slightest.... Everything else in in past tense, so it feels that this should be too.

As always, and as you know, these are just subjective ideas that occurred to me after reading it twice.

Good story and glad you're back posting!

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