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Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
 The First Summer of My New Life  (18+)
After over two years in a coma, Tina came out of it. It was a Summer she won’t forget.
#2252554 by PureSciFiPlus

Author: PureSciFiPlus


Tina has come out of a two-and-a-half-year coma. Mitch bumps into Tina while playing volleyball. Tina isn’t upset but her father is, who comes over to grill Mitch.

Tina gets embarrassed and screams at him when they get back home. She blames him for her not making new friends. She goes into her room and her mother tells her that she will make new friends here.

Then Tina is back in the hospital in another coma that lasts six months.

Then she’s out of it and back on the beach, talking to Mitch.

At first I thought the second part with Tina in the hospital was a flashback to an earlier time, but re-reading, I realize that it isn’t.

Am I correct in thinking: Tina used to be in a 2 ½ year coma which is what she tells Mitch. Then later that day, she collapses and goes into another coma, which lasts for another six months. She comes out of this second one and Mitch tells her that he and his friends visited her every day while she was comatose?

Wouldn’t it be winter by then?


The main character is Tina, who is 10 years old and has been in a coma for a while. She does not have many friends but meets Mitch, so things are looking up for her. *Smile*

Her parents Victoria and Jackson are typical parents who want the best for their daughter. Not much description here but probably not necessary.

Mitch is the guy Tina meets on the beach. Perhaps a little more description of him? What does Tina see when she is watching him play volleyball? Is he cute? Is he blonde or dark-haired? Tall? Plenty of opportunity here! *Wink*


The first scene is on the beach in the summer. I think we can imagine what a beach looks like?

The second part is in the hospital.

The last part is back on the beach.


For most of the story, we’re in Tina’s head. I did notice a big head-hop and mentioned that at the end of my comments below.


You have a good story here, but I’d like to know what happens between Tina and Mitch. Are you planning to write a sequel or follow-up? If you smooth out the transitions, it’ll be great! I only noticed two times where you went into present tense from past tense, so good job!


I made some suggestions and comments below. Remember that these are my humble opinion only! Take what suggestions you like and ignore the rest. It is your story!

Running backward, Mitch almost fell on Tina. Wwho [Put a comma here after “Tina”.]was sitting on the beach watching the volleyball game that Mitch was a part of.
Only her standing hands and arms behind her stopped her from falling.

[I’m not sure what “standing hands and arms” means.]

Instead, Mitch rolled off her to a sitting position too. Just in time to catch the volleyball heading toward him.

[Isn’t Tina standing?]

Tina looked at Mitch and smiles smiled. “That’s one way to meet a girl.”

“Why not?” Mitch asked. “We know you have been watching us. Is it because you are new to our area? And you are shy about making new friends.”

[Consider making this into a question: “Are you shy about making new friends?” JMHO.]

“Of course, he isn’t. And nothing is going on here,” said Tina Tina said. “He just came over to invite me to join their volleyball game.”

“I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU,” Tina screamed as she left the living room. “I HATE YOU.”

[How old is Tina? I thought she was a young adult, but sounds like she is 12 or 13?
Also, since this part is in Jackson’s point of view, start in his pov. Perhaps: “Jackson smiled at Tina as she left the living room, screaming…(?)]

A few minutes later Victoria knocked on Tina’s bedroom door. When she didn’t get a ‘come in’ because of all the bellowing, Victoria enters entered anyway.

“I know,” said Tina as she sat up next to her mother. Wiping tears from her eyes as she did it. [Separate with a comma.]

“Of course, she does. She’s ten,” answered Victoria.

[Okay, got it! *Laugh*]

Victoria smiled. “That was easy. All I had to do was to remind her that she still had friends from where we used to live. In fact, she’s talking to some of them right now.”

[Is Victoria deliberately lying to her husband here? Why does she not tell him what she really said?]

“We don’t know Mr. and Mrs. Peterson,” answered Hanna. a voice from the computer monitor said. Jackson and Victoria noticed that Tina’s friend was looking at them from the screen.[Again, JMHO. *Smile*]

Hanna was now on a sideways turned computer screen on the floor next to Tina. “One second we were all talking. And the next she was on the floor looking dead.”

[Is Hanna worried about Tina. She doesn’t sound at all scared for her friend.]

Victoria double held one of Tina’s hands. And Jackson did the same thing with her other hand.
[This is a little abrupt, because Victoria and Jackson (Oh! I get it now! Victoria Jackson! She’s one of my favorite comediennes! *InLove* *Laugh*) were standing outside Tina’s room, and now they are at her bed. Think about: “Victoria entered Tina’s room and clasped Tina’s hand with both of hers.]

Jackson patted that hand. “Everything is going to be okay,” said Jackson.

“Of Course, she is. Now that we know what is wrong with her,” said Victoria.
[They do? The doctors just said they did not know what was wrong with her.]

Victoria took her eyes off of Tina to look at Jackson. “I’m starting to get worried about our little girl too.”

[She’s not already worried?]

“Don’t be embarrassed,” said Mitch. “It hasn’t to all of us at this age.” [I think there is a word missing here.]

Tina looked at Mitch and smiled. “By the way, you may know everything about me. But I don’t know anything about you. Not even your name. What is your name?”

[Wait a minute. If Tina doesn’t even know Mitch’s name, then the reader cannot either. We are in Tina’s point of view for most of the story, so we have to see things through her eyes. You could refer to Mitch as “the cute guy” or something for Tina to call him since she doesn’t know his name.*Smile*]
Review of Twisted circus  
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
 Twisted circus  (13+)
A fairy circus that has a dark evolving humans
#2252227 by I'm in the book now!

Author: I'm in the book now!

Amanda is kidnapped by fairies and forced to perform in their circus.

It is a strange story, but you have it listed as “non-fiction”. *Wink*

There are some gaps in the storyline, so consider transitions when changing scenes or introducing new characters.


The main character is Amanda. I get the feeling that she is a young girl, because you mention she is in school. Later, we realize that she is deaf. When she wakes up after being thrown into a cage, she wishes she could hear what they are saying, but then she responds to them in sign language. It is contradictory, so maybe Amanda can read lips?


We’re in Riverside at the beginning of the story and it is wintertime. Then the scene moves to a circus, because we see tents.

You can do a whole lot with this setting since we’re in a fantasy world! Show us what Amanda is seeing! Are there unicorns? Do the trees look the same? What colors are the tents?

Use your imagination and create a fantastic world!


Since Amanda is the main character, we remain in her point of view throughout the chapter, but as I mentioned before, if she is deaf, she will not be able to hear what the fairies are saying. At least not until they restore her hearing If Amanda doesn’t know what they are saying, then the reader shouldn’t as well.


There are a lot of run-on sentences here that make understanding what is happening difficult. Also, you switch back and forth from past tense to present tense. Try to remain in only one. I prefer past tense, but you use whichever one you are most comfortable with.


This could be a great story with some edits and re-writes. It seems as if this is the first chapter of a longer work? Are you planning to continue this story? We’d like to know what happens to Amanda. *Smile*


I made some comments and suggestions below, but remember they are just my humble opinion. Take what suggestions you like and ignore the rest. This is your story!

She follows the smell in the distance a Fairy smiles for it has lured her into a fairy ring. Amanda starts to feel dizzy and falls to the ground and blacks out. When she wakes up and sees a bunch of strange looking people in strange clothing they were bidding on stuff suddenly she was roughly thrown into a cage.

Here is one place you switch from past into present and run-on sentences. Consider: She followed the fragrance for a short distance, until she spotted a fairy sitting in her path. With a big smile, she ran toward the fairy, but it vanished. Only then did Amanda notice she was standing in a fairy ring…. *Smile*]

“She’ll do nicely thanks Pip,” said a man with pointy ears dressed up in ringmaster’s attire. Amanda wished she knew what he was saying so she could scream at the man to free her. She fumed.
“Why so silent? Most people I buy fresh from the human world screams and shout at me”

Amanda uses sign language to say, “Gee I don’t know, maybe it's because I'm deaf!” [Amanda wishes she could hear what he was saying but then she understands him? This needs to be clarified as to how she understands his second sentence.]

She said with pure seriousness. The man was laughing. She gives him an annoyed look and walks away. Amanda wanted out of her cage. She tries to escape but fails when she realizes the door was unlocked the whole time and facepalms.

[If the door is unlocked, she should be able to escape, right? *Wink*]

“That's why he shouldn't disobey”She said watching the body chasing the loose head Amanda was very confused the woman looked at Amanda [Run-on sentences.]

“WHY CAN’T ANYONE UNDERSTAND I'M DEAF!” screamed Amanda she was so frustrated she kicked a bucket.

[So Amanda can talk?]

Assuming he hasn't seen her she remains where she was suddenly someone drags her behind some crates she looks at them it was the doll boys body it was holding the doll boys head, she looks the pulley system he had replaced his head with a watermelon and a wig on the contraption “your You’re pretty brave for wandering around here at night” he whispers. Amanda, still bewildered that she could hear now responds with

[If you have any questions or need clarification, just let me know.*Smile*]
Review of Meeting Him  
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Such a wonderful poem, Jim! It sort of took me back to being young and believing in Santa Claus (still do, of course!)

My favorite line is where the narrator is crushed by a hug from Santa. We should all be so lucky.

You have a great way of bringing joy to your poem and your readers!

Thank you!
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
What a fun crossword puzzle, Robert! Thank you for posting it!
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
King of the House Elves - Chapter 2  (18+)
On the eve of battle, Boroden remembers how he lost his ancestral homeland
#2232303 by HollyMerry

Author: HollyMerry


Boroden discusses the upcoming battle with his younger brother Ulfmolt. The chapter ends with the hobyahs approaching.

I did not notice any plot holes or inconsistencies.


Boroden is the main character in this chapter. He is a warrior and trains until he is exhausted, preparing for battle. He loves his brother and is protective of him. He has not forgiven himself for not going to Aira’s aid when she was surrounded by hobyahs. Therefore, he does not know if she is alive or not. We are given a hint of a hidden ability that he shares with Ulfmolt.

Ulfmolt is Boroden’s younger brother, so he is not as capable a warrior as Boroden. He’s not as brave either but wants to be.

Uncle Leon is the third character introduced, but we see very little of him. He is Boroden’s trainer in fighting and he is a blonde! *Smile*


Most of this chapter takes place in a room Boroden and Ulfmolt share. Perhaps a little more description here. I take it that the room is small, because when Boroden is combing his hair at the mirror and drops the mirror, Ulfmolt is able to pick it up from his bed.


We are in Boroden’s point of view throughout the chapter. I did not notice any head-hops or changes in pov.


Great hook here! With the battle about to get underway, how can one stop reading? *Laugh* There was an area where I got confused. I think I know what happened but I made a comment about it below.

Great chapter!


I also made some wording suggestions, but remember they are my humble opinion only! Take what comments and suggestions you like, and ignore the rest. It is your story!

If Leon had not ordered him to rest, he would have gone to him now as he stood alert by the watch fire.

[If Leon had not ordered him to rest, Boroden would have gone to Leon as Leon stood by the fire.? I just want to be sure I read that correctly. I see in the following sentences that is what is said. Boroden wants to go be with his uncle Leon. What a sweet nephew!! *Smile*]

Boroden entered the nest constructed of moss and cobwebs that hung from the branch roof of the circular King’s Hall. The scent of damp thatch and the herbs strewn over the floor to freshen the air was mixed with the tang of the metal polish. His younger brother, Ulfmolt, who had been busy preparing their armour and weapons in readiness for the coming battle, snored softly in the corner. Boroden tried to move as gingerly as his weary limbs would allow, not wanting to disturb his brother’s slumber.

There was no point in putting it off.

[Putting what off?]

Boroden knew that he would not sleep.

Raised voices cut through the wattle walls of the hall. Boroden froze. Was this is it?

Hand on his sword hilt, Boroden slipped to the door. His father was reprimanding one of the lookouts for falling asleep.

A touch at his arm made his skin prickle. It was only Ulfmolt.

[Who did he think it was? Ulfmolt is the only one in the room with him, right? *Wink*]

‘You must have been terrified when the kraken attacked Velmoran. I often wonder what happened,’ Ulfmolt said.

Boroden turned away to fetch his sword. ‘You know. The others have spoken of it many times.’

‘But not you. You weren’t with us. We only found you a few years ago in that circus.’

[Ulfmolt asks Boroden if he was terrified when the kraken attacked, but then acknowledges that Boroden wasn’t even there? Is he mocking his older brother?]

Boroden cringed as he recalled the long, miserable years he had spent in the circus facing the desperate curiosity and lack of respect that humans had for House Elves. He glanced at Ulfmolt. He owed it to his brother to tell him the truth. After all, this might be the last chance they had to talk. He did not rate the chances of surviving the hobyah attack highly.

‘The day the kraken came, I was sailing my toy ship in one of the quays in the cavern beneath Velmoran. The happy bustle of the harbour vanished into screams. Terrified brownies ran by, almost toppling me. I ran too. Amongst the wreckage I saw her. The kraken. In Krysila’s eyes there was only hate. I hated her too, her senseless cruelty.’

Ulfmolt winced. ‘Did you fight back?’

[Wait a minute. I’m confused. I thought Ulfmolt said Boroden wasn’t present when the kraken attacked.]

‘I… I don’t know.’ Boroden loathed his inability to save her. If only he could turn back time. ‘Father shut the escape route on me.

[His father cut off his own son’s escape route?]
Review of A New Dawn Ch.1  
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Title: {biem:2237614}

Author: Zachary Wright


Raijin and his twin brother Darius, were abandoned by their parents because they couldn’t afford to raise them. Raijin is a rare kind of witch. He is practicing his magic by duplicating a gold ring. He is successful, but loses control of his magic and causes an explosion. Darius saves him by knocking him to the ground and shielding him from the blast.

They run to a training ground for the first day. Raijin is pitted against Samuel, who apparently is not a good person. Raijin choses swords for their combat.

Although we are introduced to a new fantasy world, the story is rather easy to follow along, with new settings, new characters, etc. There does seem to be a connection with our current world since Raijin references Japanese and Polynesian deities.

There did seem to be an abrupt shift in the middle. After the explosion, Raijin says his ears are ringing and he does not hear what Darius said. Darius doesn’t pause to make sure Raijin isn’t hurt before he’s running off to class. Does Raijin’s hearing return right away? It just seemed to me that Darius cares more about class than his brother.


Raijin – a rare kind of witch that can do all the types of magics other witches can do, but has trouble controlling them

Darius – can manipulate lightning and protective of his brother.

Samuel – the Prince of the Archangels and a bully

Metatron – their training instructor. He is about 500 years old, and has a dark beard streaked with gray.

There isn’t much description on these characters right now, but I’m sure we’ll get to know them soon. *Smile*


We are in a magical realm Zora, with entities that can perform different types of magic. The story opens in a castle where Raijin is practicing his magic. Consider a little more description of the room: how big is it? Is it cluttered with books? Is the sunlight from the windows the only source of illumination?

Also, show us the trip to the training ground. Are they in a forest? Or plains?

You can do so much here that will bring your story to life!


There is a lot of ‘telling’ in this chapter and not much ‘showing’. I understand the need to narrate when you’re creating a new fantasy world, but it is okay to jump right into the story without the need for an introduction. *Smile* Your readers will catch up.

Consider starting with Raijin trying to duplicate the ring and then slowly include their back story.


I enjoy a good fantasy story and I think you have the beginnings of one here. You captured my interest and I am looking forward to the next chapter! I mentioned earlier about ‘telling’ vs ‘showing’ so if you have questions about that, please let me know.

I’m excited about your novel.


Remember my comments are just my humble opinion. Take what advice you like and ignore the rest. This is your story!

Ever since The High Flame found us, we became servants.

[Servants of whom? The High Flame?]

My brother would say that we are treated better than servants at least we get an education. I do appreciate that but we have to start our morning serving breakfast, then clean certain parts of the castle, then go to classes, then serve dinner, and then bed, but before lights out we have to find time to study whenever we can or we do not get to study at all that day.

[This is a rather long sentence. Consider breaking it up. Think about ending it after “and then bed.” And the next sentences: Before lights out, we have to find time to study, because we do not get to study during the day. (JMHO)]

I feel so cheated. The children of these deities are treated as royalty, as for us we are treated like slaves.

[This would be a good place to explain why Darius thinks they are treated better than servants, but Raijin thinks they are treated as slaves.]

I shook the cobwebs out of my head and slammed my hands on the oak desk. This ritual spell needs all of my concentration. In order to win my match in class today I need to be prepared. The first thing I need to do is make two duplicates of this gold ring, that I swiped from Samuel, the most privileged of the children here, and placed the ring in the center of the table.

[A little confusion here. How about: The first think I had to do was make two duplicates of the gold ring I swiped from Samuel, the most privileged of children here. I placed the ring in the center of the table.]

There was a small flash of stunning white light where the ring was placed on the table.

[A flash of white light surrounding the ring stunned me.]

After the light faded there were a total of three gold rings laying in front of me. A quick peek around to see if I was still alone.

Nothing outside the windows other than sequoias and pine trees, the leaves casting shadows on the study’s carpet. Nobody in the doorway, and the keeper of the books was still on lunch.

[Good description! This is ‘showing’ instead of ‘telling’! *Smile*]

I finished the ritual circle with a lemniscate in the center of the inner circle.

[I had to look that up! *Laugh*]

Heat began radiating from my hand as I poured my magic power into the spell. The ritual circle began glowing a dull golden brown, but the ring shined a brilliant gold. The colors dimmed and I cut the flow of power to the ritual then placed the ring in my second burlap sack.

[This is another good section!]

“Raijin! What are you doing?” the voice yelled from the opening.
I turned to see Darius, my brother.

His amber eyes wide with shock.

[Yes! Good! You did not have to tell us he was shocked. You showed us he was by his expression!]

I love the outdoors, the sun, the sky, the trees, and the different types of animals. All of which are fascinating.

[What kind of fascinating animals does he see? We’re in a fantasy world here so be creative!]

Samuel and I were handed bamboo training swords. We faced each other, holding the hilts of our swords at chest level.

“Are you ready for an embarrassing defeat?” Samuel asked.

“You wish.”

[Perhaps a little more excitement for the hook to be sure the reader wants to go to the next chapter. Perhaps: Without warning, Samuel lunged at me, with his sword aiming directly at my heart.]
Review of Fairy Nuff  
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, Beholden . I found your story listed on the Fantasy Newsletter this week and admit I was drawn in by the title "Fairy Nuff" (Fair Enough *Laugh*). I'm a sucker for puns. My interest was further captured when the main character arrives at the "Snot Fayre" ('s not fair! *Hysterical*).

You could have included comedy as a genre, because the conversation between the main character and the ticket taker was hilarious.

One thing I'm a little curious about. Did Fairy Nuff put some sort of spell on the main character? Was that her way of 'passing the torch' so to speak? I re-read it to be sure she wasn't given a potion or something to ingest. Just wondering.

Also, might I suggest describing Fairy Nuff when the main character wakes up? She's probably very old now, beyond the middle-aged when the MC first encountered earlier in the day? JMHO! *Smile*

Great read!
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Interesting crossword, Xiea. I had to google some of the answers. Just a heads-up though. The answer to 3 across is "Basilisk" and it shares the second letter of 2 down which is "werewolf". Unfortunately, that makes the spelling of 2 down as "warewolf".

for entry "Something Extra
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Adventures of Olivia Berns   (13+)
An exciting journey of a high school girl, Olivia along with her friends.
#2241529 by Vaishali

Author: Vaishali


Olivia is beginning to get excited about the jungle. She is no longer as scared and wants to explore. They make a place to spend the night and make a fire.

The next day Jack wakes first and tries to get the girls to start moving. Olivia convinces him to stay one more day.

The next day, Anne wakes up to find the jungle has changed. She wanders off briefly to explore a strange sound, but hurries back to the camp. Jack and Olivia are gone. She hears them calling her and she finds them at the mouth of the cave.

They realize that every time they start to explore, they end up at the cave. They decide to enter.

I did not notice any plot holes, but there are some gaps in the action. I made some comments below in the body of the text. But remember! This is only my humble opinion. Take what comments you like and ignore the rest. This is your story!


No new characters in this chapter.


This chapter is set in the mysterious jungle. I would really like to see some more descriptions of the jungle and why it is so mysterious and magical. Purple trees? Unicorns or dragons maybe? Rivers flowing uphill? There are so many things you can add to this story to make it pop! *Smile*


By now things started to become comprehensible. Olivia was constantly getting an intuition that she hasn't come there but someone has brought her.

[Yes, the school bus brought her! *Laugh*. But I think I know what you’re trying to convey here. Olivia feels some unknown force or maybe the voices in her head have drawn her into the jungle.
I will emphasize this again, Lurie. Show us why and how the jungle is mysterious! Don’t tell us!]

The lonely and once depressed Olivia started realizing some magic over there. She knew it was not an ordinary jungle. The more mysterious it was, the more Olivia wanted to explore.

"Don't stay here. Let's find some place to sleep and then tomorrow morning we will start our journey", said Olivia.

"What to find? To find what? or maybe What is there to find? Don't we already have the cave to stay?" Anne interrupted.

"No. It is a time catching cave and we don't know yet that it is safe or not. I think we should first make some fire. It's getting cold here."

"Okay. Let me help for today but tomorrow surely we are going to find a way to get out of this peculiar place", Jack spoke said.

" Can't we stay here for just today? Please Jack. We will surely leave this place after evening", Olivia asked childishly doing some hand gestures.

[I’m not quite sure what is happening here. It seems Jack is the one to make the decisions, but why does Olivia start acting childish? Although I have just met Olivia, this seems a little out of character for her.

See? You’ve described her well enough that I feel I know her now! Good job!

What sort of hand gestures is she doing? Why is she doing them?]

"Yay! Let's have more fun. At least we don't need to complete our assignments here", Anne laughed.

[Big gap here. What do they do all day? This is a great place to add some more adventures. They probably go exploring again. Where do they go? What do they see? Did they have fun?]

Next morning, Anne woke up first. The weather was clear and bright. She was puzzled by the way the jungle changed. Now it had a constant flowing river and some eucalyptus trees. An uncanny sound was coming from the deep. Describe the sound. Scary? Animal noises? Wind? Maybe even some type of music?]

What she saw was more {b]direful awful. Olivia and Jack were missing! "Oh darn! Where have the two gone, what should I do now" she scratched her hair while stamping her feet hard.

[Would Anne be scared? She seems annoyed instead of scared, but finding herself alone in the jungle would probably be enough to frighten just about anybody. *Smile*]

Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi, Lurie.

In this chapter, Olivia is exploring the cave, which has paintings on the walls. Although she is scared, she wants to keep going, because her inner voices urge her to move forward. However, she is too tired to walk any further and sits down on a rock to rest.

The next day, Jack and Anne return with the rest of the students and begin looking for Olivia. They find the cave and find her inside, asleep. They wake her and Olivia thinks she has only been there for ten minutes, but Jack and Anne tell her it is the next day.

They go back outside and realize night has fallen, and the school bus has abandoned them.

As before, Lurie, my comments are my own humble opinion. Take whatever advice you like and ignore the rest. It is your story. *Smile*

The cave was mystical. Everything seemed to be odd. [As I mentioned before, this is telling rather than showing. What was mystical and odd about the cave? Consider something like: Olivia marveled at the paintings on the walls. They look like they're ancient, she thought. She saw specks of light covering the roof of the cave, giving it a mystical aura.

That's odd. All the walls are smooth, not like any of the other caves I've seen.] *Smile*

Ancient small paintings were carved on its wall. [Are they paintings or are they carvings? *Laugh*]

Olivia was little scared but she went on moving inside. She wanted to explore more.

She had nothing with her but a torch whose batteries were dying and a wooden stick which she had picked from the ground to protect herself.

As she moved deeper and deeper she eerie sounds became more clear. [This is abrupt since this is the first time the eerie sounds have been mentioned. Perhaps she could hear eerie sounds as she enters, which would help the reader understand why Olivia thinks the cave is mystical and odd.]

"Your destination is just a few metres away . Keep walking." her inner voice cried. But she was so tried of walking and walking that she rested on a rock there.

The next day when the students reached that part of Athora , Anne and Jack went on searching Olivia. Jack took her to the place where he last saw Olivia. After searching for more than three hours, Anne lost hope. She thought that Olivia must have been devoured by some animal.

[Anne wasn't too worried about Olivia being eaten by a wild animal yesterday, now was she? *RollEyes*]

Jack was quite practical. He kept on searching for her deep down the forest. Covered by tree vines and leaves, he finally founded a massive cave. He wondered if by any chance Olivia was there. He entered the cave along with Anne. It was really a dark cave with huge carvings on it.

[Earlier, Olivia finds small paintings and now Jack sees large carvings. Either have them see the same thing or explain why they see different things. *Smile*]

Anne was frightened to go deep but she fostered some strength and went inside.

"Look there!" Jack exclaimed, " Isn't she Olivia ?"

"Indeed. She is Olivia. We've finally found her." Anne replied.
"Let's wake her up. We should move out faster . This is not a safe place." she added.

They both shouted in one voice," OLIVIA!!! Wake up! We are here. No need to worry."

Olivia stood straight rubbing her eyes." How come you two have founded me? You are great! I just entered here ten minutes ago and when I woke up I saw you. I am glad to have friends like you. Let's move out quickly to view the jungle. We'll return here tomorrow . " she spoke cheerfully.

[I think Olivia needs to find new friends, but that's just my humble opinion. *Laugh*]

"Wait! What? Are you planning to come here tomorrow as well?" Anne asked her confusingly.

" Yes. Of course we have a two day trip so we have one day more."

"No. You were there inside for the whole night and it is the second and last day of trip. What's wrong with you Olivia", Jack shouted .

"Okay. Maybe I slept more. Let's go back." saying this Olivia came out of the cave with her friends.

[I would think Olivia might be a little more shocked to find out she had been in the cave overnight instead of a few minutes. Or maybe she isn't? Hmmmm....]

"My God!! It's night. The stars are shining bright in the darkness."

Anne looked for the bus and she found that everyone has gone and they are left alone in that mysterious time-catching jungle.

[Consider something like "time-bending cave" or "time-slowing cave", because it is the cave where time slows, not the jungle. *Wink* ]

You really have a good story here, but you also have a great opportunity to add more mystery to the jungle and the cave. Show the readers why it is strange. What makes the sounds so eerie? Do Jack and Anne hear them, too? Somebody needs to talk to their teacher, because this is the second time she's lost students on a field trip!
for entry "A Trip to Athora
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Novel Workshop G...  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi, Lurie.

In this chapter, the students arrive at Athora, the mysterious jungle. While the students are staying together, Olivia wanders off, being beckoned and warned at the same time by inner voices. She comes to a cave that has an entry stone carved with "Leviathan" on it.

She enters the cave.

The rest of the students leave without Olivia.

This is another good chapter and the build-up of suspense is just right to keep the reader's interest.

I've made more suggestions, but remember they are just my humble opinion. Keep those comments you like and ignore the rest. It is your story! *Smile*

"The much awaited hour has arrived. We have reached Athora!" saying this the teacher instructed the students to step down from the bus.

[I suggest removing this first sentence because the excitement of reaching Athora is really summed up in the second one. *Smile*. And it's okay to have the teacher actually speaking: "Be careful, students. Watch your step as you get off the bus!"]

Yes, Athora has a unique beauty in it. It is neither like an usual jungle nor like a fantasy world. It is the epitome of perfection of nature. The real beauty of Him. Moreover, the sound of calm breezes making the trees sway gave similar pleasure to ears like a mother giving his son a gentle pat on his forehead .

[Is this the teacher still talking? I like the simile of a mother giving a son a pat on his forehead, but that is a touch rather than a sound, right. *Laugh*. How about the calm breezes caress one's skin like a mother...?]

There were little chihuahuas welcoming the guests. Children were using compass and drawings to track their path as they wander around. But Olivia needed no direction. She was moving with the current. A natural force was driving her towards itself.

[This paragraph has a lot of passive voice, i.e. "was". It's better to use active voice: Chihuahuas greeted the guests and students used compasses and drawings to find their paths as they wandered around. Olivia needed no direction, since a natural force drove her forward, as if she was moving with the current of a gentle stream." JMHO!]

"Look at Olivia ! Where is she going?" Anne exclaimed.
"Let's follow her " said Jack .

"Don't you think that it's not her first time here. She almost know all the routes. She even do does not fear of being lost." Jack added after failing to chase her.

[Does Jack fail to chase her or does he just can't keep up with her and loses her?]

But Olivia kept moving without listening to her friends. She had a mixed feeling of joy, confusion, terror and power within herself.

"Wait. Don't go there. Where are you going Olivia ? Do you know if that place is safe or not? Oh! I can't push myself back. I need to go there. Someone is calling me ! Yes ..yes! I am sure there's my need. I must go there. Oh! I am almost there. What is this place? Why does it not look strange to me? Have I come here before? I seen this place. It feels like this is my very place." Olivia's inner voices fought among themselves. She couldn't handle her actions.

[Consider putting "Olivia's inner voices..." sentence to the beginning of the paragraph, so the reader knows who is speaking. I thought it was Jack and Anne at first. *Smile*]

"But the teacher has to take us to view another site. Is it right to go there leaving her alone?" Anne hesitated.

Jack without caring much went towards his fellow mates in order not to miss any part. Anne too followed him but it was difficult for her to leave her friend.

"Come on students. All of you stand in a queue. We have to reach to another destination very soon." said the teacher.

The students ran in a frenzy. All climbed the buses and left the forest except one.

[Now this last sentence is rather shocking. I cannot imagine a teacher not taking roll call or a head count to realize a student is missing. Jack and Anne know Olivia is missing, so I don't understand why her friends would not tell the teacher. If this is necessary for the story, please make it reasonable for a teacher to leave a student behind in such a strange place.]
for entry "Meet Olivia Berns
Review by Alex Morgan
In affiliation with Cross Timbers Peer Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi, Vaishali I like the set up of your story, giving the reader a sense of adventure or something coming up. There a feeling of mystery with Olivia, a hidden map, and a strange jungle.

I get the feeling this is going to be a children's book?

My comments below are just my humble opinion, so please take them with a grain of salt. Keep the comments you like and ignore the rest. It is your story! *Smile*

It was a bright sunny morning when the school bell rang. Olivia was wondering while gazing at her desk window about the fun going school trip to Athora, a mysterious jungle far away from the town.

[One good rule to follow is to show your readers what is happening, rather than telling them. Suggestion: "Olivia gazed out the window from her desk and the bright morning, wondering about the school outing to Athora, a mysterious jungle far away from town."

(If it is sunny outside, it will be bright, so using both adjectives isn't necessary. *Wink*)

Jack and Anne were going downstairs to the library. Anne on her way saw Olivia sitting beside the window, vacant. She asked Jack to take her along with them.
Olivia moved her face round to watch Jack's pat on her shoulder.

[Having a possessive noun for the pat on the shoulder, perhaps "Olivia turned to watch Jack tap her on her shoulder."]

As she turned, U}her bright face, fair as milk with cute cat eyes appeared. [Nice description!]
Her cheeks were soft and red as blossom and her lips soft as creme. She had her long black hair tied into a pony, altogether making a gorgeous face. But her classmates called her quite mysterious as she had never talked much to anyone except for her friends - Jack and Anne.

Hardly had Olivia turned out to acknowledge Jack's hand when he asked "Would you like to join us? We are going to search for Athora's map" he whispered.

"Athoraaa" she repeated within herself. It was something especial to make her curious. Although she did not show, yet within her heart core she knew how desperate she was to go there and feel it.

The three went down deep following the dark dusty stairs to the shelf where Jack had seen his teacher hiding the map.

[This is first we know of the map being hidden by a teacher so it is a little abrupt. How about moving it up to Jack's whisper? "Would you like to join us? We're going to search for Ahtora's map. I know where our teacher hid it."]

"How do you know that the maps describe Athora? It's just a story, isn't it?" Anne started suspecting Jack as they were heading. "Believe me. No one will hide a usual map within the school campus in such a weird place..."

"Shh..."and the both paused. "Someone may eavesdrop us. Can't you stop talking for a while." They both giggled on each other's scared faces and Olivia's grown up behaviour. When they took out the big old dusty torn paper, Olivia became ecstatic.

[Like before a little abrupt. Consider "Jack indicated the spot where the map had been hidden, and took out a dusty, torn paper that looked as if it was hundreds of years old."]

She seemed very excited for this trip as it was her childhood dream. The trip was going to be held on the upcoming weekend.

The three packed their stuff a day before and made a checklist.

[How about: "The three made a checklist the day before so they would not forget anything." Then add what sort of things they might pack. *Smile*]

As the day of the school trip came closer Olivia could hear her heart beating faster. The feeling of awe acquired(?) her bringing butterflies in her stomach.

[This is very good! We know Olivia is getting excited by your description of what she is sensing, without telling us!]

The next day , the students gathered in school at 6 A.M. They were supposed to go to the jungle by bus. Anne climbed the bus and took a seat for herself and saved two for Olivia and Jack. In the journey, every child was cheerful. But Olivia had a separate world in her mind. She thought of the nature, the beautiful sky, the pink nights, the mesmerizing beauty of maple leafs, chirping of birds, smell of wet clay and cold breeze. She had always thought of going to Athora one day but she never knew the day was the one.

[This is a great hook to end the chapter. Again it gives the reader a sense of anticipation of some adventure Olivia and her friends might encounter. I look forward to reading more about Olivia.]
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)

I don’t understand the third paragraph, starting with “He’d chosen his own appearance…” It reads as if Sigurd is a hologram i.e. ‘chosen his own appearance’ ‘send a message about his personna’ ‘construct an image’?

Was there any interaction between Sigurd, Elam Vandreren and the Sector Auditor on the trip to Cabot’s Landing? Were the occupants of the Zuiderkruis in suspended animation or long-term sleep? Or were they awake for the entire time? It sounds as if faster-than-light speed is available in this setting so did passengers and crew get to interact during the trip?

I like the camaraderie that seems to be growing between Elam and Sigurd. The closing line adds a little bit of intrigue…is Sigurd interested in Elam? Hmmmmmm….

As I mentioned in the second paragraph, perhaps a little more information on how the ship is able to move from solar system to solar system. Faster-than-light travel? Or suspended animation? It doesn’t need to be too science-y but some idea on the technology in this story.

Great job!
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
I like the Prolegomenon to understand what the setting is. Is there a larger view of the map? I was trying to see where Lansbury was but couldn’t find it. There is a mention of an entry for bandersnatch but I couldn’t find it. I’m also not clear on what the ghostships are.

I feel I know Bender better than Elam after this chapter, but I’m get the sense that Elam is going to be the main character here. Bender sounds like a stuffy, stiff-upper lip, by-the-rules type of guy, but still likable. I didn’t get the feeling that he is gay although he put his hand on Elam’s knee, but that he seems rather fatherly to Elam. Is there a large age difference between them?

Elam Vandreren is an enigma. Apparently, he is fleeing an uncomfortable situation or a checkered past?
He’s not a friendly type.

Great beginning!
Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Chapter 03, Timekeepers  (18+)
Nathan walks home and into his destiny
#2004308 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

Just My Humble Opinion:

There is one inconsistency that I noted. In the last chapter, Haakon is wearing a floppy merchant’s hat, but in this chapter he’s wearing a fedora. I don’t think those are the same hat, are they?

Fedora = Indiana Jones; Floppy merchant hat = Father Guido Sarducci? Hehehehe

Great job! I’m still hooked and ready for Chapter 4!

Maybe it had been a mistake to take his usual shortcut from his physics lab to the bus stop.

[Is it the lack of thunder after the second lightning strike that causes Nathan to second guess his decision to take his short cut? There seems to be a little bit of a disconnect here. Perhaps something more eerie to make him think he shouldn’t have gone this way? *Wink*]

The dogs loped closer [‘Loped’ is more of a lazy or slow gait. Perhaps ‘stalked’?] Their black eyes and foam-lathered lips exposed them as merciless predators on the hunt. They barreled directly toward him, their clawed feet scrabbling against the gravel pathway. His heart jack-hammered, but then, in a rush of fetid fur and savage snarls, they raced past him and vanished down the path.

[Psych! *Laugh*]

The runner reached the puddle where Nathan had tripped, flailed his arms, and then tumbled to the ground from the same hidden root. His hat spiraled away, revealing thick braids coiling from his head. He was handsome in a rugged kind of way, like the Marlboro man. Or like Claude, right down to the permanent stubble on his chiseled cheeks. Nathan's mouth quirked, annoyed with himself at the memory of his ex. for making the connection to his ex.

Marlboro Man screamed and slammed to the ground. An arrow jutted from his right shoulder. Crimson darkness oozed into his shirt and pooled onto the path beneath him. He'd been hit!

Without thinking, Nathan scrabbled the twenty feet to the man's side and examined the wound. Seeping, not spurting. Good. Maybe the point had missed any arteries. He snatched off his hoody and pressed it against where the arrow grew out of the man's chest. [Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but in the previous paragraph, the arrow is in his shoulder, but in this one it’s in his chest. Perhaps ‘upper chest near his right shoulder?]

Nathan rolled his eyes. "What the hell are you talking about? I mean, I'm a Packers fan myself, so I don't like the Vikings much either. [Love it! ]

Nathan realized his mouth was open and closed it. "Holy crap on a cracker." [If he closed his mouth, he wouldn’t be able to say “Holy crap on a cracker!” He could probably say it before he closed his mouth, perhaps?]

“What? An intertemporal transporter? You mean a time machine?" Nathan felt as if he'd stepped into the Twilight Zone and that Rod Serling must be lurking somewhere nearby, cigarette in hand.

[Or maybe Rod Taylor? *Wink*]

Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Chapter 02, Timekeepers  (18+)
Haakon escapes to Iowa
#2004206 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


Haakon goes in search of Ralf and finds a girl standing over the body of a dead priest outside the parsonage. He picks her up and carries her into Ralf’s home. The girl’s mother is there also. Haakon and Ralf exchange information briefly before they have to leave to stay alive.
Haakon leads them to a path that will take them to a beach where they can hide in the caves. Some of the Vikings see them and charge. Haakon diverts their attention away from the other three refugees and runs into the forest. His Timepiece takes him to Iowa in 2018 instead of Chicago Central. He has to get to the nearest station so he can make the jump to Chicago.
As he begins to walk in the direction of the station, he hears another Timepiece activated and realizes that the Vikings have stolen a timepiece and have followed him to Iowa.

My only comment on the plot is the back and forth between King Harold and King Edward. Both are mentioned alternatively, so I’m confused as to who is king. Edward died in January 1066 and was succeeded by Harold so maybe they are remembering Edward?

This chapter is set first in Scarborough in 1066 and then Iowa in 2018. At first I thought the battle with the Vikings was taking place at night but there was a sentence after they are fleeing the parsonage that mentions it is day.
The setting in Iowa is described well, too. The details on the storm approaching are vivid and help the reader visualize the Timepieces jump.

We are introduced to Ralf in this chapter. He’s also a big and bearded like Gunnar. I’m seeing a pattern in the men Haakon loves. *Wink* He sounds like he might have a Scottish accent?
The girl Charlotte and her mother also appear in this chapter but not much is known about them yet.


I’m enjoying the story, Max.
Haakon huddled in the shadow of Gunnar's hut and stroked his Timepiece [Maybe I just have a dirty mind, but when someone is in the shadows stroking something…well, another scenario comes to mind. Perhaps: Fondling? Caressing? *Laugh*]

Haakon swung the flat of his axe against the man's skull, and he fell to one side. The woman moaned and rolled glassy eyes at him. No time to help her. [Is she dead or badly injured? From the next sentence, when Haakon is telling her to run, I suppose she is fit enough to flee?]

Her chin trembled, and red rimmed her puffy eyes, but she pointed.

"I had business with the village chandler, but we woke this morning to this." He hefted the child to a more comfortable position and nodded toward the village. Screams and the thud of horses' hooves sounded nearby, shrouded by smoke and fog. "We've no time, my friend. We must quit{/} this place." [Seriously, Max? *Wink*]

Ralf stood over her and turned defiant eyes on Haakon. "This is the good woman Catherine Corbett, late of the court of the Queen of Montes. Good King Edward found a place here for her and that child you hold, Charlotte. [In the previous chapter, when Haakon arrives at Gunnar’s cottage, he calls out King Harold’s name. Which king is on the throne in this story?] I undertook a commission on the King's behalf to protect them."

"Caves? Aye, that could work. And once we be back in Jorvik, the Abbess will see to the women woman and her child. [And ‘Abbess’ isn’t capitalized.]

A scream, plaintive and agonizing, shrieked from in the distance before dwindling to silence.

Haakon pressed the info button next to the coordinates of the unknown locus and a little balloon of light filled with text bubbled up. Rune Cave, Middleton, Iowa, 22 September 2018. Level three station. Caution: use not recommended after 1880 CD due to proximity of temporal settlements. For security purposes, arrival coordinates offset by 3.2km.
[Use of what is not recommended? Is it a warning to not go to the cave? The level three station? Don’t go to Iowa at all?]

"Go, I say. Remember your oath to King Edward [Now back to King Edward.]and your duty to the woman and child.

He lurched to a stop and placed an ancient hickory tree between himself and his pursuers. When he activated his Timepiece, the familiar colors of the space-time twistors twisters swirled about him.

Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Timekeepers Chapter 01  (18+)
Haakon's mission to 1066 goes awry.
#2112972 by Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈

No problems with the plot or the sequence of events. Your writing kept me interested and wanting to read more. I’m eager to find out what happens next.

I see there has been a significant rewrite of the story, but I like the changes.


It seems that there is a Chronology Protection Agency which prevents the appearance of closed timelike curves and so makes the universe safe for historians. 1
-- Stephen Hawking

Chapter One
11 September 1066
Scarborough, Earldom of Northumbria
Kingdom of England

Haakon's Timepiece keened, and the egg-shaped temporal field that encased him swirled in a wild kaleidoscope of reds, greens, and blues. The sonics [‘Sonic’ is an adjective so to use it as a noun is a little awkward. Perhaps ‘high-pitched whines’ ‘shrieks’ ‘piercing sound’ etc?]. rose in pitch, and the colors deepened. Even though he'd done this hundreds of times, jump jeebies still roiled his stomach and sent pinpricks skittering across his flesh.

Shivering, he fumbled with his Timepiece. [I’m wondering why he is shivering. Is he cold? Is he scared? For the rest of the paragraph, it sounds like he is annoyed.]
The holographic display flared above the cross, tethered by a thread of light to the runic decorations on the pewter surface. The readout jiggled like Jell-O, but was steady enough for him to follow its scan of the vicinity. A few hot spots: stoats and perhaps a fox, but no humans. Good enough.

It would be good to see Gunnar again, even if he was kind of a tight ass. [Does this mean he’s a pain in the ass, or something more sexual?]

Haakon relaxed in the other's arms for a moment before he stiffened. "I've missed you, too. We should be careful, though. If the Priest saw us, we'd be fodder for a burning." [‘Priest’ does not need to be capitalized unless it is with a proper name.]
Gunnar shook his head. "I don't think so. I mean, the Abbot would have let me know somehow. [Same applies to ‘abbot’]

"I doubt the Bishop cares what happens in this backwater." [And ‘bishop’.]

Haakon shrugged. "There's misery enough in this world. Whether one child lives or dies won't change the course of history. There's good reason to show mercy for those like Ralf that who help us."

Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Title: "The Decoherence of Kevin
Of course, this chapter doesn’t have as much blood and guts as the previous one. I enjoyed the diversity in the characters. I’m beginning to think Sam is gay? The reporter and he seem to be acquainted.
One thing about consistency (see my comments below), we’re in Sam’s head throughout the chapter. But sometimes his thoughts are in italics and other times, they aren’t.

The sun-scorched blacktop in the mall's parking lot penetrated Lieutenant Detective Sam Myamoto's Reeboks and baked the soles of his feet. Heat rose in waves and sent a drizzle of sweat from his brow into his eyes. He blinked against the sting while peering into the gaggle of gawkers gathered outside the yellow police tape, as if the tragedy inside was a ghoulish reality show just for their entertainment. He sighed. They had no idea real murder scenes were nothing like the sanitized TV versions. He clipped his badge to the belt of his Levis and pressed into the crowd.

Sam turned to face a spindly young man whose narrow features and ebony eyes reminded him of a ferret. Except ferrets don't have spiky black hair with purple tips and a reporter's notebook. Sam glanced at the young man's t-shirt and didn't quite twitch suppressed a twitch of annoyance. The front of the t-shirt displayed a gaudy cartoon of a rooster with the words "I like" stenciled above it. Jumping Eagle met his gaze and Sam faltered for a moment as his mind clicked on what the words and the cartoon meant.

Sam winced. "It's all right, Officer Franzen. I can spare a second." Apparently, Franzen had he has no trouble figuring out that Running Eagle was gay. Go figure. A straight guy with gaydar.

A momentary spark of anxiety froze Sam's features before he answered, keeping his voice neutral. "I'm sure." He nodded in the direction of a black Cadillac Escalade with OSU Cowboys flag on its rear window that had just pulled into the lot. "Maybe you could escort Chief Sturant through the crowd? He just pulled up in that SUV over there. He's in the SUV with the OSU Cowboys flag. I'm sure he'd appreciate your assistance."

Sam kept his face impassive despite another internal twitch. "I'm sure Chief Sturant won't let his personal feelings, whatever they are, keep him from treating you right. Besides, how would he know whether you're gay or straight?" He wanted to add that Harley was probably too clueless to understand the kid's t-shirt, but thought better of it. He glanced at the mall entrance. "I've really got to go, Randy. I'm sorry."

Chief Sturant slammed through the double glass doors, stomped toward Sam, and hitched his pants up over his beer belly. [Where is Franzen?] He growled, "God damned student reporters anyway." Perspiration beaded his ruddy features, and he swabbed his face with a wrinkled handkerchief. "This is a fuckin' mess."

"Sure, sure. Take your time. But you need a new partner, 'specially now. Let me know anytime a-fore the press gets here." Harley gave Sam's elbow a friendly squeeze and he winked. "Think about Franzen. I won't force nobody on you, you know that [add comma] Sam. You're my best detective. Hell, you're the whole homicide department right now. But I have a feelin' Franzen's the right man for the job."

Sam grunted, thinking it was too early in the investigation to draw conclusions about who was the perp and who was the victim. "I heard he was one of the shooters. I know him. He's part of the auxiliary. We used him for the county fair last month. One of the good guys." He waved at a group of uniformed officers clustered not far from the bodies. "Hey, Lucky. Are you You the ranking officer here?" [I don’t think Sam should start talking like Harley yet. *Wink*]

An A officer with a gymnast's taut posture, curly blond hair, and five-o'clock shadow waved back. When he sauntered up to them, his craggy features broke into a smile and his words piped in a cheery baritone, as if violent death made his day. "Not no more, Sam. You got that job now."

Sam eyed bloodstains outside a shoe store, about forty feet from the DBs bodies. "Any other injuries?"
[The reason I marked through DBs is because it’s professional lingo, so it’s okay when the police officers are speaking to each other. But in the narrative, I think it should be spelled out. *Smile*]

The older man's tone turned dismissive. "Your case, your call, your ass. Just keep me in the loop, so's I don't look bad with the press. Right now, I'm gonna follow up with Lucky. You're right. If his brains was leather, he wouldn't have enough to saddle up a flea." [LOL] He turned on his heel and left.

She nodded. "It's on the union's info card." She pulled out her cell phone and hesitated. "Lieutenant? [How does she know he’s a lieutenant? He doesn’t introduce himself as such.] We've met before. You taught a class on community policing when I was at the Academy two years ago. It changed the way I looked at being a police officer. I wanted you to know."

Sam stuffed his pad back in his pants pocket. "Sometimes law enforcement has to make split-second judgments. Sounds to me like you did what you thought necessary." He glanced at the video camera hanging over the ATM by the bank. Have to get the tape. It'll say whether or not poor Ozzie's guilty of excessive force. Sam reflected that no good could come from this. No matter what the tape showed, and no matter that the DA was unlikely to charge Ozzie, he was going to have to deal with having killed another living, breathing person. Welcome to being a peace officer.
[Bill, you mentioned that when a person is thinking, you don’t have to put those thoughts into italics. *Wink*]

"Yes, sir." She hesitated. "I was wondering why that one's wearing a sweat shirt. It looks, well, suspicious, to me, it being July and hotter than a goat's butt in a pepper patch." [LOL Where do you come up with these phrases?]

He poked his pen under the sweat shirt and lifted it. "The technical term is putty explosive." Sam peered under the shirt. Sure enough, there it was and discovered the source of the smell: an olive drab mylar packet, one by two by eleven inches, like an oversized candy bar. He counted at least six of them before he heaved a deep breath and eased away from the body. "Our vic seems to have several pounds of the stuff strapped to him, along with strands of nails braided around the packets." Sam stood and edged away, his gaze never leaving the body. "Pretty nasty if it went off in a crowd. Shrapnel everywhere."

She blinked, but held her ground. Her hands and voice stayed steady. "Better safe than sorry, don't you think, sir? If it's all right, I'll broadcast that vacate order now. The mall office is right here, next to the bank."

Good to know she's cool in dangerous situations. [Just being consistent.]

Review by Alex Morgan
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Hey, Bill. Here are my comments on your first chapter. Very exciting! Remember these are only my humble opinion, so keep whatever comments you like and trash the ones you don't!

Kevin glanced at his wristwatch as he pushed [should this be ‘rushed’? Or ‘pushed the door’?] into the air-conditioned interior of the Sycamore Mall. He brushed sweaty bangs from his eyes, glad to leave behind the oppressive heat of July in Oklahoma. The line at the Cineplex box office was blessedly short, and he bought two tickets. He checked his watch again and scanned the entry hall. His mouth hardened. [Perhaps ‘He pressed his lips together in annoyance.’? I’m not sure how a mouth could ‘harden’.]
No Khalid. He wasn't exactly late, but he wasn't on time either. Kevin snatched his phone from his shirt pocket and thumbed a quick text. Where ru? Movie starts in 15.

Worry nibbled at him as he pressed send, a foreboding he couldn't quite put his finger on. A vision of Khalid injured and bloody bubbled up from nowhere, and his impatience dissolved to concern. He chewed the side of his mouth.

I’m being silly, he scolded himself. Khalid is just late. That’s all.
He was being silly. Khalid was just late, that was all.

Kevin slipped his phone back in his pocket and peered into down the corridor of the mall [He’s already in the mall. *Wink*]. The braided rainbow bracelet on his right forearm rolled over his wrist and flopped onto the back of his hand. He flicked it in place, and, as he did so, a short, stocky man wearing a bulky sweat shirt pushed through the crowd and jostled against him.

The man muttered, "Don't touch me, you fuckin' faggot," the man muttered.

Cold anger froze Kevin in place.

Jerk-face sweat-shirt-guy plowed into an elderly woman who leaned on a cane and carried an overflowing shopping bag. She stumbled and Kevin grabbed her arm to keep her from falling. Her fingers clutched at him while her purchases clattered to the floor.

Sweat-shirt-guy sneered at them and disappeared in the crowd.

The woman steadied herself on Kevin's arm and caught her breath. "Thank you, young man."

Kevin knelt and gathered up her belongings before the crowd trampled them. "Sure, no problem." He stuffed items into her bag, stood and handed them to her. "Are you all right?"

She fluffed at her gray curls and straightened her skirt. "I think so." Her gaze probed the crowd. "What a putz. He smelled bad, too."

Kevin gave her an easy grin. "I noticed. What kind of idiot wears a sweatshirt in Oklahoma in July, anyway?"

"A meshuggener, that's what kind." She peered at Kevin. "You look familiar. Have I maybe seen you on campus?" She held out a blue-veined hand. "I'm Nadezhda Kaminski, by the way."

Kevin accepted her hand, surprised at the firmness of her grip. "Kevin. Kevin Freeman. Nice to meet you, ma'am." He thought for a moment. "I suppose we could have met on campus. I'm an English major. My partner works at at the Quantum Brain Institute. Maybe you've seen me there?"

She shook her head. "No. Perhaps it was somewhere else." Her face crinkled into a smile. "I work in the medical library. I know that nice Dr. de la Cruz. Doesn't he run the Institute?"

Kevin gaped at the notion that Khalid's dissertation adviser was "nice." Officious, condescending, overbearing, sure. But nice? What planet did she live on?

But she'd already turned to glare down the mall in the direction sweat-shirt-guy had gone. In a flash, her expression changed and her eyes sparked. "I heard what that schmuck said to you." She turned back to Kevin and touched his rainbow bracelet. "Be proud of who you are. You're a good person, young man. Don't let him get you down."

"I won't. Jerks like that can't hurt me."

"That's a healthy attitude." A chime sounded and she reached into her handbag. "Shalom Aleichem. Peace be with you, my new friend." She turned away and spoke into her phone.

Kevin bowed and murmured, "And with you," Kevin murmured as he bowed in response. He fingered the two movie tickets he'd purchased and checked the time again. Khalid was usually early. Where is he?

His phone buzzed and relief flooded Kevin as he recognized his lover's number. He tried to keep his voice even, but his irritation escaped anyway. "Where are you?"

Khalid's liquid(?) accent answered. "I'm sorry, Kev. The brass at the Institute kept me late, the traffic was a bear, and then there was that errand. When I finally got here, I had to park at the far end of the mall. I'll be there in less than two minutes."

[What is a liquid accent?]

Kevin heaved a sigh, annoyed at himself more than at Khalid. He forced his voice to be cheerful. "Okay. I've got our tickets. You want to go out for dinner after?"

"I guess. You buying? I'm running kind of short right now, y'know."

Kevin's eyebrows went up. Khalid wasn't rich, but between his GI benefits and his graduate stipend, he usually paid. The chance to be the one taking care of the check brought a grin to Kevin's face. "No problemo. I'll run to the ATM and pick up some extra cash. I'll meet you there."

"Perfect. I love you."

Kevin pictured his boyfriend's slow grin, and gratitude for Khalid's easy-going and generous nature swelled in him. "Love you, too."

He started to slip the phone back into his shirt pocket, but it spouted a string of syllables too faint to understand. He lifted the device back to his ear. "What? I missed that."

Khalid's whispered words rushed from the earpiece. "There's trouble by the bank." A burst of static interrupted him, and then he said, "...like you warned me...away from the ATM...make it...." More static. "...love you..."

Kevin frowned. "Trouble? What kind of trouble?"

No answer.

He stared at the display. Khalid had hung up. When he pressed redial, it rolled to voice mail. Worry again twisted his gut. He glanced at the line entering the theater, at his watch, and then struck off ran toward the bank and the ATM.

Late-afternoon shoppers crowded the Sycamore Mall and slowed his progress. Roving bands of teenagers mixed with haggard mothers pushing strollers. What were all these people doing here? Then Kevin spotted the protesters singing hymns outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, right across from the bank. That must be why the place was so jammed up. Just what he needed. But the protesters had been hanging out there for weeks. That couldn't be the trouble Khalid mentioned.

Where was he, anyway?

From somewhere in front of him, two faint pops snapped, like balloons bursting. The babble of the crowd, the lilting voices of the protesters and the soft Muzak from the overhead speakers almost-but-not-quite cloaked the sound.

[Wouldn’t the people in the crowd start screaming immediately? Obviously there are people close enough to the ATM to realize those are gun shots and would start to panic. Also, if the mall is so noisy, it’s doubtful anyone would hear a woman shouting instead of gunfire, right? ;)]

Kevin arched his back and at last spotted Khalid's lithe form. What was he doing? He stood rigid outside the bank, in front of the ATM. His eyes blazed.

[Can Kevin see Khalid’s eyes from that distance?]

Both hands extended in front of him, gripping something black and menacing in two clenched fists.

A woman shouted. "He's been shot!"

For an instant, the crowd fell silent.

Sudden screams filled the corridor. The mass of shoppers boiled away from the bank and the clinic. Kevin struggled against the surging bodies. He had to get to Khalid! A fat woman blocked his path, and a burly man shoved him aside. Kevin stumbled into a shoe store, his arms flailing for balance. A display rack holding sneakers crashed onto his skull. [Or did Kevin crash into the display rack, hitting his head? It reads as if someone threw the rack at him, hitting him in the head?]

Purple splotches flashed and the world disappeared for an instant, only to return seconds later, as horrifying as before. Screams and shouts of, "He's got a gun" came from the direction he'd last seen Khalid.

Kevin struggled to his feet. His head throbbed. The right side of his face burned from where the shoe display had slammed into him. He fought the tide of panicked shoppers and struggled back toward the direction of the disturbance, toward Khalid.

His lover stood alone and isolated, in front of the bank, but his body quaked. Sweat slicked his brow and soaked the armpits of his crisp, white shirt. His eyes bulged in their sockets and seemed to spark with an electric fire.

A gun. Kevin's breath caught in his throat and a black hole chilled his core. He finally had clear view of what Khalid gripped in his hands. Where had peaceful, happy-go-lucky Khalid gotten a fucking gun?

A uniformed guard stumbled from inside the bank. He shouted something Kevin couldn't catch. The man held his own weapon outstretched, in both hands, just like a TV cop. Its barrel probed the air like a pig's snout grubbing through a barnyard, seeking a target.

Khalid turned to face the guard. The gun in Khalid's hands now hung from his arms, as if the weight were too heavy to bear.

Are Khalid’s arms still outstretched? If so, the gun would be hanging from his hands, right? It reads as if his arms are hanging down, but in the next paragraph, his arms are outstretched again.

The guard's weapon swiveled to point at Khalid. The man yelled something incoherent. Khalid froze. The weapon in Khalid's hands dangled before him, his arms outstretched and his wrists bent by the mass.

The guard's gun flashed. Once, twice, three times, in rapid succession.

Kevin's world slowed to a silent nightmare.

Khalid stood rigid. An instant later, like a freeze-frame in a movie, the back of his head disappeared. In less than a second, a chunk of skull, with curly black hair, skittered, spider-like, across the polished Terrazzo floor, leaving behind a crimson trail.

Another instant blinked by. White goop splattered like spaghetti behind Khalid. Brains. That goop had to be his brains. As if no time passed, his body suddenly lay twisted on the floor in a boneless heap. A dark pool of blood seeped around his motionless form. [JMHO, this borders on gross. Hehe]

Time, continuous and relentless, started to flow once again. An ocean roared in Kevin's ears, muffling the shrieks from the shoppers. His knees transformed to liquid. He leaned against the doorway to the shoe store and the cool metal chilled his trembling fingers. His bones turned hollow and his mind jittered.

This couldn't be happening.

Khalid, athletic, handsome Khalid, lay motionless in front of the bank. Red splatters marred his white shirt. Dark, wine-colored blood muddled the perfect crease of his khaki slacks. The crease Kevin had put there just last night.

Less than a dozen feet away, another body sprawled on the Terrazzo, a companion in horror. This one flopped and gasped. Pink foam sprayed from a silent mouth. Ruddy liquid seeped from two wounds in the torso, soaking a bulky sweatshirt and staining faded blue jeans. Kevin gasped: this was the creep who'd called him a faggot just minutes before. The man's arm jerked and flopped over the surface of his sweatshirt, as if seeking something urgent.

The man twitched. His back arched. A shuddering breath wheezed from his gaping mouth. His eyes turned glassy and rolled upward. His arm stopped moving and his body fell still.

The bank guard circled around Khalid, his weapon pointed at the floor. His voice shook. "He had a gun. I had to shoot him." He looked up and locked eyes with Kevin. Horror pooled in their depths. "I had to do it."

From nowhere, from somewhere, from elsewhere, Khalid's soft tenor murmured to Kevin, "I love you." Then silence closed in.

The mall spun about him in an insane kaleidoscopic whirl, and Kevin slid to the floor. Sobs escaped his throat and his stomach roiled. His belly clenched and spewed vomit. Tears blurred his vision. He struggled to stand, but his limbs wouldn't obey. His head throbbed, and his thoughts slogged in slow motion. He crawled toward Khalid, the floor hard and cold against his palms. If only he could touch him, staunch the bleeding, give him CPR. Khalid couldn't die. Kevin had to save him.

But gentle hands stopped him. A fat woman squeezed his hand. Was it the same woman who had pushed past him earlier? She cradled his head in her lap. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "It's going to be all right. You rest yourself, you hear? They've called us an ambulance."

She caressed his cheek and fire followed her touch. "You took quite a jolt when you fell, hon. Don't you worry none. It's gonna be all right." Her voice was just like his mother's, except compassion filled her words instead of judgment. She glanced across the mall at the two bodies and her face hardened. "Satan's been here today, but I won't let him touch you. You're safe now. Elmira won't let nothin' happen to you." When she flipped stringy, blonde hair from her face she left a trail of red on her forehead. She fingered the cross that hung on a chain about her neck and whispered, "Help him, Jesus."

Agony pulsed through Kevin's skull and he groaned. He licked his lips and tasted blood. Where did that come from? Was it Khalid's? Or was it from the motionless figure on the floor? It couldn't be. They were both too far away. Awareness fluttered as he fought against darkness. "Khalid. I have to go to him."

The woman--Elmira?-- tsked. "Don't you worry your head none, hon. Me and my husband, we'll take care of you. You're safe."

Kevin struggled to sit up, but her gentle arms held him tight. He tasted blood. His blood? He had to get to Khalid, to touch him. A wave of dizziness made the mall whirl about him. The scent of Elmira's perfume and tacos commingled. Distant voices clamored. A siren keened. His vision dimmed and blackness closed in.
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