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1
1
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
This is hilarious! I didn't realize that as late as 1978 it was still possible to get someone on the phone with just 5 digits. Though I do remember, back when I was very small, that all the houses in our neighborhood were paired up on party lines. (We shared a line with the Perrys. How's that for a useless memory?) I also remember that I first learned our phone number as YELLOWSTONE + our fabulous five digits. That was way back in the early sixties.

I can't help wondering whether this guy might have gotten other calls from people looking for Jesus. I just pity the person who's five digits were SANTA.
2
2
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: E | (4.0)
Heck yeah it's a keeper. I love it. Those bizarre 'll things, dang.

I can't tell you how to go on, exactly, because it's a very intuitive poem that has to come straight from you. Thus a too-prescriptive review would be worse than worthless. But I can suggest some lines to look at, and why:

The clouds'll glide / if they can. So good an opening, it really grabs me. But the clouds never come back, so it feels incomplete.

The birds'll fly / and then descend. That -- 'll -- thing again, I love it! The poem is flying. But the bird hits "and then" like a thick piece of plexiglass.

alone in bed, and They're dead. For me the meaning is good, but the words are too obvious. I really like the bed / dead rhyme between the two stanzas, but maybe you can play with the words that go before.

Because of the title, this poem makes me think of times when I've gone out into the meadow and laid on my back looking at the sky with my backpack under my head. I'd think something or another, sit up, unzip the backpack and write it all down. Then I'd go home and forget about it. Months later, opening the notebook, trying to grasp those past thoughts... But thoughts are slippery as time.

3
3
Review of Sulley's Opening  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 18+ | (2.0)
This looks like it's the start of an interesting story about a pool shark who comes up against something he doesn't quite understand. I hope you will keep working on it, because the idea could lead to some interesting things. You still have a lot of work to do, but don't give up -- that's the way writing goes!

I don't understand what happens here. Joe is going to play pool, but then he wakes up in an empty pool hall. Whatever came in between is the main part of the story. If Joe doesn't know what happened, that fact should be the focus: how does he feel when he wakes up, how much does he remember, and what does he make of it? If he does know what happened to him, there's no reason to keep it a secret. Maybe you have plans to feature his experiences in an upcoming segment of the story, but all I have to go on right now is what's on the page. So to me, this story looks unfinished.

When you write, you should choose a verb tense and stick with it. The action either happened in the past, or is happening in the present. "Said" and "replied" are examples of past tense verbs; "looks" and "throws" are examples of present tense. All of these verbs show up in your narration, as well as many others in both tenses. If you have trouble telling the difference, please email me and I'll be happy to try to help.

I hope you enjoy your time at Writing.com, and have fun sharing stories with other authors! It's a great site, and I think you'll find a lot of good things to read, and ways to grow as a writer.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of Tanka Poem  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: E | (4.5)
I'd never read any of your work, so I wanted to see what you do. And I have to say, I really, really like this poem! It compares the creation of the universe to the creation of a human soul, and that's a very powerful statement, both spiritually and scientifically.

This line is especially beautiful: Loving light bright without shade (because of the sounds, rhythm and image.)

And this one is especially profound: throws the edges of darkness / creating the light (because there is no light without darkness.)

The idea that the planets are "little lamps of Heaven" puts more attention on the idea that small entities (like me!) reflect the properties of entities much larger.

My one suggestion would be to work with the punctuation. As it is, there are periods at the end of line three in each stanza, but nothing else. Maybe I'm missing something, but that doesn't make much sense to me.

Other than that, I love everything about this poem.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of Easy way out  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Wow, talk about getting more than you bargained for! Poor, naive Thadius. He seems to have allowed himself to be turned into a vampire without asking a lot of questions.

The way he went into it left me wondering how old Thadius was when he let Gloria change him--whether he was still a kid, or whether he was old enough to have been sexually attracted to her.

I like Thadius is forced to pay for his mistake, over and over, until the prize of eternal life looks more like a curse to him. At first I was wondering what was in this for Gloria--why did she want to change Thadius in the first place? By the end of the story, I concluded that she's simply a sadist, and that watching him suffer sates a hunger in her that runs even deeper than her need for blood.

Thadius feeds from the little girls who show up each week out of hunger, which is apparently so strong it's irresistible; no matter what his mind and emotions tell him, no matter how much he pleads for the child to be taken away, he ends up feeding from her each and every time. I was less certain why he agreed to feed from his sister in the first place. Once he saw what Gloria's game was, why didn't he resist her? Since he says he loves his sister "more than life itself," what made him do what Gloria said with so little resistance?

Another thing I wondered was how they lured all those girls away, one per week for more than a century, without getting caught. I guess that's not really part of the story, but I'm always curious about these things.

This is a solid start for your story, though the details and implications of it could maybe use a little more attention. Nice work!


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is great! Okay, poetically/rhythmically it's a little funky, but I love the overall drift of it. Some of the lines, like the one about the cat as a moral relativist, had me laughing out loud. I came across this because Lorien has it listed it in her favorite items, and I can see why.
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Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: E | (3.5)
I think we use the world to prop us up, like toddlers do. It is what gives us meaning. I think you are exactly right in this. The purpose of relics is to connect the spiritual world, which to many of us is not much more than hearsay, to the physical world we live in. It may be weakness, but is it so wrong? Didn't Paul encourage strong Christians to allow for the weak?

While I have that qualm about your essay, I think it is, for the most part, well reasoned and interesting. You've done a good job of exploring the issues.

However, some of the trains of thought sort of peter out before they reach a conclusion. Details like this are given, without any real idea what to make of them: The most holy of artifacts, the foreskin of Christ was relegated to a backwater town outside of Rome. By 1900, the Pope would say we don’t want to hear about that relic anymore. In 1986, it mysteriously disappeared. This sounds horrific. But in terms of your argument, what does it mean? In an essay, all details should in some way support the crux of the argument. Even if a particular detail refutes your argument, you need to explain how this happens. That is, why do you hold a particular viewpoint when certain evidence, at least on the surface, goes against that viewpoint?

Thousands do carry replicas of a cross on the Via Dolorosa and I cannot say that this is not meaningful for them. I think there is something deeper. Millions of Christians find meaning in wearing a cross. Do you mean to imply this is wrong, or do you sympathize? There's not enough here to show which side you're on.

Or this: After his martyrdom for his beliefs, he [Polycarp] was venerated both in body parts and clothing after bribing a Roman official. If he was already martyred, obviously Polycarp wasn't the one resorting to bribery. It seems you're pointing the finger at someone here, but this passive voice sentence doesn't reveal who you're talking about.

A few details of mechanics:

There's a difference between "then" and "than." Then is related to time: I spotted the elephant and then took its picture. Than, on the other hand, relates one word to another in some kind of comparison:

My bias in writing this is there has to be more to life in God then than venerating dead and lifeless things.

Obviously we have a more superficial view of walking in Christ then than he does. Any time you're saying "more than this" or "less than that," the word you want is "than."

Probably when relics really take off is with the ascension of Constantine in 313 AD. I'd suggest making this sentence more direct: Reverence for relics really took off with the ascension of Constantine in 313 AD.

This didn’t necessarily make relic collecting necessarily acceptable. Oops! One more "necessarily" than necessary.

Things start to unravelel typo

Jesuits, a militant band for Christ was formed as a band a Christian monks.
Messy sentence. Taking one of those instances of "band" out and fixing the grammar accordingly should fix things up.

If I watch network television with its violence and sex, would he be thinking the same thoughts. This sentence isn't real clear. At very least, it needs a question mark at the end.

We are a generation of “Energizer-bunny Christians” And this one needs a period.

Use things as I provide them. You need to set this sentence off in some way, either with quote marks or italics, to show this is God's thought, not MfromM's thought.

For the most part, this is a very good essay. Just give it a little more thought, plus some spit and polish, and it will be excellent.

One final note: Please note that Orthodox Christians, as well as Catholics, venerate relics.
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Review of Why  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 18+ | (2.0)
This is a very sad poem, and the topic is well worth exploring. While you haven't made use of many of the tools of poetry (figurative language, careful management of your lines, working with sounds, etc.), I think the plain form you've taken serves the purposes of the poem.

To keep making the poem better, try to make your voice as a poet as close to the voice of a dog as possible. The poor animal understands very little of what's happening to him, and has no idea why it's happening. I admire the way you really try to feel that with him, and just suggest you keep on doing more of the same.

There are some grammatical problems within the poem. Here are some specific things to fix:

My Name was bobby: Names are capitalized, but the word "name" doesn't need to be. This line should probably read: My name was Bobby.

Well I say was becauuse I'm dead. "Well" isn't necessary, but if you use this word, you need a comma after it. Also, "was" needs to be in quotes. You've also got a typo: becauuse. So: Well, I say "was" because I'm dead.

My owners kids Here, "owners" is a possessive noun, so it needs an apostrophe. Since it is also plural, the apostrophe goes to the right of the word: My owners' kids

then they thought it would be niffty "Then" starts a new sentence, so it needs to be capitalized. "Nifty" is misspelled. So: They thought it would be nifty

I tried to make up to them just wanting to be part of the family. The two ideas need a comma to separate them: I tried to make up to them, just wanting to be part of the family.

layed down Should be lay down

They took into a small arena There seems to be a word missing. It probably should be: They took me into a small arena

They took into a small arena and let some other dogs chew on me.
They tore the flesh out of me.
Now as I lay here dying they are spitting on me.


All those "they"s are confusing; I don't think the refer to the same person/animal. Make sure we know who's doing what.

This poem has a lot of promise, but you'll need to work on it some more, starting with the spelling and grammar. I'm rating low because of this, but I'd be happy to re-rate and re-review when you've cleaned up some of these mechanical errors.
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Review of House of Wax  
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
I remember reading this before, but I don't remember reviewing it. In any case, I can't remember anything I said, so please forgive if I start repeating myself!

This is a terrific story, Lynn. It's so well written and entertaining, while at the same time there's something . . . I don't know, big about it. And it's inspired by a heck of a song.

Usually I don't look at other people's reviews before I do mine, but in this case I looked at Myst's, and at the conversation that followed it. Here's my two cents on the parallel universe issue: Yes, I think the almost-matching names and facts do a good enough job of showing that we're in some kind of alternate history. There are enough of these hints that if a reader has no idea when Poe died, for example, enough other things will point the way to make it clear what we're dealing with. What I didn't pick up on was the idea that this alternate ended when Griswold thought "It's swallowing everything." My guess was that this dying thought was true, but that it was a more or less local apocalypse, something that happened in the vicinity of the cathedral. I assumed the Paul in the last section was a part of the same world. Now that I've read your interpretation, I can see what you were trying to do, but I've got to say that's not the way I originally read the story.

The only way I can think of to clarify more than you have already done would be to use Poe's journal entries. He's apprehensive about publishing the poem. You could make his apprehensions more specific, so that he has some belief about the implications of making the poem public--a belief that leads him to suspect publishing the poem will have ramifications related to our entire reality. It would be no use to tell anyone about his suspicions, because people already think he's mad. When he writes that the poem was sent by Lucifer, maybe he could go on with some sort of doomsday prophecy. Griswold, of course, would dismiss his ramblings.

Another question crossed my mind about the journal: What did Poe write between the dates of the journal entries? He might have written other things that reflected his fears. Or what if he couldn't write at all as long as the poem stayed buried?

Griswold makes a good foil to Poe--the steady lawyer observing the mad genius. Sort of wonder how they met, but it's not important that we know this. In this story, they're joined by the poem. And the poem becomes public, disastrous effects and all, because of something inherent in each of the men: Poe can't stand the torture of keeping the poem at bay, and Griswold is greedy to profit by its publication.

Detail Comments

I love the indirect opening paragraph. Good scene setting!

Sure enough, pushing through the masses of excited and tipsy patrons toward the overworked bartender, he heard his name. This sentence takes a while to get to the main clause. How about something like: He was pushing through the masses of excited and tipsy patrons toward the overworked bartender when, sure enough, heard his name.

William Davis clapped Griswold on the back, who took the mug thrust into his hand. The "who" clause would ordinarily go with the noun closest to it in the previous clause, in this case "back." Maybe: William Davis clapped Griswold on the back, and thrust a mug into his hand.

As Poe’s closest friend, he'd been his executor. When he’d traveled to Baltimore six weeks prior to sort out the estate, he’d never expected to find any unpublished works in Poe’s papers. Once the flashback is established, you can drop the "had" verb forms. Maybe just stick one in at the end of the flashback to signal the return to present time, although the scene division does that pretty well anyway.

Poe would never have shared it with anyone. In fact, he’d burned it twice. Excellent bombshell!

He opened his leather portfolio, stuffed fat with papers. He’d brought them with him to share after the reading. These two sentences could be fused.

“House of Wax.” In the previous paragraph, you used each title of one of Poe's works (or pseudo works) as a sentence to good effect. But to emphasize this title, you might want to list it differently. This particular title could be merged into either the preceding or following sentence.

September 13, 1861 Bwa-ha-ha, a Friday! I looked it up. Thank you, Internet.

When I reread it, it fills my heart with dread and terror. Here's one place you could give Poe a more specific idea of what the poem will do if it "gets out." Little bits of his dream might flash in and out of his consciousness.

He shook his head Since the previous action was Poe's, you should probably specify Griswold instead of using "he" to open this sentence.

Clouds hung low in the sky black with the promise of more rain. This wording looks a little funky with no internal punctuation. Maybe ". . .a sky black with. . ." I do love a nice, ominous sky!

Perhaps the most significant point is that Poe used the title as a metaphor for the collapse of society, one we can appreciate all the more in the wake of today’s news.
Followed by a flash of lightning. In retrospect, I think I should have given this clue more weight, because it certainly points in the direction you want the story to go.

Immediately, all sounds ceased except Davis’s smoothing the pages before beginning to recite, drama filling his voice. Can you tell I'm being Ms. Picky Sentence Lady today? I get like that with polished stories like this one! Anyway, this one reads a little awkwardly.

He seized his chair and ran to the window, summoning all his strength and flinging it at the glass. What kind of glass? A cathedral would usually have stained glass windows. Perhaps this one contained some fitting Bible scene?

wrapping his handkerchief around the wound When did he get the handkerchief out? I picture him fumbling for it, getting blood on his suit as he pulls it out.

without any apparent purpose There's no purpose to the gunshots or the running around. A little rearranging would make this clearer.

If he could only dig deep enough... It is, of course, very difficult to dig with bare hands. Wouldn't he pick up a stick or something? Heavy rain would loosen the soil, but it would also cause dirt to keep sliding back into the hole.

C sharp minor. That was good. He followed it with F sharp minor, then an A. Even the chord progression sounds creepy!

* * *
This is a really excellent story, which is why I'm being so picky. Mostly I'm just throwing things out there; I'm sure you won't change anything if it doesn't feel right.

Best of luck to you as you revise and submit this!

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Review of Owl  
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
This is a pleasant little poem that feels like it's coming right out of the real world. I get a good feeling, reading it, about what's going on in the scene; it's realistic and has some nice detailing to it. It's fairly simple. As it is, it would make a good children's poem, with a few minor corrections. I'm not sure that's what you have in mind, though. In this review, I'll make a few suggestions about how a poem like this can be made more complex. But if you like it the way it is, you can always say, "Okay, that's interesting, but it doesn't have anything to do with what I want for this poem." It's just some stuff to think about.

Mechanics: First, let's get a couple mechanical corrections out of the way:

I listen to a dog in the garden kennel, bark There shouldn't be a comma here, unless it's the owl who's barking.

I perch a while to think and observe, with It should be "awhile," in this case. The comma in this line isn't necessary.

forward facing eyes then swoop "forward-facing." There should be a comma before "then."

in for the kill before dawn arises.


Line ends: For the most part, you do a really good job with your line ends. The ending word of any line of poetry takes on added importance by virtue of its position. There are a couple you might consider changing, though:

The stars fill the empty space like

sprinkles of glitter as they shine down.
That "like" isn't a strong word to end with, and it really goes with the next line anyway.

I perch a while to think and observe, with

forward facing eyes then swoop
Same thing here; "with" isn't a strong word, and it goes with the content of the next line anyway.

The first three lines: I like the way you've made the first three lines into a rhyming question, which the owl answers during the course of the poem. You might want to separate the two voices more clearly by using italics for one or the other of them.

Making the poem stronger and more specific:

The title is very simple: Owl. Since the word "owl" doesn't come up in the poem, this title does a good job of clarifying just what the content is about. It's a little generic, though. If I were sifting through a table of contents, this title wouldn't draw me in, especially. It's okay the way it is, but maybe you could think of something to spice it up a little.

I like way you use your nouns and adjectives to set the scene. You might have another look at the verbs, though. Here are the first four main verbs the owl uses to describe its own actions, thereby answering the question posed at the beginning of the poem:

I watch
I listen
I see
I watch
I perch
I request

The first four of these simply restate that the owl is observing its world. "Perch" is pretty obvious. I don't really get "request"; request from whom? Apart from that last one, these verbs make sense, but they don't add any extra meaning or emotional impact. What if the owl were to use more specific verbs, like:

I heed
I absorb
I decipher
I revel in
I grasp
! pray

These words may not express the meaning you have in mind. They're just illustrations to point towards the possibilities.

Layers of meaning: If you do want to make the poem more complex, one way to do this is to connect it with the human world. One of my favorite modern poets, Mary Oliver, used these words to describe a snowy owl in her poem, White Owl Flies Into and Out of a Field:

[The white owl] flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —

as soft as feathers —


She lifts this vision from nature into the human world, which gives it added meaning. Not every poem does this, but the ones that do are the ones readers tend to remember. If you're interested, here's a link to the whole poem: http://www.panhala.net/Archive/White_Owl_Flies.htm...

Bottom Line:

You have a lovely poem here! Your images are vivid, and most of the wording is clear and precise. I hope you're interested in working with it further, but I like it pretty well already.

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Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Your slice-of-life stories are always entertaining. I get kind of a warm feeling reading them, as if I was sitting down with you for a cup of tea and a story. You do a great job of setting up your scenes, with just enough detail to create a picture without bogging things down.

The only problem I see with this story is that it's a bit too predictable; we can kind of see the end coming from the moment we meet Aunt Fanny. One way to deal with this might be to fictionalize the character and course of events a little more. I'm assuming this is more or less a real life anecdote, but I could be way off about that. It certainly feels real--and that's a good thing!

You could make the ending a little less predictable by changing the first impression of Aunt Fanny. Rather than introducing her as someone who's physically perfect and intimidating, you could make her appear older and more frail initially. Then she'd throw us for a loop by defying expectations.

The first four introductory paragraphs don't have much to do with the rest of the story, and they introduce two characters who don't show up again. You could cut these paragraphs, and open with the narrator visiting her new church. Most readers can easily identify with an uncomfortable situation like that.

Aunt Fanny was the first to approach us and introduce herself. It would be good to show this interaction with a brief dialog. I'm especially wondering if she introduces herself to strangers as "Aunt Fanny."

Although, at first she looked a bit unapproachable The comma isn't necessary here; "although" is part of the clause. If possible, it would be neat if you could say something more specific. What about her appearance signaled "unapproachable"?

She walked. Everyday. Every day. You only fuse the words if you're using them as an adjective. Here's an example of both:

In my everyday life I'm a sales clerk, but I also try to write every day.

He had this unbelievable look on his face and a twinkle in his eye that soon metamorphosed into a very smirky, all-knowing grin. Very good description, although "all-knowing" is almost too much. I wonder how he found out about Aunt Fanny? Whatever he knows, he's not telling!

I began to hear a little teeny voice of self doubt about my next to nil athletic ability but I quickly shrugged it off by thinking late sixties, no way. This sentence is somewhat awkward. I might work better as two sentences.

Never having walked five miles, it didn't seem that far in the car. The never clause refers to the narrator, so she needs to be the grammatical subject of the sentence, rather than "it." Never having walked that far, I wasn't worried. Five miles only took a few minutes in the car.

The walk back was no easier than the first half had been plus my heels were really stinging now, but being stubborn, I would not give in to my pain. This would work better as two sentences. Also, you need a comma after "been."

* * *

This is quite a good story as it is, but a bit more tension as to the outcome would enliven it. Well done!

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Review of untitled 1  
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
You've done a really good job here of establishing your character's voice, and of setting up a problem for him to deal with. For a story like this, first person present tense works well, and it's pretty much the first choice for literary fiction these days. By the end, I was wondering how many parts there were going to be. This set-up seems likely to lead to more than three "parts," at least if they're all this length.

A couple general observations:

- A rating of 18+ would probably be more appropriate, because of adult situations. Technically you can probably get away with 13+, but the story itself is adult in nature.

- I wondered whether this took place some time in the past. Few writers would revise a script with pen and paper nowadays, and I haven't heard the word "shindig" in years. "Broad" also sounds a bit retro. If it's not a present-day setting, it would be a good idea to establish the year in the first few pages.

- Don't worry about length, at least for this group. It only printed out at two pages, which isn't very long for us. Literary mags often print stories that would be long and rambly by WDC standards. I'm assuming from this opening that it will be literary fiction.

- Unless there's some reason for the narrator to remain unnamed, it would be good to establish this by the end of Part 1.

- Plot so far, as I'm grasping it: An unsuccessful screenwriter is whisked off to Hollywood by a childhood friend who's come into some money and wants to produce his script.

Detail comments:

The first three paragraphs tell us all we need to know about the MC's general situation, but they could be clearer. By the time I got to "one hundred fifteen minutes," I realized it was a film script; the word "manuscript" is more fitting for a book. Changing the word to "script" from the start would clarify things.

I don't agree with the changes What changes? I didn't understand why he'd change his own script in a way he didn't agree with.

For the record, I have as many versions of the story as I have sent out. Does he mean that he's sent out a different version of the story all those times? Seems weird, if so. It may indicate that the narrator is something of a perfectionist.

I’m probably the only one that knows and can spell his real name Does the narrator mean he's the only person who can both pronounce and spell his real name?

Good think I had a metro card Typo. Boy, I wish I had a quarter for every time I've typed "think" when I meant "thing"!

The girl, not the accent. This little throw-away comment doesn't do it for me. My vote would be to cut it.

Half my paycheck goes to the two room Bronx apartment I rent and the bohemian lifestyle only works if you’re wealthy. This sentence could use a bit of spit and polish. Two sentences might work better.

Instead, I cross out an adverb from the opening scene. Instead of what? I love these little insights into the grand excitement of the writing life!

“Let’s go.” The voice is carried along with static. Might as well say "Cody's voice." There's no reason to keep this from the reader. You're building up tension, but Cody's identity isn't part of that.

This is Cody in private. A one track mind that everyone plays catch up to and it’s taken him places. I close the door. That middle sentence is sloppy. One way of fixing it might be to rearrange the ideas in these three sentences. A quick attempt, for illustration: Outside my apartment door, Cody's one-track mind takes him all kinds of places. But here, in private, that same mind always leaves me playing catch-up.

I saw that blonde broad I thought she was a redhead.

In a bit I find myself sitting next to Coy in Coach on a 4 AM flight. Three things:
1. "In a bit" isn't needed, as this comes after a break in the text.
2. Air taxis that I've seen don't have classes.
3. The typo in the name, obviously!

I quip as verbal personification of my excitement and strap on my seat belt. Unless you're trying to make the guy sound like a geek, I'd get rid of "as verbal personification of my excitement."

I strap my seat belt Wait, didn't we just do that? *Laugh*

* * * * *

Overall, a strong beginning to your story. I could see this opening leading to a long short story, a novella, or novel. Mostly it just needs some fine-tuning.

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Review of Convincing  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Cute. I like the joke, and I like the way you send it out via implication with a minimum of words. A few suggestions:

1. Take it back about three to five lines further, just far enough that we see him trying to convince her of something. Just enough to make us sympathize with her skepticism, not enough to give the whole thing away.

2. Put a blank line between the paragraphs. It'll make it easier to scan.

3. Well get dressed kitten, I'm just a janitor. Not quite the right punctuation, and the wording is a little flat. You don't want to rush your punch line. At least:

"Well, get dressed, kitten. I'm just a janitor."

And if you want to take it a step further, something like:

"Well! All right, Kitten, get dressed. I'm just the janitor."

A nifty little story, all in all. Thanks for sharing it, and welcome to Writing.com!
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Review of Ding-Ding  
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (3.5)
I think you mentioned that you might convert this into flash fiction, because you weren't sure about the rules of poetry. None of us are, really! But I thought I'd take a look at your poem from the other angle, with the idea of making changes that would send the piece poetry-ward. It may be that you've already decided to do otherwise, but using some of the techniques of poetry could also make this a poem that's more to your liking.

First off, you are using some of the tools of poetry already. The repeated "ding-ding" sound, with the lengthening series of dots, looks and sounds like poetry to me. (Onomatopoeia is the technical word for a word that sounds like the thing it represents.) Telling an enigmatic little story like this can also work as a poem. And you've got some use of repeated sounds within and between line; I notice a lot of long "ee" and "ay" vowel sounds especially. And as a whole, it's readable and understandable, with a conversational tone, ordinary sentence structure, and normal use of punctuation. These are all things that work just fine in poetry. I think of them as poetry's "defaults"; some poems mess around with the rules of grammar, but with good poems this serves some purpose. Otherwise, might as well stick to the standard rules of English, as you have done.

Still, it doesn't quite sound like poetry. What follows will be some things you may or may not want to consider. As usual, take what you can use and leave the rest.

Condense: Poets usually refine language down, cutting out unnecessary words to an even greater extent than storytellers. While filler words pepper ordinary conversation, they can be omitted as you telescope the sentence down to the fewest words that get you idea across.

Example: Ah, what a shame some friends are going to come over right now anyway. Could become: What a shame, I'm expecting friends.

Placement of important words: The first and last words of a sentence or line draw more attention than the middle. In poetry, ending a line with an important or surprising word came be particularly effective.

Example: Don't you want to come play for a bit tonight? "Play" is an important, surprising word in this sentence; adults wouldn't usually use it, and it has strong connotations of truly wanting to see the other person. This isn't just two people coming together because of duty, there's an expectation between them of having fun--or, at least, this was true sometime in the relationship. Simply leaving off the last few words would let "play" hang in the air: Don't you want to come play?

Rhythm: Free verse needn't have a formal pattern of word stresses or a standard syllable count; rather, it lets the poet mess around with these things for effect. When nobody's insisting a on any particular rhythm (as would be the case with, for example, a sonnet), it can be interesting to make up your own little rules and patterns as you co along. Chunks of rhythmic pattern will make this piece sound more like a poem, without the reader necessarily knowing why. Often rhythm in free verse amounts to just making the phrases "sound good," whatever that means to you. Rhythm and line length also govern pacing.

Example: There it goes again, I should check it and see. At this point in the poem the speaker is being interrupted, maybe feeling a little rushed. A shortened version like: There--again! Check and see. has a little rhythm, and also a clipped, hurried sound that fits what's going on in the speaker's mind.

Also, when considering pacing, you might want to look at how the poem scans and see if it wouldn't be more pleasing if none of the lines of speech ran longer than a single line on the printed page. Though I like the poem's overall bell shape--very fitting!--I think this would work better if the longest lines took just exactly the length of the page, from right to left margin, or maybe even a bit less.

Using word sounds: As mentioned, I already see you doing some of this. A couple thoughts:

"Ding" to me sounds more like a doorbell than a phone. Ring, maybe?

I wish I could Maybe play with "would" and "should" in what follows. This would not only make a little internal rhyme, it would add to the meaning at the same time. The implication in this poem is that the idea of getting together isn't taken the same way by the two speakers; one wants to see the other, the other is ambivalent or indifferent. The more you can strengthen and clarify this the better.

Miscellaneous: Consider putting the caller's lines in italics. This would make clearer which person is speaking each of the lines.

I think you could go either way with this one--a poem or a flash fiction piece.

I like it. Sweet and sad.
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Review of Blueberry Pickin'  
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is a joyful little story, appropriate for all ages. I'm going to review it as an adult story, but it would be easily adapted to a children's story, depending on what you want to do with it. And I think you should try for publication with this one, once you've got it polished up. It's fun, it's got a positive message, and it would look great illustrated. A local paper or magazine would do well, or you could try for a mainstream magazine for women and/or seniors, if you're feeling ambitious. I'm not sure how much of this story is autobiographical, but creative nonfiction shorts are wanted in many publications.

Descriptions

Much of the descriptive language you use in this story is very good, but in some cases you could probably go a little, and think up something more creative.

luscious blue fruits Since we already know blueberries are blue (hmm, actually more purple, now that I think about it), this adjective doesn't add anything. A more unexpected word, perhaps, or simply leave it at "luscious."

she was on the porch before I had time to turn off the engine I love the way you've shown the little girl's eagerness here.

blueberries you had to search around to find This description is awkward and wordy. One adjective could replace it. "Hidden" blueberries would convey the information, but you can probably think of something better.

large white farmhouse Okay, just kind of blah. If you could find adjectives that make the house sound more unique, it would be better.

Jenny and I each grabbed a couple of buckets It would help to indicate that they're grabbing them out of the car. The first time I read it, I assumed there was a stack of them on the ground for people to take.

blueberry bushes casting a blue haze from their heaviness with fruit A lovely image, but the wording is awkward. If I were you, I'd try to reduce this phrase to the least possible number of words, while keeping the image intact.

The sky was a clear blue, and butterflies and bees kept us company. I love this sentence. You've used poetic tools here--alliteration, as well as a nice balance--while maintaining the down-home sound of the narrator's voice.

The rock moved. . . and got bigger. You could slow down just a bit here, to describe the movement that made the gator appear "bigger" in a little more detail. Maybe the muffin-sized rock turned into a cake-sized rock, and then as the muddy water slid off scales appeared. . .

A little more description of Mr. Stiles would help give us a picture of the character. Was he in overalls, or wearing a John Deere cap, or did he smell like sunscreen and mosquito repellant? A couple little details would suffice, whatever you think of that would help make the character memorable.

Mr. Stiles returned with two bags of cold berries. The words "two" and "cold" and "berries" repeat know information. Is there some other way to word the description to put in something more? Were they lumpy, re-used bags with clothespins holding them shut, or purple berry blocks sealed in clear plastic?

Characters & Point of View

This is told from the point of view of an older woman who's not afraid to laugh at herself. I see her as being secure, basically happy, and having a good relationship with her granddaughter. She's also got a great voice. I noticed just a couple places where more of a reaction from her might add something to the story:

In the first two paragraphs, introducing Jenny in a bit more detail would establish the relationship from the start. Giving her age here would get that over with, and help us start to get a picture of her. Gramm is giving her advice, but you could add a bit to let us know to what extent the advice is needed. If you were to add in the second paragraph that Jenny looked Gramm right in the eye with a wide smile when she said this, for example, we'd know something about the girl and the relationship from the start. Or you could give a bit of physical description, so we could see if she's a tomboy or a girly-girl or whatever.

When they set up the wager, you use straight dialogue with no tags. I was wondering how Gramm felt about this bet. After all, she probably wants pancakes too! How does the prospect of a kiddie movie strike her? You don't need a lot of words to do this; one reaction sentence would suffice--perhaps right after the girl drops I'll pass on IHOP. Gramm is setting up a bit of a problem for herself here. Adults always want the kid to win, but what if Jenny dawdles? Then neither of them get pancakes!

Well, nobody had to tell me twice. Again, excellent job of getting the idea across using the narrator's voice. This colloquial phrase fits both the character and the situation perfectly.

Someplace, it would be good to establish in more detail why Gramm is so scared of the alligator. I know that sounds stupid--I mean, not wanting to get eaten works for most of us. But is there some encounter she's had in the past, or something she's heard from a neighbor, that would put a better point on it? It would make the encounter more personal to add something like this, even though being wary of big reptiles with pointy teeth is just good common sense.

Jenny isn't the most popular kids' name nowadays. If you want to sound more up-to-date, you might want to make her a Chelsea or Brianna or something. Even those are probably out of date by now! You can look up popular girls' names online, though. The favorites seem to change about every five years or so.

Should you want to convert this to a children's story, emphasizing Jenny as the "hero" of the story could be fun. She's brave, and wants to help her Gramm feel less scared, etc.

A few details

Going to bed early in order to rise and shine at 5:30 in the morning might be a little bit of a chore for Jenny It takes a bit too long for this sentence to get to the verb. Also, the subject and first word, "Going," turns a verb into a noun, while reducing the actual verb action to the week "be," and sticking the person, Jenny, way back there at the end. Try reordering this sentence with Jenny as the first word and subject, and I think it will come out more readable.

"What's that for, Gramm?" I handed her an old belt as she settled in the front seat. Unless there's some reason to do otherwise, it's usually best to keep action in chronological, cause/effect order. Gramm would hand the belt over first, then Jenny would react.

I knew the previous occupants Sort of a round-about way of saying the other people.

through the clearing stepping gingerly needs a comma

the little girt a cold drink typo

pickin anymore blueberries today pickin' or picking, any more

We picked a lot more that these another typo

This is a very enjoyable story, and with a bit of polishing should be publishable.
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Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: 18+ | (2.5)
The three characters in this story are well developed, and you've certainly given them plenty of trouble to work through. You give us a good sense of Greg's fear, and I especially like the way you use She and Her. I see two major leaps for this story to make before it works all the way, but both are doable in the existing scenario.

Structure

1. Nothing has really changed by the end of the story. The kids are in a terrible place at the beginning, with a violent, substance abusing mother who beats them constantly. The story ends with them leaving the house, but it's clear Greg plans to return in the evening. To make a more complete story arc, Greg needs to come to some sort of decision by the end of the story--I'd assume a decision to do something about his plight. Even if he decided to stay put, he would have to do so for some reason, one we'd understand by the time the story ends. But without some action on his part, it reads more like a scene than a complete story.

2. Without seeing Mom in action, it's hard to believe in her. This woman is violent to such a degree, it's hard to believe in her. It would be better if we could see her in action, instead of just hearing about her. This would be easy to do--just convert the section where Greg is considering the violence of the night before into a real scene. The way Greg just sort of thinks about what happened tells us what his mother is like, rather than showing us, and some of what he tells is beyond what a ten-year-old could usually know. An example:

His stepfather, a weak man under the total control of his wife, actually choked him. It's hard to believe a kid would put it this way. If the flashback were a scene, rather than just an extended memory, you could show the stepfather behaving in a way that would let us see that this weak (and I'd guess rather stupid) man is under the complete control of his wife.

Logic

When he gets up in the morning, he can't walk. Apparently by the end of the story he can, but it's not clear when his condition changes. (Presumably in the tub, if only because getting out of a tub without use of his lower body would probably result in a face plant on the bathroom floor.)

If these kids always showed up at school beat-up, someone would be bound to investigate. Greg seems to have even had broken limbs before. If all three kids often come to school like this, especially after a neighbor has put a police watch on their mom, it's hard to believe someone at school wouldn't follow up. Real-life abusers often cover this up by keeping their kids away from school. Of course, the actual story takes place in summer. But Greg is taking swimming lessons, and a swim coach would be even more likely to notice abuse.

Sentence Level


the pain in his head; in his arms; his back. would sound better without semicolons and repetition

A few tears of self-pity flooded down his puerile face. A few couldn't flood. Puerile usually has an insulting connotation, which is out of place here.

the argument started, despite sequestering himself in his room These two phrases don't go together; the first is about the argument, the second about the boy. Grammatically speaking, the two verbs don't go with the same subject. Maybe something like: "Though he'd hurried to his room right after swim practice, he couldn't avoid the argument. . ."

artistic fancy that emulated emanated

. . .happen if she does," he asserted A lot of writing experts suggest going easy on synonyms for "said."

. . . where I go?" he retorted a little more harsh than he intended Same for "retorted," and to be grammatically correct, you'd need to make "harsh" into "harshly". Instead, maybe: . . .where I go?" He regretted his harsh tone as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

Note that "she" and "her" aren't capitalized and underlined in every instance. Not sure whether that was intentional.

The 2.5 rate is for story structure problems. I know you're already familiar with my rating scale, but here's a link anyway: "Invalid Item. Once you get these cleared up, I'm sure this will be a very good and moving story.

** Image ID #1757712 Unavailable **

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Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (3.5)
I, for one, am still afraid of cars. One just about hit me tonight, careening around a corner under the control of a man who was paying more attention to his phone than the road. But at least some human was responsible for the thing. Once a machine hits the level of awareness you're talking about here, it can neither be entirely predictable nor entirely under the control of a human operator; otherwise, it would be nothing but a slave. Do we want to live with machines whose actions we can't predict? Or conversely, do we want to create a new race of slaves? Do we even want the hypothetical Turing machine--one adept enough at copying human behavior that its reasoning can pass for human? Cars are partially to blame for all sorts of problems Henry Ford could never have predicted: smog, global warming, a heavier and unhealthier population, huge swatches of land covered with parking lots. No doubt it would be the same way with artificial intelligence. A "thinking" machine would, by its very nature, have many, many issues that no one can predict until such a machine is invented.

Not that we have much choice. If it's possible to do, someone will do it.

I agree with you that Asimov's laws are inadequate, as far as a basis for machine ethics. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. What happens if it's present while its owner is getting mugged? By Asimov's rule, it can neither attack the mugger nor fail to do so. It would have to choose based on some sort of algorithm, in this case one that would tell it when to harm a human being. Human beings have yet to perfect such an algorithm for our own actions, which makes programming ethics into a machine considerably more complicated than Asimov implies.

Obviously you've got a pretty good article here, if you've got me arguing! On to some actual reviewing:

The last example response would be from someone who has issues with many of his or her relationships. It would be good to mix up the language a little. You have a lot of long sentences with complicated vocabulary. It's always best to use the simplest, most common word choice in writing. In a sentence like this, you're telling a little joke, so complicated vocabulary sounds out of place. Maybe something like, "That last comment might come from a guy who's had no luck dating."

Even though we have a mathematician to thank for the development of everything from adding machines to computers to iPods. . . sounds as if one person developed all these things

You achieve sustainability when a system's design does not conflict with itself, or its environment, so that its operation does not eventually lead to the failure of the system or harm to its environment. One of many places where plainer English would help. Watch out for instances of loading all the action into nouns, as in the latter half of this sentence. You only have two verbs after the comma, and they're generic ones: "does" and "lead (to)." If you say, instead, "the machine fails when used, damaging itself and its environment," you have a shorter, cleaner phrase which places the action in the verbs: fails, used, damaging.

Moreover, [empathy] is one of the characteristics that separated us from the other human species in the distant past. How do you know this?

The word consciousness is not one-hundred percent interchangeable with awareness. If you say it this way, you need quotation marks around the two words you're comparing. But how about simply saying, "Consciousness is different from awareness"?

The human mind is a record of all of what an individual has been conscious. words missing

Where you go into gamma oscillations and other brainwave patterns, there's no explanation of what these things mean or how brainwaves work.

If we find this level's oscillation frequency in the brain, I suspect it will be in the brain cell's outer membranes. Do you mean the outer membranes of all the cells of the brain? If so, it should be "brain cells' outer membranes." I'm not sure how this fact is relevant.

detailed for a short-time no dash needed

Like humans, no AI will maintain a detailed record of its whole existence, at least not for a long time. Why? Humans are excellent at forgetting, while computers remember everything. You would have to program the machine to forget, and being a machine, it would be selective about forgetting. It would be hard to program a forgetting protocol that would resemble the way the human mind operates.

Some of these conflicts may not be too simple to resolve. Confusing. How about, "Some conflicts will be hard to resolve."

Since the time of "The Legend of Golem," has come the industrial revolution. This legend isn't universally known, and most of us see the Industrial Revolution as something that itself happened a pretty long time ago.

God works through people here on Earth every day, if they are aware of it or not. whether, not if. With this kind of assertion, you'll probably do best to try for a Christian publication. Otherwise, the next sentence is flimsy logic: If the Creator does not want an AI to exist, it will never exist. Since this is the same Creator who let atom bombs, landmines and tube tops sneak by, I'm putting my faith in human responsibility.

An thought-provoking article. If you clean up the wording and make sure it says what you want to say, you can probably find places that will be interested in using it.
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18
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
There's comedy throughout this one -- Thomas' look of panic, Charmian's "absurdly girly" scream. In some of the chapters this is more obvious than others; here, the eyes goggle all they want to, and the big bird squawks like a maniac. Very much fun to read!

I guessed from what you implied before that Charmian was going to win the thunderbird over with her compassion, where others had failed with threats. Even though you set this up in such a way I could see it coming, it was fun to watch it play out.

This kind of sentence construction sounds a little off: Charmian winced, Niskigwen doing the same. The -ing form of the verb doesn't sound right here, since the second clause isn't something Charmian did. Since "doing" doesn't describe Charmian in any way, it might be clearer to phrase it: "Charmian winced, and Niskigwen did the same." Sentences like this come up from time to time.

I like the whole thing about the red spirit stones. A manitou with PMS - that's a nice touch!
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19
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
I like the way you make it evident from the start that the head manitou is not to be trusted. Charmian's no fool: When the manitou explains it's better for a human than a manitou to provoke the thunderbird's wrath, she says,"Well gee, thanks!" She goes into this with her eyes open, even if she's not at all sure what she's about to see.

This is a little confusing: I'm starting to think it'd be easier to find him on our own, Charmian grumbled, but kept her mouth shut. I guess she's not really talking, but the word "grumbled" makes it sound like she's making some kind of noise. Plus, since the manitous talk right into her head, I wonder if they can't hear this kind of thought. Maybe you could clear that one up a little.

The whole "gas" thing is very funny. These translators must have a particular way of interpreting the word! I'm sure Charmian will keep taking a ribbing on that one.

(PS: I sent this once already, but it looked like it didn't go. So please excuse if you get two copies!)
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Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
I have to admit, I didn't understand all of this one, and it's probably my own fault for starting on Book 3. I'm talking here mainly about the exchange between Charmian and Moon Wolf. I mean, I can guess what it's about more or less, but there's some background missing. And that's okay! Because this part isn't necessary to understanding the story at hand. It's amplification of something that was, apparently, left open in one of the previous books, something that explains Moon Wolf's character. I would expect to find this in book 3, and it's really part of the reason I have this weird habit of reading series from the middle. I like to guess.

One thing I like about your writing is that your descriptions of nature sound real. In the second paragraph, for example, you describe a sun setting on an overcast day exactly as I've seen it look in the real world. This seems like such a simple thing, observing the real world and transferring observation to fiction, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen it mishandled. It's as if most people in our culture learn about nature from Hallmark calendars or something.

While there were parts of this chapter that referred to something I don't know, I think I got the gist of it. That's what's important, in a series. I'm looking forward to meeting the thunderbird!
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Review of Part 32: Landfall  
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
This chapter was very cool and original. I kind of wondered what was going to happen when everyone got underwater. I was surprised in the last chapter that Charmian didn't ask more questions about how she was supposed to breathe on this trip. Just like Charmian to jump right in and ask questions later, isn't it?

I would have liked to know a little more about how all this seemed to her -- did the Nebanaubae have fish breath? If they were going that fast, didn't it hurt to open her eyes? The way he gives her oxygen is a neat touch, but may need some more thought; it probably wouldn't work unless she let her previous breath out first. He couldn't just keep blowing more air into her without her expelling some bubbles of carbon dioxide first.

There's a bit of repetition you may not have intended, where you mention that Charmian has never been afraid of water or darkness. This shows up in both paragraph 2 and paragraph 9.

I like that they end up in a time before that of any of the characters, when the mound-building Indians are still around. I wondered if any of them had seen old mounds before, or whether they all live farther north that any remaining mounds. It sounded, from your description, as if they must be able to tell by the shape that the mound was recently built. Though mounds remain for many centuries, they erode into a much more rounded appearance.

Maybe I lost track of what everyone could do, but I didn't realize Charmian and Thomas could link telepathically. Maybe this is something she can do with everybody, as one of her own powers. Interesting.
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22
Review by Asymmetrical
In affiliation with Chat Reviews  
Rated: E | (4.0)
It was interesting to finally meet Charles. What an enigmatic character! I really wonder what he's up to. At first I thought maybe he was gay, but later on that didn't seem to be the case. You get across well the idea that he's not to be trusted. And I loved the scene where Crystal and June become friends again. "Ginger ale" indeed! I thought you handled their interaction very well.

There are still details to work out, including some awkward wording and punctuation errors. You'll need to give it a read-through at some point; for now, here's an example:

Dawn was already spinning around in the arms of a young gentleman Crystal didn’t recognize, while poor Rose’s feet were being trampled by June’s cousin Felix’s large awkward feet.

- One thing to consider is how much information is necessary, or adds to the narrative. As far as I can tell, we don't need to know who Dawn is dancing with or the name of June's cousin -- at least not now. The paragraph this sentence begins contains several new names, more than I'd be able to remember at one time, and as far as I can tell the only name we need is that of the girl who slips outside. So you could simply say of Dawn that she's spinning around the dance floor.

- June's cousin Felix's sounds awkward, as well as adding a name of someone who isn't a major player in this chapter. Even if he turns out to by Crystal's true love a few chapters down the road, I won't remember him by that time.

- Felix has large feet. When he tramples Rose, of course it will be her feet that he tramples, so you don't need to mention it. (Although with the gowns they wore back then, I don't see how the boys danced without stepping all over the girls' skirts!) The passive voice in this half of the sentence is awkward, too.

Taking those points into account, here's one way it could come out: Dawn was already spinning around the dance floor, while Rose concentrated on dodging the awkward feet of June's cousin. Eh, or something.

Where you have characters sounding "aspirated," I think you mean "exasperated." The place where she finds Charles and William, instead of being a "foreclosure," should probably be an "enclosure."

There was a slight continuity problem at the point where Crystal hears the men talking in the whatever-it-is. June just sort of disappears from the narrative. It sounds like she broke away and snuck up on Lily, but I'm only guessing that from the "shriek." Crystal would probably be aware that she'd gone off somewhere, and probably would see or hear her friend just after that. You're wise not to go into too much detail about this, as it's not part of the story, but there should be some mention. Otherwise it seems as if June vanishes without explanation.

Okay, I'm caught up now, and looking forward to tonight's chat. Good story so far!
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23
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: E | (3.0)
Ah, a "getting ready for the party" chapter with a couple cat fights -- I love it! There's still work to be done on this chapter, but most of it's already engaging and lively. It also sorts out some family politics.

I'm sure you've heard the "show, don't tell" business before, and applying that standard advice to this chapter will make it shine. Descriptions of dresses, setting, and people can be folded into the action. As it is now, it drags where you've piled too much information into one place without action to keep things in motion. Summaries and lists tend to drag. A couple examples:

The second paragraph is about the appearance of the three dresses. Rather than presenting this as a list, you could share a minimal amount about the three upfront, then add details that fit in with the action. Something like: Christy pinched a purple velvet sleeve and wrinkled her nose. "Old lady fabric. And square necklines went out of style ages ago." This way description, movement, and characterization come together.

A few paragraphs down, you list the sisters and tell something about them. You could, instead, introduce each sister as she speaks and/or acts. For example, instead of telling us that Dawn is outgoing and energetic, you could show this by her words, manner and actions. Crisp verbs would describe her movements, and the way she speaks would demonstrate that she wears her heart on her sleeve. When introducing people, especially, it's good to write in images (pictures and other appeals to the senses), as this gives readers something to latch on to. If you show Dawn being outgoing, readers will infer that part of her character, and remember it without being told. It's much harder to keep in mind names and abstract characteristics presented as a list.

That's not to say there aren't times to tell -- obviously, you can't show everything. When characters are just saying "good night" and leaving the room, it can make sense to shrink their dialogue into a short space, thus eliminating the predictable.

This is a nice draft, with all the structure in place, and a good sense for what's going on and how Crystal feels about it. With some editing, it will sparkle.
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24
Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Whatever I was expecting from the second chapter of City of Sin, it wasn't this! It was a good surprise, though. I enjoyed this long dream sequence, which makes a great introduction to the supernatural aspect of your novel. A dream with this much detail and depth is sure to lead to a major change in Crystal's life.

Much of the vision comes through with vivid sensory detail, which makes for good reading. It's also true to life, as I don't think anybody dreams in generalities. One part was hard for me to picture: flashing images of a child fighting against the world. I picture a boy punching out a big globe, but that's probably not right. Something more exactly like what Crystal sees would give a more vivid impression.

For my tastes, Liza's dialect in the last scene could have been more subtly done. You might check recent fiction about the time period, to see how published authors handle it. The way dialect is rendered has changed over time; for example, the black dialect used in Gone With the Wind would be considered overdone by current standards. Here's one article on the subject: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/writing-with-... Pruning the nonstandard English will have the added benefit of helping her character come across as an individual, rather than a stereotype.

Good chapter!
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Review by Asymmetrical
Rated: 13+ | (2.5)
Hi Grace! I'm reading through your first four chapters this week in preparation for the chat review this Sunday. I'll send along reviews of each, though this review of your first chapter is likely to be the longest.

Your novel appears, from this first chapter, to be a work of historical fiction with some ghost-story elements. It starts with an exciting adventure, in which a privileged girl coming of age on a plantation does some serious slumming. While this makes for excellent reading, I see some details of her adventure creating problems in the historical context of your book. Unless you have some knowledge about the antebellum New Orleans that I lack – which is entirely possible; after all, it's your home state – you should probably reconsider some parts of this opening chapter.

The 2 ½ star rating reflects the major problem which I will discuss below. For more information about my rating, see "Invalid Item.

I don't see how a public dance party such as the one Crystal attends would ever be allowed to exist in Louisiana in 1846. Even though the organizers are free blacks, they're still black. They would have reason to fear being caught at anything that doesn't conform to the social codes of the time. While I could imagine a gathering among free blacks might take place -- outside the city limits, of course, as it is here -- it would be under a lot of constraint. Someone, or a lot of someones, would likely be there to watch. Maybe that's how Crystal's rescuer happens to be there. It seems highly unlikely that interracial dancing would be permitted, and the black people organizing the thing would have every reason to insist that revelers should be on their best behavior.

In the chapter, a mixture of black, white, and Creole people go to the Place des Negres, including June and Crystal, two well-off white girls. We don't find out where June ends up by the end of the chapter, but the last time we see her she's carousing for all she's worth. Crystal gets dragged off by a man of uncertain race, and is nearly raped. I have a hard time believing the white citizens of New Orleans would have allowed such a celebration to occur; if it happened, it would only happen once. One such scandal would have shut down the party for good, and the fate of the black people who organized it would look pretty dim.

This isn't just historical nit-picking. The reason this is important is that what happens in your chapter confirms the worst expectations held by the white upper class in those times. “Allow black people to gather, and mayhem will ensue. Our daughters will be assaulted.” That sort of thing. This is exactly what happens in the chapter, which makes your story appear to confirm some racist assumptions. And I really, truly don't believe that's what you're trying to do.

Even though Crystal is realistically apprehensive about attending a gathering of blacks, the narration neglects to identify the race of several characters. Whether you want to deal with it or not, race is an issue in her world. If something is that important to Crystal, it has to show up in her point of view. I'm guessing she's assaulted by a black man, but that you don't want to say so because it might appear racist. That just won't cut it.

One way to make something like this scenario work would be to make the gathering of slaves and free blacks appear more innocent. This would be more realistic; black people would have had a lot to fear if their party got out of hand, and would be motivated to keep everything under control. The trouble, then, would come from outside their circle -- probably from unruly white guys who were crashing the party. It looks like this may even be close to what you mean to happen; if so, just make that clear and you'll be on your way. But if the plot is going to involve a black men assaulting innocent white women, who are then saved by white strangers – well, you're going to have to look at what a reader is likely to derive from that scenario.

I'm sorry to be so critical of this one aspect of your chapter. There's a lot else going on – both strengths and weaknesses. But until you make the historical background ring true, what happens here is just too unlikely. Moreover it could point readers to some conclusions I'm sure you don't intend.

If you decide to work on this, I would be very happy to give this chapter a fresh rate and review. You're a talented writer, and I'd be very happy to help you in any way I can. But passing over the problems I encountered reading this chapter would be neither helpful nor honest.
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