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Rated: E | (4.5)
I think you people do a wonderful job. You give honest and positive reviews. What more could a writer ask for.
Rated: E | (5.0)
I am reviewing this piece because it is a Quill Award winner. First of all, I think this is a terrific poem. It is so good, in fact, it doesn't stand a chance of being published in The New Yorker (That's a compliment.).

But . . . I do have a couple suggestions.

The first is rather banal: capitalize the poem's title so that it reads "The Man Is Not an Artist".

The second would have been more substantive, but you have already edited it -- the part that said "Their words are the lightning, stretched out like bony fingers."

Great job and a wonderful read.

Rated: E | (4.0)
Once again, you make a nice effort. I have suggested a few changes for flow and clarity. Keep writing.

Lowing to self, I ask slowcomma

O my master! Where to go?

Said the self left in me,

“To wandering paths in woods and meads Do you mean to have an off rhyme here?

lying ahead in world of treads.”

“To the path which leads you to

the valley of thy destined goal.

Not the path which left you in

the valley of horrible den.”

Thus, answered the other power.no period

and left me in a confused mark.

I felt done when a voice within

told me a certain thing.

“Never to Getting rid of "to" helps meaning and flow. worry what path grace

All paths go….. To same place.”
Rated: E | (4.0)
Once again -- a nice try. As you can guess, I like forms that are less restrictive. I think for a haiku to be absolutely effective one has to smack the reader with opposite, but not totally exclusive images. They must be approachable and reconcilable to the reader. I think the second one comes closest to doing this.

Good luck and keep writing.
Review of Paper World.  
Rated: E | (4.0)
I'm not a big fan of flash fiction, especially mini flash fiction. To do a decent job in this format, you have to be poetic. You do that. But here's the problem: in a short story, the story is filled with characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. An accumulation of details that is arranged properly makes the story clear. Here, you can't do all that. For example, "from the vale of relations" has me stumped. I don't know what you are getting at.

I think you make a valiant attempt, but the fault is in the form -- not in you.

Review of The tollbooth  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
From an ambiguous beginning, this morphs into a tale of horror. Good effort. I just left a few suggestions. Do with them what you want. Good luck with your writing.

The Tollbooth


Bill Soughton was a stout man of sixty years, whose expanding width seemed to be compensating for his diminishing stature. On this night, just as like? every weeknight for the passed thirty years, Bill worked the lonely tollbooth that stood at the single lone? entrance of Amaranth Island. As usual, Bill sat in his booth listening to an old radio, which played more static than music, and staringplaying more static than music. He was staring down Falls Bridge: the only thing connecting Amaranth to the mainland.

It was a gorgeous night. The clouds, which had spent all day obscuring the would-be shinning shining splendor of autumn, had descended into a luxuriously thick ground fog, revealing an elegant full moon suspended above. The other end of the bridge was nothing but an obfuscated skeleton in the density of the dense fog; the mainland itself could not be seen at all. Bill had only a moment to reflect on the notion that this lovely little island was all that there was was left? in the world, before a pair of headlights burst through the mist, shined shone? down the length of Falls Bridge, and illuminated the little tollbooth. If Amaranth was the world, an outsider had arrived.

At first, Bill didn’t think the vehicle was moving, but as the car’s shape gradually began to gain definition, he realized that it was Sometimes less is more. But why was it proceeding so slowly? Before He realized that he was frightened, the hairs on the back of Bill Soughton’s neck stood up. He felt a moment of panic and imagined a maniac, behind the wheel of what Bill could now see was a Cadillac, loading a great big gun full of great big bullets with his name on them. Suddenly he felt very silly. It was the fog! No one in there their? right mind would be speeding down a narrow bridge like Falls on a foggy night like this. Are you sure you want to say this? Your words say that the person driving is not in his right mind. Bill let out a little chuckle, more from relief than humor, and leaned out of his window as the Cadillac rolled up to his booth.

“Those high beams make it harder to-“

The words caught in Bill’s throat. The car was totally empty. The Cadillac’s radio was playing classical music. The jazz coming from Bill’s radio blended with the music from the Caddy, creating a wickedly ”wickedly perverse" is overkill. perverse piece of dissonance: T{b] Lower case “t” because you are ending a sentence. he symphony of a lunatic, Satan’s final movement.

All the fear he had felt upon watching the car approach,no comma slammed back into his bones so hard that he began to shiver. The moon, which had looked so elegant a moment earlier, now appeared demented and no longer perfectly round. It seemed to loom over him in the sky, engorged and entertained by the horror playing out in Bill’s little booth. Now the tollbooth felt more like a coffin. The picturesque fog on the water instantly became a sea of restless spirits, no longer jostled, but antagonized by the waves below. They would awaken from their tortured dreams and rise up; they would look upon Bill with the empty holes which now served as their eyes and…

And something was in his tollbooth with him.

There was a soft, wet, smacking sound coming from behind him. The sound almost reminded Bill of someone trying to get a bad taste out of their mouth, except this was slightly different. The sound was slower and more subtle; it was almost coital in its nature.

The thing behind him began to laugh.

It was a guttural, rasping, coughing sound, which surely must have been coming from an ancient throat. The laugh seemed to say ‘Checkmate,No comma; exclamation point. You’re mine.’

When Bill Soughton turned around,no comma slowly on his heels, it was not a gesture of curiosity; it was one of acceptance. Bill knew that whatever was standing behind him was going to kill him, so he would die facing his murderer. What he saw before him turned his chocolate brown complexion to the cold grey of a tomb stone.

It was tall. Bill had to look up to see its horrible face, and its head was cocked at a harsh angle so that it could fit into the booth. The eyes were mad and seemed to be bulging out of sunken black pits in its skull. Its nose was animalistic, almost a snout. His face (Bill believed it to be male) was deathly pale and pitted with pock marks, but the mouth! It was far too big for its head; sickly disproportionate and full of razor sharp teeth. This creature seemed as if it had a mouth full of rusty barbed wired wire +comma and the look on it face was wild and indisputably insane. For an absurd instant Bill thought that it was going to scream ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’, but instead it ripped his throat out.

In one of the often strange mercies we are sometimes afforded in life, Bill Soughton had the luxury Are you sure “luxury” is the correct word? of dying before losing his mind.

Review of The Scarecrow  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, although I have a different name, I am the same reviewer. This is a fine piece with vivid imagery and a plot that travels unswervingly to a well-thought conclusion. All I did, using your words, was suggest a few different phrases and punctuation corrections. Good luck in the contest. Nice parable.

The Scarecrow


A river passes through a wide farm land surrounded by three gigantic mountains in the Western Ghats of the Indian subcontinent. The farm land around the river is extremely fertile, and the villagers that own and cultivate the land leave as much land as possible for farming by living on the decline of the mountains live on the decline of the mountains, to leave as much land as possible for farming. The villagers have constructed their mud-homes in rows, very similar to the steps on a stairway, in such a way that the ground in front of each row of homes is the roof to the ones below.

It was aA week before the Holi festival, the play of color in celebration of the coming spring, and made the village was ecstatic.

At the crack of dawn the Sarpanch - head of the village - stood in front of his house, sipping on a cup of tea, watching the descent of the mountains the mountains descend into the fog below. As the fog clearedcomma something peculiar caught Amrithlal's attention, something colorful. Amrithlal grabbed his stick, put on his Ghandi hat, and took to the little common path in Unnecessary “in”. between the rows of houses that ran all the way down into the farms.

"Sarpanch-Ji, I see you have made some changes to your farm," yelled one of the villagers, puffing at a Hookah in front of his house.

Amrithlal payedpaid no attention to the man and kept walking.

Another villager called out, with a smirk on his face, “Amrithlal, I did not know you had a knack for art and color."

Amrithlal hastened his pace, but said nothing.

"Oye!" shouted a village elder, "The spring will bring its own color, Sarpanch. Your job is to do the watering not the coloring." Laughter rang out through the valley.

The embarrassed leader began an awkward wobble down the hill side hillside;no semicolon! Use a comma instead. a mix of walking and running. He entered the farm, and there before him, right in the center was his Scarecrow, dressed in a colorful Saree or Sari?.

"A female Scarecrow?" Amrithlal murmured to himself angrily,no comma and stripped the lifeless figure furiously. The laughter died. The Sarpanch then climbed back up the hill, not even once looking up.

"Which one of you kids is trying to tarnish my reputation around the village? Eh?" Screamed screamed Amrithlal, as the kids dispersed like running water.

"Leave the kids alone, husband, and if you continue screaming out loud like this, you will be the enemy of your reputation."

Amrithlal turned to look at his wife, standing right behind him, her arms and eyebrows crossed.

"I dressed the Scarecrow. What makes you so angry, husband?" She said as the children ran out of the house.

For the next few hours the villagers heard the Sarpanch raise hell out of his little hut, but as expected, they heard nothing of his wife.

The next morning when Amrithlal woke up there was no breakfast or tea waiting for him; the children were not fed, clothes were not washed, and bath water was not heated. Memsahib had gone on a hunger strike; she wouldn't speak a word and refused to perform her household tasks.

Quickly life got hard in the little hutcomma and Amrithlal tried to force his lady to break her strike, raising his voice often, but the lady refused to retaliate change her behavior. He tried the soft tactic too, but that didn't help either.

“Dear, what is all this? Where has all this come from? This stubbornness, this unhappiness? Please eat something...love... eat something."

The woman said nothing.

Days went by and Amrithlal's private home became the subject of public debate. Men, women and even children discussed filled the recesses of their hardworking lives with the discussion of Sarpanch and his dilemma. Who was right? What is the right thing to do? Who is going to give in? Before long the whole village was divided into two groups: Those those who thought the that Sarpanch was right, and those who supported Memsahib. Whether for it or against it, everybody had an opinion about a subject they had never even thought about before. Amrithlal was not happy.

Four days passed and the lady's health began to deteriorate. She looked as if there was very little life in her, and the Sarpanch was worried. The village doctor was called upon to oversee the first lady's well being well-being.

"Sarpanch… Memesahib's condition is critical. I am afraid if she continues with this...she will..."
new paragraph"Bite your tongue medicine man. You have done your part. Now you can leave."

The Sarpanch gave it one more try,period or colon "Woman, Holi is coming... Holi! It is a time of celebration and mischief. It is bad a omen to sulk like this. You wouldn't want our spring to be fruitless, do you?"

She said nothing.

The day before Holi arrived, and the villagers were up early, preparing for the big day. Fragrance of various delicacies enchanted the morning air, Sarees were tried on, colors passed around, drum skins tightened, and dances were being organized.

The Sarpanch stepped out of his house, and it all came to a halt. Amrithlal stood there, expressionless with a Saree on his shoulder. Everybody gathered outside their houses, lining up the hill sides hillsides with belts of people; comma like spectators to at a play. Amrithlala looked around; the hills looked back at him, in absolute silence. He walked down the muddy road all the way to his farm, straightened his hat, and draped the Saree around the scarecrow.

The Sarpanch walked back up the path, stood in front of the house, cleared his throat and declared, "Memsahib is indeed a committed and forceful woman." He then walked into his house.

The next morning, morning of Holi, the Sarpanch walked outside, and there was his tea, and found his tea sitting on the stool. He began to sip on it and amuse himself with the play of the morning mist. Once the mist cleared he saw that the farmland was more colorful than ever. Every farm had a Saree-draped Scarecrow. Ah! It was spring.

Four springs later the first Woman Sarpanch was elected to head the village.
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
You certainly do reveal the dark side. On the whole, this is very good writing. Usually I have to wade through a hive of punctuation errors. Not the case here, other than maybe an unnecessary comma. However, the basic rule for dialogue is: when a new character speaks, begin a new paragraph. For example:

She looked at him, but before she could speak he saidcomma "You really don't look happy. Is it because I'm late or because you missed me too much?"

She stared up at him with half a smile. He grinned as he placed a small black box on the table in front of her. With a quiet gasp, the woman's eyes lit up, and a small smile formed on her elegant face. She opened the box and took out two small diamond earrings, and looked up with excitement. "Oh, Eric! These are absolutely beautiful. I don't know how to thank you!"

Good luck with your writing.
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
This story is well-conceived and, for the most part well-written. It sounds true to life, something that happened occasionally when I was teaching middle school. :)

Suggestions to make it even better:
1. You don't learn a lot about the facts of life comma and there are not a lot of discussions about anatomy. Use a comma between independent clauses in a compound sentence. There are several other sentence like this.
2. It read told of a plane crash claiming Hitler’s actual death report was incorrect. I know what you are trying to do, but the use of "read" leads the reader to believe that you really meant "I" rather than "it".
3. As I entered the door, Mr. Tragger was sat? stood? at his desk accepting newspaper clippings from the class. You often use passive verbs such as "was" or "had". I'm a believer in using interesting, specific verbs -- not all the time, but whenever I can.
4. Then Mr. Tragger in a whisper asked me, "Where did you get this article?quotation marks I told him from one of my mother’s newspapers. Typos?
5. Mr. Tragger said, “Farriscomma do you know what the word testicles means?”
6. out done I believe it's "outdone".
7. don't worry about the word you don't know. Capital "D" on "Don't".
Rated: E | (4.5)
I t sounds like you handed your father over to the Lord. Powerful piece.

1. Technically, it should be "My Father's House".
2. . . . no Atheist(s) in foxholes.
3. non believers. should be "non-believers", I think.
4. "Dads faith in Atheism" should be "Dad's faith in Atheism."

5. I found several punctuation errors. Here is one paragraph corrected. Sorry, my English teacher past is sticking out its ugly head.

My sister Cathy couldn't believe what she was hearing. She turned to the man who was in the bed next to Dad's and asked himcomma "Mr. Scott commais this true of what happened this morning?"
Mr. Scott leaned forwarded and saidcomma "Yescomma and I too was touched."
After Dad was dismissed a few days later from the hospital into home hospice carecomma he was a changed man.
Review of Tokey's Boat  
Rated: E | (4.5)
It's interesting that two people experience the same event can remember it totally different. This story reminds me ironically of the old, wooden boat I bought covered with five coats of paint. I stripped it, refinished it, and ended up with a gleaming wooden boat built of marine mahogany. Most of the fun was in the fixin'. I probably only took it out a couple dozen times before I sold it and recarpeted the house. I still have the photos. It was a silk purse made from a sow's ear.

Good job with your story. I like the voice.
Rated: E | (3.5)
I like your idea for a parable, and your writing shows promise. Try not to use the passive "was" so often; it sounds stilted and slows the action. The end is puzzling; I really don't get the leap from king to fisherman. I believe you need to connect the ideas for the reader. Write on!

More Suggestions:
1. In the country lived a boy that who was believed to be the true king. Generally "who" is used with people, "that" with things."

2. Try to use a few more active verbs. I counted 4 "was's" in the first paragraph alone.

3. With heavy hearts the village people cried out to him unnecessary because you are stating the obvious wishes of luck and safety.

4. "Soon the boy came to the walls of the great city. Outside of which, sat an old man wrapped in an ugly brown sheet." Combine into one sentence. The second is a fragment.

5. "You may leave through that door," the man indicated to a door in back, "you'll find it much easier than the other." Neither of the quoted parts is a speech tag. ALL three parts should be separate sentences.
Review of The Last Ride  
Rated: E | (3.0)
This review is part of a port raid from WDC Frontliners.

I think the concept for your story contains possibilities. It is clear from the reading that some upheaval has hit the country. But you aren’t clear on what. You don’t explain why tech things were banned. It leaves the reader swimming to find direction. You really need much more of a back story to put the reader where he is comfortable to understand the action.

I included a line by line. I hope this helps.

Write on!

The Last Smuggler

I couldn't believe it. It was all so beautiful. The sand, the heat,period + new sentence; otherwise, this doesn’t make sense as written. the few plants that were strong enough to survive were flourishing. The desert is a hard place to visit, much less live.

I wasn't there to stick around. Just long enough to do my job and leave as quickly as I could. People that do my job generally aren't welcome here. The end of the War brought an end to the industry being legal in the States, but at the same time, smuggling has never been legal.

It wasn't always smuggling though. Sending computer and radio parts used to be as normal as walking down the street and smoking a cigarette. It wasn't until the Government began controlling the media and information in the country that itWhat does “it” refer to? was outlawed and people like me became criminals. A desk jockey in a suit became Public Enemy #1. Of course, getting parts from manufacturers wasn't a problem. The real problem came from getting the parts to the paying customer. That's where I came in.

Monterrey, the closest city to the States, became a haven for all kinds of contraband. Drugs, weapons, people. They were all run from Monterrey. But the highest paying runs came from people wanting tech. Pirates, press, even peoplecomma following the underground fad of illegal Net transmissionscomma needed equipment. As long as they had the money, somebody had the hardware and I had the means of getting it there.

After the first few decades, the market thinned as people realized that the Government was serious and had the means to stay in power. Kids in basements were caught, rich heirs turned a pageThis makes no sense to me. You need to explain. , and the population began to turn towards the new Order. But there were still a few that kept work comingKept coming? Kept doing what?. They weren't amateurs. They were die-hard Resistance that who Use “who” when referring to people, “that” when referring to things. continued the fight, and after a time, it seemed they had the chance to win. All they had to do was wait for the right day. And their day was coming.

It came after new, stricter laws were enacted in the States. No electronics except light and heat. No music, no radios, and absolutely no broadcasting of any kind. The country was up in arms and a new light shinedshone for the Resistance.

They placed an order. Enough computers, dishes, and other parts to set up a nationwide broadcast Net. In triplicate.

The only way from Monterrey into the States isDon’t change to present tense here. It confuses the reader time wise. a two-lane blacktop that's under constant observation. Even though itsit’s only four hours in and four out, if you ran it once and didn't get caught you were lucky. If you ran it twice and lived, you were good. This would be my eighth time to the States and I wasn't hired for cheap. The Resistance had asked for me and two other Runners personally. We were as close to legends as possible in that wasteland and were about to become more More legendary?.

The plan was for each one to run a complete set of the order into the States, drop it, and make the run back. No hello, no goodbye; strictly business. This had been done before, but never with cargo designated to be so important. I personally wanted all three of us to succeed and the Resistance to win, but I wasn't in it for a causeperiod other than money. I offered my services strictly for cash.

We left early, hitting the blacktop before it was light out. Making good time across the desert, I almost fooled myself into thinking we were free and clear. The New Dallas skyline was just visible when my radio crackled announcing the presence of a People's Protection Patrol on the road ahead of us. In the lead, I instructed the other Runners to step on it and make some time. The heat off the engine blurred everything that wasn't distorted by the land and made almost impossible to see the People's Air Corps flying low towards us.This line suggests that the Air Corps is in front, but the next line says they are behind. Which is it?

I wished the other Runners good luck and told them to continue to New Dallas through the wastes as I continued on the blacktop with the Air Corps right behind me. Pushing the pedal a little harder, the engine crept into the red line as I raged towards the drop point.

In secondscomma I was upon the Road Crew. Their black armored vehicles rushed against mecomma and I veered off the road to avoid being smashed. They had no way of catching me out in the desert, and I could buy a little more time for the others. The temp gauge on the motor had broken long ago, but I felt more heat from the engine as I rushed headlong into the desert, pushing it as hard as possible. I only needed a few minutes before the rest of the hardware reached its destination. As long as the Air Corps was after me and not the others, they still had a chance to reach New Dallas and deliver.

Running hard across the dunes, I heard the first burst from the machines above. They grazed the sand in front of mecomma sending liquid glass across my face as I ignored their warning shots. I down shifted, flew across the sand and pulled ahead of them. Air Corps pilots hate being out run, even for a short distance. Their next shot wouldn't be so friendly.

The .67 cal rounds from the next burst trashed my cargo and set it to flames. Another trick they use to try and discourage any Runners from continuing further. A crackle in my radio told me my companions had outmaneuvered the law on patrol in the desert and were on their way to the drop point. Too bad the Air Corps didn't hear it.

After their warning tactics didn't work, the Corps opened fire on me and riddled everything with holes. Gauges and sensors exploded all around, showering me with moltenMolten metal? Wouldn’t it be shards of metal? Or maybe they use lasers? metal. As I went airborne the tachometer buried and the engine gave all she had before it exceeded the limit and went out with a terrific explosioncomma sending me tumbling through the Waste.

The incessant beep of the few remaining sensors and the static on my headset brought me back to consciousness. Everything around me was heat and sand. The engine wasn't in flames, but it was hot enough to think otherwise. The Air Corps that gunned me down had landed and released its ground squad. Twisting my head revealed Net hardware and engine pieces strewn as far as I could see.

As the ground squad crept closer I reached for the Full Do you mean “failsafe”? Safe detonator stored on my vehicle and held it to my chest. Craning my hearing into my busted headset, I made out that the other Runners had made the drop and were on the way back to Monterrey. I clutched the detonator to my chest and closed my eyes. It was all over. The Resistance had their equipment and would soon be in contact with every citizen of the States. All I had to do was push the button.
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
This is an interesting piece. It's, for the most part, well written with good adjectives and a nice flow. Howevever, I found too many punctuation errors to give it a perfect score. One repeated error comes when you have two adjectives modifying a noun -- "white pasty look". If white and pasty both describe the noun "look", there should be a comma between. See line by line for other examples.

Another concern is the ambiguity of the ending. Maybe you were working with a prompt? But, to me, it does not stand well alone. After all, who is "him"? This is my genuine opinion. Take what you want; throw away the rest.

I hope to read more of your work -- especially the short stories.

Many regards.


David took off his thermal mittens and blew softly into his freezing hands. The tips of his fingers had a whitecomma pasty look as if frostbite was trying to force its way in; he had lost all feeling in his ears and couldn’t tell for certain if they were still attached to his head. The weather was getting worse.

He jumped as the startling screech of a Crow blasted him out of his private reverie. The stupid bird had been tailing him half the morning either in hopes of scavenging a free meal or simply to laugh at the ungainly creature on two legs fighting a losing battle against the deepcomma bitter snow.

David bent over, picked up a frozen limb and threw it forcefully in the direction of the annoying bird. With an angry screech the Crow simply jumped to another limb and mockingly continued his ecstatic cawing.

He'd heard that the Native Americans considered the Crow to be a prankster and to be the bringer of death. But, what did a bunch of dumb Injuns know! The white man licked them didn't he?

Ignoring the incessant noise, David continued into the thick brush along a small valley deep into the wilderness restricted hunting grounds of the Apache reservation.

He was a poacher.

He did not consider himself a poacher. Instead, he was simply doing what came natural to him. God made the animals for man to huntcomma and he was only doing what God commanded.

The fact that he hunted for fun and not for food did not bother him,period + new sentence he felt no guilt. The furs and other items he salvaged brought a good profitcomma: once again, a compound sentence and he was not one to punch a clock or stand on an assembly line.

The freedom of the great outdoors was where he belongedcomma? just like the mountain men he idolized from the western novels he devoured in his spare time.

He was following a blood trail. The magnificent buck he had fired on hours earlier had bolted when his round went high into the neck instead of the killing zone behind the front leg.

For hours he had been following the crimson drops of blood sprinkled on the pure white snow. He knew the animal had to succumb to the loss of blood before longcomma and he wanted to be near unnecessary to get another killing shot at the evasive buck.

He wanted the buck to suffer first. It was his right to kill, he was the chosen of God, he was the primal hunter and no animal had the right to make him suffer through thick snowdrifts and freezing weather. I think it’s best to separate these run-ons into separate sentences. You can, however, separate them with semicolons.

He angrily fought his way through ice coated brush, the crisp sun melted crisp, sun-melted snow crunching beneath his heavy boots like air bubbles in plastic packing wrap.Good, original simile.

Once again, the unexpected screech of the old Crow startled himcomma causing his feet to slide out from under him. He went sprawling and slidingslide X 2? down a step incline into a muddy ice crusted stream; I believe it is more correct to delete the semicolon and use a dash here. his precious rifle sticking like a spear into the soft moss covered bank.

He stood and jumped up and down in anger and rage, pulling his hat off and throwing it in the direction of the Crow. He decided at that moment that he would waste a round on the pesky bird for the soothing pleasure of watching it die in an exploding ball of feathers and blood.

Retrieving his rifle from the mud, he glanced up to locate the insufferable bird. Insteadcomma? he spotted the magnificent buck not thirty paces awaycomma trying to hide behind a small stand of evergreens. All thoughts of the old Crow suddenly disappeared.

The buck was incredible, beyond doubt the noblest animal his eyes had ever seen. He was perfect in every possible way. He was also near death, rapidly succumbing to the loss of precious blood.

Seeing that the wounded animal could run no further, David pulled out his canteen and poured himself a liberal helping of the strong whiskey he craved. He would have a toast to the noble stag before he put a last round into its heart.

There was no hurry. The buck deserved to suffer. He had to prove that he and he alone had God’s permission to kill at leisure.

He glanced up as the pesky Crow flew high into the upper limbs of a tallcomma white pine. It would be next. He could not allow the stupid bird to mock him. Bullets costscost moneycomma but he had one with the bird’s name on it. The pleasure would be almost as great as killing the stag.

Finishing his canteen cup of harsh liquor, David gently picked up his rifle, checked the barrel for dirt then slowly chambered a round. He gently caressed the coldcomma dark wood of the stock as he laid it against his numb cheek, then with a sigh of utter contentmentcomma slowly started to put pressure on the trigger.

For a second everything went fuzzy. His eyes could not focus and he had a sudden strange shiver run through his entire body. Then everything went totally dark!

He was lost in an abyss of black swirling mist. He felt totally detached from his body, from his surroundings, from his very being.

Suddenly, as if a switch had been turned on, he could see very clearly. He was in pain; the agony was almost unbearable. Tears dripped from his eyes, mucus from his nose and blood pumped down his chest in small rivulets to drop like scarlet rose petals onto the pristine snow.

What he saw then terrified him and cast his mind into an agonyagony X 2. You just used “agony”. of despair and his soul fleeing for safety. Standing not thirty paces awaycomma a man was pointing a high powered rifle at him, the trigger slowly being drawn back.

It was him! Okay, be careful! This is much too ambivalent. Is the “him” the hunter, shooting himself? Is it the crow? Is it the buck magically transformed? If I missed something, you should not have allowed me to.

He listened to the echoing cry of the laughing Crow as blackness slowly took him in its eternal brace.

Review of City of Sin  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Chapter 22, Joseph's Story

Plot: Joseph finally tells his back story, about how Riley killed their mother and his hatred and dependence on Riley.

Characters: good job. Although Joseph has put this off for a long time, he is now vulnerable enough to make this part believable.

Grammar: commas, periods, misspellings. See line by line.

Style/ Voice: really a very nice job. I only tried to tighten things in a few places by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases.

Setting: nice job of using the setting to set the mood.

Overall: well done with a well-crafted “hook” at the end.
Rated: E | (3.5)
The following is my honest opinion. Interesting (but overused) premise for a story. You write it reasonably well, but tend toward the wordy. You use the passive voice frequently. You use some auxiliary verbs like “had” to excess. You also make a few punctuation errors. I did a line by line review so that it would be easier to make changes – if you care to. You show promise with your writing. Good luck and keep on writing.

Some Doors are Better Left Unlocked “Are” should be capitalized.

Ursula Le Guin: "The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next." Is this a direct quote? The semicolon is used in an odd manner – like Henry James might use it in the 1890’s.

Irving was a fortune-teller. At least that's how his wife had sometimes described his work. He preferred the title on his gold-embossed business cards - "Stockbroker". It was a living, but a lousy one, because Irving was a lousy stockbroker. You could make good money buying all the stocks that Irving didn't. He occasionally made a correct choice by chance, but the only reason he hadn't yet found himself on the sidewalk holding a cardboard box filled with his stapler and his Howard Miller Rosewood Desk Set and Clock is that his father's name was on the door of the business.

Life was difficult for Iriving. He had tried hard, but he had as much innate talent for predicting the stock market as Milli Vanilli hadToo many “had’s”? for tight a capella harmony. Until The Accident, that is. One blustery afternoon a bus laboring up the steep hill on which Irving's office building was situatedby Irving’s office building The rule of economy applies. If there is more than on way to say something, the simplest is usually best. had parted company with its right rear wheel, which immediately decided to convert its considerable store of potential energy into kinetic energy.It may be taste, but I consider the previous sentence too wordy. Free from confinement, it made good its escape, rapidly gathering speed as it tore down the hill. Luckily for the pedestrians down on Main Street, its progress was abruptly arrested by the bus shelter in front of Irving's office. Unluckily for Irving, he was in the bus shelter.I would like you to describe the crash.

Miraculously, the only injury he had sustained had been was a tremendous knock on the head, causing a little cerebral scramblingThe first part may be going a little overboard. and rendering him comatose for a week. As soon as his brain had rewired itself sufficiently to come back online, he awoke and realized he was in the hospital. He also realized that he felt subtly different somehowwordy, like locked doors in his brain had been sprung open. He couldn't put a finger on the difference though, and promptly forgot about it, likely because a size 13 headache had his attention. Once again, in an effort to sound clever, you try to do too much with this sentence. Think simple.

Two weeks later he was back at returned to his desk, despite the entire staff's insistence that he take a few more months off to recover. He gave his first client some advice that had his colleagues shaking their heads,no comma and looking for a cardboard box. By the end of the day that client had made almost a million dollars. In fact, every client he had advised that day had done well. "Bound to happen once in a while", his colleagues muttered to each other, knowing that luck was the biggest part of success in the business. But as this remarkable scenario played out day after daycomma Irving slowly realized that luck had nothing to do with it; he KNEW what was going to happen in every case. That month he had earned $3,000,000 in commissions.

Intrigued by this newfound vision, Irving expanded his horizons, entering the frequent baby pools in his office, which had an abundance of fertile employees. Feeling cocky, he bet on the exact minute of each birth. He was never off by so much asmore than a minute; getting the sex right was trivial. He even bet on twins once, proving the doctors wrong.

This was all fun for Irving, who had now become the most successful broker in the business. But his brain continued to rebuild the damaged circuits; his vision continued to expand. He soon could predict the outcome of any sports event. This was good for some quick pocket cash, but soon became boring. In fact, watching sports, which had been a his favorite pastime, became utterly boring. He could do the play-by-plays a day ahead if he wanted. He could predict the newspaper headlines a week in advance, a month in advance if he could be bothered.

What happened next shook him to the core. Talking with his father across the vast expanse of his oak desk, he had a sudden vision of an airplane, one wing torn off, plunging into the ocean. The chair where his father sat was empty for a second. All returned quickly to normal, but Irving was unnerved. He asked his dad if he was planning any trips soon. "Nope", he grinned, "Business is so brisk herecomma thanks to you, I'm staying put to enjoy the ride".

Reassured, Irving said, "OK, see you tomorrow then"period. , and Then he left. That evening, his father received an urgent call from Hawaii. His brother had suffered a heart attack and was not expected to survive the night. He caught the red-eye flight out of Los Angeles. At three o'clock in the morning the 767 flew into a Pacific storm. There was a mechanical failure; a wing separated from the plane and it went down. There were no survivors. No one survived.

For Irving, it only worsened. He glanced at people and saw their entire lives laid out bare. He adapted to this; he kept his knowledge secret, no matter how fortuitous or horrendous the fate. This helped. But his own life was another matter. He lost interest in work; it was no challenge, uninteresting now that the novelty of success had worn off. He couldn't read a book or watch a movie; he knew the ending before the author had written a word. He knew what people would say before a conversation started, so he stopped talking to them. Life was unbearable, an open book with no surprises; it wasn't worth living.

Late one night, Irving had had enough. He wrote a last note to his wife, whom he had not spoken to in weeks, and climbed into his Ferrari for a last ride. Pulling into a dead-end street, Irving took a last longing look at the starry night sky. He floored the accelerator, dropped the clutch, and made his best effort to drive through the building at the end of the block. As fate would have it, Ferraris have an outstanding crash safety rating. When Irving awoke a week later with a size 15 headache, he felt only deep despair. And deep hunger. Only after he had asked, "What's for breakfast?", did he realize that life was going to be incredibly difficult, but worth living again.
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
You have an interesting idea for a story. You keep the reader guessing all the way. I made many suggestions. They should assist you in a rewrite.

A Man Who Has It All

My bare foot breaks through the thin ice and sinks into soft moss. Any exercise is too much for my aged lungs, and this isn't just any exercise,period + new sentence the rest of my life is at stake. Reaching my goal of the tree line, I dive for cover. new paragraphMovement out the corner of my eye pushes me deeper into the brush.

A guard, wearing his pastel uniform, stands in the door I just vacated. He scans once from left to right, stopping to gaze and at the sunrise. His eyes sweep the path one more time. I hold my breath to stop the tell tail puffs of fog.

"Come back now. Come back in. It's nice and warm in here. Come on now,period + new sentence come on." The ignorant guard calls me like a puppy lost in tall grass. I'm not lost, nor am I a little puppy. Despite the strain on my body, the short sprint to the treetwo wordsline was worth my while. I'm out of his sight.

Apparently satisfied, the guard turns to someone inside and says, "It's probably just a bad connection. This alarm has been going off every couple of hours. I'm really getting tired of hearing it!" Since you are telling this in the first person, it doesn’t seem realistic for the one in hiding to hear all this unless you establish the probability.After one last disgusted look, the guard closes the door with a resounding clang. The fake "short" I established over the last several days,no comma yields the desired result. The path was only given a cursory inspection. I can't remember being so excited. The hardest part is over, or so I think.

Behind the short trees facing the path,no comma is a small swamp covered in dense brush. In captivity, I hadsaw no indication of this major obstacle.

Everything out here is the gray of deep fall. The leaves are long gone, and frost has killed everything else. The trees twist together like the yarn in that crazy scarf Trudy gave me last month, a ghastly thing. From that point on she stalked me, until she died.Who’s Trudy? Why did she stalk you? It’s not clear. After her death, I discovered I'm so numb, I barely noticed a person I lived next to for a month being dead. Her death was my a first indication of danger. Apathy is sucking at my soul. I'm determined to pay attention to every second remaining of my life. In my old life, two hundred people are held in hospital style rooms. Beds fill and empty everyday. Most of the beds are emptied into cold storage. Even people who are only there for short term care,no comma are quickly depressed to tears. Be careful. You change from past to present tense. Why?

I'll never see anyone die beside me again!

I shake my head to clear it of this nonconstructive rubbish. The trees inmaking up the thicket,no comma are not my worst problem. Large clumps of grass jut out of brackish water. The clumps stand up to my knee,no comma and are spaced randomly. The grass is solid enough to support my weight, but twists every time I move.why is this important? The icy water could kill me. cause my, believe it or not, untimely death. My day isn't over yet,period or semicolon I have things to do! The brush lends some stability into my twisted, deadly, game of hop scotch. Jumping from clump to clump, I splash into the water often. My thin robe has dark lines marking how deep I dip into the water. The dead weight of the water is draining my strength. Like the nursing home, tThe swamp has no malice,period + new sentence it just exists. There's nothing solid to push against. Apathy is my enemy, and I will not yield! Finally, the sounds of the road grow louder. The sound reaches past the beating of my heart and is sweet to my ear. In a surreal way, I've become very aware of my surroundings. Unnecessary. Serves no purpose.

At the edge of the swamp, a deep ditch parallels the county road. Breaking the wind Sorry, but when you phrase it like this, it sounds like passing gas.,New sentence it provides a convenient place to catch my breath. Icy air turns to fire in my lungs. After several minutes of rest, my breath still comes in fits and starts. I have to make a run for it. Why? You don’t make the reader aware anyone is in pursuit. The next time the road seems to be clearWhen the road is clear, I get up to cross. As I lift my head above the ditch, a semi roars by. The wind from the truck causes me to huddle deep into the ditch. Before I face the road again, another car, a cop car turns the corner. He slowly examines the sides of the road. If I had crossed even a little bit sooner, I would be nice and warm in the back of a police car. I would be five short minutes away from my comfortable cell. Direct thoughts should be set off by italics. While these things are going through my mindcomma the road clears. I crosscomma trying to look both ways at once. Mud froze on my robe, causing it to slap against my bare legs. Crossing the large open lawn by the house, no commaat anything close to a run is hopeless. Instead, I decide to play it cool. I act as if I haven't a care in the world. Fortunately, no one to can see my display. My audience would undoubtedly see through my thin gown, if not my convulsive shivering.

The easiest point to enter the house is the back door,period + new sentence it can't be seen from the road. I missed my meds this morning and my knees are very weak. Too To remain standing, I lean on the door knob. I slowly turn the knob, listening intently for an alarm. The door opens as easy as you please. Because of my weight the knob slams against the wall. I freeze, my body is half inside and half out in the cold. I quickly realize how silly my butt sticking out of the door must look, so I solve the problem.

Inside, an open stairway leads to an impressive living room. A huge television dominates one wall. The T.V. is hugeYou repeat “huge”. ! I try to put my arms across it, and can't reach all of the way. The kitchen directly off from the living room has solid hickory cabinets with blue streaked marble, it and accents surroundings beautifully. It doesn’t seem logical that under the circumstances the escapee would delve into aesthetics.The kitchen begs to feed me.

First, I need to take care of personal matters, right now! Off from the kitchen a bathroom door is slightly open. I see relief. When I come out, so does the smell, "That's fiber for you," I absentmindedly say.

Nowcomma this is more like it! High ceilings and skylights,no comma cause the over sized common area to seem even larger. A wide hall off of the living room looks promising. Surely, there is a place to warm up and get comfortable down there. I laugh at myself, "I'm Goldilocks, looking into every room until one feels 'just right'.". I continue working my way down the hall. The children's bedrooms are obvious. Loud colors and posters plastered across the walls,no comma haven't changed since I was a young. What I'm looking for wonapostrophet be found in their rooms. At the end of the hallway is an overwhelming a huge master bedroom. Over-sized, and extra-plush,no comma are the only words that come to mind as I rifle through the room. The suits in the closets are about my size, but I came for relaxation not business. I see a Capitalize brand names. speedo and laugh, "definitely not my style." As I walk into the bathroom a plush, royal blue robe hangs on the wall.

If the kitchen begged to feed me, the hot tub grabs my attention like a shout. It promises to caress the frost away. I leave my filthy, frozen robe in a pile by the tub. I enter the tub in the buff, of course. The hot water sizzlesI believe sizzles is a painful word much better used with bacon. against my legs,period I enjoy every painful minute. My bones seem to take a little longer than my skin to thaw. I don't begrudge my bones their extra time,because it's worth it. The fire in my lungs caused by the cold, the steam soothes away. The steam soothes away the fire in my lungs caused by the chill.

After a long soak, I reluctantly get out of the pool and put on my plundered”Plundered” does not fit. robe. The deep blue of the robe is a sharp contrast to the white of my legs. I've gotten soft laying in bed. I decide to take the kitchen up on its offer of a meal. The carpet doesn't really call for slippers, but I use them anyway.

Now, what to eat? The things I'm not aloud allowed to eat in the "home" are at the only things on my list. Seeing a bowl of crisp apples, I shake my head and mumble, "No rabbit food today." Steaks with potato chips and beer sound great! Combining meat with secret Why secret ingredients? ingredients, I quickly turn a pile of meat into something to die for. When I broke in, I noticed a stainless steel grill on a well used deck. I make my way out to the grill with a plate of steaks I can hardly lift in one hand,no comma and a beer in the other. The steaks grilling on the back porch,no comma cast smells that literally make Be careful!!! You change verb tense again. me drool. I quickly wipe away the offending liquid.

The doorbell rings ruining my mood. I look around, trying to avoid notice. I'm not supposed to be here after all. The cop I saw on my way here is looking around the side on the house.

He calls out, "Hey, there you are! I could smell steak all the way from the car!"

"Just a minute, I'll be right there!" I call back.

As soon as the door opens, he says, "Hi, I'm Officer Swanson." While talking he's trying to look around me deeper into the house. Is looking around like this his habit, or is he suspicious?

It's a good thing a nurse isn't here,no comma or one of the brutish guards. They would have recognized me for sure. I reply, "Hi, I was just getting ready for the big game. These steaks and couple of beerbeers are going to be a real treat!"

The cop warns, "Don't drive with alcohol in you now."

I promise, "I won't. Do you want some steak? I have enough."

The cop laughs, "No, I'm still on duty. Have you seen anyone walking through here in just a thin robe? He would be about your age and build. It's very dangerous for someone his age to be out in this cold. He has a bad heart besides." Officer Swanson proceeds to describe me in detail.Does the narrator have any clothes on? I don’t believe he dressed after taking off his robe.

I agree, "No one here but me. If I see anyonecomma I'll call."

"The local station's number is 555-1212, period + new sentencejust ask for Swanson, that's me."

I nod,period "I'll do that."

"If you see him, call right away. After exposure to these temperatures, someone his age could die." As he's leaving, he reminds me, "I meant it about the beer, now."

Slowly he backs out onto the street. From the door, I anxiously watch the blue cruiser leave. I calmly close the door,no comma and laugh so hard I spill my beer! Now that is excitement!

Back to more important things. My favorite ball game is on. This game is the reason for my haste. I left while the orderlies were still busy diapering, dressing, and drugging all of the patients. I never had a chance to put my clothes on,period + new sentence they're still on the hanger and my shoes are in their cubby. All this hard work is all worth it now.

Where's the remote? After a frantic search I finally find it,no comma and flip the large screen on. It's strange, even though I only want to watch one channel, I still need the comfort of a remote. My beer and steak call me. One beer is finished before I get to the steaks. And my next is a lot lighter than it started out, when I put it down. The steaks are still sizzling On the grill?,no comma when I flop down on the couch. Steak should only be eaten two handed, one cuttingcomma the other shoveling. The excitement in my mouth caused by the beer and meat is overwhelming!

I'm late! The ball is already in the air. The game is an edge of the seat affair, a real knuckle biter! While cheering, steak juice dribbles onto my borrowed robe. A commercial gives me just enough time to grab a couple more bottles of beer. After opening onecomma I set the others down on a table. Even with all of the excitement, my head settles back on the couch and sleep over takes overtakes me.

As the beer slips out of his hand, so does his life. Wow! Suddenly you change point of view. This is very disconcerting. Skipping out of the nursing home before taking his heart meds, the incredibly hard trip to his sanctuary, and the beer slips him into a comma he never comes out of.

The owners come home, and find him so relaxed, they let him rest for a little while. When he doesn't get up, they check his pulse. No heart beat is the last step in his plan. You mean he planned his death? This is a surprise.

Apathy lost! Why this at the end?

Review of Jessica's Wish  
Rated: E | (3.5)
This is a touching story. You have listed it as fiction, but it is story totally within the realm of belief. In editing your story, I really just used your words. I suggested that you begin it differently to involve the reader. I suggested certain punctuation changes. Mostly I suggested elimination of redundant or unnecessary words. Nice idea. Pretty well written. Write on!!

Jessica's Wish

I struggled to read through my tears, my daughter's letter to Santa. Above her entry of this year's must-have toy (Barbie - whose 112th edition was accompanied by a magnificent prancing pony) - was her dearest wish:

It’s probably better to start with Jessica’s wish below. It draws the reader in. The if you need to explain more, go ahead.

"Santa...pleeeease can I have my Daddy come home. I need him to see the presents you get me. Please make him stay."

Her childish scrawl , which, on the whole, was steadily improving as she progressed through infant school, still took up most of the page. I stared across at my little sleeping angel and turned off her nightlight.

John had only been in the army six months when I met him, so it was a fairly new experience to both of us. It had been exciting at first,no comma to follow him half-way round the world, though after a while all the barracks looked the same wherever they were. Once we became seriouscomma I made it clear I wasn't prepared to drag any family we had round in the same way. We chose a great village in North Yorkshire to settle down in, turning this a beautiful cottage into a warm and welcoming family home - something that would keep John wanting to return to us each time he left.

So life fell into a pattern. I got a job in a bank and gradually got used to sharing my husband with around fifteen other men - those of his regiment. Toby was born a couple of years after we settledcomma and Jessica came a few years after that.

I felt another pang of guilt and pain as I held the letter to my chest. The kids didn't usually ask after daddy; they just accepted itAccepted what? His absence?, and didn't really know any different. To them he was a larger-than-life stranger who scooped them into huge hugs when he was on leave, only to disappear a week or two after. I was the mainstay, the one they could rely on - daddy was just a bonus.

I could tell that John's last visit had been different. Jessica had been having problems at school with a boy who'd insisted on teasing her. He'd told her horrible things about soldiersNo fair. You need to mention some of the things the boy said. (God only knows how he knew what he did) and had frightened the living daylights out of her. She'd become clingy and when John was on leave, she wouldn't let himJohn out of her sight. He'd returned back ”returned back” is redundant. to his duties a few hours early, slipping away in the night; we thought it had been for the best, so as notdid not want to cause a scene. Now I can see that that idea had probably made things ten times worse.

I slipped Jessica's note into my diary and tried to write down my thoughts. I needed to be able to tell her - and Toby - of the phone call I'd hadreceived that afternoon. John had been involved in an accident; he hadn't been killedcomma but he was badly wounded; he'd actually lost both his lower legs. , losing his lower legs. He was being transferred to a local hospital as soon as was practical but was at a military hospital in Surrey for the timetwo wordsbeing, making visits extremely difficult. He had also been discharged from active service. This is unnecessary. You are stating the obvious.

I found my moment the next afternoon. Toby, being the eldest, had guessed something was wrong and wouldn't let up until I told him. Jessica sat on my knee as I explained in the simplest way I could what had happened to their father.

Toby sat quietly on the settee - pensive. Jessica threw her arms around my neck and hugged me tight. I hugged her back, just as fervently, hoping that I could ease her pain. As she drew away, I was stunned at her beaming smile.

"Santa has brought me my Christmas present early!" she said.

"Santa? What Christmas present?" I struggled to understand.

"Daddy! Santa has brought me daddy!" she said.

"Oh, sweetheart. Daddy will be home soon, but he's very hurt. I don't think this is your Christmas presentcomma" I said, trying to soothe her.

"It is!" she insisted, "If he's got no legs, he can't run away from us again....."

So politically uncorrect incorrect but honest. And probably a very warped way to celebrate her father's return - but to a six-year-old girl, this was her greatest wish fulfilled. Daddy was coming home,no comma for good this time.
Review of The Prince  
for entry "Invalid Entry
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Plot: a gang of boys break into a house of a wealthy merchant when the owner awakes and chases after them. Then security guards take up the chase.

Characters: D-man, Sticks, Twitch, Feather. It’s difficult to picture them since you only mention one physical trait of each.

Grammar: missing commas and more. See line by line at site.

Style/ Voice: you get into the action right away. Maybe you should spend more time setting the scene. It is difficult to read as written with odd constructions adding to choppiness. I made a few suggestions.

Setting: some city in an imaginary land. You don’t go into enough detail for me. Maybe you will gradually unfold the setting?

Overall: the present style is off-putting. Try to make it flow so that the story is more accessible to the reader. The story, however, shows promise. The pack of juveniles seems almost Dickensian.
Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Plot: two people are driving down a single-lane highway toward the eastern sky in Kansas. We don’t know much more.

Characters: a man, who is driving, and a woman, who appears to be aggressively intent on getting her way.

Grammar: commas and speech tags. Commas are used with speech tags. Otherwise, use periods.

Style/ Voice: you attempt to write in a spare, lean style. I like the attempt. See line by line for suggestions to make it even leaner.

Setting: nice job. You describe “out in the middle of nowhere” well.

Overall: this is a prologue. Prologues are meant to give us information about the plot, characters, and/ or setting before the actual story begins. Make sure to follow up on the prologue very soon, or it will become meaningless and excess baggage. Keep writing.
Rated: 13+ | (2.5)
Thanks for reading my brand new piece, but you didn't tell me how to improve it before you passed judgment. I did a line by line review. They are more meaningful. Follow the lines and the corrections should at least help the grammar and spelling. As far as the rest of the piece, it reads like piece from a spy-detective magazine. Not bad. But there's no depth. I'm left with questions. Why does the guy need or want the money? Is there a back story? Why does White turn up? What does he have to do with Carlos?

I believe with more back story and more character development this could be decent. As it is, the story sounds a bit like someone trying to make their writing sound cool.

Keep writing!

“You have the money?”

“Don’t lose your ragIs "rag" British slang? In the U.S. it means a ladies' sanitary napkin., Logan,period I’ll get you the money.”

Carlos brushed by me, clipping my shoulder as he stuffed his hands in the pockets of his leather bomber jacket. I didn’t flinch, I just glared daggers into the back of his head. Scumbag’s going to pay, whether in cash or with something more precious. But he was going to pay.

The beeping in my own jacket pocket told me that I was needed in the office.

Ohcomma well. Play hard, work hard, I supposed.

My office building, if you could call it that, wasn’t far. Head Quarters, for being the intelligence center of all of Western Europe, could not have chosen a more non-descript nondescript building for their main base. FoggedDo you mean frosted: fogged doesn't make much sense. windows blinked from the dilapidated gray walls, staring at me as I approached the entrance.

I strode into HQ, raising my eyebrows at the receptionist. She rolled her eyes, and our obligatory interaction was done for the day. God, this place was a drag.

I swiped my card and stepped back to let the steel doors swing open with an industrial hiss. The workday was already well under way, from the looks of the men who huddled over their computers behind the glass walls. A few, in stained half-buttoned shirts and loose ties, looked like they had been there all night. Ah, the benefits of clawing my way up the hierarchy; I could come and go as I pleased.

I strolled down the hallway, hands stuffed in my jacket pocket. A bloke juggling a stack of file folders stumbled out of my way, nodding as I passed.

“Koust, there you are,” a gruff voice behind me said. White poked his head out his door,no comma and beckoned me inside.

His office was as spotless as his employees’ shirts were not.awkward metaphor His pencils, all sharpened, were lined up next to stacks of stark white paper, all identical heights. obsessive-compulsive, ehh? His own appearance complimentedDo you mean complemented? the room, neat and tidy, with his combed salt and pepper mustache, black coat smoothed over impossibly broad shoulders, and a white silk tie knotted neatly around his neck. I nudged a pencil, just to see something in the room out of line.

“Koust, I—”

“I hear you’ve been assigning people to the base in Havana. If we’re expecting trouble down there, I’d like to be there to supervise.”

White met my gaze, unwavering. Then he sighed, staring instead at his pencil arrangement. He pushed the errant pencil back into rank.

“I need you here, Koust. I’m sending Fischer to supervise the base in Havana.”

He wouldn’t meet my eyes again. The old bastard didn’t trust me.

“Well, then. I’ll be in my office.”

I stood up,no comma and made for the door.

“Logan,” White called from his desk. I paused, just out of shock of hearing my first name. “Take it easy, will you?”

I stalked back to my office.

Damn that old man, he knows.

But how could he know? I played over our recent encounters. I hadn’t let anything slip, not a clue. How could he know?

But I couldn’t deny that he was slowly squeezing me out of his plans. Me! His second in command! He must know something.

Every time I saw him,no comma he watched me with that goddamned knowing glint in his eyes and that irritating purse of his lips. He was judging me. Judging me for using means other than his means to eek out a living. A bloke needs money, White! And it’s no different than the means than you use. You justify manipulating government as being for the “greater good.” So why can’t I manipulate people if it’s for my greater good?

I slammed my fists on the stacks of paper that cluttered my desk and rose from my chair. I needed to worry about my own good. And that meant getting my money.

Time to pay Carlos a visit.

I loosened my tie as I walked from my office.combine sentences Down the hall lined with exhausted workers and through the steel doors. I ignored the receptionist’s curious glance as I walked into the open air outside HQ.

Carlos was the doorman for a sleazy apartment complex, the type that shouldn’t need a doorman with. Ddingy brick walls, dented mail-slots, and a crooked stairwell slanting from the lobby. Carlos reclined in his sagging chair next to the dented mail-slots, mouth lolling open.

“Wake up, slug. Your time’s up.”

I loosened the gun from my belt and kicked the leg of his chair.

Carlos tipped off the chair with a yelp and landed in a heap. He stared at me and the gun I was stroking before scrabbling to his feet and barreling head first into the nearest door. With a sickening crack, the lock gave way and both Carlos and the door tumbled into the room.

My slow, deliberate steps followed him into the room.

The apartment we broke into was small, with a kitchenette taking up any discernablediscernible foyer, and a beat-up couch defining the living area. Carlos clawed his way across the shag carpeting, trying to make it out the back door. I stepped on the back of his legs and kicked him on his back.

His eyes bugged out of his head as he stared at me, cheeks paling to the color of curdled milk. “Logan, mate, I’ve got the money. I’ve got it. I’ll get it. Heycomma mate, I have a family,period + new sentence come oncomma why are you pointing that at me man I’llgetyouthebloodymoneydon’tshoo—”

I sneered at him and cocked the gun. He’d had his chances, and getting money from a dead man was easier than waiting around for this scumbag to pay his dues.

I pulled the trigger right as I heard the back door kick open and a woman’s shriek. Before I could even register a face, I was diving across the room, pinning her to the wall, and shoving the muzzle of my gun against her cheekbone. She was a small thing; she wilted in my grasp and stared at Carlos’s corpse with eyes like saucers. She must live here. Would I have to knock her off too?

My ears pricked up at the sound of footsteps charging up the hall—quick, heavy, and measured. I knew who was going to bust open the door before they reached it.

Sure enough, White filled the doorway, and then filled the entire kitchenette before barreling into the living area. Johnson and Greenam, White’s bodyguard and head of security respectivelysounds too formal for this piece, stood on either side of the doorway, angling their guns across their bodies. Their eyes switched between Carlos and the girl I had pinned against the wall, but White’s eyes zeroed in on me.

“Koust! What are you doing here?”

I met his accusatorystating the obvious stare. “I got a call about strange behavior here, White, and came to investigate even though I was off duty. I just got here a moment ago, right when this chit? pulled the trigger.”

White finally broke our staring contest,delete comma and commainsteadcomma analyzed the girl. He pursed his lips, and met my gaze again. “I’ll take the girl in toI believe, in this case, the correct word is "into". custody. Koust, escort Greenam here back to base, and wait for me in my office. We need to have a word.”

I nodded, though I had no intention of going back to base.

As we exited the apartment complex, I whipped out my cell phone and checked an imaginary incoming message. “Bugger. I’ve got to run; wait for me in White’s office, ok?”

Greenam nodded at me, no commaand continued down the sidewalk. Gullible bastard.

Carlos was predictable. I knew just where to find his stash. Distrustful of banks, his money was stuffed in a sock under his mattress. He was short two-grand.

His family would have to make up the difference.
Review of Soul Mates  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
What an unusual story! It's a multileveled story that adds different dimensions to the traditional ghost story. You handle the themes of appearance and reality, love, and death well. You make the reader think. In regard to style, I love the way you interject the thoughts of the characters. (I like to do that too.)

I do have an observation regarding your unorthodox use of semicolons. For example, in "He paid no attention to his coworkers; becoming progressively more detached from those around him" a comma will suffice instead of a semicolon. If you want more emphasis you can use a dash. Also, "In a world that was not a world; two lovers embraced for the first time in decades" is really just one sentence. If you want to add a comma, rather than the semicolon, it is still correct.

It's a wonderful story. You deserve at least second place.

Best of luck with your writing.

Regards, Milhaud
Review of The Dreamer  
Rated: E | (3.5)
This piece is perhaps a bit over intellectual, but not without merit. A teacher connecting with a willing student is a worthy theme.

I chose to do a line by line review on this piece because you show much promise as a writer. I suggested simplification in this piece. At points it becomes too wordy, usually by overusing adverbs or by simply making a statement using unnecessary words.

I suggest you use a writer’s Occam’s Razor. When have the choice to use many or a few words, simplify. Use just a few.

Suggestion: self-editing is incredibly helpful. When finished with a piece, read it out loud. You will catch many errors.

Write on!!

The Dreamer

The sun beat down with an unfaltering ferocity on the crowd of onlookers. Sweat glistened on flushedcomma pink foreheads, families bickered and children screamed for cold treats. One particular group of children could be heard even above the seething rabble, bayyapping? Dogs bay, and too much alliteration sounds awkwardly forced in a short story. relentlessly at a battle-weary bespectacled man. His shirt was patched with sweat, and the thinning remnants of his grey mopsuggest you change “mop”; “mop” implies abundant hair. were plastered to his face.

“Pleasecomma Mr Graham, please!”

“You promised sir,period + new sentence you said you would!”

“Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!”

The chanting was the final straw. Mrperiod Baxter wiped his brow, sighed and rescinded his opposition.Is it Mr. Graham or Mr. Baxter?

“Ok, ok. But I'll be missing the show for you kids. That's hardly fair.”

“Wellcomma you should have gone earlier thencomma sir,” one mischievous young redhead quipped from the centre of the mass of identically-dressed juvenilesUsually in a story like this the simpler Anglo-Saxon rooted word proves best; I’d ditch most of the French/Latin-based words.

A smile spread across the teacher's lips. “You kids are getting too smart for your own good, you know that?”

“You're the one who's teaching us!” The redhead was on razor-sharp form.

“Touche, Keiran. Well, since I will be missing the show for you kids, I want you to do something for me.” Mr Baxter scratched his chin pensively. “I want the names of everything you see in the show while I am away, so I will at least know what I have missed."

“Heh, that'll be tough.” Keiran whispered, just loud enough to reach the awaiting ear of his teacher.

“In Latin.”

A groan went up from the assembly.

“Just make sure you don't miss any. This will count towards your final grade.” Mr Baxter grinned, winked, and set off with a purposeful stride towardstowards x 2 the vendor.

The children resumed their chatting, giggling and hair pulling.

Only one sat silent. He stared straight ahead in awe, his eyes splitMaybe change “split”? It implies a slit, not something wide open. wide open in sheer, unadulterated amazement as the animals performed their stunts. The seals were just finishing up their act, leaping simultaneously through hoops suspended far above the water. A ripple of applause ran through the crowd, and the announcer stepped confidentlyToo many intensifiers (adverbs} distract from the story. onto stage, mike in hand.

“Wow, wasn't that amazing folks?” the announcer flicked flicked a few strands of hair away from her face,Period + new sentence “say a big thank you to our favourite seals, Bella and Stinky!”

The crowd generated a louder ripple, punctuated with the sharpsharp is redundant. stab of wolf whistles. The silent lad clapped rapturously, rising out of his seat for a moment, until the disapproving gaze of his peers forced him back down. The seals waved gleefully, accepted their scaly, oily bonus, and waddled off stage.

“Ok, so up next, warming up for our stars, we have an orca of unrivaled talent, Ozzy!” The announcer clapped absent-mindedly as she made her way back into the wings.

A large gate lowered just under the surface of the water and a gigantic black shape slipped through into the deep blue pool. Ozzy circled languidly underwater for a moment, then powered upwards with a few strokes of his huge tail. Breaking effortlessly through the surface tension, he leapt clear of the water in an ambitious impersonation of a flying fish. His huge dappled frame hung motionless in the air for a split second, before crashing back to waterearth, sending a virtualsmall tsunami towards the crowd.

The silent spectatorAbout whom are you talking? recommenced his clappingclapped with increased vigour. He was soaked from head to toe, but in contrast to his classmates he barely seemed to notice. He remained enthusiastically fixated as Ozzy continued his well-rehearsed exhibition, proudly displaying his agility and precise control. He repeated the tsunami maneuver several times, taking great care to cover every possible angle. Each time, fresh screams erupted from the freshly-moistenedsoaked sections of crowd.

Ozzy wrapped up his act with an almighty leap, sending a gargantuanWith gargantuan and tidal you are being redundant – stating the obvious. tidal wave over the onlookers. Screams were muffled this time, the majority having already been drenched beyond objection. He sidled over to the side of the pool and rested his head on the tiles, mouth gaping in anticipation of his bribeor reward?. The trainer reached into his bucket and removed the rear end of a tuna, tossing it casually into Ozzy's expectantopen maw. The teeth clasped together, and Ozzy sank contentedly back beneath the surface and squeezed back through the gate.

“That was pretty cool huh?” The announcer's jubilant form had slipped back onto stage. “Hope you guys aren't too wet. Although a refreshing dip might be what we all need on a day like today? It's a scorcher, right? Phew!” She fanned theatrically in front of her perfectly tanned face. “Now, for our finale, we have the cleverest animals in the sea. Maybe the whole world, depending on your opinion of us humans!” A chuckle raisedrose from sections of the crowd, our silent spectator being the only vocal one from his group.This doesn’t seem to make sense. “So, it's now time for the superstars to make their appearance. I'd like you to give an extra special welcome to our very special pair of dolphins, Anna and Tobias!”

Two grey bolts streaked out from the gate, separating and circling the pool in opposite directions. They gradually built speed then turned towards each other, rising bullet-like towards the surface. As they broke through, they threwtilted their noses backwards, flipping gracefully in front of the awestruck crowd before crashing back into the cool water. They made their way over to the trainers and collected their reward. They devoured their morsels in one gulp, then broke away, moving backwards in parallel with their flippers raised.

The quiet observer had reached a new level of fascination, motionless in his seat, face frozen in slack-jawed incredulityslack-jawed and incredulity show the same thing.. A subtle prod from the returning Mrperiod Baxter snapped him back to reality.

“Sorry sir!” He exclaimed, shifting backwards to allow his teacher past.

“Not a problem Quinn. Always glad to see one of my students engrossed in the wonders of nature. Even in such a regrettably artificial environment as this." A faint sigh escaped his lips as he gazed towards the watery prison. "But, beggars can't be choosers,period + new sentence those of us without the fortune to frequent the Caribbean must take opportunities where we can.” He smiled down at his pupil and handed him a rapidly softening vanilla, ice cream cone of sugary, vanilla-tinged goodness.

He turned to his right and passed the tray of cones along the row.

“There's only enough for one eachcomma kids, so don't get greedy1????? Typo?” He pronounced, hopefully. “Now, what did I miss?”

“Dolphins and killer whales!” Keiran chimed without a moment's hesitation.

“Very good Keiran, but I have momentarily lost my grasp of the English language. Any chance you could go back to basics for me? The whale should be easy, I heard the announcer give you the important half of the answer...”

Keiran's eyes sank back to the floor. For a moment the class shifted uneasily in its seats, desperate to avoid being chosen to havepicked upon and having their ignorance exposed to public scrutiny. Finally, after endlessseveral seconds of tense apprehension, a saviour piped up.

“The whales were Orcas sir.” Quinn intoned softly. “And dolphins are Tursiops Truncatus.”

Mrperiod Baxter's bushycomma grey eyebrows rose far above the rims of his glasses. “Very impressive. Even the correct species too. Your precision is enviable.”

He sank back into his seat beside Quinn, slowly making his way through the collapsingmelting mound of ice cream perched atop his conical wafer.

Quinn's eyes remained fixed on the spectacle. The sense of kinship he felt with these beautiful animals was beyond anything he had ever encountered before. The way they responded to instructions and the fact the trainers seemed to be able to carry out conversations with them put even his father's eternally obedient collie to shame. The impression he got of them was almost supernatural, their mischievous playfulness seeming to betray some higher knowledge.

He thought back to the chimps he had seen earlier, during the class's tour of the zoo. A group of young males had been rounding one of their herdclan into a corner and picking violently at himWhat actions did they show when they were “picking violently?” as he yelped in distress. The elder chimps barely seemed to notice, allowing this torture to continue unabated as the class looked on. Several of Quinn's classmates had giggled and snickered at the display, but Quinn just felt queasy. Mrsame Baxter had remarked on how, even after thousands of years of evolution, in many ways people still hadn't progressed that far beyond the primitive state.

Comparing that horrific scene to the graceful cooperation of these two mammals twisted Quinn's mind for a moment, drawing a nagging discomfort up from the depths of his soul. A thought formed in his mind, and the discomfort eased slightly.

Mr Baxter tapped him on the shoulder.

“Sorry to interruptcomma Quinn, but I have a question for you.”

Quinn didn't shift his eyes from the soaring sea life, but Mr Baxter's curiosity pushed him forwards.

“How did you know the Latin names of those animals?” The elder man scratched his puzzled head in puzzlement. “That's pretty technical stuff.”

“My Dad works with animals,period + new sentence we have loads of books at home and every time they are on the TV that's what we have to watch.comma: this is a speech tag.” Quinn muttered impatiently.

“I see, I see. Well, that's a good thing,period + new sentence all knowledge gives benefits. Sometimes it just takes us a while to see it's use.”

The pair settled back into staring at the leaping dolphins, the spray casting glittering, fragmented rainbows through the air.

“Sir?” Quinn had broken free from the hypnotic spectacle.

“Yes?” Mr GrahamGraham or Baxter? turned to face his pupil.

“I was thinking Sir.” Quinn began hesitantly. “Wouldn't it be better if we had evolved from dolphins?”

“Better in what way Quinn?” Mr Baxter's interest had been piqued by his precocious pupil.

“Well, I looked at the chimpanzees earlier, and they were bullying the littler one. And they didn't seem to be too clever really,period + new sentence they just looked dirty and bored.” He paused for a breath, his brow furrowed with the effort of concentration,period + new sentence “but these dolphins are friends,New sentence here. they are working together. And they seem to be so clever compared to the chimps.”

Mr Baxter's brow furrowedwrinkled in imitation of Quinn the younger participant's expression. He cleared his throat and spoke carefully, measuring each word.

“Wellcomma Quinn, that is an interesting idea.” His hand returned to scratching his chin thoughtfully. “Have you ever heard of the missing link?”

Quinn shook his head, eye's firmly fixed on his teacher.

“Well, there is a period where there is a gap in the fossil record between humans and apes. There are many theories about why that has happened, but one seems particularly relevant to our conversation.” He paused for a moment to allow his words to sink in. Quinn looked on, tapping his leg expectantly.

“It has been suggested that man went through an amphibious phase, living by the shore and venturing out to sea to hunt. Some have theorised that this may account for the prevalence of webbed feet and hands among the populace, and possibly even the vestigial gills seen on fetuses.” He looked at his studentcharge, trying to gauge his reaction.

Quinn's face was expressionless, waiting waiting eagerly for the punchline.

“To me it seems unlikely that evolution would have moved in such a way. But there are a lot of differences between apes and us,period + new sentence for examplecomma we are the only ape that can swim underwater due to the unusual shape of our noses, and our body hair is designed to give good aqua-dynamic properties.” Once again he gathered his thoughts. Once again Quinn waited with bated breath.

“Arguably, it could beis possible that the mainstream view has it very wrong. Maybe our ancestors were actually fully aquatic, evolved from dolphins and emerged from the sea. The lack of evidence could be explained by the shifting of the sea bed, grinding any potential fossils into sand.”

“Wow!” Quinn exclaimed, “do you really think that's true?”

Mr Baxter caught Quinn's excited gaze,no comma and spoke calmly and clearly.

“To be honestcomma Quinn, not really. The genetic evidence suggests otherwise. However, a scientist should never shy away from considering every possibility, no matter how unlikely. Have I told you about Occam's Razor?” A raised eyebrow prompted Quinn to speak.

“Yes, you taught us about it last week. I think you used a quote from Sherlock Holmes.”

“Ahcomma well. That was rather prescient of me.” Mr Baxter took another large lick of the disintegratingdisappearing ice-cream, “I should have mentioned that quote is in fact that is somewhat of a simplification of the true Razor, howevercomma for our purposescomma it is an ideal maxim. Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Quinn's gaze remained focused on his teacher.

“The problem, oftentimes, is that many possibilities are disregarded as being impossible without being given the proper consideration. It is all too easy to blindly follow the beaten path.” His hand reached up to clear the perspiration that was gathering in his eyebrows, “however, the real progress is made by those who push far outside what is considered to be the truth. If Copernicus, or Darwin, or Einstein had not alienated themselves from the theories of their contemporaries, we could still be living in the centre of the universe, on a 12,000 year old planet with absolutely no idea about the nature of the fabric of our reality.”

“So, we aren't evolved from dolphins then?” Disappointment laced Quinn's words, showing the agony of having a thought crushed flowing through like a wave of uncertainty.

“Well, I wouldn't go that far. All a rational scientist can ever say these days is that isit seems highly improbable. Those infernal quantum physicists and their conceptual cats have deprived us of all certainty, for the time being.” Seeing the desperation on the younger's face, he searched for a way to relieve some of Quinn's pain. “In reality, dolphins can have a nasty streak too, you know. They bully, and kill, just the same as the rest of the animal kingdom.”

His comment only served to etch the sorrow deeper into the unblemished face before him. Mr Baxter sighed, and decided on a final gambit.

“But that, my young friend, is not to say that we have to behave like our ancestors. We have evolved, and been given the freedom to choose. Something that not many animals can really equal. As such, to blame our evolutionary history for our failings is to deny our ability as humans to behave in a rational and considered manner.”

Quinn's face brightened.

“The sad thing is that few people will accept their own power in that regard. It is much easier to have a scapegoat than to realise that we are all at fault, through our own willingness to accept the terrible things we do as a species.”

Quinn frowned briefly, then elucidatedspoke his response.

“Maybe we just haven't evolved far enough yet to realise that we can choose. Maybe in the future we will be able to stop hurting each other.”

Mr Baxter allowed a wry smile to pass his lips. “I hope you're right kiddo,period I really do.”

The pair turned back to the pool, and watched silently as the dolphins effortlessly towed their trainers through the water, a knowing smile permanently painted on their faces.
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Plot: a girl returns home after having a baby to bury her mother. But she can’t bury her past and her memories.

Characters: mother, child, and child’s father. We find out just enough about each so that we want to learn more.

Grammar: some misuse of semicolons and some missing commas. See line by line.

Style/ Voice: you employ a nice, easy, relaxed Southern style. I tried to suggest ways to make it tighter by eliminating unnecessary words.

Setting: this has always been one of your strong points – descriptive writing. I feel like I can see this place. Well done.

Overall: for the most part this is nicely written. I assume it is the introduction to a longer piece that will be a flashback. It makes me want to read more.

Island of My Heart

Three years ago I stood in this exact same spot, at this exact same time. Watching as the sun sank over the horizon. My toes squished into the wet sand, as cold salt water rushed over my bare feet, spritzing my face with the stinging mist. Wind swept down the shore and tangled my long blonde hair. Blowing it across my face; I pushed it back with my free hand.

The only thing different than the last time I had beenfrom the last time I stood on this seashore was that the little girl standing beside me was no longer in my belly.

I looked down at my dark haired angel;improper use of a semicolon; use a period or dash. the angel I had almost given up. Thanking God that I hadn't. My amazing saving Grace. She was everything to me, and leaving my family and this island was all worth it. The day I felt her move for the first time convinced me of that. Having her was the only smart decision I made that year. And she alonewas the only one that gave me the strength to come back here to face my past.

Standing in front of the house I grew up in,no comma and holding the hand of the reason I left;comma I can't believe I'm here. That I came back. It was finally time to bury my past-- along with my mother.

The sun had almost disappeared was disappearing beneath the deep blue sea, and the crisp March air was cutting into my bones. I had forgotten how cold Dauphin Island got in the winter. Gracie's hand felt frozen in mine; I lifted her up in my arms and hugged her close. Her wetcomma sandy feet soaked the hips of my old Levi's.

"Mommy, I wanna swim!" she lisped said through chattering teeth. Her baby lisp was clearly evident.

Her bigcomma brown eyes watched the crashing waves with excitement, hidingshe hid her face in my shoulder every time a wave roared too close.This last part reads wrong.

"Not tonight, baby, sunset is when the sharks come out to eat," I said. I told her the same warning that had been whispered in my ear so many times as a child.

Her eyes got huge and she watched the ocean as if waiting to catch a glimpse of one of these those monsters.

"Come on." I hefted her up higher on my hip and turned to the familiar beach house that was set on high stilts. "Aunt Clara's waiting for us inside. She got you powder donuts," I saidcomma distracting her with her favorite treat.

Gracie let out a shout of glee and leaned toward the house as if this would somehow get us there faster. I laughed and started back up the beach. Swiping up the two pairs of sandals that we had left farther up the shore;comma here I reminded Gracie that she was required to eat her dinner before she was allowed dessert. Not that either one was any better than the other. Domino's pizza was not exactly Mom's homemade seafood gumbo.

I climbed the dune hills, ignoring the staircase that was setbuilt there for just such a purpose. Clara and I had always played on the hills, even though Mom had constantly warned against it. The dunes were meant to protect against high tides, we were told that playing on them would eventually flatten the hill. I had yet to figure out how two children could ruin something that was supposed to protect against crashing waves.

At the top of the dune I turned around. Swaying Gracie on my hip, I watched the last slice of orange sun sink into the water. I rubbed the gritty wet sand off her feet absently. I felt the weight of her head against my shoulder. Slowly I turned away, and another gust of wind rushed down the beach and bringing with it the low hum of a sweet voice.do NOT separate these two parts. Entwined with the thrum of an old guitar.

I stopped in my tracks, and without breathing, looked across the hundred feet of land that separated our houses. He was sitting on his mama's front porch steps like we used to do for hours every summer when we were young. Him singing and playing, me humming along. Seeing him there again today, I felt like I'd stepped back in time. His deep golden tan never faded, even when the cold came. He was so warmIs “warm” the correct word here?, with chocolate brown eyes, and dark hair that was streaked with blonde from endless hours in the hot sun. He had onwore the same worn and stained pair of jeans I'd threatened to burn so many times. And he had yet to trash the cheap guitar I had bought him for his fifteenth birthday. It was scratched and scribbled oncomma but He'dhe always swornswore it was the best sounding instrument he'd ever played.

The wind caught the tune he was strumming and brought it to my ears, and it saddened me to realize it was an unfamiliar song. I used to know all his music by heart. Yet, it was still lovely, though swept up by the wind. I took a step, as if to move closer, but thought better of it. I'd gotten too close to Johnny Sander's three years ago; I vowed not to do it again.Nice paragraph.

I shifted Gracie on my hip and couldn't help studying her sleeping face. The soft brown curls, strong jaw line, and straight nose never let me forget. My little girl looked just like her father.

I allowed my gaze to rest on him one more time; feeling the heartache of years ago cut me fresh. Mama hadn't wanted me to waste my life with a boy like him. And his mama hadn't wanted the responsibility of two more mouths to feed added to her plate. Abortion was the only option; that was their opinion. Even Johnny, the only person I had in the world, abandoned the fight and settled for adoption. After all, how were two teenagers going to survive alone? Let alone with a baby?

So I gave up on them. The day Mama planned on dragging me down to the clinic, I caught a bus for New Orleans and never looked back. At least not until one week ago when I'd gotten the call from my younger sister, Clara (the only person I'd kept in contact with). She gave me the news of Mama's lost battle with cancer,comma and the date of the funeral.

Yes, I cried. Cried for lost years, for a mother that betrayed me, and for a grandmama my baby would never know. Now I was here, and the past was knocking on the door. get rid of the period and capital.Begging for entry into a place my heart had forgotten existed.

It was at that moment thatThat moment Johnny looked up. The music stopped, and I ran inside.

Rated: E | (3.0)
It has been said of any composing who is needlessly difficult, "He has written two many notes." Indeed, I believe you have used too many words. The concept of life, death, and rebirth is as old as life itself. It is not complex and convoluted or even melodramatic. This tale told simply could be beautiful. Alas, too many words get in the way.

But you have talent. Try a more minimalist style. Sometimes less is more. Write on! Good luck. After #4 I did not bother to do a line by line.


The tree sits on the crest of a hill, a solitary thick brown line dividing the shadowy blue horizon. Lush foliage spills out like an emerald green wig{I'm not sure the "wig" metaphor works., pulled over it's bare brown trunk. Its gnarled roots are like the tentacles of a wooden octopus, thrashing violently in a desperate attempt to escape the cold damp earth. A sheath of coarse bark protects the trunk from the element's fury, the blistering sun and torrential rains launching vain assaults on it's impenetrable exterior. It stares stoically into the distance, a silent sentinel watching over the rolling hills.Be very careful. Words like "thrashing", "violently", and "desperate" basically duplicate each other. Also, comparing the roots to an octopus is fine, but why should it be trying to escape the earth?

An eternity stretches out in front of me, as I stand at the base of this tree, little armsAre the little arms the narrator's arms or what? Unclear. extending towards the red fruits that lie tantalizingly out of reach. The blood red orbs adorn the tree like a thousand Christmas baubles, each glistening softly in the cold afternoon light. I leap up several times, but they are impossibly far away from my outstretched fingertips.

A pair of strong arms lift me up towards the heavens, so high that I can almost pluck the wateryWatery sun? This doesn't really work. sun out from the marshmallow clouds. I gaze in wonder at the fruits surrounding me, eyes finally resting upon two of the finest apples. I reach out, envelopingBe very careful. Words like "enveloping" are Latin derived. You need words more Anglo-Saxon that will go with "grubby." Try "pluck." their fragile ruby shells with my grubby hands, and wrench them free from the tree's stubborn grasp.

Our laughter tinkles in harmony with the whispering spring breeze, each fruit bleeding sweet refreshment unto our parched lips. I gaze up at my dad, smiling the way only five year olds five-year-olds can, without a burden in the world. My hand is snugly ensconced Once again. Don't Latinize. Use a word that goes with "grip." in my dad's large, callused grip, as I fall into a dreamy slumber beneath the tree's watchful gaze.

She is alone with me, and I've never felt so at home. We sprawl out in the shade, the green grass tickling my exposed skin. I am utterly bewitched by her beauty and intelligence, and could spend an entire day just staring atwatching her sleep. We stare out into the endless blue ocean of air, admiring the timeless clouds swirling around in lazy circles. I lean over and kiss her, the taste of her lips an echo of the apple I consumed fifteen years ago, at this very spot. She smells fresh and sunny, as I playfully nip her nose and laugh.

Inevitably, autumn encroaches, a harbingerPlease, something more earthy. that signals an end to springtime romance and bliss. Fiery cascades of dying leaves float through the pallid air onto the brown earth. Each leaf slowly withers, turning from orange to brown to black, an endless marchI fear "march" is the wrong word here. towards their destiny, slowly decaying in their unmarked graves. The apples have long fallen from their great heights onto the unyielding ground, shriveled and decomposing into soft piles of cloyingly sweet rot. I pick up one and hurl it at her retreating back, a dark figure outlined against the setting sun.

I was married comma but not in love, lived in a tiny house that wasn't a home, and endured a life lacking in wealth and in happiness. "Let there be fine furniture," The Wife decreed, and so here I was, slaying an ancient guardian of nature in order to please her.

Violent convulsions wrack my body as the chainsaw starts, a growling mechanical monster created for the sole purpose of destruction. I bring its whirring edge to bear against the trees solid trunk, metal slowly slicing through wooden flesh. The tree shrieks in agony as the cold blade sends splinters hurtling towards my body, deflected by the thick coat of protective clothing I prepared well in advance. Premeditated murder of an old friend, with a mandatory sentence of lifelong guilt and self recrimination. A little melodramatic, perhaps?

Finally, as cold steel triumphs over warm wood,Good line. the tree gives a final tormented groan Be careful. "Tormented" and "groan" merely state the obvious. and keels over, landing with resounding thump on the soft earth. His dead body lies forlornly, the onset of rigor mortis turning his body rigid and cold. Sticky rivers of sweat streaming from my pores mixes with the solitary tear escaping my irismy solitary tear, and I cannot tell which is saltier as they descend into my gaping mouth. I take a deep breath, inhaling the last lingering traces of oxygen expelled from his leaves.

I desecrate the corpse with a hacksaw, shaving off his rough skin with sandpaper, carving out spindly chocolate brown legs and a smooth table surface designed to bear the burden of my coffee, newspapers, and tired feet. I drive cold steel nails through his (palms, sundering his soul as I conjoin his body parts with tenuous artificial links of unfeeling metal)Much too wordy. The Wife begrudgingly parts with a few praises at my craftsmanship, smugly reveling in the fact that it was her idea in the first place. And so his lifeless body is the centerpiece of my living room, a grotesque wooden abomination that fills the room with a faint scent of apples, a constant reminder of the murder of a childhood friend.

My hair is the color of dirty snow, lying in restless piles on the frozen floor. The wind gnaws through my clothes, the exact same ones I wore a decade ago as I committed my crime. The cold seems to consume my entire body as I stumble up the hill, and I wonder if it is the chill of winter, or the numbness emanating from within my heart. All that remains is the severed stump, a tabletop for squirrels and passing wood sprites when I am out of sight. I sigh and reminisce about better times, of springs filled with sweet joy and laughter, of lazy summers spent asleep under the tree, and of dying leaves tracing lines down my skin in autumn. I remember the marriage of convenience, a simple ceremony held beneath your outstretched branches, almost as if you were bestowing a silent blessing on our union.

My wife has been dead for a year now. On a night similar to this, Death himself entered my home and plunged his sharpened sickle into the pulsating heart residing within her corpulent body. When I awoke the next morning, I found her body to be as cold as the linoleum floor she lay on, face frozen in a terrifying visage of torment and agony.

That night, I lie down and stare at the shadows lurking in the ceiling corner. I feel my heart pounding, breath coming in short gasps, as though I am sprinting towards the finishing line of a race. Rivulets of sweat escape my pores, flowing down my flushed skin as I start the shiver violently. The surroundings begin to blur, reality fading rapidly out of focus. My eyelids slide shut like gigantic marble epithets, never to open again.

I am buried in accordance to my will, next to the stump of the old apple tree sitting forlornly at the edge of the world. The roots seem to embrace my remains, cradling me snugly in a wooden coffin for all eternity. My meager possessions are sold, paying a man to ensure that my final wish is fulfilled.

The young green shoot bursts forth from the damp earth above my corpse, hungrily devouring the sunlight, gulping down copious amounts of fresh rainwater to satiate it's thirst. Two years pass, as the gardener stops by monthly to ensure the saplings steady growth. Soon, the tree is self-sufficient.

Seasons pass in a flurry of sun and snow, and the tree stretches upwards, a Jacob's Ladder ascending into the heavens. And so they stand, one tall tree towering over an ancient tree stump, a magnificent monument to life, death, and everything in between.

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