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1
1
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hi, L. Stephen O'Neill ,

I'm reviewing your story at long last. My sincere apologies for the long delay in feeding back.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

The idea that MacWoad first developed his battle armor to protect the bagpipers is a stroke of genius, providing a believable springboard for the development of the technology for fighters as well as pipers. Using steam-driven tanks to carry the company and wind up the UHI suits is a great touch, too. Details like the protective inner suit that looks like long underwear, the backplate springs and auxiliary winders, and the black-and-green (Black Watch?) tartan all contribute to the picture, allowing even a non-mechanically-inclined reader to both visualize and feel comfortable in the scene. Well, maybe "comfortable" isn't the right word, but you know what I mean. The story you built around MacWoad and his untried technology works beautifully. The end vignette, in which the UHI retreat from Florence (Nightingale?) is a hoot, and ends the piece on an upbeat note.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

PLOT: Logical within its established rules, moves steadily forward to a satisfying end.

The tech is logical, the interactions between MacWoad and the cavalry Earl is believable, if a bit cliché, and the descriptions of the battle and MacWoad's interactions with his troops are all well-drawn. I find very little to nit-pick here.

DESCRIPTION: Consistent portrayals of characters/settings, woven into the action.

... or here...

VOICE: The somewhat formal Victorian flavor characteristic of Steampunk narrative.

... or here.

GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION & SPELLING: ...you know.

When MacWoad turning back, the Earl had already gone, bellowing orders, as cavalry continued to form up for the charge. turned

To his immediate left his piper strode with him. The piper's suit sported over-lapping shields, left and right, that covered arms, hands, and bagpipes. His instrument was his weapon, the howling mournful call that raised the spirits of the men of the highland regiments and weakened the knees of their enemies. The six UHI to his left and his right each paced with their own armored and shielded piper. I mean the UHI to be shock troops, meant to engender terror as we inexorably marched toward our victim's battle lines, and the pipes bring with the banshee wail of the highlands.The last sentence in this paragraph, MacWoad's inner commentary, is not italicized, as other thought-comments of his have been. Without the italics or any thought-attribution, it seems as if you've simply lapsed from 3rd to 1st person.

They had worked their way higher on the slope, but were coming on line despite it now that the UHI was nearing their first goal."the UHI was nearing its first goal."

He thrust his left arm toward the enemy line and sent a hail of sharpnel at the nervous artillerymen. shrapnel

His ears rang, he feared his fight might be done as he stumbled through the murk of smoke and falling dirt, but the suit marched on undetered despite his ringing ears and how his body ached form the jolt. This may be a difference between British and American English, but we spell it "deterred" in the USA.

"Tell the general I'll do all I can," said MacWoad, returning the junior officer's salute and watching as the man wheel and rode off at a gallop. wheeled

His dismounted engineers had rolled the metal hulk onto it's front. its

comment

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

A few nit-picky things in the language mechanics department is all I have to offer beside glowing praise for this piece. Your work is always a pleasure to read, Stephen. I know I've said this about other short works of yours, but I'll repeat it here: Write more of this. MacWoad deserves to have his story told.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


2
2
Review of The Ride  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi, L. Stephen O'Neill

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

You do not disappoint, Stephen, that's for sure. Beth and Jon are marvelous characters, the socio-political milieu in which they live is realistic and interesting, the technology of "The Ride" is very cool and described well enough that the reader can envision it perfectly.

A SUGGESTION:

You have Jon accept Wellson's coined term for the simulation chamber "experitorium", but later you refer to it as an "imagitorium". This might be a simple regression to a previous word Jon used for it, but if so, that is not established, and should be clarified. If not, then you should choose one or the other. (For whatever it's worth, I like "experitorium").

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

I find myself saying this a lot, because I'm the kind of reader who wants to live long in the imagination of the authors I enjoy: write more of this. Expand upon it, find a theme you want to explore, and take these characters through their world in search of resolution to the challenges you've already set, and whatever larger issues affect them and those they love. Give your readers the chance to grow with you and your story. It's definitely worth the effort, in my humble opinion.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


3
3
Review of Family Jewels  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi, TJ Marie

I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for the August round of The Pressure Valve. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

I like the basic concept of this piece - the quest for a mysterious artifact with vast power. Jetta, too, seems like she would be an interesting character, if we were to learn more about her than the fact that she is a clever inventor. I encourage you to develop her character and this story line more fully.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

PLOT: Logical within its established rules, moves steadily forward.

You did not take full advantage of the contest's word limit (3,000 words) to develop your story and provide a fully rendered view of the unit of action you chose to portray. I believe you could have set up your situation with more of a motivation - a need - for Jetta to be seeking the Steam Goggles, and an obstacle or two in her way. As it is, the reader is not given a compelling reason to anticipate further entries in the tale.

DESCRIPTION: Consistent portrayals of characters/settings, woven into the action.

As I said above, I think Jetta can be a very interesting character if you were to flesh her out a bit more. I suggest that you ask yourself questions about her and her desire to obtain the Steam Goggles. How has her love of steam tech affected her relationship with others? What characteristic of the Goggles does she need to have in order to solve some pressing problem or challenge, or to achieve some greatly desired goal? I'm sure you can think of many others. Great need, high stakes are needed to give the reader compelling reasons to read on.

VOICE: The somewhat formal Victorian flavor characteristic of Steampunk narrative.

3rd person, present tense narration from the POV of Jetta. This can be effective, if all of Jetta's senses are used to give the reader a complete picture of the setting and people with whom she interacts. Again, asking pertinent questions relating to her experience can help to paint a richer, more complete picture. What are the surroundings of the strange dwelling she approaches? Is it fully exposed on a desert plane? Hidden in a deep, narrow canyon? Clinging to a steep mountainside overlooking a breathtaking panorama? What is the weather like? Is it hot or cold? Is Jetta dressed comfortably for the conditions? What does Julius Bottombum look like? Is he a warm and inviting grandfather type? A scary-looking hermit? Does he smell bad? I'm sure you get the idea.

GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION & SPELLING: ...you know.

Unfortunately, this piece is in need of a thorough proofreading and edit. There are grammatical, word usage and spelling/typographical issues throughout. Entries should be proofread before posting, as per the instructions.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

As I said at the top, I like the basic concept of this piece. I think it has real potential, should you decide to give it the attention it needs. In any case, this is only my opinion, and I thank you very much for entering The Pressure Valve. Good luck!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


4
4
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
This sounds like a formidable setting for an adventure starring Charles and Francis, or any set of steampunk character you choose to place here. There's a nice mixture of ingenuity and craftiness, of beauty and ugliness, of sublime and depraved. Very well done.

There are a couple of grammatical issue (or at least, some things I would tweak a bit):

The satin and silk gowns of the rich are replaced by rags worn by many and handed down (or stolen) to another.

I would probably change this to:

The satin and silk gowns of the rich are replaced by rags worn by many and handed down from (or stolen by) another.

Also, in paragraph 2:

Steams pours out of the mechanical horses noses...

I would go with "steam pours" or "steams pour".

Nice work!
Best regards,
CeruleanSon

5
5
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: E | (5.0)
This is an excellent profile for your character, Charles. The detail sounds very interesting, indeed. I hope you'll consider sending him and Francis to Australia for an entry in the August round of Steampunk Authors Guild short story contest, "The Pressure Valve - closed for now..
6
6
Review of Random Quiz  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi, Squee,

After reading your submission to The Firebox, I thought I'd pop over to your port to check out some of your other work, and this quiz caught my eye. I know it's one of your older bits, and you're probably not much interested in revisiting it, but I wanted to share with you my reaction to it nonetheless.

I answered none of the questions, but I enjoyed reading every one of them. You, madam, are a very strange person.

This sort of nonsensical comedy is the sort of thing one writes while one's inhibitions are off "playing tiddlywinks in a minefield." Some folks, the types committed to "serious" writing, or "serious" comedy (if there is such a thing) might not appreciate this stuff. Personally, I love it! Smile It reminds me of the sort of off-the-wall humor written by the likes of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett - dry and tongue-in-cheek, yet also completely mad.

The fact remains, however, that it is a very subjective thing, this funny-ness, and as has been said by funnier people than I (who are far more numerous than I like to admit), it's hard. It's even harder to review. All I can do is repeat what I said before: I enjoyed reading every one of these questions and responses.

Thanks for the chuckles.

Best regards,
CeruleanSon

BTW, there are a couple of typos (or at least I think they are; it's hard to tell with this kind of material):
#8 - Dindjuns - DINDJUMS
#12 - HAMPSTER

-CS


7
7
Review of Kalamity  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi, kiyasama

I'm reviewing "Kalamity" as a part of my judging process for "The Pressure Valve - closed for now.. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

This is a lovely, bittersweet story about the human price paid for technological progress. Your main characters are portrayed fully, and their humanity is well-established. The Captain may be a bit flat and stereotypical, but it’s difficult to flesh out minor characters in a piece of this length. Edmund and Sarah, along with the roguish Henry, are quite strong enough to carry the story.

You’ve chosen to set your tale in a Victorian age that is in some ways very like the historical one, and in others very unlike it.

For example, in her conversation with Henry, Sarah shows the expectation that proper language be used in front of a lady, indicating Victorian sensibilities, yet she has no qualms about cohabitating with her fiancée. I’m sure premarital sex happened back then, but at least for the class of people you seem to be portraying, it was a much more discreet occurrence. Cohabitation would have ruined a woman’s reputation, and marked the man as a scoundrel.

The juxtaposition of the two consecutive events especially points out the contradiction. The scene in their bedroom was well done and believable, and it would be a shame to lose it. One way of dealing with it is to make the circumstances of their liaison less conspicuous, more ‘in the closet’.

Another choice might be a small bit of rewriting of the scene with Henry. You could shift Sarah from ‘frail Victorian’ to ‘strong modern woman” and bring the two scenes into agreement. This would establish the story’s Victorian society as differing from history, which is not at all a bad thing, as long as the writer chooses to do so and remains consistent within his/her established "Victorian-esque" society.

I hope that my observations are helpful to you; they are offered sincerely and intended as possible options, to be taken or discarded as you choose. Despite these small things, I enjoyed your story very much. You are a multitalented person, Kiya, and all the folks here at WdC are lucky to have you here working with us.

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


8
8
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hello, Raiden ,

Here is a review of your work, "Dragonborn Part II. I hope you find it helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

This is an excellent story. I'll have to check out its previous episode when I get a chance. Very cool that you had a story line that already fit the criteria for this prompt. You did a fine job with introducing the characters and the premise; I felt no lack for having come in at Part 2. Is this scenario based on some game from Bethesda Softworks, or have you only borrowed the word Dragonborn from them?

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

There are a few technical issues, one of which I'll mention here.

Sure, he knew it had happened, and any normal person in his circumstances probably would have simply fainted and died (what with all the burning, explosions, fire-breathing dragons, dragon-egg Christmas presents, gangsters getting eaten alive--one couldn't be blamed for it being a lot to take in), but something buried deep within Cory's brain, somewhere in the raw instinct of his amygdala, he ran onward.

If you remove the parenthetical aside (in red) from the above sentence, it's easier to see that something is missing. What, exactly, did the something buried deep within Cory's brain, somewhere in the raw instinct of his amygdala, cause him to think or feel that spurred him to run onward? The "he ran onward" is an independent clause at the least, and should be separated from the rest by a semicolon. It could easily be a separate sentence altogether.

The very few other issues are either typographical or simple usage errors that you can easily find and correct with a proofread.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This is a nice piece of work, Raiden. I wish you the best of luck with it, both in the contest and beyond.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


9
9
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi, GEOFFREY ROBSON

The CSFS Snowman Raid! has come to your port! I hope you find this review helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

The knick-knacks. My mom does exactly the same thing. Every horizontal surface and vacant wall space covered with little porcelain figurines or framed prints of Santa, snowmen, reindeer, etc. Also, the theme of duty vs. politics hits home with me, because my nephew is currently in Afghanistan, fighting for his country, while here at home, pundits and politicians discuss his fate and that of all the other men and women serving there. I don't know what's politically correct or incorrect, I just know I want my nephew home, whole and as undamaged as anyone can be who witnesses the horrors of war. The contrast of the warrior's place in the holiday that celebrates humankind's love for its children is a strong one, and quite effective.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

The one thing I noticed that confused me a bit was the way the first segment transitioned from Dan's memory of a Christmas Eve when he first kissed his sweetheart to one where he is - it seems to me - a specter observing his mother's grief at his absence, presumably during his tour in Viet Nam. I think this transition comes without enough indication to the reader that there is a time-shift (or a perspective-shift) occurring.

If Dan is having this entire memory/vision of his Mom during the time he is suffering from his horrific wound, I think there still needs to be some indication, either of the shift itself or the fact that the entire vignette is being recalled from a moment further along in time, then switches to a vision of something occurring even as Dan suffers on the battlefield.


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This is a nice, emotionally evocative piece, GEOFFREY ROBSON . Thanks for sharing it, and good luck with all of your writing endeavors.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards & Happy Holidays,
CeruleanSon

10
10
Review of My Last Tale  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello, Jakrebs ,

Here is a review of your work, "My Last Tale. I hope you find it helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

I like this story. Odrac is something of an enigma, but he is likable- respectful of his master, and honorable in his pursuit of knowledge. Yort is the quintessential benevolent teacher. The various dragon types are interesting, and the resolution of the tale- though somewhat predictable, partly because of the foreshadowing you employ- is still satisfying.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

The use of the passive case (It is thought, It is believed, It is surmised) in Odrac's telling of the lore in the beginning of the tale is somewhat problematic, in my opinion. The actual people who are doing these things are not mentioned, only that these things are being done. The sentences could be made more compelling to the reader by using active subjects and verbs instead: (Some think, Others believe, Yet others even surmise). See the difference? The same things are still being done, but the inclusion of the pronoun subject says who is doing it, making the statement more active and alive.

There are multiple places in the manuscript where words are missing from sentences, punctuation is placed incorrectly, and the wrong homynym (ex.: bare instead of bear) is used. These things are almost certainly evidence of ineffective proofreading. When presenting work for consideration, whether it be by contest judges, editors, publishers, or the readers you would like to read further, these sorts of technical issues are important. Cleaning up a manuscript before inviting readers in is very much like cleaning one's house before inviting guests over: it gives the right impression. Smile


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

You've done some good work here, Jakrebs. There's a lot to like about this tale. Keep writing!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


11
11
Review by CeruleanSon
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Lady Katie-Marie -Published :)

I'm reviewing your story "A Matter of Timing as a part of my judging process for "In the Manner of... CLOSED. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

As a fan of Conan Doyle and of the Holmes stories, I was quite happy to find your entry to the contest. Your narrative voice is a very good facsimile of the tone CD uses to relay the writings of Dr. Watson. You include the obligatory exercise of Holmes' observational deductions at the outset of the tale with the story of Watson's rusted lock (also a nice bit of foreshadowing into the nature of the main conundrum).

It is obvious to me that you either researched the particulars of the Royal Mint, or you very convincingly created the details from your imagination. The particulars of the case, too, are well done; the baffling puzzle of coins recovered before they are stolen, the solution of the criminal engineers carrying the coins out in full view of the guards whise vigilance lapses through familiarity, even the calculation of the time it would take to mint 4,000 sovereigns on a single press work out convincingly.

Very well done, indeed!


SOME SUGGESTIONS:

MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.

There were a couple of usage errors that caught my eye.

For example, there are two places where you use the word "gleam" (to shine brightly, esp. with reflected light) in place of "glean" (to extract information from something).

Mostly, though your manuscript is clean, and well-edited.


STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.

As I mentioned at the outset, I believe you've done a fine job of capturing CD's style, and structuring a good detective story.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Very nice work, Katie. Thanks so much for entering "In the Manner of..."

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


12
12
Review of Time to heal  
Review by CeruleanSon
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hello, Karl ,

Here is a review of your work, "Time to heal. I hope you find it helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

Your description of the arid desert across which the figure in black makes his way is quite good, as is the way you describe the obelisk and its workings. The scene where the Siqwai hunters kill the beautiful female dragon and destroy her eggs is sufficiently horrific to cause this reader to feel pangs of compassion for her. Afterward, the anguish of the dark figure as he remembers the sensuality of their love, and the final statement that time does not heal all wounds, touched my own emotions in empathy, and provided a fitting conclusion to the tale. Very nicely written, Karl.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

I have only a couple of suggestions to make.

First, your descriptions stick to the visual sense all the way up to the point where you describe the dragon's agony. Some use of the dark figure's other senses in the beginning of the tale might round out the descriptions somewhat, and if executed in just the right way, perhaps even add a dimension of foreshadowing that might connect with the experience to come.

Second, "the twelfth anniversary of the twelfth anniversary of the twelfth anniversary"

I know what you're going for here, but what you've written, I think, only takes us 36 years forward from the incident. An anniversary is a commemoration of a one-year span from an incident, so the twelfth anniversary of the twelfth anniversary is the 24th anniversary, and the twelfth anniversary of that is the 36th. I think "the twelfth-times-twelfth-times-twelfth anniversary", or something similar, would give you the millennium or so you're looking for.


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Avery nice job overall on this tale, Karl. Thanks for the good read.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


13
13
Review of The Anniversary  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Hello, Prester John ,

Here is a review of your work, "The Anniversary. I hope you find it helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

The language you've used to narrate this compelling tale of a minstrel who travels about, sowing the seeds of vengeance against the usurper of his beloved queen, is nothing less than magnificent. The details, from the description of Almayo himself, to the bustling town he surveys from on high, to the beautifully wrought word-painting of the music itself, are exquisite. It seems obvious to me that you are yourself a musician, or at least an educated music-lover. The last image, of Almayo asleep, a tear running down his cheek as he dreams of the betrayal of Queen Eloame, put the finishing touch to the character, and touched my emotions, as well. Very impressive!

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

I have very little to say about how youi might improve this, Prester J, except perhaps that I could have done with a bit more in the way of explanation of Almayo's time as minstrel to Eloame's court, and how he managed to witness the usurpation and live to tell (or sing) the tale.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This is a fine effort, and I think it could well be the start of an epic tale, should you decide to continue with it. I, for one, am already one of Almayo's fans.

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


14
14
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Steampunk Authors' Gui...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi, C. M. Nuckols

I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for "The Pressure Valve - closed for now.. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

You made good use of the Steampunk Sanctum in the guise of Gresham Sanctum, and of our own Jenkins as well, though you provided him with a gruesome (if loyal) end. The cursed ring is a good horror trope, which you used effectively. A nice read!

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.

He started to dream of home, being in his study, researching. As he read through an ancient tome of undiscernable (unknown? uncertain?) origin, the ring began to manifest itself on his finger, burning his hand. As it did, the tome he was reading began to take the form of a hideous creature, almost human, but walking on all fours. Using active verbs rather than turning the actions into direct objects by preceding them with a less active verb, as you have done here, makes your sentences more powerful. Try this version on for size: "He dreamt of home. He was in his study, researching. As he read through an ancient tome of unknown origin, the ring manifested itself on his finger, burning his hand. At the same moment, the book transformed, slowly taking the form of a hideous creature, one almost human, yet walking on all fours." Do you see the difference?

The professor lied (lay, or possibly laid) in bed for the rest of the night, unable to sleep after his disturbingly realistic-feeling nightmare."Lied" is the past tense of "lie", as in to tell a lie.

He immediately began pouring (poring) over old, dusty tomes that contained legends, tales, and any other relevant historical information, both confirmed and mythological.Unless the prof was dumping some liquid on the books (not good for any sort of tome), he wasn't "pouring". If he was closely studying them, he was "poring".

He knew that he would have to find someone, somewhere, that (who) knew of the ring, what it was and how to get rid of it. This is a pet peeve of mine: using "that" to refer to a person, as if he or she were a thing, though more and more people are doing it.

Overcome by exhaustion, professor (Professor) Sparks collapsed into his bed and fell asleep. When naming a specific professor, as here, the word should be capitalized.

It was early afternoon. No where (Nowhere) near late enough for it to be this dark. You might consider joining these two into a single sentence, with a semicolon instead of a period. As it is, the second part needs a subject and verb to be a complete sentence.

With a quick thrust, the journey of professor Waylon Sparks had finally come to an end. Here again, an active verb would improve the effect, especially since it is the final sentence of the piece. The adverb, too, (as many editors would advise) can be deleted: With a quick thrust, the journey of Professor Waylon Sparks came to an end.

STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.

The narrative voice is very good for a Victorian-style Steampunk piece. Tweaking the structure of some of the sentences, in order to create a more straightforward action, could be a way you might improve the flow.

Sparks' character could use a bit more fleshing out, I think. His one obvious characteristic is curiosity. That coupled with determination, make him interesting, but a few more human traits might deepen him, and help the reader to identify with him.

A question about the ending: Why did Matron Katarin bother to have Sparks healed, only to then poison him? Impending death is impending death, right? A real reason for Sparks' revival is necessary, I think, to satisfy the reader's need for things to make sense within their own context.


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This is an engaging piece. The mixture of fantasy and horror, along with the Victorian sort of atmosphere give it the right feel for a Steampunk piece, but the lack of any of the "science", or steam-driven technology, other than the airships, of course, diminish its effectiveness as an example of Steampunk, which is, after all, the modern incarnation of Victorian SF, a la Jules Verne and HG Wells.

Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read. Thanks for entering it in The Pressure Valve, and good luck with it, and all your writing endeavors.


These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*


15
15
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello, Prester John ,

Here is a review of your work, "Time and unforseen Happenings. I hope you find it helpful, encouraging, or both.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

I think your narrative voice is very much in keeping with a Victorian-style Steampunk piece. The idea of having an ancient pteranodon hitch a ride back to the temporal traveler's own time on the capsule was not very surprising to me, but having the vortex evolve it and allow it to acquire his knowledge was a nice, original twist. All in all, a nice piece of work! Good job!

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

It stood exactly eight feet tall with a circumference of nearly thirty. I think the description of an item of these dimensions as a "giant, squat artillery shell" falls a bit short of the mark. Without some mention of a conical or dome-like roof, these dimensions say "giant tuna can" to me.

Where will I get enough metallic Cobalt to power this size of capsule? I think this might scan better as: "Where will I get enough metallic Cobalt to power a capsule of this size?"

Attribution:
In several places, your use of attribution doesn't follow accepted grammatical practice. A couple of examples:

I shall have to make a trip to Oxford again. He thought. The generally accepted form would be: I shall have to make a trip to Oxford again, he thought.

"I was able to make the minute magnets I needed for the field generator for the temporal vortex.” He paused briefly.
This is correctly rendered, the spoken line being a separate sentence from the description of action that follows, but there is a line break here that doesn't need to be there. This could all be a single paragraph of dialogue. "Alan I have built a viable full sized device. All I need is about ten pounds of metallic Cobalt for the reactor, then I can test it out."

Tut, tut Alan. You are just a tad sensitive you know." He chided. Here again is the same issue as the first example cited above. There are one or two other instances, but I won't bore you (any further Smile) by listing them. You can certainly find them yourself with a proofreading.

One last thing. The effects of the temporal vortex on the pteranodon were interesting, as I said at the outset, but the fire-breathing capability sort came out of nowhere. The idea that Blaze could brew, pour and drink tea from the Denby cups, yet not manipulate the matches to light the fire seems incongruous to me. I understand why you included the fire-breathing, as part of the dragon mythos (and, of course, as justification for Blaze's name), but I think it could have been left out without damaging the tale, or perhaps re-worked to play more convincingly.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

As I said at the top, this is a nice piece of work, and is hopefully the first of many episodes in the lives of Aloicious and Blaze. The few issues I've mentioned here in no way reduced my enjoyment of it. Write on, sir!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


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Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
This is a wondeful story, Raiden. It's funny, heartwarming and a true celebration of fantasy as a genre. It is, however, perhaps a bit too derivative for my taste.

The charcater of Caston might be just a bit too close to Gaston, from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The song in the clubhouse, surely, is a funny satire, but might be perhaps just a but too close to the original for comfort, legally speaking.

The Compass character reminds me of the Map from Dora the Explorer, whom my son loved when he was a pre-schooler, and of course the reference to The Princess Bride in the line about the kiss at the end is unmistakeable.

All of these homages are fun and I enjoyed the story very much. Fan fiction is a thriving presence on the internet these days, and some authors welcome it, while others condemn it as plaigiarism, or at the very least, claiming an audience to which one is not entitled. I don't know what's right, or where the lines should be drawn between what is celebrating other folks' creations and what is stealing them, but I would advise caution.

In any case, good luck in the contest.
17
17
Review of Caelum  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
This is a sweet, story of errors made, friendships old and newly-forged. Ballard and Buckley are likable characters, and the dragon, Caelum, is refreshingly nice. I like the interplay between them. There are a few typos, such as the spelling of 'intended' in the line, "this wasn't what he intendened to happen", but they can be easily remedied.

Also, there is a stylistic issue with this passage: Gallard turns to Caelum, though his question is directed to Buckley's words. "The honor would be mine...*he bows again* But do you really think I am worthy?" using asterisks to set off a description of action within a line of dialogue seems awkward to me. Maybe this would be more appropriate:

Gallard turns to Caelum, though his question is directed to Buckley's words. "The honor would be mine," he said, with another bow. "But do you really think I am worthy?"

In any case, this is a good seed that, with a bit of imagination and TLC, could grow into a fine tale. Good job!
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18
Review of The Seeing Stone  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
This is a very compelling tale, Sir Various. You and your collaborator have done a fine job setting up this story of two rivals, one with superior talent, whose efforts are continually thwarted by the other's unfair advantage. To my mind, it doesn't matter whether the Seeing Stone is a boon or the curse of the fire-demons; it is, like any weapon, neither good nor evil. It is Harok's use of it for self-aggrandizement that brings disaster upon him.

The story smacks of the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, with the theme of familial jealousy at its center. Nice work!

There is a repeated phrase in the line, "So, Harok, again you spoil my hunting. Again you steal honor from me from me.”
19
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Review of Gush Me No Gushes  
Review by CeruleanSon
Rated: E | (4.5)
I think this is the most wonderful bit of commentary on the writing of reviews that I have ever read! It is perfect from the title to the poingnant plea for mercilessness at the end. Bigsmile

Actually, I agree with nearly everything you say, except that, when I do come across a piece of work that I find to be of high quality, which I do often enough here on WdC, I feel that a positive review that attempts to state specifically what I liked about the piece, what I thought to be its major strengths, can be helpful to the writer, if not to revise the piece in question, at least to reinforce the strong qualities of that author's craft, for use in the next piece he or she writes. I do appreciate your curmudgeonly disdain for the "gushers"; I think that if those folks would spend a bit of time reading commentatry like this, it would help them to become better reviewers. Thanks for sharing your opinions, and good luck in your future writing endeavors.

Please accept these comments in the spirit with which I offer them: of respect and the camaraderie of fellow writers. Take what you feel to be useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void...


Best regrards,
CeruleanSon
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Review of Dovahkiin  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Raiden

I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for "Dragon's Keep--INDEFINITELY CLOSED. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

This is based upon a trailer for a video game? Interesting. It's well-written, and described in great detail. The POV character, Orin the mage, seems interesting, too. I like the fact that the warrior guy, the Dovahkin, shows up at the last minute to save him and his wife. It would have been a shame for them to die after Orin's heroic efforts to save her from the fire.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.

After endless trials, his steadfast determination payed off. SP: "paid"

And yet, upon taking in the faces, a looming sense that something was not quite right lurked into the back of his mind. "Lurked" is usually a verb describing the act of lingering in a place with a sinister or frightening aspect, not moving from one place to another. If you want to describe a thought or feeling entering into Orin's mind, perhaps "crept into" or something similar would better serve.

There were some beside him struck by great logs and lay motionless in the snow. This sentence feels a bit off to me. How about, "There were some beside him, struck by great logs, who lay motionless in the snow."

The villagers, each one griped by the very real possibility of immanent death, barreled its way through the streets and alleys, fleeing to safety. "Griped" means "complained". I think you want "gripped" here. "Immanent" means inherent, or in its more religious connotation, "dwelling within". "Imminent" means "soon to come"

The omniscient smell of sulfur and smoke filled his nostrils, nearly choking him. "Omniscient" means "all-knowing". "Omnipresent" might be the word you want here. Though it is usually used to describe a spiritual presence, rather than a physical one, I have seen it used for this sort of all-pervading (another possible substitute; perhaps a better one) stench.

There are some other editing issues, which you can seek out for yourself, or you could enlist the help of one of the editors in "Technical Review Request.

STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.

One of the challenges of writing a story based upon a piece of visual media like a movie or a trailer, is that the focus tends to be on the visual aspect of the storytelling, like the setting and action, and often gives short shrift to the more literary aspects, like character development, plot, theme, etc.

As I said earlier, Orin the mage seems like an interesting character, but we don't really learn much about him except that he's just come home from mage school, and that he married his childhood sweetheart, whom he's anxious to see after a long separation. That's all well and good, but it doesn't tell the reader much about his personality, his motivations for becoming a mage, or even about his relationship with his wife or with others in the town.

When the dragon comes, it is a total surprise to Orin, though there is some hint that others in the town were expecting, or at least feared the possibility of the attack. The reader knows nothing about the situation, nor is there ever any mention of the legendary Dragonborn Dovahkin until his appearance at the end of the tale. For a game trailer, all of this amounts to hooks to lead the viewer to purchase the game. If it were the prologue of a longer written work, it might serve the same function. For a self-contained short story, however, it simply feels incomplete, leaving the reader vaguely dissatisfied.


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This story fulfills the requirements of the prompt, including the extra credit for the spell in verse. It's a very nice piece, if it's the prelude of a much greater adventure to come. Whether you continue the tale as fanfiction, or depart into your own imagination, I hope you'll continue. Thanks for entering the Dragon's Keep!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


21
21
Review of Dragonslayer  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi, Sean Conklin

I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for "Dragon's Keep--INDEFINITELY CLOSED. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

This is a fast-paced, exciting tale of a dragon attacking a village and castle. Crint is a pretty cool character and there are one or two surprises to be had, making it not the usual run-of-the-mill knight vs. dragon story.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.

His armor rattled as the beast’s spike tail swiped at him, smashing clear through the stone column beside him. "Spiked" would probably be more correct.

He so shocked to avoid the decisive swipe with his encumbering armor slowing him down that he simply stared at the decimated remains of the spot he stood in moments before.This sentence is missing a few essential ingredients. The subject, the pronoun "he", referring to Crint, needs a verb of being, in this case, "was", to go along with the state of being shocked. Since you've written this story in the past tense, the rest of this sentence, which describes events in the past of the story's current moment should be in the past-perfect tense. Here's an example of what the sentence might look like with the grammar adjusted: He was so shocked to have avoided the decisive swipe, with his encumbering armor slowing him down, that he simply stared at decimated remains of the spot where, a moment before, he had been standing. Even so, this is a mouthful. Separating the ideas into a couple of sentences might flow even better: He was unused to heavy armor; it encumbered him, slowed him down. He was so shocked to have avoided the dragon's decisive swipe that he simply stared at the spot where, a moment before, he had stood. I suggest that you read the lines aloud. I find that helps me to get a feel for what flows naturally and what feels forced.

There are quite a few other places where verb tense agreement and other grammar is an issue, but I don't want to spend my entire review listing them. I suggest you go over this piece carefully and do some editing for grammar. If you need help with this, the editors in the CSFS "Technical Review Request would be happy to lend a hand.


STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.

First off, why does the wizard need to have the dragon killed off? It's already doing his bidding. If you want to establish a need for the wizard to have an undead dragon, I think you need it to be a bit more rebellious than just taking a few extra minutes to play with an amusing wannabe knight before carrying out his master's commands.

Second, the idea that the dragon, with Crint beneath its claws, would simply huff and fly off without biting off his head or something, is a bit of a stretch for me. I think that something more is required to make Crint's reprieve believable, like some immediate threat that the dragon needs to deal with, perhaps, or some ingenuity on Crint's part that gets him out of the beast's grip for the moment, making him too much trouble to continue chasing when the castle's alarms go off.

Third, the idea that Crint's broken blade could break off several of the dragon's scales, while the King's expertly wielded, most likely superior quality blade, glances off harmlessly is also hard to credit. I think that, either you need to give the blade Crint wielded some kind of ancient power, of which Crint may be unaware, but the reader must know about, or give the king a better showing in his battle.

My last comment is that the exile wizard might be a wonderful character, if he were given some real-life motivation and deeper characteristics. As it is, he seems only to want destruction for destruction's sake, and he comes off as a bit two-dimensional because of it. There was plenty of room for that sort of expansion before you hit the 5,000-word limit.


OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This story has the potential to be quite good, Sean. I hope you'll go back and give it some attention. Clean up the grammar and flesh out the characters a bit, and it'll be great! Thanks for entering "Dragon's Keep--INDEFINITELY CLOSED

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


22
22
Review of Dragons Never Lie  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, Draconic Chronicler

I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for "Dragon's Keep--INDEFINITELY CLOSED. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

This is a great tale of a con-artist dragon, who has hit upon a way to satisfy his own desires without nearly the expenditure of effort all the burning and destruction entails. The inter-species sexual encounter - a sort of rape, actually - was a bit strange, but certainly well-described. Marguerite's valiant efforts to stay alive in the belly of the beast had me cheering for her.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.

And there’ been no wars since he’s come, for none of the other kingdom’s have dared invade us with a tame dragon on our side. "there've" and "kingdoms" (no apostrophe necessary)

For it is written that a golden dragon, great and good, will come to a humble town where he will find a beautiful and pure young maiden no less than two score years, yet no more than three score. A score equals twenty, so the maiden in question would be between 40 and 60 years old, which in medieval terms would not be considered at all young.

There are other editing issues, for which I suggest you give your story a careful scan, but I won't list any more of them here.


STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.

The narrative voice, third-person omniscient, works well to give the thoughts and feelings of all the players in this farcical tale. The characters, especially the dragon, Marguerite and Sir Goodwin, are well-sketched and act according to their natures. The fact that none of the human types has the slightest chance of defeating the dragon, made it necessary for you to come up with reasons for the dragon's willingness to resort to this scam, and the beast's convenience fills this requirement nicely. You've provided rationalizations for the basic untruth of the entire thing, so that the dragon can claim never to have actually lied (in word, if not in spirit). At the end, the reader is left with the impression that the scam can only go on for so much longer, before the beast is forced to return to its pillaging ways, but the benefits to the kingdom of the scam (lack of war, no dragon destruction), are well conceived and reasonable, so that one might think that the humans, were they smart enough to figure out the scam, might still go along with it to preserve those benefits.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

This is a fun tale, that meets all of the requirements of the prompt, but at over 9,300 words, it far exceeds the maximum word count for "Dragon's Keep--INDEFINITELY CLOSED. In any case, thanks so much for entering The Dragon's Keep!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
CeruleanSon


23
23
Review of Theft  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with Active SuperStars, 2006-2017  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, Acme ~ 10 year WdC Anniversary ,

This is a Rising Stars Member to Member review, just for you. I hope you find it helpful.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

I love the irony of the murderous bank-robber brother riding the POV character about his language, and the way death took every one of them unawares. I suspected immediately who the boatman was, but that fact did not lessen my enjoyment of the tale.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:

One thing, though. Can ghostly robbers pay Charon the boatman with ghost money? The Greek bereaved all had to place their real coins on the eyes of their dead. They say you can't take it with you, after all... you need friends left behind to send it along! Smile

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

A fun, ironic story that tickled my funny bone. Thanks for the read!

These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....

Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon *Peace*

24
24
Review of Beethoven's Fifth  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi, Mage ,

I'm reviewing your poem as a part of my judging process for "Invalid Item. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on whether or not your piece places in the contest. It's just my thoughts and suggestions. I hope some of it is useful to you.

FIRST, WHAT I LIKED BEST:
I could hear the Fifth playing along while I read your piece. The idea that Beethoven wrote it as a recording of the sound of the fateful Erlkoenig knocking on our door, and the relationship of that sound to the origin of the knocks of trick-or-treaters on our doors on Hallowe'en, is all very cool. A great concept!

NEXT, SOME SUGGESTIONS:

Form:
21-lines, free-style.

Content:
I don't know if you've really communicated your message, here, Mage. The description is somewhat sparse. Without the lines of Beethoven's rhythm, your poem would read like this:

We forget the origin of sounds so known;
begun with a legend of inevitable death,
the Erlkoenig – king of elves,
fate come aknocking.
most fear opening that door,
sounds so known, sounds so beautiful,
drawn through the ages.
likely now trick or treat,
or perhaps like the legend, tis death.
dare I ask, dear Beethoven,
or ask the Erlkoenig, who knocks ere yet.


You seem to be posing a question at the end, to either Beethoven or to the ErlKoenig himself, but the nature of the question is unclear to me. Do we speak of Death's knock? Or of the Elf-King's demand for tribute, on threat of some awful trick?

FINALLY, AN OVERVIEW:
This is a cool idea, with a lot of potential. Maybe you'll tweak it a bit. If you do, I'd like to see it again. Thanks for entering the CSFS Poetry Contest, and good luck!

These comments and suggestions are offered with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what, if anything, you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void...


Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon

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25
25
Review of Arendelle  
Review by CeruleanSon
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hi, bertiebrite hoping for peace ,

I'm reviewing your poem as a part of my judging process for "Invalid Item. Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on whether or not your piece places in the contest. It's just my thoughts and suggestions. I hope some of it is useful to you.

FIRST, WHAT I LIKED BEST:
I enjoyed the stylized language of the poem, with the initial salutations to mythic Arendelle on three of the four stanzas adding to the ode-like feel of the piece. I would like to stroll the vales and glens of Arendelle myself!

NEXT, SOME SUGGESTIONS:

Form:
Stanza structure: 2 sestets, 1 septet, 1 octave. Rhyming: lines 3 and 6 in the sestets, 3 and 7 in the septet, lines 4 and 8 in the octave. Rhythm: varied.

This month the prompt is for free-style poetry; that means, to my thinking, that the entry's structure is up to the poet. I find the loose structure of this piece to be appealing, and the rhyming lines work to hold the structure together.

Content:
The prompt's image is used nicely. The subject matter, the paradise of Arendelle, is reminiscent of Shangri-la, and so many other lost utopias written of in the wistful refrains of poets throughout history.

The POV character, one who has once trodden the paths of Arendelle and returned to the world of mundane folk, cannot banish it from his or her mind, and now searches again for the hidden path to her moon-bright door. Classic!

FINALLY, AN OVERVIEW:
A very nice piece, Bertie. Thanks for entering, and good luck in the CSFS Poetry contes!

These comments and suggestions are offered with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what, if anything, you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void...


Best regards,
*Peace* CeruleanSon

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