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1
1
Review of A Man and a Guru  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Light, Raven here with a re-review for you. I can tell you've done some work in this piece, and I think it's better now than it was last time. However, there are still a few issues that you will want to look at before the 15th.

1. You still switch back and forth between present and past tense. Can you hear the difference in your head when you read? If not (and a lot of people have trouble with this), you should see if having someone read your piece aloud to you/you reading your piece aloud to yourself would help. In my experience when I hear what I've written out loud, I can tell when I mess up the tenses. Here is one example:

Great questions had weighed on his mind for what has seemed like a lifetime

The first half of this is in past tense: "Great questions had weighed on his mind". Then you change to present tense: "for what has seemed like a lifetime". I think the "has" is confusing you. The sentence should all be in past tense, and it should read like this:

Great questions had weighed on his mind for what seemed like a lifetime.

There are a couple of other times that you do this. I strongly recommend fixing these issues before you send off the piece, as tense changes will make you look sloppy. Either write in past tense or present tense, but not both.

2. So my second objection, the thematic one, is somewhat modified in this one, but it's still there. You've added some context at the beginning and you've reassured us at the end that the man is going to reach Enlightenment. You've made the guru-mom more domestic. (I was pleased to see the dustpan. ;) ) But the core of the story remains a catechism. If you don't mind this, it's ok, but I think it's going to make it difficult to publish this piece in a publication that has to appeal to a broad base of spiritualities.

For more information about what I mean by a parable, here is a Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable

(A lazy woman's way of explaining something, I know.)

Here is a famous example:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2...

It's not really fair to compare your story to one that the Lord told, but you can see what I mean when I say that the principle you're trying to teach isn't really spelled out until the end (in the case of the Prodigal Son, "God forgives sinners who repent, but the self-righteous will have trouble.") So I think the thing that is hindering me most with your piece is that there are several big ideas in such a short piece. For instance, "life means what you decide it means" is a big idea, and so is "you are a piece of God", and so is "we are more than anyone has allowed us to dream we are". All together they are overwhelming, and you don't have enough space to really demonstrate all of them subtly.

My suggestion, since you don't have much time, is to choose one of these ideas and focus on crafting your story to communicate it. I would choose "life means what you decide it means" but maybe that's just because it's the most accessible one to me.

As an example (and of course you don't have to do this), you could have your guy go through his long journey, experiencing hunger and pain etc, and finally reaching this house. He asks his question and the woman says something like "That's very silly, how am I supposed to know the meaning of your life?" Then he can get upset and say "look, I've had this horrible journey and risked my marriage, life, and limb just to get here and ask you the meaning of life. I've spent my life on this question!" Then she can calmly say "You've just answered it" -- only more eloquently, of course.

Or you can ignore me (except for the tense thing, don't ignore that), go ahead and submit, and file this all away for later. I think the story really does have potential, but spiritual stories are so tricky that they take work. You've got something good here. Keep working it. ;)

Raven
2
2
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi Ben, Raven here with a "Let's Publish" review for you.

I have to agree with others that this is a funny piece, and amazingly well-done for how short it is. I'm glad to see my faith in your blackly comic side was not misplaced. (Do you think "Fight Club" was funny? Some people think it's disturbing and some people think it's funny. I'm afraid I thought it was funny.)

Anyway. A couple things stood out to me:

1. Cheryl smiled wistfully - "wistfully" doesn't seem like quite the right word here. My dictionary gives the definition as

1. characterized by melancholy; longing; yearning.
2. pensive, esp. in a melancholy way.


...and I don't think Cheryl is really longing or yearning; or, to tell the truth, melancholy. She's thrilled to be getting rid of poor old "dear Jon" (ha! and double ha! I caught that one on the first time through and am stupidly proud of myself...) isn't she?

2. There should be punctuation inside your parentheses. You don't punctuate at the end of parentheses if (like this) the parentheses is inside a sentence with its own punctuation.

(You do punctuate at the end of parentheses that is its own sentence, and is not within another punctuated sentence, like this.)

As the parentheses queen, I ought to know. ;)

3. Why not spell out "Route 333" - Rte counts for just as many words as Route.

As you can probably tell since my quibbles are all formatting and word-choice issues, I really like the piece and don't think it needs much more work. Great job! (I do, however, look forward to seeing that revision you said is in the works.)

Thanks,

Raven
3
3
Review of Discarded  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
The intent of this Royal Flush Review is to examine everything in a novel or short story. Grammar, format, plot, characters, imagery, dialogue, etc.


The Hook: The idea of a shirt having emotions--jealousy even--is amusing. ;) Good work!

Grammar: Didn't notice any flaws, although the burbly, jerky quality of the girl's voice was a bit distracting for me. However, it works well to show she's sobbing.

Structure: Dialogue and thought. Works well for the piece.

Plot: An angry, betrayed shirt overhears the girl who bought her bemoaning getting dumped.

Characters: The girl, the shirt, the unseen boy, and sort of the girl on the other end of the phone.

Dialogue: Really only the girl gets dialogue, but it seems believable enough. Thank you for not trying to spell teenspeak phoenetically (i.e., "Didja", "wouldja", etc.).

Ending: Took me a little aback, given that when the shirt said "Poor baby" I thought she was sympathizing with the girl and then it turns out (I think?) that she was being sarcastic.

Overal Impression: Wow, what a unique story. And it made me want to clean up my closet... maybe this is why the clothes I need never quite look as good on me as I want them to. ;) Good work!


This piece was reviewed on behalf of: "Invalid Item
4
4
Review of Who Am I  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Jay, Raven here with an A.C.E. Review for you, as promised. ;)

First off, something about definitions. What you have here is more of a vingette than a story--we're shown the interior of a prison (or is it a jail?) very clearly, and get a good feel for the slice-of-life atmosphere, but it lacks the elements that make up the definition of a story. In other words, a story should have:

1. A beginning, ideally with a "hook" - something funny, interesting, spooky, or startling to make the reader want to go further.
2. A middle, where the reader is led on by escalating tension/jokes/romance/action.
3. A climax, where something important happens and the main character is forced to make a choice/change/act.
4. An ending, where the results of the choice/change/act are discussed.

Ironically you can get by without an ending, if you want to be ambiguous, but not without a climax.

Now, in your piece, what we have is essentially a to-do list described. Get up. Check. Eat breakfast. Check. Go to work, and work out. Check. Make rounds. Check. When we get to the fight at the end, it doesn't make our adrenaline jump up because we've been distanced from your narrator the whole time, and in the end he doesn't have to change or overcome anything--he just does his job. Instead of having him describe everything to us (in present tense, no less), why not let us experience it with him? Then, when we get to the fight, we'll feel that sick lurch in our stomachs at the same time he's thinking oh no, I almost go through the shift without having to do this--or whatever it is he thinks. I'll give you an example from your first paragraph. You wrote:

I wake up early every morning and start my routine. I make coffee, shower, and collect the newspaper from the front porch. I flip through the pages and try and find out what is good in the world today. Usually not much. My wife, Carla, rises to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and a breakfast. She attempts to wake up our daughter for school. Attempts. This usually will begin with a quiet, "Time to get up," then opening the curtains to let the nice morning sun flood into the room, and if all is still quiet, a nice "Let's go! Breakfast is getting cold!” from me. Breakfast is dished out onto everyone's plate and coffee and juice are poured. I'm already on my second cup of coffee when Gina makes her way downstairs. Gina, my pride and joy. Named after her grandmother. We exchange smiles as she takes her seat. That smile means more to me than life itself. We eat as a family and, after the exchanges of "I love you," Gina is off to school.

What if you did something more like this:

Like every workday, the alarm jerks me from sleep early in the morning. I stumble down the stairs to punch start on the coffeemaker, lean out into the early morning cold to grab the newspaper, and head for the bathroom. As I'm showering, I hear Carla wake up. I pass her on my way back down the stairs and she smiles at me, still sleepy. I rifle through the newspaper to see what's good in the world, I can smell breakfast and hear Carla trying to wake our daughter.

This will make your piece longer, but it puts us more in your narrator's world. Remember, although your setting is authentic (at least it feels authentic) in fiction you may have to add or subtract things based on whether they move the story forward. For instance, what is the significance of the paragraph with the radio batteries? You could get the information of your narrator's assignment across with one sentence. I don't, as a fiction reader, really care where the other officers are going to be working; they don't matter later in the story.

What I do care about is building the sense of menace. You do a good job of foreshadowing when your narrator says goodbye to his wife. But you want to keep racheting up the tension--at the moment it all gets lost in describing the mechanics of the building and the job.

I think this piece has great potential, and I really look forward to reading any future revisions/additions.

Thanks,

Raven
5
5
Review of Mr. Tibbs  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hi Ben! Raven back after what seems like a long hiatus to give you a "Let's Publish" review of this piece.

First off, I think I found a surgical scar:

I found I could missed him. Either "I found I missed him" or "I missed him" or "I found I could miss him" though the last one doesn't make a ton of sense. :)

I think this is my favorite incarnation so far of the story. You've clarified the points which bothered me, like whether or not Jenna is sleeping at the Mission and what she's doing there. You've shown why Larry doesn't just take the woman to the misson and leave her there (he has decided he can't touch people). You've done wonders subtly working in the Christ themes I mentioned in an earlier review, making them subtle enough that the reader has to wonder if they're there or if they are just reading into the prose (which I very well may be... but it heightened my enjoyment of the piece, I like subtle themes).

I liked the change of having Jenna wake at night in the mission, and that we get to see Mr. Johnson. Oddly enough I particularly liked that Mr. Johnson hunted for a paper scrap bookmark, possibly because that's always what I end up doing in spite of getting fancy bookmarks from family/friends on all festive occasions.

If it wasn't already almost December, I'd say this even has a shot in a holiday-themed issue; as it is, it's probably a good thing that you don't specify what part of winter this is. (I don't know about Philly. Where I live it gets this cold even in February or April.) I think this is ready for submission, in other words. Give it one last look-through for typos etc., and get it out there. I like it quite a bit. (And believe it or not, I'm not usually fond of stories where characters die in the end. Although I seem to write them a lot.)

Thanks,

Raven
6
6
Review of Mr. Tibbs  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Ben! Here's a bit of a Let's Publish line-by-line (though I am keeping in mind that you haven't had as much time to polish, don't worry) from Raven. Comments in blue, as usual.

“He looks so lonely.” Jenna hunched over, brushing a lock of brown hair off her face, and squinting through the grimy Mission window at the unkempt, skinny man. Huddled in his long brown overcoat, he rummaged deep inside the concrete trashcan on the corner, paying no attention to those passing. For their part, the passers-by averted their eyes self-consciously, and gave him a wide berth. “Doesn’t he have any family? Somebody to take him in?”

“Larry? He ain’t got nobody. Just hisself, and the pigeons, and even they be fightin’ over scraps.” The young boy brushed at his tattered shirt, wiping off a few stray carrot peelings, evidence that he’d been helping his mom and the other volunteers prepare the evening meal. It took a lot of hands to make food for the two hundred or so local unfortunates who would come calling. Jesus Mission, as locals called the Mission of Jesus Christ A rather generic name; "Mission of the Benevolent Heart of Christ" or something perhaps? in the Inner City, offered a warm shoddy meal service, then, how about "hot" :D meal and a heaping dose of faith to its “guests” before they shuffled back out onto the cold, cruel streets of South Philly. “Ain’t nobody know his full name even, just Larry, and he likely won’t answer if you calls him that, even. Just keeps to hisself and don’t bother nobody, neither.”

“I’m going to try, Rashawn.” Jenna’s years at Germantown Friends, and later Bryn Mawr, might not have taught her many of the skills necessary for Jesus Mission, but they had taught her persistence. So Jenna is a volunteer, then? I got confused on the first reading. Here I assumed she was a volunteer, but below it seems like she spends the night, so...? I think you could get away without her being a Bryn Mawr student, btw; perhaps she's just a normal suburban kid who doesn't hang around in “Somebody has to make him come in and at least get a hot meal.”

Rashawn laughed and shook his head, neat cornrows bouncing in rhythm. nice line. “Good luck, lady. Ain’t nobody make Larry do nuthin’ he don’t want to. It’s a free country, and Larry just wants to be left free to find his own way.” A sharp voice from the kitchen sent the boy scurrying back to help his mother peel potatoes. Jenna followed him with her eyes, and hoped he was wrong.

***? big POV shift, after all

The stench from the white-grey steam coming up through the grate turned my stomach, but the cold wind whistling down Kensington Avenue was worse. I huddled as close as I could, coat splayed over the grate to trap some of the heat. My eyes stung when bursts of steam blew up through the coat, but the gusts outside were bitter and relentless, so I stayed put. Rich people seem to think that just because you don’t have a fancy Main Line house or a comfortable Center City law office to put your feet up in, you must not notice the smell or the cold, but I gagged and froze all the same.

The tap on my shoulder startled me, and I nearly wet myself. I think I'd prefer more immediacy here-- "Tap. I jumped and nearly wet myself. Nobody..." Nobody touches me, nobody. I slapped away her hand, all delicate and clean and pressy. prissy? Her mouth kept flapping, but I didn’t need to hear her to know she wanted me to move on, move away from her safe sidewalk and her clean protected life. She leaned over me with those eyes, faking pity but I knew she wanted me gone. I scowled and muttered and waved my hands, which sometimes scares away these fancy rich girls, but she just kept coming at me, trying to touch me.

Jumping up, I ran at her and screamed, not wanting to be driven away from my grate, Again, you can rewrite this to be less telling..."That was my grate, not hers!" or something... but I tripped on my coat and fell hard on the sidewalk. Nothing was stopping this girl, she came at me again, and I figured I better get out before she called her other prissy rich friends to come beat me up and steal my stuff.

My stuff.exclamation point, since this is a realisation? "My stuff!" I whipped back toward her, and sure enough, she was eying my bags. Her lips kept moving, wider and wider, and now she was yelling, screaming for her friends to come help her steal my stuff. I wasn’t afraid, because I was bigger that she was, but I grabbed my bags and my blanket and took off before she could get others to come and take them away. I worked hard for my things, searched long and hard, and if I had to fight for them I would. But I didn’t want to fight, I wanted to find a warm place to rest before it got dark. I ran as fast as I could, though my bags slowed me down and tripped me up. I knew an alley where they wouldn’t find me, wouldn’t steal my stuff. I had to get to the alley. I’d be safe there.

***?

Jenna stared after his Larry's? fasthypen retreating form, too startled by his sudden violent outburst to make another attempt. The grate at her feet gave off a fetid smell, but also a sudden burst of heat, and she wondered if she had erred in driving the man away from his refuge. She hoped he had another warm spot to spend the night, but didn’t understand why he wouldn’t at least come in and get something to eat first. He must be mentally ill she thought, and kicked at the grate in frustration. Damn! Not certain sure whether she was angry with herself or Larry, she stomped a preppy, delicate girl stomps? back into Jesus Mission. I get what you're saying, but it seems like she'd bite her lip, maybe, not stomp. Also, instead of saying "she didn't understand why he wouldn't at least..." I think on your rewrite you'll arrange it so we can just hear hear thoughts, right? i.e., Why won't he at least come in and get something to eat? It's warm inside!

***

Pages of a long-forgotten Sunday newspaper swirled around the entrance to the narrow, dark alley. I shuffled through them, feet rustling each sheet like the leaves in the park when I was a child. I spent hours walking in the park, listening to my friend and playing with him in the leaves and the brook. But then he’d moved away, left me alone, and I’d never found another friend like him. Strangely, I found I couldn’t even remember his name. I missed him?

The alley was bitterly cold. The wind couldn’t get in, no matter how it blustered, but the icy air crept in along the pavement and whispered its way into the folds of my coat. It lurked in the dark, biding its time, so that each time I moved, it would creep a little closer to my heart.

***?

“We have to do something. It’s going down to 15 degrees tonight, according to the TV.” Jenna spoke through tears. “You said when it went below 20, the police could round up anybody out there and take them to a shelter, like it or not.”

“I said that was the law,maybe "...that was the law, honey"-- seems like Mrs. Reed is trying to be soothing? but the cops don’t want trouble, and dragging Larry in where he don’t want to be is sure enough gonna be trouble.” Mrs. Reed, director of Jesus Mission Outreach, was a heavyset woman with a slow drawl left over from her upbringing in Alabama. Jenna knew her to be a kind woman --- Rashawn called her Aunty --- but in three weeks at the Mission, she’d not seen how firm Mrs. Reed could be. “You’re worried, girl, and that’s clear, but Larry’s got a right to stay out there if he likes to.”

“But he’s alone.” Jenna wept. Ok, I have two thoughts here. One is that you're riffing on the repeating Christ images you have in this piece with a J name, and referencing the Gospel of Luke "Jesus wept" (shortest verse in the Bible!). The other is that you're using shorthand for something you can describe--"Jenna dabbed with the heel of her hand at the teary mascara under her eyes." Mrs. Reed stroked her hair with a rough calloused hand like the rough callused hand of Mr. Tibbs below--on purpose? I like it and said nothing. “It’s getting dark, and I scared him away from the heat. If something happens, it’ll be my fault. I just can’t stand to think of him out there.”

“Hush, girl. We ain’t none of us alone. Jesus is there to keep us warm and safe, yes, and even take us home to God when it’s our time.This is what I mean by repeating Christ references; I'll talk more about it at the end Quiet, child, and don’t you worry.” She held the sobbing girl until she grew quiet and still. Laying the sleeping girl’s head gently down on the pillow, Mrs. Reed hurried off to arrange supplies for tomorrow’s breakfast. At first I thought they were standing; you might say they're sitting on a cot/bed/couch.

***?

Deep in the still of night, I woke. My shoulders and legs hurt fiercely in the cold, so I knew I wasn’t dead. Peering around in the dark shadows, I was startled to see a huddled mass about twenty feet away from me, just barely visible in the light from the streetlamp which splashed against the far wall of the alley. I tried to stand to see who might be stealing my place, but my legs wouldn’t function until I rubbed them for several minutes. All the while, the heap didn’t move.

When I was finally able to stand, I limped over, and lifted a corner of the loose rags. The haggard face beneath was almost hidden by greasy grey hair, and it was hard to be certain it was a woman until she opened her eyes. When she did, she didn’t move, but just looked out with cold unfocused eyes. She might have been blind, but I couldn’t tell. Her mouth didn’t move, but the rags over her chest shook as each breath forced its way up out of her ragged cocoon. She reminded me of someone, but who I could not say. Someone from long ago.

Suddenly, her body shook violently as she coughed and coughed, a dark trickle leaking out the side of her mouth. I looked on, unable to touch her, unable to help. A tug from some forgotten voice nagged at me, and I sighed hard, knowing what I had to do. good, good...

***?

“Jenna. Jenna. Wake up, dear.” Mrs. Reed’s face looked flushed, Here I thought Mrs. Reed was black, but you can't see a black person flush? as if she had been cooking over a hot stove, but no but, you're not contradicting anything her words held an urgency that snapped Jenna out of her dream with a start.

“What is it? Is everything all right?” Jenna stood quickly, searching the face of the older woman for answers cut end of sentence which she seemed to struggle with.

“Yes, it’s all right. We just had a visitor, one I wouldn’t have ever expected.” Mrs. Reed sat down hard heavily? you use hard in the next three words on the hard wooden chair, which creaked under her weight. “Larry came here, theto the Mission. I do believe it is the first time. He wouldn’t stay, or even say a word, but he looked so agitated that Mr. Johnson followed him.”

“Where did they go? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t rightly understand myself,” Mrs. Reed said, “but Larry took Mr. Johnson to an alley over by Tony’s Steaks, and when Mr. Johnson went in, there was a woman. We don’t know her, don’t know where she’s from, but she was in terrible shape. I don’t think she would have lasted the night without Larry, but she’s at Friend’s Hospital now, and I imagine they can help her.”

“But where’s Larry? Did he stay? Can I speak to him?” Jenna was relieved, and excited in a way she couldn’t have explained.

Mrs. Reed’s face fell.was she smiling before? I got the sense she was just wrought up “I’m afraid not, Jenna. Larry just stayed until the ambulance picked up the woman. I’m not sure where he went. Mr. Johnson and I went back to the alley, and we looked all over the streets near by where Larry usually hangs out, but there’s no sign of him.”

Jenna looked as if she would cry again, but then her face cleared.This sentence feels too summary for me, too “I guess Larry wasn’t as alone as I thought. If he knew this woman, maybe he has other people out there he knows. Maybe he has a friend and has gone to stay there.”

Mrs. Reed looked doubtful, but smiled at the girl’s innocence. “Maybe, child, maybe.”

***?

The sagging, weathered bench was made for romantic couples or exhausted parents, not that it had seen either recently. It certainly wasn’t made for sleeping, all narrow and splintered, but it was what I had. I wrapped myself inside the tattered blanket. Cold slipped through and crept down my back, carrying along some stray snow that had perched malevolently on the back of the bench waiting for an unwary victim.

“Hey, move over!”

The thin, raspy voice startled me, coming as it seemed from the drifts behind my bench. I peered out, but despite the cold winter sun, there wasn’t anyone to see.

“Whadya want, a telegram? Make room for an old man.”

In spite of myself, I huddled closer, making a spot at the end. The boards creaked and the bench leaned precariously back, threatening to eject us into the snowbank. I hadn’t heard that ragged voice in years, and whoever owned it had never shown himself. He sounded a lot older now, but there was no mistaking that voice. I called him Mr. Tibbs, but didn’t mention him to parents or friends. Some things you keep to yourself.

“Sorry there isn’t more room.” I said, but he just grunted. “Shove down here a bit and you can share.” Mr. Tibbs didn’t say anything, but I felt the bench shake and then the weight of his back against my leg. I’d hoped for some body heat, but I couldn’t feel any warmth, just dead weight. I shut my eyes and tried to remember what Mr. Tibbs had said to me as a child. I could remember very little. I just remembered that he was there.

Pressed against the cold boards, I felt a calloused hand like Mrs. Reed? brush my forehead gently. Sighing, I shut out the world and drifted off. All night, the glistening white snow piled up on the old bench, covering us with a warmer blanket than we’d known in years.


Okay. So while I was reading this the old Colin Raye song "What if Jesus Came Back Like That" kept playing in my head. I don't know if this theme is on purpose or not, but I found it really interesting. You have the Jesus Mission, you have Mrs. Reed (and her calloused hands) reminding Jenna that Jesus is looking out for everyone, then you have someone with calloused hands (like a Carpenter?) touching Larry at the end--both forcing him to take care of an even more vulnerable person and guiding him to the next life. So, short answer, yes, this has resonance for me. Needs a polish, of course, and if the redemption/Divine guidance theme is on purpose it needs strengthening, but I think this could be a quite compelling (even "literary" :D) piece.

Great work, and I'd like to see any re-revisions. :)

Raven
7
7
Review of Mr. Tibbs  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Ben! Raven here with a Let's Publish review for you.

I take it you want to keep this as a short flash piece, right? There's obviously room for all kinds of expansion, but really the only one I'd recommend is, perhaps, making it just a touch clearer whether your narrator dies at the end. I think what we're hearing is hypothermia hallucinations, but a hint like numb fingers/toes/nose/cheeks would help. Or maybe you want to be ambiguous, which is okay too.

Grammar is flawless, as usual, and although you only use 300 words you manage to create your setting very clearly. (I could almost smell the snow.) In an odd way, the hallucination/imaginary friend/angel is better described than the narrator. In one way this makes sense, since nobody walks around describing themselves to themselves (unless they have weird body issues). I'm left picturing the narrator as thin, bedraggled, with a short scruffy beard. But then, I don't even know if the narrator is a guy, do I? (He/she sounds like a guy, but... hmm.)

The only thing that might hamper you with this piece is the name you chose for your hallucination/imaginary friend/angel: Mr. Tibbs. I have more trouble with movie lines popping into my head at inopportune moments than anyone I know, but that name will always remind me of Sidney Portier thundering "THEY CALL ME MISTA TIBBS!" in The Heat of the Night. The editor you submit this to might be similarly afflicted with movie-ghosts.

Otherwise, I think this is a solid piece. There are loads of places that want flash fiction; you might try "Flash Me Magazine" from the featured publishers this month (they pay!).

Good luck,

Raven
8
8
Review of Family Secret  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Fadz, Raven here with a "Let's Publish" review for you. I'll go line-by-line, since this is so short. My comments in blue, as usual.

Every family has their own secrets. Mine is no exception.

This sentence ("no exception") seems older than the next one, I think because your narrator says "daddy". To me this is something young kids say, although my 70-year-old grandmother still refers to her parents as "Mother and Daddy". Maybe "Papa", but I don't know if that would fit your context or not.

Earlier this morning Daddy received a phone call that sent him into the dining room where we were having our breakfast. “It’s time,” he said.

Now we’re two states away, with Daddy parking the car beside Uncle Jamil’s in front of his parents’ estate. From the amount number? of cars and motorcycles crammed in the big yard, almost every no space - "everyone" one – if not all – is here. My sister and I burst out of the car before Daddy even turns off the ignition. Mama carries my youngest brother. He’s too young to walk without falling, much less to know what’s going on, but our excitement seems to have caught. He’s wide awake and jumping in Mama’s arms. Good detail--my 6 month-old son does this.

My grandparents’ house is big, filled with antique furniture that Mama tries so hard to prevent us from touching or knocking over every time we come to visit. But Mama is a grown-up. She doesn’t understand the grand adventures my cousins and I have up and down the stairs, in and out of the many rooms, and up and around the four shady rambutan trees in the backyard.

Even with the whole family crowding the hall, the house is quiet. I see Uncle Jamil’s children would your narrator think of his cousins as "Uncle Jamil's children"? Or would he maybe say "Asri and his sisters, standing next to Uncle Jamil" or something? and I go to them while Daddy and Mama settle down at another corner, my sister trailing them. I don’t see my grandparents, but I think they must be in the middle of the room.Can he not see them because of the crowd? Otherwise, why can't he see them? Dang Cramp restrictions on description...

“What’s happening?” I ask Cousin Asri.

“Nothing, for? the past hour we’ve been here.” My taller cousin rolls his eyes. “It’s boring.”

“Shh,” says Uncle Jamil. His eyes are stern. cut "says" - "Uncle Jamil's eyes are stern."

From somewhere beyond the wall of uncles and aunts comes a weak squawk. After a collective gasp, I see everyone looking up. I follow their gaze. The crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling is glowing red, except that light is not coming out of it, but from underneath. A small bird is flying in a slow circle. It looks wrong, not like the beautiful bird I remember. The crimson feathers have lost their sheen, the gold beak lacks its usual luster. I feel a lump forming in my throat when I look at its eyes. The bird is saying goodbye to us.

“Fly, Garuda, your final flight,” comes Grandfather’s voice. At first I don’t understand what’s going on, but looking at Daddy standing across the room, I remember the story he told my little sister and me when we first saw the bird years ago. Garuda is a special bird, a secret I can never tell anyone, not even my best friend Kit Wan. It has been looking after my family for generations, when Grandfather’s grandfather was young. I remember telling Daddy it’s impossible, but he said that this is Garuda’s eighth incarnation. I still don’t understand what that means.

The bird flies toward us and hovers over Uncle Jamil’s head. I see everyone nodding, as if agreeing with a well-chosen decision. Uncle Jamil is smiling. It feels wrong, somehow, to see him happy when the bird is giving off such a sad feeling. The bird sighs. I sigh with it. With gentle flaps of red wings, it floats down to land.

Not on Uncle Jamil, but into my arms. Why did your narrator expect it to be Uncle Jamil? I know why Jamil wanted it--he wanted the blessing. But the boy should have no expectation that the bird would choose him, right? Maybe he can say "Uncle Jamil reached up, smiling" or something like that?

I hear everyone gasping aloud. I see them clearing a circle around me, but right now I don’t care. I stroke Garuda’s little body. It feels light and soft. And warm. Tears start to drop on its belly. I’m crying and I don’t know why.

“Put it down, Khir,” says Grandfather, his tone gentle. Another place where you could lose the tag if you wanted to. (See? I take my lessons to heart.)

I ease the bird onto the marble floor and sit in front of it. Garuda squawks at me and lifts its head. It sighs again, before going limp and lifeless. I cry out and reach for it, but it suddenly bursts into flame, gold and red. It feels warm, but not scalding like the fire on a stove. I hear Mama crying out, but I reach out anyway. The fire tickles my skin. It feels like clothing fresh out of the drier. I touch Garuda’s burning beak and gasp not in pain, but in surprise. The bird crumbles into ash, and in the middle of the pile? of the remains? is a gold egg slightly smaller than chicken egg.

“Garuda has chosen you, Grandson, to be its next keeper.”

I look up and see Grandfather smiling at me. Daddy too. Mama looks worried, though.

“The egg feels warm.”

“When it hatches, Garuda will be reborn the ninth time. Whomever it chooses is destined for greatness. I hope I’ll live long enough to see you achieve it.” Grandfather chuckles, and the whole family laughs with him. Except for Uncle Jamil, although I can’t understand why. “Guard our secret well, and Garuda will watch over you and your family, Khir.”

I cup the egg with both hands close to my heart. I feel a quiver, a pulse, matching my heart.

I don’t understand much of what Grandfather has just said, but I know this much is true: I will have a lifelong friend, and no matter how dark things can get, there will always be light. You might consider breaking this into two sentences - "...this much is true: I will have a lifelong friend. No matter how dark..."

Overall, I like the flavor of this story quite a bit. If it was a picture book, I would buy it for my daughter. However, some of the prose feels a bit advanced for picture books. As I mentioned before, this feels more aimed at older kids, 10 or 12, who should be reading "chapter books" - thin paperbacks. It seems ripe for a children's novel. If you don't want to go quite that far, you might look into publications like children's magazines--there's one called "Cricket" that I think is for much younger kids, but I think that house has something for older kids, too. There's "Boy's Life", I know, which is the magazine the Boy Scouts put out, but I don't know whether they take fiction. Here's just the first one I found on Duotrope: http://www.samsdotpublishing.com/beyondguide.htm

In any case, I think this is publishable. Good work!

Raven
9
9
Review of Got It?  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Hi Ben, Raven here, reviewing you for "Let's Publish", although I don't know if Em will count this as a review since I couldn't actually find anything wrong with this piece.

That's right--do you see your rating? I've only given about 15 of those since I joined WDC, so there you are.

So anyhoo, to make this more than "wow, this was awesome, please submit this NOW", I'll tell you some of the things I liked about it.

1) I like how your narrator tries to start the story like a Story with "it was a dark and stormy night", but then can't help describing it in his own rabid way. Then he tries to say "a thousand stories in the naked city" and still can't remain authorly and detached. Nice.

2) You give your narrator great character development even as he's trying to tell us a surreal story and convince us he's put upon; he becomes a realistic person, weirdly, because of his very absurdity.

3) That makes it sound like this was scholarly and not hi-flipping-larious, but trust me, it was funny.

4) I think this will hit a particular humor sensibility, the kind of people who like Seth Green's humor, for instance--South Park, Family Guy, that kind of stuff. So the market may be wider than you think.

5) My favorite line, because it encapsulates the whole piece, is the last one:

So, interview, porno, Bacardi, blood, cash, surprise party, got it?

Congratulations. You've hit a home run as far as I'm concerned.

Raven
10
10
Review of Missing you  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Ben! Raven here, reviewing you for "Let's Publish". Because this is such a short piece, I think I'll go line-by-line. My comments are in blue.

"Barb?"

"Yes, sweetie, I'm here."

First comment: how? Is she really there, or is she a figment of Rick's imagination (or conscience)? You could explain this without breaking the dialogue-only style of your piece by having Barb say something like "I'm always looking down on you, my love."

"I've missed you so much. You just don't know how hard it is sometimes. It's just... just..."

"I know, sweetie, I know. You've been so brave, taking care of the kids and keeping Mom from going crazy. I'm real proud of you, honey!"

"Well, that's the thing, Barb. I can't do this anymore. I'm not strong enough. I'm not tough like you... were."

"Sure you are, Rick. You've been so strong, and everybody relies on you."

I like this: "everybody relies on you" - it hints at the strain involved in being a single father and (implied above) caring for a parent who may or may not have dementia.

"I can't.. I can't have everybody relying on me. Sometimes I just want to scream and run away, but I don't know where to run to. I miss you so much, and I just don't understand, I don't."

"Understand what, sweetie? What don't you understand?

"Why did you have to get... you know? Damn, I can't even say it."

"Why did I have to get cancer? There wasn't any reason, Rick, it just happened. God wanted me to come home."

"Ah, don't talk like that. You know how that religious s*** bugs me."

"But it's true, Rick, it's true. God wanted me home, and so I came."

"Are you sure, honey? When you died and I... I looked at your face lying there... I just thought you were gone. Really gone."

So what does he believe about death? Because later in the piece it seems that he is killing himself and others at least partially so he can be reunited with his wife.

"I'm not gone, sweetie. I'm right here, waiting for you. And when God calls you home, I'll be waiting here with open arms."

"Well, I guess we'll see..."

"See what, Rick?"

"We'll see if you're there waiting for me. I got tired of waiting, so tired. I was just too lonely and tired."

Picky religious point--what faith was Barb? Because some people, strict Catholics, for instance, believe suicide disqualifies a soul from entering heaven.

"Rick, what are you saying? Rick, you're scaring me."

"There's nothing to be scared about , Barb. Nothing at all. Sorry, I'm feeling a bit light-headed, that's all..."

"Light-headed? Rick, what ARE you talking about? What is going on? Where are you?"

"It's okay, honey, it's okay. Everything's gonna be okey dokey. We're in the car. Remember how we used to say that when you tried to hurry us up to go somewhere. 'We're in the car!' we'd yell, and the kids would laugh."

"Rick, sweetie, I remember, I do remember, but where are you now? Where are the kids?"

Rick needs to explain why, even if he wants to off himself, he thinks it's okay to take his kids. Maybe something like "They miss you too."

"They're here, they're both here. They're in the back seat, fast asleep. Fast asleep. Not long now, Barb, not long."

"RICK! RICK!"

"We're in the car... in the car... and the engine's running... and we're coming to find you, Barb. We're coming to join you. Better open up those arms, now, baby, better open up..."

Hisssss...

I don't think you need the last line.

Overall, though, dang, a creepy little read. Give ChiZine a shot. And I'll forgive you in time for giving me such a severe case of the jibblies.

Raven
11
11
Review of Alison's Find  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Ben, Raven here to give you a review for "Let's Publish." I didn't review the earlier version--I don't think--but I like this one. Not least because I have a brother, and, well, they do ruin everything...

Anyway. Getting to the review:

I like Alison's personality. She seems very real to me, perhaps because I was the kid who pretended to be a bird/fiddled with garbage in the woods. Tim, too, sounds like a real child, although I think he might have said something while banging on the box, even if just to annoy his sister. ("I've got to get it loose, don't I? Dummy.")

What's the point of Tim having a friend? The friend doesn't do anything or say anything. If you just want a reason that Tim is not with Alison, have him poking at a crab or looking for sand dollars or something.

I like your race of bird-lizard-bug aliens...or whatever they're supposed to look like. :)

A couple of things I noticed:

1) "Pachelbel's Canon" should be Pachelbel's "Canon" or even Pachelbel's "Canon in D". When I was Alison's age I thought this piece had something to do with cannons.

2) Alison waited impatiently, but....Telling her brother about the music box might have been a mistake, but... The two sentences with "but" so close together struck my ear as off. Maybe Alison waited, trying not to show her impatience?

3) I like the humor of your last paragraph. :)

4) But why do the aliens have ranks like captain and private? I understand you've got to keep some things standardized so that you don't have to stop and do a lot of exposition, but I think something like Shipmaster and Serveling would work, too. :) Also, "Starship" - it may just be me, but I always want to hear this followed by "Enterprise". I'm not sure what you'd replace it with; I am trying to think of an appropriately sci-fi phrase and all I can come up with is Galactrax (which sounds like a laxative--you can see why I don't write sci-fi much).

Overall, however, I really like the piece. It's humorous, cute, and just campy enough to be fun. Great work! You might try "Andromenda Spaceways Inflight Magazine", if you weren't thinking about them already.

Thanks,

Raven
12
12
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hello, Raven here, to take a look at your Poe story. :) I'll make comments after each paragraph, in blue.

Ed Poe did not seek artistic company. The literati of Boston, though, found his work amusing. His short stories read like nothing ever before experienced. Crime, detection, and grisly tales of horror sprang from his fertile imagination. Ed was a bit odd: taciturn and darkly pre-occupied. He didn't go to church. Rumor had it that Ed Poe occupied himself with the occult. In 1840 Boston society, not that many years from burning witches at the stake, Ed Poe presented a formidable, almost frightening, persona.

Am I right in guessing you did a lot of research for this piece? It feels like it, and whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on whether you want this to read like a history report or like a traditional short story. At the moment, the piece reads like a report. May I suggest, given the emotional and spooky nature of the tale, that a traditional short story feel might be better? Also, you may want to re-think the burning witches thing. The last witch was executed (though not burned) in Prussia in 1811, but the only witches executed in America were at Salem in the 1690s. If you do decide to go for the more short-story feel, this paragraph is very biographical and summary. Why not start with a conversation, or a description of Poe at his desk, scribbling on the "Rue Morgue" etc.? You can establish this is 1840 with subtle details--the oil lamp he's writing by, his fountain pen, his coat, collar, and cravat, you get the idea.

And so Ed became more-or-less sought after as a guest at the smart Boston parties. At first his wife, Virginia, came with him. Pale, thin, thirteen years younger than Ed, she had the vulnerable beauty of the consumptive. She coughed into a lace handkerchief, excusing herself with embarrassment. Virginia tired easily and refrained from smoking and drinking. She did not follow the gossipy, witty, and artistic conversations of the Boston party set. Virginia attended only a few of these Boston affairs and began claiming tiredness, but urged her older husband to "go on alone."

No women smoked in public in 1840, at least no respectable women. At any rate, why tell all this in a single paragraph? Why not describe a party? Don't just tell us Virginia is coughing into her hankie--bring her on and let her cough. :) Let us hear the gossip of the women, see poor Virginia's blushes as they turn away from her and whisper about the age difference between her and Ed (and the fact that they were first cousins--did you know?), see Edgar having a great time while his wife sits silent and miserable in the corner.

She told him, "It's you they want, anyway. You and your stories."

Keep this, just work it in to the party scene I demanded above. :)

Ed met Lenore Avion in the autumn of 1840 at one of the Boston parties. She was the guest of Adam Dinsdale, a wealthy, blocky, married man. Dinsdale owned the Dinsdale Publishing House, though Ed thought he lacked all literary sense. Lady Dinsdale happened to be "taking a holiday on the continent" and Adam felt rather immune from the constraints of his marriage. Lenore captivated all of the party guests with her beauty, grace, and charm. She retained a bit of French accent and laced her speech with an occasional "oui" or other Frenchism. She had blue-black shiny hair, lively blue eyes, and a tiny waist which emphasized her nicely endowed figure.

This is a bit of what I was looking for above, but "Ed met Lenore Avion..." is also a bit summary. How about having Ed come through the door as the butler announces his name, bored because he's anticipating having to spend the whole evening talking to Dinsdale, who is a philistine. Maybe have him annoyed that Virginia stayed home. Then bring on Dinsdale and Lenore. Instead of stating that Adam (who you call Dinsdale through the entire rest of the piece, btw) felt immune from his marriage vows, maybe have him and Ed in conversation where Ed raises an eyebrow about Lenore and Dinsdale laughs about how his wife is out of town. You get the idea.

Dinsdale squired Lenore around the ballroom, shamelessly introducing her as his "escort of the evening." Dinsdale came to Ed and said, "Poe, meet Lenore, my escort of the evening. Lenore, Poe here has written some stories for me. Catching on pretty well, he is, hey Poe?"

I don't think they used the phrase "catching on" in 1840, and "escort" was usually for males; try "quite popular" and "dear freind"?

Ed took Lenore's soft, well-formed hand, with its exquisite nails, and, surprising himself, planted a soft kiss. He managed, "Pleased to meet you, I'm sure, Miss Lenore."

Miss Avion, not her first name, not in 1840.

"Allors. The pleasure is my own. Your work is taking Paris by storm." Lenore pronounced it Pa-REE.

Do you suppose you need to state that she says "Paris" with a French accent when we've already been told she's French?

Lenore captivated Ed Poe from the beginning. He made none too discrete inquiries as to where she would party, or dance or dine and made his own arrangements to be there also. The economic depression that seized the nation did nothing to deter Ed's extravagance of gifts and entertainment bestowed on his new interest. So acute was his obsession that Ed experienced rather more distress than pleasure in her company. Yet he felt he could not bear to be away from her.

Again, this is very summary and narrative for something so important to the story. Why not show him to us, leaving the breakfast table without eating, looking disheveled, bothering his jewler for another, prettier bauble for Lenore? Why not show us Virginia skulking around the house, coughing, growing paler and thinner, watching silently?

Virginia made no mention of Lenore, nor did she voice any complaint as to Ed's increasingly excessive time away from their home. If she suffered, she did so in silence, keeping her own counsel. On Virginia's rare forays into the public scene, Virginia maintained her own dignity, displaying only open affection and attendance to Ed's every need. Some Poe acquaintances may have expressed private criticisms of Virginia for tolerating Ed's obsession with Lenore. But in the end, Virginia's loyalty and carriage won over her critics.

I think you can lose the bit about their freinds, but if you want to keep it, I'd rather have it demonstrated. Perhaps they can run into someone on the street, or she can have a friend over for tea, which is interrupted by Ed bursting in and looking all obsessed.

Nor was Adam Dinsdale immune to the obvious attraction Lenore held for Ed Poe. Dinsdale, committed to Lady Dinsdale for her considerable wealth and social position, regarded Lenore as little more than a dalliance, albeit a pleasant dalliance, indeed. His observations of the spectacle of Ed and Lenore waffled between annoyance and amusement. Lenore, however, found Dinsdale rather more pleasant a companion than the dark, moody, and enigmatic Edgar Allen Poe. So in the competition for her affections Dinsdale found himself more often than not the winner, all the more so because he chose not to compete. Dinsdale simply took that which Lenore offered. Acutely aware of all of this, Ed burned with a consuming jealousy.

Not "immune", I think you mean "oblivious". Again, why summarize all this? Let's have a scene with all three of them in the drawing room--Poe showing his infatuation, Lenore irritated and uncomfortable, Dinsdale somewhat amused. Poe leaves. Lenore complains to Dinsdale about the creepy poet and caresses the buttons of his vest, playing with his watch fob, and as the scene closes you know that he is "taking what Lenore offered".

In the winter of 1840-41 President William H. Harrison, whom the nation desperately hoped would lead it into better economic times, died of pneumonia only 32 days after his inauguration. This death deeply impacted Ed Poe, who was naturally inclined toward the morbid in any event. Ed turned ever more into his study of the occult. And dear Virginia missed none of this.

How about we see Poe reading about the president's death in the paper, then cut to him that night buried in books on witchcraft and the occult. Virginia can find a ouijia board on his desk. Play up the shadows cast by the flickering lamps, the color of the furniture, Edgar's brooding eyes... perhaps his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming. :)

Ed wrote a series of essays on the occult. Unlike his poetry and fiction, these essays waxed pedantic and formulaic. Dinsdale perceived they would have little appeal and would only tarnish the growing reputation of Poe, one of his best-read authors.


"I just can't use these, Poe. No one would read them. Give me some more murder mysteries," Dinsdale told Ed, looking at his watch.

How about giving us a setting for this snip of dialogue? Let us hear what Edgar says, letting us see his disheveled state, and hear his desperation. Let us sense how important the essays are to him.

That rejection and the fact that Lenore had been with Dinsdale several recent nights, provoked Ed to a state of jealous indignation. When he spoke at all, it was only of Dinsdale's weaknesses as an editor, as a friend, and as a man. Ed saw less of Lenore. With a twinge of mixed emotion, Lenore began to discourage Ed's attention. Ed placed the sole blame on Dinsdale for his failing relationship with Lenore.

THIS needs a scene, desperately. Even if you want to summarize some of the other things, you must dramatize this. Perhaps have Lenore leave Edgar standing on the corner as she gets in a carriage and drives away, or perhaps she snubs him at a party. Edgar can look over at Dinsdale, laughing across the room, and begin to think about his essays...

As the nation slowly climbed out of economic depression, Edgar Allen Poe gradually sunk more deeply into a psychic depression of his own. His obsession with Lenore grew with his lengthier absences from her presence. His writing suffered. His acrimony toward Dinsdale occupied ever more of this thoughts. Ed's studies of the occult began to suggest responses targeting his arch-enemy Adam Dinsdale. Ed read prescriptions for various maladies: aches and pains, infections and fevers, disabilities and missing limbs. Then he happened upon a series of incantations to accomplish the transformation of the targeted victim into some other form of life. There were recipes to turn children into toads or adults into frogs. There were formulae to change women into butterflies or roses. Then Ed found a procedure to convert a person into a Raven.

I think this might be more effectively portrayed from Virginia's perspective. Perhaps she's dusting his desk, and finds some notes. He's out, chasing Lenore like he always is, and so, half interested and half apalled, Virginia reads the notes and the book it references and realizes that Edgar is going to turn someone into an animal. You can have her hide behind curtains while Edgar is completing his incantation and make a very spooky scene, Then, he leaves, and she creeps forward, heart hammering, her hatred of Lenore so powerful she can taste it... :)

"I have it," mumbled Ed. "Dinsdale will make a fine Raven."

Listening at the door, Virgina gasped and came to a resolution of her own. "If Dinsdale is gone, Lenore must go with him. I cannot allow her to turn to Edgar in her grief."

See my comment above. :)

Edgar Allen Poe diligently assembled the odd charms, totems, and artifacts needed to execute the spell. He lost his footing and almost fell while obtaining Raven feathers from a nest high in the belfry of a deserted church. He practiced intoning the chant until he could say the whole thing without glancing at the text. Virginia watched, learning.


When the time was right Ed put the charms and totems in order, started a small fire in the fireplace, and began the spell. He said it three times, as specified, and he was sure he got it right. The whole incantation took less than twenty minutes, but Ed was bone tired when he was finished. Exhausted, but confidant, Ed lay down to sleep.


Virginia emerged from the closet where she had observed the Devilish act of her husband. She quickly assembled the materials, added fuel to the small fire, and began the incantations anew. She cast a spell identical to Ed's, except for the name of her victim: Lenore Avion. She finished, coughed into her handkerchief, and retreated to bed with a sigh.

I think "Devilish" should be "devilish", but everything else I'd say about this paragraph is taken care of above. Let us hear Edgar's voice, see the room, see the strange ingredients he's putting together, etc. etc.

For some time Boston society preoccupied itself with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of Adam Dinsdale and Lenore Avion. There was some gossip that the dark hand of Ed Poe somehow contributed to Dinsdale's absence. Similarly, there was unsubstantiated gossip that Lady Dinsdale was instrumental in Lenore's unexplained disappearance. The consensus, however, held that Lenore and Dinsdale made off, together, for parts unknown, but quite possibly France. The police made a cursory investigation. After all, there was no corpus delicti and the disappearance of this de facto couple may well be, if not innocent, at least non-criminal. The police closed the case as a "no crime established."

I think I'd keep this summary, but I wouldn't be so precise about the gossip--just say that when they both disappeared at the same time, Boston society and the police decided they'd run off together.

Lady Dinsdale took to wearing black, as was proper for mourning. She publicly clung to the position that Dinsdale's disappearance was innocent and he would return with a suitable explanation. She instructed her formidable battery of lawyers, however, to "Establish the death of the cad so I may move on."

I think you can lose this paragraph. We've hardly seen Lady Dinsdale--and unless she's real, I don't know that we even need to have her in the story at all--and so I don't end the story going, "but what about poor Lady Dinsdale?"

As for Ed, he was disappointed to take little satisfaction in the disappearance of his adversary, Dinsdale. He had a suspicion that he was somehow responsible for the disappearance of Lenore. Had she been in the zone of the chant when he cast the spell on Dinsdale? Had she witnessed Dinsdale's transformation and been frightened enough to leave the country? At any rate, Ed began to feel a great remorse and heaviness of spirit. He began to seek surcease in his old volumes of sorcery and witchcraft. He began to explore the feasibility of reversing the spell. He would willingly tolerate the return of Dinsdale if only it meant that Lenore would also come back.

"disappointed"? Seems a bit weak for "oh no, my rival is gone but the girl I'm obsessed with is gone too, maybe even with him". Likewise, "began to feel a great remorse..." seems flat. Again, why not show us Edgar, ignoring food and sleep again, scouring his books for a reversal of the spell?

On a bleak and cold December night in 1845, in Boston, Massachusetts, Edgar Allen Poe sat with his volumes, pondering what to do and how to do it. Perhaps he dozed. Perhaps he dreamed. Or perhaps he heard a strange tapping, tapping, some stranger rapping, rapping at his chamber door. Whether in a dream, or merely in a dreamlike state, he rose to investigate the uninvited visitor.

Don't just tell us this, show it to us. Let us see Edgar dozing in his chair with a volume on his lap. Then the lamp flickers, and he jumps. Was that a tap? He looks over at the door, above which sits a bust of Pallas. As he looks, the rap, rapping comes again. Unable to help himself, he gets up, and walks to the door.

And thus was born "The Raven," one of America’s most recognized and best loved poems.

For the love of all that's good, kill this sentence! Leave Edgar with his hand on the doorknob, looking into the dark hallway, and let us hear a whisper from a grating voice: ....nevermore.

All this, of course, assumes that what you wanted to do was scare me. If you want to make this seem like it's from a real history book, then you'll keep the summary style. But I think it would be a shame. :)

Overall, I think you've got a lot of potential here. Just don't be afraid of descriptions and dialogue. There are lots of websites you can visit that will show you the clothing/furniture of the period, and for the dialogue, as long as you make it sound realistic it won't be hard to correct modern expressions.

I'd be happy to take another look at this if you decide to revise.

Thanks,

Raven


Interested in getting and giving reviews of this depth? Check out "Let's Publish"!
13
13
Review of Risky Business  
Review by Raven
In affiliation with  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello! Raven here, returning your review. May I ask, before we begin, whether you happen to be a Firefly fan? It's ok if so. We all have our inspiration. :)

First off, a formatting tip: in your "edit" window, just below where you put your item body, there is an option to "double space between paragraphs". Check the box. It will make your piece MUCH easier on the eyes to read, and you'll probably get more readers/comments.

Next, paragraph structure. You begin a lot of paragraphs with "He" and "Jack" and "The". This gets distracting after a while and has an odd look to it; you might consider recasting your sentences and paragraphs to vary your starters a bit more.

Your beginning felt a bit slow to me. I think, instead of dwelling on how much Jack would rather be in bed (rather in bed than making money? nah) I'd start off with Kat's opening dialogue. Then you can describe Jack waiting and cleaning his goggles, etc. etc. Also, in your opening paragraph, you have a bit of redundancy. Let me show you:

Jack Sheppard was not a patient man. He was certainly not in the business of waiting around for something to happen. Despite what some may call his can-do, will-do attitude, he found himself waiting on a dingy mountainside all the same for a train to come passing through. It wasn’t how he preferred to spend his mornings, when he had the option of sleeping in a warm bed. But he found himself on that dingy mountainside regardless. He grumbled as he pulled out his pocket watch and flipped it open briefly before snapping it back shut. 6:44


To remove the redundancy, you could rewrite it like this:

Jack Sheppard was not in the business of waiting around for something to happen. Waiting on a dingy mountainside for a train to come passing through wasn’t how he preferred to spend his mornings, when he had the option of sleeping in a warm bed. He grumbled as he pulled out his pocket watch and flipped it open briefly before snapping it back shut. 6:44.

See what I mean? You tell us three times that he's on the mountain. You tell us twice he's impatient. You don't need to tell us he has a can-do attitude because you prove that he does later on, when he's foolishly fencing with someone rather than shooting them.

The description of the motorcycles is a bit confusing as well. I know what you mean and I can picture them, but you might want to clarify They were designed to lie down on top of in order to function properly. which sounds like the cycles are laying down and not the people. Perhaps They were designed for the rider to lie down on top of them in order for them to function properly.

Last critique: I had to wonder why a bandit who stutters would say much of anything while robbing people. Seems like he'd be sensitive about that.

All that said, this is an entertaining piece and I like the old west/scifi/Great Train Robbery feel of it. I think you've got a good start here, once you get it polished. Good work! I'd be interested in seeing any revisions.

Cheers,

Raven

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14
14
Review by Raven
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello, Raven here, reviewing you as part of "Let's Publish". Welcome to the group, by the way. As a disclaimer (as I think you know) I am no poet, so all of my observations are offered simply as a reader of poetry. Take what's useful, leave what isn't. Alrighty then:

Title: I liked this title, mostly because i like badgers. However, it works well in the context of the poem, setting you up for the last line.

Style and Voice: I thought your voice was consistent except for the last verse, which makes me wonder whether the person in the first verse ("my family laughs...") is the same person in the last verse who switches to second person ("...after your beloved cherry-red...") or whether he is talking to some third person. I also had to wonder whether your narrator was the philandering spouse he (or she) mentions...as I suspect he (or she!) is.

Word Choice: "Differentiating
features blur in the anonymous carnage..."


consider

Differentiated
features blur in the anonymous carnage"


I know what you mean--the features that distinguish a badger from a rabbit are mushed by a truck into undistinguishable goo. (See, I told you I'm not a poet.) But the way the words are written now it sounds a bit like the features are sentient and distinguishing things for themselves--just something that caught my ear. It isn't wrong, really, just something to think about.

On the other hand, I particularly liked

"...as if God
had not distinguished their delicate paws."


Figurative Language: I didn't really detect any, unless you count the huge symbol in the poem of animals for humans. :) I liked that, and I liked that the symbolism wasn't fully apparent until the very last verse.

Rhyme and Rhythm: Rhythm yes. Rhyme no. Being no technical expert, I can't comment much on this except to say that it didn't annoy me as a reader, so that's got to be a good thing, right?

Structure and Form: Again, I can't comment much here because I don't know much about the forms of poetry, but it does seem to me like this would not be as good if it were in a more formal, rhyming structure. The conversational verses with their feel of random division (I know they're not randomly divided, but that's how they feel) fit the slow build and gradual revelation at the end.

Imagery: No actual badger is ever described, which is interesting. There are a lot of other descriptions, which I won't pad the review by reiterating to you. Suffice to say they are beautiful and evocative. I did stop a moment over "drowning eyes"{/i}. Drowning in what? In the light? In tears? Again, this is not exactly wrong, but I wasn't sure what it meant. I'm still not, actually.

Theme and Meaning: It's a bit arrogant to guess at the meaning of another person's poem, but the meaning I got from this one was: Perhaps life is not as seperate, strong, or individually important as we think it is.

Personal Opinion: Verse that doesn't rhyme seems to me to be a lot like abstract painting: easy to do badly, difficult to do well. I think you do well with this piece, in that there is an actual story and the words seem carefully thought out.

i wish I could offer you more technical advice, but there are several other poets on the board and I know they'll be dropping you reviews as well. Again, welcome aboard.

Thanks,

Raven
15
15
Review by Raven
Rated: E | (4.5)
Nice poem. Not that I'm a poet, but I appreciate those who are, especially with a well-crafted poem that actually rhymes. :) Your rhymes are casual but correct, and the juxtaposition of iambic heptameter (which is regal) with a bus stop is charming. I like that you used Grecian gods, as well, since they have a more earthy feel than, say, Shiva would.

Your title was less engaging to me than the poem itself, though I like that "distacted" appears both in the title and in the two middle verses. This is the only semi-negative thing I can think of to include. :)

Overall great work!

Raven
16
16
Review of The Literarian  
Review by Raven
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
A unique idea for a story! As with all my reviews, please take what's useful and leave what isn't.

There weren't very many grammar things--a couple of times you use the passive voice when active might work better--good work! I did have to wonder about the Infertility. First off, was it sudden or gradual? What about women who were already pregnant at the time? And it only took twenty years to automate everything?

If it was sudden, then the pressure for automation would be much greater. However, there would be other social pressures as well. With only a handful in the next generation, as people aged there would be almost nobody to take care of them. Either medical care would have to get automated or euthanasia would have to become acceptable. If the Infertility was gradual it would make more sense to have time to automate things and get used to a society with very few children (sort of global Sweden). But calling it "the Infertility" suggests something sudden, taking place over months or maybe a year. I'd be interested to know more about it, although I understand that this story may already be pushing word-count limits. Just something to think about.

I know the idea of avid readers and the intelligent being spared is necessary for the plot to develop, but I had to wonder about that one, too. Not all avid readers are intelligent. I think you addressed this a little when you mentioned readers of trashy romance novels, but then it sort of defeats your protagonist's premise that this could be the salvation of mankind. (I.e., if the unintelligent readers as well as the intelligent ones are breeding, mankind is in the same situation they've always been in--there's just less of them.) Again, just something to think about.

Good luck; I hope you get it published.

Thanks,

Raven
17
17
Review of Lunch  
Review by Raven
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, saw you on the review request page. Take what's useful in my review, leave what isn't.

1. You say you're going for publication-- where? Because the women's mags that publish fiction would probably balk at the f-words (which I think are a good match with the character, by the way). Just something to consider.

2. Leslie felt hostile to me from the very beginning. As I read more, I got the feeling that she had really or does really care about Jessica. You may consider working in how much Jessica's friendship means to Leslie at first, so we can understand how betrayed she feels.

3. I get the impression that Leslie--underneath her hurt and anger--is really concerned about her friend's sudden and unhealthy weight loss. (Big sweatshirt = anorexia nervosa, right?) I'd like to feel Leslie's fear for her friend a little more strongly, so that she doesn't come off as just mad that her friend is thin and she's not. I think this story is about relationships, with each other and with food, and with each other THROUGH food, right? So part of Leslie's upset would be that she no longer has food as a way of bonding and communicating with Jessica, right? Or I could totally have misinterpreted your intent. :) I do that sometimes.

You might want to reexamine the ending a bit; it didn't really feel like it did end to me, but I can't tell you objectively why so I think you'd be justified in totally ignoring me on this point.

Overall, though, a good read and an authentic voice. Good luck with publication!
18
18
Review by Raven
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
You asked what was wrong with the piece and how to make it better, so I'll try to help you out a bit.

Um, okay. I sense this is a parable. I suggest you explicitly write down (for yourself) the point you want to make-- I am about positive it is something more profound than "hate is bad"-- and see if you think you are communicating it well.

(Side note: You say that we all pray to something higher than ourselves. But surely not atheists or strict naturalists?)

Please note that I'm not disagreeing with your point (if I understand your point correctly). I think your point is "we tend to hate things that we don't understand and are afraid of", or possibly "hate injures the hater, not only the hated". This is true. (If your point is "hate vanishes when the unknown is understood" I'm not sure I agree with you, but I can try to help anyway.)

I don't think you meant to leave holes in your parable, though. How is it that the man goes through a list of differences (man, woman, tall, short, Jewish, Christian) and says they don't matter, and then goes on to say that they hate him because he's unknown? Why should knowing him change anything? If differences don't matter, similarities don't matter either (one man's similarity is another man's difference). If differences are a reason to hate, then by knowing the man I might find some similarities that change my mind. If differences aren't a reason to hate, then by knowing him I can't gain anything.

The unknown is only frightening because it implies difference-- the kind of difference between a murderer and a nice person, for instance. Your man makes the point that he hasn't threatened or hurt people in any way. But remove the possibility (difference) of threat level from the unknown and we are only curious, not frightened.

Next--and I recognize that this might just be because of the limitations of the parable form--the only refutation the man makes to the various reasons (especially religious) that people use to hate others is, in essence, "but that would be stupid." I agree. But why is it stupid? It obviously didn't seem stupid to various sets of crusaders, jihadists, or Nazis, so we have to admit that an argument needs to be made. I think the reason you imply is "because these differences aren't really differences when you get down to it-- we're all human, we all pray." But this breaks down your point that we fear the unknown, doesn't it, since if there aren't really diffrences between people, there's no such thing as the unknown? There's only us?

I don't think that your point is as muddled as maybe my questions are. But I do think you might be trying to make more than one point at the same time, and that's sort of difficult within the constraints of the parable form. Consider writing a parable for each point.

Finally (and this is just my opinion, feel free to ignore me) I get the feeling that you are trying to be neutral while you actually do have a cosmology or religion that you hold to, since your tale includes something like karma. I suggest you just go ahead and write the parable from within your spiritual perspective, without fussing with neutrality. Sincerity makes up for a lot of flaws, and I can tell that the spiritual truths you're trying to communicate mean a lot to you.

This is a really long comment but know that you're totally free to disregard whatever isn't helpful. Thanks for posting.

Raven
19
19
Review of Blue M&M  
Review by Raven
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
I like your twist at the end of this story. Just noticed a couple things, which I'll lay out for your consideration.

"perfect pan face" -- do you mean "deadpan face"? Or does he really have a face like a skillet? Or am I just really out of touch with slang? :)

Then there is the "blue M&M," the poison. Just a few technical things about that.

1) You say the poison works by paralyzing cardiac muscle, like an instant massive heart attack. If so the daughter wouldn't be able to grab at her throat, and at any rate she wouldn't grab at her throat because she wouldn't feel like she was choking, unless the poison also worked on skeletal muscle that controls breathing.

Rigor mortis sets in over 2 hours and begins to disperse again I think after something like 10 hours, when the tissue rots outright. I'm not sure on my numbers (so don't change on my word) but you may want to look it up and see if the daughter would be stiff in the morning, or starting to rot. The fly seems to indicate she's starting to rot.

2) Do autopsies really take weeks for analysis? I got the impression this was a fairly small suburb where the coroner wouldn't be overworked. As well, in a suspected homicide I suspect the autopsy would be moved up. At any rate the toxicology screen done on the victim's blood couldn't take any longer than 48 hours.

Other than that, the only thing I noticed was that I couldn't really tell what happened with the detectives on their first visit. Did the dad invite them in to chat? Did they take him down to the station? The transition wasn't clear for me.

BUT all that said, look at your rating-- I thought this was a good, creative piece. Just needs a bit of a polish. Don't give up on it. I think it's publishable.

Raven
20
20
Review of The First Job  
Review by Raven
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Overall this is good, but you want to take a look at your spelling, I think. There were a few mistakes (I don't mean the dialect, either) that were confusing.

Also, you may want to re-think your hending "My mind is hazy after that." This feels like the beginning of a chapter. I'd delete the last sentence, if you want to keep this as a monologue, and let the reader wonder about whether your narrator is going to die or not.

Otherwise, I thought you got a genuine sense of dialect and a pretty powerful sense of the narrator as a person packed into just a few words. Good work.

Raven
21
21
Review by Raven
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Why was Tony C. going to pay them money in the first place? Ransom? Blackmail? I kept wondering as I read, just a thought.

I noticed that you leave commas out a lot. This makes your prose seem a bit more jerky than it really is, and it takes away some of the casual quality that's one of the best things about your writing. Consider going back and putting in commas.

I also noticed that your dialect, in dialogue, sort of turns on and off. Sometimes you use words like "shoulda" and other times you spell things out and make complete sentences where it doesn't seem like the characters would speak in complete sentences. It's entirely your call, but you may consider reading the dialogue out loud and seeing if it sounds natural. Sometimes that helps me.

Just suggestions, of course. I liked the twist at the end of the story.

Thanks,

Raven
22
22
Review of An Inedible Wife  
Review by Raven
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
You can get a better rating than a 3 in future drafts, so don't get too disappointed. I'll explain why I gave it a 3. I'd also be glad to look at future drafts.

1) Your dialogue is a little forced. Consider not having the characters refer to each other by name all the time "Hi Joe. Joe, what are we going to do? Joe, are you taking the job?"

2) The title is imaginative, but the piece at the gallery isn't central enough to the story to explain where the title comes from. I was expecting the art to be more highly symbolic of themes in the story, like possessiveness and karma.

3) Why does Jack have to die of a stroke? That seemed a little over the top to me, just because knowing that he could have prevented his daughter's murder seemed like punishment enough.

These are just my suggestions, of course, and you don't have to apply them. I just think you might be able to take some of the choppiness out of the piece by bringing out your themes a little more and making sure they flow throughout the story.

Overall, though, this was an interesting idea and I like the tragic ending. It's going to be very good when you get through with it.
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