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Review of Mystery  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
This entertaining and satirical yarn effectively spotlights a couple of issues, social and political. First, the fact that Col. Winchester is a woman is a surprise, and, of course, it shouldn't be at all. As we're reminded here when Col. Winchester makes her first appearance, we still have some territory to traverse before we stop assuming a default male gender when it comes to positions of authority and responsibility. Second, the story sends up the political wrangling that strangles just about anything that our current political structure tries to get done. It reminds me of the bumper sticker that says, "It'll be a great day when education gets all the funding it needs and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

It's always a good day when you read a story that makes you simultaneously think and laugh, and the author here has done the trick.
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Review of Floral Fiasco  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Little Garden of Horrors! The tone of this story erupts immediately, with the introduction of our protagonist: the very name Rupke makes us laugh. Meantime, the language brings the scene vividly to life, especially the "poison green" flower with the neon "purple stripes." And the ending is just right, life going on, oblivious to the truth that poor Mr. Rupke stumbled into.

If you don't laugh at the words "burped" and "spit" in the last sentence, check yourself for a pulse.
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Review of Peonies  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
This story is such a beautiful evocation of memory. The language describing the flowers and the vase, the depiction of Lee at her easel - we can see and feel all of this, thanks to a writer who is clearly adept at creating setting and mood with a minimum of well-chosen words.

This is an exquisite story.
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Review of Handbags at Dawn  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Lots of fun here, especially for anyone who has ever watched a retail-store feeding frenzy, which is probably all of us. There's nothing inherently funny about two people fighting, but the author here lets us know, through her effective use of language (e.g. "They were now at the hair pulling stage," and "knickers exposed") that this is a satire, it's all in fun, and no person (or animal) is going to be harmed in the making of this story.

We have a skilled storyteller at work here, and so we are expecting this to end in a way that doesn't involve just the shoppers exiting the store. The twist that comes is pure delight.

Well done!
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Review of What Goes Around  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
The dialogue that makes up most of this story has to carry almost all the weight, and it does here. It has to enable the reader to understand who is talking at all times (check), and it has to convey the subtext, what the story is really about (check, again). This aspect of writing is deceptively difficult to do, and the author does it well here. Ostensibly about who's dating whom, the story is really about sibling relationships and the paths that lives take over time, as dictated by the choices people make.

The story is also a lot of fun, which always helps!
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Review of The Other One  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Well, sometimes you just want a rootin' tootin' cowboy yarn, and here it is, complete with every Western trope you ever laid yore cotton pickin' eyes on. The author here is sending up a beloved genre, and to rollicking effect. Details like the sheriff tilting back in his chair at the jail generate in the mind's eye images that make this story especially fun.

I could just hear Gabby Hayes tellin' this yarn!
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Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
This is a highly inventive and effective story. As a reader, I don't at all understand the details behind what transpires. The reader doesn't really know what's going on, but that doesn't matter. Clearly, Lester is skating toward something very bad, and the inherent tension in the story comes from the reader not knowing exactly what that is. The details of what's going on are incomprehensible to the reader because they aren't anything the reader can relate to based on experience. But what's clearly comprehensible is that, in the end, Lester is toast, and whatever toasted him is sailing on to what is, presumably, future mayhem.

I might read this story a second time to see if I can make any more sense of what is going on, but even if I don't read it again, I'll still have enjoyed this story very much. Nicely done!
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Review of Birthday Party  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Coming up with an original idea about a party story can be a challenge, and the author here is up to it. Ostensibly about a party, the story is actually about other things, folding in commentary on several issues: social media, competing family obligations, and setting priorities among them. The ending adds a drop of poignancy to the story, an effective way to wrap things up. In establishing an original framework for this story, the author has evoked a situation that is highly relatable. We've all been there!
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Review of The Party  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
The details here are what make this story go. Caruthers' wig, Mary's ankle and her fastidiousness about dressing properly, Jack's cap and hair, and the language ("togs") all show us something about these characters without directly saying anything about them - an effective way to create the images in the reader's mind that put the reader right in the story. And the twist at the end tells us something about the relative time setting. We don't need to know what the two time settings are, only that they differ significantly, underscored by the certainty on the part of the party-goers that the figures at the top of the stairs are ghosts.

A well-told, highly economical story. Nicely done!
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Review of Susan  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Stories told exclusively, or almost exclusively, in dialogue are tricky, but this story brings it off. The author's skill with dialogue makes it easy to track who's saying what, and the double twist is the topping on this particular ice cream cone.

A treat!
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Review of Fish Eyes  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Sometimes a really, really succinctly told story best gets the message across and conveys the fun, and this is one of those times. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-bing, and our protagonist is flying through the window, on the way to his destiny, and to the floating garbage, in the East River, or wherever this is.

Reading this was really a good time!
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Review of Far from home?  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
What a terrifying story! The punchy dialogue carries the story along briskly and ratchets up the tension as the narrative barrels forward. And the double twist at the end is particularly effective. We're expecting a surprise at the end, but two of them bring the story to a satisfying,jolting conclusion.

Run-on sentences are a distraction, but maybe only for a grammar geek like me.

Any parent will break into a cold sweat while reading this story. Nice job!
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Review of Parts  
Review by Megabob
Rated: E | (5.0)
Very funny, and very well crafted! A story we can all relate to, on so many levels, including incomprehensibly complex assembly instructions and incomprehensibly inane Dad jokes.

I love it - well done!
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Review by Megabob
Rated: E | (5.0)
Excellent story, just superb. Very tight, beginning to end. Highly inventive. The straightforward sentence structure fits the story's content perfectly. No missteps here. Well done!
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Review of Generations  
Review by Megabob
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Jacky,

I love this story! Telling a tale only in dialogue is a challenge, but you always make it clear who is talking. And your message is such a good one: understanding words doesn't necessarily equate to understanding meaning. So relevant in these times of miscommunication all around us.

Gram wasn't the only one laughing. Me, too.


Bob
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Review of Shark's Teeth  
Review by Megabob
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi QueenNormaJean,

I love ghost stories and am aware of the challenge of presenting one in a unique way. You met the challenge! I didn't see it coming for quite awhile, and when it did come, I thought about how beautifully you crafted the message. Nice job!

Bob
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Review of Margins of Error  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
I especially like the opening of this suspenseful, well-crafted tale. We're hooked in the first sentence. I think the sense of authenticity is another strong element here. It's impossible to feel the author might not have been born and raised in coal country.

On the syntax side, the variety of sentence length and the effective use of the sentence fragment at the end of the fifth sentence serve to really propel the narrative, and so does the switch to present tense halfway through the story.

Another deserving Flash Fiction Daily Contest winner!

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Review of Collateral Damage  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
The originality of this story jumps right off the page, as does the dialogue, which flows as naturally as a forest stream.

I think you establish the setting and the characters quickly and cleanly, and you maintain consistently, throughout the story, the tone of puzzlement that's essential to maximize the impact of the ending.

I really like balance you strike between the characters, Charlie's respect for her famous professor, mixed with a feisty willingness to challenge him, a combination of emotions that it's easy to imagine would arise among archeological colleagues working in the field.

Meantime, speaking of the ending, I can see that coming up with a way to wrap up this tale would be challenging, and I think what you crafted is masterful. It didn't even occur to me to doubt that a dinosaur could have caused the damage to the shed. The believability factor is enhanced by the remote setting you made sure the reader is aware of, but still, it's a credit to your skill that the reader (this reader, anyway) didn't stop in the middle of the story, or especially at the end, and think, Oh, c'mon - dinosaurs?

I'm still wondering what emotion Charlie is feeling at the end. The final adverb threw me off a little.

A deserving contest winner - I loved reading this!

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of Hunting Evil  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
The specific images in this story really make it come alive, e.g., the jumping and twisting shadows, Jarrod's blackened and shriveling skin, Kate pulling the bottle's stopper with her teeth (she's a veritable swash-buckler). And the fast establishment of the plot draws us in quickly and powerfully. I can't imagine any reader not wanting to speed through this one, to see what happens, after that electrifying opening paragraph.

I loved the leitmotif of cliche. Presenting it again at the end makes for a wonderfully appealing close.

Even the briefest of text, the things Kate says to herself ("Whatever" and "Yup") illuminate her character nicely.

Nit-picky conventions of language item: In this instance, in the third paragraph, "it's" should be "its," no apostrophe, since you need the possessive form of the pronoun "it," instead of the contraction for "it is."

This was really fun!

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of Hired Gun  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
A great yarn. What I especially liked about it was that I thought I had it pegged, and I was wrong. About halfway through the story, I figured Daisy was the target, but what I wasn't figuring on was that Conrad had known she was the hit and had set her up for the kill. At least I think that's what's going on here. For a moment, I thought I was mistaken because I thought the assassin would get out of there right after the shot and wouldn't expose himself by leaving his cover and approaching his victim, out in the open. But I think the rationale here is that he needed to get close, to confirm the kill.

The other possibility, of course, is that I was right in the first place, that Conrad didn't know Daisy was the target, that the note she was clutching and the hat she was wearing were from someone else, the finger man, or the man who hired Conrad. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that this is what's going on, especially given this sentence in the narrative: "He knew his target today was a woman, but not much else."

All of this ruminating from a (possibly confused) reader points up how important it is to cover all the bases when writing a story like this. A reader, especially one who is tricked, as I thought I was, will go back through the narrative, looking for clues, and they need to line up. They mostly line up in this one, but I think they led me down the wrong path, and not the one the author wanted me on.

In any case, this is a really fun read, and continues to be fun as I think about which of my theories about the plot here is the one the author intended.

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Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
The question about the central action of a well-told tale like this one is whether the reader will understand that action, whether the focus of the story will require some specific knowledge that the reader might not possess. In this case, of course, the question is whether a reader unfamiliar with chess will not only be able to follow the story, but will be caught up in it.

I've played chess, but not for a long time, so I wouldn't be able to follow the moves in this story without seeing a chess board in front of me. In other words, as I read this story, I'm more or less in the position of someone who doesn't know chess. And I was indeed caught up in the story, eager to see how it would play out. I think what this means is that chess, in this story, is what film director Alfred Hitchcock used to call the "McGuffin," the thing the whole story revolves around, but it doesn't really matter what it is; it's just the excuse for the story. In this story, Nathan LeCroix and Blue could have been playing poker, or any game in which a computer could participate. What's important are the characters, how they're drawn, what we know about them from the details in the story, what the characters are feeling, and what their interrelationships are. Those elements are placed in this story by a talented writer.

A deserving winner of the Daily Flash Fiction contest!

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Review of The Fight  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
I like this a lot. The mystery of who these people are and what's going on is solved at a satisfying pace, not so slowly that we lose interest, but slowly enough to keep us engaged while we await the clarifications.

In the first line, looks like there's a word missing after the word "thin." One suggestion for picking up inadvertent slip-ups like that is to read your stories out loud as part of the proofing process. Your ear will catch some things that your eye misses.

The question of how to end these flash fiction pieces is always a challenging one, and I think you wrap this one up nicely. As a reader, I really felt the futility of the girl's situation. We're left wondering if she's going to be able to cook up some kind of revenge, and it's always a good sign when a reader is still thinking about the story when it's over.

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Review of Alluring Sounds  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
This is a highly entertaining story and I really enjoyed reading it. The renowned myth of the Sirens contains compelling themes, with layers of meaning about human nature, and its tendency to be tripped up by its own delusions, self-delusions, and imperfections.

One suggestion here is to be careful with verb tenses. The story starts out in past tense, but within the first paragraph, it shifts into present tense. There's a similar shift in the first two sentences of the third paragraph. Shifts in tense can be effective, but they should be utilized for specific purposes. In this story, they don't appear to serve a purpose and so they distract the reader (at least they did this reader) from the flow of the story.

Another suggestion on the grammatical side of things has to do with proper nouns. The word "Captain" in the context of this story should be capitalized everywhere, because it's a proper noun, the character's title. If you were talking about a captain in general, any old captain (as in, "The captain is always the boss of a ship"), then it would be lower case.

Another suggestion would be to read the story out loud after you've written it. When you do that, lots of unintentional mistakes jump out, because your ear won't be fooled by some of the things your eye doesn't catch when you proofread silently. For example, if you read the second-to-last sentence out loud, the fact that the word "him" is missing between the verb "dragging" and the preposition "into" jumps right out at you.

But all of that stuff is grammatical nit-picking. This was a fun story, although I'm sure The Captain ultimately decided otherwise.

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Review of Recognition  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
As a reader, I experienced this as a terrific, and terrifically concise, trip through the arc of a writer's journey.

There are a number of specific elements of this story I really like. One is the tone you've established early on by the use of second-person narration. It sounds like a hard-boiled noir detective yarn and, with the image of a solitary figure sitting at White Castle, you deftly mix in some appropriate Edward Hopper imagery. (I kept thinking of the famous "Nighthawks" painting.)

YOu also enhance the tone with your skilled use of sentence fragments. You clearly know what you're doing with regard to conventions of language.

I also liked your insertion of narrowly focused images, which serve to place the reader right in the story. The image of the cop with his palms on his belt and his long stare did that job with particular power, at least for me.

I liked how neatly you express character through action, e.g., when the counter girls give the narrator a large cup of joe and charge him for only a medium.

I like how you structured the story, with backstory filling the first half, followed by the clear indication to the reader that the story is going to take an immediate turn toward the present. That definite but deft move keeps me fully engaged as a reader.

And with the ending, you provide a special treat, revealing the kind of stuff the protagonist writes, assuming that the reader knows who Dean Koontz is. But even if a reader doesn't know Dean Koontz from Dizzy Dean, the line at the end still serves a purpose, emphasizing that the writer (the one in the story) is wondering what he's gotten himself into.

So we've got a tale that tells a complete story, full of arresting details but with a philosophical underpinning. I don't give five stars very often, but, Wow!

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Review of Fairytale Killer  
Review by Megabob
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
No doubt about it, this is top-tier stuff, and a deserving winner of the Daily Flash Fiction contest. The language and pacing are both pitch-perfect for the genre. The opening, of course, grabs you by the lapels, and then you're carried along by the expertly crafted dialogue.

The challenge in a story like this is how to end it. The crime is committed, the perp is out there, and they're unlikely to catch him in 300 words. The clue about the next crime is a great conclusion, although, of course, nothing is yet concluded.

I rarely award five stars, but I'm a big fan of this story, and the author's skill!

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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