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406 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
If you're really desperate for a review, feel free to email me. Just don't expect a very quick turnaround. NB: I'm happy to review novels. I tend to review from the point of view of a reader rather than an editor. I 'nitpick' on anything that interrupts my reading flow. If you want me to go all out with nitpicking in general, ask me to do a line-by-line. Quite happy to do so - as a copied static or email.
I'm good at...
Getting into the story from the reader's perspective.
Favorite Genres
M/M, romance, horror, western
Public Reviews
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1
1
Review of Snowglobe  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi rugal b.

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Okay, so there’s a novel sitting behind this, right? If there’s not, there should be. You’ve got a whole world (two worlds, really) here that intrigue the heck out of me; there has got to be more to read!

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy type stories so I never saw the ending coming, even though you hinted it right at the outset with Memories and Nostalgia in capitals. When I read it a second time I had a lot of questions – not the least being in how does Jen actually get to Winterbank? There seems to be various possible ways and means and it adds to the ‘what’s going on?’ and ‘am I sane?’ sort of feelings. Jen definitely feels something’s not right and I think you’ve done a great job of showing her as ‘I know what’s going on’ and then moments of pure ‘what the heck’s going on here?’ The Maxluxe case that she tries to remind Gig(i) about sounds incredibly interesting, and adds to the whole ‘playing with the brain’ theme.

When all is said and done, it really just could be some impressive drug taking. With Nostalgia capitalised and an explanation for Winterbank/Snowglobe forthcoming it’s definitely clear there are drugs/mind-control things taking place. Voluntarily too. Imagine if that was real-life? I’d think half the world would make that choice!

I mentioned above the wish for a novel or at least something longer. It’s not a crazy wish. The tiny glimpse of a backstory (the Maxluxe episode, Jen’s rough upbringing, Gig’s inadequacies) tell us there’s a whole world we want to explore. The same goes for the Snowglobe itself. An AI runs that, but who looks after the frozen people? How do they come out of this frozen state? Do they remember everything? There’s so much more for a reader to see, if you’d only let us. That, to me, is pretty good story-telling – making the reader want more has to be our goal.

It’s easy to see how the picture prompt of the white and quiet street inspired the story. Gave it a bit of a sinister feeling, actually, at the outset but eased into comfy feelings (even if those feelings weren’t quite real). The name of the town and the Snowglobe itself also speak of the picture prompt so I think you did a good job of making it a strong part of the story. (Though, honestly, if I was building a place to go when my brain couldn’t cope anywhere, there’d be no snow in sight *Smile*.)

The final words of the story are, I think, the strongest. Of course, they make us think of the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ and that rings true too. Home could be crappy or cold or many things, but it’s still home. I think Gig might have some different feelings about that, but she’s got a very good friend and partner at her side to help her out. Home and friendship. Two very fine things to go to hell and back for.


Things to Work on
This is a fascinating story that deserves to be read, but readers just aren’t going to find it when you use Contest Entry and Other for your genres. Now, Contest Entry is, I think, a good one to use when you’re writing for a contest (especially if you don’t mention it specifically at the end of the story itself). It warns the reader that you had limitations – word count, prompt etc. (This makes it good for reviewers too.) Other makes it feel like you had no idea what you were writing or, worse, didn’t care. This is a great story!!! Help it out. Sci-fi, Supernatural, Dark, Crime, Friendship, Emotion….. any of these would be better than Other and all fit in some way with the story. Goodness, sorry, that was rather a rant.

I heard a voice. – Nothing actually wrong with this sentence in its own right, but it feels a bit superfluous. We know the character heard the voice because the speech is right there beforehand. I turned tells us the character heard the voice too so we don’t need that opening sentence, if that makes sense. A bit further down, we’ve got this again when her friend calls her name.

So what brings to Winterbank? – I think ‘you’ should be after ‘brings’?

Yeah, he Nostalgia was really hitting me. – ‘the’ not ‘he’. And at the end of the paragraph that includes this you’ve got as he grasped his proffered hand and shook. I’m presuming it should be ‘as I’?

…simple evening at home | A nice breakfast.. – I think Gigi is just mentioning two different types of nostalgic events but because they butt up against either other it reads as if she’s mixed herself up and that ‘breakfast’ should be ‘dinner’. If it’s the former, perhaps add in something like Or like a nice breakfast… to make things fully clear.

Needles to say… – I actually like ‘needles’ here but that’s obviously not what you were aiming for *Smile*

…those who feel like the can’t take Neopolis… – ‘they’ not ‘the’

Is the narrator’s friend Gig or Gin?


Closing Comments
Right, so, I think the proofreading was a trifle lax (see the red bits above) but the story hugely made up for that. I really enjoyed it and the ideas/worlds behind it. When I say I’d like to see more, I mean it. One part of that is seeing Jen and Gig’s lives before this – their childhoods, their education, their jobs etc; how they got to be where they were before Gig’s ‘breakdown’.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
2
2
Review of Winter  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi Hang the Christmas Sox Already

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
It’s really interesting, with this picture prompt of a snow-covered street, how it’s the silence that seems to be picked up first. In this little story’s case, the total lack of sound is very apt, but we don’t realise that until the very end. Fascinating, too, that the first noises we don’t hear via our narrator are angry sounds – cabbies, road rage, sirens. The world would definitely seem at peace without those things. At the end of that opening paragraph we understand that nature’s silent too; there is nothing but the narrator’s breath as he walks that street.

Once you’ve read the story and know what it’s about, the paragraphs of walking around totally alone make a great deal of sense. Up until then, though, it’s a bit like we’re watching a sort of odd thievery going on – walking into strangers’ houses, eating food from shops. Sure, the narrator is alone in the world and he’s gotta live, it’s just weird having him do these things that would otherwise be called looting and breaking and entering.

We’re told its months that he’s been wandering about. This makes me think we should be getting some view of him. He tells us about the world, that technology is still active etc, but what about him? Does he know who he is? What is he wearing? He’s puzzled about a couple of things so it would have been good to know if anything about himself was puzzling him too.

Loved the bit about the library and it only carrying books he’d read. Such perfect sense when we understand what we’re dealing with here. If that happened to me, my library would be a very odd collection! It’s quite a nice way of sort of summing up a person’s life.

The descriptions about the hospital are really good, focusing on just a few things – the heart monitors, the dripping, the ventilators. Admittedly even at this time I still hadn’t quite twigged *Smile* That, of course, made the final sentence really, really great! Also was a huge light-bulb moment for the rest of the story and I thought it was well done how you’d managed to keep that little plot twist hiding away until right at the end.


Things to Work On
Don’t forget to make use of all three genre slots. Even in a tiny story like this, there is more than Drama. You could easily use Paranormal, Emotion, Health etc to give the reader an idea of what they might be encountering. Also, the genres are mini search engines so people can find your story. Of course, if you don’t want them to find it (e:smile) then Other works just fine.

…repulsed him and compelled him forward – as this sentence stands the ‘repulsed’ and ‘compelled’ kind of bash up against each other and make things sounds a little off. I know what you mean here, as would most readers, but it jars slightly. I’d recommend either putting ‘both’ before ‘repulsed’ or putting ‘yet’ before ‘compelled’ so that we can very easily see the push and pull of these two things


Closing Comments
A very tiny short story with a clever take on the prompt. I would like to have understood whether or not the narrator actually felt the cold but otherwise I thought it worked fairly well. Definitely enjoyed the ending!


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
3
3
Review of The Snowflake  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)

Hi Quick-Quill

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
It has to be quite a leap of faith in yourself to accept someone else’s body parts or fluids. Of course, in a lot of situations there is no choice but I wonder if everyone has, at the back of their mind, thoughts about what it’ll do to them as a unique individual. Comparing himself to unique snowflakes becoming just an indistinguishable pile is sobering for Daniel, even though it turns out he’s a scientist and has been studying this while he’s been undergoing leukaemia treatment. I would suspect he knows the risks better than most, but he’s also in one of the better positions to do something about it.

What I found interesting is that Daniel keeps thinking/saying he’s going to sort of disappear, and yet he also says that who he is is still the same (personality, likes, dislikes etc – though the newly discovered taste for bruschetta makes him think twice). He seems mostly calm about this, so I’m a little unsure as to why he’s doing this interview. It was almost like he was going to break a huge news-scoop, but that doesn’t seem to be it. I’d like to have known why he was doing the interview just so to get my head around things. What is he hoping to achieve by going to the media?

We don’t really get much backstory with Daniel other than he’s a widower, he’s raising a daughter, and he had a bone marrow transplant six years prior. Okay, that sounds like a lot, but there’s not a lot of detail around these things, other than the changes that have gone on in his body with the blood transfusions. I would honestly have liked a little more about his personal life, but I can also understand why his job and his DNA are taking up pretty much all of his time! You haven’t used all the allotted word count here, but I think this could be made even bigger – backstory, present, future story. Does he learn to love again? How does his daughter react (in fact, how old???)? Does he know the donor’s family and contact them? I wondered all these things. Would love to read more if you ever expanded.

Loved this: He needed a life, if just looking at this woman he’d never met was affecting him. He thinks it might be his new DNA, I suspect it’s just the fact he’s not at work and he’s not having to deal with the stress of raising a child. And… his heart telling him that’s it probably quite okay to be attracted to someone again. In any case, it’s a really nice line. Made me want to give him a hug and a flick across the ear!


Things to Work On
A number of typos to tidy up; the biggest ones that stood out and jarred me are listed below.

Neither of us looked… – up until this point the story has been in third-person, and then we suddenly have this third-person rendering and the next paragraph begins I paused. I suspect you’ve got so much dialogue here that you just moved into first-person narration outside of it, but it was a ‘what?’ moment for me and stopped my concentration. This is a deep story; it’d probably go really well in first person.

She paused and waited for his to look at her. – ‘him’ not ‘his’.

He’d just nodded. “Had you already had a DNA sent into one of them?” – ‘He’ not ‘He’d’, but also, this looks like he’s spoken this question because it’s on the same line as the action, but it’s Tori. Make sure you keep actions and dialogue separate if they belong to different people.

I’m sorry. How awful. – nothing wrong grammatically. I know Tori was responding how awful that Daniel was in the situation of having lost his wife and was raising a child on his own, but the way it came really made it sound like she was responding that being a widower and having a daughter was awful. Kind of as if he’d said he had the plague. I think it would be better to have something along the lines of I’m sorry, what a difficult situation to be in.

The main thing that I had a bit of a problem with is that this story didn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t really end. Yes, we do go back to the picture prompt with the snow and return to his earlier thoughts about how he is becoming like a melting snowflake, becoming indistinguishable, but… given we’ve just had quite a heady conversation about DNA and changes to a person’s make-up that didn’t feel like it worked. It sort of feels like we’re on hold waiting for Tori to get off the phone. I’d like to have seen a close-out of their interview to act as the ending.

PS – Family would make a better genre than ‘other’.


Closing Comments
A very intriguing story with quite a unique take on the picture prompt of the snowy street looking at the uniqueness of snowflakes/humans and how actually we’re not really. The ending did fall flat for me, but I think you’ve got the good bones (DNA) to make quite the novel here.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review of Foresight  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)

Hi Myles Abroad

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
This is incredible story-telling but I honestly didn’t have much idea about what was going (see my comments in the next section). Despite that, it’s an amazing story. I guess that might be hard to get your head around, but even though I felt several steps behind most of the time I could easily see your ability as a writer.

You’re economical with words but hugely descriptive with those you do use, you’ve got complex characters (haven’t seen one like Dee in quite a while!), and you’ve spread emotions about like wild seeds (for characters and reader alike). I could feel the heat of the day, the desperation of Dee and Mac, and Dee’s panics quite easily.

Turning the picture prompt of the snowy street totally on its head to a garbage-filled street with fighting dogs was definitely not expected, and it took me some time to get that. It’s hard when the prompt is ‘write something inspired by the picture.’ Well, heck, inspiration can hit from any angle but I do still expect to see something that is reasonably easy to link to the picture. When Mac says it hasn’t snowed in ages, I’d have liked to have him mention maybe a snowy street – or how great the street would look under snow with the current ghastliness buried. Basically, somehow mention a snowy street and my brain would have clicked so much earlier what you were trying to do. Ah, I’m sure this review is reading weird to you but I’m very prompt-oriented when it comes to judging (despite how awesome the story is outside of that prompt).

Found it quite ironic that Dee is worried about the snow and insists they better be gone before it happens, and yet totally ignores the rumours about Yellowstone. Sure, snow… ash…. different things but it’s odd with her dreams that she doesn’t connect the two.

I really liked that through this apocalyptic story we had a family. We don’t get massive glimpses but it was incredibly easy how tight they are. Mac’s support of Dee, though I’m sure he’s had moments, is strong and it’s a good blend of ‘I’ll look after you’ and ‘I’ll stop you’. Little Josh didn’t really need to be in the story but he still made his presence felt and gave hope and unconditional love, and also added that extra bit of drama of the randomness of a three-year-old!


Things to Work On
Mostly, it’s not so much things you need to work on but me explaining what I didn’t understand, which was a great deal of it. This story is incredibly well told, but I felt like I’d been dropped into a scene 125 minutes in and not given any background at all. What’s with the dreams? What’s with the fear of snow? What century/life/apocalyptic world are we in? Who are the Blackshirts (I couldn’t easily tell if they’re good guys or bad guys)? What does Dee mean with Winter’s coming? Is she living Game of Thrones scenes (that’s where I know that phrase from but have never watched/read).

This reads very well, but also as if it’s been plucked out of a novel. Which I hope is true because it’d be one hell of a novel!!


Closing Comments
Okay, probably one of the oddest reviews I’ve written where I war with my feelings as a reader vs my feelings as a judge. Despite everything, I hope it’s clear that I did like this story – just give me twelve extra chapters either side and I’ll be perfectly pleased! (I mean that…. Should you continue on, I’d like to read it.)


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi Mordee2

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
This little story opened with a good ‘view’ of the picture prompt. I was able to ‘see’ the street, almost feel the cold. Ice-encrusted eyelashes cannot be comfortable!!!

Returning to one’s childhood home is always an interesting experience. I’ve driven past mine whenever I’ve managed to be in that part of the country. I can still draw the layout and I’ve not been inside in 34 years! James’ ‘home-coming’ is bitter sweet, though we don’t find that out until the end. Early on, he’s just walking along his old street, viewing the house and remembering life there and his interactions with neighbours. It’s a nice feeling and would feel rather special on Christmas Eve.

Interestingly, though, we’re only seeing those childhood/teenage years. Sure he probably went away to college or something but there’s something sort of telling that we don’t see that moment, the day he left. I didn’t really think about that at the first reading, but once I got to the end and went ‘ahhh’ I re-read and started wondering about this and that. (See my comment below on further thoughts about that.)

I loved that whole ‘what if’ all previous dwellers returned; that would indeed be so fascinating to hear of experiences – including the tradition of the candles (does that include the candlesticks? Just wondering.) If only inanimate objects could release everything they’ve ever seen or heard! In any case, this particular paragraph was a really good one for allowing the reader to let loose some of their imagination alongside James. (And… it’s all the more poignant given his current situation.)

It’s not until the final paragraph (in fact the final half of that paragraph) that reality smacks us in the nose. It leaves us with a lot of questions, but it makes the entire story that went before it hit the reader rather hard. A lovely vista on Christmas Eve with memories and candles and then…. Ooh, it’s nothing like where my head was going. It’s a hard ending but also positive in that James is still able to look after himself. He’s got strength and he’s got courage to both face the past and the present, and that’s a nice way to end.


Things to Work on
Well, really, there’s nothing here but two of my own personal feelings as a reader.

1 - that as James is reminiscing, we could be reminded more of the cold – the contrast between his ‘in the house’ memories and reality. That would make the last two paragraphs really hit.

2 – we got a bit more of James’ background. His family is apparently non-existent, but two of the three members of it are still alive. Feels like there was a rift somewhere that split them all up (and clearly James isn’t interested in sorting that out). Some memories of that, or of the last Christmas in the house with family etc would be handy here so that we can get an angle on James himself. You’ve got 2000 words to play with in this contest, don’t be afraid to use them all *Smile*.


Closing Comments
A small story, which some would probably consider simply a scene or a vignette, that packs a good ‘punch’ at the end. It’s very visual, making it almost as if we’re walking alongside James and he’s giving us the low-down on the area. I wonder what we would choose to show someone if we were leading a tour of our childhood street.

Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review of No Return Address  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Thankful Sonali Done 30 DBC!

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
What a clever idea, taking the picture prompt at face value and using it as a postcard. Though…. when Pamela’s mum is running down the list of what’s on it, she’s forgotten the snow. It’s not mentioned apart from a quick memory about snowflakes later on. We know it’s cold where they are – well, there’s a cold breeze – but we don’t actually get anything other than that that is winter-like. You’ve picked more on the prompt as being Christmas than generally winter, I think.

It’s a lovely Christmas story, full of hope, but also showing how family arguments can really go on for years. Forty years is one heck of a long time!!! I wished you’d given some indication of what the property argument had really been about, why the split had seemed so final.

On the flipside, of course, such an argument lays the foundations for an awesome reunion, and that’s what we get as well as a lot of family members meeting for the first time. It is really quite crazy how families really don’t keep in touch, especially in this electronic world. And, actually, that’s why I like the postcard idea – the simply act of sending someone a physical letter or card is so foreign to the younger generation these days. Marie’s right too – barely enough space for the To: address, let alone trying to fit a Sender on it (not sure I’ve ever seen a post card with a Sender address, in fact).

The few words on the postcard tell a lot to Marie and Pamela and, through them, to the reader. We also start to get a picture of what this older brother is like, or feeling. It’s perfect how they’ve managed to organise the reunion for Pamela’s father and his brother Jim, and I love how there’s another one happening that they’re not really party to – it’s going to be a great Christmas for them as much as for the brothers.

I was rather relieved that the reunion worked!!! Would have made for a miserable time if it hadn’t, though I kind of get the feeling that the brothers might have been shoved outside and everyone enjoyed the reunion without them *Smile*


Things to Work on
I think I would like to have seen a bit more of the snowy side, unless Christmas is taking place in a non-snow environment. Even if that were the case, you could still have brought the postcard back into the story – showing it to the father (though…. if their split was because of property, maybe not a good idea to show him the image of the property!!)

‘You stalked us?’ Roger asked his eldest cousin – I’m pretty sure you don’t mean Roger here given that it was he who asked for the stalking to happen. I think this is Pamela’s father (who is never named).


Closing Comments
A rather unique take on the prompt, and I didn’t feel that we saw a lot of it again in the story. But, the story was really nice; heart-warming yet fraught and chaotic as one expects in a semi-secret reunion!


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of Silence  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi Lovina 🐕‍🦺

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
The opening lines give us a heads’ up that something is odd, but not so odd that we might have an idea where the story is going. Sometimes a street does just go quiet. Mine right now is wonderfully quiet but usually there are kids playing and cars coming and going, and the neighbours next door renovating.

We know how silent Hank finds the street because we get lovely descriptions of the noise prior. Noise that was possibly irritating originally but definitely missed when it was gone. However… in this case, the silence is beyond normal. Hank’s able to explain away some things (like the bus having picked up the kids and everyone else having gone off to work) but no sound or movement or anything whatsoever is odd.

It’s somewhat interesting that he heads to his neighbour’s house rather than going back inside his own house, though that does help with the plot as it unfurls. It’s as if he needs to just suddenly check he still has a neighbour, that someone lives like him. Which is…. ironic.

I love how you explained how Hank’s voice kind of became one with the nothingness. As odd as it sounds, that was quite a visual way of putting it; sort of like you can see the spoken words fading out as letters into nothing. The creeping quiet is also very visual, like a thickness Hank actually has to move through.

Once Hank is in the living room he finds his son there (he’d noticed the car outside his gate but hadn’t it heard pull up at all) and all the sound that had been missing comes back as he comes face to face with the reason for it all. Pulled my heartstrings to see him wanting to comfort his son, pulled harder with the appearance of Hank’s wife. Man, I was reading this on the train. Tears seeping on a train is not cool!

Very nice ending, despite the grief, because it’s a happy ending as well – and completely unexpected, even though there were signs at the beginning.

The inspiration for this story was a picture prompt of a snowy, silent street, which we definitely got early on. Even the silence that stayed with Hank almost all the way through harked back to that. I would like to have known, though, if he’d felt the cold because that didn’t really seem to make an appearance.


Things to Work On
Firstly, two little things to tidy up, though they didn’t mar the reading flow:

… to his neighbors house – neighbor’s.

The Hank on the couch did not breath – breathe rather than breath. (I notice as I send this review that someone has already alerted you to the missing 'e' and it has been corrected *Smile*)

You seem to do a lot of comma splicing; joining two sentences with a comma rather than fully separating them. I do it to, which is why I notice it these days. The sentence starting He reached an arm up to knock… is an example of this. In most cases, the reader will read well enough to make everything make sense but shouldn’t really have to do that. So, as you’re proofreading, bear in mind long sentences that might be two or more in disguise.

This story is written in the simple past tense, so that made He has found that extra part of him… jar with the use of ‘has’ (the double use of ‘has’, actually). I think this needs to be ‘He had’ and ‘that had’ a bit later on. (And again this has been corrected *Wink*)

I wouldn’t use Dark as a genre here, because it’s more sad than dark. Relationship or Family might be a kinder term.


Closing Comments
A nice little story that manages to be both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the end. Quite a different take on the picture prompt, which I thought worked quite well.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi Dorianne

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
It’s really nice how you worked the picture prompt early on in the story and then smacked the reader with a plot twist. I was gearing up to hide behind my fingers *Smile* You reminded us several times of the season and what it is like and Tammy’s mother’s layers, layers, layers highlights the chill factor in a simple repeated word. Our news weather forecasts have started saying how many layers we should be wearing too. Bit depressing when they say three for us, given we’re supposed to be in summer!

Tammy’s Twilight Zone dream didn’t feel like a portent when it was happening, but the events she goes through the next day made me remember that dream. How she felt there was much like how she felt as she tried to evade the stinky guy and even get to the post office for that letter. It was a mixture of being bewildered and vulnerable and being alive and active…. and panicky/desperate. Even more portentous when we find out what’s in that letter!!!

The second half of the story ties, of course, with the first half with the reappearance of the stinky man. By the way, And his last bath might have been longer than that was a really nice way of stating the obvious without giving us a blow-by-blow description. It let the reader ‘smell’ for themselves. I commute daily, and there are few things worse on a train that heavy BO smell or alcohol fumes. I fully understood why Tammy moved away and also why she got anxious when she was followed. Anyone who has been in that situation would have been getting twitchy. Her moving into a store was actually something I did when I was followed once; it does give you that little bit of security and sense of safety.

Tammy seems quite a flighty girl, even if she’s shy. Her thoughts are here and there and over there too; that makes some of the sentences quite jumpy but they do match her attitude. The paragraph when she’s back on the subway after getting the letter is a prime example.

In the opening part of the story Tammy, rightly to her, calls her father ‘deadbeat’. We think nothing more of that until right at the end when a lot of things all line up and the lightbulb goes off. It must be incredibly hard for her to come face to face with her father, having actually already done it once that day, and learn some truths. I thought she responded quite well to the shock of seeing him and hearing his explanations, and to the fact that the certified letter was all about him! (I would love to have seen her mother’s reaction.)

There is one thing about the ending that puzzled me and that’s the very last line. The last thing she saw was her father walking away in the white snow. Firstly, nice hand-wave back to the picture prompt, but… why’s it the last thing she saw? I kind of get it but it also really makes it sound like she suddenly dropped dead, which I presume didn’t happen, but it’s not an impossibility nor is it a total stretch to wonder if this was all actually just another dream. So, I would suggest you maybe clearing that up somehow?


Things to Work on
The things listed here are, of course, my opinion so feel free to do with them what you will.

There were a few punctuation errors that occurred mostly with dialogue. …another 15 minutes.” her mother shouted angrily. is an example. We expect a comma there instead of the full stop. (I’d also expect, in speech, numbers to be written out. I expect that in general, actually, so seeing 5, 10 and 20 were a little jarring.)

The two sentences about Tula and the sandwich kinda came out of the blue and went nowhere. The lead-in was talking about breakfast. When we suddenly went to Tula handing over a sandwich it felt like we’d totally jumped a scene and were at school, or that Tula was in the kitchen waiting for Tammy. Since neither of those things were actually happening, I’d remove those two sentences just for the continuity of the story.

second had story – ‘hand’

Tammy could not tell you how… – seems a little odd ‘addressing’ the reader (you) here when it hasn’t happened before. It would be a bit more fitting to say something like Tammy couldn’t have said how…

but she got there and into line – watch your continuity. The last location we heard about was the dress shop so this sentence makes it sound like she just got there to presumably buy her dress. Make it clear that it’s the post office she made it to on time.

He voice was firm. – ‘his’

When the father is doing his explain, try to keep his words and the actions together. In general, readers will read one line of speech as character A and the next line as character B, but there’s a couple of sections where both lines of speech are Tammy’s father. Keeping things together means the reader won’t find themselves befuddled and have to stop reading to figure things out. Keep us in the reading zone, rather than drop us.


Closing Comments
We got some really good visuals on how the picture prompt inspired your story, and it really does sound as if you’ve stood in a street much like it. There’s a lot of action and emotion packed into the story, and we get closure on several of the little plot loops (the stinky man, the letter). The things I pointed out that I had trouble with are really quite minor, though do try and proofread to pick up the pesky punctuation.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review of White-out!  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)

Hi hullabaloo22

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
When I saw the photo prompt for this contest, I expected to be reading a slew of Christmas stories because it was, of course, also December. Your story was definitely unexpected, and it was really very intriguing.

Snow at Christmas is not something I experience, being in the southern hemisphere, and I could imagine us all down here shaking our fists at the weather forecasters first and foremost before wondering just how did something so startlingly ‘wrong’ get missed.

Your story is set only over a short time-period, and using the present tense both gives us that ‘in the now’ sense and heightens the rising ‘something is very wrong’ feeling. We get the latter from the narrator too but we have figured out he’s a forecaster so we’re just expecting he’s overreacting a bit. If he was a southern hemisphere forecaster, that panic would be totally understandable *Smile*. Forecasters must have one of the most stressful jobs on the planet! I think you’ve shown that very well and the weight of expectation (and blame) that goes with such a job.

The picture prompt itself was of a snowy street and I like how you brought that in as your narrator navigates his way outside and then to work, letting that inspire the setting as well as the story.

Mystery is a perfect genre for this story because I didn’t see the end coming, and I liked that hitting me. It turned the story on its head and made me re-read it, actually, to see if I’d missed something. Nope. Just my preconceived notions of bad weather-forecasting, strengthened by the narrator beating himself up for being bad at his job!


Things to Work on
There’s nothing to report here really in terms of structure, grammar and all that stuff.

But… I would ask why there is totally no one on the streets. Sure, it’s very, very, very, very cold but I reckon kids would be out and about. The narrator’s thought that he’s all that’s left is a good thought to have (and it probably damn-well felt like it) but you don’t go back to it. When we get those last vision-clearing lines, I’d like him to have gone back to that moment in a moment of ‘ooooooh’. Of course, that’d create a lot of questions – why is he just the only one left and you’d have to write a sequel *Smile*.

So… not major, just something that made me wonder why truly there’d be absolutely no one else out and about.


Closing Comments
Enjoyable read. Good inspiration from the prompt in terms of the story itself and the actual physical snowy setting. I had no clue the plot twist was coming; ah, I obviously have a low opinion of weather forecasters to not think something extra-ordinary was happening!

I’d like to see a sequel to this, if there were one. Is he all that’s left? Do creatures come out of the snow? Was it a one-off attack?

Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

Hi Grateful Fyn

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
This story opens with the odd moment of a man walking five hours in the snow to get home, and then we start realising why. Things have suddenly gone very haywire and if this was set twenty years ago then the whole thing would have been ramping up stress levels because of the perceived Y2K bug. You don’t mention that fact (and I don’t recall tablets being a thing then) so you’re just intent on freaking us out at the turn of a new decade *Smile*

I like the snow scenes, very reminiscent of the picture prompt and the cardinal’s song out of nowhere is poignant. Interesting that Rob says the song shattered the silence. Just goes to show how silent the scene is outside of his own walking/breathing. And if he’s not had the chance to really hear birdsong, then it must have felt extra loud to him.

Poor Rob finds out that there’s so much more wrong than just a cab and a cellphone dying, which is very sad. I found his thoughts around the gifts he’d purchased a tough read. People always babble on about we shouldn’t be worried about things that get broken or stolen because they are just stuff. But it’s our stuff, our things. Things that mean the world to us, and I can see how Rob felt when he got the book and how he imagined his father would react. I hope he took the book when he and Sam made their escape.

The arrival of his niece, Sam, changes things markedly. We know she exists because he’s brought presents for her but to have her suddenly pop is brings shock and ‘oh oh, this is even way more serious’. I loved her assurance that Grand and PopPop wouldn’t die without telling her. Such a child’s logic! But… we suddenly get more serious when Rob talks about the power going out being the cause of their deaths, and Sam thinks around that knowledge to her mum being on the plane. (And we think about Rob seeing the plane fall out of the sky earlier.) Question: who lets a child watch a scary movie with EMPs in it??? The ‘best’ thing to come out of that, however, is that the kid is more aware of what’s going on and what will likely happen. She seems to be amazingly calm about it.

About this time you drop a huge ball of mystery on us – when Sam says that PopPop had been talking about this sort of thing happening. Now, Grand probably hushed him because who talks like that in front of children, but he obviously knows something – why else is the MGB all packed with survival stuff??????? If you were to write an epilogue, or chapter two, then I would hope that that odd little moment would be cleared up.

I had to Google MGB just to be sure I knew what I was ‘looking’ at. Yep, that’s a tough vehicle to try and escape in with the snow!! And how much can you actually pack in it? Whew!

Rob’s parents live in a decent neighbourhood and presumably there are plenty of people actually alive there (unless they’re all on oxygen machines and pacemakers) and for now it’s all genteel. The gunfire reminds him that the louts are out and about. I expect they’re raking over their own neighbourhoods first – revenge – but will be heading to the ‘richer’ ones next. Seems a little odd that he hasn’t checked on the neighbours but I understand the need to leave, especially since Sam is with him; likely his only living relative. The final sentence is a powerful one and a short, sharp ending to the story.


Things to Work On
Mostly just typos that a computer spellchecker wouldn’t have told you about:

brought a had to her head – ‘hand’ rather than ‘had’

were a slew presents awaiting – needs ‘of’ after ‘slew’

bookshelves living every inch – ‘lining’ instead of ‘living’ (though I like the idea of bookshelves living!)

We’d made a fast trip to her house… – yes, we’ve only got one active female but this comes at the end of a long paragraph that doesn’t really mention her. I’d suggest putting ‘Sam’s’ here instead of ‘her’.

A nitpicky thing but this puzzled me a little. Rob says he hasn’t used the house key in about three years, but when he sees his niece, who only lives a couple of blocks over, he says they haven’t seen each other in at least five or six (judging the years between kindergarten and ten). Would not the family have caught up if he was doing a flying visit home three years ago?

And a reminder to make use of the genres. Other and Other aren’t gonna sell this cool story! Horror/Scary, Sci-fi, Crime, Dark, Mystery, Family (even) – plenty of good options that will help readers find this story.


Closing Comments
Fascinating story that is, for a tiny second, seemingly good but quickly turns a lot more sinister. Rather telling that you use Korea and Russia as the ‘possible who did it’ bodies. Those of us outside the US would probably add the US to that list. Also shows how wide-ranging an EMP is; I suspect a lot of people don’t’ think about thinks like pacemakers or even tablets or cars – things that are not plugged in.

I would like to see a sequel of sorts to this – at least a telling of what it’s like at the cabin and what it was like on the way there.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
11
11
Review of Town Circles  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)

Hi DragonBlue

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Now, this is a scary story inspired by a wintery silent street!!! It’s got a good title that tells you all you need to know as well as sends you in circles as you try to understand it. Nicely done.

Poor Cory. His yearn for freedom has actually taken it away. No…. I think it’s his lost cell service that did that. He’s always going to wonder that if he’d stayed on the highway would he have been okay? Ah, typical kid and his reliance on technology. I do appreciate that he seems to be appropriately dressed for the weather, but he’s got that standard teenage attitude of not listening/believing. I chuckled at his whole comment about the stinking town.

Donna May has such a story to tell in her own right that I reckon you could do a few spin-off stories as she meets various people getting sucked in. Also tell her own story, since it seems like she actually lived in this town before it got warped into something cold and white. I liked the contrast you gave from when she first saw the town and its shape and colour to the here-and-now of deep, soulless winter.

I liked how we started with Cory as if he’s the main character, but then he just fades into the background driving around and around. He’s becomes just another ‘ghost’ there, definitely no longer free in the manner he was aiming for!

I was a bit confused about the warp itself. I can definitely see that it’s not letting people leave and that Donna May is the only one left alive of all who originally lived there or got sucked in there, but why does she think that Cory’s arrival after so long means the warp might be fixing? If the warp is stopping people leaving (which he obviously can’t) then it’s not really fixed. So a little clarification on that would be handy.


Things to Work On
I think the main thing sitting under this heading is a recommendation that you watch your sentence length. Some of them are very long and that means they’re not always easily understandable. The final paragraph of 65 words is one sentence. It packs a punch in what it says, but splitting it up would have made a more understandable punch.

Some of the sentences also have two halves that don’t seem to quite complement each other. An example is

His cell phone had just lost service so late last night he pulled off the main highway to try to find something to eat and get some gas for his car and ended up pulling into this strange little town. – it reads to me as if he pulled off the highway because his phone lost service, but instead of pulling off to try to get service he actually pulled off to find food and gas. That has nothing to do with phone service so it makes the sentence read a little odd.

There are a few other little punctuation things, but they don’t interrupt the reading flow as much as the length sentence structure do at times.


Closing Comments
A freaky little story that makes you really not want to see a silent, snowy street!!!!! Definitely has the bones for something longer, or a whole bunch of short stories at least!


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
12
12
Review of Crossing A Line  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)

Hi debmiller1

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Well, this is quite the story! It’s full of family and YA angst, volatile emotions and feelings, and stupid things that people do when their brain is disengaged. The title is apt so many times over.

Katie almost ruins many lives in her naïve act of defiance, including her own. It’s a damn tough learning curve she has to experience. The picture prompt of the snowy street is inherent throughout the story with the snow and cold, and whether or not the snow/white made it easy to see a fleeing kid! Fortunately for her, easy to track/save a fleeing kid!

The story deals with darker things and it fitted quite well within the plot, including Katie’s naïve question to the man suddenly in front of her, giving details that he used against her. It’s damn scary, but I like how she wasn’t going to go without a fight. I can’t say I’ve ever bitten down on a corn cob like she does, but it’s a very good visual description of her action.

Despite that dark unpleasant moment, I have to say that I didn’t completely like Katie and it pretty much all stems from kicking the cat. It’s inexcusable and even in fiction immediately gets my hackles up. Regret joined her maelstrom of unhappy feelings is a strong sentence and shows a lot, but given she goes immediately on to think it’s the cat’s own fault I’m finding it hard to accept that ‘regret’ is real. She has this same ‘it’s your fault’ a bit further down which cemented that feeling. From that point on, I found it hard to feel sympathetic for Katie. Not all because of the cat, but because of how she treats her family. Yes… a blended family has to be quite a wrench and hard for a kid to accept. I’ve read a number of these types of stories now where one kid just totally flips, and yet the others don’t.

It’s a very human thing, I think, to be so mired in your own feelings and emotions as to forget that the other half of the equation is likely feeling the same. We get that when Sarah lets out her (valid) feelings. It takes two to tango, as they say. I did appreciate that Katie came to this realisation at the end, but I suspect it was only the terrible fright she had that got her there. Having said all this, I think you portrayed her absolutely perfectly – it’s a sign you wrote her well that I feel anything about/for her.

Eric is a strongly written character who is sitting between a rock and a hard place and doing the best he can. He knows the risks and has been trying to mitigate them for ages so that the two halves can become one whole family. He’s definitely got a strong father mentality, and his actions in going after Katie on foot and in beating the crap out of the attacker show that. The beating also shows that he’d built up things for a long time which needed an outlet. One punch could have knocked the guy out but when an outlet shows itself, out everything comes even if they don’t have anything to do with the ‘right now’.

You wrap the story up nicely and even though I suspect Katie has a long way to go, Eric’s faith in her is being restored and so is the faith within himself.


Things to Work On
Make use of all three genre options. Family or Relationships would have been very good to use here. Genres are selling flags to readers so if you want to catch readers, use them. I do like the use of Contest Entry, however, if the entry itself doesn’t indicate that that’s what it is. It gives readers a bit of a heads-up that there could be limitations of size, prompt, type etc.

I’m not totally sure this should be rated E. Given it involves assault you’d be best to rate this at 13+ at the very least.

I myself had a little bit of an issue with the physical layout – the massive indents with singular spacing. That’s not something you have to fix, but just think about ease of reading.


Closing Comments
A strong and unique take on the picture prompt and dealing with real human feelings. Just because I didn’t have great feelings toward Katie doesn’t mean this wasn’t a good story. I suspect it would be a harsh read for some, but that’s what reality is


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
13
13
Review of Loop  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi BattaDratchev

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Your opening paragraph sets the scene nicely – someone stuck in the snow, brain already a little haphazard in thoughts and yet focusing on minutiae. Totally loved tiny frigid fireworks – what a wonderfully descriptive way to explain what walking on snow sounds like! Oddly visual, as well as being an audible description.

The last couple of lines of that first paragraph lead us to think something is not quite right – but, honestly, it never really hit me clearly until that helmet pops up again. We get moments of clarity from the narrator so that we know something happened and the street has been deserted, but like him we don’t know what or even why.

One thing that makes me wonder about the narrator (and his companions when he had them) is the fact they were sent to walk down a street and then start searching when they got to the end of it. As the narrator says It’s odd, now that I think about it. He’s talking about a slightly different thing here but I started to get the impression he wasn’t actually alive, or if he was he was being used in an experiment and that the simple walking was the whole thing (god really knows what’d happen at the end). Or… he’d simply hit his head and was suffering a strong bout of concussion or hallucination. Snowglobe, anyone? (Which is a very nice ‘show’ of what he was thinking and what ‘world’ he was in.)

But…. in the end it doesn’t really matter if there are things that don’t make sense in this story. That’s the story. It’s not called Loop for no reason. It’s that perfect kind of story where you can send yourself into loops trying to figure it out, the kind that gets under a reader’s skin! We may have to harass the author to explain, or beg them to write a prequel or a sequel……

An unexpected story, but it goes to show that even quite a specific picture prompt like snow covering a city street can lead anywhere! And I like where you took it.


Things to Work on
Make use of the three genres to sell your story to WDC readers. Contest Entry warns us that the story probably had a word limit and even a strict prompt to write to. It’s a good one to use (if you don’t mention in the story itself that it was written for a contest) to let readers know it’s not just a fabulous free-flowing piece. But Other tells us nothing. Two Others tell us even less.

Mystery, Environment, Paranormal, Science Fiction – any of these would have helped let the reader know what they’re in for. They also help readers searching for specific genres find your work.

Also note that the first genre you pick (Other, in this case) shows up in the heading of the story next to the rating and the type. Even if you never change the two Other, put Contest Entry first so it means something to those looking at it.

I expect there are a few sentences where some would say you’re comma splicing – joining two separate sentences together with a comma rather than a full stop. It’s something I do myself so it doesn’t bother me too much in other writing, as long as everything is still readable and understandable. I didn’t have trouble reading this story and, in fact, I felt the way the story was told worked in its favour – somewhat disjointed and babbling, clear in other spots. Fits with the title and the general idea of the story very well.


Closing Comments
I liked this story; it was very different to what I expected when I first saw the picture prompt for this round. No Christmas in sight!! Would like to see it fleshed out just a little – maybe a tiny something about the others he was with (I mean, is he sure on that? What life did they all have before this?) but as a thing to make the reader muddle around and around and around and… oh…. Loop – it’s pretty good *Smile*

Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
14
14
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (2.5)
Hi PureSciFi

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
NaVon is the one ‘relating’ his final day, and you give us a count-down of his actions and interactions, which fits with the prompt. It really shows how much we can do in a day! The ending was clever, definitely not expected. Nice.

Though I could see the count-down of the hours I was really confused about what was actually going on in the story. The two opening paragraphs really didn’t help. If they aren’t actually part of the story being told, then it would be better to remove them, or have them at the end as a sort of footnote.

I was specially confused at the sections at 16, 14, 10, 6, 4 and 2. In other sections NaVon is doing fairly mundane things or talking with his apparent enemy, but in these sections he seems to be running a campaign against someone for no clear reason. It’s too secretive for a reader to understand and you run the risk of putting readers off. We like to figure some things out ourselves, sure, but not half the story. You’re keeping NaVon’s end a sort of secret but there’s no reason to keep secret what he’s trying to get sorted before he goes (especially to the reader). And when we find out he’s had someone killed, we have no idea why. He kind of comes off as a bit of a crazy old man who has really lost the plot. Show us how he came to this point so we understand.

You’ve always been good at coming up with characters’ names; I like the variety you’ve got here and the fact you’ve got a whole world created.

The ending, as I said, is unexpected because NaVon’s been all ‘I’m going to die’. Now, I know there are many things we have to suffer or do that seem like dying to us so I get that, but I found myself suddenly thinking that he’s just a tricky old man and would have us think he’s the victim here. At the end, when BeyKi sounds surprised I was wondering perhaps if, all along, NaVon’s been the criminal and he’s really just going off to prison, but because he was our narrator we were on his side. If that’s how you meant this to be, you did a superb job of keeping the reader in the dark!! If it’s not how you meant to be, that’s all good too; it gives the reader a feeling of ‘yikes, whose side am I supposed to be on?’ kind of feeling.


Things to Work On
There’s a number of places in this story that didn’t make a lot of sense when reading—sometimes because the sentences lacked a subject, sometimes because you had extraneous words in them. It could be a good idea for you to read out loud everything; that’s often the way we find out what is wrong in a sentence (and sometimes how we pick up spelling errors, oddly enough).

Here’s a couple of bits and pieces that had me pause or question.

It was CaiTa who breaks the silence. – this sentence starts with the past tense (was) and ends with the present tense (breaks). Don’t mix and match if you can help it because that’s quite jarring.

While holding it with one hand HoaLe started tapping it. – I understand this sentence but it’s cumbersome and does read a bit oddly on its own. It could easily be cut up and attached to the previous sentence for a little clearer reading. Something like HoaLe glanced down at the mini monitor in her hands and started tapping it.

But the upper half of his body and head didn’t. – on its own, this make no sense. Though… I was also puzzled by the sentences before and after this one too. I really didn’t get what was going on there.

He needs to be slightly punished too. – this sentence caught me for two reasons. One, because that’s quite a reaction to someone just pushing by you. Two, how do you slightly punish someone? (Also, who is YilVa? She kind of appears out of nowhere in this scene. Does she need to be someone we’ve not met yet and never meet again?)

Why is NaVon smiling sheepishly? He does it three times and none of them are times when one would really be sheepish. For example, at the four hours’ mark, he has his quarry, by the looks of it; that’s nothing to be sheepish over. He should be smirking or triumphant or something all ‘sucker, I’ve got you’.


Closing Comments
The breakdown of NaVon’s ‘last’ day is done clearly (though it took me a while to get my head around the fact that you had a 30-hour day!) but the story within those parts was quite confusing. None of the parts really seem to easily relate to each other and I think that’s some of the reason for the confusion; they were just like snapshot episodes rather than a clear, whole story told over the remaining hours. I’ve a feeling you know the story and the characters incredibly well in your head and it all makes sense to you because you know ‘behind the scenes’; just remember that if you only let the reader see a small part of that, you have to ensure it makes sense or reads clear enough that we can fill in any blanks and not just end up scratching our heads.

The plot-twist at the end was well done and even reading the story a couple of times now I’m still not sure who the ‘bad guy’ really is!


Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
15
15
Review of Naked  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Thankful Sonali Done 30 DBC!

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
A very unexpected take on the prompt, but it really works and definitely shows how the last day is ‘lived’. I’m sure a lot of people don’t give any thought to their doll’s life before they are owned. Funnily enough, I have two ball-jointed dolls—both of them arrived naked! And anatomically correct. I’d already purchased underwear so even if they didn’t have eyes or wigs they were decently covered *Smile*

I liked the slow conscious awakening of the character and how he knew some things but didn’t know others, and didn’t know that things might be ‘wrong’. But, of course, why would he? He’s just started to exist this way and has a lot to learn. The interaction with the other dolls was interesting and we could see how the character started to grow within himself. I think you wrote this nicely; it wasn’t too much of a stretch for us to read as if these dolls were real. I felt empathy with them and happiness for our MC when he got his clothes and found out he was going to a happy place after all. He was calm and confident and feeling anticipation. Best of all, he had sparkling fresh clothes.

Have you ever read any of the Enid Blyton’s Noddy series? I’ve still got the originals before the world went PC mad and this story reminded me of the first Noddy book (Noddy Goes to Toyland) because for the first half of it Noddy’s running around nude. The man who made him never dressed him so when he finally meets up with others, one of the first things that happens is getting clothes.

I need clothes to cover something I don’t have because the children will think I have it? – a fabulous line that just drips with confusion and puzzlement.

However, I did think there was too much time spent on pee-pees. As silly as this might sound, given this is a children’s story, it came across as too childish for me and hugely repetitive. I got that our poor new character was massively confused but continually going on about pee-pees and what people thought people had even if they didn’t have it made me start to skip parts in order to find where the story began again. So always remember to keep a short story tight and on track.


Things to Work On
Nothing really, but I was a bit puzzled by the piece below.

… it was okay while we were here in the… – the dolls are still in the tailoring unit from what I can tell, so I think ‘were’ needs to be ‘are’.

Don’t forget to make use of all the genres. Children’s would have been apt for the third Genre here instead of Other.


Closing Comments
Overall, a fascinating and imaginative take on the prompt, Sonali. I found the story amusing and heart-felt, and I think a lot of people would start thinking about their own childhood experiences with dolls as they read it. I still have the teddy-bear I got when I was about three. He’s always been clothed, which is lucky because it has saved him from completely falling apart!

Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig
16
16
Review of Accidents Happen  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hi debmiller1

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Wow, was this quite the different tale! I love a good Western and am pleased to find one in a major contest *Smile* Just as pleased to find that it was written well to the listed prompt and full of surprises.

Your description gives a tiny clue of what’s going to happen but there’s no way we could know there’s a whole bunch of murder going on or just why Charlie would end up leaving to start his new life. As we read on, we find things starting to click into place. There’s a heck of a reason why the trading post where Charlie lives is doing so well! I was disgusted by his parents but also sort of not since a speck of me thought ‘how very clever’. Oops. Crazy, though, that no one had really suspected anything!

I wasn’t that impressed with Charlie when he tattled on his sister, but I also get why he did. He’d realised the truth and she’d said she wasn’t taking him with her. That was quite the set-down. A teenage boy probably would rage about that and tattle. But… almost can’t believe he went off and cut down the tree. Did he really think things were going to be okay while he did that? I had a moment of ‘momma’s boy!’ but I guess back in those days the child/parent relationship was a whole different thing, especially in the old west.

Of course, changed my mind about Charlie at the end. He’s only young but he’s quite aware of the situation. Regret probably plays a part in his actions but I think he knows that his moment with a rock might not be too far around the corner if he doesn’t kowtow to his parents. It’s also understandable that he won’t tell the law about them. No matter what they’ve done he still owes them. That can be a stupid obligation sometimes but I get it here.

I liked that the story ends with hope, with thoughts of far-off places that he’s heard of. He’s fully ready to embrace an entirely new life.


Things to Work On
A few typos/punctuation issues, some of which are below FYI, but nothing majorly damaging to the story or to my reading flow.

Once inside, he set… – I’d recommend this starts a new paragraph because it feels a little funny being in the same paragraph as Carrie speaking.

Curtesy – this might just be the US spelling though when I looked it up in Word it gave me no suggestions or synonym suggestions. I’d expect this to be ‘courtesy’.

So what do you know about them?” – you’re missing the lead speech mark here.

Stop your ridiculous lyings? – probably an exclamation mark needed here not a question mark.

He heard Carries labored breathing – Carrie’s

Don’t forget to ‘sell’ your story with the Genres. Contest Entry is a good one, of course, because it lets the reader know that you probably had restrictions in what you wrote (genre, word count etc) but you’ve missed an opportunity to find readers by using Other for the final two options. A lot of readers find things to read on WDC by searching by Genre so think of a couple of genres this story would also fit into and plug them in. Western could be a prime one. Also… Mystery or Death or Crime.


Closing Comments
A full-bodied story in so few words, with good descriptions of the setting and characters (and their motivations). It fitted the prompt well and I appreciated how Charlie matured through the day and was able to stand on his own feet, taking his future into his own hands.


Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Os

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
17
17
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Linn Browning

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Gotta say, this story has one of the oddest and coolest opening lines I’ve read in a while. Very visual, but I was ‘seeing’ a huge dumpster initially and thought – have we got a homeless person who has found an egg? I expect the dumpster was because a garbage can for me in New Zealand is a big thing while our little house ones are rubbish bins. Anyway, great description!

I love a good romance, especially when something is at stake, like the fact this one is about to split up. Not permanently, of course, but sometimes the temporal split makes things harder. I did kind of feel that Trey was a bit of an emotional blackmailer (with the ‘is this of use’ bit) but I could see his pain too and understood the split was hard on him. Bee seems a far stronger person, but then again her life is only changing because she won’t have Trey. His is changing completely, and that’s a darn hard thing to cope with even if what he’s going to be doing is something he’s worked hard on.

Man, a chip in the skull and integrated with a nervous system would be darn freaky; but the communications would be kind of cool! Though, as Bee says, it’s rather intrusive. And, if you blinked to take a call, you could be taking calls all the time because we naturally have to blink.

Though I understood Trey just wanting to refuse the suit fitting, is it really going to take the final 18 hours? Wouldn’t it just be a couple and then he’d be home again? If that’s not so, then I think you need to make it a bit clearer that when he goes, he really is going because otherwise he comes across as just a wee bit kind of petty. Gotta admit though, I liked that his commander understood Trey and knew what needed to be done to encourage him in!

I would like to have seen the rest of the day, given that the prompt is about showing how that final 24-hours is lived. We really only got an hour. The word limit can be tough, for sure, but always keep an eye on that pesky prompt.


Things to Work On
Two things you might consider nitpicky!

desperate to close the massive distance between us – just watch this. We’ve got a first-person narrator; he can’t really know that Bee is ‘desperate’ to close that gap. Also with this section – you go on to say that Bee’s really short and Trey’s really tall. That’s not been indicated before and they’ve been kissing, so bring the difference up earlier.

Question – is the cat pregnant and already has kittens, or is she just pregnant? Perhaps not important but it got a bit confusing when the mother cat is going to be in stasis and the kittens frozen. That kind of sounds like they’re already out in the world. Yet, a bit later, Trey says the cat’s pregnant again (guess it’s just people she doesn’t let anywhere near her!) It tripped me up a bit and anything that jerks a reader about in a story isn’t really wanted.


Closing Comments
I liked this story, Linn. I’m a romantic and I love first-person narrators so those ‘yay’ boxes were ticked. It was an easy read and we got a lot of information so we could picture Trey and Bee’s lives and work. They came across as well-rounded people (though, I really have to say that the insistence on eating the egg first had me not like Bee a whole bunch. Wasn’t the egg, was the eat, eat, eat, eat. I hate that kind of nagging pressure myself so when I read it in characters I’m always taking a step back. But… of course, Bee’s a nice person and I feel that the whole ‘eat the egg’ thing had more to it than just an insistence that breakfast is key.

Even though we can see that a big change is coming for both characters, I did think the story was a little light on the prompt because we didn’t get a huge long part of the day. We didn’t really see how Trey lived that last day.

Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Os

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
18
18
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Graham B.

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
I honestly did not expect to find an ancient theme within the contest so I was pleasantly surprised to read this entry. My background is Classic Studies (albeit more a Roman fan than Greek) and it’s nice to see fiction based in ancient times within Writing.com. We get to see Anastasios ‘living’ the last day of his known life, even if it’s a bit unknown to him. He’s unaware that a big change has already happened and that another is just around the corner. I think because the ‘change’ is a little unknown that, at first, it’s hard to tell if you’ve hit the prompt on the head or not, but by the end we understand the strange day that Anastasios has ‘lived’ through.

I find that writing ancient history in fiction can be quite limiting in terms of readership and understanding. If you don’t have an audience ‘in the know’ you run the risk of people having no real idea what the story is about and missing all the little intrigues you’ve included. I think you’ve done a good job here though I’m sure some people will query what it’s all about and then be puzzled over the end – ‘wait, he’s a ghost?????’

Anastasios rings true as a Spartan warrior as does all that you mention about his family and the gods, and even the being punished for being caught stealing (man, the Spartan education system was crazy!!!), and the Elysian Fields at the end. I liked that we got glimpses of him as a family man and as a warrior. I was sort of surprised about his having not wanted to leave his family (at the outset of the battle) because he’d trained his whole life as a warrior. Given what we know about Spartan wives, I’d think Korinna would have given him a thick ear if he’d not gone to war!

This story is a sad one, even if we know that Anastasios has actually had a hero’s death. We feel for him when he sees his wife and children, when he sees his land in disarray and how Sparta herself is in apparent disarray (nobody ever seems to remember that life goes on back at home and needs to be guarded). Though we might be a little bit confused over the various changes of settings and why they seem to sort of fade in and out as the day/night goes around in a circle, Anastasios' thoughts and emotions tug at our heart strings. The same can be said for Hesiodos and his involvement.


Things to Work On
A few typos/punctuation issues, some of which are below FYI, but nothing majorly damaging to the story or to my reading flow.

bronze of his armor like twin arrowheads – there should be a comma after ‘armor’.

Put a paragraph space before Anastasios’s brow furrows.

as he thrusts is toward Hesiodos’s throat – ‘it’ rather than ‘is’

You use a single * for indicating a gap in time but I’d recommend using at least two or three, just so they can actually be seen and noted. A single one can sometimes look just like a mistake.

Hmm, just wondering about your last line. You call Hesiodos an Athenian here, but Athenians weren’t helots as far as I recall and you’ve earlier ID’d Hesiodos as a helot.


Closing Comments
I liked this story because I love seeing ancient history here on site. I thought you did a nice job with the tale, weaving historical fact in with fiction, and creating a decently-rounded character in Anastasios. Though he’s dead, we can see what he was like when he was alive and we know enough of his history with his family to feel grief tug at us as he comes to realise just what’s going on. I think you wrote to the prompt pretty well, even though some readers not versed in ancient history might be confused over what the last day contains and what the ‘new life’ is all about.


Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
19
19
Review of The day before  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (2.5)
Hi SW McClellan

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Our narrator has recently lost his wife of years and is having to cope with that loss. That’s a hard enough change in its own right! The ‘last day’ we’ve got here is him moving out of the house he lived in with his wife (and dog), which I sometimes think is even harder than actually losing the person they love.

It’s a story of lost love and grief and the coming unknown, and I think you missed quite the opportunity to whack the reader in the heart. Also, you had 2000 words to make us cry, but you barely used any of them. And those that you did use barely touched on the prompt that this contest had.

We really needed to see a great deal more of the last 24-hours; to show just how big the change is going from his own home to somewhere else (which is not actually explained, so we don’t even know how to feel with that one – is he going to a home, is he going to a much smaller apartment, is he going to live with family, etc). The moving is really what this story is about (in terms of the prompt) and how he copes with/lives those last hours before the move, not the death of his wife. So, even a few explanations on where he was going and how he felt about it would have helped.

I worried a little over who Jenner was. Perhaps a daughter? When I read this the first time I got this feeling she was someone the character had been seeing – either since before the death of the wife or afterward, when trying to find some comfort. In any case, she popped up out of the blue and I felt like we needed some explanation for her presence (or, at least, who she was.)

The last lines do that sort of miracle thing where they’re both sad and happy. Sad because the man has lost his wife and is about to leave his house and all the memories in it. But happy because he’s still got Gracie, and she’s a great connection with his wife.

Also, don’t miss the opportunity to ‘sell’ your story through the use of Genres. You’ve got Contest, which is always a great one – that lets readers know you had restrictions on your writing (prompt, specific genre, word count etc). I feel that Other should only be used when none of the other genres works, when you’ve got a piece so unique it’s indefinable *Smile*. Romance/Love, Family, Relationship, Emotional are just some that you could have used here. These help tell a reader what to expect but also they’re searchable on the wider side. If someone searches for new Romance/Love, then yours might pop up and gain new readers. So, never miss the opportunity to ‘sell’ through the Genres section.


Things to Work On
One thing I found that was quite disruptive to the reading flow was your sentence structure. It’s not so much the use of present tense to tell the story, but the use of verbs to start a sentence which often doesn’t have a subject. Most of the time, I understood what was going on because my brain could connect the dots, but when you read the sentences as stand-alone, many of them don’t make great sense.

Here’s an example: Putting the phone back on the shelf and taking a long drink. If you saw this on its own, what would you make of it? A lot of the time, funny things like this can be fixed by reading out loud. It may feel funny to do so, but the ear picks up things the eye just won’t see.

You also swap between the present and past tenses, which I think hasn’t helped the sentence structure. For example, the sentence directly before the one above is in the past tense (I was in no mood to call her. These two could have been amalgamated in a variety of ways to help the flow. Just one example is: I was in no mood to call her so I put the phone back on the shelf and took a long drink.)

Couple of typos to tidy up:

all most – almost
cristal – crystal
setting – I think this should be ‘sitting’ rather than ‘setting’ on the paper towel
Wondering – this one needs to be Wandering, which is walking, rather than Wondering which is thinking


Closing Comments
Even though this is a tiny story, it still packs a decent emotional punch. Definitely could have packed an even harder punch if you’d fleshed it out more with the man’s thoughts as he wandered around the house – thoughts of the past and of the future. I have queried the sentence structure in terms of ease of reading/understanding. They’re easy things to fix if you wanted to fix them, though sometimes a quirky sentence structure is just that author’s style.

My main comment is to keep your eye on the prompt when you’re writing for a contest which has one, since in most cases that’s what drives the judging. We’re aware of the massive change coming in the man’s life but we really don’t get to see enough of the ‘last day’ before he starts his new one not in his own home.


Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Os

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
20
20
Review of The Emigrant  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi Robert Edward Baker

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
Always fascinating to read how others perceive the future. A blue burger bun is not something I’d want to see! If we can grow fake food surely we can colour them ‘normal’. The fact the estranged couple met in a retro McDonalds was slightly disturbing. Tad sad if that’s what we’re remembered for. However, it’s instantly ‘known’ and that draws a reader in, as they remember this and that thing from various visits. I remember at a McDonalds in Athens a long time ago I could buy a beer but not a cup of tea. Hmm, maybe it is the one thing that will last longer than any other restaurant!

Liked how you wove the past/present/future together in this story to give us a rounded piece, though the nitpicking side of me says that you didn’t fully hit the prompt. It’s telling the last day, but we only get an hour or so of it at a restaurant. The ‘real’ day is something we don’t see; Mark enjoying his last hours on earth with his son and his estranged wife. I think this story needed the “What a Character – 10,000 word” edition. (It would be very interesting to see Mark and Judy’s interactions at the end of the day at Disneyland when he has to go off to the hospital. I can’t see that she’d have forgiven him but that there might be a little more closeness there.)

Judy and Mark are really nicely drawn, and I felt a bit as if they were sitting across from me at McDonalds having this conversation. I couldn’t quite decide which character I favoured, though. And I like that because it means to me that you put the same effort into both of them (I’m a character-driven writer). I also like how they’re still ‘human’. No matter how advanced we get in food, engineering etc etc, we can still be petty or jealous or unforgiving or jerks. Or nice *Smile*


Things to Work On
Nothing really, though a couple of times I did find it hard to keep track of who was speaking when there were no dialogue tags.


Closing Comments
I would like to have seen more made of Mark’s last day to better fit the prompt, but the story itself is still a good read. Your characters are well-written, the dialogue is natural, and the setting is easily recognisable even if you don’t go into much detail about it. The reader can fill that in easily, and take a seat with your characters.

I’ve got 20 years of my working life left so I decided to see what a lump sum of 20 years’ advance pay would be like. Very nice indeed. And… it’s actually what I’d earn over 20 years, but am I going to see that almost 2 million dollars? Nope. Mortgage, bills, transport, insurance….. Sigh.

Thank you once again for entering "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Os

My member sig
21
21
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with A group for A Romance Contest  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hi OOT™

This review of "The Friendly Skies is the third of three reviews you won with the awesome Pig package in "Chinese New Year Celebration.


Reader Impressions
Talk about a small world! What are the chances of people meeting on a plane finding themselves affected by the same thing (even if only one of them knows about it straight up)? Once you’ve read the story the title takes on a whole new meaning!

Oddly, I didn’t think much of Julie. She definitely sounded like she’d had one too many spirits (right before she got on the plane) and I wasn’t taken with her attitude towards the guy next to her. I really am not sure what it was but it could relate to her being surprised by his ‘bold’ question, which in my book isn’t bold at all. Isn’t that what people ask people next to them on a plane? And given all her snickety thoughts about the man just before this I might have been feeling offended on his behalf. Anyway… she didn’t start off on a good footing with me, slipping further when she became bolshie and niggly. Just because she told him her name, doesn’t mean he has to reciprocate, and he didn’t really start a conversation. Julie’s the one who answered the first question with more details than needed.

Oh man, it’s been a while since a character rubbed me up the wrong way!! I’m sure you weren’t meaning her to do that either.

Despite all that, I wasn’t happy to hear that her relationship was just as much in the toilet as Sam’s was. It was a very nice twist, by the way, which was definitely not seen coming. Again, it puts another spin on the title. And this type of crazy fateful outcome always carries regret too—if only I hadn’t harassed the man into talking…..

The brie is a weird little prop and when Sam says A lot of people don’t like it it really sounds like a metaphor for something else. I just don’t know what. In any case, I love brie!!! Would never dare to take it on a plane though (and, let’s be honest, I’m not sharing my brie with anyone!). Interesting how Julie presumes Sam is unaffected because he gets himself more brie, but I suspect he’s been eating a lot of it (and possibly now because his cheating wife doesn’t like it – ah, that’s probably who he’s meant with the comment about people not liking it).

Really good emphasis on the ‘my’ when Julie’s connecting the dots on Sam’s story; loads Josh’s betrayal with depth. I really would like to have seen a little epilogue to this story – what Julie does when she gets off the plane. Does she contact Josh as if nothing’s happened? Does she seek the truth? Does she even fess up to Sam that they are crazily related in this cheating game? A sequel would be really interesting (a revenge thing….).

I’d like to read a bit more about the plane journey itself, too, because with them stuck beside each other in a tiny space with others around them the whole atmosphere could become a sort of character here. Does Julie enjoy flying? If so, this flight would probably change her mind. Or does she hate flying and this news has just made it even worse? Give us a wee bit more in terms of setting so we can visualise the characters better interacting with each other and with their surroundings.


Things to Work On
As usual, some nitpicking things for you to do with as you see fit.

Firstly, though, I will mention about Contest Entry as a genre. Not saying you shouldn’t us ie, because I do it too if I’m needing to highlight it. But… when you do, it’s a good idea to list somewhere in the entry what contest you wrote for and whether you wrote to a prompt. If you don’t list that info, then you’re sort of wasting a genre and genres are selling points. Romance could have been a good one here, or Holidays even. I’m not so sold on Comedy here either since I didn’t find this story funny – at least not in the way that I would call it a Comedy.

One thing to watch is how you put one character’s speech and another character’s actions in the same line. It can get confusing about who is actually doing that action, especially when you’ve got a first person narrator. Keep the characters apart as much as you can just to prevent reader confusion.

… of Santa Claus on a plane – because ‘on a plane’ comes so far after ‘stuck sitting’ it comes across really out of place. I’d recommend it get shifted earlier, something like this: stuck on a plane sitting next…

OK, I’m going to have to… – as this is a ‘real-time thought’ it really should be in italics. There’s a few other places where

Unaffected beside of me… – remove ‘of’.


Closing Comments
This is a classic ‘what you don’t know, doesn’t hurt you’ kind of story that morphs into the ‘don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to’ sort. Julie is clearly someone who doesn’t cope well with silence; she’d be the kind of person I’d hate sitting next to on a plane. Give them an inch and they take a mile. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sympathy for what she finds out, even as I have this little bit of a ‘serves you right’ thing going on. Clearly I’m not in a good mood today! I’m not usually so instantly grr.

The story itself is just fine, though it’s not a comedy as in funny ha-ha. Comedy of errors perhaps… I would love to know if you were writing to a prompt; that might explain how you portrayed Sam or Julie as you did, or even the location. Knowing things like prompts when the story is clearly written for a contest does help readers position themselves to read better (they are forearmed with what to expect).

If you ever get onto a revenge scene, would love to read it. I think Julie could be quite the schemer!

As always, with any reviews, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments.

Best wishes,
Os

My member sig
22
22
Review of Pale Winter Sun  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi Weird Uncle Mick

I spotted "Pale Winter Sun under the Read a Newbie side bar and since I write LGBT myself (and run a contest for it) I thought I'd take a look. And now I offer a quick review in the hopes of seeing more of this 'novel'.


Reader Impressions
Having read your short biography section I've a feeling that this novel may have hints of real-life to it. That is no problem at all, and I'd think it would allow an even more indepth character-driven novel. Even in just these few lines - which read like the novel's book blurb - I feel the pain and confusion of the two boys and even that felt by the parents. Everyone reacts so instantly and then when the dust has died down people start wondering if they did things correctly or even right. I'm just hoping there are almost moments of light.

Anyway... I write gay fiction so I'm always interested when something new pops up on WDC. Welcome, by the way, hope you find that you have a second home here! I'm pleased to have come across this little gem. Three paragraphs are all it is but I can imagine the vast size of the story that's probably in your head (or is it written and it's just not on here?). The physical scale of Idaho acts (for me anyway) as a comparable scale to the emotional landscape that the boys must deal with. And, yes, I like a good angsty story, no matter the genre.

The opening sentence is fabulous. Some will tell you it's not grammatically correct, but who really cares. It packs a punch and I'd actually put it on its own line. It's six in-your-face words that make the reader start to 'feel' before they've barely started. We know we're in for tough times - and not just because it's winter.

I like that you introduce Mark straight off. He's the main character and we get a snapshot of his background. I would presume the novel will dig so much deeper into his home-life as much as his emotional state. I like the idea we'll get to see the fight going on in his head as well as the physical fight to survive in what's clearly a harsh place.

Since Mark doesn't appear to be forthcoming in his sexuality to anyone, I'm intrigued as to how he got to the same place at Trevor (which leads me to a query below about the ordering of the paragraphs). Of course, he could have these feelings early on and think 'crap, my family's gonna do the same' and leave before they can, and also leave just to keep Trevor company, safe etc (Has Trevor got a self-destructive history, or does this come about because he's kicked out?). I guess, no matter just how this came about, the novel is going to have a very strong theme of friendship and that's gold in any novel.

The new friends are made sounds promising, but when we read that they cause issues for Trevor the mind (my mind!) stars to wonder at all the things that could possibly happen to bring on such a reaction, so you've got a good hook here (among other hooks). Any kind of angst or conflict or, even, violence is going to heighten the struggle these two boys have to survive. And, if they do get a happy ending, which is hinted at in a tiny manner, then everything they've suffered through will make that ending even more sweet (okay, yes, I love a good romance!).

Loved the final paragraph. It sums up the novel - it's pretty much a fight for survival, and not just for the boys themselves, but the boys together (can they survive each other? is a huge huge hook) and the families too. I'd like to think we get some redemption going on here, that someone somewhere realises sexuality should have nothing to do with the ability to love someone. That love and respect are simply love and respect.


The Technical Side
Couple of technical things but also some queries where I've been a little confused. Hopefully you find bits that help to sort a few things out. After all, I presume you did put this up for others to read and comment on.

That's all Mark Jensen has... - this is a darn nice sentence and is really bleak when we've just read the first sentence. My query about it, though, relates to the sentence that comes next. It could be me reading it slightly incorrectly but this next sentence has Mark and Trevor having no one but themselves. I read this as being that they have each other, and therefore it made that first mention of what Mark has sound a little weird, like you're contradicting yourself. If you mean that each boy only has himself - until they sort of get together - then I'd recommend just making that a bit more clear. More so, because in the last sentence of that paragraph you have the same comment about counting on themselves.

shunned from - could be a semantics thing here, but I think 'from' needs to be 'by' in this particular context.

What is Mark afraid of confiding? That he's gay? If so, then the trying to live openly and honestly as homosexual doesn't match up. Is the issue that he can't confide to Trevor that he's in love with him? I think maybe my comprehension issue is that you've put the family kicking the boys out before you got to the whole 'reveal' section. Perhaps put the second paragraph (starting Mark's problems right after that initial mention of having no one but themselves. I think we need to see the boys trying to do their living and coming to terms with it and get that all sorted before we get to the thumping mention of being kicked out of home.

To be honest, I'm puzzled why Mark would feel alone if he's got his best friend there, even if his best friend seems to be spiralling out of control. Maybe I'm reading the moments of 'themselves' totally wrong, maybe they're not dealing with this together??? Anyway, it's a little confusing because they seem to be together but then not. (Actually, this also helps with that whole emotional roller coaster ride they're on so maybe it all works and I'm just nitpicking!)


Closing Comments
Sooooo, I'm really hoping you've got a whole bunch of chapters you're ready to spring on us (me) because this little snippet is a stinking great hook, and I'm already hungering to find out more about Mark and Trevor (and already making stuff up in my head).

By the way, "The LGBT Writing Contest - reopens 2021 is a contest I run (currently open) and since I see you also have a penchant for horror... if you haven't already, you might like to check out "Weekly SCREAMS!!! which is a daily contest for horror/scary stories.


Anyway, so pleased this story popped up in that sidebar! Hope to read more, and don't hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments. (I can get quite a babble on!)

Best wishes,
Os

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
23
23
Review of The right choice.  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

Hi BardfromYharnam

I know you’ve had "The right choice. on the Review Request page, but I actually found it because of a review that I’d read. The review was interesting, to say the least, and I had no idea from it what you’d actually written. My interest was piqued and I’m so glad it was, and I offer up a review myself.


Overall Impressions
After reading this I thought to myself ‘if this author ever enters "Weekly SCREAMS!!! then the rest of us are in trouble’. SCREAMS!!! is a horror/scary contest that’s not all about blood, guts and gore. Though you haven’t added ‘horror’ as a genre to this story, it would still work as one. It’s creepy and freaky, making the reader want to huddle against a heater. That, of course, means you’ve done a very fine job of making the reader feel. That’s a big thing with me – make me feel for the characters so that I see them as real.

The funny thing is, with the whole ‘feel’ thing, you’ve not named your protagonist. So how do we see him as real? Well, maybe he’s not. Maybe unnamed he’s even more than that. The protagonist is Man himself, standing in for everyone, standing in for all the homeless and forgotten as well. Not naming him was inspired, especially when you did name Herric. If you’d named the friend with the sense to move, then that would also have really pointed to the fact that this nameless man is Everyman. This makes the reader (me) feel nervous, like I need t be looking over my shoulder, ready to make that choice myself. Furthermore, not giving ‘the figure’ a name was just as powerful. It’s really, really good. Please don’t name these two characters!!

I loved how you mentioned the title of the story right in the first line, but it’s not until much later that we start to understand what that choice is and what the consequences are. At the start, it’s just a really sad story about a man who has fallen on terrible times and lost everything (including his name!). Though you’ve got ‘Death’ as a genre, there was always that little bit of hope that a miracle would occur and he’d have the chance to live again (which seems kind of ironic, given the stakes in ‘the choice’). Great first line!

The dark figure with the odd, bulky clothes is actually unexpected. Yes, I know you’ve got ‘Fantasy’ as your other genre but you know, in a good story, you forget about those little signposts! I thought originally just another beggar come to steal stuff, so you really got me interested when she turned out entirely different. And I had no clue whatsoever that she had been in the man’s place. Didn’t even twig with An old habit, a sign of solidarity So I liked that I was half way through the story and still a bit in the dark. I had to read closely to keep in tune with what was going on.

Hearing her story was powerful and as we learn about the choice, we’re taken right back to the first line where the man has made the right choice. It’s not until the end that we know what that is – he’s chosen simply to die and pass on.

The ending’s magic! Until the very last words it seems as if the dark figure is working with Glowing Eyes, almost like that’s her role after her own death. And we find out it’s rather true. She made the wrong choice, and for that, she’s got a role on the dark side and is faced every day with people who made the same choice she did – a sort of punishment for her own pride. I would LOVE to see a story based on her after she’s ‘come back’ in this new shape.

Loved these lines:

The body remained slumped against the brick wall, its snow covered locks pushed into its face by the slight movement of air. – it’s heart-wrenching first-up because it’s very visual. Things are still happening to the body even if it’s not aware. You always think ‘Ah who cares? I’ll be dead, I won’t know…’ but you still kind of worry about things and things still happen. This sentence also ties in with the end of the story, the Glowing Eyes that we don’t really meet (fortunately). I didn’t notice that until I’d read the story twice.

Not as a monster. – such a tiny sentence which read like a thumping fist. We may have glossed over the described creature of the previous paragraph or even the madness, but we totally get brought up by this little sentence. It’s categorical. We can’t escape what happens to those who want to re-live. It’s really powerful for how stark it is. And for how we suddenly start thinking about the female character with her strange angles and the shadows trying to chase her.


The Technical Things
This bit includes grammar, punctuation and other things that might have stopped my reading flow. You know the drill by now with all the reviews you’ve received—take what helps and discard what doesn’t.

I’m not against present tense telling; it can be really in your face and that works for this particular story. The issue I had was that you swapped between that present tense telling (is, stops, can) and the standard past tense (was, stopped, couldn’t) and that made the story a little jumpy. Take one tense and stick with it.

Timing – I got a wee bit confused about the timing, because in the five paragraphs starting That was three days ago to By now,… we got five different sort of timings. I understand the character had been sitting in the alley way for three days by the time we got to the ‘here and now’ part of the story, but then the nights come and go and he things that maybe he could stay here a while. How long’s a while? He’s been here three days already. (Quite aside from this, I loved the *green*His toes stopped hurting after that. – very telling about one freezing to death.) So I think you need to reorder a few of these paragraphs so they make a bit more sense to the reader (or one like me who niggles about timings!).

Go, bother someone else… – for this piece of dialogue I think the ‘he said’ comes too late. Herric’s got a bit of a rant on, and putting ‘he said’ at the end kind of weakens in. I’d put it between the two sentences. I’d also suggest taking out the comma after ‘go’ but that’s because I read it as ‘go bother someone else’ not ‘go! Bother someone else’

Generally, your dialogue tags don’t need to be capitalised, and that’s because the sentence they tack onto doesn’t need a full stop. The dialogue tag acts as the end, so the full stop should come after that. So… “I’ll just rest here for a bit,” he told himself.

afraid of what would happen if he fell asleep – I suggest swapping ‘if he fell asleep’ to ‘when he did’. Both say much the same thing but to me the latter feels a little more in tune with the sentence itself, in that the ‘did’ matches ‘sleep’ if that makes sense.

in white frost slid closed – put a comma after ‘frost’

the clothes didn’t quite fit her – remove ‘her’. We already know who the clothes belong to, but it gives a wee bit more mystery if you just have ‘didn’t quite fit’.

traced a quick symbol with her fingers – remove ‘with her fingers’. We’ve already got the skeletal hand/fingers reaching out so the end bit here is not needed.

and cowardly, to give up – no comma needed here. There are a few other places where you’ve got commas that aren’t really need. The sentence about safeguarding man is one of them.

Yet even if they didn’t know, that was what He offered them. – I think I know what you’re saying here but I find this sentence doesn’t really make sense. It’s almost like you’ve missed a few words here or combined two sentences into one. This suggestion is way wordy but I just want to show you what it is I think you’re saying: That was what He was offering them, not heroics, not happiness, not love, but life as a monster. They didn’t know this but they took the offer anyway. Even so, it’s speaks to the pride of man that’s mentioned a few paragraphs later.

surrounded by the stretching shadows of dusk following her – I recommend removing ‘following her’ but it’s only because I feel that if the shadows are following then they’re not really surrounding.

Genres….. you’ve got ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Death’ but have left the third as ‘Other’. Think of these as your selling points so always try to use all three. ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Horror/Scary’ would work just as wel.


Closing Comments
So, anyway, this is a great story. Love the fact the two main characters have no names. I think that makes the themes all the more powerful and awkward. And for those of us who would love to be re-born, or simply not die, there is a consequence that we can’t know until we’re there. Tough choice when you don’t know the outcome, even if you’re playing with nature!

I nitpicked in the technical section, but hopefully you can take positives from it to help with further writing.

If you have any queries about anything above, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m always happy to chat!

Kind regards,
Osirantinous


My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
24
24
Review of Christmas Rescue  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Elle - on hiatus

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
This is a sad but positive tale. Our narrator is spending her Christmas Day at the beach, like a lot of Kiwis do, but it’s a sad one for her because we learn that it’s a year to the day (at least, that’s what I felt) since she lost her partner. No real indication of ‘how’ but I suspect the disinclination to swim now might suggest drowning. Unfortunately, not an uncommon thing. It think it takes great guts for her to even be at the beach on this particular day but I understand the motive. You have to heal, and you have to be near the one you loved.

So… this started out just as a story of someone healing, even using the picnicking family to help out—watching others being happy somehow helps to heal pain. I did expect she might get a bit of ‘child’ in her and create the sandman of the image prompt, but the story was so much more than that, and the title of the story became even more appropriate. It wasn’t just being at the beach and seeing people happy that was rescuing the narrator, but she was actually rescuing someone else!

To be honest, I’d have been staring like the lady was! The narrator kind of came across as a whirlwind and it definitely would have been confronting. Also, if she’s not a native English speaker I can imagine that didn’t help because I expect the narrator was doing the true Kiwi speed speech *Smile*. Of course, you also hit the nail on the head with our sun. It may not really feel hot, but you’ll burn quicker here than anywhere else and it catches you out very quickly. I remember an English workmate coming to work one day looking very very pink. He’d said he’d gone out without sunblock because it was sort of overcast and mostly cloudy; can’t get burnt right? He learned the hard way to never underestimate New Zealand weather!

I did feel, initially, that the narrator was having a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. There could have been other causes for the man not feeling so flash but she didn’t take those into account. Of course, heat stroke needs an immediate response but it just came across as not quite enough forethought. I almost, almost thought our narrator was going to end up in an incredibly embarrassing situation where the guy might have babbled about food poisoning. I’m not saying change anything, just saying what crossed one reader’s mind.

Of course… if this was also the same cause of David’s death then I can fully understand the immediate reaction, and the burning need to stop it happening to someone else. And it creates a lovely tie-in with the final paragraph, where the narrator has made a giant leap in accepting what has happened in her own life. Maybe next year she’ll go swimming.


Things that Niggled
Just a few things that caught me, but mostly likely nit-picking.

reminds me of my loss – grammatically correct, sure, but I found the present tense ‘reminds’ jarred me. I get why it’s there but everything else is in present tense, including other memories, so I just think this one needs to be ‘reminded’.

And one day, it would… – just my personal opinion but I don’t think there should be a comma here. This sentence should read as one full sentence, not broken up by the comma.

This sounds just odd, but I struggled with the way you wrote the second half of the story, with no spaces between the dialogue but lumping them into paragraphs. I think that threw me a bit because the first six or seven paragraphs are true paragraphs and I struggled to shift my perception.


Closing Comments
A story of grief and loss that could have become much worse, but ended with healing in more ways than one on a hot Christmas Day. A perfect story to highlight the kindness of strangers, too, from the narrator herself to those on the beach who helped move the man and gather up the couple’s belongings. It feels good to have people come together in a tough moment, feels better to have a happy ending.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

My member sig
25
25
Review of A Year's End  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Hi BlackAdder

I am reviewing your story as a judge for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. Thanks for entering!


Reader Impressions
I was pleasantly surprised how we started the story with a man talking to a sand snowman and ended up at the end with an actual story, with enough background to ensure we knew why Ken, and Alice, were at the hotel on their own. It felt nicely complete – and actually made me want to read all about the ‘before’ for both characters as well as the ‘after’. The story felt like it had the makings of something longer. Of course, I’m a romantic so any short story that leaves me with hope makes me want to read more!

Weirdly I loved and also felt uncomfortable with the first lot of dialogue between Alice and Ken, so I felt it was pretty well written. The opening comments are just ‘general’ (and partly amusing) but I also felt uncomfortable when we got to the sun block bits. I definitely felt Alice’s ‘I’m only talking to you not flirting’ sort of vibe and Ken trying to work it so he wasn’t coming off as a little odd (and I didn’t think he was consciously doing that anyway). It’s pretty good writing when you can convey those feelings into the reader.

The dialogue at the bar started off a bit the same, but settled to a sort of loose companionship by the end and I felt that gave the story a nice calm feeling. No matter what the circumstances are and how much someone may pretend, it is usually nicer to have others around (though Ken did swap back to an occasional awkward comment). Also, misery loves company, so Ken and Alice are a pretty good fit there!

Good descriptions of the settings allowed me to ‘see’ and of course having the sand snowman was a nod to the image prompt for this contest. I loved the description of the sunset – fire and liquid gold – just gorgeous.

While I said up top I’d love to see more, I did feel that the ending wrapped things up quite tidily. And pleasantly—a nice way to spend a lovely evening.


Things that Niggled
Just a few bits and bobs to mention here, and a query or two. Nothing jaw-droppingly horrifying though.

Do see anyone else here? – just needs ‘you’ after ‘do’.

since she’s that one that left – the first ‘that’ needs to be ‘the’, and I think the second that really should be ‘who’, though I know there’s always debate over the use of ‘that’ in these situations.

almost blinding if he weren’t wearing eye protection – nothing wrong with this sentence, except it makes it sound like he is wearing sunglasses and yet in the next sentence Harry’s got the shades on.

There are a couple of moments in the story where I wasn’t sure how things quite fitted together, sometimes seemingly a little contradictory. One such moment is where Harry stares back gamely and in the next sentence you say that a real man stood up for himself but Harry wasn’t one of those. To me, ‘gamely’ means standing up for himself (or at least backing himself) so the two didn’t quite fit. It made me wonder if it should have been ‘Ken’ instead in that second sentence?

You’ll forgive me if I intended to lie. – nothing actually wrong with this sentence itself, but I didn’t understand its placement. What’s Alice been lying about? Her girlfriend is sick in her hotel room.

Found it interesting Alice presumes Ken’s got money since he’s at the hotel/resort over Christmas. Isn’t she???? Where does her money come from? Just seemed an odd comment to make to someone you barely know.

Mai Tai’s – no need for the apostrophe here.


Closing Comments
I think a lot of people looked forward to 2017 being over. I liked how you wove the reasons why into this story and made it more than just a boy-meets-girl sort of thing (which it could have been, but I’m glad it didn’t become one). Ken and Alice are rounded characters and we got to know a fair bit of background and what they’re like as people. Sounds weird, but I also liked being made to feel awkward and uncomfortable in various moments but making a reader feel is what writing’s all about.


Thank you once again for entering "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest. If you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous

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