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Printed from http://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/osirantinous
Review Requests: OFF
379 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 by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (2.5)
Hi PureSciFi - And the Oscar goes

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!.
2
2
Review of Naked  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Thankful Sonali fa-la-la-la!

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
3
3
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!.
4
4
Review of Salt and Pepper  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi sdv413

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


Reader Impressions
An interesting story about a group of kids playing football but it took a while for me to really read this as being related to the prompt because the focus was on the game itself and the salt and pepper make-up of the characters rather than on Tommy living the last day of his old life. Even if he was (in his world). I think the last paragraph of the story also distanced the prompt. Yes, you say no one could predict the future but that wasn’t actually what this story was about (and Tommy didn’t have any role in this future of black players being integrated into football teams that I could see). It’s a good story and definitely one that we can learn from, but I don’t really feel it tied in that strongly with the prompt.

By the way, salt and pepper as a way to describe white Vs black in terms of people is actually a new one to me. I’ve mostly only heard it used to describe dark-haired people going grey. I don’t think you needed to spell it out but you never really mentioned that the guys Tommy and his friends found in the park were all black. We get the mention that there were no black people living in the area but that sounds like there’s just one or two darker people on the field, not a whole bunch of them. On the good side of that, I like how right at the beginning colour doesn’t matter. We hear two guys talking, one of them the quarterback. We don’t hear ‘two black guys talking, oh and one of them was the quarterback’. Colour is what shocked Tommy and his friends silence but it’s football that comes out first in the introduction of the interlopers on the field.

Wasn’t until you mentioned 1965 that I understood why a kid of Tommy’s age had so many shirts! And that of course also reveals why a bunch of black kids would be a shock. Through Tommy’s thoughts we do get that whole ‘prove oneself’ feeling but I liked how it mostly stayed away; that this was a game first and about colour second.

The opening section amused me with Tommy trying to be clever about the packing of his clothes. He’s such a typical kid *Smile*, with an equally typical mother who shows up just at the wrong time!!! It’s during this time of folding clothes that we get to see just what this day is for Tommy – his last day with everything he knows. And why would you want to be packing when you’d rather be out with friends?

Football (aka gridiron) is not something played in New Zealand but I’m fortunate enough to have seen it a couple of times and can understand how the game is played. I can definitely understand how hard a tackle can be when you don’t have all the padding. No wonder Jimmy talked to the fairies for a while! I thought you gave the run-down of a game in action clearly and I could see the players running, defending, passing easily enough.

I’m not sure the ending worked since I think it pushed you further from the prompt. The story was about Tommy’s last day before starting a new life in Boston. It wasn’t about how long it took before he once again played against (or with) black players or about Alan Guthrie going on to be an NFL star. So just remember that when you’re writing for a contest with a prompt, stick to that prompt like glue. Extraneous bits and pieces (though they might be interesting) detract from the story.


Things to Work On
There’s a few punctuation bits and bobs to fix (ie, missing commas before the final speech mark or before names in dialogue) but nothing that really took me out of my reading flow.


Closing Comments
Loved Tommy’s youthful vitality – in his packing and in the game – but I felt that the nearer we got to the end of the story the less closely it aligned with the prompt. We started off strong and then once the game was over and everyone seemed to sulk off, we detoured to the distant future (mostly of one of the other characters). We could have ended with Tommy thinking about how amazing the game had been and how good (or not) the black players were and whether or not he’d get to play against any when he shifted. That would have brought us back to the fact we’re seeing his ‘last day’ before heading off to Boston and rounded things of nicely.


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
5
5
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!.
6
6
Review of The letter  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (2.5)
Hi K.HBey

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


Reader Impressions
Wow, this story has quite the twist at the end! And I found it a bit twisty in the middle too, as I hadn’t expected Peter to be robotic in any way, just a young man following a dream.

I think you wrote to the prompt nicely – Peter is about to start a new job in a new country and city and that is a big leap. It is no surprise he goes to visit the grave of his friend on his last day. We can clearly see that Charles has been important to him; we just don’t know how important until near the end. I am surprised that Charles’ office was not opened in ten years. Wow, what a different story we’d have if Peter had been told his news ten years ago!

I liked how Peter’s memories were part of the story; it was a good way to get background on him and his life (though at this point I still didn’t have any idea he had robotic parts so I like that you didn’t make that stand out. Yes, he’s robotic but he’s still ‘normal’.)

I have a special attachment to Chicago, so I also like the story for that simple reason, and when you were mentioning the cemetery I remembered the two that I had visited last year. That meant I could easily see Peter at Charles’ grave and feeling all emotional about it.

I had wondered why Charles never told Peter the truth. It seems as if Peter would have been thirty at the time of Charles’ death, so it wasn’t like he was a child who needed to be told a lie. And…. did Charles write the letter because he knew he was dying or something like that? I think this story could be made into a longer one, and it would be a good one.


Things to Work On
It’s clear that English is not your first language, so you’ve done a wonderful job getting this story out! However, there are a few things I want to point out that are part language-based, I think, and part lack of proofreading.

Firstly, are Diana and Mrs Rosetta the same person? You start off with Charles’ wife as Diana and then swap to Rosetta. Make sure you pick a name and stick with it, otherwise the tale gets a bit confused.

Secondly, watch the font changes; they can be just as confusing. Most of the story is in a large italic font and then you jump into two paragraphs that are much smaller sized. Changes in fonts and sizes can be a good way of showing different stages in a tale – like, using a big font for something happening in the present and a smaller font for something happening in the past or as a memory. If there is no reason for a change, then don’t change.

the sky is weeping afloat his departure – I love the idea of the sky weeping, but I’m confused about ‘afloat’. I presume you mean ‘about’ here.

Such day Peter did not understand – I don’t understand what you mean by ‘such day’. I think you could remove it. Or…. change ‘day’ to be ‘things’ – as in Peter didn’t understand the things he heard.

made of me a real gray mater coveted… – I think I get what he’s saying; that he’s a very intelligent robot. The possible confusion on my part could be because I think ‘mater’ needs to be ‘matter’.

He let it to him just before his death. – you want ‘left’ instead of ‘let’ here. But you also probably want to change the ‘He’ to ‘Charles’. Because the story is told in the third person ‘he’, it’s sometimes hard to tell if the thoughts/actions are Peter’s or Charles’.

He gets a dystonia. – what is a ‘dystonia’?


Closing Comments
Definitely some interesting sentence formats but I think you’ve done a very good job with your English. There were a few spots I had to read a couple of times before I understood what you were saying but mostly I was able to get into the story, sit at the grave beside Peter and then read the letter over his shoulder. What a shock it must have been for him to know the truth. I thought his reaction was certainly correct!

I would like to read more of Peter’s story if you ever continue it.


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!.
7
7
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!.
8
8
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!.
9
9
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
10
10
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi OOT™

This review of "Thanksgiving Massacre is the second of three reviews you won with the awesome Pig package in "Chinese New Year Celebration.


Reader Impressions
If I were to pick a genre above all else that I write, I guess it would be Romance. There’s love in pretty much all of my stories. But I also like a good horror story. I love writing for "SCREAMS!!!, and this is just the kind of story that I’d write – it’s all nice and calm(ish) for the most part and then a solid thwack and twist at the end. Blood, guts, gore – yeah, all fine, but a nice little psychy kind of punch at the end is right up my alley.

So, of course, I really liked Thanksgiving Massacre. Wow, that looks appalling in writing!

Your opening paragraph drags the reader in. worst day of my life is a powerful statement and all readers probably take on a ‘oh yeah?’ kind of mentality, but Tyler socks it to us pretty quickly – the murder of his family. On Thanksgiving, no less. It’s the slightly snarky, cynical tone as Tyler releases those questions that heightens the punchline he gives at the end of the story. I really liked My name is Tyler Evans, and this is my story. – an intriguing way to end the opening paragraph. We know we’re now going to get to ‘see’ what last Thanksgiving was like and since we know this has been given the Horror/Scary genre we can settle in to be scared.

This little story contains several horror aspects and doesn’t actually start with the murder of Tyler’s family, but long before that when Tyler saw his murdering neighbour taken away. There is nothing to say that Tyler was involved or any threats had been made, but the concern his parents show is a little unnverving. I got to wondering if Tyler had somehow witnessed the murder of the woman or if The Butcher kind of gave him the ‘you’re next’ look as he was being hustled off, as those things would definitely get the parents concerned. Tyler’s response to his mum’s concern is pretty logical and kind of classic: parents freak out, kids go ‘meh’ and eat something.

Tyler’s quite disconnected himself from that concern and so it’s quite a jolt when he actually gets home and finds that things aren’t actually calm. It’s a nice ‘oooh’ moment for the reader too. Fascinating truth about the poodle – Tyler thinks first about the poodle not being allowed outside. That’s what gets him antsy first and foremost, until his brain goes that one further step and sees the blood. Honestly, I continually wonder what I’d do if I got home and found my front door open. Mostly I’d be shrieking for my cat from outside, getting her in the car with me if I could, and then screaming around the corner to the police station that’s there. Hopefully! I cannot believe Tyler went inside, but I can also understand why he did, and I think that most people would still do it (probably me too, despite my plan!).

The Thriller/Suspense genre comes into play here as he’s walking around finding his parents and then wondering where his sister is but probably knowing already that she’s dead. The utter suspense/freak of looking for a dead loved one is a great way to ramp up feelings in the reader too. It’s kind of a ‘read through my fingers’ moment. Thought it fascinating that he never once seems to think about the killer still being in the house!

This is a bloody story, and full of violence, but it’s almost understated in part. Sure, there’s blood dripping down pictures and all over the bathroom mirror, but you state eyeless corpse and then go into more detail about the knife in the father’s chest as if the eyelessness is sort of a standard thing. I actually like that in horror writing. Too much blood, guts and gore and the reader stops believing. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised to see how much blood is around the place here, because we know that this is The Butcher’s work. Not explicitly stated until later, but we know. I think you’ve hit the fine line of ‘just right’ in terms of details.

I had to groan at Tyler being made to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Such poor taste!!!

Liked that you linked back to motives with regards The Butcher, but you’ve opened up a raft of questions with the revelation that Tyler is his son. How did that happen? When did it happen? Why did he wait so long to get back to the family (sorry, what I mean there, is if Tyler was 13 when he was arrested, what happened in all the years prior to that?), did Tyler’s pseudo-father know of the relationship? So, lots of questions raised and none of them answered. And, honestly, you couldn’t really do it here as it’d kill the punchline, but just do consider what reader questions can be the outcome of what you write.

As if Tyler’s parentage wasn’t enough of a shock, the last two sentences hit us with more. They both tie strongly to the Horror/Scary and Thriller/Suspense genres, and definitely give the reader a ‘whoa’ moment. I do have a few concerns about this final reveal (mentioned below) but it’s still a great story nonetheless, and would be worthy of the horror contests on WDC. And, given Tyler’s admission, there’s no reason we couldn’t see him popping up now and then indulging.


Things to Work On
Young Tyler drops us a bombshell in the last sentence but there’s absolutely no lead-up to that. Now, I like the bombshell kind of ending; it’s a ‘holy crap, what did I miss?’ kind of moment that makes you go and read over with a fine comb, but I think here it’s a little too disjointed. I think there should be some tiny, tiny inkling of the blood-liking. But we don’t get that – he freaks out when he sees the blood, stomach lurching, vomiting, fainting. Okay, understandable at the first instance, but to end up saying that he liked the blood comes a little out of left-field. Is there some little way you can prick the reader with a ‘wait, that’s an odd reaction’ kind of thing?

I also mention this bombshell ending because it ties in with the opening of the story. We start with Tyler being grateful for being alive but end with the unpleasant revelation of liking blood. It doesn’t quite match up – unless, again only coming to me just now, he’s being totally ironic and flippant in the opening lines. So I’m just thinking there needs to be a little bit of connection here.

This is going to sound a bit weird, but I’d like to have seen a bit more of the house – or at least actually know where people were. We find Lisa in the bathroom (how old is she, by the way?), but are Tyler’s mum and dad in the same room? There are pictures dripping with blood so I’m presuming the lounge and we have mention of the fire poker (ick) but I’d like to have been a little surer of the surroundings. Is the dining table set? Does the kitchen have a wonderful smell of roast Turkey? Is the Turkey sitting on a tray waiting to be carved? Just a few more visual points would really highlight the horror of what’s happened on this holiday. And giving us little nice homey sorts of things rams home the horror.

Question – why does Tyler have a bloody face? I get that he was cradling his mom and so got a bit bloody there, but his face?


Closing Comments
Liked this a lot. It starts straight up with horror but then slides into something quite normal and calm before morphing back to horror, with the couple of punches at the end as we realise things are way worse than expected. And once we get to the end, and Tyler’s strange little reveal, the opening paragraph comes back to mind and takes on new angles. When you’ve read it a couple of times, that opening para starts getting more and more sinister. I don’t know if that’s just me, now wondering how murderous Tyler has (or will) become but I find it freakier the more I read it.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen you enter "SCREAMS!!! but if you write horror like this, you should be entering!

I do have concerns just how those final sentences fit in without any lead in whatsoever (for a person reading the story for the first time). Though Tyler has definite right to freak out when he sees his family I think if you added in a few moments where he sees something or thinks something ‘normal’ amidst the blood and death then the reader is more likely to not be too blindsided by those final lines and the opening para. Gosh, I hope I’ve made sense with my babble about that. Do let me know if I haven’t!!!!!

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


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
11
11
Review of Going Home  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi OOT™

This review of "Going Home is the first of three reviews you won with the awesome Pig package in "Chinese New Year Celebration.


Reader Impressions

I really like stories that have an emotional pull, whether they make me laugh or cry. For me it means I get right in there with the characters, and I do in this case. I’m very lucky to have never had to deal with the death of immediate family (parents, siblings (I have no children/husband)), but I’ve a number of characters who have and I know that if I’m tearing up while writing then I’m doing something okay. If I tear up reading someone else’s writing, they’re also doing okay. Which is what I think of you and this story.

It’s a very simple theme – how the surviving person copes with the loss of loved ones. Everyone copes in different ways and Jill reminded me of the Robin Williams’ movie What Dreams May Come, where he and his daughter are killed and the wife then kills herself to be with them, but ends up in a different part of the afterlife because suicides are treated differently. Okay, quite different, but the grief is still the same. If the people you were living for are gone, then what are you now living for? It’s a tough thing to cope with, and our hearts go out to Jill because of those last words she’d had with her daughter. I’d think the daughter probably got over things once she was in the car and didn’t think of them during the crash, but you can’t tell that to the surviving person. The knowledge that the last words you said to someone were cruel or cold or nasty is a tough, tough pill to swallow. No pun here about the pills.

What I’m saying is that I think you portrayed Jill and her grief and spiral downwards very very realistically. And though the story starts post the accident and post Jill’s own attempted death, you’re not all focused on the dark side of things. We see how Jill and Jeff met, we see tiny moments of their life together and understand how strong their love is. That makes everything more tragic, and also allows the reader to understand how the spiral started.

The Title and Description
There’s always discussion on here about how much effort we should put into the title and the description and how most of us don’t really. However, both of yours are really good, and they’re ambiguous. I really only got that once I’d read the story, because initially I was all about, oh, she’s going home to live with her parents. Understandable. But then the description makes you cock your head and think hmm, is she not going to make it home to her parents? and is there a different sort of home here???? But even with those thoughts I really didn’t see the end coming. You could almost add ‘suspense’ to the genres for that reason.

I think ‘home’ for Jill is not her parents’ home, and that comes out later in the story. And because she doesn’t succeed there, then that’s a perfect match for the negative description. It’s all very nicely done!

The Ending
Well, let me admit that I first read ‘napping’ for ‘tapping’ and I thought Jill had fallen asleep or something and had had a car crash, and the tapping was her husband saying ‘hey you, welcome home’; a sort of ‘I’ve come to take you’ kind of moment. I was just a little disappointed that it wasn’t quite this way because I’m a romantic first and foremost and that would have been way cool.

But… the ending was still pretty neat. Definitely unexpected because though we’d had Jill grieving and remembering as she’d been driving, we hadn’t really had a repeat of suicidal thoughts or any indication she was driving erratically and could end up in a ditch. I’d expected her to get to her parents’ house and have a big breakdown in her mum’s arms. Instead we get a sort of ‘fate intervenes’ kind of ending. It worked. By the way, a yellow jacket is a wasp? Or is it a bee? (Not that that really matters since I presumed it was one of those too things and my brain was already understanding what it looked like and what it did.)

The last line is both lovely and sad. Being the romantic I’d love to have caught a glimpse of Jeff and Leah coming along the road to her or something, but even as it stands we readers can already imagine that and though we might be a bit sniffly we’re also smiling alongside Jill.


Things to Work On

The timeline confused me quite a bit. Though I could tell when Jill was dipping back into her memory easily enough there were a few places where you mention exact ages or timeframes that through me a little. For example, in the opening paragraph you mention that Leah is four; because it sounds like the present I spent much of the story thinking that she was only young when she died (well, she was, but later we find out that she was thirteen). Also in the same paragraph you say ten years ago and that made me wonder how much time between that ten years and now. The but that was before doesn’t indicate what sort of time-gap, and it almost makes it sound like it was just before the tragedy and therefore Jill’s been suffering ten years from the loss.

I think part of the confusion may stem from what tense you’re using in those memories. Sometimes you just simple past (enjoyed), sometimes the far past (had enjoyed), with the latter being the one normally used for telling a past event more clearly. Okay, this may not be coming across as clearly as my brain is telling me!! Sorry. Here’s hopefully an example of where confusion pops up…. We’ve just had the bit where Jill’s had the police officer visit (which also contains the memory of the argument with Leah – so two past events showing up together here), and then we flash briefly to the present (the empty tank), and then we pop back to the past with Jill taking the pills. However, that paragraph begins Two weeks after the death of her family, Jill decided to join them. This does not read like it happened in the past, it reads like we’re right in the present now (even though we know we’re not), so I’d recommend just re-reading everything and sorting out the tenses. In this particular case I’d probably do something like Two weeks after the death of her family, Jill had decided to join them.. Or – just a suggestion – you change the present telling events (Jill driving) to the real present tense and leave the memories in the past tense (like Jill notices her gas tank is nearly empty so stops at the next gas station.). (Or just ignore me totally *Smile*.) (Interestingly, you do use the present tense remembers in the first memory and in the second one she’ll never forget.)


Other things


Closing Comments
Love and grief can, honestly, be really nasty. They’re the two that can make you do something at the drop of a hat that you wouldn’t normally do. And these two emotions are huge reader hooks. I love stories that will make me react as if I were one of the character; that’s the sign of a good story. Despite all my nit-picking things, Going Home does that – I can feel Jill’s love for Jeff and Leah, and I can feel her grief and the huge pit of loss that she doesn’t know how to escape or fill. I wouldn’t have minded her making it home to her parents but I feel that the particular ending you’ve written is more satisfying. Very emotional, of course, but it is also a happy ending of sorts.

I am glad to have been able to read it. Hmm, you know, it would be interesting to read other short stories relating to Jill and Jeff, and Leah; especially a longer version of how they met in school, and good old teen angst fights between mother and daughter. If you do ever write any, let me know!

And big apologies again for the length of time this review has taken to get to you! When I get sick it’s usually a 24-hour thing but, man, this time it’s knocked me for a six!! 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


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
12
12
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 - CLOSED 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 "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

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
13
13
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 "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


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
14
14
Review of Christmas Rescue  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Hi Elle

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
15
15
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

My member sig
16
16
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (2.5)
Hi PureSciFiPlus

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


Reader Impressions
I’ve got to say, this is one weird story. I spent turns at really liking it and being very confused. My ‘things that niggled’ section is very long but that’s mostly because I felt those things mentioned had me spend more time trying to understand what you were writing than letting me just read and get into the story (which actually has a really intriguing plot).

Elizabeth has a secret background that has her wanting to get out of the town, and she’s hoping the sudden appearance of the Christmas sandman is her ticket out. That’s huge right there, but we never find out just why she wants to leave and why she’s pinning her hopes on the sandman. Knowing those things would help the reader get behind her as she pushes for explanations. I especially want to know why a news crew would come to do a piece on her? What’s her background that makes them go down this route? Has she reported on weird stuff before? Has her background sent her slightly bonkers. You’ve got such great (hidden) material here to work with that I would love to see this story fleshed out, with a lot of ‘before’ and a good deal of ‘after’.

I live in New Zealand, where it’s summer for Christmas, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or even heard of anyone building a sandman. So I definitely understand how one suddenly showing up on a beach would attract attention. Certainly if it appeared overnight. I think if it happened here we’d just attribute it to drunken partygoers! And a sandman that is not washing away with the tide is definitely plain strange.

I felt for Elizabeth when she hears about the news crew and Brian saying he had thought about her creating the sandman. That’s got to be tough on the confidence, but… knowing that background would help us understand not only Elizabeth’s thoughts and feelings but also everyone else’s.

Though it was kind of classic when Elizabeth kicks the sandman. It’s kind of a frustrated action that anyone might carry out. I did wonder, though, how big is it? If she’s aiming for the head I can’t imagine it’s that tall unless she’s unleashing a fabulous kick-boxing kick *Bigsmile* I could see her doing this and it was a great moment. Elizabeth is frustrated and stressed and beating up this secretive sandman would be just the thing to do! Gotta release tension somehow.

I loved this: After several minutes of just staring in shock, Elizabeth finally spoke. “You can’t be the one who created that Christmas sandman.” It’s the perfect combination of action and speech and portrays her feelings exactly. And so hooks us into reading more – who is she speaking to and why does she sound so disbelieving? (But then I also when ‘who the heck is Peter? Because he comes out of the blue. For a second I had him confused with Brian.) Does she put her hands on her hips when she mentions her daughter? I imagined her doing so, in a sort of disappointed but totally curious manner. (Also, had to grin at Peter’s explanation at why the sandman is so close to the sea. I could really see them losing control of the rolling body and being in a panic as they chased it down the beach. Loved, also, that Peter seemed pretty blasé about it.)

Watch your ending. I felt it was anti-climactic. We didn’t get to hear Peter’s reasoning or even his answer about Judith. We get a vague reference to ‘why’ the sandman but there’s not a great deal in these final paragraphs that satisfies me. Elizabeth doesn’t want the story printed, even though she wrote it, so we presume it carries a heck of a lot of personal history, and the kids made the sandman for Judith because she wanted to move to the city too (or wanted to move because her mum did, that wasn’t clear) but we still don’t know WHY. It sounds like the story is going to rake dead embers and bring them back to life and we get a whole ‘do you want me to print, I don’t want you to print, I need you to print’ to and fro going on that doesn’t give us anything either. Those two final sentences – they carry huge huge weight but without explanation or even a figment of a clue they felt like deadweight. Elizabeth wanted to be a reporter and now she suddenly doesn’t? Why, why, why, why…. Which equals ‘write me a backstory and a sequel please’ *Smile*


Things that Niggled
I sometimes struggled to get some of your sentences and paragraphs making sense, which is hard because your story is a good one and has potential for something far more involved. But if I have to put all my time into trying to decipher what you’re saying, I lose the story itself. Often you repeat the same idea in multiple ways across a few sentences or even paragraphs (something I remember the last time I read one of your contest entries). It’s distracting. One example of this is when Elizabeth is in the office with Brian. She’s sent him the photo of the sandman. They have a conversation that sort of goes (totally paraphrased) like this:

Elizabeth: there’s a story in it.
Brian: do you think there’s a story?
Elizabeth: I think it’s a story.
Brian: I don’t see a story.
Elizabeth: there’s a story.

And afterwards, as Elizabeth is driving home from this meeting we get two more renditions about the story. I got to the point, honestly, where I was like ‘give up about the story!’ And that’s wrong, because we can see from Elizabeth’s comments that she’s pinning her hopes on the sandman being her ticket out of the town, hoping it will propel her to a better journalism job in the city. I get that she’s fixated, but it needs to be turned about so that we’re hoping alongside her not wishing she’d just shush. One way could be to use another word for story – scoop, article, item, report, feature etc. Even ‘something’ would work…As soon as I saw that I knew there was something about it. Especially, after everyone else started showing up there.

A query – when Elizabeth is by herself, is she always speaking out loud or is some of it thought? There seem many times when it’s a thought but because you use speech marks, I can’t quite tell. I talk to myself a lot, sure, but I’m not spilling massive sentences like she is. One example where I felt that thought was ideal was when Elizabeth pulls into her drive, questioning why she thought it was a story and did she want out of town so badly. (By the way, both sentences need a question mark.) She sounds tired and as if she’s losing hope and is definitely questioning herself. Yeah, she might mumble but this seems an ideal place for doubtful thoughts to be running around in her head.

small group of six tween – I think you could use ‘small’ or ‘six’ but together it’s a duplicate. Also, when Elizabeth zeroes in on one of the tweens, it’s not clear at all this Judith is actually her daughter. This is because you’ve not given Elizabeth’s name before. I only twigged she was her daughter when I got to the end of the story. When we first meet Elizabeth (second para) you could say Elizabeth Denton smiled. That would clear things up when we meet Judith.

Elizabeth sat down in the chair opposite Brian after she entered Brian’s office. – this is an example of detail you don’t need to worry about because the reader has already presumed it. Ending this sentence after ‘opposite Brian’ is not at all detrimental to the sentence and we know the latter simply because she is sitting opposite Brian and it’s likely to be his office because that’s where they had their last conversation. A little later, when they’re talking about the possibility of a hoax, just make it more clear who’s speaking. When you don’t indicate narrator, usually one reads as A, B, A, B, but a couple of times I think Elizabeth speaks twice in a row and that needs to be made clear. (Ha, you know how Elizabeth’s swears she didn’t create the sandman? Well, when she gets back to the beach that night it’s all ‘her creation’. Not a good way to pretend she didn’t make it *Smile*)

Why did you call me? – this should be ‘didn’t’ if we take notice of Brian’s comment a few paragraphs later. So don’t forget to proofread, and ensure also that you’ve got all the speech marks where they should be and that questions end with a question mark.

I don’t now how I’m going to do it – needs to be ‘know’ rather than ‘now’ but this sentence and the one after it are a prime example of repetition, made more so with the ‘to do it’ from the previous sentence also. You could amalgamate these two latter sentences like I don’t know how, but I’m going to prove I didn’t do it.. Aside from cutting the repetition, it also sounds a bit more fist-pumping determination.

Watch the timings you’ve given around the sandman creation. Elizabeth mentions how she thinks it can’t have been created quickly, and yet she dismantles it in a few minutes. Something doesn’t match up there.


Closing Comments
I struggled with the way the story is written, feeling like I was taken away from the actual piece itself and had to spend most of my time in decipher mode. And I didn’t like feeling that way because under all that, you’ve got a fascinating story! I want to know why Elizabeth is so keen to get out of town. Yes, she wants to be more famous but what happened in that small town to make her need to escape it so much, to put such faith in a simple sandman to get her there. Indeed, to have her daughter design the hoax? Something powerful here that we don’t know. If we’d had a bit of that background, then Elizabeth’s drive would also have made more sense and I could almost have forgiven the relentless ‘is there a story, there’s no story, I’m sure there’s a story’ flow.


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
17
17
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Paul D

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


Reader Impressions
Loved how you took the image inspiration and ran with it, and totally ran in the opposite direction to what I expected and yet we still ended up with a sandman. It made for an intriguing read.

The conversation between Pepper and Robin was quite funny, especially Pepper’s Your crimes are that well known? after he’s expressed his surprise that she doesn’t know him. It was kinda cute, but having read the entire story I see now how that played right into Robin’s hands! The funny thing was I didn’t even query why Robin wasn’t wearing a geis (which totally means I didn’t click at all, not even with the Riddle me this Mind you, I’m not really up on watching Batman.). I suspect Pepper has lead quite a sheltered life, but her comment about not being an elf on a shelf shows she relaxes pretty quickly *Smile*

The second half of the story is where we’re turned on our head, and it was a great shakeup. Sand melting to a hardened state? Robin mentioning Santa? We’re thrown from a lovely resort (which had just had a classic evening heat thunderstorm) to fighting for the existence of Santaland in the blink of an eye and we’re whirling as much as Pepper is. I was appreciative of how quickly she reacted, though, when she saw what Robin was doing. I’m also quite impressed how you managed this story within the word limit!

I Googled Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort. Sigh…. Though I really have no true desire to visit any of the Pacific Islands because I’m not a lay on the beach and do nothing sort (and I’m not a swimmer), that resort does look just gorgeous! I can see why Snowball would recommend it. I thought you did a nice job of describing the location with the pristine water and the huts on stilts. I’ve had slow cooked pork on a spit; it’s divine.

I also Googled Emily Ratajkowski because that name obviously meant something though not to me. Now that I know she’s real, I would be wary of putting her into a fiction story, even if she’s not really there as a character herself. Also… since she’s appeared nude on the cover of an erotic magazine I’m not so sure she’s quite the girl you want Pepper to be ‘seen’ as even if she’s more known now for acting.


Things that Niggled
A query first up. Pepper is worried that going to Tikehau will see her make friends that she would never see again. Understandable when under a geis, but wouldn’t she have this same issue at the Grand Canyon? Your wording just made it seem odd she’d be worried about one place but not the other – or was it that with the snow she wouldn’t have to wear a geis?

Santa will send… – it’s the ‘will’ that niggled at me here (and the ‘wish’ at the end) because it’s present tense and the rest of the story is not. It stands out and is a bit jarring. I do recommend a change to ‘would’ (and ‘wished’).

If Pepper is supposed to be wearing a geis so that no one recognises her, why does she insist that she isn’t Emily and instead give her own name? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the geis? Her thinking there are crazies on the island and insisting she was Pepper kind of undid the whole idea of hiding who she was, I thought.


Closing Comments
A well involved story that went way beyond the sandman Santa image. Intriguing from start to finish, even with my queries.


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
18
18
Review of Carrot's Dream  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)

Hi Abby Gayle

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


Reader Impressions
Such a tiny story, but a sweet one. Though, I do kind of worry about what state Carrot is in by the time he becomes the sandman’s nose, since he’s been floating around places for weeks! But this is a magic story, so obviously Carrot stays nice and healthy through his long journeys.

I loved how Susie’s first idea upon seeing the carrot wash up on the shore was to make a snowman. Aside from being a vegetable to eat, carrots seem to be known for two things—making your eyesight better (at night, I think it is) and being the nose for snowmen. Even though there is no snow in sight, Susie knows what the carrot is good for. I liked how it didn’t matter to her if the creation was to be made from sand rather than snow.

As Carrot’s washed back out to sea when the tide changes, he goes from longing to be in snow to longing to once again be a sandman. I found that intriguing, but at least he now knows that he can gain joy from the two different types of ‘men’, and bring children joy all around the globe. He no longer needs to wait for the chilly months.


Things to Think About
Though this story is quite complete in its own right, you’ve got two instances within it that drag the reader’s attention a little sideways into thinking about other things. You mention that Carrot had been the nose for a snowman at one point earlier in his life and later that he’d been in two similar joyous situations. The first one makes me want to know about that time – how did it come about and how did he end up alone on the hill? The second instance does, I presume, relate back to the snowman’s nose but you mention ‘two’ situations here. What’s the second one? Was it something other than a snowman?

So…. You can see that I read Carrot’s story but those two things made me want more and gave me questions; they distract me from being satisfied with what I’ve just read. And I think how this story isn’t long enough. (Which actually means I see a sequel drifting around on the ocean current.)


Closing Comments
A cute little story. Sparse in details, beyond those little tidbits that tell me Carrot’s had other experiences, but you’ve written this with clear inspiration from the image prompt.


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
19
19
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi Fyn-elf

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


Reader Impressions
There can’t be much worse that trying to get home for Christmas and not being able to make it for some reason or other. And add to that the need to stump up more funds to stay where you are until things are fixed. But as our narrator realises, spending Christmas in the sunny warm climes of Maui isn’t that horrendous (unless you really hated the heat or Hawaii!).

I loved that the hotel put on Christmas for the couple, though I guess they’d be doing it for the their guests no matter the actual circumstances of having those guests are. It’s nice for the staff and the guests to acknowledge the season no matter where you are. (I remember flying to Australia early Christmas morning one year and we didn’t even get a glass of champagne in salute of the date!) But, maybe even more than that it’s about giving the guests something that they’re (probably) missing by not being at home.

I laughed at the wrapping paper. Come to New Zealand at Christmas and you get that here too because it’s what our weather is, except we have surfing kiwi (bird, not the fruit). Wrapping things with wintery paper is really out kilter for us *Smile*. Being a non-American I felt I learnt a bit more about how you do Christmas too – since there were a couple of entries that mentioned the traditional Christmas pyjamas! As well, of course, as how Christmas is conducted in Hawaii itself. A buffet style lunch followed by singing and dancing sounds great fun.

The mental picture of adults happy on Mai Tais building sandmen is enough to make me smile. Definitely a memory being created there for the guests – if they haven’t had enough alcohol to prevent that. I thought the description of the melted snowmen was good – one never really thinks about that aftermath and what happens to the physical items placed on the figures. Such a simple sentence but it was really visual.

The title of this short story works with both the dream ending as the husband’s attempts to say Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. I liked that he kept trying! That adds to the feel-good nature of this story.


Things that Niggled
I only have two things to mention here and they’re rather nit-picky, no doubt, but were important to my reading flow.

The first is how you swapped from using the present tense in the first half of the story to using the (more standard) past tense in the latter half. I find I’m good at reading one or the other, but when there are swaps they really toss out my flow and then I get distracted from the story itself.

Second thing was the dream ending. Well… not the dream ending because that’s not completely off this planet as a plot twist (and I loved how the narrator’s husband spouts Mele Kalikimaka perfectly. (Surely that’s a dream *Smile*)) It was more that the ‘dream’ part was so involved, long and normal that it almost felt like the realisation that it was a dream came in at the end as a quick fix to end the story. I’d have thought it was about running close to the word count limit but you still had decent space there. Despite loving the husband’s correct pronunciation I feel the more perfect ending would have been when the narrator simply says how perfect the unexpected Christmas in Hawaii was. But this is, of course, just me!


Closing Comments
A good story for learning what spending Christmas in Hawaii might be like. Some of it bears strong resemblance to Christmas here in New Zealand *Smile*. I liked how the narrator and her husband simply got into the swing of things, rather than grumble and groan about not being able to get home. They took a fantastic opportunity and ran with it – until they woke up!


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
20
20
Review of Sandman  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Angel

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


Reader Impressions
This was quite a cute tale! I liked that you didn’t jump right in with the sandy prompt but took the time to introduce us to Fred and to how he ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘will be’. Also, I live in the half of the world where Christmas is in summer (though I have yet to make a sandman) and I quite enjoyed reading about water since we’re in drought conditions *Smile*

You put quite a spin on the life of a drop of water and I think you did a great job of bringing it to life. I love clouds and we had some big cumuli out and about today, but I’ve never thought about them as being made up of tiny individuals. I liked that idea! When we’ve had rain recently, it’s not the rain I hear laughing but the parched earth.

Knowing this was a story about a drop of water, as I was reading through I became more and more intrigued as to how you’d show that inspiration based on the picture prompt of the sandman Santa. After all, a drop of water isn’t sand. But you tied it in very nicely – sand needs to be wet to stay in shape, hence Fred and his family and all the other drops have a purpose. One thing I would like to have read is what character Fred felt he was getting from the children who made the sandman. When he’s talking about being a snowman he says that each child tends to give a bit of their character. Since the story is inspired by the sandman, I’d like to have known if the sandman took on these things too.

Appreciated the good vibes at the bottom – that there are always new things to do, new ways to look at life. Fred might not quite have the same control over that as we humans do but we should be like him – embrace life and enjoy what we’ve got.


Things that Niggled
The main thing I want to mention here is the sometimes large lack of expected punctuation. Now, I was still generally able to read this story quite easily but the lack still irked. You’ve got some very long sentences linked (usually) by commas where a semi colon or a full stop would be a better option. I’m going to list two examples so just you can see what I’m talking about.

Technically, I’m a snowman, but I’m so much more than that, I’ve seen so many tears as I’ve melted away but you see I don’t really go away, I melt, yes, but I just turn back into my natural form, water. – the way I read this sentence there are three parts of it. Each of those parts could stand perfectly fine on their own, and be stronger that way rather than being hidden. For example, placing a full stop after ‘…more than that’ makes that opening ‘here’s what I am’ statement stand out. The second full stop could go after ‘…go away’. ‘I melt’ is a great way to start the final sentence. It seems to stand in high contrast to the previous sentence and intrigues the reader as to how a snowman could state both things and be true about them about.

Today, however, was very different, we all ended up in a container, a bucket apparently and thrown into a dip in the sand, we were quite a mix. – again, this sentence has three (to me) separate parts and full stops could be used after ‘different’ and ‘sand’. (And if that split occurred then I’d also say put a comma after ‘apparently’. Keeping the sentences short here also points to how strange and disjointed things suddenly are for Fred.


Closing Comments
A cute little story about a drop of water. It almost feels like it could become a series with Fred narrating different ‘lives’.


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
21
21
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi LegendaryMasK❤

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


Reader Impressions
A very quirky tale, and a good one to read when you want to see the power of working together (plus a little hope and being nice *Smile*)

I like how we started off with Jackie’s boss being a bit sick of her and sending her out into world (Guess she’s been pestering him about reporting?). I’m pretty sure he thinks she won’t find much to report on so I relished the fact that she’s probably got the scoop of the summer!

One thing I really, really enjoyed was that the kids were all in this building of the sandman together and that they’d all brought items to put on him. And, yet, they also all accepted the brainchild of the whole event was Little Joey. I thought it was really quite mature of the kids to know and show that.

Originally I found myself a bit annoyed that the kids introduced themselves with first and second names, but then I realised that kids do seem to do this. They do take that ‘who are you?’ quite literally, whereas adults these days seem to want to give away as little as possible until the right moment. I never used to give my surname (hard to pronounce anyway); people had enough fun with my first name which is just the same as yours – hence my surname was always Green, even if it wasn’t *Smile*.

I liked that instead of taking the sunglasses from Hanna, Jackie picked the girl up and let her do the honours. That was a nice thing to do. And nice that Joey asked for help from Jeff. The adults were around but they weren’t running the show.

Isn’t it funny how a simple item can wield such power? I thought the sandman coming to life because of the santa hat a nice way to really get the story pumping, and of course these two things were a good nod to the contest’s image prompt. The magical nature of the hat also gave us that reminder of the magic of Christmas, and of belief. And kids take things so literally, so it was no surprise they gathered up the shells and sticks and santa hat to keep for another day. I can imagine Joey coming back every year, even as an adult, to build the sandman and put the hat on his head.

Loved the fact that Jackie giggled when Sandy asked her how she was. Almost sense a bit of a crush there!

One thing I was disappointed over – I didn’t get to see the look on Nick Slater’s face when Jackie and Jeff presented him with the story!!! I bet it was priceless.


Things that Niggled
The main thing that took me a while to get my head around was your tendency to have two different speakers or the thoughts of two different characters in the one paragraph. This can make it tricky to get right away who is speaking or thinking. Make each speaker a star; give them their own paragraph. One example of this is the one that starts You see Ms Chow, we have it all figured out. This is Little Joey speaking but the rest of the paragraph is all about Jeff.

Be consistent with names. You’ve got Del Mar Beach and Del Mar beach, and you’ve got a couple of places where you have ‘your’ and you need ‘you’re’ (or ‘you are’)

Over, here we have some children – remove the comma, not needed here. But I bring this sentence up for another reason. Reading it really made me feel a bit like Jackie was saying ‘and here we have some children, that species that runs about in groups, shouting and having fun’; almost like a nature show. I’d be inclined to join this sentence with the next and introduce the kids that way. Something like Over here some children look like….

… and ended at little Joey Turner – this is Jeff panning around. All other kids introduce themselves and then you use their names. Here you don’t. You’ve named the little boy before he has introduced himself, and it comes across a little odd (as well as repetitive). Perhaps swap this bit at the end of the panning to be a description of the kid.

Everyone begins to laugh out loud. – needs to be ‘began’ to fit with the tense of the rest of the story.


Closing Comments
A lovely children’s fantasy story and I didn’t see the second half coming so I was pleasantly surprised when Sandy came alive; it added a good twist.


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
22
22
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi J. Lynn Lindsay

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


Reader Impressions
It took me a little while to get into the swing of this story because it was all dialogue and I’m not used to reading that en masse. As I got used to it, I was then a bit tripped up by how colloquial it seemed to come across with the name-calling etc, but…. all that loose language and to-ing and fro-ing actually fits in with the plot and who Danny is (and where he is and why). One thinks he just might be drunk, but that’s not the case at all. This is a man talking to the only friend he’s had in some years.

I like that you reveal snippets of what’s going on but don’t make it all crystal clear until the very end. I also thought it was nice how you tied the Captain and Ensign’s speeches in with what we’d already heard from both Danny and Sandy re boxers and sand and the sunglasses. It fitted nicely.

I was expecting some monologues with sand santas to pop up because of the particular image. I thought you wrote this version of the chat in quite a unique way. I’ve love to see a sequel to this where Danny has to talk to real people. I imagine it would be quite frustrating on all accounts.

When I first started reading this I wasn’t sure about the ‘nothing but dialogue’ way of telling the story, but then we came to the end and found out that we were really sort of observing it via the Captain and Ensign. That made the all-dialogue nature of Sandy and Danny’s interactions make sense. However, you don’t have any real action at the end either, which I did find odd. We don’t even get a sigh from the Captain or an eye roll. I suspect you wrote this for a dialogue-only contest as well? If you did, then I would just recommend mentioning that at the bottom of the story. If you enter the same story into multiple contests and need to meet various prompts, sometimes letting the reader (and/or judge) know why there might be something deemed ‘odd’ with regards a given contest helps with understanding.

Having said all that about action, you do a very nice job of beefing up the dialogue to show description and action within it. We can ‘see’ Danny hopping about around a sandman, and the Captain and Ensign standing a bit further away just helplessly watching.

Funny, you know, it’s only just occurred to me that we have Sandy and Danny and they’re playing on a beach. It’s kind of like the opening of Grease!


Things that Niggled
There’s a bit of proofreading needing to happen on this one to pick up the odd missing speech marks or other bits of punctuation. Just nitpicky thing but they do tend to stand out. A couple pointed out below.

After all the work, I just put in on you? – doesn’t need a comma here as this is all one sentence. The comma makes it split into two sentences and they don’t quite make sense on their own.

Funny Sandy, You’re a real wit today. – I think that comments needs to be a full stop. Or perhaps ‘Sandy’ needs a comma before and after, and ‘You’re’ needs to be de-capitalised.

The man’s been here over 4 years. – write 4 out in full.

… put sand in them. – this is the last sentence. You’ve got one set of speech marks when there needs to be two because you’re quoting speech within speech.


Closing Comments
Alright, the troubles reading an all-dialogue story are just my own. A second and third read gets the brain finally in the right sphere to make everything make sense rather than expecting this or that and not getting it. It’s an interesting take on both a sandman and a ‘moroned’ man.


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
23
23
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi beetle

Thank you for participating in the September-October round of "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED. This is a review of your entry "The Pearcy Offensive


The Prompt
This story about awkward flirting over a chess set or, rather, near a chess set used two of the prompts: leaves and the random meeting. The third paragraphs gives a most lovely description of autumn leaves as dust devils being swirled around and we occasionally meet Brendon’s [e:green}leaf-green eyes but that was about it for that particular prompt. When the breeze kicks up, it seems to focus more on Colin’s or Brendon’s hair (both rather long and sort of unkempt) than back on the leaves that might have been settled on the path or the various chess boards, even the one where Brendan is setting out his pieces.

The random meeting prompt was, I felt, a little more off. Yes, the conversation striking up was seemingly random but as Brendan says in the opening line - Colin’s been watching for at least a fortnight. Colin probably thinks the meeting was random but I’m not so sure it comes off that way with regards to the prompt. We do get quite the change in Colin’s life; he’s almost there in admitting his attraction (which is a big thing for him), but the lack of randomness hobbles that prompt a little. Colin’s struck (several times) by Brendan’s beautiful eyes; that could easily have been the thing that brought about the random meeting – Colin striding along on his way to pick up his nephew and suddenly see those green green green eyes and everything turning upside down in him.


Overall Impressions
Despite reservations about prompts, which will always play a part when I’m judging prompt-driven contests, this was a cute story; two men flirting, very very awkwardly and perhaps a little one-sidedly for a while. But no matter that Colin seems more taken aback than anything else – even at the fact that the object of his gaze had noticed the gaze over several days – he manages a little flirting himself; his self-introduction mirroring Brendan’s was very cute and his *green*“I’m neither” answer to Brendan’s comment about being taken or straight shows that little bit of ‘tit for tat’ going on. He may be overwhelmed by Brendan (I was) but he’s not completely non-responsive, and the story ends on a bit of hope that Colin’s life is about to take a good step forward.

Brendan was quite the in-your-face kind of character. I wasn’t sure I liked that in the beginning; if I’d been Colin I’d have back-stepped rapidly no matter the attraction. He was too much too soon. But… he knew this about himself and admitted it in an apology of sorts and that let me like him again. He was obviously nervous too. He as talking nineteen-to-the-dozen, as they say and it think that was his attraction coming out and being flummoxed by his own nerves. Mind you, he’s clearly precocious too, so maybe nerves didn’t have any sway here? But I’m going with them otherwise I thought he was coming on too strong and I wasn’t such a fan. I’d love to have gotten some of his history though; professional trained in chess? Where, why, how… and when he says he’s had to do sizing up of people quickly I thought there was a little more to it than chess opponents. How has he come to be showing up each day in a park waiting for challengers? And is there more to winning (or losing) than meets the eye? You do this often in your stories – make me hunger for background and more stories that give that background!!

Back to Colin for a moment. You list a warning about PTSD/clinical depression. When I read through the first time I skipped the bit about Colin having PTSD (I mention skipping more below) but even when I did read that tiny paragraph about Colin’s military background, I didn’t think the warning was actually warranted. In fact, that whole paragraph kind of came out of the blue and I wasn’t sure it added anything to the story itself. Colin’s shy; that was enough to cover why he was so awkward when talking with Brendan. If that PTSD is what has been driving Colin to be quite solo, and if it plays a major part in his meeting/chatting with Brendan, then it needs to have a bigger role to play in the story. In fact, this story is one that I think you could quite easily turn larger – novella, novel….. Colin’s military/PTSD and Brendan’s (competitive?) chess background—that’s quite the mix to put together and would be a compelling read.

We’re fairly deep in Colin’s POV in this story that it almost felt first-person narrated. I can’t quite recall if I’ve read a first-person narrator of yours but I think you’d be perfect at it. And I think the deep story-telling would lend itself very well to an unreliable narrator, a narrator who’s hiding from himself as much as anyone else, which is what it felt like Colin was doing. In between those moments, I loved his stuttering, awkward responses. He’s so clearly on the back-foot, even if it appears he’s been eyeing the gorgeous young chess player for a while and I almost wondered if he was so nervous because of the gorgeousness or because of the chess playing. Right at the end we see that Colin does play (or, rather, has played) and that he’s as much taken by the game as by the one playing it. That match is worthy of being written. I want to know if he manages his best moves or if Brendan’s green eyes and longer slender fingers totally throw him off!

It was great to see a little more background to Colin—his family life, the fact he picks up his nephew after school. I get the feeling he doesn’t (isn’t able to) work so it’s nice that he does have something that keeps him busy. Funnily enough, Robyn sounds like he could be a match for Brendan in the precocious stakes!

The ending gave hope, which mirrored what Colin had seen in Brendan early on, and happiness. Though we might not have had the two men become a pair, we’ve got the seed sowing for a friendship that could become something more. I liked that, and more that you didn’t make it categorical. It all might, in fact, turn to custard but we’ve got hope that it won’t, and anticipation to keep us warm until that twenty-four hours is up before match time.


The Technical Things
I can’t think of a story of yours that has included anything I could shake a red pen at. And I didn’t find anything this time, however I did find myself skipping some paragraphs so I might have missed some (though I doubt it). It’s more the skipping that worries me. Your writing is a powerhouse and then some, amazingly deep and descriptive. But sometimes – well, for me at least – it’s too much of a powerhouse. I know that sounds stupid when we’re all about creativity and magnificent descriptions, but in this story I came to the conclusion that less would have been more. I felt that the hugely creative descriptions took the gloss off the awkward flirting, the awkward sparking of a relationship.

The few paragraphs beginning “Ha!” The startled bark of a laugh exploded… are one example of this. We learnt about Colin’s personality but it felt like it went too long and then moves into Colin’s thoughts on Brendan’s face/expression. I liked that the fourth paragraph in this section was simply Hope. but I kinda jumped to it, and then had to go back to read how hope comes up.

Another example when I started skipping was when Colin admitted that Robyn is not his lover but his nephew and Brendan responds. I really would have preferred Brendan simply be embarrassed over his assumption and focus on the game rather than babble on about the flirting. I felt it would have been more normal a reaction. Mind you, Brendan seems hella precocious so maybe that’s just his personality.

It’s probably a daft thing to comment on and you’re wondering what the heck???? I’m sorry about that. I do love your stories and I love your characters, but sometimes I find the descriptions just too much, too overpowering.


Closing Comments
Probably reading that babble under ‘technical’ you’re thinking I didn’t like the story, but that’s not true. I skipped sections yes, and had to then go back and read them, but I did see the story hidden in there – one man watching another thinking no one notices, that ‘another’ noticing just fine and finally acting upon it, the whole awkward flirting/maybe interested/I’ve not really told anyone but I want this man/oh crap what do I do thing. I’d love to see their game, to see if Colin has brushed up on his skills or if Brendan goes easy on him or even if they just stare at each other and forget the game!

Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED, and we hope you come back again! And - 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!.
24
24
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)

Hi Aleha

Thank you for participating in the June/July round of "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED. I'm reviewing your entry, "Meeting At The Supermarket, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
I appreciate when someone’s bold enough to take on the one-word prompts, and I really wondered how ‘supermarket’ would go. Your story shows that it seems to go just fine *Smile*. The supermarket was your main setting, almost like another character, and Maria showed great familiarity with it and everything in it. And almost right away we see the other ‘prompt’ – the requirement that the character needs to be LGBT. We do find that Maria seems unable to keep a partner for long, and that she seems aware of the issues. Loved how the other self in her head kept shrieking warnings and yet she was totally ignoring them as she noticed Lila and started talking with her.


Overall Impressions
A refreshing story that puts some interest back into supermarkets! I remember a story on the news a few years back regarding a local supermarket and the fact that if you had a bunch of bananas and they were face up it in your trolley then it meant you were single and looking. Crazy how so much can be read into innocent fruit and veg. With this story, we actually get a bit of a food lesson too and it sounds like you know your stuff with regards to meat and cooking. It’s always great when authors put ‘real life’ into stories; makes them more unique.

The story is almost two-in-one, with Maria the central character in both. We kind of see her background and know she seems to go through relationships pretty fast. She understands this, I think, and so she’s got a built-in relationship-warning system to (try to) steer her clear of stepping from one relationship to another to another. We don’t quite get to know the cause of the recent relationship but Maria does appear to be a work-a-holic and is often away. I would almost suspect her partner feels like she’s vying with the job for Maria’s affections. Alberto rather confirms this with his conversation with Maria, and his concern over her. (Loved Lila’s You give him reason to worry?; it’s almost a little flirty here.) And while we’ve got that background going on, with the warning bells sounding at almost every turn, we see her ‘present’ – which mostly seems to be a struggle not to jump into a relationship with a girl she’s just met. And it’s made all the more hard because the girl, Lila, is quite obviously feeling the same attraction. I did have this moment, when reading, thinking I’d feel somewhat insulted if someone looked over the items in my trolley and started judging them, but Lila seems to have coped just fine.

Maria and Lila’s romance is definitely on the slow-burn, with Maria trying to obey the warnings even as she’s figuring out ways to ignore them (or dismiss them). I liked how things didn’t happen immediately, that it took two Saturdays for the girls to admit the attraction (and how Maria instantly decided Lila’s close friend from college was a lover). Found it also amusing that Lila understood some of the Italian. Speaking another language in front of people these days to sort of hide what you’re say doesn’t always work. You can’t look at someone and ‘know’ they won’t know. Kudos to Lila for hiding the fact that she understood and just went with the flow, but it must have piqued her curiosity!!

One thing I thought wasn’t made very clear, is what Maria actually does for a living. She travels the globe/country, scouting out food, but does she work for a restaurant change or a marketing company? We know she comes from a foodie family and that family own the supermarket but how does her job work in with her knowledge? It’s probably not so important to the story itself but it would help us know Maria more.

The ending is fab. We’ve got a relationship but it’s on simmer; the cooking analogy works really well here and clearly heats Maria up just fine (I suspect Lila says this for that reason!!) It’s definitely a story that begs a sequel, maybe when you next enter the contest???


She was though. – this is so telling!! Maria has just revealed reasons for being early at the supermarket as well as a relationship break up and all of a sudden there’s a ‘I see you’ moment. The ‘she’ is really great here. Even though you’ve not emphasised it, it still comes across as that – and it’s strengthened by the long list of attributes. This woman has really taken Maria’s eye!!!


The Technical Things
Mostly, I think you just need to proofread a little more – including looking out for punctuation in odd places (ie, there’s a couple of times you’ve got closing speech-marks on things that are not speech). I’ve listed a few of the more glaring errors here but they’re all pretty much easily fixable. Got a couple of ‘I’m puzzled’ things listed too.

…voice I had not heard in a long time – I think you mean that Maria hadn’t heard this type of voice? If so, then I think you need a little rewording here because it sounds like Maria knows this voice, but hasn’t heard it in a long time.

clear Southern sound | slightly Southern accented voice – I’m pretty sure this is just nit-picking but I’d call ‘clear’ and ‘slightly’ two very different things, so one of these needs to go. Definitely reveal the Southern nature of the accent but it’s either clear or slight; I’m not 100% it can be both.

I did a lot of cookin | my cookin improved since then – these are in the same sentence, but the latter leads me to think that the cooking back in the college days was pretty bad. And that made me wonder why she did most of it. Maybe just clarify that a bit?

There’s really wrong with it – this is Maria’s response to being asked what is wrong with the meat. You’re missing ‘nothing’ I think.

Watch the pieces in capitalisation. I like them but you start out using speech-marks around them and then stop. Either way, be consistent.

Alberto or Ernesto? Maria has asked Tom to get Ernesto, so who is Alberto (and also watch because he swaps between being Albert and Alberto)?

.. if’ you not busy tonight – this is Lila when she admits she could do with some help with the cooking. Needs to be ‘if you’re’.

South-Western dor – ‘décor’ presumably? Loved the fact that Maria seems full-on about knowing all there is to know about Lila even with those warning bells flashing around in her head!


Closing Comments
Probably going to sound a bit odd since I have judged this contest for a while now, but this felt like quite a different story to me, and I really liked that. Definitely got some proof-reading to do to catch those pesky issues I raised above but overall this is a lovely quirky story of a relationship beginning in a supermarket.

Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED. 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!.
25
25
Review of Found Out  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)

Hi Barabbas

Thank you for participating in the June/July round of "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED. I'm reviewing your entry, "Found Out, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
Oh, what a secret stash!!! Unexpected catalogues, such as those Tom manages to find in a secret space, are definitely hard to explain. Our narrator (any reason why you never name him?????) is very much stuck because this comes right on top of a fight that stemmed from a misunderstanding that stemmed from the narrator being still in the closet with regards to friends and family. Yikes, it’s a situation that could go totally haywire. I thought both characters actually managed it with a certain amount of grace, and I was pleased to see a good outcome. Communication is definitely key.

The other prompt – well, an actual requirement – that one of the characters must be LGBT and you’ve worked that in obviously perfectly fine.


Overall Impressions
This was a sort of crazy tale, full of secrets and arguments and two people not quite talking on the same wave-length. Ha, a normal relationship, I guess.

I liked that even though the couple had argued the night before, Tom had obviously come around to make amends and when the narrator hears his voice he’s still all sort of lovey over to. These two argue a lot, I think. I do kind of wonder why on earth Tom would be tidying, but perhaps that’s his excuse for snooping? He feels like he’s reached a point where he must unearth his partner’s secrets or else he’ll just die from old age waiting. I’d like to know a little more about their background, how long they’ve been together, and I want to know why the narrator hasn’t come out to his family. Doesn’t have to reveal that other thing, of course, but I’d like to have known why or even had Tom push for a why. Would help us understand the narrator’s hesitance.

The narrator’s got some guts when he reveals more than just the catalogues, but we don’t really see a reaction from Tom. Does he pick anything up? Does he sort of go all goggle-eyed at what he’s seeing. I think for the narrator’s sake, we need some reaction from him. The narrator’s finally being open, so a physical response from Tom would be good.

The story itself felt a little awkward in the writing, mostly because there’s a lot of ‘I did this and then I did that and then I…’ – a sort of bullet-pointed kind of writing/reading. But…. because the narrator himself is very secretive and hesitant that writing also worked. It was really like he was having to think about every single word he said and thought he had or action he did, like he was concentrating so hard on not revealing himself that he became awkward. Though, I’m not sure you meant it like that so do watch how your writing flows.

I am a little confused by the ending; well the bit just before the ending. I’m sure it’s me but I just don’t get how the narrator’s need to dress in drag is him testing his feelings for Tom and vice versa. Or is it simply about testing how much Tom would put up with? A sort of ‘I’ll love you if you’re gay, but I can’t handle you dressing as a woman’ kind of test? That’s kind of understandable, but then that begs the question of how on earth is he ever going to know if he never actually tells Tom about it? I’d like to have seen Tom ask that question!

I do like the end – that Tom puts his foot down about the narrator telling his parents first and foremost, whether or not the drag thing comes into play. And I get the feeling the narrator is relieved about that, but also his final question is very cute. He loves Tom and he wants to show it, wants Tom’s approval/acceptance. Tom’s response is really quite lovely. We can’t tell just how he’ll really react when he actually sees his partner in drag, but he understands his partner’s feelings enough to support him. Would love to see a sequel to this – when the narrator does dress up. I want to know if Tom’s still supportive!

“There(’s) going to be another dinner?” | “Let’s get peacefully through this one first.” – love this little piece of dialogue. The narrator expresses surprise (perhaps he thought that their relationship was caput) and Tom’s got a ‘one thing a time’ feeling going on, and I can hear the edge that the narrator hears. It’s definitely an ‘oh oh’ sort of moment!

If so tell me now because if I wanted to fall in love and make love with a woman, I would not have gotten the divorce. – holy moly. Amazing sentence that tells us so so much about Tom and his relationship. The response from our narrator’s rather priceless too – snarky and defensive – and honestly, I was on Tom’s side here.

Methinks Tom gets all the best lines because this one is also really emotive: Just how far were you planning on exploring this drag queen thing? Seeing other guys? The narrator at this point is kind of stuck in a rock and a hard place, because he’s held the secret for so long, but it’s hard not to side with Tom here. He’s the one that seems to be really showing the emotion. Gosh, I can just imagine his mind must be frantically whirling over this!


The Technical Things
First things first, check your proofreading. You’ve got some double-up sentences, as well as sentences that begin with one character speaking and end with the other speaking – those ones can really throw the reader out of the zone. One example of that is when your nameless narrator is trying to explain the catalogues and Tom cuts in. If you ensure your paragraphs are nicely split out on their own, that helps the reader.

I’ve listed some other bits and pieces here that also jarred a bit. All easy fixes, so don’t worry too much.

You’ll find about three bottles of wine… – I think the ‘about’ can go as ‘three’ is exact; there’s no ‘about’ about that number. (Intrigued that there’s three! Seems like Tom thinks a lot of alcohol needs to go down to get the answers he’s after.)

frig’ – ideally, this would be ‘fridge’.

… when Tom started, “Along with… | …apartment.” Tom informed me. – I think you need a full stop after ‘started’ so that the dialogue sits separately, and actually belongs to the ‘Tom informed me’ dialogue tag (which should have a comma after ‘apartment’ rather than a full stop.)

Why does everything with you must be a secret. – this is a really telling question, and fully of hurt on Tom’s part. The ‘must’, though, doesn’t work here for sense. I think you’re after ‘have to’ in place of ‘must’. Also, probably should be a question mark at the end, though I can see Tom just spitting this out as a frustrated statement.

My mind trying to… – expect there should be a ‘was’ after ‘mind’. Thought this was a real response on the narrator’s part. He’s obviously been hiding for so long that, even in the face of his partner questioning him, he’s still trying to hide. *green*I had no defense tonight is really powerful, even though I feel he feels he’s being put on the spot unnecessarily.

If there is to be we are to continue seeing each other. – I know what you’re saying here but this wording doesn’t quite match. Almost like you’ve got two responses melded together. This could be either If we are to be a we. or If we’re going to continue to see each other. Or something else, of course. And, oh yes, Tom’s got right to be frustrated here.


Closing Comments
Quirky little tale, and I’d to see it made longer. Give me more ‘before’ and a lot of ‘after’ and turn this into something even more special. Of course, if you don’t want readers telling you that, then don’t make such an awesome ending hook *Bigsmile* Definitely got some issues to work out, but they’re really just cosmetic things – though…. If you ‘fix’ only one thing, please make that thing be a name for the narrator.

Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest - CLOSED. Hopefully down the track I’ll see these two again. If you have any queries about anything above, just let me know.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


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