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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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Review of Picnic Memories  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)

Hi Schnujo

Thank you for participating in the recent round of "A Romance Contest. I'm reviewing your entry, "Picnic Memories, in my role as one of the judges.


The Prompt
I thought the romance aspect of this story fitted the prompt beautifully – happy and sad, and the happy was something as simple as finding formations in the clouds. I loved that David and Mary both got into it. The spring part I must admit I struggled to find. It may be that the coronet of dandelion flowers speaks of spring to you, but it doesn’t to me – at least not without it being spelled out. (The gesture did help with the romance though!) And the new growth of the grass could also simply be new growth after a mowing. You do mention the mating calls of birds but I didn’t feel that it was enough to convince anyone this story was set in spring.

When you have David gazing back across time, that’s when you could say something like to a spring long ago with a field of grass and dandelions… just to set the scene.


The Plot
A happy yet sad plot, where David is actually sitting at his dying wife’s side, remembering the day he’d fallen in love. We know most of the story is a memory but we don’t actually know what’s happening in the present – or how serious it is – until his reverie is broken by the nurse and her somewhat callous final comment (at least, in my opinion). We know, at least, that he and Mary had a decently long life together and it was really nice to see the beginning as well as a little part of the end. It’s always an interesting thing to see what people start remembering when they’re faced with the coming loss of their loved one. As a cloud watcher myself I loved their funny little date and how they interacted with each other. Mary may not have admitted she loved David right then but I think it was pretty clear in her words and actions.

I really, really liked She made him want to be corny. Ah, love…..


The Characters
I’d like to have seen more of Mary. David goes through a very odd way of describing her beauty and I’d like to have known the shape of her face, the colour of her eyes etc to see what he’s seeing. Right down to what she is wearing – she seems the type of girl to be wearing a lovely bright dress. He’s fixated on her – show it.

Since David is very close to a first person narrator in this story, I don’t expect to ‘see’ him so well, but a little heads’ up on how he fitted with Mary would have been good. He almost seems like he was not really the type to be going on picnics and sky-gazing, so some thoughts on his part about it would have given us a clearer view of him, allowed us to get into the groove with him as he fell in love. (I love those stories where the characters are considered to be too opposite but fall in love any way.)


Some Technical Things
Just some nitpicking things, really.

…rhinoceros,” then she turned – you should really have a full stop after then animal, with ‘then she’ beginning a new sentence. And at the end of this sentence, after ‘sky’ no speech mark is needed as it’s not speech. You combine speech and action together often without splitting them into two distinct sentences (David’s Big Bird and pointing is a further example). It’s readable but I probably won’t be the first to mention that it’s incorrect punctuation.

It might just be me but I felt mildly insulted on Mary’s behalf when David’s thoughts ramble about her beauty. well, maybe not beautiful at first glance, though she wasn’t homely by any means… – this sounds like a man putting his foot in it, and then shoving it deeper as he’s tried to dig it out! I think the romance would work a whole lot better if he just mentioned how she got more and more beautiful as he gazed at her (and, presumably, as he got to know her better).

David gave her a look… – make this active. What’s the ‘look’ look like? How does she know she’s in trouble (at least before he tells her she is).

The other part? He was picky. – I’m not sure you need this part. It sounds a bit snobby in fact and made me not like David so much as I did prior!

She won’t be here much longer. – this is the nurse’s final comment and I thought it was frigid. Coming after the ‘we’ve enjoyed having her’ and ‘I’m very sorry’ it sounds really, really cold. I do wonder, though, if it was supposed to be attached to the ‘I’m very sorry’? If not, then I wonder if you could just remove it? What she says first is enough that David can nod his head in understanding at the situation.


Overall Impressions
A lovely yet heart-breaking story, Schnujo. Very simple premise – remembering a good time while waiting for the bad time. The final words are very evocative and I read them with a long sigh. Aside from there not being much spring that I could see, I did love the romance involved (well, almost forget the requirement of spring!). This is a story that you could tell in the other seasons too for this contest – a chance for readers to see how David and Mary got together and made their lives combine.


Thank you so much for entering "A Romance Contest, 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,
Osirantinous

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77
77
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi E.A. McBride

Firstly, welcome to WDC!!! I hope you’re enjoying yourself on the site. If you haven’t already, feel free to drop everyone a line over at "Noticing Newbies. Aside from meeting lots of people there, the forum also has good links to groups/forums for new members like yourself to learn how to navigate the site, find friends, learn ‘the ropes’ etc.

Secondly, I was checking out some ‘Newbie’ items and the description of "Searching for the Truth caught my eye. Or more specifically, the prompts you listed: clock, banana, plant. Intrigued as to how you included those in your 300-word-limit story, I took a look, and now I offer up a review.


Reader Impressions

The toughest thing about 300 words is writing a story that makes sense. There’s not a lot of space to get your story arc going, your set glittering, and your characters rounded out. We start in the middle of the story here and we know there’s a heck of a lot of action that’s gone on before ‘right now’. From my point of view, I didn’t really care that we hadn’t seen the lead-up (probably because I write from the middle a lot too) because we understood the situation: John knows his neighbour’s done something BAD and is seeking evidence (the truth). He is rather breaking and entering (which we overlook) and this heightens the tense nature of the story; John’s working to a time-limit and hell is going to break loose if he’s not out of the house before his neighbour gets home. John finds his ‘truth’ but time is not on his side so, for me, you’ve ended the story in a manner that kind of mirrors the opening (albeit it not quite in the manner John had hoped). The neighbour’s devilish grin intimates that John is in deep, deep trouble and it’s a good hook ending. You don’t need to go beyond the required word limit for the reader to imagine what happens next!

Your description of John’s nerves (shaking hands, short choppy breathing, sweat) are good ‘show’, and his continual glancing at the clock indicates why his nerves are so ramped up (quite apart from the fact he’s in his neighbour’s house uninvited!). I wanted to shout ‘hurry up!!!!!’


The Prompt

In this case, plural prompts, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a weirder set of words to include. Clock, banana, plant. Honestly, I’d probably have written about a clock in the shape of a banana and thrown some flowers on wallpaper!! Which wouldn’t have made for any sort of story.

I thought you included the clock perfectly; it ties in with the tense situation. John’s on a tight timeframe and time is slipping by. I could almost hear the clock ticking, the sound of which does sort of have a life death life death life death rhythm going on. You did include banana and plant but I felt those two were slightly less well interred in the story. They fitted, of course, but neither really had a huge or momentous part in the plot. That’s not to say that they really need to, though many of the contests that require specific words to be used often state that they have to be used in a ‘meaningful’ way not just dropped in. Sometimes it’s damn hard to be ‘meaningful’!!! I think these contests requiring specific words are some of the hardest to write to, and also hugely satisfying when you’ve completed! (I note from your two items thus far that you go down a sort of horror/scary route so you might also like to check out "Weekly SCREAMS!!! . It’s a daily contest, with a range of word counts and very different prompts (occasionally words). Great prizes too.)


Suggestions

The first suggestion I’m going to make is to update the genres for the story. You can have three, but you’ve got two set down as ‘Other’. This story is dark, crime, horror/scary, thriller/suspense…. Making use of all three genres will get your story noticed by more people (especially those who are genre-driven). And once your story has been judged for the contest – make Contest Entry into your third genre. It’s important still (at least I think so) but actual genres become most important for encouraging readers.

The rest of these suggestions are nit-picky, but are still items to think about in terms of ensuring readers understand the story.

I find when I’m trying to cut words out to fit a limit I go for the ‘was’ statements. Culling them also makes the story generally more active. So instead of John’s hands were trembling, he was short of breath… you could have something like John’s hands trembled, his breathing laboured… The story becomes even more ‘show’ than ‘tell’ as well.

it could be the difference between life and death. – what is ‘it’ referring to? I presume the ‘staying composed’ but it doesn’t seem to quite make sense here.

He glanced back at the clock, 10:30. – from what I can tell John’s in the bathroom. How does he see the clock when it’s in the living room?

… he pulled it out knowing that this had to be it. – this is quite a vague sentence. I understand what the box means – that it holds the truth John’s seeking – but the double ‘it’ in this sentence refer to different objects (the box, the truth). … knowing that this was what he looked for seems to complete that sentence more, if that makes sense?

grabbed… carefully – I’m sure you can grab something carefully but it felt a little odd here. John seems to grab at the knife with eagerness, I’m not sure you could say it was careful. (Ahem, does he realise that in grabbing it he’s just covered it with his own finger prints…..)

instantly he froze, becoming paralyzed… – firstly, start this as its own sentence, not as a continuation of the one prior. Secondly, ‘froze’ and ‘paralyzed’ are much the same thing here. John can really only do one of these so one of them needs to go (which shrinks that word count more).

“Hi, John” his neighbour said… – just put a comma after ‘John’. And, you know, ending this story with just “Hi, John.” would be just as powerful as ending with the grin. A little more spine-chilling, if you were leaning toward that sort of story.


Closing Comments

This was a nice little story with a lot of tension, made more taut by the clock appearing several times. Time always speeds up when you don’t want it to! I picked up some things that could be fixed but I’d consider that natural in such a short piece where you’re trying to cram an actual story and prompts into a tiny word limit. I think you did a fine job of it. I’d love to see this expanded. Perhaps the ending wouldn’t be so nice to read but I’d love to know just what the neighbour did and how John found out about it and decided to be a detective on his own!

Well done on jumping straight into contests! It’s a great way to get the writing juices flowing and a lot of fun too.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments (I’m known to waffle!). And if you've got any questions in general about WDC, feel free to contact me, or really anyone here *Smile*

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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Review of Mexican Standoff  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Hi Santa

I found "Mexican Standoff on the "Please Review page, so here I am with a review.


Reader Impressions

With your genre Thriller/Suspense and the opening line At this moment Paca was not free I knew I was going to be in for something spine-tingling, definitely something suspenseful. And you kept that suspense all the way through – giving me a tiny insight into two lives that had struggled with hardships and finally found each other in a ‘meant to be’ manner, then worrying me that all hell was about to break loose. I felt a speck of ‘oh no’ when I learned of the ring, and shared Paca’s fear that she and Alejandro were going to be forced to fight each other in some barbaric contest to the death. Scythes and hoes are not really what you want to be eying when you’re tied up!

Even though you never actually describe the noise until the last minute, when Alejandro thinks/notes The noise. I sort of heard it. Nothing specific but rather a roar that just made any other noise inaudible. I think the short, choppy sentences helped make this particular scene frenetic, and helped give noise to the noise, and an atmosphere of ‘scary/unknown’ to the story. (If that makes sense!)

Introducing Paca’s parents did not lessen the suspense. Sacrifice often has family involved – willingly or otherwise, and so I was still in the whole ‘fight to the death’ panic that Paca herself didn’t seem to have released either. The crowd picking up the farming tools and crowding around her and Alejandro so they were cramped up with no escape simply fed that suspense/panic. And then…… I’m not going to give the ending away but suffice to say it was unexpected and gave me a ‘What? Oh…. Oh’ moment, which I really enjoyed.


The Contest

Well, I actually don’t know what contest you were writing this for but I presume the challenge related to telling a story from two different POVs? Hard to tell, so one thing I’d recommend is to include a link to the contest within the item (usually at the end). Readers (well, me) like to know why a story was written and what constraints it had (length, prompt, genre etc etc) – that way we can tailor a review appropriately. For example, if this contest had a word limit, then I could read the story and consider how well it was constructed within that word limit, and I wouldn’t complain about the length (ie ‘this could have been longer’) because I know you couldn’t go passed a certain boundary.

Also – a link to contests helps other people learn about those contests and perhaps enter themselves.

Anyway, I’m going to pretend you were writing from two POVs and comment on that. I myself usually write from a first person POV, so just one POV. However, these days I like to put in a mix – main first person narrator with a chapter or two from a third POV, so I don’t have any trouble reading multiple POVs in a story. In this little one of yours, you kept the POVs clear by using ****** to delineate them. That works perfectly fine for me, though with POVs of different sexes that also helped keeping the voices separate. We had two Paca-told sections and one ‘narrated’ by Alejandro. I actually liked that the first two sections were something of a mirror image of each other. We got a quick background on Paca, with certain knowledge of her love/attraction for Alejandro, and then the same from the young man himself. I enjoyed the little bit where he’s thinking how very hard it had been to win Paca’s affection and how many suitors he’d had to beat off – which is a little different to how Paca saw it; that she had in fact encouraged his efforts (and I suspect that any other suitors were never going to get a look-in *Smile*).

One thing I would mention with regards to the sections is to use the characters names a little more. Paca is introduced in the first sentence. Since we already know that ‘he’ is Alejandro, I think naming him in his first sentence would have worked better than four sentences in. We’re not going to mix the pair up at all but ‘he/she’ get a little repetitive after a while.

The third and final section returned to Paca for narration, which was perfect since she started the story off. She is the one who has always been fighting for freedom, so if any fight was to go on at the end it was right that she would be the one through whom the reader witnessed it.


Things that Niggled

I’m a nit-picky reviewer over odd stuff so you’re free to do what you like with these suggestions. And I make them full well knowing that you probably had a word limit you were working to!

At this moment Paca was not free. – this is actually quite a snazzy opening sentence, and there’s nothing wrong with it on its own. The bit I found a bit odd comes next, where you mention that she’s been fighting for freedom since she was a child. It makes the ‘at this moment’ seem off, since it sounds like at most moments of her life she hasn’t been free. I thought this opening sentence could actually come before *green*She stared across at him now…, because that would give us a ‘she has fought all her life, has found freedom but – boom- she’s suddenly lost it’ kind of moment. (The other thing is – why had Paca been fighting for freedom? It’s a tiny prick of intrigue to the reader and you never explain it, never let us know why she’s so desperate for freedom – so it’s something I’d want to see included should you ever expand the story).

bound like she was – at no point do you actually explain how either of the pair is bound – hands and feet? Just hands? Behind back? Again, a tight word limit might prevent this but the binding is an important part in this story, especially when Paca’s continually fighting her bonds. Knowing how she is tied, what she is tied with – these things give the reader more to ‘see’ and ‘feel’.

Across the arena! She was there, restrained. – I found these two sentences a little jarring, and the first one a little ‘what?’ because it’s like a blurt but nothing is really said (and it doesn’t go with Alejandro not knowing where he was – he’s obviously in an arena). I wonder if you could combine the two? Something like She was across the arena, restrained! but of course better than that.

He saw a terrified look on her face. – which he no doubt did, but what did it look like? I’d rather see this piece turned into a ‘show’ of the terror rather than just stating he could see it.

He met her when she was… – I’d suggest using ‘Paca’ here instead of ‘her’ because nowhere else in Alejandro’s section do we get her name. There are other places it would work, but definitely here because this starts a new paragraph/action.

… struck her eye. – I know what you mean here but when I first read this I read it literally, that she was being struck with the hoe. I think ‘caught’ might be better word to use.

Mama’s and Papa’s – no apostrophes required because you’re not abbreviating anything and you’re not showing possession.


Closing Comments

I liked this story, it ended so differently from how I thought it would. The suspense kept me engaged right to the very end. I had some niggles over parts, but I am a nit-picker reviewer. Mostly I’d like to see this expanded because I think there’s a huge back-story to Paca, and I want to see more sights and smells from her and Alejandro’s confinement in the arena. Giving more in-depth attention to their arena moment will heighten the suspense even more!

In any case, I’m chuffed I went looking on the Please Review page today and found this little item. Hope you can find some helpful things in this review, but don’t hesitate to contact me if anything needs clarification.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


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Review of Dark Cloud  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Hi Jimminycritic

As a fellow "Smiling Skies contestant, I’m pleased to offer a review on your entry "Dark Cloud.


Reader Impressions
This is one of those stories that does my head in. At first sight a heck of a ramble without plan and I think ‘no, no, no, not a story’ but then I step back and look at the subject – a cloud. And the ramble, jumble, ‘no idea what’s going on here’ aspect makes a lot of sense!

At the end of the story I kind of felt like I’d been in the cloud’s storm, tumbled about and left upside down but also feeling somewhat enlightened. How can you not love a story that leaves you like that? And what’s more is that it’s a story told perfectly to character. I’m sure a grammarian would have a heart attack over some of the writing structure, but it fits perfectly to the nature of a cloud.


Prompt
Your story personifies a dark cloud and you’ve gone for the emotion angle – among other things… loneliness, possessiveness and rage, which tends to go hand-in-hand with the first two. I did like that the cloud’s rage also went physical. He has no arms/legs but the storm let loose, the crushing of trees makes me imagine he is pushing trees over with an invisible set of hands.

He also embodies the absolute randomness of a cloud – wispy, drifting, thoughts here there and everywhere, growing, shrinking, ranting. I was a bit confused over the ‘experiment’ side of things that he talks about but if you don’t read much into it it all just comes across as that randomness. The way you’ve written these thoughts and actions all jumbled up are a manifestation of no logic whatsoever. It’s rather well done, even if you didn’t intend to have it look like that!


Things that puzzled me
Actually there’s only two.

The first relates to the second paragraph where the cloud is trying to excuse what he says or has done. But that’s a bit odd because he is a dark cloud, and being dark is what he does/is. It felt out of character for him, if that makes sense so I’d actually suggest that paragraph could go (especially since the third paragraph mentions that there are no excuses for his being).

The second is just about the tenses. I felt this cloud’s tale swapped between present and past and I couldn’t always tell where the story was. It’s not until half way through the third paragraph that we hear there’s going to be a story within a story but even then it was a bit hard to note which was story-past and which was story-present. This did, of course, make Here I am scatter-winded. one of the most apt lines there ever was!! Definitely embodies the randomness of a cloud but it did confuse this reader a bit.


Closing Comments
A story that is actually hard to describe!! I spend a lot of time watching clouds, and next time I see them meld together in the sky I’m sure this story will come to mind and I’ll think of something akin to love and war taking place.

Best of luck for the contest!


Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read and review your writing! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments.

Best wishes,
Os

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Review of When we align  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Jimminycritic

As a fellow "Smiling Skies contestant, I’m pleased to offer a review on your entry "When we align.


Prompt
You took on the wonderful same-but-different feelings Love and Hate for your story, with Hate being the primary POV. His opening line of Whatever. was wonderful!!! I thought it totally set the tone all the way through. I also liked how you put all of their personalities into the conversation – and that we could clearly not expect a physical personification. I liked it; I don’t think we need ‘physical’ to be able to take on a particular POV.


Reader Impressions
I really liked this little story, and I think it shows quite cleverly how very close Love and Hate are to each other. For me the mention of the blade of grass helps indicate that – Hate hates being stuck in the soil, Love pretty much loves it for the same reason. You know, it’s a lose-lose (or win-win) situation. And as I mentioned briefly above, it was nice to have this story told completely from conversation. We had enough personification here, I thought, not to worry about putting a physical something around both characters.

I especially enjoyed how you turned the story around so that the final part came from Love’s point of view – and that Love seemed to have a little bit of “I’m sick of this” going on (when thinking wiggling out to a better atmosphere on the other side). All couched in ‘love’, of course! And, of course, Don’t you hate being stuck here? is an interesting thing directed at Hate. Presumably Hate doesn’t – Hate actually ‘loves’ being here so we get that whole ‘everything is same-but-different’ feeling and that the two emotions are not really very much removed from each other.

I must admit I feel a bit sorry for Hate. As Hate he must ‘hate’ things, but many of the comments he makes are quite emotional – he hates when he’s dominating the conversation, but he’d also hate it if Love went away. These are two things you really can read as ‘hate’ rather than using ‘hate’ (as in most of the story) as a form of ‘love’. Yes, I’m going to stop here before I get in a tangle!


Things that Niggled
Not much niggled at all! I liked the way this was written, with the rambling rants – this is how conversations run. I did find one thing though….

Mine! – this felt kind of out of the blue, and I couldn’t figure out where it fitted. Mine what?


Closing Comments
Very clever, Jimminy, and an enjoyable read. I liked that we moved from Hate’s POV to Love’s, but that the ending was a question directed back at Hate and felt quite ambiguous. We expect that Hate would say that, yes, he does hate being here (but rather more in a form of ‘I love being here’). You could really tangle yourself up with this story (well, the reader could) but you kept lovely control of the telling and should we say that Love triumphs over Hate here?


Best of luck for the contest!

Best wishes,
Os

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Review of The Body  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Sum1

As a fellow "Smiling Skies contestant, I’m pleased to offer a review on your entry "The Body.


Prompt
Boy, did you have me thrown! I was all about ‘OMG he’s broken the no-human-speech rule straight off’ in those opening lines, and I was in a panic because that’s so unlike you. But, no, no broken rules; you were just being extra sneaky and clever!

You chose the body (dead or alive) prompt and you managed to use alive, mostly dead, and completely fake all in one story. And then right at the end you gave us a truly alive Ken ‘body’. An ambitious undertaking, but really nicely done.


Reader Impressions
I would agree with Ken’s observation; this is a self-centred man and when I was reading this story with Ken being real I wasn’t overly bothered by him falling off the cliff. Ooops. But when you twisted that plot oh so well to point out that the reader has been duped, it all came very clear. Ken is a doll (I imagined him as THE Ken) and he is at once very perfect and very screwed. He is put into situations beyond his control (as any doll might be) and I loved the fact that we were able to see the scene twice, once we knew what it was about.

Here we have someone climbing a mountain and falling, and then kind of waiting to die/be eaten. The large black bird wasn’t massively out of whack with the story – condors, vultures, etc; all ready and waiting for a quick snack. The bear, too, isn’t out of place and I started to feel just a little bit sorry for Ken. Everything is turned on its head when we move to the ‘real’ scene – a young girl is playing with her dolls. The reader has to pull back from Ken lying there with his legs all bent and broken to understand that Ken is actually a doll, puppet to a child’s imagination, lying around with his limbs bent at odd angles.

This story reminds me so much of when I was a child, coming up with all sorts of stories for my dolls (I had Daisy dolls, as well as Barbie, but never Ken). I never once thought about a sort of ‘reality’ for the doll – ie what they were thinking. It is almost a scary thought, like some weird horror story. And that brings me to the final sentence of the story – when a new family moves in next door and the child’s name is Ken. I couldn’t help feeling he was going to be in trouble one day, sort of like he was going to take on the personality/adventures of the doll, and I worried for him. It was a little extra twist that made this story feel quite devious. I liked it a lot, and I liked this story; it’s very clever.


Things that Niggled
Apart from the fact I was caught out by a sneaky twist?? *Smile*

Couple of punctuation issues (listed below) but nothing major. Parts of the story were quite wordy where I might expect a more colloquial telling (such as in Ken’s second speech) but I do realise that it also fits in with what a doll might say/think/do (sort of awkward and long-winded).

He didn’t notice, or remember the vine snaked across his path. – either remove the comma or put another one after ‘remember’.

I’m going to beat every record there is in mountain climbing’. – extraneous speech mark here.


Closing Comments
Well I finished reading this story wishing there was more – more Ken adventures and more story regarding the ‘real’ Ken. I would love to know if they entwine more – life imitating art imitating life etc

Good luck for the contest.

Best wishes,
Os

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Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: GC | (2.5)

Hi aarghmanda

Thank you for participating in the October round of "The LGBT Writing Contest. I'm reviewing (belatedly) your entry, "CLOSET SKELETONS III, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
You went for the single-word prompt, ghosts. While you do have a ghostly presence who shoves Cherie down the stairs, your main focus for the story was on the wider supernatural side – resurrected cat, Cherie’s astounding survival from the fall, and the white horses – than specifically on ghosts. So, from that view, I didn’t think you’d nailed the prompt 100%, even though you provided a decent amount of horror/scary.


Overall Impressions
Quite a haunting little tale but it left me wanting more. I didn’t feel like I had any resolution to the plot. Cherie and Darlene experience some pretty sombre stuff but the story cuts off before it really goes anywhere. I would like to have seen at least a conversation on how they were going to deal with the fact their house is haunted. I think that would have provided more closure for me than Darlene’s statement of the obvious.

The house is old and has clearly had many owners. That’s fodder for fleshing out the story. There’s got to be history surrounding it that Darlene and Cherie can research. Did the real estate people seem very happy to have the house of their books? Have the neighbours dropped by to check upon the newlyweds (Oh, you made it through the first night, eh? Hear anything odd, by chance?) Build up the suspense so that when you get to the first real supernatural event, the reader is hyper-sensitive to faint noises about them.

Absolutely loved “Babe. There’s a team of white horses in the yard.” It’s so understated, almost as if there’s nothing wrong with the picture.


The Technical Things
There’s a number spelling and grammatical errors (such as lack of initial capitals) dotted through, but in the main they don’t really disrupt the reading flow. I’ll mention a few here because they still should be tidied up. A couple of other bits and pieces are mentioned where I thought you could make the story stronger (and in some cases, really make the hairs stand up on a reader’s arms).

Firstly, a query. You open with Darlene and Cherie not expecting a stressful time settling into their new home. I couldn’t quite find out ‘why’. Is it because the place was newly renovated (and therefore they didn’t need to tidy anything up)? If that’s not it, then that first sentence needs a little bit of rewording or others will ask why it’s not a stressful time.

While I like the description of the house – it enabled me to ‘see’ it – it’s also rather tell not show, an info dump. Give us the details, definitely, but don’t clump them together. Or, if you do, weave the info-dump into the action. Something like: As Darlene carried a box up the path, she stopped a moment, casting her eye over the two-storey brick façade. Moss grew on the railing of the upstairs balcony like it did on the columns that supported it. Renovated inside, yet the outside hadn’t been much cared for…. Just a couple of simple observances from her and Cherie and there’s the house described.

If you don’t make any changes (and, of course, you don’t have to) then there’s a couple of issues you need to fix in the existing descriptions:

A concrete front porch spread… – remove ‘front’ because you use ‘front’ again very soon after and it’s too repetitive. Alternatively, lose the second ‘front’ and re-write that as something like … spread across the length of the house.

Center if the wings was… – ‘of’ not ‘if’

propertys age – needs an apostrophe before the ‘s’ here.

… were the origionals with pearl handels and skeleton keyholes. – ‘originals’ and ‘handles’, but I also query what you mean by ‘skeleton keyholes’. I’m pretty sure I can visualise the keyhole – one of those gaping sorts that needs a decent toothed key but all I could ‘read’ here was ‘skeleton key’ and those are the keys that open all doors, rather than one for each door. I know it’s terribly nitpicky but it actually made me stumble more than the two spelling errors did.

… and began unpacking all their things. – I don’t have any issues with this sentence in and of itself, but in the paragraph before Darlene’s already been hard at work unpacking things. It just makes this sentence seem a little incorrect.

… so it was a real shock when Cherie felt someone shove her shoulders. – here’s where I think you can start getting really spooky with the showing. Give us more sensation and, if you can, spin it out more. Did she get any sense of something before the hands touched her? A slight change in the temperature or air pressure? A sound? She ‘remembers’ how the hands felt and how falling felt but we don’t seem to actually experience it. If it did happen (and the next paragraph makes it seem so) then I think ‘remembered’ is not the word to use here – because right at this time she’s not remembering but experiencing.

…sofa and clambored onto. – need ‘it’ after ‘clambered’ (spelling).

…when it was obviouly broke before… – ‘obviously broken’.


Closing Comments
As spooky stories go, I liked this one though I really did feel like it ended far too soon. You had plenty of word limit left to really build up the suspense and provide a more solid sort of ending. I want to know what they’re going to do about living in a haunted house, what they thought of each other’s experiences etc. So, of course, writing a sequel would be good!


Thank you very much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest, and we hope you come back again! Also don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any queries about anything above.

Kind regards,
Osirantinous


My member sig
83
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Review of Who's in the Can?  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Hi Lynda Miller

This review of "Who's in the Can? is the final of three reviews from the PDG’s Package 10 which you won in "Save Disability Group membership!. And please accept my apologies for the length of time it’s taken to get them all done!!


Reader Impressions
Is jealousy an impression? If so, let’s go with that as my first one. I cannot write mystery, my brain just doesn’t seem to be advanced enough to cope with the ins and outs of the genre. So I get a little green-eyed when I see mystery writers flaunting their skills, and in such a manner that I wish to see more. Detective Search belongs to a series, right? If he doesn’t, he should. You’ve got a character who is sitting in a prime spot to be a master of several mystery cases.

This is a tiny story (even just in its own timeline) that manages to cover a pretty decent-sized storyline without leaving much out. I presume it was written for a contest since you’ve included a word count and a couple of the words are bolded (outside of the letter). It would be nice to know what contest just so the reader has a bit of context.

It took me the entire story to realise that ‘can’ in your title is indeed a can, not slang for a jail cell (or maybe it’s just slang for a jail cell in my own country)! I liked the double-meaning but you are giving away a major clue. It’s not til the very end that we find the rubbish cans of body parts and bones, but if readers understand that ‘can’ is rubbish can, they’re not going to find the end very mysterious at all. So, for those readers more clever than me, I’d suggest thinking about a new title just so that they’re kept guessing to the very end.

The birthday angle was a classic clue and a perfect little thing to bind the story together. It finally occurred to me that in a lot of crime/mystery things I’ve read or seen there’s always this little tid-bit action that a character does time and time again and is looking forward to in the future plot. That’s when you usually know they’re doomed. I expected Sue was dead but the significance of Sandra’s plea didn’t hit me until the end, when Search realises he hasn’t granted her plea. It brought the human side back into the story and finally gave me a sense of heartache. Search has done his job, it just doesn’t have a happy ending.


Characters
Characters make a short story, for me at least. You need a good plot, of course, but without strong characters the plot won’t work anyway. I liked Detective Search. We don’t know a lot about him – which kind of goes with the mystery theme – but he comes across as someone very reliable, someone unable to be corrupted and someone with a fine sense of justice. Which, really, he should be if he has worked his way up the chain. He’s also dedicated, if not a little of the ‘rules don’t apply when I’m dealing with suspicious people’ mentality. I felt that when he got into Jeff’s house without so much as a warrant.

However…. I didn’t get one sense of what he looked like. I’m so very guilty of doing this with my own characters (my excuse is that I write in first person and they’re not always close to a mirror *Smile*), so I’m actually quite on the lookout for it in other stories. I expect Search is in his forties at the very least, given his career, but I think you could squeeze in a little bit of his physical nature now and then. For example, as he picks up the phone to call Mrs Hill he could swipe back his black hair. Or, before he gets to work picking Jeff’s lock he could have taken his hands from the warm pockets of his faded blue jeans. Just tiny little tid-bits that fill him out into a more rounded character.

Sandra Hill is an interesting character. Her letter to the detective was very emotive and yet very bullet-point in the actual telling, which made her seem almost threatening. Yeah, that probably sounds way out there but I almost got the sense she was blaming the detective for her husband’s death and he could go part way to paying for that by finding her missing daughter. And when we meet her in the flesh, so to speak, again she seems more matter-of-fact than emotional. If she and Sue are so close, then Mrs Hill needs to start acting a bit more bereft. She makes staccato speeches (sharp and short) which kind of gives off the feeling that she’s strung-out on emotion but a little action would help. Does she look a little unkempt (like she’s too upset to care about her hair)? Does she wring her hands? The point, for me, is that she does not come across upset enough and that makes me suspicious. Which is actually quite clever because, of course, you’re writing a mystery and everyone’s a suspect!!!

Jeff White. Well, nothing gave Jeff away in that he didn’t seem to act nervous, he talked with reasonable calmness and surety, he didn’t block Search at any point. Just the sort of character who makes a perfect killer!! The sort that doesn’t see anything wrong in what they did and therefore doesn’t act all nervous and freaked out. Yep, I’d suck at being a detective! He seems a very tidy, fastidious type of person, certainly not a hand flapper. He does have some rather long dialogue sections, though, that I would have like to have seen broken up with a dialogue tag or an action (like him smoothing along the crease in his pants).


Things that Niggled
This is a combination of all sorts of things that stopped my reading flow or that I thought you could make stronger by a re-write. All are just suggestions so take what you want, and throw away the rest.

Must have raided a place of prostitution, he thought to himself. – firstly, ‘he thought to himself’ needs to be un-italicised as it’s not a thought, but also you could remove it entirely since italics are usually enough to indicate thought. Secondly, Search goes on to remember ‘those days’. I wondered, then, if instead of ‘place of prostitution’ (which sounds sort of prudish) he could actually name a place. Kind of like Raided Little Miss Muffet’s again, heh? (Er, sorry about the name, kinda flashed into my mind as I wrote. I know nothing, of course!)

Barbara from the desk shouted at him. – the order of this feels odd to me, making me read ‘Barbara from the desk’ before I get to the actual action. I’d recommend putting ‘from the desk’ at the end of the sentence; it’s a setting and isn’t as important as the action.

He turned and went to the desk… – Because this action belongs to Search, let it start a new paragraph and reword the action. Remember he’s in a front room full of half-dressed men and barely-dressed women. It’s probably rather crowded and I can see him having to do a bit of weaving and shoving to get where he needs to be. (Also, 'retrieved' rather than 'retrived'.)

My husband was an undercover police officer with Narcotics. – I think you could remove ‘police officer’. Undercover can work here as a noun and we kind presume he’s a police officer. (By the way, Search’s interjected thoughts that follow this section shouldn’t be in bold. Because they are, they read as part of the letter and it’s jarring figuring out what is what.)

Why is the letter in bold? Was it part of the contest rules? If not, I would suggest unbolding it. To differentiate it from the actual story you could indent it or put it into a different font. That would be less distracting than the bold. Also, Sandra Hill is the wife of an undercover agent who was found out and murdered. Should she really be giving her phone number and address so unguardedly, even if the letter’s addressed to a cop. Wouldn’t she be worried about the crims going after her?

He used the door knocker to knock loudly. – this is a great moment for him to do some observation – what type of door knocker is it? Does it indicate what sort of woman lives in the house? What sort of sound does it make. Basically, show instead of tell.

“When was the last time you talked with your daughter?” – there is nothing wrong with this sentence other that its placement. Separate lines for dialogue usually indicate separate speakers. So since we’d just had Search declining a drink and sitting down, I went to the next line expecting Sandra to be speaking, and was thrown with the question. So just put this up with the previous line. It is an abrupt question, by the way, and Sandra doesn’t react to that. Maybe have her give a little bit of a shake before she composes herself?

She brought a lot of candy to hand it out. – remove ‘it’ but also I think ‘she’ should be ‘Sue’. I’ve said that Sandra comes across less upset that I was expecting, and this whole using ‘she’ instead of her daughter’s name makes me think it even more. Sue was mentioned by name in the letter and so I think the name should come out in the discussion (and not at the end where you’ve got it – since Search actually does know it).

She always tells me what she is doing… – this has to be a really hard moment for Sandra. She talks to her daughter twice a week yet hasn’t heard from her in three months. I would like to see a little physical something after the particular part above, even a brief hand over the mouth. Maybe she’s not so emotional because it’s been three months but she is a mother who has lost (apparently) her daughter; a little bit of concern, worry, grief won’t go amiss here.

She said he’s cleaning out his mothers stuff she left in her room. – I couldn’t quite get this to make sense. Is this something that Sue told her mother, or is it something Jeff’s mother said? If it’s Sue who said it then the tense isn’t quite right, given we’re three months down the track. If Jeff’s mother then ‘his mothers stuff’ doesn’t make sense. I think you could remove this sentence entirely.

Search’s arrival at Jeff’s house the following morning begins a descriptive section where we get to see the man in action. However, some of the sentences are a little jarring – short little things often starting with ‘he’. They read quite like a bullet-point list so I’d recommend going through that section to see what you can join up into a smoother flow. Also, you seem to have a few rogue paragraph returns that have split sentences apart. Such as The ties | and belts hung down separately on a rank.

… and have a DNA ran on the blood. – is this missing ‘test’? If not, and DNA stands for shortened ‘DNA test’ then it should be ‘run’ rather than ‘ran’. Whatever you do on this one, you need to update the second use of the same phrasing too.


Nitpicking bits!


Closing Comments
Alright, so I spent rather a lot of time on nitpicking, but please don’t think that means I didn’t like the story. I did, and I want to see more of Detective Search. I want to know his background, I want to know if he worked with Sandra’s husband, I want to know how he copes with all the horrors he must see. He’s the kind of character you’d be happy to put your faith in. It was a nice little mystery, Lynda; a genre you should certainly keep writing in, and I’m glad you asked for this to be one of the three getting reviews. I don’t read mystery very much but I enjoyed this!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments. I can be pretty waffly at the best of times.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

My member sig


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
84
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Review of Found Treasure  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Lynda Miller

This review of the poem "Found Treasure is the second of three reviews from the PDG’s Package 10 which you won in "Save Disability Group membership!.

Just a short reminder... writing poetry isn’t my strong point and therefore my reviews of poetry tend to come more from the reader than the writer! Hopefully you’ll still find something valuable though!


*FlowerR* Reader Impressions
This is a lovely poem of gratitude and found confidence, of friendship and perseverance. I think all writers hunger for a champion (outside their parents!!), and the confidence we get from them cannot ever be understated. You’ve titled this poem Found Treasure, and I think you’re absolutely right. A person who encourages us, who has faith in us, and who gives us confidence is a treasure – even if they don’t see that themselves. This poem is a really nice way of acknowledging what your treasure has done for you.


*FlowerR* Emotional Impact
This is a heartfelt poem that I think anyone can relate to. We writers are our own worst critics, which you’ve made clear here. And you’ve also brought up that other ‘thing’ we do – linking the fact that we ‘can’t’ write with the fact that must mean we shouldn’t offer advice to others. Which is not true, but we often need a push to be reminded of this. Your worry and hesitation is clear in the opening stanzas, and the sense of burgeoning confidence (laced with ‘is she telling the truth?’) comes out through the middle. But then you caught that bug called ‘confidence’ and went with the flow. I can sense the relief and pleasure and pride in the line And now it’s done.

I liked how you didn’t use flowery words in this poem. Being a poem of inspiration and thanks, you could have but simple words are often more heartfelt and honest (in my humble opinion). Whomever reads this will know how you felt throughout your journey, and anyone who has found a champion (or might still be looking for one) will understand your feelings.

You champion might not feel that what they did was really all that amazing, but the things that change our lives aren’t necessarily huge and are not always noticeable straight away. That you even wrote this lovely poem shows how much impact your champion’s friendship and encouragement had, and it’s a very fine way of displaying your gratitude. Question – does your champion know about this poem??


*FlowerR* Rhyme, Form and Flow
Well, you’ve got stanzas of four lines each, apart from your opening quote of two lines and your final line. Mostly there’s no rhyme, so it’s a free-form poem but I actually liked the rhyme in: I took the challenge | and read and read. | I did the editing | as the words filled my head. The rhyme and metre made this a very easy stanza to read and I realised I’d quite like to see more of this poem written in a rhyming format. I think this is mostly because I’ve read a lot of “gratitude” poems in rhyming format!!

The reading flow was alright but there are some repetitive words that made things a bit jarring. I’ve mentioned them below


*FlowerR* Suggestions
Poetry’s from the heart, and I do loathe to point things out because of that but I felt some wording choices were quite clunky (and some were very repetitive). I’m listing the examples below as I think that might be more clear than just me talking about them. This will look horribly long, but it’s mostly me giving my reasons, so please don’t freak out! And, of course, you’re free to ignore everything.

I had my head full | on writing a novel. – firstly, ‘on’ needs to be ‘of’ because your head is ‘full of’ something, not ‘full on’ something. But also, I think you could remove ‘writing’. You use write, writing, wrote a lot in this poem, and here I think it’s not needed. That your head is full of a novel implies the ‘writing’, but the main reason I suggest removing it is the line that comes after this – Yet, I would write. The verb here is enough (and I would actually like to see ‘and write’ tacked on, mostly because when I read these last two lines, the metre seems to flow a little more smoothly with the extra ‘and write’. But that might just be me!!).

I didn’t feel – this starts the second stanza. This stanza is really quite poetic (though I did wonder if ‘placed’ needed a ‘where’ attached to it. You feel like you haven’t placed the description or the dialogue where?) But my main reason for mentioning this line is that you’ve got ‘didn’t feel’ in the last line of the stanza above and so it’s quite repetitive. Perhaps you could turn this stanza around just a little to start with placing the words and ending with how they didn’t feel rightly placed?

and ask for help – just needs to be ‘asked’ here. And in the last line of this third stanza I’d recommend swapping ‘book’ for ‘story’. That’s for two reasons. You use ‘book’ a lot and for some reason I always hear ‘children’s story’ rather than ‘children’s book’.

but you said; I’ve known – use another dialogue tag here otherwise you have two ‘saids’ close together and they stand out. Also, I think you need “ around the dialogue to make it true dialogue (since I presume that’s what you’ve got here).

I sent your novel | back to you – I felt these two lines of the sixth stanza were quite jarring, especially the second line when read on its own. It feels too ‘tell’ or almost too ‘common’. The suggestion I’ve got doesn’t fit with your four-lines-to-a-stanza form but hopefully you can see how you could turn this around a little bit (and get rid of another ‘wrote’): I sent back your novel | and you told me | how I did a great editing job. The fourth line could, perhaps, give an explanation of ‘great’ – ie what was something that you did that your friend found ‘great’?

I couldn’t believe it. – I understand what you mean here but this is a really negative line, and when read on its own it’s even more negative. You don’t have to remove it, just change it around a little: Though I couldn’t believe it or I dared hardly believe it. In any case, I think it also needs to be attached more to the first line so put a comma after ‘pride’ rather than a full stop. At the end of this stanza you have ‘own’. Because we’re reading the poem we know ‘own’ means your own novel, but reading the stanza as a single piece makes ‘own’ non-understandable. (The stanza coming directly after makes it understandable again but I think each stanza should make its own sense.)

I wrote my book and And now it’s done. – I found ‘book’ and ‘done’ jarring, and both all the more jarring because you use them again in the last stanza. I think ‘novel’ could replace ‘book’ here and even something like ‘complete’ could replace ‘done’. ‘Complete’ feels much more expressive.

See what you’ve done? – ‘done’ definitely works better here but it almost feels accusatory in this sentence. Maybe ‘achieved’ could be used? Less accusatory, more encouraging. Also, put a full stop after ‘book’ in the third line.


*FlowerR* Closing Comments
Poetry’s just the right format for expressing gratitude, and you’ve done a fine job here of doing that and explaining why you’re doing it. You had a wonderful triple win – confidence to review, confidence to write and a champion who helped remind you that you can review and write. Sure, I’ve nit-picked at some of your wording but that doesn’t stop me loving the emotions in this poem or loving the poem!! And it reminds me I need to do more thanking too!


Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read and review your poetry. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if something doesn’t make sense.

Best wishes,
Os

My member sig
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Review of My Beloved  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Lynda Miller

Congratulations on winning Package 10 from "Save Disability Group membership! which was, among other things, three reviews. This review is for your sneaky little poem "My Beloved.

Just a short pre-amble... Though I like to read poetry, writing it isn’t my strong point and therefore my reviews of poetry tend to come more from the reader than the writer! Hopefully you’ll still find something valuable though!


*FlowerR* Reader Impressions
‘Sneaky?’ I hear you ask. Yep, because here I was thinking I’d be reading a love poem, all romantically written with a quill no less, and then, boom, we have a cheater in the middle of the poem and a murder at the end of it! I do love twists in what I read and I liked how I didn’t really see this one coming. In fact, at the third stanza I thought the narrator was writing a letter to say he was leaving his wife (even if she stays through thick and thin).

Cheating, adultery, mistresses – everyone has their opinion about these things. Love is not easy and you can’t always choose who your love goes to. Sometimes we even manage to love two people! Your narrator doesn’t, or at least doesn’t now. He says he’ll leave his mistress but he won’t, and he knows his wife understands this. And yet he also seems to think that having the two women with him is okay. She is the mother of his children, as he says; clearly that’s a link that can’t be broken and I got the feeling that for him actually loving her wasn’t much a part of the equation now. Oddly, I was kind of reminded of the ‘pina colada’ song (Escape by Rupert Holmes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5_EIikdFr8) – couples who are tired of each other looking for something else.

Your narrator does come across also as a bit arrogant/naïve (yes, the two together). Here he is with a mistress, lying to his wife and not feeling really guilty about it, and when she pulls a gun he’s like ‘she won’t hurt me, we’ve never had any problem’. As if he doesn’t consider the cheating to be a problem. On the other hand, this also says something about the wife. She knows what has been going on but has obviously not mentioned the issues prior, pretending almost as if there isn’t an issue. You know, sometimes the blame for the war is not on the person who started it but on the one who could have stopped it but didn’t… It’s another way to view the man’s shocked reaction, at least.

As for the wife, one immediately is on her side because she’s got a cheating husband. She loves her man, she’s a good wife (well, that’s not explicit and maybe she is only in her own eyes), and she’s a mother. Yet her man is off with some other woman. She’s at her wit’s end and has gone passed the ‘we can work something out’ stage to the ‘you give me no other choice’ stage. It’s in our nature to sympathise a little with the one who is seen to be the ‘victim’. However… the latter half of the poem doesn’t show us a victim at all. It’s murder, fair and square; and, for me, the wife turns into the more hard-hearted of the pair. The final lines of this poem bear this out. She’s not running away, freaking about what she’s just done. She’s knelt herself down to watch her husband’s blood run out of him. I certainly didn’t get any sense of her being concerned but rather a ‘I just need to make sure you die’ kind of moment. One may feel a sense of religious fanaticism within her, with the fifth stanza ‘rant’ and also a passive aggressive nature. It almost sounds like, while she hasn’t been overtly railing against the mistress, she’s been dropping hints and warnings and so uses the lack of acknowledgement of them as a further excuse for murder. He was warned, after all.

Oh my god, I’m way waffling here? I’m sorry if I am but the more I think about this poem I see many more levels in it! Such as….. what if the wife was a slightly crazy woman in the first place and that’s why he found a mistress?



*FlowerR* Tone and Mood
As odd as it probably sounds, the use of a quill and ink is what starts this poem out in a romantic mood. It conjures up visions of the romantic poets doing their thing way back in the day! The mood and tone, of course, darken as we get further into the poem and words like ‘leave, tears, lies, repent’ edge us toward foreboding.


*FlowerR* Rhyme, Form and Flow
I didn’t recognise any particular form of poetry here, just that you kept to a tidy five lines per stanza. There is some rhyming but I couldn’t discern any pattern.

I loved the ‘wife | strife’ rhyming because it heightened, for me, that things had gone wrong. A good relationship would never rhyme these. But… I think you could make it even stronger but swapping the line order just a tad: But… the mother of my children | my wife | we never had any strife (I put ‘but…’ here without the ‘this’ because it feels a little more active and also helps to show the ‘but how is this happening?’ feeling. Just a suggestion of course.

As free-form as this seems to be I thought the flow was okay in that I didn’t struggle to read the poem and didn’t need to re-read certain sections. I think it could be made more powerful than it already is if there was more rhyming to it (but that’s just me).


*FlowerR* Punctuation and Grammar
Normally I don’t pick on punctuation in poetry because it feels like poetry can do whatever it likes. However, since most of your words are in a sentence format I did feel there was some missing punctuation and excess of capital letters starting a line. I’ll give a couple of examples.

Here I sit, | Quill in hand. – I think Quill could be lowercase, because it’s not starting a new sentence.

I see the tears flow from her eyes | And know she sees my lies – I’d like to see a comma after ‘eyes' and the ‘And’ uncapitalised. But also, a full stop after ‘lies’. I think And yet she gives me a smile. would stand best fully as its own sentence.

I dip it – on a line of its own the ending ‘it’ kind of jars. I’d suggest replacing it with ‘the nib’ (or something like that).

I hear the sound – just wondered if you might consider actually putting a sound here rather than the narrator reporting he hears it? Something like A crack snaps the silence, | I feel the pressure Even in poetry it’s best to try to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’.

One thing I’ll suggest above all is removing the Young Adult genre. Emotional would be a good genre to pick and maybe Dark, but Young Adult seems out of place.


*FlowerR* Closing Comments
This poem starts off romantic and then descends into darkness—adultery, lying, fanaticism, murder—and it happens so smoothly we’re there (and start backing the woman) before we expect it. Even at the end, when the woman is quite cold-blooded, I expect readers will still be feeling like they’re on her side and not quite getting the real tenor of those closing lines. The narrator is complex, guilty and yet also a victim and I must admit I ended feeling just a little bit sorry for him!


Congrats again on winning the auction package. And... don't hesitate to contact me if something doesn't make sense.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

My member sig
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Review of Poinsettia Boy  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)

Hi Sapphirose

Thank you for participating in the August/September round of "The LGBT Writing Contest. I'm reviewing your entry, "Poinsettia Boy, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
For this extended round we had a single prompt, to rewrite a known fairytale/story using LGBT characters. Aside from the LGBT characters the main requirement was to ensure the reader/judge knew what story you were rewriting.

The Little Match Girl is a heart-breaking story, and no matter which way you look at it, it carries far more sorrow than it does joy. And even though I knew the story I still wished somehow your character would survive. I guess that is in fact kind of cruel, given his life, but it is very distressing to watch someone go through such despair and humiliation and pain that we have a ‘I want you to survive so I can help you’ sort of mentality. Of course, your character, like the match girl, finds comfort in his final moments with (memories of) a loved one who showed him kindness and good wishes. We should be thankful for this, for the fact that he even had good memories with which to cloak himself.

I think you retold this story very well, and perhaps enhanced the cruelty within it by giving it the modern slant. It’s so real it’s probably happening out there in a multitude of forms as I write this. It’s a telling that might make readers more grateful for what they’ve got or even reconsider decisions not to give change to beggars or not to buy items from people trying to make a living.

This story also required LGBT characters, which you gave us in the form of the main character and his uncle. The added grief here is that the uncle has died from AIDS and that the youngster is being farmed out as a night companion for anyone who will pay. He’s not allowed to be free in his sexuality or to even know what it might be like to be in a loving, safe relationship. I think you made the point very aptly in the story when you said his life had been sent to the firing squad. In more ways than one, this kid’s life is a tragedy and it was only ever going to end in tragedy. And, honestly, that makes me want to cry.


Overall Impressions
Well, I wanted to cry; that should tell you my overall impression. You’ve written a stark and gut-wrenching story with such clear descriptions I could almost feel the coffee against my own head and the furious magma boiling in my own blood, the shiver as the ‘friend’ approached and the longing as the uncle sat nearby. I wanted the young man to survive, yes, but I would never begrudge the ending of this story when he gets his peace.

Right, so since one of an author’s aims should be to induce feelings within the reader (no matter what the feelings are) for their character/s you did a wonderful job of this. We have to find something in the character to like or hate or love or be grossed out over in order to connect and be part of the story. If we don’t, then the story’s a white-wash. You don’t have that trouble here at all. Oddly, not naming the young man didn’t make a difference; in fact I felt the story was stronger by this fact. Of course, the match girl isn’t named either and you could have just been following that but by being nameless your character makes an ever more tragic sight. Names give power, they give hope; without a name, you’re a kind of nobody and no one will care. Your character is sadly one more statistic.

This is a story that I’m not going to forget in a hurry. A great deal of that is because it’s such a tragedy but a lot also has to do with the fact that you have used such vivid descriptions. I’ve already mentioned a few of them above. Though I’ve often got blood boiling in my characters I’ve never once thought to liken their anger to the magma rising in a volcano; that was really expressive. I have used the repetitive flinging of stones in place of poinsettias for characters, however, and have had first-hand experience myself at needing something like that to spend rage (hammering nails, which turned out rather more to be just whacking something over and over and over again with a hammer than anything to do with nails!). Okay, what I’m trying to say here, is that the expressions and actions are very natural and I liked them! The magma description is also pointed, given that it’s a heat the young man can’t keep himself warm with.


The Characters
I would normally say here that I wanted to see more of a character, but you actually give us a number of physical details about him (hair and eyes) and his clothing. The clothing of course is required for the retelling itself but I liked that you brought the thin clothing and the useless gloves in a number of times and the descriptions melded naturally into the story every time. The state of the clothes and of his hair outlined his harsh life. You describe him as handsome and I think part of that comes from his eyes, but I would like to have known a little more where the ‘handsome’ comes from; and at the same time I don’t want to know. Getting to know of him really well makes the storyline all the more sad.

In the match girl’s visions she sees her grandmother. We don’t get a great ‘visual’ of her but we know she has been kind to the child and the only one who really looked after her. We know your character’s uncle is also very kind and loving, and a great cook, but I think you could have given a few more tidbits on what he looked like. When I read his sections I sort of just see a creamy mass with blonde hair. Which is a little awkward. You could have the youngster remember the uncle’s voice or the breadth of his smile or various things like that to bring him a little closer to us.


The Technical Things
Watch your tenses with this story. It’s mostly told in the past tense but occasionally you spring the present on us, such as He held firm and doesn’t move. with ‘doesn’t’ standing out a bit like a sore thumb here. In fact, this is a story that could work very well told in the present-tense.

melted grim filled snow – though ‘grim’ fits with the mood I presume you’re really after ‘grime’

he was a handsome young man that was just shy of 18 – remove ‘that was’; it’s not needed here in order for this to make sense.

and fire off a long “FAG!”… – do you mean ‘fired’ here? But also, this doesn’t make a great deal of sense. The laughter is the subject of this sentence and that can’t fire off the sound, so perhaps you mean something like and someone fired off a long “FAG!”…?

preious night’s drunken tirade – ‘previous’

Because you’ve chosen not to give your character a name (which I think works!) you run into the problem of having too many ‘he’ pronouns when you’re having the young man think about his uncle. Occasionally it gets confusing who ‘he’ means. An example is this sentence: Since he died from AIDS his life had been sent to the firing squad.. Now, you might think it’s simple – one can’t be dead and then have your life sent to the firing squad but you want to make it really easy on your reader. You could reword a little to something like But ever since he’d died from AIDS his own life had been sent to the firing squad.

The young manner shuttered and dropped eye contact. – ‘man’ and ‘shuddered’, rather than ‘manner’ and ‘shuttered’. But you could also reword ‘dropped eye contact’ given that we’ve had ‘eye contact’ very recently and it’s quite a noticeable repeat. Something simple like ‘lowered his gaze’ would work just as nicely.

cracked on impacted – ‘impact’. And in the very next sentence you want ‘reached in’ rather than ‘reach in’.

torrents of dirt flew in the air – use ‘flying’ here rather than ‘flew’ so it matches the previous verb ‘flinging’.

He magma rage cool to a cold hard pumice – ‘The’ and ‘cooled’ rather than ‘He’ and ‘cool’.

and started to make friends – I’d be inclined to insert ‘he’ after ‘and’ here as it could sound a little like his grades started to make friends.


Closing Comments
A tough read even if one didn’t know the fairytale behind it!! It’s a tragic story probably repeated on a daily basis around the globe, and one without much hope of stopping. The items mentioned in the ‘technical’ section flitter over the story like pesky little gnats but while they do need to be fixed, they don’t prevent the reader from the gritty view on the page. And it’s a view that’s hard to shake. A strong story, a strong retelling of the fairytale, and I really liked it (which sounds odd but I hope you can see why I say that).


Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest, 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


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Review of Her Name was Ava  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Hi Alice Hautvast

I just found "Her Name was Ava on the "Please Review page and the title and your description intrigued me. So here I am with a review.


Reader Impressions
First of all, I must admit I’m a romance writer and I love my happy endings. But I also like to make my characters fight for that happy ending. I am always intrigued by how others write tragedy into their stories and so the genres of Tragedy, Death and Romance/Love you appended to this short story appealed to me. Gosh, this is making me sound just a bit morbid!

In any case, your closing line Because no matter how much love you have, sometimes you just can’t have a happy ending. is absolutely true. This world is not perfect and people are not perfect. I got the sense of heartache from your opening line but I actually think this closing one would be stronger as the opening line (omitting ‘because’). It doesn’t hurt to spell out there is no happy ending to this story, since we got that sense from the genres, so you wouldn’t be letting the cat out of the bag in terms of destroying any suspense. The suspense comes from us wondering what has happened.

Straight up we learn that a character is lost and not long after that we know it’s the narrator’s daughter. So the reader goes from thinking this is a story about a couple parting to a love of a different sort being parted. A familial relationship has been broken and this story is about the mother’s love for her daughter, the loss of her daughter, and the blame she’s putting on herself for that loss. We get a mix of the narrator’s thoughts (including a very quick backstory to their life) and present actions (though the opening paragraphs make it sound like this story is being told actually as a memory), with the grief being both mental and physical in its appearance.

We get a strong sense of the woman’s pain and heartache, and it certainly matches with The day I lost her, was the day I lost myself. Love becomes everything to us and we are sometimes completely broken when we lose it.

I wailed, I screamed, I sobbed, and I prayed that God let this angel live. – I like the repetition of ‘I’ here, it acts like a stabbing bullet point highlighting each verb. And the sentence after this is heart-breaking, and also reveals that no matter how much we fight sometimes we don’t win. This, along with her holding her daughter’s hand, was the saddest part of the story for me; the moment we realise that love is gone and we can’t get it back. And that we are left alone.


Things that Niggled
I don’t think any parent expects to bury their child, for any reason, but also that no matter the reason it might happen the parent will always feel some blame. Your narrator blames herself because she seems to have put so much effort into safety and yet her daughter wasn’t safe. However, I was a bit puzzled over this because it’s not overly clear what made sure everything was safe really means. I’m presuming the child has been walking to/from school quite often. If this is so, then what was different on the 21st of February? Does the issue relates to the fact that the mother never thought someone else could play a hand in harming her daughter, and because she never thought this, then gearing up safety for that is what she slipped up on? This is why she feels to blame, why she feels broken? If so, I wonder if you could clarify that a little earlier on. Again, I don’t think the story would be harmed by spelling out at the beginning that Ava was murdered.

As for the murder, this is the other thing that puzzled me. A car accident would be neatly explained; Ava was hit as she crossed the road. But a random murder seems odd, and the fact you never take it further just left me with hundreds of questions. Who? What? Why? Is the murderer in custody? Were there witnesses? Those questions took my attention away from the woman’s grief, which I doubt was your intention. A car accident might not have the same impact as a murder but it wouldn’t distract the reader.

Tense. From what I read it appears we’re standing at a point after Ava’s death, and yet the day of her death is told pretty much in the same tense so it’s hard to tell what is present and what is not. They’d said she went home. indicates the perfect past of a memory but it’s the only time you use it. I’m nit-picking, probably, but I’d recommend making the memory part (the telling of the events of February 21st) a little more separate. Even just starting off like I remember the sun shining brightly on February 21st, when Ava went off to school.

I walked the route Ava usually took back to my home… – I think you could remove ‘back to my home’ as that destination is implied.

escaped, escaping – you use ‘escaped’ twice and ‘escaping’ once in quite close proximity, which makes them stand out. If the character is trying to hold her emotions in then this adjective is appropriate; they escape against her control. But she has no control, so I’m not sure the use works. Other possible adjectives include ‘bled, seeped, gusted’ (alright, that latter’s a bit odd but I thought it might go with the horror coming out of the pursed mouth – sort of like hysterical gasping/sobbing).

unable to deal with the fear. – aside from the woman running in her heels (something she never does) I don’t think you’ve really given us an idea of fear here. Fear of what? Obviously of her daughter dying and the wound she carries, but show the fear – hyperventilated breathing, sweat (which you do use a little later), pain in the chest, lump in the throat, shaking, not hearing anyone speaking to her etc). Make the reader feel it too, and that way the character becomes all the more real.

clear everyone off the sight – ‘site’ rather than ‘sight’

Finally, I could not use anymore strength – this read a little odd to me and I think it’s just the way you phrased it. I’d normally expect to see ‘Finally, I had no more strength to use’. Either way, it is nicely descriptive. She has put her all into being there with her daughter but she can’t go on forever, not against police officers who are just as determined.


Closing Comments
I think this little story has the makings of something longer – especially if you’re having a murder in here. I can see the woman slowly coming to terms with her loss but then having to deal with it over and over again as the murder is investigated. What if no one’s caught? What if she has to sit in on a court case? Etc etc etc. You could definitely excel at describing grief and pain and blame with a plot like that.

For now, I recommend you tighten up the emotional screws. You’re half way there already with some strong scenes and descriptions, but does this story make you cry when you read it? If not, what would make you cry? Write that. Tug at the reader’s heart-strings, get them invested in your character and weeping alongside her.


Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comment (sometimes I do waffle).

Best wishes,
Os

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Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Elle

Well, I read "Childhood Memories of a Younger Sister a few days ago when you posted it on your newsfeed and so I’m going to try my hand at reviewing it. I’m not a poet, by any means, so please don’t laugh as I fake-it-until-I-make-it on a poetry review.


*FlowerR* Reader Impressions
I’m not a kiwi who grew up on a farm, rather a quarter-acre place in Blenheim with fruit trees, a huge vegie garden and a swimming pool. But this poem of yours still sings to me, as if I did grow up on a farm. This is because you do such a wonderful job of describing the scenes and situations that they are immediately visible in my reading eye and I’m there alongside you and your sister. I remember my friend and I used to catch crabs from Pelorus River on the way back from Nelson in my friend’s dad’s big Mack truck. Not quite tadpoles, which I’m not sure I’d have had the guts to catch.

Some of your words will mean little to readers outside of New Zealand, but the descriptions you give around them make them less of a mystery. toetoe bushes is an example. ‘Bushes’ helps, of course, but it’s the next lines about the sharpness of the bush’s blades that allows the reader to start to ‘see’ what the bush is about. I never got up closer and personal with the blades but I remember the absolute mess the plumage could make in the hands of a child!

Your closing stanza may well be describing events from your childhood but it also sits in the present. You may not exactly be listening to cows chewing their cud right now, but in writing this poem you are still dreaming | of distant days. It’s a nice connection between past and present.


*FlowerR* Rhyme, Form and Flow
So, you’ve created a new type – the Rambling Elle *Smile* I had no problem with the format. Each stanza worked its own length perfectly, acted as poetical paragraphs for different moments in time. I also thought your layout of the stanzas themselves, and the word choices for each line was nice. ‘Nattering’ may seem such a simple word but it becomes quite powerful and poignant on its own, making the cowshed roof and the water tank secondary to what this stanza is about.

But better yet was sitting,
nattering,
on the cowshed roof
or on the top of the water tank.


The only time I thought the flow was interrupted was with No pampered city kids. I know what you’re saying here but every time I read that line I automatically tacked ‘were we’ on the end! Not saying that anyone else will or that you should.


*FlowerR* Emotional Impact
Any piece of writing that concerns memories creates an immediate emotional impact, whether intended or not. It’s easy to see that you and your sister shared a wonderfully unhindered childhood and close ties. This makes the reader start sifting through their own childhood memories.


*FlowerR* Punctuation and Grammar
To be honest, I think poetry can use any old punctuation it likes, whether you’re following a form or not.
However, there was something that caught my eye – the ‘ in plodding ‘round the paddocks. Perhaps I’ve been using ‘round’ incorrectly but I’d think you could use it on its own without stating it’s a shortening of ‘around’.


*FlowerR* Final Thoughts
I like this poem a lot. It’s from the heart, and it’s quite easy to see that you enjoyed your childhood and that you had a good friend in your younger sister. I wonder if a poem based on your teenage years would be different.

Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane.

Kindest wishes,
Os

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Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Erik Woods

I found "ANZAC Lest We Forget under the Read a Newbie section on the Hub page, and being a New Zealander the title piqued my interest straight off.


Reader Impressions
I think any member of WDC who is Australian or a New Zealander will cleave this tribute to their hearts, especially this year. It is that classic tale of soldiers who went (some cheerfully, some forced) to fight so far away from home in someone else's war, and didn't let anyone down. And how a nation remembers those heroes year upon year.

It’s an emotional poem to read, and easy to read due to the rhyming form. I also thought the first two lines were spot on. It does feel as if it’s just a day off to people, and I think in past years (New Zealand anyway) that’s often how it has been seen by a certain demographic. With this year being the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli, that sense has changed. I’m sure there was drinking but the day itself wasn’t about drinking; it was about remembering huge sacrifices, heroes, and honouring those who fell and those who came back. This year, we are exactly as your final lines depict – remembering and doing so with respect. And we always will. I think the next few years will be tough on both countries as we hit the centenary anniversaries of other huge WWI battles. Well, at least I hope the country remembers those with as much pomp and respect as Gallipoli.


Tone, Mood, Emotional Impact
Your tone and mood are both sombre, as most poems on this subject are. ANZAC readers will be feeling this even just reading the title and we’ll be adding our own emotions and memories to yours. ANZAC Day is, however, as much a celebration as it is remembering the harsh theatres of war. We’re celebrating nationhood, camaraderie, loyalty and probably straight out ballsyness so there is always a sliver of joy. In this poem it’s stated in the lines:

If it's a fight that they want, then let me just say,
we'll give 'em a fight, the Australian way.


Your Diggers didn’t admit defeat, they got on with their job and made their country proud.

As odd as it may sound, I really think that the rhyming in the stanzas adds to the emotional impact of the poem. I suspect the rhyming gets the reader into a lyrical flow and when that it combined with this massive history you’re presenting it acts as a double whammy for getting under the reader’s skin.


Rhyme, Form and Flow
I’m not going to begin to pretend I know if you’ve used a known poetry form. All I know is that with the poem in four-line stanzas, with each pair of sequential lines rhyming, the words flow very easily and there’s no hiccup (for me, anyway) in the reading.

Apart from one line, that is:

It's for all these reasons, as sure as the sun will set, – I’m not sure if it’s the ‘all’ or the ‘will’ but this line doesn’t seem to flow as smoothly as the others. I was going to suggest amending the latter clause to something like as sure as the sun sets but that fiddles with your rhyming. I think you could remove ‘all’ as it wouldn’t prevent the reader know that ‘all’ is implied.


Punctuation and Grammar
I only noticed two things that stood out.

Family’s needs to be ‘families’, as you’re not talking in the possessive sense here.

I’m not sure about using the comma to separate each line. Most of the lines work as full sentences and look odd with the comma there. That forces a reading break and some lines just don’t need it. For example At times it seemed, that there was no way out,; when you read this using the comma as a break it actually stops making a lot of sense and if anything stopped my reading flow the comma did. I would presume it’s part of the poetry form you used??? If it’s not, then I’d recommend going through again and seeing if you can remove some of the commas.


Final Comments
A heartfelt and nicely descriptive poem. It should tug hearts, even if the reader is unfamiliar with ANZAC history.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if something doesn’t make sense.


Best wishes,
Os

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

Hi beetle

Thank you for participating in the June round of "The LGBT Writing Contest. I'm reviewing your entry, "Amsterdam to Scranton, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
I’m really not a whole bunch sure this story fits the Rain prompt all that well. I know you have rain outside – and that’s nice – but the story feels like you were more focused on the two Joust prompts. Which is kind of unsurprising since they were way out there and difficult prompts to add. That opening line is seriously one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen, though I think you did work it in quite nicely and built a good story around it. I’ll have to think of something just as nuts next time I’m coming up with prompts! I liked that you made the ‘rusty gutters’ into Carlo’s eyes. Dry tired eyes, raw from crying (old and new) really must feel like rusty gutters; a really great analogy just a little bit difficult to marry up to Rain in this contest.


Overall Impressions
Well, since I’m a romantic who loves a bit of heartache in my stories (reading and writing; romance and grief can make an extremely powerful combination) this one is right up my alley. We’ve come into the story post the most anguished event – the loss and funeral of Carlo and Andrew’s son, Lucas. We don’t know how he died (or why, for that matter) but we see the aftermath – how one father dealt with his grief at the time of death/funeral and is some way to coming out the other side while the other has bottled it as if he doesn’t know how to let it out, or can’t. Andrew seems to have a lot of pent-up issues and we see that flow out when Carlo first brings up the blueprints and inadvertently unplugs Andrew’s stopper. We see a combination of guilt that Andrew was never around and jealousy that Carlo was around; though I presume while Lucas lived this never really came up?

The story is really about Carlo and Andrew reconnecting. The trainset seems to start the argument but it also ends it, though through the blueprints for the set rather than the physical set. And I think Andrew realises that Carlo wasn’t as much ‘in the know’ with Lucas as he thought. It’s one of those things where you think ‘communicate with each other!’ but in times of grief that’s awfully difficult and no one’s ever ready to do so at the same time. We’re seeing the moment when they finally share something in common and can let go of the past enough to enable them to have a future. I found the ending very satisfying because we’ve had progress in a steady, loving relationship.


The Characters
Am I right in saying that Carlo is the ‘cultured’ one and Andrew is the, let’s say, ‘rough’ one. Felt a bit like it since one sips a pinot noir and the other swigs a beer. If that’s right, then it’s great characterisation because it’s so simple and quick, and very visual. If it’s not, then oops, my stereotyping’s gone nuts.

Well, despite that possible stereotyping, I really liked Carlo and Andrew. We didn’t get to ‘see’ a lot of them, but rather the focus was on their current relationship and their reactions concerning the loss of their son. I liked that a lot of their repartee centred around the train tracks they’ve been putting together and found it quite classic that something inanimate takes the brunt of emotions. It’s almost like we always have to skirt around issues and make out that something else is the problem. It felt very realistic, right down to spinning the STOP sign like a swizzle stick. I actually have one of those signs and it is very calming to spin! We like to fiddle while we think!


The Technical Things
Just some minor bits and pieces that caught my eye as I read.

Carlo thought but didn’t say. – I loved the thought, quite heart wrenching in fact, but I wasn’t sure you actually needed this extra piece. It’s quite clearly a thought and quite clearly un-said.

For all the good that it did. –I think you’ve got this too early as Carlo is still speaking afterwards and it almost ties to his words rather than his ‘voice’. Perhaps shift the piece about the voice to the end of the speech. Something like He’d used a voice that was trying not to agonise. A lot of good it did. Because then we get Andrew’s reaction following straight on and it makes a lot more sense.

I think the sentence where Andrew starts to cry, with the extra clause, is a bit too long and complicated. I understand the need to bring in the ‘rusty gutters’ bit so you can work in that extra Joust prompt at the end but I think there’s other ways to do this. You could simply have Andrew’s tears like the tsunami while Carlo’s eyes just felt like rusty gutters in distinct sentences and you’d still get the description and mood across.

…turned his gaze to small window… – needs ‘a’ before ‘small’.

…while he and Andrew stood locked in despairing embrace for long minutes. – firstly, I’d suggest removing ‘for long minutes’ as I don’t think you need a measurement here. ‘locked’ does a good enough job of providing that. Secondly, ‘a’ is needed’ before ‘despairing’.

Blueprints – boy, is this noticeable when you use it a lot. I think you could use ‘plans’ or even some other word for a couple of these and I’m not sure you need ‘his’ preceding the word every time. It’s clear who the blueprints belong to.

…few tears leaked out of his eyes. – think ‘of his eyes’ could go since where else are they going to leak from?

Final nag – the DEPOT sign. There’s no indication that Andrew puts the sign down so when he and Carlo are hugging how is it that Carlo manages to stare at it?


Closing Comments
Though I might have thought this story related a great deal more to the other contest’s prompt, it was still one that I really enjoyed reading. I like happy ending stories but I also really like those that dig into relationships and bring out deep emotion, showing vulnerable and hurting characters. They are the ones, when portrayed just right, really tug at a reader and I think you did a really great job in that respect.


Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest, 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,
Osirantinous


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Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: GC | (3.0)
Hi aarghmanda

Thank you for participating in the June round of "The LGBT Writing Contest. I'm reviewing your entry, "CLOSET SKELETONS;part one.2949word count, in my role as the judge for this round.


The Prompt
You wrote Closet Skeletons to the single-word prompt Rain and we did get rain early on, when Darlene is hurrying to the church with hope in her heart. It’s almost as if the rain is ‘cleansing’ her here. And then when she’s thrown out of church we see less of the rain itself and more of the outcome – mud – and we get the opposite feeling. There’s nothing comforting about it now. Both instances make for really powerful scene setting – physical and emotional. The latter half of the story, however, carries nothing about the prompt at all which was a little disappointing, in fact, as I’d like to have seen the blessings of the rain here on the farm and as another sort of ‘clean and refresh’ for Darlene as she starts to pick up her life.

As for the clearly defined LGBT character, you’ve got that fine with Darlene and how, in fact, coming out has pretty much ruined her life at this young age. Once Darlene is with Cherie and Jimmy, however, this facet of her life seems to disappear as if she’s trying to cover it up. And maybe she is, given the outcome of telling her parents, but it would have been nice to know this for sure or to see if she was going to follow the path her heart has made.


Overall Impressions
We open with a hiss and a bang – Darlene being kicked out of the house and then out of the church because she is gay; both things are terrible shocks for her. This is followed by her being taken in by Cherie and Jimmy. Then suddenly we’re a month down the track in a great time-leap. This isn’t a massive problem but if you do write your series I’d suggest filling in some of the gaps. The second half of the story leads to the climax where Cherie reveals her bisexuality. It’s totally unknown whether or not Darlene has admitted her own sexuality to Cherie. I’m not really sure we need to know or not, I’m just curious I guess.

I thought the end had a nice cliff-hanger feel too it but also almost that it was too cliff-hangery! We’ve been hit with some jaw-dropping knowledge and then kicked out of the story. Kind of like just starting on a wonderful drink and then the bar closing, tossing us out into the night. This works perfectly as a chapter’s end but the knowledge we’ve just learned is very much out of the blue and needs something more as a short story’s end.

Loved the following:

Remembering her manners, Darlene shut her mouth and put her eyes back in her head. – really descriptive and quite demonstrative how young and impressionable Darlene is.

… she was making deals with God if he took the bad feeling away she’d never drink again. – haven’t we all done this!! (Do think ‘that’ should probably sit after ‘God’ though.)


The Characters
Darlene is a very young lass, naïve I think but courageous nonetheless. She believes the best in people and thankfully she is shown that kindness after a very rough start. I worried that she’d get turned away at the house so was really glad when Cherie took her in with such welcome. It’s nice to know the world has some kindness to impart. I think you’ve portrayed her very well and I look forward to reading more of her story. (By the way, I really liked that you brought in Darlene’s promise to her dad about growing up a drunk like him! I’d like to think she changes her tune as she matures but right now it’s a nice sign that she’s fighting back.)

Cherie is something of a charmer. Very kind and hospitable, and also carrying something of a secret – her bisexuality. I presume her husband knows but who else does? That would be interesting to find out


The Technical Things
I must admit I had an issue with the split lines between the dialogue tag and the actual speech. It made the reading feel quite disjointed (though part of this might be the double-spacing). An example is below:

"I hate you! I'm going to grow up and be just like you! - A drunk!"

Darlene screamed after him. Red faced and chest heaving, Darlene slumped back down on the steps.
– with this line on its own line it sounds as if Darlene is physically screaming, but I also presume ‘Darlene screamed after him’ is something of a dialogue tag to the speech of the line above. I think the story would flow just that little bit more easily if you had this:

"I hate you! I'm going to grow up and be just like you! - A drunk!" Darlene screamed after him. Red faced and chest heaving, Darlene slumped back down on the steps. –there’s no doubt now that Darlene is screaming the words as her father strides away.

The other main issue with the formatting is when you give some dialogue without a dialogue tag and then append another character’s action beside it. This can make it unclear who is actually speaking. Here’s an example so you can see what I mean:

“Do you know of anyone hiring?!” Cherie smiled and scrubbed her stove top. – if the reader isn’t paying attention we’d think Cherie said this, and she doesn’t. Put her action on its own line for clarity’s sake.

“I’m bisexual. I like men and women.” – this statement of Cherie’s is incredibly out of the blue and we’ve had absolutely no inkling of this up until now. I would be inclined to remove it or add a few more paragraphs to the story to make it actually fit. We know that Darlene has a crush on her but so far in the story it would be very on-sided. I understand Darlene’s jaw dropping at the end (at least she’s in with a shot now) but it’s still too much out of the blue. Perhaps you could have Cherie dancing with at least one woman, and perhaps Darlene wishing she could be that woman to make this a smoother addition?

Then just some little typos, nothing massive:

It didn’t matter, her little heart was already broke. – ‘broken’ works better here than ‘broke’. (Fine in direct speech but a bit questionable in description.)

“There’s a eight point buck… – ‘an’ rather than ‘a’, if we’re being pedantic about grammar.

“Do you care to drive my drunk and run me… – I presume this should be ‘truck’ rather than ‘drunk’?


Closing Comments
This definitely has the makings of a wonderful series. Darlene is portrayed as a very young girl but optimistic and trusting and it was really nice to see her get back onto her feet. I’d like to follow where she goes. I also want to see where she goes with Cherie!!


Thank you so much for entering "The LGBT Writing Contest, 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,
Osirantinous


My member sig
92
92
Review of Whispering Walls  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Hi Nixie

I’m back with another House Stark ‘raid’ review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "Whispering Walls.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
Wow, I had no idea where this story was going to go except that the main character was going to get a bit of a nasty surprise. He was the surprise and you kept it so well hidden, revealing specks here and there, so it’s not until we’re at least half way through that we start to get an inkling that Flint is himself already dead. I think it takes quite a skill to flip a story around so that it starts out one thing and ends up another, but you did a good job of do so. Flint’s change from ‘living’ to ‘puzzled’ to ‘deceased’ was quite seamless and believable.

The story contains multiple moments of horror, at least to my mind. Firstly Friday the 13th itself. There’s a date you notice even if you don’t really believe in it. But a museum dedicated to disasters that occurred on that date? It’d be morbid and terribly fascinating all in one, though I’m not sure I’d pluck up the courage to go! Next up was the inability to find the room (it actually reminded me of those hotels that don’t include a thirteenth floor!). What I liked about that moving door was that you brought it back into the story later, once we’re in the room with the ‘ghosts’; the whole creation of the museum comes out then and I actually felt sorry for Flint.

The ‘why this is happening’ is actually quite sad, but still full of horror: real horror (the burning house and deaths of several people) and imagined horror (reliving that moment, reliving Flint trying to change history, and the vengeance of the deceased). Flint himself is really just a disbeliever, a dis-prover; he’s not inherently evil or bad. But he still caused a terrible tragedy and he must suffer for it. The spirits of his deceased friends seem to think he isn’t suffering much – they think he can ‘escape’ the horrors; yet this whole contraption of a house/museum is a set-up that must crumble each Friday 13th. Flint may keep forgetting but he is also being worn down each year from the hope that things have changed. It feels like one of those nasty, never-ending punishments in Greek mythology!

I thought making the deceased friends show as shadows but also as voices from ‘natural’ objects was quite inspired. You could have gone all out and freaky here but I think less is definitely more, and I really liked the welcomes delivered by the walls, tree branch and wind with their different ‘speech’ tags. It was eerie but also sort of soothing (well, doesn’t everyone like to be welcomed home?), and in fact this should have been a giveaway that something wasn’t quite right with Flint! (It didn’t. I was totally blind.)

We don’t really get to know which of the deceased friends is doing the talking. Sometimes it sounds like they’re in unison (that speech at the end for example), at others we can almost hear a different ‘voice’. This added to a feeling that the ghostly presences were everywhere in the room, giving a suffocating feel. They sound bored and restless, angry and jealous, and even when Flint becomes one of them again they’re after vengeance. He killed them all, why should he get to forget? And it’s rather ironic that he set about disproving a day, and yet causing a major horror on the day and ending up making the day even worse. He has become a curse.


*Crown* Suggestions
Just a few things I noticed.

Which room would like to visit? – missing ‘you’ after ‘would’.

Thirteenth room not always there. My mother’s bones. – these two sentences re when Flint is beginning his climb up the stairs. They puzzled me a bit. Are these Flint’s thoughts? If not, they sort of come out of the blue as present tense and a bit of a blurt! If they are thoughts then I suggest they go into italics just so it’s easy to tell.

“Welcome home,” whispered the walls. – Loved the two instances of the murmuring by the walls, tree and wind. But your second set is slightly out. First time around, the walls say ‘Welcome back’ and so I think your second set needs to say the same thing (the tree branch and the wind are the same both time); it adds to the rhythm of the story.


*Crown* Closing Comments
A very different horror story, with a sad twist to it especially when looking at the prompt you wrote to and the reasons why Flint might not want to believe. Here is a man who shunned Friday the 13th and now has to pay for it, literally forever, having made the day infinitely worse! It’s a time-warp story that tragically plays out each Friday 13, and that all on its own heightens the horror within the story. I really enjoyed reading it.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
93
93
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Nixie

The awesome "Red Wedding updating is in full swing and you’ve been chosen as a recipient of a review raid. This review of "Dr. Zhivago and the Cheesecake comes from fabulous House Stark.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
This story caught my eye because of its title. I know of the movie, and it’s one of my mum’s favourites too. I loved how the kitten got the name but resembled nothing like the original suave doctor. How often do we mis-name our pets??

This story is a comedy of errors, all helped along by one little kitten (though the cheesecake probably would have cracked anyway!). It’s amazing how one little tiny thing can cause so much destruction, and you describe his actions so perfectly that I can only presume you’ve had the pleasure of witnessing kitten power. The funny thing is, I think humans are partly to blame. When we react, that just seems to make a kitten even more excitable; well adult cats too! My seven-year-old cat still climbs the curtains and seems to enjoy it more when I start to cackle over it. Dr. Zhivago’s ‘thoughts’ at the end are totally apt – we make a big deal but a kitten’s so laid back and probably also thinking ‘thanks for the fun’.

I loved how this story was told by Cassandra but run by Dr. Zhivago. Though there is a plot outside of the kitten (preparations for Cassandra’s dad’s birthday party), once the cheesecake is cooling every action moment that follows has a four-legged instigator. It’s all very plausible too, even the chaos of people falling over in the lounge. Really, it’s no surprise that Cassandra’s mum fainted. Given the chaos, it was a rather a natural reaction. I found it really quite impressive that you managed to characterise not only Cassandra and the kitten but also several other characters so that we could see them quite clearly in their actions and reactions, even if they don’t have big roles. I think it’s quite a masterful telling!


*Crown* Suggestions
My only ‘suggestion’ is rather an ‘observation’. There’s not a huge time-frame between Cassandra sending her dad off for toilet rolls and then going outside to see if the hot boy was about (perfect ‘aside’ in the plot, by the way). She’s barely outside when she sees her dad with the twelve-pack. I didn’t think enough ‘time’ had passed even if the drugstore was just around the corner.


*Crown* Closing Comments
Loved this story, Nixie. Very funny and totally believable. Anyone who has lived with a kitten will be reminiscing and nodding away as they read. The human characters were wonderfully drawn too *Wink*, and perfect entertainment-providers to Dr. Zhivago.


Thanks for the opportunity to read and review your writing!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
94
94
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi kiyasama

I’m back with another House Stark ‘raid’ review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "Walking with the Dead.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
My impression is very simple – you are an incredible story teller no matter what you are writing. I’ve always liked writing dialogue but I haven’t yet gathered the courage to enter "The Dialogue 500. I think it takes incredible skill to narrate a tale – which includes emotions and actions – with just dialogue. The layout’s easy enough – speaker 1, speaker 2, speaker 1 in rotation, with the use of names if a speaker speaks twice in succession – but making up a believable story is another matter.

Well, maybe for most of us, but I’ve read a number of your just dialogue stories and you make it seem quite effortless.

We’ve got a main character, newly deceased, still fuming about it and stuck suddenly on a street in nowhere with trick-or-treaters. He sounds angry and frustrated and I can imagine him throwing his hands in the air at his ‘walk through me’ comment. It’s interesting how he takes a couple of moments before he realises he’s interacting with someone who can see him and yet he doesn’t realise why that might be. The interaction between him and the kid is classic curiosity from the kid and classic ramble from a young man – still in a bit of a rant, second guessing himself, and then breaking subject completely by asking who the kid’s supposed to be. That question, of course, leads the action into talking about trick-or-treating which leads into the mention of loneliness which leads to the revelation that the kid is dead too. I thought the dialogue moved very naturally from one scene to another, proving we don’t necessarily need physical action to progress a plot.

It didn’t occur to me, until the end, that the kid was also dead. I just thought that the kid being a kid could see dead people! Once we know that, reading back to his all-but-begging Dead Mister to go trick-or-treating with him is quite saddening. When he said No one likes going with me… I thought we had just a lonely geeky child that everyone steered clear of. Once I realised he was dead I wondered if he somehow meant other dead people, and was taking the opportunity to try out a member of the newly deceased.

Even though you don’t have a great deal of action revealed within your dialogue I got the sense that Dead Mister is actually walking the streets (mostly with his hands in his pockets, except for when they raise at the ‘walk through me’ comment and get a whole ‘hey back off’ movement going when the kid tries to touch him). When you did bring in vocal action (ie Stop tugging me…) it came across just right and not at all like it had been placed there out of some sort of panic to ensure the reader got some physical action.

Your dialogue also displays a lot of emotion – I can ‘see’ eyebrows rising in surprise and then frowning, I can hear the wry tone of Dead Mister’s You do know that no one can see us, right? and the somewhat false cheer of the kid’s It’s the best time of the year!. This all proves, again, that we don’t need dialogue tags and descriptions to convey meaning. The dialogue, with carefully chosen words, can do this on its own.

I appreciated the final sentence; the kid sounds like he has a bit of imp in him and has just been waiting for someone to share in the fun with him. Of course, it’s also something of a happy ending – the kid finds a friend and Dead Mister, I’m sure, will find that just this one time is a bit of a lie.


*Crown* Suggestions
The opening line puzzled me a second; I thought the Dead Mister was actually talking to Steve. Instead he’s in a little bit of a rant. Because we’ve got Steve mentioned in a reasonably direct-at-him swear I think you could replace ‘him’ with ‘you’ in the very next sentence. You might as well make Dead Mister seem as if he’s ranting directly to his friend.

I’d also suggest a slight rewording of No, but trust me, I hate it now. because the ‘no’ and ‘now’ seem at odds. I think the ‘no’ needs to be more ‘I didn’t.’ That would qualify the change in opinion.


*Crown* Closing Comments
I really liked this story. For a premise that could actually be very, very sad you gave it a humorous slant and told a complete little plot with nothing but clever dialogue. We got everything a ‘normal’ story might have – action, emotions, dialogue, tiny bit of back-story even – but without all the waffle!! Being able to convey everything a story needs in just dialogue must be quite a skill, but you make it appear ridiculously easy. This was a pleasure to read.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
95
95
Review of Victims Anonymous  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi kiyasama

The awesome "Red Wedding updating is in full swing and you’ve been chosen as a recipient of a review raid. This review of "Victims Anonymous comes from fabulous House Stark.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
This is an ugly story, and that’s not a criticism. An ugly story because we’re dealing with a murderer who is sly, vindictive and killing for fun. And what makes the ugliness stand out is that this story’s character is known to be shy, geeky, quiet, a coward by his school friends. He’s the type of kid whose friends, when he’s found out as the murderer, will say ‘but he was always so quiet.’ They always are, these high school murderers. Ugly because your story contains terrible truth.

You have horror/thriller/suspense writing down to a fine art, tricking the reader into a sense of safety and them tipping them over into a world of serious unpleasantness. We start out thinking Todd is just out and about, and notices a building collapse. He has a slight war with his conscience about whether he should investigate the weak cries for help. It was not his concern. – this is so true of people who come across a fight or an accident or something. They don’t want to get involved, don’t want to draw trouble to themselves. We all know what is right but sometimes we have to force ourselves to do it. At this point in the story we still have no idea what Todd’s about, especially when he comes across the red handbag – out of place, I expect – and his stomach does a flip. As a popular hang-out for teenagers he’s come to the sudden realisation, the building has possibly claimed a victim.

It’s the rather cool appraisal of the arm running with blood and the swinging bag that alerts us to the possibility of this scene not quite being the terrible accident it first appears to be. This is followed quickly by he could see her head was at an odd angle which I found to be very cold and also knowing (using the pronoun instead of something like ‘the young woman’s head’ which seems a little more ‘I don’t know who this person is’), and then not very pretty anymore. This could just be a general observation that matted hair isn’t pretty but it’s loaded with fact and spite now that we’ve read the entire paragraph.

Still, it did remain a surprise to have Todd answer her panic with the affirmative. And even then, once we realised he was probably responsible for the tragedy he still seems to have a moment of conscience that he has to strangle her. Or maybe we should read that as some sort of annoyance that he had to take such a direct hand in the death?? Hard to tell.

Not content with having the reader made uneasy over the fact Todd is on the one hand seen as a quiet, cowardly guy (and his earlier (re)actions kind of help that) and on the other a killer, you throw us for a loop again when we find out that this girl is the fifth to have died by his hand (direct and otherwise). Ho-ly…. What makes the story extra chilling here is the total lack of remorse plus his judgement of their character. Interesting, in my mind, was the fact we really only see the motive clearly when Todd thinks about the sixth victim – the girl who’d called him names. I don’t believe, however, he’s reached a point where he has no other recourse but to do what he does, as if he’s been pushed to the limit, so I have a total lack of empathy for him. He’s an out and out killer, enjoying himself.

I liked the way that the log-line matches the plot. We might wonder how on earth Todd’s been given free rein to murder but that’s all because (I believe, anyway) of how people perceive him. A coward, a quiet boy – well, who’d have any suspicion he’s doing what he’s doing? Therefore he has free rein (rather than ‘reign’, though that’s oddly suitable too).


*Crown* Suggestions
The line about the scalpel puzzled me. It’s right out of the blue, even though we know he’s a calculating killer, and doesn’t seem to fit in with the story in as much as we don’t know what he’s previously done with it or what he’s about to do. It shows up and that’s it. I get that we’re probably supposed to wonder what the heck he’s done and is about to do but I don’t think it actually added much to the story. We’re already wondering about the other four girls, and there’s enough horror combined with them and with the new girl and with the forthcoming girl to not require something so specific. I would suggest Cheap bitches. stand fully on its own, and then go to the forthcoming girl.



*Crown* Closing Comments
Your horror/thriller/suspense stories always surprise and please. This one is no different and, as I mentioned at the start of this review, you’ve made this one even more horrible by having that ugly truth – that it’s always the quiet ones, the picked-on ones who end up this way – part of the story. Your descriptions came across quite clinical – nothing lyrical at all – and that just added to the atmosphere of horror and impending doom. And, of course, you took that prompt and ran with it. A really great read.


Thanks once again for the opportunity to read and review your writing!

Best wishes,
Os


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
96
96
Review of Rumor Has It...  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hi kiyasama

I’m back with another House Stark ‘raid’ review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "Rumor Has It....


*Crown* Reader Impressions
I actually chose this because I’ve been reading some of your other comedy-tagged stories and enjoying them so much. This one I really love! It’s the perfect tale of 1. How the only way to keep a secret is to not tell anyone, and 2. How a secret told can easily become a monster of a rumour that is barely recognisable with regards to its origin. The progress from Alex and an older woman making out to Marcia and Alex up at Lover’s Cove with the chance of seeing underclothes comes across perfectly natural. All it takes is a word here and there (misheard or made up) and boom, Marcia will never be able to hide again! I loved how the girls immediately believed about Marcia and Alex – even if up until this point Marcia wasn’t really remembered by anyone. There is also, somewhat typically, that speck of joy at someone else’s misfortune; in this case, a much hated girl who could be taken down a peg or two! The story also illustrates who we tell secrets to - our best friends (which can vary day to day) - and also why - in the case of Barbara, to get in with a group of girls!

The rumour could have gone terribly wrong in several ways, and when Marcia spun about to see Alex right there I held my breath on the result, even if he was there with amused eyes. One suspects he knows exactly where the rumour started and Marcia’s bright red face and shield of books are rather telling signs. Her reaction was totally real – self-defence that is also rather incriminating! I didn’t say anything like that! totally means she said something else! Alex’s response is awesome. He’s not angry or defensive when he probably has right to be. Instead he reveals that part of the ‘rumour’ is incorrect. I love that he cuts her off to say it and then walks away with a chuckle. He’s a good sport. I doubt there’s more to it than that so it’s nice that he plays along. I, being a romantic, can always imagine there is more to it; he’s seen her rock-star smile and enjoys the fact the rumour started etc etc etc. Marcia’s sighing in contentment and daydreaming is a perfectly reasonable response!

In all, I found this a wonderfully funny and satisfying story, with a requisite happy ending. And isn’t it classic that because Marcia’s had a reasonably decent outcome she thinks a little gossip isn’t such a bad thing. I can’t help imagining what she’s going to do when Lindsay Martin hears!

Loved Whoa! cutting in on Marcia’s thoughts about herself; jerks the reader into the present as much Marcia herself. I also thought that the Get out! and Shut up! were perfect teenage-girl speak and superbly conveyed reactions and even implied facial reactions and hand gestures.

And you know what’s interesting – the reader mostly forgets that Alex Dumell possibly was making out with a teacher!! Which is rather just as well since you don’t mention it again.


*Crown* Suggestions
I expect that Marcia couldn’t see the features of the older woman because she had her face obscured by Alex’s head. If that’s so, then I’d be inclined to state that because I was a bit caught out when I read that Marcia was just a few feet from Alex and the woman and yet couldn’t really see the woman’s features. It’s not immediately clear that they are obscured, hence the puzzlement.


*Crown* Closing Comments
You write your short stories with magnificent twists, even when the genre is comedy. We are led to believe the rumour is going to be something of a down-fall for Marcia but it comes out wildly in her favour. For that, I’m happy. You still got across the point that rumours can go crazy but you gave it a pleasing outcome. It’s also pretty clear you’ve got the portrayal of high-school girls down pat!


I really enjoyed this story and seeing how you wrote to the prompt. Really nicely done.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
97
97
Review of One Night in Hell  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi kiyasama

I’m back with another House Stark ‘raid’ review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "One Night in Hell.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
Your title caught my interest here – One Night in Hell and yet it’s a comedy. Intriguing! Funnily enough, I think we get to see how this night becomes one in Hell right from the first couple of sentences. We’ve got a cocky young man expecting the perfect night. He’s all dolled up, sure of his looks, and has the perfect car to round out the top three. I expect you worked hard on the name; Brandon LeBrock sounds just like a cocky high-school student who thinks highly of himself. I appreciated he had to muster the courage to speak to the woman; that showed just a little speck of ‘humility/shyness’ and allowed me a moment of ‘oh bummer, it’s all going to go to pot for him.’

I did not see where this little change in date was going so you definitely piled on the drama and suspense, and Brandon’s own inner thoughts provided the comedy. The present tense telling helps bring the reader right into the story as if we’re a fly on the wall. I thought Brandon’s What the hell…?! when the second girl scrambled into the car was remarkably apt. He’s about reached the point where it can’t get much more bizarre; I think if he’d said it out loud it’d have come out in a whispered breath.

The kid’s got guts; I’d have bailed on the date!! And I’m surprised he doesn’t when his balls shrivel *Smile* He is reluctant in pulling away from the driveway but perhaps the lure of becoming a man stays as a tiny speck. Or maybe the woman’s just scary enough that Brandon has no recourse but to obey. How old is she, by the way? I’m imagining something like thirties from the description and use of ‘woman’!

I love how a big part of Brandon’s thoughts remain on his dad – how he’s gonna kill him for the smoke smell and then again for being involved with cops. He never seems to be worried that the women might do it! This story could easily have gone truly to Hell but you’ve made the new date, Sam, a little relaxed and humorous on her own. Though she ends up in cahoots with another criminal she doesn’t seem the violent type. And – to Brandon’s ‘chagrin’ but to my amusement – she even plants a kiss on his cheek and apologises. I reckon she’d have gone with the plan and made him a man! I get the feeling Brandon might slow down in his race to become a man after this incident. And, I must say, he’s got some guts if he starts his story to his dad the way he’s thinking of doing so. I think his dad is either going to cuff him round the ear for being a total idiot or break down into laughter at the thought. I don’t think sitting in the jail cell is the end to Brandon’s night in hell!!

By the way, I do like the way you’ve ended the story, with a repetition of sorts of the beginning. It’s a nice tidy closure, and yet allows the reader to imagine that meeting between dad and son.


*Crown* Suggestions
I’ve noticed that you use the interrobang rather a lot. Six times in fact in this particular story. It stands out like a sore thumb. As much as I like it (I think it has its place) there’s a point when it’s kind of all I saw in punctuation. I think the ?! works great for the two times it’s used with Brandon’s thoughts (What?! when we learn Ashley is married and What the hell…?! when the new girl jumps in the backseat), but not so much in speech. I think you could use italics or even a dialogue tag to illustrate the shock conveyed by the ?! in those places.

I think the moment Sam orders Brandon to make a stop at the 7-11 needs to be attached to the previous paragraph, because as it stands Sam snaps the phone shut and barks loudly. We have to read on to find that she doesn’t actually bark.

All I wanted was to lose my virginity tonight. – ‘tonight’ feels superfluous tacked on at the end. I’d either remove it or change its position, putting it between ‘wanted’ and ‘was’, giving the exact timeframe more importance.

“s***,” the girl in the backseat curses. – with ‘curses’ at the end of this sentence it’s hard to read this as a replacement for ‘said’. Put it first, as in “s***,” curses in the girl in the backseat. or middle, as in “s***,” the girl curses from the backseat.


*Crown* Closing Comments
This is a funny story that could easily have turned into a real Hell. You maintained the humour through-out with Brandon’s thoughts and reactions, and even the way the night turned out came across as humorous since besides the odd gunshot there’s no real vibe of violence. We leave the hero musing how he’s going to explain to his father just why he’s picking his son up from a jail cell. I had some suggestions but, aside from that ever-present interrobang, they didn’t really deter my reading enjoyment


Thanks for the opportunity to read and review your writing!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
98
98
Review of The Lake  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi kiyasama

The awesome "Red Wedding updating is in full swing and you’ve been chosen as a recipient of a review raid. This review of "The Lake comes from fabulous House Stark.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
It constantly amazes me how people can draw a story out of a little prompt, and take that story anywhere. The prompt The Lake is written to seems innocuous but rather than telling a boring little tale of two lovers sharing a moment (that’d have been me!) you took the horror route and nailed it – twice over, if you ask me. Horror wears many faces. You’ve chosen the monster ‘face’ – unidentified, unknown, terrifying and murderous that seems to be coupled with a cosy little town that is possibly a little too cosy for anyone’s benefit. Though you don’t out and out lay suspicion on the town’s folk I felt a certain uneasiness in the way they whole-heartedly and, to a man, didn’t believe the Ruddingtons. That sort of atmosphere – where a town is arrayed against outsiders or has some dark secret – reminds me of the movie Hot Fuzz. It was supposed to be a comedy but I found it really unnerving and a whole lot disturbing. Maybe I’m just suggestable?

Anyway… that was the first horror I felt with this story. The second was right at the end; not when the action gets hot with Daniel but with Maryann patiently waiting for his return. I’m not sure if it’s the change from past tense to present tense or the fact that Maryann seems way too calm or the duration of her wait, but I got a chill reading it. Has she gone crazy? Does she actually know what the monster is? Did she organise it all? Nothing in what you’ve written suggests any of this (the earlier half mad with grief has good cause) and so I commend you for putting extra thoughts into my mind without really trying. And in honesty I’m not a fan of lakes and ponds, especially when they’re all smooth and glassy; so I can take your words and twist them round all over the place!

We start with a bang, with Maryann pleading with her husband to stay away from the lake. We don’t immediately know how it might happen or why she’s so afraid but our interest is caught. Why does a story written to a prompt about catching fish open with such panic? But you don’t leave us hanging very long; we learn why her husband is going – to catch the monster than killed their daughter. The anger, grief and panic of the couple are portrayed clearly and strongly, allowing the reader to get a sense themselves.

I appreciated that you didn’t forget the prompt. Death of a child and chasing a monster aside, this story is about catching a fish. You give nice descriptions of that particular action, fitting to the prompt. I was kind of surprised when Daniel rocked out the gun as it’s not your usual fishing tool (well, not where I am from anyway) but then again – once he’d caught the monster, how was he going to kill it????? I had a brief moment of wondering what sort of monster would take a lure but I guess that’s not really important. Interestingly, we never get a picture of the monster. Terrifying is all we get, and that could be anything. Quite a handy word; it can mean so much and I’m sure everyone who reads this story has a different image in their mind!

You’ve got a lot of ambiguity in this story, which draws a very thin line between being a bit frustrating and clever. Frustrating because the reader (me) has to untwist so many things (or make them up) in my mind. I appreciate a story that leaves me to work some things out but this story has a lot of it. I’ve already mentioned the possibility of the weird townsfolk and Maryann’s strange calmness at the end. But another one is in the first ending – when the lake goes all silent and still after Daniel fires his gun. This ending has the reader expecting that the monster is dead and Daniel has triumphed. There’s nothing to suggest otherwise, especially with …for the rest of his life. in play. Then to suddenly be with Maryann two days later we’re like what?! and have to re-read to see if we missed something, which we didn’t. So… maybe the monster didn’t die after all and took Daniel. Yet, the story is clever because of these things too – there are twists and turns everywhere. This is a suspenseful story, and I wouldn’t say change any of it; just beware frazzling your readers’ brains.


*Crown* Suggestions
There were a couple of things that niggled at my reading flow.

No one knew where it had come from, but something […] away their only daughter last week. – the niggling point is ‘last week’. Positioned at the end of the sentence it feels like it takes a week to get there, and also a little out of place. I had to re-read the sentence to make sure I’d got it right. I would really recommend it get shifted to between ‘but’ and ‘something’ to state the timeframe earlier in the reading. But also… this loss of Ellie happened only a week before current events. That kind of feels too quick – does it give time for police to search the lake or for the townsfolk to begin to look at the Ruddingtons with suspicion?

Everyday, he would look out to the lake… – firstly, ‘every day’ rather than ‘everyday’ but also I think you need to use ‘Daniel’ rather than ‘he’. The paragraphs preceding this relate to the back-story about the loss, the police, the couples’ struggle. The ‘he’ sounds like it could be anybody, but ‘Daniel’ would reintroduce one of the main characters.

…happy families sharing their dinners. and You stole my happiness from me. – nothing wrong grammatically but these two sentences coming one after the other made me wonder who the ‘you’ is in Daniel’s speech. It reads like he means the ‘happy families’ – which is probably why I started being suspicious of the townsfolk. Maybe something like he growled to the water… would take care of that, directing where that comment lies.

…since she last saw him.. – since we’re back at Maryann’s point of view I think we need to have ‘Daniel’ or ‘her husband’ here. Otherwise, frankly, she could be waiting for the monster!


*Crown* Closing Comments
This is the type of story to make one even more wary around lakes! It’s heavily suspenseful and we don’t even get a good view of the monster; that in itself lends the monster more terror because the reader creates their own image. Yay! The emotions are clearly drawn and we understand why Daniel feels he must go on the hunt. Maryann’s right to be severely distressed, having witnessed the loss of her daughter in the first place but her final reaction/action shades her in a slight uneasy light. This is a brilliant closing cliff-hanger (and in fact the ending with the lake going still would have been a powerful closing cliff-hanger too). A clever story!


Kindest regards
Os


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
99
99
Review of Minor Key  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi ☮ The Grum Of Grums

I’m back with another House Stark review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "Minor Key.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
This was one of the most depressing stories I’ve read in ages, and it was perfect! The story mirrored the log-line superbly, and is a warning to everyone – seize the moment. There were two ‘facts’ I thought very apt for adults – firstly, that we let go of our imagination as if we’re too adult to indulge (and we have multiple excuses/reasons for that letting-go); and secondly, we’re the authors of our own destiny. We may share our lives with others but we still have control of what happens or what doesn’t happen.

Those last lines made me want to slap this unnamed character! He knows where he has gone wrong in his life and yet he’s going to do nothing to right it, just settles for a sterile, monotonous future. He’s only sixty-five!! He’s retired, has time on his hands to make something more for himself but is going to settle for the path of least resistance, as he has always done. Grrrr. So, frankly, this was a great telling – making the reader feel for a character (good feelings or negative) is what we should all be striving for. It’s not often I want to shove someone off a cliff but I did this time!

This is a very sad rendition of a life destroyed by non-ambition and apathy. I would have been sad that a dreamer got looked down upon but that doesn’t seem to have been the reason for his nose-dive into mediocracy. He simply has no drive and doesn’t appear to care about that lack or about anything else. It’s other people’s faults if they fail to get along with him because he lacked real insight and so could never fathom the reasons for his own personal misery.

The story starts out cheerful – with a child full of freedom and imagination – but descends into depression half way through the fourth paragraph and gets ever darker and lifeless as we go on. The final words, which annoyed me so much, fit this mode too. They are just another illustration of this narrator’s sterile, monotonous life. It’s like we started the day with beautiful clear skies and shining sun, and ended it with a thunderstorm.

There was one moment when I felt sorry for the narrator – when he returns to the cove in his twenties and faces that moment of opportunity and doesn’t take it. But his imagination had been stunted by hours and days in front of dry accountancy texts, and panic took hold. This is heart-breaking. Yet, that feeling has long gone by the time he comes back and realises what has happened to his beloved cove.


*Crown* Suggestions
I was a bit puzzled by this line: This time he drove to a nearby village… Is this simply indicating that the visit to the cove is all him instead of his parents driving? If it’s not, then I didn’t quite get how ‘this time’ worked if it’s the first time he’s been back since the family holidays.

You have a duplication of ‘demonstrated’ when the narrator makes it back to the cliff after forty-three years. I normally don’t mind but this is a meaty word and I’m not sure it works so closely packed together. I like demonstrated forcibly as it packs a bit of a punch but the second one (caravans demonstrated it… could be replaced by ‘proved’ or ‘illustrated’.


*Crown* Closing Comments
For all my wanting to slap this character for his self-inflicted depressing life and going-nowhere-future, I liked this story. It’s a strong telling of how a life can play out, and a chunk of that strength is in making me want to slap the man! A reader should feel for the characters and their story and you hit that in spades. There were a couple of bits that I queried but overall, this is well written and, you know, I like that you didn’t deter from the log-line; the story could have sprung a happy ending on us but didn’t and that gives it a rounded, completed feeling.

And it makes me, now that I'm forty, take a look at where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. I have my hesitances too but once in a while we really have to take the bull by the horns and go for it.


Thanks for the opportunity to read and review your writing!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
100
100
Review of Gold and Ginger  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: GC | (3.5)
Hi ☮ The Grum Of Grums

I’m back with another House Stark ‘raid’ review for "Red Wedding updating , this time for "Gold and Ginger.


*Crown* Reader Impressions
I’d love to have known if you were writing to a specific prompt here just to see how you interpreted it; I’d be inclined to think it was something that had gold and a ghost of some sort. No matter what it was, as it stands this is a horror story that could have gone twenty different ways! And the first way I thought was that Ginger was going to end up with a shovel upside the head and in the newly dug grave. And I kept to this thought even when we learned why Joe and Ginger were in the graveyard. Joe’s little joke made me suspect him just a bit.

When we found the casket empty I thought it was all about a pre-robbed grave, so the appearance of the gold sovereigns threw me. But even then I wasn’t expecting a ghost; I think that’s because Joe and Ginger didn’t!! You kept the twist nicely hidden so this reader, at least, remained in the dark.

I’ve written for Screams!!! several times and read a lot of the entries, and I’ve realised I prefer the scary over the blood, guts, and gore of general horror. However, horror can also play to the psychological type fear that scary works on. And though you do call upon the grosser things one might find in a graveyard robbery (the stench, primarily) this story’s horror has that psychological feel to it. Joe realises his total error and begs for his life but suffers a horrible suffocating death (the idea of being buried alive just makes my skin crawl!!!) Ginger’s suffering is certainly psychological – she’s told what her punishment is and can do nothing but imagine the horrors that will be inflicted upon her for eternity. They would be enough to damage her mind before anything physical actually happened. There is no surprise that she starts screaming.

The ending with Clarrie coming back from the dead was just as unexpected, so this was another twist. I was expecting him to send Joe and Ginger entirely mad or for him to inhabit one of them. I didn’t expect him to drive off with Ginger as his eternal companion! The We have a lot to do. intrigued me; it felt as if he had an agenda – not to right wrongs but rather to create havoc. Is that what you meant here or were you simply alluding to the fact that he would be making the most of Ginger’s body because that latter comment made me re-read the first one. Either way, unpleasant!! Well done.


*Crown* Suggestions
I’ve a feeling a number of people would bring up the fact that you combine speech and action in one sentence ( “But wait, look in the bottom of the coffin,” and Joe jumped down into the casket.) but I had no problem with this. I do it myself in fact and I like linking speech and action this way.

I do have some (probably totally nit-picking) things that I picked up though:

“Dead set,” Joe sniggered at his little joke. and “Joe, we’ve got to get out of here,” Ginger’s hysteria had… – it seemed to me that there should be a full stop rather than a comma at the end of both speech sections. Joe sniggers (I presume) at his joke after he’s made it, he’s not sniggering the joke. And Ginger’s hysteria is not a speech tag here; it’s a statement.

…towards the grave sited it out beforehand… – are there are some words missing here? Should it be something like …grave. He’d sited it…?

When Ginger announces that the coffin is wide open is she just stating the obvious or does she mean that it is empty? I thought the latter until I read Joe’s response about the coffin being wide open and empty. He makes it sound like these are two different things; which makes sense but then sort of negates Ginger’s utterance to the point of being a bit superfluous.

I’d suggest putting Ginger’s feeling of the net and being dumped in the back of the ute as their own paragraph, and link Clarrie’s warning/finger pointing back with the previous paragraph. This just keeps the two POVs separate. Also, with the two ‘felt’s in close proximity they were jarring. I’d suggest that instead of stating the fact, turn it round to description. Something like The ridges of the ute’s tray dug into her body as she was dumped onto it. – we know she was dumped and we know what she felt rather than just being told the blank fact.


*Crown* Closing Comments
A perfectly unpleasant little horror story that left us knowing there’d be more horror coming for Ginger (and possibly others) even after we stopped reading. Several twists and turns kept the reader guessing what was ultimately going to happen right til the very end, which I liked. And, you know, there was almost a tiny bit of ‘serves you right’ toward Joe and Ginger for daring to rob a grave; bit of a moral here!!


Thanks for the opportunity to read and review your writing!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

Os - Master Dungeon Keeper - House Stark
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