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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.
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126
126
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi beetle

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


The Prompt
Despite the statement right above the start of the story that you were writing to the ‘experience snow for the first time’ prompt, the opening lines made me think of the ‘character hates winter’ prompt, because “This… is Hell” was the most perfect opening for that prompt. It is, of course, perfect for your chosen prompt too because one must remember that experiencing snow for the first time is not always a joy!

However, besides this comment, there’s not really a lot on how Robert is experiencing the snow. The main POV for this story is Ryland’s so we only get Robert’s reactions through him. Robert says he’s never had snow on him but we don’t get any real detail of what it’s like for him, not even anything about how the snowflakes are sticking in his hair and eyebrows. It’s not often I’ll say this, because strong dialogue can make a story, but there’s almost too much talking and not enough describing/showing. As well as that, the story seems to follow that second prompt you mentioned far more strongly.


The Plot
A very simple plot – lovers watching the giant tree in the Rockefeller Center being lit for Christmas. At least, that’s why Ryland and Robert are out in the freezing night but they are more focused on bantering with each other. Even though this is a little story we get the full arc of start, middle end: from Robert’s exclaiming about Hell, to finding out why and what can be done about the inexperience with snow; with Ryland dreaming of taking Robert to all the Winter Wonderlands he grew up with (perfect link to title!) and then changing his plans and thinking about Robert’s more-desired warmer climes.

The ‘red-headed stepchild’ comment threw me a bit at the end – if it doesn’t relate to Robert’s auburn hair then it quite stands out! And I would almost, almost say the ending would be better without those pieces of dialogue (though the Rudolph comment is still apt and Robert’s reaction is expected). I think I’m just feeling they’re not very romantic and are quite out of character for what we’ve seen of the two prior, even if it’s just a joke.


The Characters
I’ve read a number of your stories now and you write amazing characters. Ryland and Robert are two more, and we learn so much about them in such a small space. You have a knack for wonderfully colloquial and realistic dialogue, which reveals as much about the characters as descriptions do. Even if I said above there seemed too much dialogue, if you’d have given Robert’s verbal reactions to the snow I’d have been a happy camper. Ryland seems the dominant partner but Robert gives as good as he gets, and he’s the funny one; I think his verbal responses re the snow would have been great. And if Ryland is out to tease him (which seems likely), he’d have been given ample ammo to do so.


The Technical Things
Bar the first mention of Ryland James and a couple of mentions by Robert, you call him James. Now, it’s quite often a character will be called by their surname, but you didn’t do that with Robert, so I think you tripped up here?

This isn’t really a ‘technical’ thing, but I felt the number of pretty endearments Ryland used was quite overpowering – dearest, petal, darling, beautiful petal. I guess I’m just staid in preferring ‘older’ endearments like honey, my love, and the occasional babe. I almost started feeling insulted for Robert that he was having girly endearments issued at him. Yes, right, girly – and yet being a girl I’d not enjoy them myself. So this is totally just my opinion but it did distract my reading and make me wince each time. I did like Rudolph – that felt more real and obviously described the state of poor Robert’s nose. It felt more friendly and more intimate; the sort of thing a lover could say to his beloved as a witty thing and an endearment.

For he is, in fact, more than fond of Robert, he. . . .
…neither noticed when the crowd cheers the event they'd all gathered here to see.
– you’ve swapped to present tense in both of these sentences, while everything else is past tense.


Overall Impressions
It might not seem so but I liked this story. I would have loved it to be longer but I guess you can only watch a tree lighting for so long *Smile*. I clearly had issues with how the story followed the prompt but the story, on its own, still remained lovely. I really like how you always allow your characters to feel and project their love naturally and without fear. Ryland’s calm ‘Happy Christmas’ held more love, I thought, than anything else he’d said and I ended my reading feeling very pleased. Romance, to me, is all about a happy ending and you delivered that.

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
127
127
for entry "Chapter 3
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Dear EllisRosser

Back again; this time with a review of "Chapter 3 of your novel "The Gift of Revenge. I hope you find it helpful and informative, but do let me know if there’s anything in particular you want the focus on that I’m maybe missing. And, as always, I’m just one of many readers/reviewers so do with these reviews what you like!


General Comments
Of the three chapters I’ve read thus far, I think this one has the best opening. If ‘Dead. They’ll all be dead.’ doesn’t catch a reader’s interest then I would just be stunned. It nicely marries up with Ailus’ final lines from chapter two as well (when he uses ‘killer’) but I did think there was a slight disconnect between the chapters. Because his wording (and thoughts!) is of similar vein from ending to beginning it’s a little bit of a shock to find that in fact we’ve gone from the welcoming courtyard to the middle/end of the big banquet. I, myself, would like to see some of the in-between – or at least some of the earlier banquet and how the elves and dwarves are getting on.

I don’t know that we’ve hit upon the real reason for the angst between Ailus and the dwarves, but we learn the reason for the huge wall under construction, something we’d not come across before. And quite before we were settled with the reason we had to deal with it face to face. I liked that – I was reading through informative (but not active) dialogue and then wham! Infected busting in to do havoc.

I have got a truckload of questions down below but most of them relate to how you can show more detail in the settings and characters. You’re making a new world here for the reader so always take the opportunity to give detail. You don’t have to dump it on us in one avalanche but don’t ignore the details either.


The Story's Nuts and Bolts

Plot & Pace
This chapter has three plot pieces, and all of them run smoothly enough in terms of pace. I don’t know how much of what Ailus says about the fire wisps being in danger is true, but we at least learn about them and the issues going on between elves and dwarves. Watch who is at fault though. Ailus says ‘Your Father Volodar has doomed these precious, vulnerable little creatures.’ but then Klaern says (to his father) ‘… have you heard what’s happening to the fire wisps in the war against my uncle…’ So we have blame on Volodar and also Volodar’s brother. Which is it?

The second ‘plot’ revolves around the reason for the wall, which is something the reader has been curious about! The answer is totally unpleasant, yet the reader will be wanting to know more, and to see these wretched creatures.

The chapter ends with the creatures bursting into the Hall, bringing the reader face to face with them all but immediately after learning about them. Cutting the chapter off right in the middle of the fight is clever; it means we’ll zip to chapter four quickly to see how Klaern deals with the second infected. And since I like chapter endings that act like a hook, you did a fabulous job here!

Characters
I was quite surprised at the size of Klaern’s role in this chapter. He’s the one who talks first to Ailus and he’s the one who acts first when the infected arrive, not his father. I found that odd and wondered if you’d somehow just mixed up the character’s names? However, if Klaern is taking a bigger role (and will continue this) then it’s totally at odds with how I saw him in chapter two, and I think you need to either reconfigure him in that earlier chapter or at least drop hints that he’s a good dwarf to have on your side in a fight. And since we get some action out of Klaern, it’d be nice to see a little more description around him too – has he tidied up to attend the banquet, is he uncomfortable in tidy clothes, do the clothes hinder him when he’s fighting, is he carrying any weapons?

Volodar isn’t ‘missing’ from this chapter but he’s all talk and no action (besides drinking) and Klaern’s appearances were more memorable. Volodar, right now, doesn’t strike me as an overly productive or even protective king. He’s not suspicious or even curious about the dinner and he easily lets go the ‘horror’ of the infected. He doesn’t come across as Ailus’ equal here. Maybe he’s not supposed to, but I did find him to be the weaker of the three main characters in this chapter.

Ailus continues to work his ‘evil king’ magic, and is totally in character. He plays the ‘good guy’ rather well though I think the dwarves might be a bit naïve too – a king is really that worried about some tiny creature??? He comes across as quite non-concerned at the issues surrounding the infected, but then he does seem to have things quite in order there – with quarantines, the wall and blocking the mouth of the tunnel. He’s a king who is being seen to do ‘right’ by his people. He appears to take quite some pleasure in describing the illness, but that works well with his character! On a physical note, I learnt he has long, straight silver hair. That’s the first time this has been mentioned. You don’t need to spill all physical characteristics at once but you could have mentioned it in passing in the first chapter as a sort of counter to the wizard’s long, grey, messy hair?

The fire wisps have quite a presence in this chapter, especially the one playing around Ailus’ hand. I wonder if you can spend a bit of time describing them? I keep imagining them as tiny, tiny fairies – human bodies with dainty wings. Being fire wisps I imagine red or orange. I’d like to know how you see them. Do they make sound? Are they humanoid? Are those ones in the jars hanging from the pillars angry about it?

The infected, by right of their gate-crashing and wanton destruction, have certainly made their presence felt even if they are physically present only in the last paragraph! We get a picture of them from Ailus’ explanation but not enough to visualise them. They have rotting skin but are you envisaging they look like zombies? Do they stink, do they shuffle about (or move normally – right at the end you say they move ‘hastily’ which makes them seem VERY human still), do they make sounds, do they still see? The thing is, I wasn’t overly bothered by them and I get the feeling I should be running for the hills. Show us them so vividly that we want to curl up in a ball and hope they pass by (and their grossness will make Klaern’s actions more heroic too). Another thing – what gender are these infected? Klaern snaps a man’s neck but that’s the only indication of gender we have. In the wider plot, gender probably doesn’t matter but I just wonder if they’d treat a female infected with a slightly different manner to a male?

Setting & Imagery
This chapter gives us a new setting – the great hall (or Great Hall, as some would call it). I know it’s very high, with marble columns (with fire wisp lanterns) and there is a skylight. However, ‘giant’ is used to describe the height; it doesn’t seem to me to describe the physical size (width, length). Now, I know ‘great’ kind of tells us but I’d encourage you to give more detail. Just how many people are in the hall? Are they cramped in? There is only one table; even though it’s ‘long’ how many does it really hold. What I’m after is something I can use to visualise it in my mind. I only see height right now, so don’t forget to take those opportunities to create physical settings. And, also grasp the opportunities to create depth – what’s the floor made of, what sort of food is on the tables, are the plates and bowls fancy china, are there lovely wall hangings in between the pillars, are there musicians. Just a few questions to ponder!

There was a large skylight in the roof with swarms of fire wisps flying from pillar to pillar, dancing in the moonlight that shone through. – I think you’ve got two distinct sentences here that could be separated; one dealing with the moon and the skylight and one with the fire wisps. This is because, as the sentence sits now, the clause after the comma sits a little oddly given that ‘shone through’ relates to the skylight but the closest section of scenery are the columns, and they don’t match up. Yikes, I’m not sure I’m explaining this is any sort of good manner!! Basically, if you want to keep it as one sentence (and there’s no actual reason why you can’t) you need to swap it round a bit. Several possible ways and these are just two suggestions:
1. Moonlight shone through a large skylight, highlighting fire wisps as they danced from pillar to pillar. – here the moonlight is most important and you don’t need to say the skylight is in the roof because that’s where it naturally is.
2. A large skylight in the roof let silver rays of the moon into the hall. Fire wisps added to the light as they danced between the pillars. – this one makes the skylight the focus (and I put the wisps like that because I presume they do make their own light??)

When you say The atmosphere was warming what do you actually mean here? Is it warm in the Hall or are you saying that everything was nice and friendly?

Structure & Consistency
So far across all three chapters the only inconsistency I have noted is that Volodar seems less king-like in this chapter, which may be due to his surroundings. You haven’t been tripping over names like some do and Ailus has kept marvellously in character.

I mentioned above the issue with regards who is to blame for the issues between elves and dwarves. It’s not necessarily an inconsistency across the chapters but you will need to keep an eye on it, because I presume this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the matter.


Writing Style & Grammar
All three chapters have thus far been written in a calm, flowing style, with good dialogue. There are some sentences that could benefit from a turn-around just to make them make even more sense (to make the reading flow more easily). And one other thing to take a look at is getting some spacing between your paragraphs. You start off the chapter with spacing then go into long sections without it. As silly as it sounds, clumping up paragraphs really can make things difficult to read.

Favourite Lines
Well, as I said, the opening dialogue is rather a winner! It’s a huge hook straight off that will keep the reader reading.

… with columns that twirled upwards supporting the marble ceiling. – it’s the word ‘twirled’. It describes the physical nature of the columns but also gives them grace over straight-out bulk. It’s really nice.

Kicking chalices of wine and food off the table like an ox… – an extremely visual scene that one can almost hear the noise of the items falling, and one can’t help picture Klaern as a solid, lumbering force!

Things to Work On
I’ve listed some things that read a bit awkwardly or that I had questions about. I know you’ll pick up commas and other pesky (but needing to be corrected one day) grammatical bits and bobs so I’ve kept away from them. Of course, as usual, you don’t have to do anything about anything if you don’t want to. But I would recommend you read the chapters out loud. There is nothing quite like hearing the words to realise where things might be a bit off.

“Dead. They’ll all be dead,” Lord Ailus whispered quietly, examining a fire wisp that danced across his hand. “And we don’t want that, do we?” He smiled, with a flicker of anger in his eyes. – my query here is that his final question seems at odds with the first statement. In chapter one, he wants the dwarves to pay, in chapter two he’s invited them to a ‘killer’ banquet and now he seems to be saying he doesn’t want them all dead? It’s a little puzzling. And why is he smiling?

Klaern, Volodar’s son asked as he walked through a door to the right. – I had good advice recently about not needing to explain which hand touched an ear or where exactly one moved, and so my suggestion here is to remove ‘to the right’. Does it really matter from which direction he came? Is it vital to know? Also, and this is just me, but ‘walked through’ makes it sound like he really did walk through a door, even though I totally know what you mean! Maybe something like ‘came through’?

“Is it true, Father? I don’t care for the pesky little creatures myself, but have you heard what’s happening to the fire wisps in the war against my uncle, what he’s going to do to them?” Klaern hobbled over to Volodar, who had already drunk three goblets all filled to the brim. Luckily, dwarves can handle their drink. – Put Klaern’s action of approaching his father before his very long speech (or place it after the first question). As it is now it reads like he’s yelling from across the room and then finally walks over. (I know I’ve mentioned long dialogue/dialogue tags before but they can really disrupt a reader’s flow.) Also, the final sentence re the dwarves handling their drink doesn’t really seem to have a point. What’s ‘lucky’ about it? If you must keep it, then build it into the previous sentence and make it a comment on Volodar being quite calm and coordinated even though he’d had three drinks.

And we have already supplied you with the materials you need for the your wall you are building,” Volodar mused, “can I be so bold as to ask what the wall is for?” – Ailus knows the wall is being built so you can cut that bit out entirely. And I wondered about the use of ‘mused’. He’s not really musing anything, so I’m not sure this word works. I’d almost say ‘Volodar reminded him.’ And then go into the question.

“I did see them on the roadside earlier as a matter of fact, lad? Didn’t seem in great shape. We heard an explosion to the West of the wall too.” Volodar said. – because you’ve got Ailus speaking directly before this piece of Volodar’s, ‘lad’ sounds like he’s speaking to Ailus. I presume he’s not so I think ‘Volodar said’ needs to go after that first section (removing the ? because it’s not a question).

Screaming could be heard from outside. – make this more active, for example, make it something that Volodar actually hears: … Volodar moved down a few steps then stopped. Was that screaming he heard?

The skin of the first dwarf was soft and easy to puncture, as the teeth of the infected ripped through his neck. – unpleasantly visual!! But… ‘the first dwarf’ makes this read a little bit like ‘three little pigs’, like you’re going to say ‘second dwarf’ soon afterward. You could turn it around a bit to make the infected come first – after all he’s the one doing the action and the dwarf is just an unfortunate victim.

The infected rampaged… - from what I read there are only three infected here right now. How exactly do they rampage? Is everyone standing still in fright? Show the scene a bit more so we can understand.

I think putting a new paragraph in where it starts Klaern sprung into action.. would be a good idea. Up to that point it’s just the arrival of the infected. He starts a new piece of action and deserves a paragraph on his own to show off his skills.


Conclusion
Another fascinating chapter, giving us a bit more background into the issues between elves and dwarves and throwing in a new plot twist too. The reader should be hooked from the first line to the last line, and ready to move on straight away to chapter four!

As always, let me know if something needs clarifying. And I'll do my best to be more timely on reviewing the next few chapters!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

PDG Jr Leader Review Sig, created by the wonderful Hannah

128
128
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Susie Mesler-Evans

"Smoke You Out; Chapter 1 just caught my eye as one of the highlighted Please Review items on the home page. The idea of a story about a girl and her escaped convict brother, combined with mystery/thriller was really intriguing. I just had to read it, and now I offer the following review.


Reader Impressions
My first thought when I opened the item up was oh heck, it’s written in IM. But almost instantly after that I recalled how much I’d enjoyed a story that was written in a list format with each line preceded by Roman numerals. That format made for a really interesting read and so does IM speak. I really did find this a wonderfully fresh way of writing; there are no settings or descriptions that distract the reader, while the ‘dialogue’ manages to carry all the intonation and reactions we’d normally see in dialogue tags. It is really quite clever and ensures the reader is right there in the thick of things, given the ‘now’ tense.

Turning the second half of the chapter into a letter was also inspired. You gave us a lot of information and set the scene without truckloads of info dumping or side-tracking, though I thought putting in the verbatim conference call in the letter a little odd (I’ll discuss that below). I can’t quite tell if you’re actually writing a first person POV (a personal letter will always be one even if the person writing it isn’t) but I hope so. I think staying in Paige’s mind through this will simply aid the mystery part of the story. And, well, I find first person narrators are easier to ‘feel’ because it’s as if the reader is sitting inside their head.


Strengths
By far the biggest strength is the fact this chapter is not in what anyone would consider a ‘normal’ format. Using IM and a letter to convey what’s happening in the present and the past is clever. It’s interesting and captures the eye. I think the IM spelling will trip up a few people but once they’re in the groove of reading they’ll cope with it (and it’s one of the few times you can have horrendous spelling and grammar and no one will nit-pick at you for it *Bigsmile*

In so very few words we learn quite a bit about Paige and her family, but also her liking of theatre and a subplot of apparently trying to find out if Mila’s dad is having an affair. Of course, we don’t learn anything physical about Paige but I don’t think that’s important in this opening chapter. I’m sure we’ll learn about her hair colour, eyes, stature, clothes etc in later chapters.

The first part of the letter is really well written, very personal and straight out of Paige’s mind – just like thoughts sprinting onto a page. If there are any grammar issues, nobody should nag at you for them; personal thoughts and feelings don’t care about grammar. We find out the reason her brother is in jail (arson – though we don’t know why he’s done it) and we learn a lot more about Paige – her pride at her brother, even though it’s a stupid thing he’s done, her concern for him (manifesting in the normal ‘could I have stopped you’ guilt) and her need to talk to someone about everything. The letter’s ending is poignant too.

I like to add in a few of my favourite bits and pieces:

10:08 PM: turnthepaige has logged in
potsnpans: ....well?
turnthepaige: troia.
potsnpans: what
turnthepaige: you were right.
– I always appreciate when a ‘joke’ becomes reality but I thought this set of simple sentences managed to convey all the shock and surprise that Paige would be feeling. It’s also a great ‘cliffhanger’ ending to this part of the chapter. We don’t know what Logan has done but we know there’s all sorts of stress to the family, prior and post jailbreak, and we look forward to getting more info.

I’m pretty sure they were planning to tear it down anyway, albeit with a wrecking ball or some explosives set by a trained professional. Not... you with matches and gasoline. – I like the wry sort of tone here, but this is also the moment we really find out why Logan’s in jail. Fire, arson – brilliant connection with the title and more so now that it looks like we’ll be reading a story about a fugitive being smoked out of hiding.


Suggestions
I have to question why the second part of the letter held a verbatim account of the conference call Paige had with her friends. Why would Logan need to know this? Why would Paige add it in? Does Logan need to know that their parents have clammed up and won’t let Paige know anything? I think the reader needs to know so my only real suggestion for this chapter is to separate that section out from the letter. Huge, I know, but I can’t see why it’s included so it sort of throws me off reading. I almost forget I’m reading a letter until the very end when Paige again talks directly to Logan.

The conference call is very important – don’t get me wrong! It’s great detail and the fact Paige’s parents go all clam-like on information adds to the mystery of what happened and why. I just found it odd to be positioned where it is.

mbecker96: admittedly, rehearsals aren’t exactly the same thing as going through your dad’s stuff when he’s not there....
turnthepaige: well i didn’t TELL her that part. i’m not dumb. but she still said no, absolutely not, no going out with friends after 7 PM.
– when I first read this part I took it to mean Paige had been going through her dad’s stuff because Mila uses ‘your’. But later language shows that Mila means her own dad. I wonder if you could wiggle Mila’s sentence around a bit to avoid that ambiguity?

drarryfan77: yes – name in bold like the rest

One thing you probably should do is raise the rating to 18+ because of the swearing.


Closing Comments
I am hooked! Please let me know when you’ve written more!

And don’t hesitate to contact me if I’ve said something that needs lambasting (or clarification on my part). These are just my thoughts so do with them what you will.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous

PDG Jr Leader Review Sig, created by the wonderful Hannah
129
129
for entry "Chapter 2
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Dear EllisRosser

Here I am with a review of "Chapter 2 of your novel "The Gift of Revenge. I hope you find it helpful and informative, but always remember that I’m just one of many readers/reviewers and you can do with these reviews what you like!


General Comments
This chapter introduces us to the dwarves on their way to a dinner party that’s probably not going to end so well. It’s a rather odd feeling to know a character’s (possible) fate before the character does. It was almost a ‘don’t open that door’ kind of moment in horror, as well as a ‘what you don’t know, won’t kill you’ feeling. Volodar is predominantly relaxed and almost snobby about the party, and I wasn’t sure if I should warn him or keep silent!

The chapter’s value lies in giving the reader a glimpse of the background in elven/dwarf relations (fragile at best), and introducing the ‘other’ king in the narrative. But one thing I think you missed out on was playing up the differences between the elves and the dwarves. This chapter is mostly Volodar’s POV and I think you could have used his thoughts, feelings, experiences and even sight to really describe the scene. I’ll go into a bit more detail below.

As with the previous chapter we’ve got a rather nasty ending, though this one is not physical. I think Ailus is holding back an evil laugh when he delivers his final line!!! And, of course, it’s a hook for the reader because even though we know the dwarves were coming for a banquet, we (alright, probably just me!) didn’t realise that revenge was likely going to start right there at the dinner table. Ailus’ evilness (because we’ve not really seen him anyway else) is growing and the reader will want to see just where he goes and whether or not he gets away with it.


The Story's Nuts and Bolts

Plot & Pace
A very basic plot here – the dwarves are on their way to the banquet. Though, in all honesty, I didn’t realise it was dwarves plural until the second-last paragraph when carriages are mentioned in plural. Throughout it reads as if it’s just Volodar and his son, and I never even thought to query that. So my initial suggestion would be to, somewhere near the beginning of the chapter, outline what’s actually going on. You don’t have to state it in bullet point fashion – something as simple as King Volodar’s carriage led a long line of carriages packed with his countrymen on their way to an elven banquet. Basically, don’t let the reader be surprised at the end when we can be enlightened at the front (or you’ll get nit-picking reader/reviewers like me bringing it up *Smile*)

I do like the little bit of puzzle you’ve added into the plot – the fact that the dwarf king does not know the reason for the invite/banquet. That’s some stealth on Ailus’ part! A clever little puzzle too because then Volodar is wondering what the reason might be and the reader gets some background on his family history (past and present) and on other aspects of life for the elves and dwarves. It works great as speech.

I thought the pace of this chapter was reasonably slow but we were getting a bit of history lesson, so I didn’t mind. And in fact it matched the mode of transport – carriage!


King Volodar and his POV
We ‘see’ more of Volodar than we did of Ailus, but the dwarf king is a bit of a captured character in his carriage, allowing you and him more space to catalogue his features. Personality wise, I couldn’t pin him down. He didn’t act like a king (or, I guess, what I thought a king would act like) but then he did act like a dwarf (at least what I know about them via The Hobbit (sorry, it’s rather my point of reference!!)). Now, I don’t think this is any sort of problem but rather my reading of him. I’m sure I’ll get a better line on him in the forthcoming chapters.

As chapter one was Ailus’ show, so chapter two is Volodar’s and I think the point of view should be his throughout. What I mean by this is that even the lovely description of Kheissa could be seen through his eyes. Such as… Kheissa was magnificent, even Volodar accepted that. and carry on in that sort of mode. I’m suggesting tightening up the point of view because I have two specific spots in the chapter in mind – the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph.

The opening chapter is very visual but it’s a massive change from talking about elves and fire wisps working on a wall to a long piece of dialogue by a disconnected character. I’d like to see the opening paragraph as Volodar’s observations (with a frown even because he doesn’t realise they were building the wall). You might need to rejig that paragraph a bit but I think it would help ease the reader in and introduce us to the main character of the chapter earlier than he currently is.

The final paragraph is a bit the same. The dwarves tumble from their carriages and suddenly Ailus is grinning at them. Surely, as they wound into the courtyard, Volodar would have been on the lookout for his host (a fellow king!) and spotted him lurking under an arch or somewhere? Have these two met? If not, then I want to see Ailus through Volodar’s eyes. Even if they have, I want to see Ailus through Volodar’s eyes. Ailus gets the evil-cackle final word but this chapter is Volodar’s so don’t forget that here.


Setting & Imagery
The opening paragraph is imagery rich, which makes it very visual. I love reading stories where I can picture characters and settings in a sort of 3D manner. This paragraph allows me to do so and likewise, the paragraph where Volodar studies his reflection, allows me a decent 3D image of him (more than I got of Ailus).

For the elven capitol, which the carriages are approaching, we get a line stating that the capitol can be seen in the distance and Klaern then exclaims at the craftsmanship. Volodar says it’s made of dwarven minerals but he doesn’t really go into the craftsmanship either. Can he? The brief description of Kheissa is very lovely, and the net of ivy inspires visions of many an ancient edifice covered in this greenery but I didn’t think it was enough. Has Volodar visited before? If so, has it changed much? If not, what does he think besides the minerals.

Kheissa was magnificent; ivy spiralled up the silver, marble towers and keep… – I would actually put a full stop after ‘magnificent’. Let that sentence stand alone. ‘spiralled’ is fine as a verb so you don’t need to change the rest of this sentence. One question though – are you saying the towers are of silver and marble? I was a little puzzled as to how that would be and then I wondered if you meant the marble was a silver colour. This seems minor but when you’re creating a visual world you don’t want to confuse anyone.


Structure & Consistency
Okay, not too much to say here because chapters one and two are very distinct from each other. The one constant is Ailus and he appears at the very end of chapter two in much the same evil-but-polite manner of the first chapter.

I did wonder, though, in that final paragraph whether Ailus should have shown more respect or something toward Volodar himself – king to king. Here he just welcomes everyone but I’d have thought he might have focused on Volodar, or Volodar would have gone up to him and done a king-to-king salutation.


Writing Style & Grammar
This chapter carries more dialogue, which. It also provided further insight into what sort of character Volodar is. I think authors sometimes overlook how valuable dialogue can be in this vein, but you’ve set Volodar’s tone admirably.

One thing I did note with your dialogue is that there’s a couple of very long sections without dialogue tags (not really an issue) but without a break, even though the tone changes through the speech. I’m inclined, where speech changes tone or topic to put a tag or action or something in there to indicate that change. I’ve listed two places below (the dialogue, itself, is fine).


Favorite Lines

Spitting on his small grubby hand, he slicked his long mane back, but his little ears offered modest help when dealing with the shaggy beast. – love the illusion of his hair being alive, and anyone who has struggled to hook their hair behind their ears will feel some sympathy.

…and his crooked nose reminded him of the witches in the South. – this is like a massive hook at the end of the sentence and made me sit up and take notice. I’m not sure if you’re simply saying he’s got a nose like the Southern witches but I took it as he’d been in battle with the witches and he’d received his crooked nose there. Either way, it’s great.


Things to Work On
You’ve got some punctuation issues but I’m not going to point them out this time round. While they will need to be fixed, they’re minor in the grand reading scheme right now. If you do want them pointed out, let me know and I’ll make sure I do it (or what I pick up!) in later chapter reviews.

“When Lord Ailus bought our mined ore I had no idea he was constructing a wall. Why would he want to block Cleawood from Kraog Grove? It makes no sense,” the dwarf King Volodar pondered. “At least Lord Ailus paid a fair price, I must admit. Elves - aye, they're not careful with their riches, I wouldn’t dream of it my boy.” – this second paragraph gave us a bit of a mystery (the blocking of Cleawood from Kraog Grove), which I liked, but I did have an issue with the fact that we have three decent sentences before we get the dialogue tag. Volodar’s pondering a long time! I’d like to suggest moving the whole ‘pondered’ piece into the first paragraph – after-all, he’s pondering these questions while he’s looking at the wall; it’s the wall that’s making him ponder. Does that make sense?? Also, the final sentence in Volodar’s speech felt a little odd. I presume he’s saying that he wouldn’t dream of being so careless but it doesn’t quite tag on like that.

The wall on his right he guessed was already nineteen metres tall made from solid, dwarven mined minerals from Laeroth, his own kingdom. – it took me a couple of reads to get this sentence making sense. There’s two descriptive points here – the height of the wall and the material along with a guess and a location. I think splitting it into two might make it more manageable. I’ve suggested one way but it’s totally up to you of course. The wall was made from solid, dwarven-mined minerals from his own kingdom, Laeroth. Volodar guess it was already nineteen metres tall.

“Father, why have they invited us to a, um?” Klaern awoke from his deep slumber, brushing aside thick tufts of ginger hair. – turn these two sentences around otherwise Klaern appears to talk before he wakes *Smile*

Stumbling hopelessly, the dwarves dismounted the abnormally large carriages, clearly constructed solely for elves to use. – firstly, they disembarked in the previous sentence so you don’t really need them dismounting here, but I also thought – the carriages are not actually abnormally large, right? They’re perfect elf size so I think you need to clarify this statement a bit, maybe give it Volodar’s point of view.

Long dialogue:
“Who knows the point, blasted boy? Perhaps they want an alliance against my idiot of a brother. Maybe their they’re running out of supplies and need us, I can’t see what else Lord Ailus would want. Perhaps he wants to re-discuss trade rights?” – the tone changes from ‘I can’t see…’ An action here would help split this sentence, all it needs is a rub of an eyebrow or a shrug.

“Yes m’lad, it was built years ago, caused quite a war actually. You can see it’s made from the minerals found in dwarven territory can’t you? Your Grandfather, the greedy old dwarf that he was, didn't like that; felt war was the only option to reclaim what was his. Dwarves, if it’s theirs they’ll take it back for sure. My idiot brother took up the reigns of the siege, the war wages on very slowly. Although Lord Ailus never had a problem with the Dwarves of Laeroth, or me for that matter.” – Up to you where you split this oration but I thought the ‘although Lord Ailus…’ section sounded like a ‘stroking my beard’ moment (though of course no indication he’s got one). He’s got a superior sort of tone going on in this final section that could be indicated by some sort of action.


Conclusion
Another great chapter and I get the feeling that Ailus and Volodar are going to be like fire and ice. As kings they should have equal standing but we know Ailus has dastardly plans and it will be interesting to see how Volodar copes. He seems a rather laid-back type thus far!

The bones of this chapter are fine and the suggestions I’ve made are really just cosmetic. Do contact me if something doesn’t make sense; sometimes I find that I can’t quite explain what I’m after unless I’m doing a whole lot of pointing – which of course you can’t see!


Kindest regards,
Osirantinous

Tome of Artistry Membership
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for entry "Chapter 1
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Dear EllisRosser

Thanks for asking me to look over and review your novel "The Gift of Revenge. As I mentioned, I’m a classical slow reviewer but I hope to get all current chapters completed by the end of January, and I’ll include as I go a section on how the story is flowing as a whole through the chapters. Here is the review for "Chapter 1


General Comments
I read quite a bit of fantasy but I’ve just realised it usually doesn’t include elves and dwarves, so your story is quite new in terms of the characters. It’s not so new in terms of plot (one kind hating another and seeking revenge for a wrong is ages-old) but the chapter still drew and held my attention because you didn’t give everything away! I don’t know what has caused the rift between the elves and the dwarves, I don’t know why King Ailus is hungering for revenge and, also, I don’t know why he needed the wizard. Plenty of unknowns there to keep me perusing the chapters.

I very much appreciated the list of characters and other items on the ‘home’ site of your novel. This is a really clever thing to do: for you, so you don’t get names mixed up when the story gets larger, and for the reader so at a glance we know who is who and we understand ‘new’ terms that you will be using throughout. I recommend you keep up this particular exercise.

Your title is very intriguing as one would not normally associate ‘gift’ and ‘revenge’ in the same sentence, so I look forward to seeing how this comes about.


The Story's Nuts and Bolts
What sits below this heading will likely vary chapter to chapter since I often find that no one’s chapters are the same in any book and I, myself, tend to find different things to focus on.

Plot & Pace
This tiny chapter has a pretty clear plot – King Ailus is seeking revenge on the dwarves, and he has needed the (not entirely willing) help of a wizard to draw up his plans. The reader does not find out the ‘why’ or ‘how’ but this is not a problem. We’ll keep reading the story to find out these things. Plenty of action occurs – verbal and physical – and by the end we have a murder, which is quite probably the first in a long line!

The pace mostly nips along at a good speed – the reader isn’t bored – but I thought there were a few sections that could actually be removed. They didn’t really bring much to the chapter, in fact sort of made it stutter a bit. I’ve got them listed below in Things to Work On.

Characters

Lord Ailus
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies have drawn me to see elves as young, beautiful, noble so Lord Ailus was a bit of a surprise. My fault that I can’t see Lord Ailus without those other elves in my vision, but I do think you could make him more visible here.

You have some lovely descriptive phrases (sinister blue | wicked smile | long, pale finger) which, though they are tiny, help portray your main character. However, you’ve got so much room in this chapter to make Lord Ailus really stand out, make him fill the room. Make him more than one-dimensional. Is he tall? Is he handsome (which can make a wicked smile even more so)? What’s his hair colour and is it long? (ie a comparison with the wizard could be good here to contrast the two figures) Is his voice smooth, confident?

Right now, for me Ailus is no hero and I’m on the dwarves’ side. Maybe this is how you actually want him, but if he never comes across with a little bit of ‘humanity’ then I think he’s going to have a tough time pulling the crowd, so to speak. And by ‘humanity’ I mean give him something that will encourage the reader to like him or even to back him. Even if he tricks the reader into thinking he’s good and then betraying them at the end, along with everyone else, that’s fine. Readers have to feel something for characters, no matter the character.

The Wizard
Poor wizard, we don’t even get to know his name! However, I think that’s quite appropriate. He is a means to an end for Ailus, who probably never asked for his name. I’ve got the Tolkien curse again – or rather the Peter Jackson curse – because everything you’ve said about the wizard has shown me Gandalf – old and grey, with long hair and a staff. We’ve been seeing wizards in this manner for years (even Dumbledore is in this image) but if this wizard was going to take a large role in the story I’d have recommended you completely make him over. He is too much of a cliché to hold down a large role, but in the small role he’s occupying here, it doesn’t matter so much. He’s nameless, old and grey; it’s almost like he isn’t here, is so insignificant that his death kind of doesn’t matter. It’s horrible (of course) but he comes across so weak, it’s almost no surprise that he dies.

One thing I’d suggest regarding him is to bring mention of the Karliash brace forward to when we first meet him. The wizard is a captive so I think it’d be good for the reader to know this from the beginning too. It puts the evil spin on Ailus much earlier and helps to explain why the wizard is acquiescent and polite. And… it’s a major thing!!! Blocking someone’s magical ability is obviously the ultimate punishment. Make the most of it.

Setting
We’ve a single setting – an enclosed room with one door and a fireplace. The no windows helps to make it a secret, uneasy sort of space, which helps with the secret, uneasy atmosphere. I would, of course, have liked to be able to visualise more – is it a wood floor? Are there tapestries or paintings on the walls? And, even, is the battle map made out of skin? These things will help to shed light on Ailus’ character too, since it is so obviously his room.

Structure & Consistency
As I go through the chapters this will be where I make any comments over consistency throughout the story (and also in the chapters themselves, if required). Nothing to mention at the moment.


Writing Style & Grammar
You’ve got quite an easy-flowing writing style, combining description, action and dialogue in a fluid manner. There are a couple of places where I think the story would benefit from some word-chopping or swapping but in the main it’s an easy read. I expect this is what the other reviewers have also said. It is also a captivating read, which, of course, is what you’re after!

Watch your formatting. The opening paragraphs have no spaces between them and that just makes it a little less clear for your reader.


Favourite Lines
I like to list a couple of favourite lines, or even just words that caught my attention.

A chill of bitter silence fell upon Lord Ailus’ chamber. – this is a really nice way of describing the mood and the atmosphere, and it feels even stronger after Ailus’ menacing words.

The flames of the raging fire in the corner hearth offered no warmth to the aged wizard, and the fragrance in the suite felt hostile, like concentrated troll gas attacking his lungs. – I don’t think I’ve ever read a description like this before. It’s magnificent! It starts out comforting and quickly becomes entirely unpleasant. One can almost imagine a pungent, sharp tang in the air. No wonder the wizard’s wheezing in the next sentence.

… like a rare onyx from the Dwarven mines in Laeroth, but it was no gem. – a very nice description of a knife. Actually, I’m just presuming a knife because it’s never revealed as such. When I read this sentence I put all my emphasis on the final five words and read it in a heavy doom sort of voice – going from light to dark. Which, of course, is rather valid because it’s a murder weapon very shortly thereafter.


Things to Work On
I’ve listed a couple of things that you could reword slightly to bring more clarity or emphasis. Those items I’d ‘earmarked’ for major changes are in the dropnote.

Snapping his eyes shut… – usually this verb is attached to eyes when they’re opening (to jaws when closing) so it felt a little odd here. And he doesn’t seem the sort of person to do much fast these days, so I wonder if a ‘slower’ verb (such as ‘pressing’) would be an option here.

He also felt threatened by Lord Ailus’ youth and strength; he was the Elf King of Kheissa. – the Elf King part of this sentence does not go with the first part. The wizard is threatened by age and strength, not by position or rank, which makes the last part kind of pointless. I think you could turn the sentence entirely around. Something like He felt threatened by the Elf King’s youth and strength.’ Or maybe a total overhaul of the sentence beforehand too: Threatened by the Elf King’s youth and strength, the wizard felt so powerless in his old age. That way you say the same things but with less words.

his icy eyes glinting with his wicked smile – this is really just a note that, for me, it reads a bit like his eyes are smiling. I know what you mean here but thought I’d point out that it can be read a couple of ways.

The dwarves must pay for what they have done.” A chill of bitter silence fell upon Lord Ailus' chamber. – firstly, this speech comes across over dramatic. I almost see Ailus as pumping his fist in the air. I think you need to make it a little more colloquial – even cut it down to The dwarves will pay. (I think ‘will’ is the stronger word here; to me, Ailus is going after them as much for himself as for what they might have done. ‘must’ implies some sort of honour to be upheld. I kind of feel Ailus doesn’t care so much about that side of things!) And place the next sentence on a new line, but link it with the fire sentence.

He’d been tirelessly working on Lord Ailus’ plans for two months, and even though he'd been allowed him to live freely in the garden cabin to work, he was always under constant supervision. – this is a lovely, concise description of the wizard’s ‘life’ in Ailus’ stronghold. Just a couple of words I think could disappear.

The King's expensive gown was left a stain of crimson betrayal, and he spoke softly to the wizard, "my need for you has ended. I am truly sorry Wizard, but I must keep my plan secret. For now." – I’d recommend removing ‘for now’ at the end because it sounds a little weak coming from Ailus. I expect he’s not going to give up the secret for a LONG time. But mostly, I think this final sentence would stand out more in its own paragraph.

Possible Deletions


Conclusion
I have a feeling I’m going to very much enjoy reading The Gift of Revenge. Ailus is a powerful, creepy sort of guy and I want to see where he goes and, right now, I’m hungering for someone to take him down a peg or two!

Anyway, hopefully you’ve found bits and pieces in this review that are useful. Once you’ve had a read, let me know if there’s things that don’t make sense, and let me know if there is anything specific you’d like me to focus on with the other chapters.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous


Tome of Artistry Membership


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
131
131
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi TowardTheFear

I'm reviewing "My Brother's Laptop today as part of the judging for November's round of "The LGBT Writing Contest. Do note that the thoughts, suggestions and other bits and pieces are my own, one reader among many, so use this review in whichever way you need.


The Prompt
You chose the Laptop prompt, and incorporated it perfectly into your plot. I liked that it wasn't simply a device that your character was using, but something that revealed memory, history and revelation. And your comments about the laptop being archaic and barely starting up brought back fond memories of my old Toshiba Satellite (though light silver) which took a half hour at least to start up at the end of its life. It only had 500MB of RAM. I loved it though.


The Plot
When I first saw the laptop prompt I must admit I didn't think anyone would choose it. After all, how do you weave a story around such an item? Well, now I know, and I really love how you wove the laptop into the plot, how it became the mechanism for uniting (albeit, with a truckload of grief and questions) two brothers.

Walt and Greg's relationship is probably no different to most brothers (or sisters, for that matter) and readers wouldn't really turn a hair about it. However... once we see the photo and start putting two and two together, Walt's attitude and actions start making a lot more sense. It's a sad indictment on our society that people feel compelled to hide their real self, even from family. (And those remembered words of Walt’s are imbued with that challenging, whatya-gonna-do-about-it? tone a bully would use to cover up.)

The plot is very emotion-based, and all of it was very easy to understand – even Greg and Walt’s mum blaming the girlfriend for Walt’s death. Without any other knowledge, what else could the mother think? I am sure a lot of readers will fully understand that complicated feeling of happiness of knowing with the grief of knowing too late. You can’t do anything about it but you will always go back into the past and question why you didn't see something coming or why you didn’t do this or that. Almost a survivor’s guilt, and though Greg was in the dark, it would come as no surprise if he felt this way in some form.

However, I feel you missed a great opportunity to really tug on the reader’s heartstrings. This contest allows up to 3000 words and your story only covered half of that limit. Those final silent questions of Greg’s are powerful and heart wrenching, but you could have made them even stronger by tying them into other memories, by having Greg try to answer them himself or even by having Greg talk to Billy about it. I would really love to read an expanded version…. Hint, hint, hint.

By the way, I am presuming that Greg and Billy are an item. Besides ‘date’ and ‘babe’ there’s actually no way to tell. If your characters were female I’d simply presume this was chat among friends who use that language without attaching any deeper meaning to it. You don’t have to go all out and be in the reader’s face about it but something as simple as “Hey!” My boyfriend, and just that moment I remembered we had a date….

Just want to mention some lines I really liked:

"No," I didn't know what I was looking at. – I love that this line displays Greg’s utter confusion at what he’s seeing. He knows it’s his brother but whaaaat? It ties in perfectly with the analogy of the pine tree in the desert.

She held the laptop as if it was precious simply for having been my brother's. – this is so true of what we do with things belonging to those we’ve lost. It might be trash but because it was once our loved one’s then it’s gold to us. And the line a bit further down regarding the flag really strengthens that sense.

The family was frozen, silent, no one looking at anyone else while Bing Crosby continued to croon. – beautifully visual scene.

My brother in the arms of this American hero. – not sure Walt would appreciate me saying this, but this is really sweet. I wonder if you could change ‘this’ to ‘his’????

I had as many questions as tears. – explains Greg’s thoughts with great clarity (and I’ve already mentioned that the questions are really neat.)

I wanted to know him. I wanted to talk to this smiling man, content in Sergeant Ruiz's arms. But I never would. – this would have been a great ending to the story, if you’d wanted to leave the reader hanging. Totally glad you didn’t as it gave me a chance to hold back the sniffles and read on! This is part of that feeling you’ve described above – the knowing and the lateness of knowing. It goes hand in hand with ‘how do I cope with this?’ The reader is happy for Walt, but also distressed about his life and loss, and also happy for Greg and distressed about the fact he’ll never have answers for his questions, never know the side of his brother that his brother kept hidden.


Suggestions
As I said above, you have a story which is highly emotional and which I think you can make even more so. There’s nothing truly wrong with the sections below but they are a couple of places where I think you can tighten up the reader’s heartstrings even further.

My brother committed suicide last June. He hung himself. – a real kick-in-the-gut line here between the other two paragraphs, but make it more so by joining the two sentences: My brother hanged himself last June. (By the way, I’ve changed that verb because I was always told ‘pictures are hung, men are hanged’.

The attack happened in late May. My brother committed suicide a week later. – How about something like: The attack happened in late May, and my brother killed himself a week later. I’ve changed ‘committed suicide’ here because even though it comes a decent time after the first telling, it’s such a strong group it feels like an immediate repeat. Also – for me at least – ‘killed himself’ is a lot more hard-hitting, carries more grief, seems to carry more questions. Walt seems the sort of person who would ‘kill himself’ rather than ‘commit suicide’, if that makes sense??


The Technical Things
This is where I mention things that disrupted my reading flow, or little grammar niggles I just can’t go passed.

One, eyes closed, peaceful, his blond head nuzzled in the other man's chest and neck, his arms wrapped around the other. – when you read this alone, it doesn’t really make sense. The descriptions give the reader a lovely image, but the sentence itself is disjointed. Try to pull it together a bit more – something like The blonde nuzzled his head against the other’s chest, eyes closed, arms wrapped tight. You don’t need to mention ‘the other’ because that’s apparent. And I've left out 'peaceful' only because the scene describes the peace. I don't know that you need to state it too.

He held the first man tight, kissing the top of his head while looking sideways with dark, almost mischievous eyes at the camera held with his outstretched arm. – I can totally ‘see’ the position of the two men but again it’s a bit wordy. I’m usually guilty of this too, trying to account for all limbs etc, but we don’t have to spell everything out. I have two suggestions. 1. Replace ‘the first man tight’ with ‘his partner’. Partner, here, doesn’t have to have any relationship/sexual meaning, it’s just another way of saying ‘the first man’ in a less awkward manner. 2. Replace ‘held with his outstretched arm’ with ‘positioned in his outstretched hand.’ Mostly because you can’t ‘hold’ something with an arm, but also because this sentence has two ‘held’s and that repeat is a bit awkward.

"No! You, it's like, it's like your not there. …” – I really liked Mary’s dialogue. It’s totally fractured just as if she can’t get her thoughts together to spit things out with good grammar. It’s a great way of showing emotion! I’ve got this line here because ‘your’ should be ‘you’re’.

Walt didn't even seem fazed by it. – change ‘it’ to ‘the breakup’ because you’ve jumped passed the telling of the breakup and ‘it’ might lead readers to go ‘it what?’

In the picture, Walt was wearing a tan military undershirt. – immediately before this line you’re back in the past with the chess game. You need to re-establish the present again. A way to do that might be to add something like I refocused on the picture; Walt wore a tan military undershirt. (with ‘wore’ making the wording a little more active).

Looking for my shoes, "I'll be over in a minute." – is there supposed to be something else after ‘shoes’? It seems to end a little as if you’ve missed off a ‘I told Billy…'

I hung up my cell. – does one ‘hang up’ a cell phone these days? I usually say ‘I closed my phone’ but of course that only works with those you flip open!


Overall Impressions
I really liked this story. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I thought you could have fleshed out the emotions more but even as it stands now it’s a sad read. Love and loss often go hand in hand and you’ve portrayed that relationship quite nicely here. I easily felt Greg’s shock and grief, and felt all emotional over the American hero, Ruiz, and how his death just may have caused Walt’s. Love is a very powerful emotion and the price to pay for having it is sometimes very high.

I do like that you brought humour to the story – about the laptop itself and how Greg pretends he’s not crying. Who among us hasn’t used that line or ‘it’s just allergies’ to hide the fact we’re bawling? Why is that humorous? Simply because it’s such a cliché in life these days. And it's a bit ironic of Greg to hide his feelings from Billy, when he's just been upset at Walt doing pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, I liked "My Brother's Laptop and I appreciate you entering it into "The LGBT Writing Contest. 1000 GPs are attached as a further ‘thank you’ for entering, and I hope you do so again. If Greg and Billy are a ‘new’ item, perhaps you could enter them for December’s prompt 2???

Last thing - if you have any queries about anything above, don't hesitate to get in touch!

Kindest regards,
Osirantinous

PS: an extra 1000 GPs from me too.

Tome of Artistry Membership


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
132
132
Review of Untitled  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Mr. Bean

When I look over the "Please Review page, I'm often after a title or a description that catches my eye and all but forces me to select the item to read. Your title and description told me very little about your story, but the description got my attention anyway. It is supremely gutsy to finally put a story onto paper and then to throw it out to the public. I hope you felt a massive sense of relief once you'd done so, and are busily writing up more stories to share.

Let no one tell you that you can't write, but also make total use of each and every review and email/comment you receive (even those that might be negative). To this end, I hope the following review of "Untitled is helpful to you. It's all just my opinion so do with it what you will.


Reader Impressions
When you started off with the introductory blurb, I found it a little difficult to move from that 'reality' to the fiction below. In fact, I spent a lot of the time wondering if the blurb was part of the story, or the story more non-fiction than fiction. To that end, I'd actually suggest you put the introduction into your Bio (in your portfolio) and let the story stand straight out, without introduction or reason.

Overall, this is a rather creepy little story that was nicely matched by the cold autumn night during which this tale is told. You labelled this as a suspense/thriller and I thought it worked well within this genre - the creeping lights approaching the house (with obvious mal-intent), the past horror that occurred, and also the fact that someone was up in the room watching that approach. The feeling of being watched has got to be the most scary feeling ever, even if the watcher is the narrator!

It's well written too, so I don't think you have anything to worry about there. There's probably the odd comma issue but since I sort of ignore comma issues myself I won't pick them out for you! I had no problems with the general flow of the story nor with any ability to understand what you'd written.


Strengths
Though part of me wanted more information - such as a clearer idea of what happened to Amy (did she just get lost in the woods, was she abducted etc) - another part of me liked that you didn't give that information. In short, you made the story suspenseful and you gave me enough little strands that I could try to come up with these answers myself. Including discovering why the brother is hiding up in the room - is he seeking revenge, is he actually a ghost (not entirely sure where that came from but it did cross my mind) etc. It's a fine line between making the reader think about the story and making the reader exhausted with the thinking; however, you've done a nice job of doing the former.

This is a tiny story, but you've packed in so many visuals that it feels much bigger. By that I mean that I could visualise quite clearly the woods, the fence, Amy, even the playing out in the woods. Any writer who can create a 3D world in which I can view the story gets my tick! Your use of a first person narrator also pulls a reader in, and I think first person is absolutely perfect for any suspense/horror type of story.

I've a feeling the story is truly untitled, but I think that works as a title in its own right. It adds mystery and suspense, and almost a sense of 'if I give it a real title then it becomes too real'. This is the kind of story we'd hope like heck was only fiction.

It is there I can see the lights peek out from behind trunks and dance their way to hide behind another. - I love this line. It is very visual but also slightly disturbing. The peeking and dancing imply kids having fun, playing games but there's nothing fun about these lights.

Amy, a memory bouncing where nothing but a broken, metal frame remains. - As with the above sentence, you've combined nice and not nice together, and it's really powerful here. The ruins of the trampoline itself lend to the scary side of the story, and I think any reader could easily visualise the narrator's memory of his sister on a trampoline and then that trampoline slowly turning into the wreck it is, even as Amy is still there smiling and bouncing. (I would suggest here that the second comma is removed as it's not required.)

I lost almost every time, after all, is that not what big brothers are for? - a very simple sentence but one that easily shows the love the narrator had for his sister.


Suggestions
This might not be an easy thing to do, but I wondered if you could put a time-frame within the story. I could tell that there'd been some years between Amy's obvious disappearance/death but since I presumed the three men just slithering in the gate are the same three responsible for what happened to Amy, I thought that not too many years have gone by or else there'd be some difficulties with the age of the characters. The house is obviously abandoned so that adds to the 'years', but just how many have gone by?

Another question I have is, why are the men coming back? If the house is abandoned (and clearly is so) why would they be back? Quite aside from me saying above that it's good to leave out some 'facts', this one I think you need to add in; even if it is something so simple as 'to finish what they started' or 'to relieve the house of the final ornaments'. Time has passed yet the men have come back, and somehow the brother is there waiting (actually it's probably that fact that made me wonder if he was a ghost!); the suspense gives way to a giant WHY?

I again hear laughs, but these laughs are not of my darling sister. Her blonde pigtails and red ribbons are many years removed, these are deep foreboding laughs and they are coming in my direction. - I like these sentences but I think they need a slight change because your main topic is the laughter and so the physical description of Amy feels a little out of place (even though it's wonderful). I'm not saying remove it, but rather something like this: I again hear laughter, but these laughs are not of my darling sister; her blonde pigtails and red ribbons are many years removed. These are deep foreboding laughs and they are coming in my direction.

It was that very same gate that the three men just slithered through into my family’s former backyard. - this last paragraph is back in the 'present' again, so I think the 'it was' should be 'it is', since the rest of the story is told in the present tense.


Closing Comments
Mr Bean, if this is your first story, then I don't believe you've got anything to worry about in the future. It's a great little piece, full of strong description and staying true to the genre. I had questions, yes, but that's probably just me being nit-picky.

I look forward to reading many more of your stories, and welcome you to a long happy writing life here on Writing.com. And if you have any queries about this review, please don't hesitate to send me an email.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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133
Review of the string  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi kristoff N. chester

Thank you for requesting a review of "the string from me. Apologies that it has taken me a while to get to! I hope you find it useful and I encourage you to get back to me if I've said something that doesn't make sense or that you want to clarify yourself.

Before I get onto the review, have you considered entering the horror genre contest "Invalid Item. It's only for works of 1000 words or less but I note that you are a horror writer, and might be up for the challenge.


Reader Impressions
As a dabbler in horror myself, I prefer the creepy, spine-tingling psychological sort over the out-and-out gory type of horror story. So The String was just the sort of story to my liking - mysterious, suspenseful, psychological; making me glad I didn't read it at night. Yep, my imagination would have got the better of me and I'd have started feeling threads where there aren't any.

Your opening paragraphs totally threw me off the scent, by the way, and when tied with the genres of 'other' and 'dark' I wasn't sure what I was getting into. I really did start off thinking this was a sort of autobiographical work, especially since you talked about the two poems with the appropriate Chinese titles and gave us some basic facts about China itself. It wasn't until I came to the fifth paragraph where you (and the reader) meet the slightly odd playwright that I finally twigged that this was fiction. I was rather glad, actually, because I didn't really want to read a 'dark' story that had true first-hand narration. *Smile* (By the way, I'm not saying you should change anything here! The puzzlement was my own fault for not looking at your Port first.)

Overall, this was a nice piece of horror which contained macro and micro horror. By that I mean, we had the overall (macro) sense of the god controlling humans, taking away their free will, combined with the fact that hundreds of men and women before our narrator had faced the same fate; and the closer-to-home (micro) sense with the the point of view of the narrator. Having the narrator be first-person brought the reader right into the story, as if was they (me) who was drawn inexplicably up that mountain with a sense of 'doing what's right' but finding out that I'm being directed in every move I make with no possibility of escape. There is the added horror of feeling that I'd managed to escape (For a moment I allowed myself to feel slight comfort.), before realising there is no such thing as escape.


Strengths
Besides being a really nice little story, I think there are three main strengths to it.

1. You drew the reader in by making them part of the story through your first person narrator. The reader experiences the intrigue, the puzzlement, the absolute need to get up that mountain, the fear, the panic, and that final sense of despair. And When, by what I hope was only chance, I came across a name, that stuck out ever so sorely. is a really nice way of the reader going 'um... what's going on here? What 'chance'?' It makes the reader suddenly start to get a little nervous.

2. As the bones of a short story goes, you gave me everything I needed to feel satisfied - a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning gives the reader a false sense that everything is okay, the middle turns up the nerves with every step up the mountain, and the ending packs something of a punch - in two ways. Firstly, the dog tells a tale that almost convinces the narrator that her entrapment is a tragedy and she should be set free (a perfect example of her pulling the strings!). Secondly, that it ties in with your title and the entire theme of the story - being a physical puppet with that silk string attach that cannot be removed. I did wonder what might happen next but I'm not sure you could ever write that into the story; best to leave that up to the reader's imagination.

3. You've brought in myth and folklore. Even if it is made-up you've written it so well that it feels real, as if the myth exists and you've decided to bring it into the modern world with your own take. By the way, I say made-up because I wanted to read up on the myth myself but couldn't find anything regarding either poem or the god of puppets in Chinese folklore (*Sad*; besides an article from Hawaii's East-West Center Gallery that mentions that man being on a string like a puppet is a very old metaphor. (This gallery held an exhibition on Chinese puppets for the first half of this year.)) I was so intrigued, I asked my Chinese workmate if she'd heard of the poems or myths. She hadn't. Of course, this doesn't mean to say they don't exist (feel free to prove me wrong here). There's actually a point to this ramble. If you're using established/known myth or folklore, make sure you know it from every angle so that someone doesn't niggle at you for inaccuracies. And if things are totally made up, write them like they're fact/myth so that we believe!. Create something that your readers wish was real. I think you've done a fine job of that here.

A couple of parts I really liked:

Something was atop this mountain and I had to see it with my own eyes.- perfect example of the age-old curiosity of mankind, but with a darker twist here since our narrator is beginning to wonder if it's not all his own doing. Also thought this sentence had a really nice feel to the way it is read.

Time had pummeled the place - pummeled is quite a violent word, and it works perfectly here in describing what time has done to the temple. Though you go on to describe some of the pummeled features, the word itself brings forth such imagery without actually having to describe.

I had time only to scream once as I was pulled up into the air, being towed along by Amosia, the god of puppets. - I really like this closing line. Total despair, total knowledge that the entire trip wasn't out of free-will, total control by the gods. As endings go, I thought it one of the better I've read in quite some time.


Suggestions
First person narratives are my own writing preference, but those of us who live for it have to sort out the ever-present I. Too many is disruptive to the reader, and in fact stories often start to read like a bullet-point list rather than a narrative. I'd recommend you work through the story and remove redundant Is and turn other sentences around so that at least I doesn't start the sentence. A couple of suggestions are listed below to show what I mean here:

The trip took longer then I planned. - the I isn't needed here since it's unlikely anyone else planned the trip.

I walked on even has I recounted more of the supernatural lore and tales of mysticism. - several ways you could reorder this to avoid starting with the I. Walking on, I recounted.... or As I walked on, I recounted... or even a total reword, and linking with the next sentence: Supernatural lore and tales of mysticism flashed continuously through my mind, making me wish to turn back...

I sought him out, an elderly ecstatic man. - in the previous sentence the narrator has discovered the playwright. So this 'sought him out' seems kind of secondary. You probably mean that the narrator discovered that there was a man to go and see, rather than he physically discovered him somewhere in town. My suggestion would be to remove at least the first part of this sentence completely, keeping the 'elderly ecstatic man (perhaps as When I met the elderly ecstatic man he was dressed in a suit....). Second query about the ecstatic nature of the man - how did you know? Perhaps describe the flamboyance a little more. How is he flamboyant? Is it just the suit or the red blush making him look this way, or did he act it? If it's the latter then the stiff moving arms and the flat lips kind of don't match with acted flamboyancy.

Inside it was dark, but in the blackness I heard the shuffle of feet. - quite aside from a repetition that the inside of the temple was dark, I think you've missed an opportunity to describe the dark. Blackness is nice, but is it thick or heavy? Is it a total pitch-black dark, or could objects be made out? Did it seem to be sucking into the narrator's lungs? Use the darkness to heighten the fear and panic.


The Technical Side
This where I talk about grammar when it's bugged me to the point that I have to mention it, or anything else that has stopped my reading flow.

My trail came to a climax with the discovery of a play write whom was seeking to produce a play after the legend. - playwright, rather than play write. And I think 'whom' is not the word you're after here. 'Who' works better, and you could make the sentence a little more active in feeling by using 'who sought' rather than 'who was seeking'.

The trip itself was uncomfortable, along with the tedious run around of airport security I was haunted with unsettling dreams. In which I beheld burning ruins and humans dancing. - in a couple of places you mix and match punctuation to add sentences that don't really need to be added together and to cut others off where they should be added. This pair of sentences is an example. I think it would be better with a full stop after 'uncomfortable'. Start the next with 'Along', but after 'dreams' remove the full stop. 'In which' is a connecting set of words not a beginning set. Something like this: The trip was uncomfortable. Along with the tedious run around of airport security, I was haunted with unsettling dreams in which I beheld burning ruins and humans dancing. (And remove 'itself' as that's a bit redundant here. To me the trip can only be itself so it doesn't need to be said.)

Had the monster in the poem, not been called a puppeteer? - no comma here. And I know why you've gone for the 'had not' arrangement of words (which I like) but the ordering feels a little bit unusual, and I had to read this a couple of times to make sense. I would expect to see (and remember this is just me) something more like Had not the monster been called a puppeteer in the poem? (or In the poem, had not the monster been called a puppeteer?) Basically... don't split the 'had' and 'not'.

There was more proof of this has I went. - you've used 'has' for almost every time you meant 'as'. Since this is obviously a word in its own right it will never come up in a spell-check. However, it should pop up in a grammar check. I tend to not use those, but reading slowly out loud will generally always point out where you might have used the wrong word.

The figure reached out to me and waited with it's hand out. - it's is a contraction of 'it is', not a pronouncement of possession, so you don't need an apostrophe here. I'd also like to see another way of calling this black-clad figure. 'The figure' came across much like the use of 'I' that I mentioned above.

Covered in scales with small horns at the end of it's nose and glowing eyes. - a sentence without a subject, so it reads incomplete. You could easily attached this to the next sentence as another way to describe the monster as it rises into the sky, or you could add in the subject. Something as simple as Covered in scales, the monster had small horns at the end of its nose and glowing eyes. But also, really describe this monster. What colour are the glowing eyes? Is it still purple (as the dog was)? This is your opportunity to really freak the reader out.

I looked down and shuttered in fear - shuddered, rather than shuttered here.


Closing Comments
I really liked this story. Your narrator played the perfect part of an unsuspecting puppet, thinking that much of the journey was made with free-will, thinking he had made an escape. The overarching feeling of having the gods act as puppeteers makes a body very uncomfortable, which makes for a really nice spine-tingling, psychological sort of dark/horror. There are certainly some things to tidy up but overall, this is a great story and I am in fact looking forward to reading more of your stories. And certainly to see if I can discover why many of your log-lines talking about being beyond the sight of man!

Thank you once again for requesting the review; I hope that it helps you and encourages you to keep going. And, as I said at the beginning, don't hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

Tome of Artistry Membership

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134
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Dear Ben Crawford

Thank you for asking me to review "Unbound Words: Chapter 1 - Kenton the Ne. I'm flattered you asked and I hope this review matches up with what you might be expecting. Since you didn't give me any specifics, I'm doing a general 'everything' review. Do get back to me if you have any queries.


*Sun* General Comments & Reader Reaction
Right from the title of this book (Unbound Words), you had my interest. The title is intriguing and the first line, in fact, really plays into the title. The jiggling carriage is at fault but Kenton also can't control the pen on paper to get his letter written, and he can't control his own words. To start with "Damn it to hell!" was clever. It opened my eyes straight away and pen murdered yet another page is extremely visual, and emphases Kenton's annoyance. You started straight in with action, gave us a character and a location and zipped into a little bit of background that explained why Kenton was suffering a bumpy carriage ride.

I think that the background coming in the form of a letter was nicely done; it felt like I was reading the letter rather than just being given a history lesson. Backstory is so important but it can drag down a plot if it receives too much focus. This letter and, in fact, the later one both provide that backstory in an economical, reasonable and believable way. Your reader isn't likely to glaze over and skip ahead.

My major disappointment came when I saw that you've only got the one chapter up! Please tell me you've got more waiting in the background, especially since you ended this one on such an intriguing warning! I love that you've got a totally inexperienced youngster mingling with old-timers on the magic front, trying to sort out the inner politics that will probably take him ages to sort all the while wondering who to trust and who to stay away from! There's plenty of stories out there with magic groups and battles, but this seemed a fresh idea to me, and I really look forward to seeing where you take it.

As an opening chapter, I think it does exactly what it needs to - introduces the plot, the cast, the location and enough background so the reader won't feel like they've been dropped in the middle of something. And you've given us a start, middle and end, so that it stands in its own right as a story. I think a lot of people forget that chapters are stories in themselves. Whether you were conscious of it or not as you wrote, you followed this 'rule' nicely.


*Screw*The Story's Nuts and Bolts

Plot & Pace
The plot is a fairly basic one to understand - a young 'mancer is coming to take up a new position at a prestigious school, which has five tenured practitioners with strong personalities and a whole bunch of raveled politics. Disagreeable weather has meant our protagonist is on the back-foot when he reaches the city and hasn't had time to rest. He is thrust immediately into his first council and has to cope with his five fellows with only an anonymous letter to guide him.

The action tumbles over like the wheels of the carriage, and Kenton barely gets a chance to breathe. The delay in travelling forces all the action together and means a hot pace. And that is perfect for this chapter. Kenton is new to the city and its intrigues. I think allowing him to have an overnight in the city before the council would have watered down the pace too much, would have removed the spice from the letter and the whirlwind meeting of the other characters. Kenton has to think on his feet and everything in this chapter keeps him doing that. Importantly, the reader is not bored.

Characters
You've done well to wrangle six characters here, especially since they are strong and bolshie in their own right. But be careful to keep them under control or readers could start to wonder who the protagonist is. Right now, your point of view is Kenton's. My advice is to keep it that way as much as possible - unless, of course, you aim to have a chapter dedicated to each of the masters.

One thing you need to get a grip on with your cast is their names. You've got Blyth and Blythe, and Tarsus and Tarsis. The names you've chosen are wonderful (as are the names for your city and buildings etc) but you've got to get them right. Readers will pick up discrepancies here quicker than with anything else.

I liked how you gave a character analysis in the anonymous letter, and matched it to the characters as you introduced them. It was also nice to see the little physical descriptors you gave as we met the characters and, let's be honest, one of the best lines is Torin's "Somewhere between the whore throwing herself at Kenton and the short one insulting me," Descriptive of his fellow masters but also making clear his own feelings.

Having said that, I would like to have seen a little more action from the characters, rather than just have them speak their lines (often with a smile or look). You have so many characters speaking that 'he said' becomes a little tiresome. You do need to indicate who is speaking but you can do that with an action. Let me use my favourite line: "Somewhere between the whore throwing herself at Kenton and the short one insulting me," he said, pulling an apple out of his robes. How about something like: Torin pulled an apple from his robe, and shrugged. "Somewhere between the whore throwing herself at you and the short one insulting me." By the way, I've put 'you' here because Torin is actually answering Kenton's question and to use his first name here doesn't work.

Setting & Imagery
I'm one of those readers who reads visually. I like to see what I'm reading - so the more description you can provide, the happier I am. I liked what you had but I thought you missed the opportunity to really draw me in, especially in the city.

He saw houses, upscale inns, and a few high class shops. They must have entered the upper quarters of the city. As he was admiring the buildings,... - this is pretty much it for the city. I know Kenton's had the curtains closed but this is too minimal for me. Give me some particular sights and sounds, or at the very least tell me what some of the 'high class shops' are. What does 'high class' even mean here?

Likewise with the Archium (very cool name, by the way). You give two sentences to the external structure and then go into more detail with the flowers. That seems a bit odd. I would have thought seeing the Archium the first time would take Kenton's attention a lot more. You don't have to put everything down the first time because that would be overload, but give us enough to visualise the edifice and pop in bits and pieces later as they catch Kenton's eye.

The carriage. I am somewhat confused by the size of this vehicle, since Kenton occupies the interior with several trunks, one of which takes up a seat. How many seats does it have? Is Kenton forced to sit on the floor? Why aren't the trunks on the back, or partly on the roof (though I know you've got 'light holes' in the roof)? And just watch that use of 'buckboard'. I immediately thought of a wagon from a western. If you mean driver's seat, just say it that way for sense.

The magic. I really liked the way you explained/showed the kinetomancy at work, and added the magical lacing to both the letter and the doors of the circular room. Without those, we wouldn't really remember we were in a magical world so it's timely to have the magic pop up now and then.

The anonymous letter. The letter itself was great, though I thought the I bet you have no idea of what they are truly like. almost too colloquial. But I'm mentioning it here because I was trying to 'see' the letter and got myself confused over the description of the parchment and the magic/seal. Is the letter in an envelope, and does the magic lacing cover the seal on the envelope? Or, is the letter just folded and the seal is over the fold? If neither of these things, then what is the point of the magic lacing if the letter is open for viewing straight off? So, basically, what I'm saying is can you make it clear what format the letter shows up in?

Structure & Consistency
Mostly I use this heading when I'm reviewing multiple chapters for a story. Since I'm hoping you'll put more chapters up that I can read, I'm keeping it here. Aside from the current slight issue with the multiple spellings of names, I thought everything else was consistent. Your characters didn't act out of character, they didn't change hair colour or clothes part way through. We're usually on the ball with these things but often we are only dealing with one or two people. You've got six so you'll need to be careful they don't trick you into changing them or mixing them up.

Three bits popped out that didn't match.

1: He quickly picked up all the wasted paper and put them in one of his trunks. and He saw the pile of ruined letters and knew it might be a while before he could finish the job. The first is just before he applies is kinetomancy, the second is after he's read the anonymous letter. Are the ruined letters packed away or not?

2: "Thank you, " said Kenton as he exited the carriage. and As Kenton exited the carriage and did a few stretches... These are two paragraphs apart.

3: "Yes, but it was a near thing; I just arrived myself for the meeting; shall we walk together?"
"Lead the way."
Blyth walked up the covered stairs of the Archium, and Kenton followed closely behind.
This is me nit-picking but when one says 'walk together' I don't expect one to be trailing, even if Kenton has told him to 'lead the way'. I'd read that as a figure of speech, not literally.


*Notepad* Writing Style & Grammar
Despite what is below in Things to Work On, your writing is fairly easy to read and understand. You've done a great job at getting this chapter to flow seamlessly through the various actions and keeping those actions in control. We have suspense, we have funny moments, we have backstory and it all melds together quite nicely.

And I'm one of those readers who appreciate you didn't go overboard with flowery text. I'm a sparse user of metaphors and similes myself and very much liked the fact your story kept a plain and simple face. Kenton seems very down-to-earth and I think the way the story is written complements that. Not that I'm going to be horrified if you do add in some floral language!

Favorite Lines
Well, I've already mentioned that I like Torin's answer to Kenton's "When did you come in?" as well as the opening "Damn it to hell!" They both perk up the story.

I also thought the driver's response to Kenton questioning why it'd take so long to get to the Archium was brilliant: "It's a crowded city, sir." I imagined the driver whisper 'duh!' to himself before he answered.

He let go of the remaining energy collected by the motion of his arms; it rose off him like mist rising from a lake. - this is actually a really nice image, oddly peaceful. I guess one might feel that way once they've had a clean.

Things to Work On
In my 'request a review' blurb I said that I'm not really a nit-picker of grammar. In most cases, this is true because everyone has their faults and quirks. There are a few grammar rules I refuse to follow *Smile* so I don't like to point the finger too much as others. I do my best to avoid being a 'do as I say, not as I do' sort of reviewer/writer.

However, as I read, there were three things that you did consistently enough to end up bugging me into mentioning them here.

1: the semi-colon. I don't believe I've ever seen it so often as in this chapter. You have 34; that may sound minimal in a 4800-odd word piece but it really is quite overwhelming. I think most of them could become full stops. There are plenty of grammar guides on the web and here on WDC, but ~A.J. Lyle~ 's Improving Your Editing Skills: A Pause for Punctuation Identification, Part II from "Invalid Entry provides a very quick guide.

2: long dialogue with a 'he said' right at the very end. An example is: "Torin does not attend every meeting; he only shows up to meetings where we decide very important issues; this meeting will be very light," said Eleanor. Quite aside from bearing two ; the reader almost runs out of breath with the dialogue. And reading through several sentences before we get to the 'said Eleanor' makes the 'said Eleanor' slightly pointless. We already know she's been saying it! Break it up: "Torin does not attend every meeting," said Eleanor. "He only shows up to meetings where we decide very important issues. This meeting will be very light."

3: lack of contractions. Now, this is me at my pickiest but I got very tired of reading I will, I am, he is, was not etc. Along with the passive could and a whole bunch of was I felt the story became stilted and rigid, almost like it had to maintain a stiff upper lip. I'm not saying use contractions every time, of course, but let there be more of them just to relax the story and to make it more comfortable for the reader. Here's an example: "If we had more time, I would give you a full tour, but there is no time to lose," said Blyth. Grammatically, no issue but Blyth doesn't sound very accommodating here with the stiffness of these words. Here's just one of may ways you can soften it: "If we had more time, I'd give you a full tour," said Blyth. 'But we've no time to lose." (I changed that last 'there is' to 'we've' because it matches the first sentence about whose time this is.)

I do have other suggestions so I'm going to send them in an email. I don't want you to see them here and worry. They're just things I think you could do to make this story even better than it is but it might seem a bit overwhelming in this review. And because they're my own opinion they don't need to be so baldly public.


*Sun* Conclusion
Ben, I liked this chapter and I can't wait to see where it goes and how Kenton copes with his new life. It seems to me that he might have to continuously fend off a certain Madame Lisadar and probably also Master Tarsus who seemed overly enthusiastic to have the young man join the club. And I want to see how their various forms of 'mancy come into play.

Please do let me know when you post further chapters. Even if you don't want me to review them, I still want to read them!

Many kind regards,
Os

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135
Review of The Wilted Mask  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Pen Name

When I saw that you had requested a poetry review from me I almost wondered if you meant to pick someone else, since poetry and I are not at all well acquainted *Smile*. However, I do like reading poetry and I'm quite happy to review "The Wilted Mask, just bear in mind my lack of qualification (which means I'll come at this from a reader's point of view, not a poet's).


*FlowerR* Reader Impressions
When it comes to poetry, I am a big fan of free, unstructured verse. I admire the skill of poets who rhyme and fit to a type of poetry but prefer to read free. It feels like it comes right out of the heart. So, this poem connected with me straight away and I thought the opening sentence was a particularly intriguing one. It's visual but also highlights immediately that this poem is going to have emotional depth to it.

By the end of the first verse, that emotional depth is fully apparent; we're dealing with the death of a loved one and working through guilt and grief (that final sentence here is really strong).

Aside from the loss of a brother (well, I'm presuming a brother because of the final verse of the poem) we've also got the poet questioning their own existence, dealing with their own issues. I like that you've described this seeking 'answers' as a thirst, and it seems that the thirst is both the loss/grief and hope.

The use of the Rubicon meant something to me. This is the river of intent, that Julius Caesar crossed when he came to take control of Rome (with the famous saying alea jacta est (the die is cast; or something like that *Smile*). He'd crossed the point of no return and had made his intention clear. In this poem, the river is 'unseen'. Originally I was thinking - oh, right, the decision's made and there's no going back. But a re-read now has me think the opposite. This lost narrator hasn't made a decision, nothing is final, no dice have been cast; there are still two paths that can be followed. And that is why the river is 'unseen'.

Forgive me, I'm probably sounding like a nutter! The more I read into this poem the deeper I get with wells, hope (which spring eternal like a well), and other things. While you might be secretly deciding to never ask me to review again, I hope this does tell you that this poem has quite an emotional impact and it makes a person think.


*FlowerR* Tone and Mood
I would really hope that this was simply a poem that came to you rather than you writing from experience, because this is really quite heart-wrenching and speaks of a lot of suffering which no one should have to go through. Overall, the tone and mood are sad, with a strong mix of confusion and searching.

The last verse appears to be more upbeat - a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. However, I was a little puzzled about the having a hand around the brother's neck. That seemed rather sinister, and a little out of place given it seemed we'd started out with a brother who had committed suicide. Or did I not read those opening lines correctly? It really looked like the narrator had been holding the brother under water (physically or metaphorically) for some reason; as if he's been hating him instead of appreciating/loving him.


*FlowerR* What I liked
The two-line verse regarding questions and answers was rather powerful; partly because of its size but also because if its very basic rendering; you've not invoked metaphors, similes or other flourishing poetic devices. And it links strongly to the special words from the first verse. Could that one answer have saved the person? Could saving the person then answer the narrator's questions. The verse had a sense of hopeless too since these answers will not be forthcoming.

The grief, confusion, loss, searching are all nicely strengthened by the words you use. For example: deep enduring craving, cornerstone of my foundation, unimaginable in its possession. And beyond that you talk of the massive universe, and that what the soul is craving is bigger even than those immeasurable things.

I also like that what this poem is about is not really explicit. I think you can see from my comments that I've been reading the poem in several different ways, and I really do think that it can be. But did you intend that? If you did, then the title work wonders too, as if you're still searching for it and also allowing readers to come up with their own!


*FlowerR* Punctuation and Grammar
It always feels a bit off to be correcting wording, grammar etc in poetry. Firstly because I think a poet has more prerogative to play around with words than a prose writer and secondly because I think punctuation rules can totally be disregarded.

However, there were a few things I wanted to mention here because they caused me a little bit of trouble in either understanding or in reading flow. And a few nitpicking grammar things which you are, of course, totally free to ignore.

There is a deep well | Who holds the clearest - I would tend to use 'that' here instead of 'who' unless you're meaning that the well is a person or animate sort of entity.

... I saw the crows | Feat and sunken eyes - I think you might mean 'feet' here?

If we could only have..... |... To you, I may have - you start off with the plural but end up with just I; making it seem like it's the I's fault. I think you need to have either 'we' for both or 'I' for both.

Some Shepard or must - Shepherd

The cold dark night to | Which Thomas spoke of. - I understand the meaning of this pair of lines but they are quite awkward to read. I would suggest changing the 'to' to 'of' and removing the final 'of' so that you have The cold dark night of | which Thomas spoke.

Foundation to which has no - remove the 'to'

The last hurdle that I must | Overcome is to only let - it took me a few passes to get this pair of lines. I think it's because I expect 'only to' rather than 'to only'

Watch it's. Unless it's a contraction of 'it is' you don't need the apostrophe.

I don't know if you would consider this or not, or even if it is allowed, but I'd only use capital letters at the beginning of each line if they start off a sentence (or if you want them capitalised for emphasis). You have a distinct lack of punctuation and as I was reading through the poem again I realised that lack and the capitals were throwing off some of my understanding.


*FlowerR* Closing Comments
I liked this poem; it was very heart-felt and both dark and light at the same time, filled with loss and with hope. It really made me think quite deeply about what was going on and what struggles the narrator was trying to work through.

I'm not sure what you expected from this review but I hope it has given you encouragement to keep writing and posting on this site. I would read more, so just let me know. But if I never hear from you again, that's okay too *Smile*.

And, lastly, if anything I've said needs clarification don't hesitate to ask for it!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

Tome of Artistry Membership
136
136
Review of The Story of Us  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi VickyRafaelChristensen

I found "The Story of Us under Read a Newbie that sits on the left-hand side of all WdC's pages, and your logline intrigued me. That and the names. I've always been partial to Rafael as a name. I also almost exclusively write male/male these days so anything like that intrigues me. So, that tiny explanation aside, I'd like to offer you a review.


Reader Impressions
Well, let me be honest here. Male/male, romance, angels, Hell, first person narration - my kinda thing so you can be pretty much assured I was going to like this tiny story no matter how it was written, and I want to keep reading. Rafael and Christensen are two VERY opposite people and it will be fun to see how they get along, whether the angel can cope with Rafael's blatant ogling, whether Rafael will ever take note of anything again that isn't Christensen!

Plot and characters aside, I did feel your writing was a tad haphazard. I do like the way the thoughts flow in both Rafael and Christensen's POV sections but there were sections that did disrupt my reading flow. Nothing that can't be changed, of course - and though I may suggest some here, do remember you're the author and it's your right to tell me to go to Hell (just as long as there's a 7-foot angel coming to get me out!).


Strengths
This story made me laugh. Rafael comes across as a totally erratic, probably unreliable person but full of good humour, friendliness and suffering perhaps from a little bit of a libido problem. All in all, his narration provides the hook for the reader to want more. You know, I didn't even really care that the mission he was sent on never really made it into the story!! (Though, you might need to do something about that because the serious side of me says - don't change the plot half way through a piece. The reader will wonder why Rafael is bored and then they'll go: hey wait, what mission? After that they'll re-read to see if they missed something and realise they didn't, just that you changed the plot on them.

I thought it was extra funny that Christensen is being sort of staid and then when we hit Rafael's POV again, he's not picking up any 'odd' vibe from the angel and is rather in la-la-land. You can practically see his thoughts for the forthcoming days! And obviously I like the split narration. It fits with your title - the story is about both of them and they are both entitled to give their side of it.


Bits I liked a lot:

Anywhooo I think I was making him uncomfortable because I was staring at him and possibly his junk, which was huge!!! - very funny and illustrates Rafael's wide-open nature. And I think 'possibly' is 'absolutely totally' Well, given the angel is seven foot, it's likely eye-level is a lot lower than on someone of a smaller height. *Smile* And some might tell you to kill off the multiple exclamation marks but I think they work well here to emphasise where Rafael's thoughts lay, better than if you'd just italicised 'huge'.

He also had dark brown eyes that look like melted chocolate. - really easy to visualise this but I'd suggest making it a bit more active - something like His dark eyes were like melted chocolate. That seems to me to be a much more sudden, direct thought. They didn't 'look like', they 'were'. It puts more strength into Christensen's panic about how he's reacting.

As I pulled him out he was yelling about "You took longer than 30 minutes the pizza is free!" - poor Christensen! He's probably wondering what he's done to deserve a very odd human such as this. I sense Rafael is very high maintenance, but also very cute with it. I can visualise him yelling about the free pizza and doing a happy dance.


Suggestions
I'm not usually a major commentator on grammar but there comes a point where even I can't ignore some things. Usually they relate to how I read a story, and how it affects my flow. Remember, everything here is just my opinion. Accept, ignore, modify - it's your choice.

My brother must be feeling very daring today as he came into my room, yelling "Bro! Wake up there is someone here with a mission for you!" and walking out. - in general, a good opening hook but I didn't like the present tense for the brother's actions, or it could just have been the way it was phrased. It felt awkward. And why would Rafael's brother feel 'daring' anyway? I think you need to sort it and I would, in fact, suggest cutting it back. Something like: My brother came into my room, yelled 'Bro! Wake up, there's someone here with a mission for you!' and walked out without waiting for a response. You can still keep Rafael's reaction in the present tense. (By the way, did you intend to have Rafael's POV as present tense and Christensen's as past? It does work and certainly separates the two narrators clearly, but do think about how it works - and keep to one tense for each. Christensen's sort of swaps between present and past.)

Please look over your punctuation. It's there to help the reader. This sentence (well, multiple) is a prime example: "Hello Angela" I say "What is it that you need? She looked at me and smirked and said "Boy, do I have a mission for you!" Here's the suggested punctuation: "Hello Angela," I say. "What is it that you need?" She looked at me and smirked and said, "Boy, do I have a mission for you!"

Watch your 'and' when you mean 'an'. Easy mistake to type but it really screws up your sentences.

longish dirty blonde hair - if the reader is expecting a hot angel, then 'dirty' isn't going to cut it. This makes him sound like he hasn't washed in a week. And what does dirty blonde look like any way? Sandy?

Now I'm hoping some sexy ass angel with some abs and an ass comes down here and is like hey sexy whats your name?? - actually I like this running-at-full-tilt thought, but it's awkward. The way it reads it's like not everyone has an ass! And to be honest, I'm sick of reading 'ass' when it should be 'arse'. Ridiculous, I know but that's just me. I'm going to make the following suggestion: Now, I'm hoping some sexy ass angel with tight abs and ass comes down here and is like hey sexy whats your name??

Anywhore, I have been waiting for 30 minutes now and all of a sudden I hear and angelic (A/N: Angelic=Angel hahaha get it its a pun and puns are puny!! ok bye) voice from behind me say "Hello, are you Rafael?" - don't know if you meant to spell 'anywhore' like that but it kinda works! However, what the heck is with the bit in brackets? It's straight out odd and doesn't really fit. I wonder if that's because you've got hear and angelic when you mean 'an' there but I'd recommend just getting rid of it. It doesn't do anything to the story and I can't see a pun.

And you need to up your rating. Using the good old F-word here means it needs to be 18+.


Closing Comments
Alright, though I've listed a decent number of things I thought needed to change that does not mean I didn't like the story. I did; in fact I really want to see how it carries on so please do keep writing. Maybe it's just me but Rafael comes across as kinda cute and needing some attention. That raises questions of why, and I think back to his brother's 'daring' and also the mission. You've got a lot of story you have not yet explained - probably you didn't quite mean for that to be a hook, but it is and you've got me at least wanting more.

Do contact me if anything I've rambled about needs clarifying, and I'm totally up for re-reading the story if you like once you've edited it (not that you HAVE too *Wink*)


Best wishes,
Osirantinous

Rockin May 2014 Reviewer

FORUM
The LGBT Writing Contest  (18+)
Short story contest (with great prizes) for LGBT characters.
#1980539 by Osirantinous
137
137
Review of Smoke-Break  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi beetle

Oh man, one thing I've learned from reading a couple of your stories is that I never want to be in a contest with you! I hate to lose and I'd lose to you EVERY time. I love your stuff.

Anyways.... I recently found the Plug Page for GC+ items. I can't believe it's taken me til now since I've a fair few GC myself. "Smoke-Break caught my eye and I knew I'd be in for a good read. I wasn't disappointed and so now I offer up a review.


Reader Impressions
Firstly, I don't know what I was expecting from that prompt but it wasn't what I got. I love that the reader has no idea what's going on until a good chunk of the way through, thought the suspense played right into the psychological side of the story in that it seems suicidal thoughts are often kept very close to a person's chest, almost hidden. It seemed very much so with Taylor - he's obviously got an outer visage that has never let anyone in, which has been as detrimental to himself as well as to anyone else.

My second impression is that I'd really like to read more, another chapter if you will. What comes out of the drink with Daniel, what comes out of his 'new' life. Even if he doesn't remember much about what happened seeing how he copes from that new point on would be very interesting. And, I'll just come out and say it, since you know how I write - I want to see if he and David get together! And I can feel my face heat as I write that! Oddly, I have a story where a character's in a violent ('But I still love him') relationship and suddenly meets an entirely friendly boy at a bowling alley. So... Daniel with his bowling and friendliness makes me happy for Taylor.


Strengths
The way you write is your strength. I'm not even sure I know how to explain it but you draw the reader in. I love first person, so that's always a hook, but you make everything so personal and believable. The actions, thoughts, asides, commentaries, showing/telling, humour even around a touchy subject - it's just the perfect ensemble for me. I think I can learn a great deal from you.

I was not surprised that Taylor's thoughts turned to others who would have benefited from the choice of life or death. We read that he'd tidied up his work loose-ends so his workmates wouldn't be given more heavy workloads. That showed he has a softer side, that he's not a useless, hopeless, hapless, waste of skin. This other side to him softens the whole suicide slant to this story, in that I didn't feel he was just being selfish. Suicide, itself, is a tough subject and I think you've actually handled it really well here.


Suggestions
Far be it for me to be a comma freak (I probably don't use nearly enough) but there are a couple of occasions where I thought you over-comma'd. Probably you were grammatically correct but sometimes the reading doesn't like what's grammatically correct. Here's a couple of examples, with the commas in red:

...my body froze from the neck, down.
My memory of it was already starting to fuzz over, like it was something that’d happened years and years ago, to another person, even.
Looking concerned, Danny’s hand slid up from my arm, to my shoulder and he squeezed comfortingly.

And here's a couple of other things that caught me out when reading:

His eerily symmetrical face was far too sanguine for my liking. For the fact that he was standing on nothing but air and I was frozen in the midst of plunging to my death. - I get both of these sentences and I'd probably split them too, knowing exactly what they meant and how they should be read, but I still have to suggest that you put a comma to separate the pair, rather than the full stop.

“If you choose the former, I can simply reach out and pluck you back from the ledge. If you choose the latter, I can simply cease the throttling of space-time and let you plummet. It’s that simple.” - two simplys and a simple read just a little bit much here. It's pretty clear this six-foot-five wall of muscle has special skills. The final sentence would be stronger if the two simplys were removed.

Finally, a tiny, confused: “No, I don’t think I am, Danny,” slipped out of me, confused and ashamed. - two confuseds, so one of them could go (I'd suggest the first one).


Closing Comments
Well, first time writing a story like this, huh? You did a great job. I found it easy to read, and full of emotion. And I was really hoping we'd get the happy ending, or at least a 'not falling to one's death' ending. The jump between the choice and being outside of the office was a bit of a leap in itself but it made me want more and I like that in a story.


In any case, I must visit your port more often instead if leaving it to luck stumbling upon your items on other pages! Do let me know if anything I've said needs clarifying, as usual

Best wishes,
Os

Tome of Artistry Membership
138
138
Review of Like any other  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi paintmelikeiam

I was just perusing the Noticing Newbies page and came across "Like any other. Though I didn't know what contest you were writing it for I was intrigued to see just what you were writing. Well, having read the story I still wouldn't have a clue about the contest but that hardly matters *Smile*

I'd like to offer the following review (and wish you luck!).


Reader Impressions
Well, I was ready for fantasy in terms of dragons, magic, castles etc. You know how we judge a book by it's cover? Clearly, I'm like that with genre titles too. Yet fantasy also has several other qualities, including that dream-like quality where we all fantasise about something or someone and when I read this story it's that 'fantasy' that I felt. Who wouldn't want to find a sort of soul-mate as Maria does here? As well as that, there's probably a lot of us who would like to be in a book.

So anyway... I liked this story. It has a complete arc (beginning, middle and end), and the end is satisfying. I'd originally felt a sort of 'oh my god, he's got MY book' kind of defensiveness but then I relaxed and realised sometimes it's nice to share. And I liked that little bit of fate woven in. As Maria says - eight years and they never really crossed paths. It's all about timing, and it's kinda scary/sad to think that it would have just carried on if she hadn't stopped to help her mother. A true 'what if' sort of story here.

I think the fact this takes place in a library, with a favourite book, would also speak to readers. We all have that favourite tome we read over and over again, living in the story. Whether we're trying to escape our own lives or not doesn't necessarily need to be answered; it's the fact we can be safe and secure in a book that's the point. The line I have all the friends I need in my books. probably rings true for a lot of us. For me, my characters are my friends.


Strengths
Ah well, I'm a person who likes romance and a happy ending, and you delivered both those things to me. I wasn't left with any questions or heartache. I also wanted to see what happened next, which I consider to be a strength. Making the reader wish you'd written more is a nice skill to have. (I do remember you've written this for a contest, so it probably has a word limit which prevents more story. Doesn't mean you can't write a sequel though *Smile*)

I love the sentiments of the following lines:
I finally turn into the isle and see it.
The problem is, it's in the hands of a boy in my class.
I stop dead in my tracks. What is he doing here? I think to myself. Nobody from my class comes here, and I can't believe he'd be reading that!
- the first is an 'oh my god, someone's got my book' and then it's a 'holy heck, he's in my class!' followed by 'seriously? He reads this stuff?' It's a whole gamut of emotions and they're all beautifully clear. Defence, recognition, surprise/shock (with a little judgement thrown in for good measure).


Suggestions
This is where I mention things that disrupted my flow. Sometimes grammar, sometimes spelling, and somethings things that just made me go 'huh? what?'

At my high school, I feel like an outcast. - I'd suggest taking out 'my high' here. You've mentioned this already in the previous sentence so this is just an unnecessary double up (and if you are writing to a word limit then double-ups can impinge on that).

"It's my favorite book too. There doesn't happen to be more than one copy, does there?" I finally got out.
Ryan looked shocked. "Wow. I guess I never knew we had so much in common." He smiled again but this time it warmed me to my core. He turned and looked back at the bookcase.
"No, sorry. There's only one. But we could read it together. I'm free after work from five to seven, think we could meet up here?"
- there's nothing wrong with the sentences themselves but I thought the ordering was a little off kilter. When taken as a bunch like this Ryan's initial response doesn't match with Maria's words entirely. He is simply commenting that they have a lot in common (goes with Maria's first sentence) but it reads like an answer to Maria's final sentence, and of course it doesn't match. And then finally he answers the initial question. I would suggest turning Ryan's responses round. Have him look for a second book first and apologise that there isn't one and then say 'wow, I didn't realise we had so much in common'. (Not that I'm suggesting a rewording here..., though what you do have is a bit less colloquial that I'd expect in a teenager.) If I was judging this contest, the ordering's something I'd pick up as a I didn't feel it was quite right sort of thing.


Closing Comments
I really like that the power of a book can bring people together. I've never read The Secret Garden, though I think I've seen a movie made from it? So many people have mentioned it as their favourite so I really must find myself a copy. Besides a little bit of tightening up on your structure, I think you've got a strong story here. As I said, it left me with no questions, just a sort of longing for more. A pleasant, lighthearted and feel-good story. In fact, something that I would probably come back to again and again for those reasons.


Best of luck for the contest, and don't hesitate to contact me if there's anything that needs clarifying.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
139
139
Review of Game On  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi Maverick Jone

I was looking at the short stories on the Noticing Newbies page and "Game On caught my eye. I like a good romance and I played badminton in school so it seemed a good combination for me to read.

And I offer up the following review to you, and ask you to bear in mind that any comments or suggestions are only my own. You are the master of your work so please ignore, accept or totally modify anything I've said.


*Tree* The Big Picture
The overall story is really sweet - two people (one shy, one perhaps lonely and hurting) meeting over a shared love of badminton and then of chicken rolls and forming a growing friendship. One that might develop into a relationship even. It has plenty of conflict - Rohan's shyness, Priyanka's ex boyfriend, the badminton competition - to keep it moving forward, and I very much like that we have a circular sort of plot. We start with Rohan's shyness and we end with it.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think English is your first language. I say that because there are a few words not used in quite their usual manner and many of your sentences have a old-fashioned formal quality to them, often with an unusual order. To be honest, that could just be how you choose to write and I won't say it's wrong. In fact, I thought that the formal olden-day feel to your writing gave the story a sort of charm. It made me feel, in fact, that this story is not set in modern day 2014.


*Star* Strengths
The plot is simple but you give it so much depth by creating rounded characters. We don't have much of a physical description of either Rohan or Priyanka but we get an idea of their inner characters through their actions and words. I can imagine that for someone as shy as Rohan Priyanka's forthrightness must be quite scary (but possibly also quite thrilling).

It is also nice to have a friendship/relationship develop quite slowly, and how you've displayed it here is quite different to what I've been reading lately. I appreciated the fact there was no kissing or anything of that sort, even though it was clear attraction was felt by both parties.

As someone who has played badminton in the past I appreciated the 'action shots', especially Rohan served. Nitin received, lifted it high, and Priyanka shot it. I visualised this easily, and wished I was still playing now! I would like to have seen a little bit more of the action when Rohan and Priyanka first play though as the game is the background of this story.

Bits I liked a lot:

Priyanka came to him, and simply, without a pinch of reluctance, asked him if he could give her company for some snacks - the latter half of this sentence about the company is understandable though not strictly grammatical, however it's the pinch of reluctance I want to highlight. I'm not sure I've seen this phrase used before but it's really strong, shows without doubt that this girl is not shy at all. Nice use.

"By the way, my name is Priyanka, and do I have to ask for yours?" - more evidence that she isn't shy. I like her forthright way of speaking!

Money wasn't a problem to him, but he disliked people who did not respect their own words. - I like this way of talking about people who don't follow up their own words (or even actions). I never thought about it in terms of respecting themselves but it is quite true!

And it was these events which made him realise that his life without her was not very much more than a silent movie. - I love this way of describing a life without a friend (or lover) in it, without the friendly chatter.


*Apple* Suggestions and Questions
I would suggest you do check out some of the words you've used - especially apprehend and legitimate.

While he was just processing the situation, she apprehended his hesitation correctly - while apprehend could be said to be usable here I think most people would say it's not correct, thinking of it as arrest, detain, capture etc. You use the word a lot but I think you'd be better of (in this case at least) with something like appraise instead (evaluate, judge) which would still give you a lyrical quality to the sentence.

This was something off the usual Priyanka he knew, but was legitimate. I know what you mean - that Priyanka's reaction was authentic but 'legitimate' isn't really the word you want. I would actually be inclined to suggest you take off the last three words; they're not really needed here, as the sentence stands quite strongly without them.

I must admit once I realised the relationship between Priyanka and Nitin, I didn't then understand Nitin's earlier reaction of "Is she shy or what? She didn't heed us." Wouldn't he know why she ignored him?

He cut her off and with prudent intonation asked, "Why is it that he was your boyfriend?" - firstly, what do you mean by prudent intonation? And what is Rohan actually asking here? Is the emphasis on 'was' here, in finding out why the pair aren't together any more? (and you need 'off' there at the beginning, otherwise it looks like he physically cut her).

Priyanka and Rahul, the new champions, - you've suddenly changed the name of the male character (twice actually in this paragraph).


*Tree* Closing Comments
I liked this story. I did find that sometimes the language made it difficult to comprehend some sentences but a slower re-read always cleared that up. I did make some suggestions for wording changes, too, but overall I found your writing to be quite charming. And as I said, I like romance and badminton and enjoyed the combination here (especially with Priyanka taking charge). I'd love to see you write more on these two - such as when they come to defend their doubles title. Will they still be friends? Will they have developed their relationship?

In any case, I'm pleased to have read Game On and I hope you find something in this review that encourages you to keep writing onwards and upwards. Don't forget that I'm just one of thousands on here, so if you don't agree with something I've said don't worry too much about it (every reviewer will have something different to say!). Let me know if I need to clarify anything too.

Kindest regards,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
140
140
Review of The parcel  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi Alison

I was perusing the Noticing Newbies page and came across "The parcel. The title combined with the genre of 'mystery' was compelling, and so I read your short story and would like to offer a review. Just note that everything said is just my opinion, and I'm only one of thousands on here. You're the boss when it comes to your writing so ignore, accept or modify my comments as you see fit.


*Gifto* The Big Picture
I think you and I may have found the same prompt because I've written a short story recently that follows along this same route - an unexpected package arrival (mine's a locked box though) and a thoroughly unexpected item in the package. Funnily enough, mine was also a finger! I guess parcels and boxes bring out that sort of response in us. I'd rather jewelry too, just like your character.

Anyway, so I was hooked from the opening lines and using 'It' to describe the package just makes it all the more mysterious. Following on from the arrival, your character's reaction was intriguing. I would do the mental check too but then I'd probably sit it down and leave it. I would possibly be a bit too concerned to go about opening it! Your character was quite clinical, and cynical. When we reach the final lines we go back over the character's thoughts and actions and think holy cow, all that rattling and shaking was a finger. Ewwww. Not to mention, the box has been sitting around for two weeks! Quite aside from 'mystery' you've got a nice bit of horror to go on with.


*Gifto* Strengths
Short stories - especially those under 1000 words - can be difficult to write. Just because it's short doesn't mean you can skimp on a plot or a story arc. This little story doesn't skimp at all, and you've done it all under 500 words! The plot's clean and clear - a mysterious package arrives that eggs on a character to keep anticipation alive. The climax clears up the mystery and probably kills off any desire for anticipation at a later stage (probably also for ordering anything through the web!). The climax also pushes the reader to continue thinking about the story long after it's finished. Who's finger? Why was it sent to this woman? How the heck did no one notice a smell coming from the box? What happened to the son after he opened the box? You could write a sequel, you know.

I also like the humour here, though it's not obvious. Or maybe it is just me finding something funny in how the anticipation turned out.


*Gifto* Suggestions
I'm a bit confused about these two sentences: 'Whatever...I haven't ordered anything.' Teenage son with typical ego-centrical logic.

The sentence previous to these is a comment made by the character's husband, and I thought the speech here was her response. However, the latter sentence makes me think it's the son speaking - except why would he say this? Is he just making a comment? If so, it's a bit out of the blue and I'd suggest just leading it in a little more.

What a disappointment. The boy's patience had run out. - there's no previous indication that the son wanted his mum to open the package. The husband is not patient, however, so maybe he should have been the one to open the package? I'd also suggest putting 'obviously' in between 'patience' and 'had run out' here. At the moment, combined with what a disappointment it reads as if the disappointment is at the boy losing his patience. It probably is, but it reads almost mean. I feel like it's a disappointment that the box has been opened, rather than at the boy himself. Putting 'obviously' just makes that latter statement more fact-feeling than a judgement. Hmm, have I made sense here?


*Gifto* Closing Comments
I liked this little story, packed with wry humour, mystery and horror at the end. I especially liked seeing how someone else used that (probable) same prompt - sometimes I get stuck thinking that you can only write something one way, but it's so untrue! I love to see a sequel......

In any case, I hope you keep finding prompts to egg you on to writing (and entering those prompt-oriented contests - at which I think you'd do just fine). Don't forget to contact me if something hasn't made sense.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
141
141
Review of Dream On  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi Sing Me A Story

I found "Dream On on the "Please Review page and thought the genres combined with the log-line of This is just a dream was an intriguing hook. So I have taken a look and I offer up a little review for you (or, rather, a reader reaction).


*Blockv* The Big Picture
Your opening paragraph was really good, and I thought to myself that yes, sometimes I feel that way. Usually it's the best dreams that you get broken rudely out of; the nasty ones never get caught by the alarm clock!

The single-sentence second paragraph gives us the heads-up that this story is not going to be all sweet and lovely, but as I started reading I really had no idea of where the plot was heading. I liked that fact because it added suspense to the telling and, frankly, what dream or nightmare has ever followed a plot path!

Furthermore it wasn't until that final quarter of the story that we learn the real nightmare - that Celia's younger sister was hit and killed by a train. It appears to be Celia's guilt that is causing the nightmare - presumably she hadn't been able to pull her sister back in time or something like that. It makes the dream go from a mildly unpleasant and wacky dream to a very disturbing one, made more so because it is recurring and ends in different ways. The stress that must add to the dreamer is undeniable. The scary bit is that while Celia is dreaming, she knows she's dreaming. She knows she's stuck in a seemingly never-ending nightmare, and I almost got that feeling she was somehow dead too and suffering this nightmare as a sort of punishment.


*Blockv* Strengths
This may sound kind of odd but the major strength of this story - aside from the suspense - is that it really read like a dream. Random events, random settings, part memories, time travel, reality and fantasy blurring. To my mind, this was a perfectly written dream sequence and when nothing made sense that was perfectly fine because it's how dreams go.

The circular nature of the story heightens the scariness. For someone to have a recurring dream like this it must be exhausting - to know what they're going to dream and what the outcome is likely to be, to know they're going to suffer all the guilt and grief they've been suffering for years. And then to know they're all but forced too - it's enough to make anyone quite crazy.

You have multiple settings in this short story and each of them is nicely described. I'm a visual reader, imagining it all in my head as I go; and I was able to picture all of the different stores Celia and Trina visited, their dresses even so I felt like I was in the dream too. That's a strength here - the more the reader feels like they're involved, the better.

Your title's great too - it has the 'get real' meaning of dream on and also a dream onwards (i.e. recurring) meaning. Nice.


*Blockv* Suggestions
I'm sure someone would tell me off for making this suggestion but I think you could use contractions a little more. Some of the sentences feel quite stiff - At first, I did not realize I was dreaming. and She did not elaborate, and I did not feel the need to push the issue. are two examples. I doubt dreams care about being all polite and correct, and they are fairly colloquial beasts so didn't, couldn't, wouldn't - you won't kill this story if you have a few.


*Blockv* Closing Comments
I really liked the story; it lived up to its genres, had a complete story arc and yet still gave room for reader imagination (is Celia really dreaming or not?). I wish you all the luck getting this published.


Please don't hesitate to let me know if anything I've said needs clarifying!

Best wishes,
Os

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
142
142
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi Open thoughts

I was looking over the Noticing Newbies page and your short story caught my interest. Dentists and thriller/suspense go hand in hand for most people!! So I've just read "Trapped in Darkness., and I'd like to offer my thoughts.


Reader Thoughts
Back in my primary school days I don't recall fearing the dentist, though whenever I went I usually came out with a new filling. The fear, for me, was the fact that once I was out of the chair I'd have to go into another class and deliver a note to the teacher who'd direct the next victim on their way. Chronic shyness was worse than the dentist. These days I don't like going to the dentist because of the pain to the wallet!

However, I'm sure there are plenty of readers who'll totally sympathise with Johnny and start reliving their own nightmares during their reading.

I was somewhat confused, though, at who was in the dentist's chair. Firstly I read it as Johnny being in the chair, dreaming as he's under an anesthetic - since the darkness, the opening eyes lead me that way. But by the end I wasn't sure. It turned around to be as if Johnny has been relegated to the waiting room and it was his mother visiting the dentist. However, that sort of didn't make sense if I saw her as the one screaming and then suddenly telling her son that visiting the dentist wasn't so bad. And then... it seemed as if the woman with the dental gauze and the boy reaching for her weren't Johnny and his mum.

I might once have said that you really need to clear up all this confusion, but it actually kind of works! You intended to write something with a thriller/suspense theme, and you have. The plot can work in so many different ways and the reader may just end up as nervous as Johnny trying to figure out what's going on!


Strengths and Suggestions
As above, the confusion hinders and helps all in one and I'd call that a strength here. With the reader unable to quite figure out what's going on, you heighten the tension.

The rambling sentences equate to panicked thought, so even though some aren't really grammatically correct they fit with the story. No one in a panic cares about grammar!

I would recommend making the actual speech sections more clear. I understand that it's almost reported speech from Johnny's view but for reading clarity I'd suggest putting the speech either into italics or with speech marks. Something like: My mom with her Brooklyn lisp telling me, see Johnny the Dentist isn't so bad, is he?

The thoughts filling my mine - think you mean mind here, rather than mine. I would also take out 'the' as you never go on to say what the thoughts filling the mind actually do. Thoughts fill my mind would make that sentence more complete.

As my eyes began to focus I notice - you've written this story in the present tense (which strengthens the panic and fear) so began here really should be begin.

Your opening sentence immediately hooks the reader. And it's not until some time later we realise it's all about a dentist (nice suspense). The final lines give us the outcome, tie the story's plot into a tidy end. However, I think the ! is out of place here - it cuts the last sentence in half, making the final words incomplete (and almost the opposite of Johnny's decision). How about: With a sigh of relief I responded to my mom that it was nothing. But I swore to myself that day, I would never go to a dentist again. I've put the but in there because otherwise the response that it was nothing is totally negated by the final decision and it reads weirdly. The 'but' tells us Johnny's being brave to his mother all the while feeling the opposite.


Closing Comments
An intriguing little story, written to exact serious suspense and panic. And when the reader realises a dentist's involved it's likely to cause memories of their own visits - both in terms of being the 'victim' and in being the one waiting outside while someone else is the 'victim'.

Keep up with your writing, and I look forward to reading more in the future. Don't hesitate to question anything I've said. I'm only one reader among thousands on here and you'll find everyone's got their own opinions! Take or leave suggestions and comments as you see fit.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
143
143
Review of Legacy  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Hi Jeff

I've just read "Legacy, and am reviewing it as part of my irregular reviews for "Red Wedding updating .


*Tree*Reader Impressions
Carl Sagan is right; reading is a form of time travel and the quote works perfectly with your story line. Did the quote act as the prompt for this story? If not, you couldn't have found a better fit!

When reading the first couple of paragraphs - immersed in a world of swords, regents and the Outer Realm - I kind of agreed with the narrator. The book seemed a rather out of place gift. But I came to learn just as the narrator did that the written word was just as powerful. To be honest, I didn't expect it to be a journal but actually something like a spell-book or even a book of tales (though, not quite sure why the latter) so this was a nice hook, something that kept me reading to see how the story ended.

Legacy is not only a short story but a lesson to be learned - in any age! We are so very quick to jump on the bandwagon of new and exciting things, forgetting how blissfully happy we were without them not so long ago. Here I am typing on a laptop, hooked to the web. Though I do write my stories pencil on paper, when was the last time I sent real mail? Or frankly, phoned someone? And when the internet goes down we all panic. We could all take a leaf out of your narrator's book!!


*Star*Strengths
I'm not sure readers like being taught truths these days, so I very much think a strength of this story is that the lesson snuck upon the reader. Socked out of the blue, the reader is more likely to go hmmm, yeah, you're talking some sense here, and hopefully go forth in learned splendor.

I really like first-person narrators and to me that was a good choice for this story. Thoughts and feelings are more personal, and the lesson learned strikes home more strongly. The character's colloquial yet miffed story-telling is so what I'd expect of a young man expected to go on a pretty serious journey with a book, when his comrades are getting weapons. He is that classic son finding out that his father actually does know best.


*Apple*Suggestions
That first sentence of the third paragraph is a serious beast at 97 words long. Even with the comma breaks, you need concentration to get through. My first pass consisted of me leaving out the bracketed and hyphened sections. Once I got the gist of the sentence I read it again with those sections added. I wouldn't suggest losing any of the information, because it is very interesting, but is there some way of cutting the sentence in two? I had thought something like: I had tried to convince my mother and father to send my good for nothing younger brother Gaius in my place. However, after hearing... That's pretty basic, I know, but (well, to me) it doesn't really change the sense and does give the reader's brain a bit of help. Then again, maybe it was just this reader with the issues!

I know this is a short story but I thought that the battles through the Outer Realm didn't get enough page time. There was a long lead-up, decent telling of the first 'battle' and night in the keep but the rest of the year's worth of travels in the Outer Realm was relegated to half a paragraph. It almost felt like a long story that's ended in a dream sequence, a quick fix. But I guess that's the only way you can get to the end and deliver the lesson learned/moral of the story. On the other hand, I wasn't at all bothered by the jump in years to when the narrator is having his turn at being considered senile by his son!


*Quill*The Technical Side
I usually comment here on things that stopped my reading flow. I would possibly put that long third paragraph sentence here except for the fact that I wasn't puzzled by it, I was just exhausted by it.

Still, three of us wouldn't even make it to the keep alive, and I noticed – with more sadness than I had anticipated – that I sincerely hoped Lord Damara's third son would succeed where his brothers had failed. - without the hyphened section this reads I noticed that I sincerely hoped... Well, it's nice that he notices his sincere hope but I expect that's not quite what you meant here?

Still, I'm sure the skirmish proved the point they were hoping to make; - 99% if the time this story is past tense. I wouldn't call the present I'm wrong but it sticks out here.


In any case, a nice story with a good lesson that everyone should learn! Well told, easy to read, and totally enjoyable. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **
144
144
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi G. B. Williams

I was checking out the items on the Please Review page and your poem "The Sun Peeps Through all but yelled at me to read it. I'll tell you why. Where I live, we have really only had four or five dry days in the last four weeks. And by 'dry' I don't necessarily mean sunny. It's absolutely hosing down even now as I write this. I'm so sick of the rain (and it's very heavy combined with a driving wind) that I'm just like you in your second last stanza. I think someone has forecast a fine (sunny) weekend for us but I won't believe that until afterwards.

So anyway, I thought I'd offer you a review. I'm generally not a poetry writer, so I may come at this more as a reader rather than any sort of poetry critique-r (though I am learning).


*FlowerR* Reader Impressions
Well, as you already know, this poem rather loudly spoke to me and frankly when I read it I was overcome with jealously. We've all but forgotten what the sun looks like here! Your final stanza gives me some hope.

In this poem you've made the sun the 'weaker' environmental personality (if I remember the word I'm after I'll come back and change it!). And when you've been dealing with days on end, the sun really does appear the weaker. If it was strong, it'd burn off those clouds and dry up that rain. But the sun can also be seen as you (or even as me) - we're hiding away in our houses keeping dry. We might sprint out to the letter box but we scuttle back quickly. Next time we may be out for longer, and finally we realise we're born to be outside and out we go and all is good in the world again. I don't know if you've noticed this phenomenon but the moment we have a sunny day after days/weeks of rain the streets and squares are full of people as if they've come out from hibernation (just like: A picture of happiness and living large.). The places aren't even that full when we get days of sun on end!

And I agree with you - the appearance of the sun can do wonders.


*FlowerR* Tone and Mood
I'm still learning about tone and mood in poetry - what you felt when you wrote, what I felt when I read. You can probably tell what I felt from the above. I think if I were writing this I'd be all doom and gloom and it'd be quite clear, but I found it a little hard to tell that you'd been suffering so long. The language is really quite upbeat - hesitant in terms of the sun's actions, but upbeat nonetheless. It's not really until Changing everything including me who was feeling so blue. that I realise the lack of sun has had consequences.

One thing I did notice was that the rain doesn't really have a face in this poem. You talk of mist and cloudy and overcast, but the rain itself only shows up in the final stanza. It's almost as if the issue has been the lack of sun rather than the abundance of rain causing the lack of sun. Maybe the rain wasn't as evil to you as it currently is to me.


*FlowerR* Rhyme, Form and Flow
If I'm attempting poetry it's almost always non-rhyming. My brain just isn't good enough to write poetry and rhyme at the same time. However, I love reading rhyming poetry because it helps get me into a solid reading cadence, which somehow makes the poetry easier to understand and to visualise. And to visualise the sky being ablaze and the sun in charge was very, very nice.

However, I couldn't quite get the first stanza into the same cadence as the other six. At first I thought it was their length tripping me up but further reads-out-loud make me suggest it's the morning in the second line. To me it blows out the flow (quite besides being a repeat). Reading that line without morning made that line read more smoothly (for me at least).


*FlowerR* Punctuation, Grammar and Other Things
I tend to not make any comments regarding punctuation in poetry as I feel it's a genre where you can make the rules. Grammar goes much the same way. Other Things for me are bits and pieces that stood up and interrupted my reading flow or irked me. All personal opinions of a non-poet of course!

Besides the morning in the first stanza's second line, the one other thing that niggled a bit was the three uses of peeped and one of peeping. Yes, the sun is known for peeping but having the adjective used so many times in a short poem was quite distracting. On the other hand it lends a refrain to the poem. What a sight to see as the sun peeped through. - is there a chance of changing this peeped to perhaps peeked or even speared (the latter being suggested since the sun was earlier emboldened to cut through the haze; speared kind of gives it that battle-winner type feel).


They say that misery loves company, so part of me was happy to find a fellow blue-weather-sufferer. And it's nice to be reminded that the nasty weather isn't permanent. Finally, that last line says a lot about humans too. We don't remain the same. I hate the rain right now but I bet once I've had two weeks of full-on sun and my plants are dying I'll hate the sun. We are as fickle as the sun and rain.

So I'm going to end this before I get seriously off topic. *Smile* Thank you for writing this poem and putting it up for others to read. I enjoyed it.


Very kind regards,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1988792 Unavailable **

"Red Wedding updating
145
145
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with P.E.N.C.I.L.  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi D I Harrison

I was perusing the items under Read a Newbie and since I have a fascination with all things Japanese lately the title and log-line of your piece intrigued me. I just had to have a look, and now I want to offer a review of "The Hiroshima Bowl.

I'm not really a dabbler in poetry myself so this review will be coming from a reader's point of view rather than a fellow poet's!


*FlowerR*Personal Impressions
I liked this poem a lot. It almost feels wrong to say that given the overarching subject but I like the way you've dealt with it through an inanimate object. The bowl kind of reminds me of all the objects found at Pompeii after it was buried with lava and ash from the volcano. The people all died but objects from their daily lives remained and they carry so much weight with them now. They are like physical ghosts, certainly reminders of what used to be. And, of course, they're physical reminders of what happened.

To fire ceramics with glaze
the kiln must reach temperatures
of 1300o Centigrade,
- I thought this was brilliant. It's delivered as cold, hard fact; almost as if a recorded voice is reading out instructions. For me it was also a good 'break' between the bowl sitting in the cupboard after the first firing and what comes next.

I would defy anyone who says the last stanza isn't the most powerful part of this poem. It critiques humanity in so many ways (the ease of which a deadly bomb was dropped on one nation by another, the monetary value we put on disasters (have you seen how much Titanic memorabilia goes for?)). This double-fired, coagulated bowl with its shabby ten a yen blooms symbolises those deaths. For me anyway. I might be rambling here but I actually don't know how to put into proper words how much this poem digs into one's psyche.


*FlowerR* Tone and Mood (Emotional Impact)
Tone and Mood are still things I'm learning about in poetry but it does feel to me that perhaps you and I are/were feeling much the same thing as you wrote and I read. This is not a happy poem at all and nothing about how it's written tries to deny that. Even the blooms on the bowl itself aren't particularly 'happy'.

I totally don't know if you thought about the words as you wrote, and put them down so they illustrated the mood but it seems that way to me.


*FlowerR* Rhyme, Form and Flow
There's no rhyme in this poem and I think that makes it all the more beautifully stark. This is fact, not fantasy. And, you know, I also like the fact that it almost reads like a short non-fiction prose piece melded into a poetic sort of format. Again, I think that works with your subject. You describe the bowl in a poetic way but the bomb itself and the last stanza - no pretty words, just statements. You don't take anything away from the nasty facts, you don't hide behind flowery words.


*FlowerR* Grammar and Punctuation
In poetry, for me at least, pretty much anything goes, but there were a couple of things that tripped up my reading flow or seemed a little odd. Take my comments as you see fit because they are simply the comments of just one reader.

Thrown, fired somewhen in the thirties,
A cheap bowl is inside a workaday
Bamboo cupboard; it’s white, burnt
- firstly, I in fact like somewhen but others might tell you it's just not English. Some time is possibly a better set of words if you were so inclined. Secondly, is in the second line felt redundant if I were in a poetic mood, but I'd much rather see something like lies, resides or hides... - some other verb of being in the cupboard. Thirdly, it's white, burnt took me several readings to get that burnt belonged to Sienna in the line below. I'd suggest either putting 'burnt' on that line, or changing 'it's white' to something like white body, just to avoid confusion.

Dropped out sunny clear sky, exploding - I think you need 'of the' after out in this line.

– the bowl is unpriceable. - I know what you mean by unpriceable but I wonder if this might read slightly better as invaluable. It would go better with the 'valueless' at the start of this stanza. Unpriceable and invaluable can be taken to mean different things, though, so it's only a suggestion.



You might have noticed the lovely House Frey banner below. Just in case you think I'm odd, let me tell you why. I've signed up to the massive "Red Wedding updating contest and I belong to House Frey, with a bunch of others from P.E.N.C.I.L. (They/we review novels on WDC so if you're ever in the market for that do give us a call). All reviewing that the teams do over the month of May counts towards House points if we include the Banner. *Smile* You can also 'cheer' for us if you like our reviews; just go to the GoT link and follow the 'rules'.

I want to thank you for putting this poem up on WDC for us to read. It's very thought provoking. Do contact me if you need clarification on anything I've written.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

** Image ID #1920907 Unavailable **
146
146
Review of alice 2  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Hi peedee37 !

Thank you very much for requesting a review of "alice 2. I am in fact really honoured that I've been asked.

Since I wasn't sure if you were after anything in particular, I've written this largely from a reader's point of view. Things I liked, didn't like, queried... It's all just my opinion and suggestions, of course, so feel free to accept, modify or ignore at your will.


*Tree*The Big Picture
Doesn't matter what kind of story a person writes, the opening lines have to catch the reader's attention. They're like the cover, which we're not supposed to judge but do. Alice was twelve and a half and suddenly self-aware is a nice hook. My first thoughts after that were 'how?' and 'what was she doing prior to becoming this way?' I found that the first question was answered pretty much by the body of the story - Alice's thoughts and reactions to her emerging puberty/teenage years. And by the time we reach the end we've had plenty of evidence for why she hates school and wishes it would disappear from the planet.

When I read this story for the first time from a print out, I missed the 'genre' selections you had made. Therefore when I got to the end and found that what Alice had wished for had come to fruition, I thought 'this is a good little horror story'. I'm glad I thought it since I then read online and found you had given in a 'dark' genre. The way you hold the twist right until the end is appealing. I'm of the belief these days that a good horror/scary/dark story lulls the reader into a sense of calm before delivering BAM right at the end. Yours does this; we get no glimpse whatsoever what's going to happen and I like that. So, you delivered an intriguing opening line and closed with a strong punch.

I do have some reservations over using an actual disaster. I Googled Aberfan because it was so out of place in your story and found the Wikipedia article on the disaster. Each to their own, of course, and it may have been back in 1966 but when you're dealing fiction to a real event you need to be careful and respectful. 1966 isn't the distant past and because the disaster involved the deaths of over 100 children you could run the risk of upsetting someone who was involved or related to someone who was involved. Well, I don't know of course if you were but it seems to me that people who were involved have more 'right' to write about it (and can get away with certain things) than those who weren't. Two years ago next week we lost over 150 people in an earthquake here in New Zealand. Even though that's a huge number it's not big enough to be able to write in a fictional character or events. I'd get torn to shreds if I made up something about it - especially if I gave a 'reason' for the earthquake, as you have here for the disaster.

I'm not saying 'change it' but just be aware of what you might be creating by including Aberfan in this story.


*Screw*The Nuts and Bolts

Setting
The setting is rather all over the place and I never got a stable sense really of where the story was. I presume that St Cuthbert's is a school in London, but then we're also briefly in Dublin, at another hairdresser's in Putney and then we hear about a school in Wales. It's really choppy and I think you need to spend a little bit of time settling down the setting. Since St Cuthbert's is the bigger part of the story for Alice, I would recommend focusing on given details about it - parts of it that might have been entrapped in Alice's memory (such as the classroom where the girls are sniffing her hair). Make it visual for the reader so that we're there with Alice.

Setting is also time-frame. Because you're using a real disaster, so must you use the real date - 1966. There is nothing in this story that gives us a sense of time and in fact I read it as 'present day' and with the thought that it was entirely fiction (until I used internet wizardry). You could bring the settings more to life by illustrating the time period - clothing, hair styles, etc (noting that the old-fashioned hairdryer which seemed to come half-way over her head is still to be found today).

The Character of Alice O'Neill
Alice is our narrator and it is through her that we see and hear how others act and react, the bullying that goes on, the snobbiness of the old ladies getting their hair done etc. We get evidence for why she hates school but we don't actually know a lot about her. Seeing more of her own reactions and thoughts would give strength to her hatred of school and her dire wish at the end. There is also little means of allowing a reader to picture Alice so she comes across as a shadow (well, this works if you're going for the dark sort of story but I'm not sure that's quite your plan here). At the very least describe Alice's hair - colour, texture, length. It seems to be a big part of the story but all we know about it is that it's greasy.

she created quite a scene in the hairdressers. - Illustrate how she did this as it would give more meat to the ladies' upturned noses about who is better raised!

As the narrator she is pretty much your be-all-and-end-all, and needs to act like it.


Climax
Before I found out about Aberfan, I was going to make mention that if Alice had wished for a school to have been covered I'd have expected it to be St Cuthbert's (again, fiction so you have free-reign). Therefore, Aberfan confused me. But then I re-read the sentence and Alice actually wishes for something to happen on any old school. That, of course, enables you to bring in fact.

Despite what I have said above, using a real disaster does make the story a whole bunch more chilling. It gives power to the darkness that is in Alice and makes the reader go on to wonder about her reaction and what other things she might try.


*Wind*Strengths and Suggestions
I think the main strength of this story is the way the ending completely blind-sides the reader. Real disaster or not, the reader doesn't see this coming. It's also quite poignant that Alice's miserable early teens have led her to make this sort of wish. It probably mirrors wishes of a huge number of children over the years, which means you've got a general story line (and character) than people can relate to.

Besides your very first line, which I rather quite liked, I thought I'd bring out a few others here that are really expressive:

They had taken to sniffing at her hair and giggling. - It is very easy to visualise, and made me uncomfortable too. To have someone behind you pick up your hear and sniff it and giggle must be absolutely horrible. We know Alice dreads the girls and it's easy to see why with this very simply showing.

He pranced about on either leg, his face contorted with hate. - The reader easily imagines Enright prancing around, hopping from one leg to the other. One can imagine him pulling faces and poking his finger at her as he's calling her Dummy.

Closer, and his poster could be seen, proclaiming in bold, black letters against white: TIP ENGULFS SCHOOL AT ABERFAN. - If this is one of the actual headings from 1966 then it's all the more powerful but I like that way you described the poster - black on white. Stark and colourless, irrefutable - just like the disaster the words proclaim and also possibly a description of Alice's shock when she read it (of course, that's the reader projecting that onto her). As a final sentence it's like hitting a brick wall; the reader hasn't expected it but can't get away from the fact that something happened and Alice may or may not be at fault.


My biggest suggestion is probably rather major to you - reorder all the bullying/reactions by 'person'. You've got adults, girls and boys as the three 'persons' who give Alice grief. The discussion/thoughts with the counsellor when she is thirteen is pretty similar to those thoughts in the paragraph about Miss Perrot. I don't see any reason why you couldn't combine them in a 'Alice had trouble working out the adults....' kind of theme, which flows onto the boys and being pretty (including Enright's actions here), which flows onto the girls who judge her.

And since hair takes up about a quarter of this story, I think the paragraphs about it could be tidied too - how she hates having her hair done, how she is teased, even how her mother is offended by the ladies in Dublin and the Putney hairdresser.

Putting the judging girls and the hair at the end leads onto her 'I hate school' moment and flows nicely into the climax.

And a question for you: why did Alice's heart sink and her hopes turn to dust at the hairdresser's? We don't know why her heart was high or what her hopes were. Did she want to be bald so the girls wouldn't sniff her hair? You need to explain this or cut both of these bits out because they don't add anything as they stand. (Keeping them in without explanation will only get you niggly readers like me questioning you *Smile*)

I'm just including a few specific suggestions regarding some sentences:

Miss Perrot,, it was said, came from Africa {although she was white} and was a protestant {although it was a catholic school, Jewish and protestant teachers were not unknown.} - I think you could take out both sets of {} phrases. Being African doesn't necessarily mean you're black, even in the 60s, and the different religions in the school really has nothing to do with the story.

.Her mother said she almost went through the ground. - This is in response to the ladies saying obviously the Brits are not raised so well. Do you mean that she wished the ground would swallow her because she was embarrassed? If so, then I think you need to state that because this sentence construct is really quite odd and doesn't make a lot of sense.

Alice was confused. She did not think she had fleas. What meant this sudden attention?
She said to her mother: "Can I get my hair cut?"
- The question in the first line doesn't sound right in a twelve-and-a-half-year-old's voice. Something like Alice was confused. She didn't think she had fleas so didn't know why the girls were showing her so much attention. That's not exactly brilliant either but it narrates at her level (and makes those three sentences a little less bullet-point feel in their reading. I've put the second row in because I'd suggest turning this into direct speech: She went home and asked if she could get her hair cut. (Now, this is just me; I really hate the she said+speech format unless it really calls for it, instead preferring my 'she said' after the speech.)

"No," said Alice. {She didn't want to appear conceited.} - The latter doesn't need to be in brackets, simply use a construct like 'said Alice, not wanting...'

She retrieved it, but she knew in her heart that the other girls would never again allow her to wear it.
"I will never be able to wear my beret again," she thought sadly.
- Alice's thought just repeats what she knows in her heart. Delete one of them because the repetition grates.


*Quill*The Technical Side
By technical side I mean grammar, spelling etc - basically things that stopped my reading flow. Your second paragraph stopped it pretty majorly. It's incredibly messy compared to the rest of the work. Please put in capital letters at the beginning of sentences. It is in fact extraordinarily difficult to read without them as it actually also makes punctuation difficult to read.

Alice did not like ging to the hairdressers very much. - doing rather than ding.

Although the boys and girls led a separate existence in school, thet had to share a classroom. - they rather than thet.

She wentto her bedroom and wept. - went to rather than wentto.


*Tree*Closing Comments
Overall, I liked this story. I do think the layout could be tidied up to make it more coherent, with some of the sentences amalgamated to make them less choppy. The ending still steals the show (and it would whether you used Aberfan or a made-up disaster) because it's unexpected and provides a very nice plot twist. I've been trying to think what it felt like to reach that point, and I've now decided it's rather like someone stepping up out of the blue and slapping you across the face then walking off; leaving you to try and gather your senses and get over the shock.


In any case, I hope you find something helpful in this review. Do let me know if you have any queries or if you'd preferred I focus on some other aspect. I'm always happy to re-review at a later date.


Best wishes,
Osirantinous

PDG Jr Leader Review Sig, created by the wonderful Hannah
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Review of A Helping Hand  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi Charlie ~ thx anon !

I was looking through the requests on "Please Review and found your short crime story "A Helping Hand. I rather liked it so I thought I'd go ahead and complete a review for you from my reader-point-of-view. What I've written is just my single opinion out of so many on this site, so feel free to accept, modify or totally ignore anything I say and/or suggest!


*Tree*First Impressions
I thought this was, in general, a nice tight story. You've got a start which impressively puts us off the scent of what the story is really about. This means we're like 'oooooh' when we hit the scene of Mike wringing his hands and staring at the wall, and probably we know what he's done before Rob cottons onto it. There's the whole 'I'm your brother' guilt trip and we then come to the action which is hinted at in your log-line. The ending is magnificent and righteous, just as you say.


*Screw*The Nuts and Bolts

Imagery
I'm quite a visual reader, meaning that I like show over tell because I can picture events, scenery, characters in their 3D glory. Each reader's different, of course, so what I say here is just my opinion.

We probably don't need a good set of imagery for Mike's apartment because there's not a lot of action here. The bathroom's a different matter. It's where Mike and Rob's world has gone haywire but the description is very clinical, almost non-real. Do the girls stay with their father on occasion? If so, would they have some bath toys or other effects in the bathroom? It would make the whole unveiling of Mike's deed all the more terrible if kids' toys were scattered about. Just as making the shower curtain some pattern rather than clear. It gives us a little bit more to visualise, makes the scene more gruesome (though, of course, you're not writing a horror story here so you would be writing a fine line).

When we're in the woods, it is night so we're not likely to see a great deal. In fact the only thing we really know is that the earth is frozen solid because it's November. You could show the temperature a bit more - are they stamping their feet? Are they flexing fingers to keep them from stiffening? Are they billowing steam when they talk? These would be just a few extra things to remind us what Mike and Rob's environment is like, so we'd get that 3D visualisation of the scene.

Since A Helping Hand is narrated in the first person, we don't get a strong image of Rob - besides the fact he's 25 and over six foot tall. He has been married (six years?), and I got the feeling he really wanted a child. We know more of Mike - and your description of his successful/unsuccessful life is really wonderful. I don't know, however, that you've explained why he hasn't been the same since the divorce. We later hear he continuously fights with his ex-wife but we don't really know why, nor do we get any sense of what Rose was like. If we did, both might help explain why Mike tipped over the edge in the final argument. And they might (or might not) make the reader more inclined to give him a bit of the benefit of doubt as to his actions.

Plot and Plot Fuel
Overall your plot and the fuel that drives it is clear and succinct, and it moves through very nicely to the end.

However, when I read the story through a second time the first paragraph, about Rob's own troubles, started to feel a little out of place because it never goes anywhere afterwards. I said above that it's a great 'screen' for the real action. It is also the 'reason' for Rob ending up at his brother's but I think you might need to reorganise it a bit so it doesn't stand out quite so much. You could amalgamate part of it with the second paragraph - starting out with something like My brother and I were a mess in our relationships..... etc etc etc.

The Great Moral Dilemma
You've got two great moral dilemmas in this story, which lend themselves to being 'themes'. The first is - would you help someone in this situation? And the second is - what would you do to help your family (on the premise that blood is thicker than water)? I know you're writing a short story here but it would have been interesting to delve further into these questions. Rob justifies his help, I think, by the fact that if he doesn't Mike will kill him too. Is he then helping his brother because he's blood, or is he helping because his own life is at fault? And if it's the latter, does that justify his helping cover up a murder? Your story might be about how a helping hand goes too far but it's also poetic justice that Rob is found 'red-handed' by the officer. There are consequences, no matter what. Actually, as I write this it seems to be that this is simply a conundrum that would make you somewhat nuts as you tried to sort it out!

A good twist for the reader above and beyond the story itself.


*Wind*Strengths
One of the main strengths of this story it its compact arc. Your telling is succinct; you don't give any fluff.I know I suggested some embellishment to your 'telling' but I don't think that would have any detrimental affect on the story as it stands.

Your dialogue is also strong, believable in the situations and fitting in with what we know of Mike and Rob. Rob's drunk and pumped up on his near miss; his speech is a rambling monologue, with a sense of pride thrown in. Mike's clipped sentences show his shock, as do the occasional bits of repetition (such as “We have to torch it. That’s it. We have to torch her in her car.”). I love the use of 'man' in a lot of Rob's speech; very colloquial and it is far better than using something like God or Lord in this context.

I think the climax of this short story is in fact one of the best I've read lately. Oddly, it is almost comical though I'm pretty sure you didn't intend that. The two brothers are arguing about how to dispose of a body in the dead of night and then the officer appears on the scene without warning to end everything they were trying to do. And it creates a perfect circle with the story's log-line about a helping hand going too far.


*Quill*Suggestions
There was one major thing I couldn't quite comprehend - the tense/time-frame. Right up to the point where Mike is saying that Rose has been a thorn in his side I thought this was a present-tense story - telling as we go. But then there comes two paragraphs where Rob is apparently looking back on the event (an 'if I knew then what I know now' moment) and they broke my flow. If this is a story being told by Rob while he's sitting in jail (or elsewhere) you should make that clear from the outside. If it's not, then you should probably take out that first 'past' paragraph as well as the first sentence of the second one.

I do have a couple of specific suggestions for some of your sentences. These are just my thoughts, remember, but they affected my reading flow so I mention them here.

I moved in with my older brother, Mike, who had been divorced years before and hadn’t been the same since. - the suggestion here would be to simply swap the order of the final half of the sentence: I moved in with my older brother, Mike, who hadn’t been the same since his had been divorced years before and .

I guess it wouldn’t be fair for me to say that for a few more years though. - I would be inclined to delete this sentence. It doesn't actually add anything to the story.

She looked so frail there, so weak and helpless. - Your previous sentence is past tense talking about a past event. This sentence would fit just a little better if it were She'd looked so frail, so weak and helpless. Ie, keeping it a past tense event too.


*Tree*Closing Comments
Overall, I really liked this story. A terrible event, of course, we can't pretend not to notice that but the story is strong, the characters believable, and the end really, really good. And as I mentioned above, the reader starts thinking what they might do in this situation, so you've got the reader fully involved too.


Thanks for putting this story up on the review request page and letting us read and review. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any queries about anything I've written. And most importantly, keep writing. You're good at it!

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

PDG Jr Leader Review Sig, created by the wonderful Hannah
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Review of Leaving home  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi geniusgal

I found "Leaving home on "Please Review and was intrigued by your request. Harsh reviews are indeed the most helpful, so I apologise in advance for falling short there. I don't think your poem warrants a harsh review at all.

Does it help that I'm jealous of you for two things? 1. you've been here at WDC for ages and 2. you had the guts to be here when you were so young (Not that you're old now! BTW think you need to update your bio unless you're going with the forever-sixteen theme *Smile*)


*Tree*Starting Thoughts
As someone who used to get horrendously homesick just staying next door I can fully understand the wrench you feel/felt when you left home. Your whole life is there and you have to let it go in order to continue on with your life. Your poem comes across almost like the 'life flashing before your eyes' sort of moment. I thought it was made extra poignant by the fact you were holding (I presume) your mum's hand and have to let that go as much as the memories. I imagine she had much the same thoughts in her head!


*Star*Strengths
The main strength of this poem is that it reads just like rushing thoughts, a list of feelings, thoughts and tangible memories. And then it comes to a halt in the final stanza where you take a breath and move on.

There's a couple of lines I especially loved:

Stepping into the ruthless world, | away from my comfort zone; - a very simple statement of where you're going and where you've been. It also gives insight into that little bit of fear/insecurity such a change brings. I was lucky to live at home while I was at university but I still had these feelings when I moved away later.

the pinching, the annoying, the playing tag, - Funny how the most annoying things of your childhood (usually involving siblings) become treasured memories. It probably happens to most of us, and I like that it did for you (and even the chores too!)


*Apple*Suggestions
I'm only going to make a couple of suggestions regarding some odd wording and punctuation because mostly I don't feel the body needs to change much. Apologies if it looks quite like nitpicking!

There are a couple of places where you have a double space between words. Not a grammatical error of course but it is distracting. Oh well, it is to me.

Turning back,
I took a last glance
of the place the where I grew up,
made memories, moulded myself
where I loved and was loved..


Your first stanza has one of those double spaces (between Turning and back) but I also want to comment on a couple of other things here. The third line of the place the where I grew up, has an extra 'the' between place and where. However, you could emphasise your setting by putting a comma after 'place', where the place and the where are two ways of saying the same thing: of the place, the where I grew up. No matter what you do here, I think the 'of' needs to be 'at'. You're glancing at something, not of something.

where I loved and was loved.. and a wave of nostalgia washes over me.. I don't think you need the elipses here (the ..); these would be better as simple hard endings to the stanzas (first and fourth). On the other side, it does work for the final stanza, though I'd add a third . before and after and hers, as an elipsis is usually three dots. Two just looks like you added an extra full stop in error.

And for the sake of consistency, watch what you have capitalised in each stanza. The format looks like it's simply the first word in each stanza (beyond the first which includes I) so Stepping (second stanza) and The pillow (fourth) kind of jump out.


*Tree*Ending Thoughts
I'm not a poet but I can at least tell you how this poem made me feel. It brought back a lot of memories (not always a leaving-home sort but also a total-change sort) which I've never put to paper and frankly don't think I could, not in the wonderfully encompassing and heart-felt way you have. This is a really nice poem and it feels odd to apologise for not being harsh, but there it is.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read and review Leaving. I'd like to see a couple of poems down the track once you're settled into college and even made your first visit home. Would be interesting to see if the memories in this poem are the same in a later visit.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification regarding my comments.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

PDG Jr Leader Review Sig, created by the wonderful Hannah
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Review of PK Chapter 1  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi SylphLuna !

I was looking over the "Please Review page and spotted "PK Chapter 1. I thought your quest for a review on your first item was really brave and I hope what I have written here encourages you to keep writing and to keep requesting reviews.

Like blurbs on the back of a book, the brief description we give to our items should work as a hook. Yours did two-fold for me because I love vampire stories and my educational background is Classical Studies. I'm mostly an art and history gal these days, but I enjoy my mythology too. Vampires + ancient Greece? Yee ha.


*Tree*First Impressions
Well, vampires + ancient Greece hook me so I'm a fan straight off. And it doesn't matter in this early chapter if the vampire part of your story hasn't actually happened. Some might tell you to remove that part of the description while it's extraneous. I won't. For me, knowing the story of Pandora and her jar, the promise of vampires has me intrigued as to how you'll weave them into this well-known myth. Is it Pandora who becomes the vampire? How does it happen? Who 'creates' her? In the myth, hope is in Pandora's jar but what if it's something seriously worse? This opening chapter creates a lot of mystery that should keep readers hungering for further.

And your final paragraphs pack a punch - literally, an explosion! It's generally known that Pandora opens the jar (or box) because she can no longer contain her curiosity (you spelled this out with Who gives someone a box and then tells them not to open it? That kind of order just begs to be disobeyed). But you've given us another view - Pandora uses the threat of opening as a warding-off tool to Epimetheus who is sexually harassing her. In the myth Pandora doesn't really have a mind of her own but you are making it clear that in this version of the myth, Pandora has her own will and strength; she isn't a tool of the gods. And, of course, the explosion is a gripping climax. Has everyone been killed? Was it something in the box that exploded? Was there a trip-wire on the box, causing the explosion because it was opened? A closing hook is every bit as valuable as an opening one.


*Screw*The Nuts and Bolts

Setting
I've read a lot of books that place myths and heroes in a modern context (Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is a prime example). However, I can't actually tell from the small descriptive details whether you have chosen to do the same or are actually in ancient Greece, despite mentioning ancient Greece in your description. I say this because at the time of Pandora and the titan brothers, man-kind didn't have things easy. Remember that Prometheus had only just given man fire. Writing wasn't really a known, yet you've got Pandora entering into a journal. We can do anything with fantasy of course but you're combining myth with presumably a non-fantasy Greece so you just need to think about when in time this story starts, and how people in that time (even titans, gods and heroes) live. As always, don't have a character flicking a light switch if electricity hasn't quite been invented yet *Smile*.

A setting shouldn't take over your story but you might consider giving a few lines for context (or you could get more sticklers like me questioning just how things fit together).

Plot and Plot Fuel
In choosing a myth as the backbone of your story you've got a ready-made plot. Epimetheus marries Pandora against the advice of his brother. Pandora has a jar (or box) and lets loose evils on man-kind. All this comes to pass because Prometheus helped out man-kind and the gods were miffed about it.

Using an established myth can create all sorts of issues, though; especially for those who hate to see them diverted from their original lines. But myths are made for diverting; in fact myths always have several versions anyway, so I hope you never worry that you're bolting away from the original story. You're creating an original story.

I think the biggest task you'll have is weaving the intended vampire blood into this existing plot and giving me (the reader) something that makes me go 'wow'. I've already mentioned how my interest is peaked simply by vampires and ancient Greece together, but I'll still need something special to keep me believing in this alternative world and wanting to be part of it. You are, no doubt, already thinking far ahead, but I see this story almost as starting in our present and then going back and forth between the present and the past of Pandora's life (presuming, of course, that she does become a vampire). Goodness, that's presumptuous of me to suggest how to continue your plot! Apologies, but I really can't wait to see how you carry this one onward.

Characters
Pandora and Epimetheus are existing characters in the mythical/story world. Not much is known about them other than Epimetheus stands for man's lack of thought and Pandora for (woman's) lack of self-control. And, of course, her releasing evil on man-kind. Ha, a side issue.

I like that Pandora comes across as having her own will. In this story she is human, in the myth she is just a tool. She has fighting spirit and also shows a certain helplessness - a nice combination because you don't want your protagonist to be perfectly one thing or the other. Pandora has strengths and she has flaws, and all through it you've kept her well-known curiosity. One thing though, I think you need to clarify the six-weeks-old bit. At first I wondered if you'd put in weeks when you meant something else. I'm pretty sure you simply mean that Pandora was created (as a fully grown woman) only six weeks ago, but to the initiated that's an unknown and they'll go whaaaaaaaat? A simple explanation will clear that up.

Epimetheus is a titan - he's large, he's powerful. The fact he has an office makes me imagine him as an executive in a pin-striped power suit. I think you might have some difficulty persuading readers to see him in any other light but, then again, I don't think he needs to be shown in any other manner. Actually, the mere fact he joins Pandora in bed before their marriage (seriously bad) and starts to take advantage (seriously appalling) is in his character - he's afterthought, of course. He doesn't think about consequences; tonight that's a box blowing up with him on it!

A question from me is, how are you going to evolve Pandora and Epimetheus so that they keep the characteristics they're known for but also become believable people outside those molds? I look forward to finding out.

Climax (even chapters need them)
I've already mentioned this under the First Impressions section but the chapter ends, literally, with a bang. It is totally unexpected, and it made me go 'oooh'. I like to be startled or thrown off line at the end. We need to be captured at the beginning and at the end and you've managed this, to my mind, perfectly. It makes me look forward to the next chapter.


*Wind*Things I Liked
I've said this many times already but your premise is intriguing and the climax of this chapter wonderful. Vampires will be just an added bonus for me when they show up.

Who gives someone a box and then tells them not to open it? - I love this question. I imagine Pandora with an expression of 'Hermes is an idiot' on her face. And, of course, it illustrates her curiosity. I also like that the box, itself, is egging her on (... screamed to be opened...).

Rena - I like her presence here. She's in Epimetheus' pay but she also seems to be Pandora's friend so she acts as a tie between them. She also provides a nice bit of comic relief in her swooning over Epimetheus, especially calling Pandora a hero!


*Quill*Some Things I Found Odd
Now these are just my opinion and you can totally throw them in the trash if you feel like it! (I put these into subheadings just so this didn't look like one long waffle.)

Epimetheus in Bed
I re-read the section about Epimetheus in the bed and now I'm not sure if it is pre-marriage after all. "Finally we can be joined, my love" sounds to me as if this is after the wedding. In which case, you have a giant invisible leap between pre- and post- with no connecting anything. When I read it as pre-marriage, I had no problem with it but if it's post then it's confusing and unsettling. We've jumped forward in time but don't know quite where we stand in the story. I would recommend this stay as a pre-marriage event. It would make Pandora's bolting far easier to understand.

Nicknames
In most cases I wouldn't dare to make mention of characters' names to their authors because they're such personal things. I slave over mine, using 'x' or 'y' until I've got just the name, but Pandy and P really niggled at me as nicknames for Pandora. Pandy because it made me think of a panda bear and P because that made me think of the drug P. Given that Pandora is seen as a bit of evil for man-kind, the latter would work, but for me they were a bit uncomfortable. I thought Dora might be 'nicer'. I know that offers links with Dora the Explorer but 'dora' is Greek for 'gift' - which Pandora is.

Epi reminded me of the Epi-pen but besides shortening him to 'Meth' (!) I think it works. He comes across as one of those power-hungry, self-important guys who has given himself a 'nonsense' nick-name - okay, a bit like a DJ's moniker. It works.

Tense and Point of View
I'll be the first to admit that I cross my tenses over, and that's why I know it's distracting to the reader. You swap between present tense (Tonight, however, the only the box can console my troubled thoughts. I must find out what is in the box!) and past tense (Epimetheus curled up in bed behind me and wrapped his divine arms around my delicate body.) quite a bit. I have no problem with either tense but combining them hinders the reader and stops their flow, which isn't what we authors desire.

In addition to the tense, you have moments of swapping points of view. In the sentence His hand moved up to stroke my breast and I (should I go with ‘woke with a start’ here?) squealed in panic. you've actually asked the reader if you should add 'woke with a start'.

No, you shouldn't - because if you do, you're confusing the point of view. Pandora is a first-person storyteller. If she were asleep she would know nothing about Epimetheus being in the bed or what his hands were doing until she woke. I have found that the PoV can slip if I don't control the tense properly so I think once you've got that sorted in this story it won't be an issue any more.


*Tree*Closing Comments
I'm a bit like a stuck record here, SlyphLuna! I like this chapter and I'm intrigued to see where the story goes. Some things could be tidied up and/or clarified (I'm yet to read a piece on here that doesn't have something!) to help the reader out but, overall, this is a really nice first start.

I tend to review based on how a story makes me feel/react as a reader. I do like correct grammar but the plot, the characters, the start, the end - these mean more than whether a story has the right amount of commas and in the right places (those things can be easily fixed at a later stage). Your story has pulled me in and I want to read more; that's how it made me feel.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any queries about anything I have written and, at the risk of sounding like a beggar, please let me know when chapter two is up.

Best wishes,
Osirantinous

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Review of Mirror, Mirror  
Review by Osirantinous
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hi revdbob !

I've just read "Mirror, Mirror, which you had posted on the "Please Review page. You threw out the review challenge and I thought 'I'm up for that' and so here I am. To be honest, I am not generally a reader of horror/scary and am certainly not a writer of it. I'm far too much of a wuss; I like to be able to sleep at night! However... I find myself really enjoying reviewing this genre. I feel that because it's not one I know well (or even like much) I can actually offer a fairly decent, unbiased review.

So here goes.


*Tree*First Impressions
I like the premise of evil being punished, because that's the sort of person I am, so your log-line was a hook from the outset.

However, I am also attracted to 'the bad guy'. Except your guy doesn't immediately start off bad; he has a sense of 'rebel' to him, and a strong drive to make his world better. Frankly, it's what we all want. The easy writing style, the colloquialism, made your guy seem to me to be almost reasonable and understandable in those opening paragraphs. And at the end, when he was receiving his come-uppance, I almost felt sorry for him. I do wonder if this is an indictment on me since your guy is evil and has lead a sinister life. It's just that he seems so taken aback at the end!

As I got into the second half of Mirror, Mirror and understood that the reflection was a different 'person' it felt immediately like the movie Fight Club, with that somewhat schizophrenic/dream character. However, that notion was quickly abandoned when things happened that couldn't conceivably be explained away in that manner. Those two paragraphs after And then came today. are some of the strangest I've read, but they made me sit up and take notice. Actually, they made me go 'what the heck is going on here?' and I kept reading. So this was a second hook in your story.

The final half of the story, which brings us back to the present and connects with the first paragraph, I found powerful. I was a little amused by the overall 'when appliances attack' theme, but everything you wrote about them in connection to the character's actions and his life made wonderful sense. We go about our lives, our business with a multitude of help of the electronic and inanimate kind but without much thought of those items. I'm not sure I found the story chilling, per se, but what made Mirror, Mirror for me was the eerie thought that these items are witnesses to our lives and should there ever be the possibility of making them talk we'd all be royally screwed!

It is poetic justice that your guy is undone by those very things he lusted after, those things he hurt others to obtain. The 'life' given to these items was also somewhat poignant. They'd been his faithful side-kicks and for the most part he treated them badly. It was only fair they'd be there to merit out retribution.


*Tools* The Nuts and Bolts

The Back Story
Your story is of two halves - how your character got to where he is in the world (a quick sprint through half of his life) and his sudden demise. Twelve-odd years to build up, half an hour to destroy.

I like that you brought the reader's attention to the back story with a superb lead-in line Until today I'd have thought my life pretty ordinary. That's catchy. I found the three paragraphs on what this character wanted and his Enlightenment somewhat rambling but it also shows how scattered he was. He needed his Enlightenment just to make something of his life. The paragraphs about his hustling are much more structured, just like he is now that he has some control. I don't know if you intended to write quite in that manner or if anyone else thinks/thought of it in this way but to me it's a clever way of illustrating a character's thoughts, feelings, actions without having to describe them.

I was lost, however, with the long section on the Government and education. It sounds like a personal rant rather than part of the story and I actually skipped the paragraph after the first two sentences. I didn't need to read it to pick up the story again at the next paragraph.


The Present
As already mentioned, I found the latter half of the story, the present, quite a powerful read. It's fast moving, almost comedic in those first two paragraphs, and we see how easy it is to destroy something that has taken years to achieve.

I said above that I didn't find the story chilling but eerie. Having re-read again I still find that overall the story doesn't send a chill through me except for those moments when the guy is looking at himself in the mirror and realising that the horror is all his own making. Whatever happens to him, happens because of him. To someone who was just following the path they'd built for themselves, that must be an utterly horrible thing to face.

As odd as it is to have appliances and other objects come alive, we are used to seeing this in movies so it's not such a stretch of the imagination to accept it here. And I've already mentioned how freaky it would be if they could tell our secrets and react. The laptop and phone 'walking' is a great scene. The glass in the towel is the only thing I found a bit beyond belief. How did it happen? If somehow the mirror had part smashed or some other piece of glass in the bathroom smashed that would make more sense. Glass in a towel seems to need a more physical hand to create. I wonder if you couldn't somehow have had the character do this the night before in a fit of rage or something?


Characters
Oddly enough, for all that your character is an evil guy, he doesn't come across as evil as the mirror image. I think it's because what we know of the man is back-story. His violence is 'hear-say' to us; it's frankly not even crystal clear what's going on with Shavon until the 'rubbed out' sentence. Nothing is graphic and so there are no feelings of disgust or mistrust. The guy is just doing what it takes to build his empire. He's taken the 'kill or be killed' mentality - a lot more literally than most, of course.

He seems absolutely horrified and gobsmacked when everything goes pear shaped in the bathroom. It's clear that he's followed his path without possible thought about what it actually means for others. I'm not saying we should sympathise with him but it's pretty much a human condition for those who are so focused on getting here, there or somewhere. I'm not convinced he planned to be so damn nasty.

The secondary 'self' is much more evil - and that was before he was revealed as Satan - because his actions are current time. They're graphic and they're gloating. We are to assume that this is how the real guy has been in his life (which the back story glossed over because of course he was doing everything 'right'.). A question though - what is this character's mission? He's torturing the guy as a 'gift' for animating him but there is no spoken or hinted mission that I could see. The gift is ironic, of course, but well played.

And even while the mirror image is em-ceeing the horrors being dealt out he's still appearing to be the 'good' one. He's the one exacting retribution, making the bad guy pay. As I said before, the appliances and inanimate objects are like abused and forgotten sidekicks. They're exacting revenge and we're almost rooting for them, even though they are no better than the guy they're torturing. A vicious circle and I like that it's here. It does the head in to try and explain without going round and round in circles, like a mirror maze you can't get out of!

Finally with regards to characters - why Satan? I must admit it came as a bit of a shock when he was revealed. Ultimate evil, yes, but why him here? I wouldn't have thought Satan was about rubbing out one of his own or punishing one of his own. I know he's giving a 'gift' (right up his alley to an enemy) but the moral in this story seems to be 'treat people well so that you are treated well' and 'evil will bite you on the ass'. Surely this guy is the embodiment of Satan, a physical Satan so to me it seems odd that Satan's here exacting retribution and teaching a lesson.


Climax
The final paragraph is an uncomfortable read, but also somewhat funny. I do imagine it must be torture to have gangster rap drilled into one's ear. And the hand towel aiming at the guy's groin has a fairly clear sexual overtone, another nice little act of retribution because it can't be enjoyable!! Satan guffawing in the background and crying 'rub him, Towel' is a bit like a porn movie and one finds it hard to get that image out of one's mind, but... it also has a frightening overtone. Abuse comes in many forms and the one portrayed here is nasty. Quite possibly this is the most chilling part of your story - an uncomfortable read that's also somewhat funny. That puts the reader in a horrible position - hence the chill. Well done!


*Wind*Strengths and Suggestions
I don't mind that the story's in those two parts of back story and present. It works for me. And I like how we get something of a 'rose-coloured' back story that is opened up for 'truth' by the face in the mirror, whose explanations of why the guy is suddenly being harassed in his bathroom are direct comment on how the guy has acted in his own life (that he forgot to tell us about).

My biggest suggestion? Give your character a name. Please. I know it's first person PoV but I know him as 'the guy' 'your guy' or 'the character'. Having Satan use his name would make the climax more powerful.

You have some great lines:

Until today I'd have thought my life pretty ordinary. Beautifully crafted, it shows us that the character's life has taken a sudden sharp turn but also that his life of crime and of evil (which, of course, we're not quite yet aware) isn't a life of crime and of evil to him! The sentence straight after explains further - he's been looking out for himself.

Pretty soon I was his man, and what I said was as much law as what Shavon said. The problem was, there can be only one top dog and Shavon wasn't much older than I, so he wasn't retiring soon. This sentence explains their entire relationship and the ambition that your guy felt. We know what's likely to happen next!

I am proud of my hair, man, and I brushed it hard and long to get a shine, until I realized that the shine was blood and I was taking the scalp off from under my hair. I think I liked this one because amid the oddities happening he still shows a vain side! And it's a human side. And though it's a long sentence and has three distinct parts it is very easy to read, almost lyrical. But, and this is only my opinion, I'd write 'long and hard' instead of 'hard and long'. It seems to flow better.


*Quill*The Technical Side
I use this part of my review to pick up on some of the grammatical or spelling errors that I note, or other 'things' that maybe could be changed or improved. I'm by no means an expect and I often only comment on things that I find particularly jarring.

The latter is why I mention again that I think you could remove that long paragraph about the Government gambling on education without doing any damage to the plot or flow of the story

...remote control for the shower, the wiring to animate Towel, for example, and her beautiful glass decoration. The towel stood up right over my groin, like a cobra, and... You're missing the " here after 'decoration'.

...and Laptop could talk using his speakers over the phone when we needed to." Cell wasn’t really one of your triumphs,... Just an errant " here stops the flow as we work out whether the dialogue has stopped.

...drawing a scream from my lips. Probably rather minor, but the scream comes either from the throat or from between the lips, not technically from the lips.


*Tree*Closing Comments
Hmm, I rather think this has turned into a commentary instead of a review but I still hope it's helpful. I did like your premise, as mentioned up above, about evil getting booted, and I like how you've portrayed that retribution here. Using electronic and inanimate objects directed by an evil mirror image to exact that retribution is unusual but it works. The very things your guy swindled, threatened, gambled, killed for are teaching him a lesson he is never going to forget. It's much more interesting than having him tied up in the middle of a warehouse and being beaten by other thugs!


Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read and review Mirror, Mirror. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any queries about any of my ramble. I'm always happy to clarify (or even justify) anything I have written. I hope your plea for reviews garners you a whole lot more!


Best wishes,
Osirantinous

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