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Review Requests: ON
107 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
I wouldn't believe me if I read some patent summation of my style. I review in public to keep myself honest. Some may think me rude. De gustibus non disputandum. Please include a word count, and be prepared to offer one GP/word. I'll take a quick look at almost anything. And I always try to return a review for a review. At the least, I always send a polite thanks. To do line edits, I charge all the market will bear and a fish. Ten points/word, minimum.
I'm good at...
... striking a balance in reviews. Not an objective balance, but an assessment in proportion to the strengths and weaknesses of the work.
Favorite Genres
Thriller/Suspense and the off-center approach to genre.
Least Favorite Genres
Routine anything, although I too have written orthodox, even mundane, dead-centered treatments just to get that first shot off fast.
Favorite Item Types
Anything done well.
Least Favorite Item Types
Graphic violence. Graphic sexuality. There can be good reason to depict these matters. Show me that reason.
I will not review...
Formal poetry. I have never acquired the skills to accurately assess poetry in terms of schema, meter and foot and mandatory elements. Gay and lesbian. I lack sophistication in the culture.
Public Reviews
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Review of A Plagued Land  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)
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tyle Review of James Munz's A Plagued Land


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lash fiction, a story in a snapshot -- or a short animation of say, twenty frames.
         Take an image, maybe the first in the series. Put it into your editing software and create a negative version. All together, you will see the bones are good. The basic structure is solid, if not complete.
         From this point, a writer can begin to challenge the trite. If Deathspeaker is capitalized, then perhaps we should also capitalize Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker. Despite the staff and robes, she strikes me as one of many workers. She is of a class, like clearcutters among clearcutters or plunderers among plunderers. Devastation is just her job, five days a week.
         What happens to Selendre? Does she find herself forced to destroy something she loves? Is she betrayed when her fellows attempt to inflict the principle of Death-Makes-for-a-Better-World on her?
         Iconified by a capital, Selendre the Deathspeaker is endowed with unearned power. What ever the struggle she faces, the story is strengthened when the odds she confronts are just steep enough to demand from her more than she seems to have to give.
         I enjoyed this trifle not for the morsels, but for the space on the plate.
         Live long and publish, James Munz .
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (5.0)
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tyle Review of Scottiegazelle's The Ballad of Mrs. Claus


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t is inherently unfair to review older stories. This one goes back to 2003.
         Holiday stories are best when written in terms that eschew anachronism. This story is timeless.
         Scottiegazelle writes with the warmth and simplicity of story hour before afternoon nap. Her idea fills in the empty half of the core of the Santa Claus legend. What about the good woman behind the famous man?
         This Mrs. Claus is a zen practitioner of womanhood. She is the precise, complete complement to a husband who has accepted a lifetime mission indispensable in the balance of human nature. Hers is a thankless job, and that is also human nature.
         The job is thankless, but it offers the odd small blessing. Among those is an offering from the earnest heart of a sleepless girl child.
         Wrapped around pinpoint insight and imagination of breadth suited to the legend, the text is clear, simple and unforced. For example, she enumerates the duties of Kris Kringle up to and including to "... take reports from the Santas who substituted for him". I might have cleverly condensed the last five words to "jolly younger elves". Scottiegazelle has no use for the artifice.
         This one goes on my Christmas Eve fireside list. I urge you to include it in your own.
         Live long and publish, Scottiegazelle .
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
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tyle Review of Soare's Harem Story


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nglish is not a musical language. A good writer, in English, can show the rhythm of dialect. A better writer can select words by the accented syllable and lend rhythm to prose. The best can weave a continuous fabric of words, a whole cloth without seam or gather. We sometimes speak of a "musical quality" to the best writing, but that is hyperbole.
         You did not fill out your Biography. I had to do some research to determine that you are likely from Moradabad, the north of the Hindi-speaking region of India.
         We will proceed on the basis of that speculation. But we won't go far, against the possibility that the whole thing lands in a cocked hat.
         You write in English, but you think in Hindi. This is not inherently a bad thing, but you run into compromises. The thinking behind Hindi is clearly very different from the thinking behind English. This is exemplified in your slug line:

Miya is burning inside with the hope to take revenge. How will she take revenge?

Revenge is not generally associated in English with hope. A better choice would have been lust. Also, English does not like redundancy, ie your repetitive use of "revenge". An ordinary writer will supplant a redundant noun with "it". A more educated writer will replace the noun with a phrase that reinforces and expands on the single word, eg "just recompense". A more sophisticated writer will replace the verb phrase, eg "redress the evils she has suffered".
         An exacting writer would dispense with the question as implicit in the preceding sentence.
         You have an option. You may choose to use English vocabulary and grammar while preserving Hindi phrasing. You are distinctly qualified to do so, and it might lend to your work a nearly unique sense of place. I leave it to you.
         That's more than enough for one review.
         Live long and publish, Soare .
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
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tyle Review of DKJ's "A Question of Star Trek"


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his is a pile of work drawn together under a broad broom. Rather than adopt and define a position, pursue an analysis and state his conclusions, the essayist has chosen to gather a broad range of elements under the overall topic in a format that reads like preliminary thinking. While much of the work is aptly chosen to provoke thought and further discussion, the essayist's train of thought jumps tracks before it can arrive at any station of discourse. Partly as a result of this epistemological slack, and partly out of the sort of false modesty unbecoming to forensics, the essay culminates in a back-door exit:

This is an expression of my personal tastes and worse, my ill-considered opinions ...

         No, no, NO! For all that is aptly chosen and smartly provocative about these arguments, do not abandon your brainchildren in the road!
         Let me offer a point that was a revelation of the obvious to me. Star Trek originally was a series of distinct episodes. The current standard is to blackmail the viewer. Miss a week and he loses the thread of the narrative and pivotal reveals about prominent characters are buried.
         From a personal perspective, I found that each of the television series included three character types. There was always a character with whom I could identify, one to whom I could aspire and at least one I found magnetic. Star Trek: Discovery drove completely off of these rails.
         DKJ is a thoughtful writer with a broad grasp of his topic. These are the roots from which an authoritative,
defensible and conclusive argument may spring. It will be a loss to those of who share his interests if he does not take up this subject with the confidence of which I believe him to be capable.
         Live long and publish, Drake Juric.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Home  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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tyle Review of Lilliy Loidd's "Home"


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was not sure what to say about this, so I looked at some other items in this Portfolio. A pattern emerged. Stream of consciousness and graphic metaphor.
         This is a heady mix. It calls for careful structure. I found myself stopping over and over again to interrogate the text for the referent to each metaphor.
         In the air of this continuum of concretized sense impressions, the odd mundane note rings distinctly off-key.
I got out of the car and locked up.

         The protagonist "locked up"? Oh, the car. Pardon the absurdity.
         In contrast, the meaning that emerges from the metaphor of the fireplace encapsulates the theme of a homecoming of diametric emotions with focus and intensity. The whole piece should be as cohesive and as piercing as this paragraph.
         This story is a high-wire act. The fiction funambulist needs a balance pole. I suggest an overall metaphor, best used implicitly, to lend bounds and support to the many specific metaphors of which the narrative is built.
         This has all been abstract and rather dense. So is the work. This writer is entirely proficient in the mechanics, aside from a couple of missed indents and an extra period.
         Live long and publish, Lilliy Loidd 🪔 [Away] .
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (5.0)
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tyle Review of NordicNoir's "Crustbin Thistlebum"


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love the concept that even supernatural people are just people.
         Crustbin Thistlebum is a simple maker trying to find his way in a world of rules devised by takers and fakers. NordicNoir explores his character and his world faithfully, entirely through his eyes. I found it natural to identify with this protagonist and the petty plagues piled upon him.
         Mechanically, this writer is wholly competent. This is a contest entry, and so liable to deadline-itis. I did find the oddest fault -- a sentence fragment to be repaired by removing a single word:

Twenty teeth in every kid’s mouth that went to waste for centuries before the fairies began collecting them for road construction material.

         I found a few gritty nits -- one conflict in tenses and the inevitable "Comma here?" When a reviewer has bored down to this layer, it's time to quit.
         To quit, except to say that this is a very nice little piece of comedy, solid in structure and smooth in finish. After I rated it a five, I dug around in my desk drawer, found a little gold stick-on star, cut it in half and pasted that in a lower corner of my monitor.
         Live long and publish, NordicNoir.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Baby Series  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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tyle Review of Laurie Razor's Baby Series


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wonder what a goth keyboard looks like. I'm sure James Heyward has one. Would that be a pentagram in the lower lefthand corner?
         The gist of the Baby Series seems to be that three schoolgirls get themselves into a lifetime`of trouble beginning with a game of touch-and-go on the plane of the occult. The story takes jump after jump from place to year to character.
         For those who are familiar with the witchcraft sub-genre, I can see how this technique cuts out every scrap of fat and moves the story at a relentless pace. I, being less familiar, became well and thoroughly lost by the middle of the second of the series.
         The text seems to have almost no use for paragraphing. Concepts and events are presented with little exposition, related to others only by sequence. The bones of a gravid and shocking tale are all here. But there is little more here than the bones.
         In an earlier review, Review of "Capita" , I wrote about plot reliefs -- comic, tragic and idyllic. This story could use some expository relief, a breather from the breathless pace.
         Live long and publish, Laurie Razor.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.0)
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tyle Review of Jenstrying's "The Little Pirate That Could"


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t's a thing we do, we writers, to look at an image, carve out the elements and shape from them a story. With a little practice, we learn to do this with every image. With a little more practice, we learn how to pick 'em.
         This image is a good choice for this writer. She is still in touch with her inner little girl. That is charming, and latently powerful.
         This is a draft, and not much to review. It is much to encourage, potentially funny, sweet, satirical and engaging. Jen should sharpen her tools and keep trying. Odds on, the results will be well worth the effort.
         Live long and publish, Jenstrying.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Clueless  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
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tyle Review of Angus' "Clueless"


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he penny drops, the parts mesh and the prize drops into the chrome cup.This is a nice little clockwork scene, with an intriguing bit of territory left open between the what and the why.
         In the getting from there to here, there is art in holding the surprise until the end. Confining one's characters to dialogue while eliciting a story is a demanding specification. It is a more difficult task than it seems in this piece. The text is a very good job of reflecting the setting and the plot in the dialogue without making the characters nudge and wink at the reader. Behind the simple chatty tone, we get all of the information we need to assemble the story in mind.
         Sound lesson, with examples. Thanks, Teach'!
         The intriguing bit -- why does character One (Renfield?) choose to sit and drop a penny on character Two (Al Bundy?)? Is it a perverse joke? A dare? An invitation? A warning ... Damn! Ran out of question marks.
         Live long and publish, Angus.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Enlightenment  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
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tyle Review of "Enlightenment" by Beholden


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t is less blessed to edit than to conceive. Onward to darn-ation!

The son of Melqart pondered fresh enlightenment. He sat in
lotus among the poppies and thought on a tin woodsman.

         Too subtle, by more than half. Let me count the ways.
         One: Google "lotus flower meaning". Read: "The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower."
         The poppy yields a mere intoxicant.
         Two: "... son of Melqart ...". Googled "Amilcar", just to prove I'm paying attention.
         Three: "... tin woodsman." The only one of the Gale party not to succumb, he was overtaken by panic. Hmm ...
         Four: straw man? Rhetorically, a "straw man" is a false issue designed to lead the argument away from a true resolution.
         Five: cowardly lion? Fear, the universal bane of the mammal; Man being the only one capable of confronting it.
         Six: Dorothy? Innocence, and the gallantry so empowered.
         Regarding each of these characters as a value to be substituted into the Amilcar "equation" changes the outcome in kind.
         It never before occurred to me to analyze The Wizard of Oz in universals. Google "analysis wizard of oz". Baum's most popular work has been adopted to argue the gold standard and politics overall. This strikes me as sophistry, the perversion of logic to justify an end.
         Let's you, me and Amilcar go have a round of lotus martinis.
         Live long and publish, Beholden
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Escape.  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)
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tyle Review of "Escape" by addie.cass


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t's a bug's life -- nasty, brutal and short.
         On top of the undersold challenge of flash fiction, this story seeks to relate the viewpoint of an insect in enemy territory -- a human-held home. To write a real story in three hundred words, within the time constraint of a contest, is hard enough.
         In this form, of course, detail matters and every word counts. Anthropomorphism is the back door out of the writer's dilemma. Supplant with human eyes the perceptions of a dragonfly, or a hornet, or ... the story leaves this open.
         Empathy is the tricky path through the maze. How does a creature meet the world from a horizontal stance? How big is it to a creature less than inch overall? How does it look through compound eyes?
         One might split the difference. Use the omniscient viewpoint, empathizing from the outside by intuiting the impulses of the subject through its actions.
         Three hundred words can count for a lot when every word counts for something.
         Live long and publish, addie.cass.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Top Secret  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)

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he contest is a good thing. It gives a writer a clear objective and, no small thing, the surety that someone will read his work while also paying attention.
         The contest is a bad thing. The contest theme supplants the writer's theme and the deadline and word count limits undermine craftsmanship.
         To the case at hand. Holdfast is a sympathetic character, a romantic. You've made a good selection of supporting details, from the signal outfitting to the shabby setting. We're all romantics here, readers and writers alike.
         Still, we at first see Holdfast from above and without. I suspect these are symptoms of word count/deadline-itis. The opening paragraph needs a voice as active as the rest of the story, e.g. --

Holdfast bought his sturdy, rubber-soled shoes in the village lane. He found his battered raincoat on a rack at an estate sale. He was obliged to order his trilby hat, snug and weatherproof, by mail.

         Your basic active verb technique lines out the passive "was", "were" and "had been". Details of the source of each item enrich the setting and lend atmosphere from the outset.
         I truly, deeply and madly love the plot twist, as much for the way you landed it as for the twist itself. The story pivots on a ball from moribund to adrenaline-shot.
         Then deadline-itis afflicts the narrative. Up to the point at which he finds the file, it reads as though this is Holdfast's first day open for business. After he opens the file, it reads as though his antagonist might travel back and forth in time.
         Contest entries tend to die on the vine. They're contract work. Story vended, contract ended, on to the next thing. This piece deserves a good run, a stirring climax and a gently ironic wrap. And you deserve a signature work, driven by an alter-ego protagonist through a world of your own making.
         Live long and publish, Beholden.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review of Whistler  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

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ecades ago, I was a half-wild little ragamuffin running around in a patch of woods in Western Pennsylvania. This piece takes me back.
         But my favorite thing about it is the brief and sharply focused way it captures a moment both fleeting and intense. It feels like a pencil sketch, made up of sharp details nicely shaded for perspective. It has a way of drawing the eye in a spiral through the broad scene to the moment of immediacy. Well-conceived.
         A few phrases strike my ear as being stilted.

"... pleasure in the their frantic games of hide and seek that resulted."
"... tearing through the grass in haste and bounding with joy ..."

         I like your wry bit on the guinea fowl. I like your first sentence. The subject is better without an adjective. You have a craftsman's touch in spots.
         You seem to have become disaffected over time. That can hinder one's craftsmanship. Still, this is a sweet idyll that deftly taps into the power of reminiscence.
         Live long and publish, Beholden.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

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his is a charming little tale. Your tone is nicely consistent up to the turn of the climax. It feels good to write a sweet ending, but that has to be earned. Considering the short format, appropriate to the challenge, you did this well.
         Writing in a fairy-tale tone makes me want to play with the language. Exempliae gratia:

The night of her loneliness faded, but the knight of her dreams did not appear.
... hair brushed gleaming gold and lips painted berry-bold.

         I'm a devil for the precise right word. I argue connotation. "Gleaming" is just right for hair, implicitly for long hair. "Glowing", "shining" and "lustrous" also fit closely. "Beaming", for hair, sounds a clinker to my ear. I think more of a smile, or of eyes.
         Just FYI, I took a shot at Bubblegum Jones' Blanks myself. I may have written the all-time shortest entry he ever received. I landed in Part Two near the bottom, at 337. When I asked if I could edit my entry, Jones just put the update in at 338. Taken together, the two do not total one hundred words. Some of my best work.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (1.0)

I was genuinely distressed to read your polemic on the abbreviation "Xmas". It is not in me to accept such an alarming contention from a single source.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas
"There is a common misconception that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas ... by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas", but its [("Xmas")] use dates back to the 16th century."

For all of the trust I repose in Wikipedia, it also is only a single source.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/xmas-abbreviatio...
"... this usage is nearly as old as Christianity itself, and its origins lie in the fact that the first letter in the Greek word for ‘Christ’ is ‘chi,’ and the Greek letter ‘chi’ is represented by a symbol similar to the letter ‘X’ in the modern Roman alphabet."

         Even at this, I would be interested to know the source on which you based this piece. The underpinnings of our celebration at the culmination of the year are the same as those supporting the faith that carries us through the year.
         I would set your mind at rest. If there is a best season to spare ourselves the foofooraw surrounding political correctness and the reactionism of political commentators, it is the Yuletide.
         For notes on formatting, spelling and punctuation: "Note: I have begun to write boile..."
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

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hese tired eyes thank you for the larger font and more open linespacing.
         Consider adding a season or a month to the years heading your chapters. I found it confusing to try to sort that out for myself along with your initial development of character and setting. Also, please set the month/season and year whenever you change the time of your narrative. Younger Tom and his peers could have been nine or they could have twelve years old.
         Your plot is developing steadily. It is, of course, too early for an analysis. No plot survives contact with the keyboard.
         Your style is somewhat removed from your characters. I get only an observer's sense of their perceptions. That's fine for draft work. You are creating opportunities to go back and let your characters express themselves, rather than just to describe their perceptions from the narrative viewpoint.
         Exemplia gratia:

“s***!” Tom uttered as he realized he was completely lost “s*** s*** s*** s***”

He felt confident enough that he had successfully lost Steven and his crew, but now, he was lost. He spun around several times as the panic set in. His father had warned him about this possibility. As beautiful as the Walkit forest was, many parts of it looked similar. And it lurked with the many dangers that come to mind when you think of the mountains. Bears. Wolves. Uneven & unpredictable terrain. He tried to take a deep breath and focus on his immediate surroundings.


Tommy leaned against the trunk of a big sycamore. His were the only human sounds. Lost him! Just a bully, he just gave up.
         He scanned the woods. Lost myself. Hell, I can't be that far out.
         Landmarks are hard to pick out in the forest. His father's words settled his mind to a new alertness. And you've got to watch, look for the hidden things. I've seen bear scat, and wolves pass through from time to time. Watch ahead for rocks and roots and things that'll trip you.

         Your reader will identify with your protagonist, more than just follow him. For a bonus, this style breaks up those monotonous blocks of print.
         Is it "Walkit" or "Walskit"?
         Watch your connotations. Sleep is not an unconscious state. A person who is unconscious may not be wakened with a touch, but must be revived by way of positive, even aggressive, measures -- measures which may not succeed.
         You have a strong grasp of setting. I would enjoy Spring in Walskit.
         Your characters are familiar ones, evoked clearly up to this point.
         It is in the broad field on which character action and interaction develop into plot that you have room and a need for growth.
         I urge you to write and read every day. Collect methods and techniques from the broad swap meet of ideas that is your favorite genre. Clean these tools, sharpen them, and keep them close at hand when you when you sit down to write.
         Live long and publish, Dominique Derval.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (5.0)

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cannot help a lot with poetry, especially if your instructor endorses this piece. But I can do a little research and maybe steal a lick for you.
         There is an herb called sour flower. You may not want to pack this for your particular group -- it's a strain of marijuana.
         But then there is this Google cite: "Nothing else smells like marigolds. They're pungent, musky, sharp, halfway unpleasant, halfway alluring." It's a closer opposite to a rose.
         I do not know the philosophy of your group. I don't want to reduce your piece to an absurd simplicity. Group ethic permitting, let me suggest the following:

Look up when you are down.
When you find yourself looking down,
Turn around.

         I'm going to give you five stars because I have no clue and, so, no definitive critique to levy.
         Please offer your group the best wishes of well-meaning stranger.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

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hat happened to the dog?
         Okay, it's a mystery. As long as you wrap it up before the end of the book, you're cool.
         Throughout two reads of the chapter, I am missing any specific reference to your protagonist's gender. Another mystery, if you hadn't given it away in the slug line. Hmm ...
         This concept of puzzle-and-reward is at the heart of suspense writing whatever specific hybrid you aim to create in mixing mystery, suspense, psychodrama, et cetera.
         Of course, you will use foreshadowing. This is why we plot in advance. We may put several thousand words between our first foreshadowing and our climactic events. We may plot out several foreshadowings, each darker than the last. These are the long arcs of puzzle and reward.
         In the meantime, you want to keep your readers coming back, chapter after chapter. Thus, the device, puzzle and reward on a short arc. Here's one device.
         Replace general phrases with specific ones. In the following instance,

"... bought supplies to make him a cat door."

you give yourself an opportunity to create a mini-puzzle for the reader, eg,

"... bought a saw, a hinge and a latch."

         What would I do with those items? In that order? Oh, of course! Puzzle and reward, on the short arc.
         Formatting is a device. I decided what I wanted to do in the Edit box and wrote a macro:

{linespace:1.4}{size:3.5}{dropcap}{/dropcap}
{indent}
{/size}{/linespace}

         This is the formatting I use on Portfolio items, longer forum posts, Newsfeed posts, uh ... oh yes, reviews. I don't use the dropcap in Newsfeed responses, but only in initial posts. You are welcome to the use of this macro, and to change it as you like.
         You are off to a good start, visually. I have a strong sense of the "air" of your story. Adding this sort of specificity deepens the concrete visual aspect to your story. Your reader will picture a coping saw or a trim saw, a piano hinge or a casing hinge, a spring latch or a bolt.
         "He liked to wander. I understand." This is a beautiful character cue which resonates backward and forward throughout the chapter. Brief, trenchant and resonant. Do it again.
         Not "phase" in this usage. Say "... didn't faze me." Google it.
         "Being a journalist in a small southern town presents its own unique set of challenges. " Good start for an essay. Bad style cue for a mystery. Lop it off of the top, along with the "But" and start from the capital W. "When I first ..."
         Keep it, though. Use it to cap off a telling turn of character or plot point. Use it sincerely or ironically. But USE it.
         "Dominique Derval" is a great pen name. Somewhere between a "devil", a "dervish" and "serval" wild cat, right?

         My fraternal twin concept to puzzle and reward is pace. You don't have to write fast and furious, but you cannot leave your reader to ask, "Is this going anywhere?" In a media-saturated world, such a story gets the left-swipe.
         When you seek to build tension, create tightly focused paragraphs, terse in phrasing and as short as you can make them. Your paragraphs are already good for progression. Your narrative has steady initial drive.
         And it's okay to let your narrative meander at times. Done carefully, it increases the tension when you do ramp up the pace.
         I see here a sort of Lifetime TV mystery in print. There's a place in the world for that, and you can pull it off without a romantic angle. If you do plan on one, you owe your reader a hint in the opening. It can be a false hint, but many readers will decide to read or not based on a scan of the first chapter. That is, if they get past the cover synopsis.
         Your model is Nora Roberts. If you need more elbow room, think of your work as splitting the difference between Caroline Keane and Daphne du Maurier.
         I am rebating to you 740 points of your generous tender. I look forward to reviewing your revisions and additions in the future. Feel free to respond to this review as you see fit.
         Live long and publish, Dominique Derval.

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Review of The Return  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (3.5)

I

am less familiar with Amber and Lord of Light, Zelazny's most highly vaunted works, than I am with his earlier shorter pieces. My take on him I called "Turtle Technique".
         To my eye, you write more like the son, thriller author Trent Zelazny. He has compiled an extensive catalog of original works, including plays on the stage in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
         It needs a good proofreading. Spellcheck probably cannot tell you that "Packard" is not spelled with an "h". But you can google "punctuation checker" and take your choice. Google also knows car from elephant, however blindly.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard. This review is also a sample.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.

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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.0)

I

see an accomplished take on a business-world Vito Corleone. Like Mario Puzo, you make more of him than any of his ilk in the mundane world.
         It's a legitimate approach. Puzo proved that.
         I will not pick nits on your spelling and punctuation. My copy is never quite perfect, either.
         Characterization may be the aspect of fiction most peculiar to the writer. I am intrigued by the trust relationship between your protagonist and his righthand man. It occurs to me that "Muscle" could be deprecated as an individual almost completely.
         Take away his name. Label him as an object -- "gofer", small-m "muscle", "errand boy", even "ken doll". By contrast, Kendall will appear even more callous and arrogant.
         If you should happen to have it in mind that the worm turns on the harrier at some later point, the twist will come all-the-more wrenching.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.
         Have a macro NaNo!
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: E | (4.5)

T

his is a smooth plain narrative that outlines the situation at the opening of the story in clear and orderly terms. I found exactly one typo ("... had been less that complimentary").
         Ordinarily, I would complain that the static scene and unbroken exposition are claustrophobic. But Bishop is in a claustrophobic situation. In this instance, the claustrophobic approach is valid, even integral.
         The title is hackeneyed and overblown. Fortunately, "desperate" is a term nestled in a web of useful associations. You could derive a more measured title from "expedient", or use a pun -- "The Wine Press" for instance. You could also draw a parallel between winemaking and bloodshed, if your tale is to come to that. The word "dregs" comes to mind. Put a few terms through the Ideanary.
         My routine formatting spiel. For greater readability, I recommend you upgrade your linespacing to a value of "1.4". Single-space throughout. Reserve double-spacing for breaks within a chapter. Indent from the second paragraph onward. This is the library-edition "bestseller" standard.
         You won't find an icon for it, but closing and opening tags are valid for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.
         You have a start on something I would think could be publishable. Like Michael Connelly, who comes from a career start as a journalist, you write in a style that is plain and easy to follow. Story first.
         Live long and publish.
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for entry "The Assignment
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: ASR | (4.5)

Y

ou've laid a broad foundation here, in the first two senses of the word. I think I see what's coming.
         Now it's up to you to belie my blithe assumptions.
         Job's story being one of the most fundamental, it bears up well under reinterpretation. I notice that you have already displaced the conflict to the level of routine demonic operations. The Big Guys have delegated, and moved on.
         The comic approach is a sound one. Let the reader derive the deeper truths by his own lights.
         You cited two cliches. Cliches have the funny built in. When they don't contradict one another, they often contradict themselves. Then one turns out to be all too true. I look forward to seeing you exploit your characters' vulnerability to "truisms".
         Lastly, while your text is quite clean, I believe you could better exploit the formatting tools for readability. Published works such as fiction bestsellers commonly single-space at a setting of "1.4", indenting from the second paragraph.
         You won't see an icon for it, but there are opening and closing tags for the "dropcap". I like the dressy touch.

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Review of Wandita  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Spelling and punctuation excellent. I spotted a missing comma and a close quote at a paragraph break in a continuous speech. I have seen worse proofing in published work. Well done.
         Good, clear formatting, easily readable, with paragraphs on point. Also well done.
         Your style is wordy. You could be a lot more sure of yourself, and your reader.
         Science fiction may be the most difficult of genres. Writer and reader have less of the common frame of reference behind the romance, the thriller, the western. One person must do the work of millions to create one realistic world.
         You have the concrete skills. They are not easy, but they can be acquired by rote. The abstract skills are harder.
         This piece fits the sub-genre of space opera -- mighty ships battle it out in the void and their valiant crews come to grips at all quarters. This is the most straightforward of sub-genres, encompassing the greatest accumulation of past art. There is room in the genre for innovation, but it is hard to find.
         The most recent and successful effort comes from a writer under the alias of Jack Campbell, nee former naval officer John G. Hemry. After Jules Verne, E. E. "Doc" Smith and Star Trek, this is the bar you must clear in order to write state-of-the-art space opera.
         The best lessons in style come from other writers. Read.
         Here's wishing you a fun and rewarding NaNoWriMo!
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Review of Jessica Strong  
Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
The good stuff first. I saw no errors in spelling or punctuation. Congratulations on your detailed craftsmanship. Well done.
         Thanks for the word count.
         I write in present tense quite a bit myself. It cuts down on participles. Just between you and me, cinematic treatments are also written in the present tense. Not that we want to work in the movies, ever ...
         But the television influence seems plain in your work. As far back as the series "24", and long before, the idea of a secret center of operations and control supporting elite law enforcement efforts has been a staple of the screen -- large or small.
         I see that you are aiming at the Young Adult readership. Those readers are more sophisticated every year. I say that because this piece seems "dumbed down", as though you feel a priority to avoid losing the reader at all costs.
         You can use more sophisticated storytelling techniques without losing your audience. I urge you to do so. I am confident that you will enjoy, and profit from, the challenge.
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Review by runoffscribe
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Perhaps more than any other genre, Erotica sorts readers by gender, generation and even general approach to life. There are two generations' and a gender's difference between you and I. Out of consideration of those two essential differences, I will keep this review technical.
         As you become more familiar with this extraordinary site and its extensive resources, you will find some that can improve the readability of your work at a few touches. One icon is labelled with a block of text and an arrow in the upper lefthand corner. This is the "indent" icon. On average, I use it about every fourth line, That's over dialogue, description and exposition altogether.
         Another icon shows a text block and vertical, double-ended arrow. This is line-spacing. The default, at a value of "1.2", has always felt cramped to me. I generally raise it to "1.4".
         An icon which should be of specific interest to you is the one with the three "S's". This is the font=size icon. I couldn't read the second half of your piece. That smaller font yields no copy for old men.
         There is no icon for a drop cap, but you can place your own tags. The nomenclature is "dropcap".
         Get out the book on clauses, whichever you keep on your desk. I favor Strunk and White, and the AP Manual of Style helps Thriller/Suspense types like me to "sound" more journalistic.
         Welcome to the site, Curious89. Keep on writing!

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