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1
1
Review by Sariah
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Hello,

I love these types of stories. So, keep in mind, this is just my opinion. The opening reads well except I kept tripping over misspelled words and some awkward phrasing. It distracted me from the storyline.

For example:

But while walking you tripped face first and landed on the floor.

Suggestion:

But while walking, you tripped and landed face first on the floor.

(I was confused a bit with the word "floor". Not sure where the character is exactly. Usually you walk outside. If you tripped and fell, you would hit the "ground", not the "floor".)

This worked out well since someone saw you on the brown, a man of about thirty-five and he came to help you up.

Suggestion:

I am assuming you meant "ground".

"Thank you..." you said. ""um what if you name?"

Suggestion:

Instead of "if", it should be "is".

Other than that, the storyline is good. But you could always make it better by letting the reader "see" their surroundings. Are they outside or inside? What is around them? What does "Gertrude" look like to make the character think he is in his thirties? Just a few suggestions.








2
2
Review of The New Patient  
Review by Sariah
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hello! Let me first say that this is a review to help you, not to criticize you. Everything in the review is my opinion and may not be the opinion of others.

Opening: The opening needs to be stronger to grab the reader's attention and hold them in the story to the very end. Give them a reason to want to keep reading on.

For example: your second line reads, She was a striking woman, stylish in her long coat and high leather boots.

My suggestion is to provide more details, creating a more descriptive image for the readers. Show the readers how she was striking. What other things made her striking, like her hair, her eyes? What color was her long coat? Did it give him the impression that she was naked under it or did some colored clothing peek through?

Storyline: This is very much like The Little Mermaid storyline. Not sure if it was intentional.

Content: More descriptive paragraphs would help.

Closing paragraph: I like the closing paragraph. It definitely solves the issue of wondering if she is crazy.

Okay, those are my thoughts. You can take them or leave them. I hope it helps.
3
3
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Title: I heard my father laugh
Author: Liam



Opening: The opening lines are good but could be better. The hook is there, true. I think it could be a lot more gripping if reworded.


Style & POV: First person POV, the narrator is the writer.


Content: Informative. The more you read, the better it gets. I think some stronger verbs and some more descriptive sentences could make it better.


Grammar: You do the same thing I am so guilty of. The use of passive verbs. I groan every time I see those two words in my reviews. So I can completely sympathize. This piece has several. If you traded them out for stronger, more active verbs, this would be a much stronger piece.


Just My Opinion: I liked the story, Liam. Do I think it could be a stronger piece? Yes. But the plot and the creative ideas behind it are good. Really good. Don't give up!



Sariah


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4
4
Review of Busted  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Title: Busted
Author: Pepper loving NanoWriMo!




Opening: Great opening, Pepper! It's simple and credible.


Style & POV: Third persom limited.


Content: This was a good story. I love the ending. I did notice the use of some passive/weak verbs and think they could easily be replaced with stronger verbs. It would be nice to "see" some scenes. Instead of telling us he was even angrier, show us. Then you can take that sentence out since it will be redundant.


Grammar: Like I mentioned above, the story would be stronger if you replaced the passive verbs with stronger active verbs.


Just My Opinion: Overall, I really liked the story, Pepper. The ending was great. I love the simile you used about her trying to get him out the door. That was hilarious! Awesome job!



Sariah


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5
5
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Title: The Rattle of the Bones
Chapter: Chapter 2
Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


Plot: Stan arrives at his office to find the door already unlocked and ajar. Checking for evidence of tampering and finding none, he thinks maybe the cleaning crew is responsible. Only to find out, the cleaning crew never made it to his office. Stan is joined by an older, snotty woman sent to him by the agency to fill in as his secretary. Getting her settled, he begins his day. He is shortly joined by a new client sent to him by his lover, Conner. A missing person's case that he believes should be easy to solve. His day ends by a disconcerting phone call from Barb about the ruling on the death of an ex-lover and a suggestion to watch out for himself.


Style & Voice: Third person limited


Referencing: Modern day, references made to cell phones and gourmet coffee machines that produce one cup of coffee at a time.


Scene/Setting: Chapter begins and ends inside of Stan's office.


Characters: Stan is a private investigator who shows signs of OCD. He is surrounded by mysterious events such as anonymous phone calls, a break-in of sorts, and the mysterious death of an ex-lover.

Conner is Stan's lover and works as a social worker. Not much is know about him at this time.

Cissy Bregas is a new client sent to him by Conner. She would like to hire Stan to find her lost boy, Duane.


Grammar: A few mispelled words here and there. Other than that, it looks good to me. I will point them out in the line by line.


Just My Opinion: I had read the previous Chapter 2 so I had something to compare with. This chapter seems much clearer in the scenes and shows more conflict. We learn a bit more about Stan as well. Great reworking of the chapter, Max.


Line by Line


Chapter Two





Stan swerved to change lanes as he buzzed through the morning rush-hour traffic. After last night, he yearned for his first cup of coffee and to lose himself in what little work waited at his office. He slammed on his brakes when a black BMW SUV cut in front of him. He glared at driver, Left out "the" between the two words. who seemed to be steering with her knees while applying her makeup in her rear-view mirror. Fucking idiot. His hangover throbbed and his index finger tapped a steady drumbeat on his steering wheel.

The sunlight streaming through his windshield threatened to boil his brains, and the stop-and go traffic roiled his stomach. When he finally pulled into the strip mall where he rented office space, he killed the engine of his rested-out rusted-out Honda, rubbed his face, and felt inside his suit jacket for antacid and aspirin. He swallowed two of each, dry, and winced as his stomach threatened to eject them back out.

Sunlight flashed off the gold letters on the plate-glass window in front of him: Dunstan Scholl, Private Investigations. At least the new secretary the agency was supposed to send wasn't here yet. Stan needed coffee before he could face strangers so early in the morning.

He clambered out of his car, gave his Italian suit a precise adjustment, and strode to the office entrance. Stan pulled out his key and pressed against the door. Adrenalin prickled out his fingers when it swayed open at his touch, already unlocked and unlatched. He inspected the latch for signs that it had been jimmied. Nothing. He was certain he'd locked it last night, when he'd dropped off Mr. Dumbledore, a litter box, and related cat-stuff before returning to his apartment.

He remembered Chuck Olofsson's hysterical threats in Rob's apartment, but that oaf was too ham-handed to break in without leaving behind evidence like a broken window. Stan's paltry caseload was routine: a couple of spouses looking for evidence on their philandering partners, a suspected instance of life insurance fraud, and a rich guy wanting dirt on his sister. Nothing that would cause anyone to risk breaking and entering, let alone hire a professional.

Just in case, he checked his shoulder holster but didn't pull his weapon. Everything seemed to be in order in the shabby reception area. He paused and held his breath, listening. A thud sounded from the inner office and then Mr. Dumbledore poked the door ajar, spread his whiskers and stropped at Stan's legs. "Hey, Dumble. I'll feedja in just a minute." He flipped the lights on. "If anyone is back there, now would be a great time to say something. I've got a gun, and I shoot intruders."

Silence.

He stood to one side of the door and slammed it open. At least no one was hiding behind it. In a rush, he was inside the office, crouched low, scanning the interior.

No one. He checked the tiny bathroom, and it, too, was empty.

A high-pitched warbling voice from behind made him whirl around. "Are you Mr. . er Shole"?" A short, middle-aged woman with gray hair that was too long for her age and a purse the size of New Hampshire stood staring at him.

He caught his breath. "Scholl. The name's pronounced 'Skawl.' Who are you?"

"I'm Debbie Niblock. The agency sent me over." She pulled paperwork from her purse and handed it to him.

He glanced at it. "Debbie. Did you just get here?"

"Yes, Mr. Shole. I'm sorry I'm late." She looked him up and down, appraisingly. "Are you all right? Your face is a little pale, and it's all covered with perspiration."

He swiped at his forehead with his perfectly pressed handkerchief. "You're sure you just got here? You didn't unlock the place or anything, did you?"

"How could I do that, Mr. Shole?" she simpered. "I don't have a key."

"Scholl," he muttered. "No, of course you don't."

Mr. Dumbledore chose that moment to announce that he needed fed, and right now!

Debbie's face looked like she'd stepped in his litter box. "What's that animal doing in here? Shoo! Get away, you scruffy thing."

Stan knelt and scratched the cat's chin. Mr. Dumbldore stopped his demands, closed his eyes, and looked indecently pleased. "This is Dumble. He's a stray I picked up, and now he's the office...uh...guard cat."

"Guard cat! I've never heard anything more ridiculous in my life!"

"Well, that's what he is if I say so. Part of your job is feeding him." Stan stood. "You sit out front. Let me orient you."

Within five minutes, he'd settled Debbie at her desk, fed the cat and brewed his first blessed cup of coffee.

Debbie frowned at his expensive German coffee maker. "What's that? I like my coffee the old-fashioned way. Instant."

"You'll like this. It grinds the beans and brews one cup at a time. You want a cup?"

She looked like he'd offered her arsenic. "No, thank you."

He heaved a sigh. "Well, then. I've got things to do in my office. I'm expecting a call from a police detective, Barbara Murphy. Put her through, but otherwise you're your job is to take messages and not disturb me. "

"What if someone comes in and wants to see you?"

"If it's Detective Murphy, let her in. Otherwise, make an appointment for tomorrow. My calendar's on the computer. I'm going to be busy all day today." Stan gave her a nod, entered his office and closed the door.

He spent the next half an hour examining his files. The cabinets were still locked, and he couldn't see any evidence anyone had tampered with them. He ran a finger along his pristine desktop before checking the drawers. Still locked, and no signs any had tried to jimmy them open.

Stan settled in his chair, leaned back and tented his fingers. It didn't look like there'd been a break-in after all. No signs of forced entry, and nothing disturbed, as nearly as he could tell. It was just possible the cleaning service had forgotten to lock up last night. He thought about calling to check, but the clock on the wall reminded him he'd already wasted an hour this morning. The coffee, antacid and aspirins had tamed the worst of his hangover. Time to clear up his sparse workload before Barb showed up the file from last night.

An hour later, he scowled at the buzz of the office intercom and closed the surveillance report on Chelsea Puchner that he'd been editing. Her brother wanted dirt on her, but Stan hadn't been able to find any, at least not without any clues about what to look for. "What is it, Debbie? I asked you to not disturb me." A fleeting thought of the flask of Jack Daniels hiding in his desk tempted him, but he pushed it away.

She cleared her throat and dumped her phlegm-soaked voice into the orderly quiet of his office. "I'm sorry, Mr. Shole. There's someone here to see you."

He winced. She was going to have to learn his name if she was going to stay here. "That's Scholl, Debbie. Scholl." He kept his voice even. "I'm busy. Who is it?"

"It's a woman , sir. A, uh, Mrs. Bregas. She said Mr. Conner Jacobs sent her. She says it's real important."

Stan's jaws tightened at the Conner's name. He narrowed his eyes, moved the single folder on his desk two millimeters to the right, and thought again about the flask in the bottom drawer. The digital clock on the wall clicked to 10:19. "Send her in, please." This could be a coincidence, but then again it could be connected to those calls from Rob's cell phone to Conner. It couldn't hurt to check her out.

He stood when a woman with Ann Margaret hair and a figure two sizes too large for her polka-dot sundress flounced into his office. Dark sunglasses and waxy, red lipstick couldn't hide the shiner on her right eye or her swollen lip. The click of her open-toed high heels on the hardwood floor rebounded against the barren plaster walls.

He walked around the desk and extended his hand. "Mrs. Bregas. I'm Dunstan Scholl, Private Investigator."

"Pleased to meet you." Her words whispered from her lips with a nasal Iowa twang. She laid boneless fingers into his hand for a brief moment. It was like grasping a damp, snow-white dishtowel that someone had daubed with crimson nail polish. "Call me Cissy, will you? I'm getting rid of the 'Mrs.' part." Her voice broke and she reached into her blood-red vinyl purse, pulled out a wad of Kleenex, and patted behind her sunglasses.

Stan held one of the client chairs for her, the leather one without the coffee stain. "Please, have a seat, Cissy." She squeezed into the chair, leaving behind a heady wake of floral perfume. Her body jiggled like jello and threatened to ooze out of her dress before it adjusted to a new equilibrium.

Stan returned behind his desk and settled into his worn, executive chair. He pursed his lips and aligned a pen with the folder he'd centered earlier. "What brings you here, Cissy? You said Conner sent you?"

"I just didn't know what to do. Conner's my caseworker. He's so nice and understanding. Anyways, he said he was sure you could help."

Stan quirked an eyebrow at her. "Conner usually works with children, Mrs. Brega. I'm surprised he has an adult for a client."

She rolled her eyes and Stan wondered for a moment if they were going to fall out. "Whatever. What difference does it make whose client we was?"

He shrugged. "Apparently none." He tipped an ironic eyebrow at her. "I'll be sure to thank Mr. Jacobs for the referral." Sending me a referral is a first for Conner. What's he up to?. "Perhaps if you can tell me what your problem is?"

Her face flushed under the layers of makeup. She leaned forward, her semi-exposed breasts at the vanguard. "My problem?" Her tone changed from a jazzy saxophone to the screech of an out of tune violin. "My problem is my sumbitch ex-husband, that's what my problem is."

Stan blinked at her psycho shift in demeanor. Why the hell would Conner send this whack-job to him? "I understand, Cissy. Is he the one who beat you?"

She winced and leaned back, fingering her cheek. "Does it show? I tried to cover it up with my makeup."

"I'm a private investigator, Cissy. I'm trained to notice things." He made another miniscule adjustment to the pen. "Now, how can I help you? What, exactly, did Mr. Jacobs have in mind for me to do?"

Passing confusion befuddled her features. "Who? Mr. Jacobs? Oh! You mean that nice social worker, Conner. He said you could find my baby."

"Your baby?" Stan reached into the bottom drawer, and his eyes lingered on the flask before he pulled out a notebook. "Tell me more."

"My baby boy's missing. Last night, the cops came when my rat-bastard husband beat me. They arrested him and dumped me at the emergency room. I didn't have a way home and no money for a cab, so I called Conner. When we got back to my place, my baby boy was gone." She choked on a sob, and a mascara-stained tear rolled down a pudgy cheek.

That explains why he was late for dinner. "Have you checked with the police, Cissy? They wouldn't have left an infant unattended." Stan frowned. Conner would have known to call children's services. Fuck, he was children's services.

"Infant? Who said anything about an infant?" She scowled at him. "You been payin' attention? Maybe you're not the man for the job."

"Cissy, you said your 'baby boy' was missing. I assumed you meant he was, you know, a baby."

"Ha. You assumed. You know what that means. You make an ass out of you and me." Triumph lit her face, as if she'd proven something.

He rubbed at the incipient pain between his eyes and stared at her. "Let's start at the beginning, shall we? This all happened last night?"

"Yeah. They said they could only keep him overnight. I bet the sumbitch is back at his job right now, sittin' high and mighty."

Stan made a note. "And where do you live?"

"I'm at the women's shelter right now. Can't tell you where that's at. It's just for women. Can't tell no men where it's at."

Stan nodded, while noting the address on Division Street in his book. "Of course not, Cissy. I understand. So you think your husband will return to your home?"

"He can have that pig sty apartment, for all I care. As soon as you find my baby boy, we're goin' to live with my sister up in Lost Springs."

"Well, I'm good at finding people, Cissy. What's your son's name? And how old is he?"

"My Duane's only 19, the poor thing. He's a good boy, even if he says he's one of them homo-sex-uals. I prayed for him, y'know, and the Priest said he did, too. When we get to Lost Springs, I just know he'll find Jesus. I'll see to it." She emphasized her words with a flashy red fingernail that tapped on Stan's immaculate desk.

"Well, I can't help you locate Jesus. I'm afraid that case is a little cold." Stan flashed a quick grin and then paused in thought. One more case more or less wouldn't matter, and this should be pretty easy. He decided to take the job, even though it didn't seem connected to Rob's death or the mysterious phone calls. "I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find Duane, though. Do you have a recent photo?"

She gave him a suspicious look, but then pawed through her purse. "Here's his grad-gee-ay-tion picture, and this here's a snapshot from a picnic at Merit Island Park last Fourth of July."

Stan accepted the dog-eared photos. They revealed Duane to be a skinny, pimply-faced kid with greasy black locks that fell rope-like to his shoulders. A pointy spike of hair sprouted from his left brow, either by design or perhaps it was just an unruly cowlick. A cheap stud glittered in his left ear, and his smile showed crooked teeth. "He's a handsome young man, Cissy. Does he have any friends I can contact?"

She snorted. "There's Lola. I thought she was his girlfriend, but then my husband found 'em in bed together. Lola's one of them faggots what tempted him to stray from Jesus."

"Lola. Do you know her last name?"

"His last name. No, and I don't want to."

"Anyone else?"

"Not that I know of. Duane was always kinda a loner."

Stan frowned and bit his lower lip. It wouldn't do any good to criticize her lack of parental interest. Not now, anyway. Poor kid. No wonder he ran away. "Where did he go to high Shole?"

"Central, 'cept he dropped out his last year. I paid for the grad-gee-ay-tion picture when he got his GED."

"Does he have a job?"

"The little sad sack tried and tried, but he jest couldn't get nothin'. My no-good, worthless husband coulda got him a job where he works, but he wouldn't do it. Said he didn't want no faggot son around. The Puchners wouldn't like it."

"The Puchners? He works for them?" Stan's eyebrows lifted and he made another note.

"Yeah. He's a bill collector for Puchner Payday Loans. They was our landlords, too. Puchner Paradisio Apartments, on Harrison."

"I know the place." Stan tapped on his notebook. "I'll have to speak with your husband, Cissy. He might have some leads, and I want to look at Duane's room. There might be clues about his acquaintances there."

Her nostrils flared and her lips turned down. "That SOB won't do nothin' for you."

"We'll see. I have a way with people." Stan gave her a coy smile. "Now, what's his name? I can't go to the Payday Loan place and ask for Rat-bastard Bregas."

"Johnnie. His name's Johnnie." Her voice quavered and she smeared at the tears on her cheek. "You really think you can find my baby boy, Mr. Shole?"

"If he's still in the metroplex, I'll find him, Cissy."

She reached into her purse and counted out ten twenty-dollar bills. When she shoved them across the desk, she leaned forward and exposed more cleavage. "Conner said I'd have to pay you. This is all's I got, two hundred dollars. Is that enough?"

Stan took five twenties and pushed the remainder back to her. "I'm sure this will be sufficient, Cissy. You'll need something to get you and Duane up to Lost Springs."

She snatched up the money. "Thank you, Mr. Shole. Conner said you was a nice man."

"I'm sure he did." Conner must have known she couldn't pay and that Stan couldn't resist helping find a runaway gay kid. Talk about a rat-bastard. "Now, I'll need to be able to get in touch with you. Do you have a cell phone?"

"My asshole husband stomped on it and broke it."

"Not a problem." He pressed the intercom. "Debbie?"

His assistant cleared her throat and answered, "Yes, Mr. Shole?"

He winced and reflected this would be her first and her last day. "In the lower right drawer of your desk you will find some pre-paid cell phones. Will you please bring one to me?"

The speaker emitted shuffling noises. "I don't see them, Mr. Shole."

"The lower right drawer, Debbie. I'm sure they're there."

"Oh, silly me. The right drawer. Yes, I have them. What should I do with them?"

He clenched his jaw, but kept his voice even. "Please bring one here."

Something went clunk in the outer office, and Debbie appeared at the door holding a drawer-full of cell phones. "Here they are, Mr. Shole. I don't what you're going to do with so many of these."

Stan joined her and plucked a phone and charger from the drawer. "I only needed one, Debbie."

"Well, you could have said so." Her gaze sparked and her voice turned snippy.

He avoided rolling his eyes. "That will be all, Debbie." He pushed her from the room, closed the door and turned back to his new client. "Here, Cissy. Keep it charged up. I'll call you tonight with an update."

She stuffed the phone into her purse. "Thanks. You think you'll find him today?"

"Probably not. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. I don't think it will take long. I'll let you know."

"All right, then." She stood and pressed too close to him. "Thank you, Mr. Shole. You're a good man. I'm sorry I doubted you before."

"Scholl."

"What?" Her eyes darted about the room. "Is there a skull someplace in here?"

"Scholl. My name is Scholl." He took her by the elbow and showed her to the door. "I'll be in touch."

As Cissy departed, Debbie looked up from where she hunkered over her computer at the receptionist desk, playing solitaire. "I need a restroom break if that's all right, Mr. Shole."

Stan waved a hand at her. "Sure. In fact, I won't be needing you the rest of the day. You can go ahead and go home."

She wrinkled her forehead at him and scolded, "The agency promised me a full day's pay, Mr. Shole."

He nodded and plastered a smile on his face. "Of course. You'll be paid as agreed."

"Well, then, I'll see you tomorrow at nine."

She waited, but he just kept his sappy smile in place, while silently congratulating himself for not strangling her.

With a sniff, she pulled her purse from under her desk. "Have a good day, Mr. Shole." She paused to primp her too-long, graying hair and then waggled out of the office.

Stan closed his eyes and waited for the door to slam. The flask in his desk called to him, but he resisted and decided on coffee instead. When he tried to brew a cup, his expensive machine whirred, made loud clunking sounds, squirted brown water and grounds onto the table and floor, and then started to smoke.

He jumped, unplugged the machine and found instant coffee crystals jammed into the hopper that was supposed to hold beans. "Jesus Christ in heaven! I swear, if she ruined this thing, then I'm not paying her a nickel." His head throbbed, right above his left eye, and no amount of rubbing would make it go away.

He flipped the "Open" sign on the office's outer door to "Closed" and retreated to his desk chair. He had an hour before he needed to meet Conner for lunch. Alone in his office, he wondered again about the unlocked door this morning and decided to call the cleaning company to complain. He flipped his phone open, checked the address book and dialed.

A perky tenor answered, "Two Guys and a Broom Cleaning Agency. How may I help you?"

"Hi. This is Dunstan Scholl. You have the contract to clean my office at the Emerald Plaza on Ninth."

"Mr.Scholl. Yes, sir. I've been meaning to call you with an apology."

"An apology?" Stan nodded and a satisfied grin bent his lips. So they did leave the door unlocked. I knew it.

"I'm afraid our crew didn't make it to your office last night. They were in an accident, and they spent the evening in the emergency room. I'm so sorry. We'll credit your bill."

"An accident?" He sat up, frowning. "Is everyone all right?"

"Oh, yessir. Just bumps and bruises, but we wanted them checked out, just be sure."

"Good, of course." Stan's breath came in slow, measured bursts. "So no one came to my office to clean last night?"

"No, sir. We do apologize."

"Don't worry. Give my best to the crew, okay?" He rang off and leaned back. How the hell did his office door end up unlocked?

Mr. Dumbledore appeared from nowhere and stretched to twice his normal length before he snuggled onto Stan's lap, leaving behind a trail of cat hair on his lap. Stan stroked the cat's back without noticing the fur soiling his immaculate suit.

His cell phone rang and Stan gave a little jump. Mr. Dumbledore tossed an offended look at him before thumping to the floor. Stan's jaws clenched when he recognized Barb's number and memories of last night came cascading back. "Hey, Murph. What's up?"

"Hi, Stan. The ME ruled it an 'accidental death' at ten this morning. The case is now officially closed."

He leaned back and closed his eyes, trying to not think of Rob's body on the ME's autopsy table. "Just what you expected."

"Yeah. Can we meet this afternoon? I'll bring a copy of the file."

"Sure. How about the Village Inn on Harrison? Say around four-thirty?"

"Perfect. And Stan..." She paused.

"Yeah?"

"Have you talked to Conner about this?"

His stomach chilled. "Not yet."

Silence stretched.

"You still there, Barb?"

"Yeah. Just be careful, okay? Both you. I've got a bad feeling about this."


© Copyright 2011 Max Griffin (UN: mathguy at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Max Griffin has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.




Sariah




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6
6
Review of Abandon: My WIP  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Title: Abandon
Chapter: Chapter 1
Author: Mairead


You have requested this review from "The Review Spot.




Plot: After receiving a mysterious phone call, Darcy Hallow comforts a friend after his younger brother is taken away for training. Experiencing her own loss, Darcy tries to be there for her friend and help him come to terms with it.


Style & Voice: Third person limited.


Referencing: Post apocalyptic era.


Scene/Setting: The chapter starts in Darcy's kitchen where she is trying to avoid dishes thrown by her hysterical mother. It then plays out in a park on swings where she is talking to her friend.


Characters: Darcy Hallow is one of the major characters in this chapter. She has taken the role of the adult in the house and tries to comfort her grief-stricken mother.

Mae Hallow, Darcy's mother, is grief-stricken over the loss of her husband and her oldest daughter, Raina.

Conrad is a friend of Darcy's who has lost his younger brother, I am assuming, to the government for military training.


Grammar: I notice some areas where commas need to be inserted and some typos here and there. Other than that, your chapter seems sounds.


Just My Opinion:

First off, welcome to WDC!! You will find us a tight-knit community who are always trying to strengthen our writing and help other fellow writers.


I like your opening chapter. It contains all the elements you would need to draw in your readers. The opening paragraph is solid and makes the reader wonder why in the world dishes are flying everywhere. *Smile* I think your characters need a bit more filling in. What do they look like? How does Darcy feel about the absence of her father and sister? Does she accept it as a part of life or is she resentful of having loss so much? Make the reader feel her pain.

My favorite line is If she cried every time this happened, she would dissolve in a sea of salt. Wonderful description!

Let me know when you have written your second chapter! You have left this reviewer wanting to read more!

Great job!



Sariah




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7
7
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Title: The Rattle of the Bones
Chapter: Chapter 1
Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


Plot: Stan is drowning his sorrows at home after his dinner with his lover doesn't go so well. He receives a call from a cop friend who tells him of the demise of an ex-lover/scumbag and wants him to come to the scene to look it over.


Style & Voice: Third person limited


Referencing: Modern day


Scene/Setting: Chapter starts at Stan's apartment and moves to the crime scene.


Characters:

Stan is an ex-cop turned PI. He seems to be a tortured soul as he drowns away his pain in whiskey. Stan is anal-retentive or has OCD as he appears extensively groomed and keeps his apartment spotless.

Connor is Stan's lover, who is a social worker.

Detective Barb Murphy is the detective on on a crime scene where the victim is one of Stan's ex-lovers. Barb is Stan's ex-partner on the force.

Rob is one of Stan's ex-lovers and a complete scumbag addict. His body is found under suspicious circumstances according to Barb. The coroner has declared it accidental but Barb feels something isn't quite right.

Chuck Olofsson is Rob's brother. He despises Stan and blames him for some wrongdoing that happened earlier with his brother.


Grammar: Just a couple of things. Will point them out on the line by line.


Just My Opinion: This chapter is filled with conflict. You have the fight between Stan and Connor. Then you have a DB of a man that Stan once knew and loved. I like this chapter quite a bit. It sets the tone for the chapters that follow. I'm glad you left Stan as he is. I love his neurotic personality. This chapter definitely makes me see into Stan's world and leaves me wanting to read more and more.

Great work on this chapter.


Sariah



Line by Line


When the phone shrilled, Stan glared at it and then gulped down a shot of Jack Daniels instead of answering. His gaze drifted downward to his gleaming shoes, and then to the carpet. The nap marched in crooked rows left over by the cleaning service's vacuum this afternoon. The imprints of Conner's footsteps from when he'd stalked out an hour ago were still visible, but soon even those remnants would vanish. Good riddance.

He slouched deeper into one of his two matching and perfectly aligned Eames chairs while scowling at his apartment's tiny living room. The candles that guttered on the mantle had burned down to uneven heights. This is a great reference to Stan's obsession with everything being perfect and in their place. Their glow cast flickering shadows across his Escher print of "Ascending and Descending," highlighting that it hung a quarter inch askew. The top magazine in the stack of National Geographics on the coffee table lapped over the rest of the pile by at least an eighth of an inch.

Instead of restoring order to his refuge, he tossed back another drink. The internet radio changed tunes to a track of Kenny G's "Songbird," and the phone at last stopped ringing.

Stan's head throbbed and he poured another shot. This one he swished in his mouth, savoring the aroma and the tang. If he drank a few more, he knew the disarray that was life would go away, at least for tonight.

The phone's strident call started up again. Stan flung himself to his feet and swore, "Shit." He stomped to the device and considered throwing it across the room, just to shut the blasted thing up. He didn't bother checking the caller ID: it had to be Conner, wanting to continue their fight, or to make up. Stan didn't much care which. He was sick of relationships; they were always messy. He snatched up the phone and snarled into the handset, "What the fuck do you want? I said I was fucking sorry, already, and all you did was leave."

A hesitant female voice answered, "Uh, is that you, Stan? This is Barb."

His face relaxed. Barb, his ex-partner, from his ex-career with the police force. "Sorry. How are things with you, Detective Murphy?"

"Not bad. How about you?"

"Same old, same old." He needed another drink, but the bottle was across the room and he was tethered here, by the fucking phone. He plopped on the sofa. "How are Clarence and the kids?"

"All good. Clarence is as handsome as ever."

Clarence was bald and had a beer gut. Stan mused, "You know, he always struck me as more like eye broccoli."

She rewarded him with a chuckle, and a grin toyed with his lips as her alto piped from the phone with a question. "Speaking of eye candy, how's your squeeze Conner?"

His mouth tightened at that. He didn't want to talk about their fight. "He's great. We had dinner tonight." He glanced into the shadows of the dining alcove where the meal he'd prepared sat cold and untouched. A single beam of light from the kitchen illuminated a crystal vase centered on the table and filled with red carnations.

"Well, say hi to him for me. He's a honey."

"I'll do that." Stan's throat tightened, and he wondered if he'd have the chance. He didn't know why he'd gotten so angry at Conner. Being late for dinner suddenly seemed trivial against the emptiness that closed in around him.

Barb cleared her throat. "About why I called. I caught this case tonight. A dead body in an apartment. One of the other tenants complained about the smell, and we got called in."

Stan frowned. "Yeah?" Why would she call him about a DB?

"Stan, it was Rob."

A chill frisson tingled across Stan's cheeks and, for a moment, he couldn't breathe.

"You there, Stan?"

"Yeah," he murmured. Rob. His first lover. Even yet, his heart fluttered at the mention of the man's name. That is, before other memories exploded in his skull like Krakatoa and spewed lava through his chest. Rob, the prostitute, the drug dealer, the scum bag who outed him, lied about him, and ruined his career without a trace of remorse. That Rob.

Barb spoke in a rush. "Look, buddy, I'm sorry to tell you like this, but I knew you'd want to know. And, well, I think I need your help."

"Give me a minute, okay?" He put the handset down and took a deep, steadying breath. Two quick steps and he could drown those memories in bourbon. Two more and his .38 would end them forever. Enough.

His hand quavered when he picked the phone back up and dared a reckless whisper. "What happened to him, Barb?"

"Well, there's a disagreement about that. That's why I need you. He was staying at those apartments on Route 61 behind the Riverside Chevy dealership. You know the ones?"

"Sure. We raided them often enough." He settled into the calming routine of police patter. "There are crack houses and meth labs all through that neighborhood. A perfect place for that SOB to end up." The SOB who gave him so many sweet nights of loving. Memories of Rob's perfect body, his quirky grin, and his musical voice threatened to drown him. Memories of his betrayals stabbed him. "I remember."

"You sure you're all right, Stan? I'd come over, but I haven't closed out the scene yet. The coroner's still here too, messing with the body."

"Rob's body's still there?" Stan stood checked his pocket for his keys. "I'll be right over. Give me fifteen minutes, tops." Time enough for one last chance to say goodbye, one last chance to tell him to piss off, one last chance for closure, whatever the fuck that was.

"Good. I'll tell the guys to look for you." Relief showed in her voice. "Watch out. Rob's psycho brother Chuck was here earlier. We sent him downtown with a uniform to cool off. Kramer told him there was paperwork he had to fill out, but he might be back."

"Got it. See you in fifteen." Stan hung up and stopped in the bathroom to swish with mouthwash. No reason for Barb to smell liquor on his breath. He straightened his necktie, brushed minuscule wrinkles out of his suit coat, and rushed out the door to his car.

When Stan arrived at the scene, a black-and-white was still parked askew inside the apartment's lot, its strobe lights flashing. A ghostly fluorescence leaked over the rooftops from the adjacent car dealership, exposing a rag-tag group of gawkers. Stan pulled up behind the coroner's wagon and rolled down his window as a uniformed officer approached.

"You Dunstan Scholl?"

"Yeah." Stan flashed his PI license.

The officer's jaw muscles jumped, but he pointed toward the second floor of the building. "Detective Murphy said you should meet her up there." His shoulder radio squawked, and he turned away to mutter an answer.

Stan pushed his way through the crowd in the parking lot. Their soulless eyes inspected him with veiled hostility. They were the usual clump of losers with nothing better to do than seek out the thrill of a real-life episode of Cops: shirtless men with grizzled beards, women in ratty bathrobes with over-sized curlers in their hair, unwashed pre-teens in their underwear. They reeked of BO and beer. Their stink was almost enough to hide the putrid odor of death.

Another officer stood at the bottom of the chipped concrete and steel stairs that led to the second floor landing. Stan wondered if he'd ever been that young; the guy's peachy cheeks looked like whiskers had never sullied them. White smears of Vick's Vap-O-Rub trailed underneath each nostril. Stan paused and showed his ID again.

The officer inspected it, and then stood aside. "Detective Murphy is expecting you, sir." He hesitated, and then held out his bottle of Vick's. "It's pretty bad up there. Would you like some of this?"

"No, thanks." He glanced at the nametag on the man's chest. "You know Officer Skrivseth, the DB odor numbs your olfactory nerves after about ninety seconds and you can't smell anything. That stuff just prolongs the agony."

Skrivseth's eyes widened. "I didn't know that, sir."

"A trick of the trade I learned from the old coroner, before he retired." Stan took another deep breath, winced at the stench, and climbed the stairs. He got to the top just as a wiry woman in a rumpled pantsuit emerged from an open apartment door. He recognized her familiar features framed by her efficient hairdo and held out his hand. "It's good to see you again, Detective Murhpy."

She ran up to him, ignored his hand and trapped him a bear hug. His arms froze for an instant before rising to give her a hesitant tap on the shoulders.

Her breath warmed his ear as she whispered, "Stan, sweetie, thanks for coming." She pulled back and gripped his shoulders, her gaze raking over him. "Look at you. How do you do it? It's one AM and you're perfect, like you just stepped off a fashion runway in Paris. Oh, I've mussed your coat." Her nervous fingers fiddled with his jacket.

Stan pulled back and twisted his head to one side. "Where's the DB?"

Barb's new partner, tall and lean like a greyhound, slouched out of the apartment. Stan tried to recall his name, but could only come up with Freddy Kruger. At least it fit what he remembered of the jerk's personality.

"It's inside," not-Freddy rasped. "The place is a mess. Besides the vic being a personal sperm bank, it looks like he was running a Beavis and Butthead lab. There's meth supplies all over, and jism sleeves on the floor. Can't smell the meth crap, though, 'cause of the DB stench."

Stan kept his face impassive and peered into the apartment. Sure enough, spent condoms littered the floor, along with tattered S&M porn magazines covered with dried-up jets of cum. He'd heard Rob got into kink while he was in the joint. A Frankenstein collection of bottles, glass tubing, and mason jars jammed the top of a waterfall dresser along one wall. Spent bottles of Sudafed, cans of paint thinner, and propane tanks lay scattered nearby.

Barb touched his hand. "The body's in the back, in the bedroom." She hesitated. "How long since you've seen him?"

"Five years. Right after he got out of the joint he hit me up for money. I bought him a one-way bus ticket to Chicago and told him to never call me again. I had no idea he was back in town."

"No phone calls?"

"God no."

She hesitated again. "Did Conner mention any calls from him?"

"Conner? No. Why would this skuzz call Conner? As far as I know, they never even met."

"I don't know, but his cell phone shows that he called Conner's office number at least three times last week."

"Well, Conner's a social worker. Maybe Rob was one of his clients." Stan didn't believe it. Besides, Conner dealt with minors, not with ex-cons like Rob.

"Maybe." Barb's tone showed she didn't believe it either. "Come on. The coroner's tech is in the other room."

Something prickled up Stan's spine. It couldn't be fear, but still he hesitated. He frowned and asked, "Where're the CSI techs?"

She looked grim. "There won't be any. The coroner has ruled this an accidental death, and Morgan, you remember him?"

Stan nodded. "He still an ass-kissing FLUB?"

Her mouth quivered as if she wanted to smile, but her partner growled in his best not-Freddy-Kruger voice, "Yeah. Fat, lazy, useless. Don't know if his parents were married or not. He's the watch commander. Go figure."

Barb continued, "Anyway, Morgan doesn't want to spend the money to investigate. The coroner says it's accidental, so we're done no matter what the evidence seems to say."

Stan snorted. "Yeah. Well, if it were a straight, rich guy he'd sing a different tune." He frowned. "You think it's a homicide?"

"I think even Rob deserves justice. We should at least check things out."

Not-Freddy nodded, and Stan reflected maybe he wasn't such a jerk after all. Kramer, that was his name. Frank Kramer.

Barb's gaze grabbed his attention. "Stan, there's not going to be a police investigation into Rob's death. We're blocked. But things don't look quite right to me. He was startin' a meth lab. The Crips wouldn't like that. The coroner ruled this accidental without even lookin' at the body; he just let his tech make the determination for him here on site. I mean, he's lazy, but that don't look right either. All the brass are just too eager to shut this down. Would you be willing to take a look? Ask around and see if you can turn up anything? I'll share what little we've got with you."

Kramer nodded. "We'll both help, off the record. Fuck that asshole Morgan."

Stan blinked. It wasn't like he was overloaded with cases right now, and poking his finger in the eyes of authorities had a certain appeal. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I owe Rob that much."

A pudgy, white-coated tech wearing rubber gloves sauntered out of the back room and interrupted them by confronting Murphy. "Hey, this place makes me want to hurl. Can I just load the meat into the wagon and get out of here?"

Her eyes narrowed and she delivered her words like punches to his flabby gut. "I told you, you can go when I say. I haven't released the body yet."

"Yeah, well it's a clear-cut case of auto-sexphixiation, if you ask me. There ain't no ligature marks on his ankles or wrists, and ain't no sign of a struggle. I tell ya, he scarfed himself, was high on drugs, and was too baked to know when to quit. He did us a favor: we got us one less scumbag on the streets."

Stan's face heated and he started to speak, but Barb touched his cuff and beat him to it. "So run a drug screen on him to verify he was high. Check for evidence of sexual intercourse. Right now that's all just conjecture."

"Waste of time. He's too far gone for a drug screen. He's already bloated and oozing puss from his anus and nostrils. Any sperm would be long dead. His tongue's all purple and hangin' outta his mouth, and his dick's hard. That's evidence enough for me."

Barb's voice turned sharper still. "You know damned well that could all be from the decomp. Did you even check him for bullet holes?"

The tech rolled his eyes. "I toldja. No signs of struggle or trauma." He seemed to notice Stan for the first time. "Who's this guy? What's he doing here?"

"I asked him to come to give us a positive ID on the body."

The tech stood aside. "Be my guest. Anything to get outta this hole."

Barb turned to Stan. "You don't have to. This could wait until he's in the morgue."

"I want to."

Concern pooled in her eyes. "I'll go with you."

Stan shook his head. "I'd rather be alone with him."

She bit her lip. "Stan, I'd feel better if I went along. Protocol."

He blinked, remembering that Rob had called Conner for some reason. "I understand. I won't disturb anything, but you've got to be sure."

"It's not that..."

"It's all right. We're all professionals here." Before he could stop to think about it, he turned on his heel and strode into the bedroom.

The body was as bad as the tech had said. It lay naked on double bed You need to add an "a" between "on" and "double". under the unforgiving incandescent overhead light. Dark lines mottled the greenish skin, giving it a faintly marbled appearance. Filthy sheets twisted about the legs. Coffee and god only knew what else stained the carpet. Withered condoms, crumpled porn magazines, IV needles, cigarette butts and other detritus covered the floor.

The body's eyes, open and milky, bulged out above the cheeks, as if in horror. Stan shuddered and steadied himself against the door jam. "It's him."

Barb raised his hand to her cheek and caressed it. "It's all right, sweetie. He can't hurt you anymore."

The room wavered and Stan realized he was crying. He swiped at his face. "I'm an idiot. He means nothing to me."

Her hand warmed his as she squeezed it. "He was a person. You loved him once. It's all right to feel something."

Voices from the outer room jerked their attention away from the remains on the bed. Frank was at the outer door blocking a red-faced man with a shaved head from entering. The man screamed, "He's my fucking brother and I've got a right..." Then his eyes focused on Stan and went wide. "What's that fucker doing here? This is all his fault. Lemme at him. I'm gonna kill him!"

Stan hung his head. Just what he needed: Rob's whacked out brother, Chuck Olofsson.

Barb approached Olofsson with her hands held out. "Sir. Sir, listen to me. I understand you're upset about your brother. I called Mr. Scholl to help with the identification. I don't think you want to see your brother's remains, Mr. Olofsson. Not the way he is now."

"I don't want that rat bastard anywhere around my brother. He's the one what fucked him up in the first place, and then his fuckin' lies sent him to the joint. I tell ya, I'm gonna kill that faggot fuckwad."

Frank pinned Chuck against the wall. "Mr. Olofsson, you don't mean that. If you meant that, we might have to take you downtown for questioning."

Olofsson grunted as Frank tightened his hold.

Frank continued in an even tone. "Now, what we're gonna do is let Mr. Scholl here go out to his vehicle, all nice-like. And then you, Detective Murphy and me can have a chat about what you wanna do with your brother's remains. Agreed?"

Olofsson twisted in Kramer's grip and screamed, "Let me go, pig. This is police brutality. I'll fuckin' sue your sorry ass."

Frank gave him another push and twisted his arm. "This is official police business. You disobeyed an officer, interfered with our investigation, and then assaulted me. Right now I'm showing restraint because of your loss, but don't fuckin' push me." He paused and then sneered, "Now, are you gonna be good, or do I gotta cuff ya?"

Olofsson's face turned purple, but he nodded. "I'll be good. For now." The glared Then glared? at Stan and spat. "I'll deal with you later, creep."

Barb grabbed Stan's wrist and pulled him past her partner and his captive. "Would you like me to go with you for coffee, maybe sit with you for a while? I could call Conner and let him know what's happened."

Stan shook his head. "I'll be fine. Don't bother Conner. He's got to get up early tomorrow. I just need to be alone right now."

Stan retreated back to his car under the cold stares of the on She examined his face for a beat. "All right then. I'll call you tomorrow. You take care of yourself, okay sweetie?"

lookers. He rested his head on the steering wheel and longed for the world leftto go away. When he looked up, it was mercilessly still there. He had at least half a fifth of bourbon left at his apartment. He started his engine and .







** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **


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8
8
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Title: The Rattle of the Bones
Chapter: Chapter 2
Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


Plot: Stan and Conner have lunch at Denny's to catch up. Conner tries to make amends for being late last night and today. While having lunch, they discuss Duane, their open case, and discover some interesting customers.


Style & Voice: Third person omniscient


Referencing: Modern day, references to Denny's


Scene/Setting: In the seating area of Denny's


Characters: Stan is an ex-cop turned PI.

Conner is Stan's lover. He works as a social worker.


Grammar: Anything I find will be in the line by line.


Just My Opinion: Another excellent chapter, Max! You let us see more into the lives of Stan and Conner. They are sort of a modern day "Odd Couple". Stan's character is filling out so nicely! I am so jealous of your writing style! *Blush* Great job!




Line by Line


Chapter Two




The wind gusted across the levee, blasted gritty dust into Conner's face and whipped his sandy-colored curls across his eyes. He swept his You don't need this word. at his hair with an impatient hand and glanced at his watch. Quarter after twelve. Stan was going to have a fit, especially after last night. He broke into a trot.

Five minutes later, he pushed into the downtown Denny's. He shivered as the air conditioning chilled the sweat on his brow and scanned the customers. Stan sat in the far row of booths, near the window, huddled over coffee with a morose expression on his face. As always, Stan's razor cut was perfectly styled, with a geometric part, angled sideburns, and pomade holding his barbed coiffure in place. Knife-like creases edged his Italian suit, and he'd knotted his necktie in a tight Windsor. Conner ran fingers through his own tangled locks, adjusted his rumpled sport coat, and plastered a smile on his face.

Stan didn't look up when Conner got to the booth. Conner slid in on the opposite side and said, "Sorry I'm late." He caught a whiff of his lover's masculine scent, and his heart quickened. Then the undertone of bourbon wafted his way and turned his mouth down.

Stan flicked his eyes at him, his jaws jumped, and then he returned to his examination of the depths of his coffee cup. "I've been here half an hour."

"I know. I'm late. I had a last minute emergency with a client. I said I was sorry." Conner put the file folder he'd been clenching on the table and signaled the waiter.

Stan sipped his water and at last stared Conner in the eye. "Jesus. You look like shit. You're all covered with sweat, your hair's a mess, and that shirt looks like you slept in it."

"I ran the last three blocks to get here. Dammit, it's humid out there."

"Well, it's Iowa in June. What do you expect?" He hesitated, but couldn't resist being Stan. Not sure what you are saying here with "being Stan". "You know, if you worked out, you could run two blocks without turning into a wheezing lump of Jell-o."

Conner's face heated, but the waiter arrived with water and menus so he held his tongue.

Stan announced his order at once, without bothering to look at the menu.

The waiter turned to Conner and asked, "Would you like a few minutes to make up your mind sir?"

Stan's right index finger traced rapid circles on the rim of his water glass.

Conner took the hint and picked the first thing that caught his eye on the menu. "I'll have the prime rib Philly melt? And a diet coke."

After the waiter nodded, Conner decided to try a perky question. "So, how was your morning?"

Stan glared at him and replied evenly, "My morning was shit. The no-pay client you referred to me sucked up over an hour. The agency sent over an even more brainless secretary than usual, and the cleaning service left my office unlocked overnight."

"Jesus. Was anything stolen?"

Stan shrugged and slurped coffee. "Not that I could see. At first I thought it was a break-in. Or a hit man."

"A hit man!" A chill shuddered down Conner's spine. "You mean like last year?"

Cold eyes glared at him for an instant, and then he moved the napkin on his side of the table a micron to the left. "It was nothing."

Silence stretched between them, while the clatter of plates the murmur of conversation rustled in the busy restaurant. After a few minutes, Conner decided it was time to face the music head-on. "Look, I'm sorry I was late for dinner last night. I'm sorry about the things I said, too. I didn't mean them. And I'm sorry I was late today for lunch. I had an emergency with a client and couldn't get away."

"You didn't call. You could have called."

"Sometimes you can't call. Dammit, Stan. You were cop once. You know that." Conner knew it was a mistake as soon as he said it, but the words were already out there.

Stan's face went dead at the mention of his former career. "You're a social worker, not a cop. It's different." He aligned the salt and pepper shakers to center them on the on table. "Let's just drop it, shall we? I didn't call you to fight"

Conner blinked back guilt. For a tough guy, Stan could be pretty vulnerable. "I do love you. You know that," he murmured. His throat tightened and he knew tears must shimmer in his eyes. He stroked Stan's thumb. At least he didn't pull away.

Stan looked up and heaved a sigh. "I know. I love you, too." He gave Conner's hand a quick squeeze and then sucked up more coffee. "Look, I know you've got to get back, and I've got things to do, too. We'll work this out. We always do. Did you bring the stuff I asked for?"

Conner nodded. "Yeah." He pushed the folder across the table. "There's a copy of the police report from three days ago. This Bregas guy's a real piece of work. There've been a dozen domestic violence calls in the past year, and the cops didn't do squat."

Stan opened the folder and flipped through the documents. "It says here she wouldn't press charges. Not much they could do." He flipped to Conner's handwritten notes. "I see our little Duane's been busy himself. What was he doing down on the levee? The cops wouldn't have written him up if he was just loitering."

"Yeah, I know. It looks like he was hooking. I spoke to the officer who wrote him up, a guy named Skrivseth."

"I know him. He's okay."

"Seemed like it to me. Anyway, he said he'd seen Duane there on and off for the last year, wearing low-slung jeans and usually with his shirt off, stuffed in his belt."

"Huh. Cruising then, at least, and maybe hooking. From the pictures his mother gave me, I doubt that taking off his shirt would exactly enhance his look."

"Not for you and me, maybe. There's plenty of chicken hawks out there."

"Yeah. Poor kid." Stan closed the folder. "His mother could only name one friend, some drag queen who goes by Lola. Did his father beat him like he did his mother?"

"There's no record of that, but he's got a couple suspicious emergency room admissions. Could have been from bullies at his school, though. His guidance counselor said he quit to get away from them."

Stan snorted and glared. "Yeah, and I bet the guy couldn't be bothered to lift a finger to help the gay kid. Bastard."

"Actually, the counselor's a she, and seems like a good sort. She tried to help, but his parents told her to back off. They even complained to the principal when she mentioned PFLAG. They thought he was a sissy and just needed to stand up for himself."

"That worked out well."

"Exactly. When you find him, I've got a family he can stay with until he gets on his feet. I've already found a part-time job for him, and got him a scholarship at the VoTech. He's smart enough. He just never had a chance."

"Yeah. 'When I find him.' You know, this will take at least a couple of days, and I'm in the middle of another case."

"I thought you were at a dead end? Besides, you told me you hated working for those fucks. The Puchners, right? Right-wing religious freaks."

"Their money's green, just like everybody else's, and I've got bills to pay." Stan's lips turned down. "Speaking of paying the bills, this Bregas woman sure as shit can't pay me five hundred a day plus expenses."

"If you're short, I can help out."

"I wasn't asking for charity." Stan's eyes snapped and his nose twitched.

"That's not what I meant." The waiter arrived with their meals, and their conversation ground to a blessed halt.

When they were alone again, Stan turned a sour eye on Conner's meal. "How can you stand to eat that crap? It's all full of grease and carbohydrates. How're your cholesterol and blood pressure doing, anyway? You know what your doctor said."

"I'm okay. Really." Jesus, lay off will you? I haven't bitched about the bourbon I can smell on your breath.

"Sorry. I don't mean to nag. It's just that I care for you." He blushed and looked away.

Conner wanted to stroke his hand, to tell him it was all right. But he knew Stan would hate that. The poor bastard just couldn't bring himself to show honest emotion. Conner gazed for a moment at his lover's trim form and rugged features and thought about the scars that hid beneath his too-perfect veneer. I guess you've got a right to be moody, after all you've been through. "I know you care," he whispered, but Stan didn't hear him.

Conner checked his watch. He had twenty minutes before his next appointment. He took a huge bite out of his sandwich and spoke through a mouthful of prime rib, mayonnaise and bun. "Thanks for taking this case. I knew I could count on you."

Stan grunted. "Yeah. I'm a real sucker."

"Look, I know you need to get paid. I can't afford your rate, but if you'll give me a discount maybe we can work something out?"

"I'll be all right. Seriously." Stan's eyes suddenly sparkled and a crooked grin tilted his features. "Maybe you could take it out in trade. What you doing tonight?"

"Said the spider to the fly. What do you have in mind?"

"Mmmm...I'm sure we can think of something." He glanced toward the front of the dining room and his eyes narrowed. "What the fuck's he doing here?"

Conner followed his gaze to where a beefy man with a florid face was speaking with restaurant's greeter. "Who? That dumpy, bald guy? He's not my type, if you're thinking of a three-way."

"Don't be silly. That's Thurston Puchner."

"No shit? The high and mighty hisself? Isn't this a little low class for him?"

"You can say that again. Uh-oh. He's spotted me." Stan stood, gave his suit coat a tug, and held out his hand as the man marched their way. "Mr. Puchner. So nice to see you."

"Scholl. Good to see you."

"This is my associate, Conner Jacobs."

Conner stood, wiped mayonnaise off his fingers and they shook while he muttered, "Mff, er, grrg." He pointed to his mouth and made exaggerated chewing motions.

Puchner nodded and turned his attention back to Stan in dismissal. "How's our business coming?"

"Slowly, sir. I'm kind of working in a vacuum right now. If you could give me an idea of where to look..." Stan quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Certainly, certainly. Call my girl for an appointment. I should have some time tomorrow or the next day. You can show me your preliminary report, and we'll go from there." He glanced to the front of the restaurant. "Ah, my associate is here." He nodded at Conner without looking at him. "Mr. Johnson."

They sat back down and Stan smirked at him. "You're so cute with mayo smeared on your chin." He dabbed his napkin in his water glass and wiped Conner's face.

"Shit. I must look like an idiot, and in front of your fancy-shmancy client. I'm sorry."

"It's all right. The SOB didn't even care enough to get your name right. 'Mr. Johnson,' my ass. Near as I can tell, the only thing that makes an impression on him is money. Huge stacks of it."

"Well, that leaves me out." Conner craned his neck. "Hey, look who he's having lunch with."

"It's rude to stare. You'll never be a private eye if you can't be more subtle." Stan scratched his temple and signaled to the waiter. "Okay, so he's with a redneck who looks like he's gone too many rounds in a tough man contest."

"Yeah. That's Johnnie Bregas." Conner considered the possibilities, and frown wrinkled his brow. "What are those two doing together?"

"Well, Cissy told me her husband worked for Puchner Payday Loans."

"Yeah, I know. Bregas is the muscle they use when someone is slow paying. So what's that low-life doing hob-nobbing with the company's power elite?"

Stan frowned. "Don't know. But I bet it'd be interesting to find out." He brightened. "Hey, come to my place over at nine or so? I'll pop some corn, and we'll watch a movie or something."

"I vote for 'or something.' I'll be there." Glad that Stan seemed to have forgiven him his transgressions, at least for now, Conner checked his watch. "Shit. I gotta run." He wrapped the remains of his sandwich in a napkin and stood.

The waiter chose that moment to return. "Did you need something, gentlemen?"

Stan nodded. "I think we're ready for the check, thanks." The waiter left to add up their bill, and Stan touched Conner's hand. "Go. I'll pay for lunch."

"Well..." Conner looked at his watch. "I am late. See you tonight."

"Don't be late."






Sariah




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9
9
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Title: The Day My World Darkened
Author: Mike~Dolphins Fan 4 Life

This review is part of your Secret Santa package from PDG.


Opening: Right from the first sentence, I was in for the ride. The loss of a loved one is never easy to accept, no matter how much time passes. The pain is felt just as keenly years down the road. It was the same for me when I lost my daughter when she was only hours old. So it does bring back memories for me.


Style & POV: Third person omniscent


Content: You go through the grieving process so well, showing your despair and the attempts made to console you during this horrific time in your life. You describe what so many of us feel during such a tragedy.

My favorite lines are You don’t want to walk a mile in my shoes. It’s not a pleasant stroll. I couldn't express it any better.


Grammar: I cannot find anything grammatically wrong, just a placement issue you might want to fix.

Third paragraph: That’s how I’ve been feeling since the day my smile left as the horror unfolded before my eyes.
The box that carries your empty shell is lowered to your place of rest.
You might want to delete the spaces between the two sentences.



Just My Opinion: I was uneasy about reviewing this. A piece this filled with emotion is often hard to look at objectively. I know my pieces like this are hard to come back to early on to edit or proof. But I noticed the date was 2009, so I took a chance. Not that the pain isn't still there, but that maybe it would be easier to look at this piece once again. You have a great writing style. I am so jealous. You are definitely a writer to keep an eye on. *Smile*

Keep up the great work.



Sariah


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10
10
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with The Rockin' Reviewers  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Title: Inner Thoughts of a Wandering Mind
Author: Mike~Dolphins Fan 4 Life

Hello, Mike. This review is part of the gift pack you won from the Secret Santa, Rockin' PDG Review Group.


Opening: I love your opening line. Aside from a grammar mistake here and there, I found it to be very touching and beautiful.


Style & POV: Told in first person POV, it has a modern style.


Content: I must admit some confusion between the opening paragraph and the rest that follows. You open with how loved ones have touched your life in some way but do not continue that thought. The third and last paragraph fit nicely. The rest is more of a philosophical view of the character of society today. Individually, the paragraphs and thoughts speak volumes. You could take these separate ideas and make two wonderful items. I would love to read both of them!

Something you might want to consider: In the fourth paragraph, you speak of the negative and positive energy. This sentence, Being too positive also has drawbacks, seems out of place. You don't go on to say what those drawbacks might be. But that is just my view of it. You may see it differently.


Grammar: I normally do a line by line, but in your case, the mistakes are minimal. I will address them here.

Opening sentence: As I gazed toward the celestial heavens, I had thoughts of family and friends that "whom" would be better here were either buried in memory, or have passed This isn't needed. You can remove the comma as well. on to the afterlife.



Just My Opinion: Your opening and closing paragraphs are beautiful. You show so much talent. In the entire item, you express yourself well. You make your points clear to the reader in each paragraph. I look forward to reviewing more of your work.



Sariah





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11
11
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Title: The Rattling of the Bones
Chapter: Chapter 1
Author: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈


Plot: Stan Scholl is having a bad day. Strung out with a horrible hangover, he gets to his office to find the door already unlocked and open. He discovers an ill-tempered, snide woman has been sent by the agency to stand in as his secretary. Finding nothing amiss in his office, he begins his day with a cup of coffee and his open case files. Not long into his morning, he is interrupted by his secretary announcing he has someone wanting to see him. It turns out his client wants him to find a missing person, namely her son. All of this happens while he struggles to make his secretary and client at least get his name right.


Style & Voice: Third person POV


Referencing: Modern day, references made to a German made coffee maker


Scene/Setting: Scene takes place in Stan's office, inner and outer rooms. Settings are clear and can be easily visualized by the reader.


Characters: Stan Scholl, main character, is a gay private detective who appears to be making a decent living, with the reference to his italian suit, yet drives a rusted out Honda. Whether his choice of vehicles is his preference or just that he prefers to look good rather than riding in style is still unknown. Stan also appears to be a bit anal retentive with the minute adjustments of the objects on his desk.

Debbie Niblock may or may not be a major character. It all depends if Stan fires her after the first chapter. A short, gray-haired, middle-aged woman acting as Stan's secretary is an opinionated, unpleasant woman. It is not clear on the reason for constantly getting Stan's last name wrong. It could be she is hard of hearing or just wants to rile her boss.

Mrs. Cissy Bregas is a major character. A rotund woman of possible Spanish descent sports signs of abuse. Sent by Stan's off-again, on-again lover, she would like Stan to find her son who is missing. Cissy believes his disappearance has to do with her abusive husband, Johnnie Bregas.

Duane Bregas is the missing person his mother would like Stan to find for her. Duane is a 19 year old gay boy whom his mother believes can be converted once he finds Jesus.

Johnnie Bregas is Cissy's abusive husband who she suspects of doing something to her son to cause his disappearance.

Conner Jacobs is Stan's on and off lover.

Felix is Stan's rescued guard cat.



Grammar: Just a few things here and there. More details will be given in the line by line.


Just My Opinion: I've always loved your writing, Max. This one does not disappoint. I tended to feel sorry for Stan, with the morning starting out with him having a hangover then moving along to the mysterious break-in, his unpleasant, clueless secretary, and his latest client. I am looking forward to reading the next chapter. Great job!


Line by line


Stan's hangover turned his stomach to a roiling pit of bile and pulsed in his head like lava. Lava pulses? When he pulled into the strip mall that held his office, he killed the engine of his rusted-out Honda, rubbed his face, and felt inside his suit jacket for antacid and aspirin. He swallowed two of each, dry, and winced as his stomach threatened to eject them back out.

Sunlight flashed off the gold letters on the plate-glass window in front of him: Dunstan School, Private Investigations. At least the new secretary the agency was supposed to send wasn't here yet. Stan needed coffee before he could face strangers so early in the morning.

He clambered out of his car, gave his Italian suit a precise adjustment, and strode to the door. Something didn't look quite right. Stan pulled out his key and pressed against the door. It swayed open at his touch, already unlocked and unlatched. He inspected the look for signs that it had been jimmied. Nothing.

Adrenalin sent needles down his spine and he did a hasty review of his caseload. A couple of spouses looking for evidence on their philandering partners, a suspected instance of life insurance fraud, a brother wanting dirt on his sister, and missing person case. Nothing that would cause anyone to risk breaking and entering.

Of course, there were always old cases, from before. no comma is needed here. When he was a cop. But if perp he'd put away insert "the". Did he only put one perp in jail? had gotten out of the joint recently, his buddies on the force would have told him.

Stan checked his shoulder holster, but didn't pull his weapon. Everything seemed to be in order in the outer office. He paused and held his breath, listening. A thud sounded from the inner office and then and gray tabby cat take out the second "and", insert "a" or "his" after. poked through the door and stropped at his legs. "Hey, Felix. I'll feedja in just a minute." He flipped the lights on. "If anyone is back there, now would be a great time to say something. I''ve remove extra apostrophegot a gun, and I shoot intruders."

Silence.

He stood to one side of the door and slammed it open. At least no one was hiding behind it. In a rush, he was inside the office, crouched low, scanning the interior.

Nothing and no one. He checked the tiny bathroom, and it, too, was empty.

A high-pitched warbling voice from behind made him whirl around. "Are you Mr. School?" A short, middle-aged woman with gray hair that was too long for her age and a purse the size of New Hampshire stood staring at him.

He caught his breath. "Scholl. The name's Scholl. Who are you?"

"I'm Debbie Niblock. The agency sent me over." She pulled paperwork from her purse and handed it to him.

He glanced at it. "Debbie. Did you just get here?"

"Yes, Mr. School. I'm sorry I'm late." She looked him up and down, appraisingly. "Are you all right? Your face is a little pale and all covered with perspiration."

He swiped at his face with his perfectly pressed handkerchief. "You're sure you just got here? You didn't unlock the place or anything, did you?"

"How could I do that, Mr. School?" she simpered. "I don't have a key."

"Scholl," he muttered. "No, of course you don't."

Felix chose that moment to announce that he needed fed, and right now!

Debbie's face looked like she'd stepped in his litter box. "What's that animal doing in here? Shoo! Get away, you scruffy thing."

Stan knelt and scratched the cat's chin. Felix stopped his demands, closed his eyes, and looked indecently pleased. "This is Felix. He's a stray who showed up here a couple of months ago, and now he's the office...uh...guard cat."

"Guard cat! I've never heard anything more ridiculous in my life!"

"Well, that's what he is if I say so. Part of your job is feeding him." Stan stood. "You sit out front. Let me orient you."

Within five minutes he'd settled Debbie at her desk, fed Felix and brewed his first blessed cup of coffee.

Debbie scowled at his expensive German coffee maker. "What's that? I like my coffee the old-fashioned way. Instant."

"You'll like this, Debbie. It grinds the beans and brews one cup at a time. You want a cup?"

She looked like he'd offered her arsenic. "No, thank you."

He heaved a sigh. "Well, then. I've got things to do in my office. Your job is to answer the phone and keep people away from me this morning."

"What if someone comes and wants to see you?"

"Make an appointment for this afternoon or tomorrow. I'm busy this morning." Stan gave her a nod, entered his office and closed the door.

He spent the next half an hour examining his files. The cabinets were still locked, and he couldn't see any evidence anyone had tampered with them. He ran a finger along his pristine desktop before checking the drawers. Still locked, and unmarked.

Stan settled in his chair, leaned back and tented his fingers. It didn't look like there'd been a break-inafter Needs a space in between in and after. all. No signs for Might sound better if you changed this for "of". forced entry, and nothing tampered with, as nearly as he could tell. It was just possible the cleaning service had forgotten lock up Insert "to". last night. He thought about calling to check, but the clock on the wall reminded him he'd already wasted an hour this morning. The coffee, antacid and aspirins had tamed the worst of his hangover. Time to get work.

An hour later, he scowled at the buzz of the office intercom and closed the surveillance report on Chelsea Puchner that he'd been editing. Her brother wanted dirt on his sister, but Stan hadn't been able to find any, at least not without any suggestions about what to look for. "What is it, Debbie? I asked you to not disturb me." A fleeting thought of the flask of Jack Daniels hiding in his desk tempted him, but he resisted.

She cleared her throat and dumped her phlegm-soaked voice into the orderly quiet of his office. "I'm sorry, Mr. School. There's someone here to see you."

He winced. She was going to have to learn his name if she was going to stay here. "That's Scholl, Debbie. Scholl." He kept his voice even. "Who is it?"

"It's a woman , sir. A, uh, Mrs. Bregas. She said Mr. Conner Jacobs sent her. She says it's real important."

Stan's jaws tightened at the mention of his on-again, off-again lover. After last night, he was probably off-again. He narrowed his eyes, moved the single folder on his desk two millimeters to the right, and thought again about the flask in the bottom drawer. The digital clock on the wall clicked to 10:39. "Send her in, please." It was too early for another drink, even for him.

He stood when a woman with Ann Margaret hair and a figure two sizes too large for her polka-dot sundress flounced into his office. Dark sunglasses and waxy, red lipstick couldn't hide the shiner on her right eye or her swollen lip. The click of her open-toed high heels on the hardwood floor rebounded against the barren plaster walls.

He walked around the desk and extended his hand. "Mrs. Bregas. I'm Dunstan Scholl, Private Investigator." Now I'm confused. Up until this point, you have been using the name Stan Scholl. Now you are using the name Dunstan, as is written in the front window. Then below, you go back to Stan. Does he have a split personality?

"Pleased to meet you." Her words whispered from her lips with a faint Spanish accent. She laid boneless fingers into his hand for a brief moment. It was like grasping a damp, snow-white dishtowel that someone had daubed with crimson nail polish. "Call me Cissy, will you? I'm getting rid of the 'Mrs.' part." Her voice broke and she reached into her enormous, vinyl purse, pulled out a wad of Kleenex, and patted behind her sunglasses.

Stan held one of the client chairs for her, the leather one without the coffee stain. "Please, have a seat, Cissy." She squeezed into the chair, leaving behind a heady wake of floral perfume. Her body jiggled like jello and threatened to ooze out of her dress before it adjusted to a new equilibrium.

Stan returned behind his desk and settled into his worn, executive chair. He pursed his lips and aligned a pen with folder that he'd centered earlier. "What brings you here, Cissy?"

"I just didn't know what to do. My caseworker--he's so nice and understanding. Anyways, Mr. Conner said he was sure you could help."

Stan nodded. "Conner Jacobs. I know him." He tipped an ironic eyebrow at her. "I'll be sure to thank Mr. Jacobs for the referral." The asshole. "Perhaps if you can tell me what your problem is?"

Her face flushed under the layers of makeup. She leaned forward, her semi-exposed breasts at the vanguard. "My problem?" Her voice changed from a soft Kenny G saxophone imitation to the blare of seventy-six trombones. "My problem is my sumbitch ex-husband, that's what my problem is."

Stan blinked at her psycho change in demeanor. Conner was going to pay for sending this whack-job to him. "I understand, Cissy. Did he beat you?"

She winced and leaned back, fingering her cheek. "Does it show? I tried to cover it up with my makeup."

"I'm a private investigator, Cissy. I'm trained to notice things." He made another miniscule adjustment to the pen. "Now, how can I help you? What, exactly, did Mr. Jacobs have in mind for me to do?" The bastard.

Passing confusion befuddled her features. "Who? Mr. Jacobs? Oh! You mean that nice social worker, Conner. He said you could find my baby."

"Your baby?" Stan reached into the bottom drawer, and his eyes lingered on the flask before he pulled out a notebook. "Tell me more."

"My baby boy's missing. My rat-bastard husband beat me, and the cops came. They arrested him and took me to the hospital. When I got home, my baby boy was gone." She choked on a sob, and a mascara-stained tear rolled down a pudgy cheek.

"Have you checked with the police, Cissy? They wouldn't have left an infant unattended." Stan frowned. Conner would have known to call children's services. Fuck, he was children's services.

"Infant? Who said anything about an infant?" She scowled at him. "You been payin' attention? Maybe you're not the man for the job."

"Cissy, you said your 'baby boy' was missing. I assumed you meant he was, you know, a baby."

"Ha. You assumed. You know what that means. You make an ass out of you and me." Triumph lit her face, as if she'd proven something.

He rubbed at the incipient pain between his eyes and stared at her. "Let's start at the beginning, shall we? When did the police arrest your husband?"

"That was three days ago. They only kept him overnight. The sumbitch is back at his job, sittin' high and mighty."

Stan made a note. "And where do you live?"

"I'm at the women's shelter right now. Can't tell you where that's at. It's just for women. Can't tell no men where it's at."

Stan nodded, while noting the address on Division Street in his book. "Of course not, Cissy. I understand. So your husband is still living at your home?"

"He can have that pig sty apartment, for all I care. As soon as you find my baby boy, we're goin' to live with my sister up in Lost Springs."

"Well, I'm good at finding people, Cissy. What's your son's name? And how old is he?"

"My Duane is only 19, the poor thing. He's a good boy, even if he says he's one of them homo-sex-uals. I prayed for him, y'know, and the Priest said he did, too. When we get to Lost Springs, I just know he'll find Jesus. I'll see to it." She emphasized her words with a brilliant red fingernail that tapped on Stan's immaculate desk.

"Well, I can't help you locate Jesus. I'm afraid that case is a little cold." Stan flashed a quick grin. "But I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find Duane. Do you have a recent photo?"

She gave him a suspicious look, but then pawed through her purse. "Here's his grad-gee-ay-tion picture, and this here's a snapshot from a picnic at Credit Island Park last Fourth of July."

Stan accepted the dog-eared photos. They revealed Duane to be a skinny, pimply-faced kid with greasy black locks that fell rope-like to his shoulders. A pointy spike of hair sprouted from his left brow, either by design or perhaps it was just an unruly cowlick. A cheap stud glittered in his left ear, and his smile showed crooked teeth. "He's a handsome young man, Cissy. Does he have any friends I can contact?"

She snorted. "There's Lola. I thought she was his girlfriend, but then my husband found 'em in bed together. Lola's one of them faggots what tempted him to stray from Jesus."

"Lola. Do you know her last name?"

"His last name. No, and I don't want to."

"Anyone else?"

"Not that I know of. Duane was always kinda a loner."

Stan frowned and bit his lower lip. It wouldn't do any good to criticize her lack of parental interest. Not now, anyway. Poor kid. No wonder he ran away. "Where did he go to high school?"

"Central, 'cept he dropped out his last year. I paid for the grad-gee-ay-tion picture when he got his GED."

"Does he have a job?"

"The sad little sack tried and tried, but he jest couldn't get nothin'. My no-good, worthless husband coulda got him a job where he works, but he wouldn't do it. Said he didn't want no faggot son around. The Puchners wouldn't like it."

"The Puchners? He works for them?" Stan's eyebrows lifted and he made another note.

"Yeah. He's a bill collector for Puchner Payday Loans. They was our landlords, too. Puchner Paradisio Apartments, on Harrison."

"I know the place." Stan tapped on his notebook. "I'll have to speak with your husband, Cissy. He might have some leads, and I want to look at Duane's room. There might be clues about his acquaintances there."

Her nostrils flared and her lips turned down. "That SOB won't do nothin' for you."

"We'll see. I have a way with people." Stan gave her a coy smile. "Now, what's his name? I can't go to the Payday Loan place and ask for Rat-bastard Bregas."

"Johnnie. His name's Johnnie." Her voice quavered and she smeared at the tears on her cheek. "You really think you can find my baby boy, Mr. School?"

"If he's still in the metroplex, I'll find him, Cissy."

She reached into her purse and counted out ten twenty-dollar bills. When she shoved them across the desk, she leaned forward and exposed more cleavage. "Conner said I'd have to pay you. This is all's I got, two hundred dollars. Is that enough?"

Stan took five twenties and pushed the remainder back to her. "I'm sure this will be sufficient, Cissy. You'll need something to get you and Duane up to Lost Springs."

She snatched up the money. "Thank you, Mr. School. Conner said you was a nice man."

"I'm sure he did." Conner must have known she couldn't pay and that Stan couldn't resist helping find a runaway gay kid. Talk about a rat-bastard. "Now, I'll need to be able to get in touch with you. Do you have a cell phone?"

"My asshole husband stomped on it and broke it."

"Not a problem." He pressed the intercom. "Debbie?"

His assistant cleared her throat and answered, "Yes, Mr. School?"

He winced and reflected this would be her first and her last day. "In the lower right drawer of your desk you will find some pre-paid cell phones. Will you please bring one to me?"

The speaker emitted shuffling noises. "I don't see them, Mr. School."

"The lower right drawer, Debbie. I'm sure they're there."

"Oh, silly me. The right drawer. Yes, I have them. What should I do with them?"

He clenched his jaw, but kept his voice even. "Please bring one here."

Something went clunk in the outer office, and Debbie appeared at the door holding a drawer-full of cell phones. "Here they are, Mr. School. I don't what you're going to do with so many of these."

Stan joined her and plucked a phone and charger from the drawer. "I only needed one, Debbie."

"Well, you could have said so." Her eyes snapped and her voice turned snippy.

He avoided rolling his eyes. "That will be all, Debbie." He pushed her from the room, closed the door and turned back to his new client. "Here, Cissy. Keep it charged up. I'll call you tonight with an update."

She stuffed the phone into her purse. "Thanks. You think you'll find him today?"

"Probably not. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. I'll let you know."

"All right, then." She stood and pressed too close to him. "Thank you, Mr. School. You're a good man. I'm sorry I doubted you before."

"Scholl."

"What?" Her eyes darted about the room. "Is there a skull someplace in here?"

"Scholl. My name is Scholl." He took her by the elbow and showed her to the door. "I'll be in touch."

Debbie looked up from where she hunkered over her keyboard at the receptionist desk, playing solitaire on her computer. "I need a restroom break if that's all right, Mr. School."

Stan waved a hand at her. "Sure. In fact, I won't be needing you the rest of the day. You can go ahead and go home."

She wrinkled her forehead at him and scolded, "The agency promised me a full day's pay, Mr. School."

He nodded and plastered a smile on his face. "Of course. You'll be paid as agreed."

"Well, then, I'll see you tomorrow at nine."

She waited, but he just kept his sappy smile in place, while silently congratulating himself for not strangling her.

With a sniff, she pulled her purse from under her desk. "Have a good day, Mr. School." She paused to primp her short, graying hair The beginning description you gave her hair too long for her age. Now it's short. and then waggled out of the office.

Stan closed his eyes and waited for the door to slam. The flask in his desk called to him, but he resisted and decided on coffee instead. But when he tried to brew a cup, his expensive machine whirred, made loud clunking sounds, squirted brown water and grounds onto the table and floor, and then started to smoke.

He jumped and unplugged the machine. "Jesus Christ in heaven, what did that idiot do?" No wonder she went out for coffee this morning. When did this happen? His head throbbed, right above his left eye, and no amount of rubbing would make it go away.

He flipped the "Open" sign on the office's outer door to "Closed" and retreated to his desk chair. A long swig from the flask relieved some of the tension. Another swig left him fearless, or at least indifferent. He dialed a number on his phone and waited for an answer. When the line picked up, he growled, "Conner, we've got to talk."








Sariah




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12
12
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Title: Darklight
Chapter: Prologue
Author: Billard

Please know this is the opinion of one person. Feel free to make use of any advise or suggestions given and do what you will with the rest.


Plot: The prologue sets the stage of a world plunged in darkness by the hands of an evil god known as Deabrion. It gives the reader a back history of how this came to be and ends with a promise of redemption by prophecy. A spin on the good versus evil saga.


Style & Voice: Third person


Referencing: Prologue using Science fiction genre. References made to alien worlds and lands.


Scene/Setting: Since this is a prologue and written as a back history of what is to come in the novel, it is set up to inform the reader with no specific setting. References are made of the Shadow Realm and other locations without fully disclosing any details to make the reader want to read more.

Characters: Deabrion is a major character ss the god of the underworld. He takes the unhuman form of something akin to a demon hellbent on world domination and utter chaos.

Spirit is another major character as the benevolent god of the upper world.


Grammar: Most of your issues are run-on sentences, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. That is why we rely on the reviews of other writers. You might want to take advantage of the Paper Doll gang, a group designed to help those new to WDC, and to also look into the New Horizons Academy. The Academy has classes specifically designed to help new and seasoned writers hone their crafts and it also helps as a refresher for those of us a bit long in the tooth.*Blush* I will be more specific in a line by line below.


Just My Opinion: First of all, let me welcome you to WDC. You will grow very much addicted to this place. So welcome, welcome! I am an avid sci-fi/fantasy reader so this item caught my eye right away. I think with some work, as with all of us, it could have potential. I would like to see Spirit's character filled out more. It seems an uneven balance between Deabrion and Spirit. But that's just me. I haven't read the first chapter yet so Spirit may turn out to be a minor character with the focus on the chosen ones of the prophecy. Speaking of which, I think you ended the prologue well with the prophecy. It definitely makes me want to see how it plays out in the chapters to come. Now on to the line by line.


Line by Line

Thousands of years ago marking the end of the age of ancients, there was a war; the most fierce and violent war to this day. It was aptly named the Great War, although there was nothing great about this war. Many died and whole races were pushed to extinction. The magnificent realm of Paladasia was destroyed and reduced to a faint memory. It was a paradigmatic clash of good versus evil and will be remembered by all until the end of time. Deabrion was the most vile and malevolent entity to ever walk the land of Cyrelidon and he brought death and decay in his wake, when the great Spirit created this world it is common belief that a mirror image of this world was made, the Shadow Realm.This might read better if you broke the sentence up into smaller sentences. This hellish dimension was a seemingly necessary evil, as there must always be a balance between good and evil and the Spirit's malicious opposite was Deabrion, the demonic god created to rule the Shadow Realm. Not really a grammatical issue but I think this opening paragraph would be more interesting if you started it with the realm of Paladasia. The preceding sentences seem bland, inconsequential. In our own history, we have many "great wars". What we remember is the details about it. Draw the reader in with the magnificence of Paladasia and how this war destroyed all that and by whom. Of course, this is just one reviewer's opinion.

And of course for some unfathomable reason, This part of the sentence is unnecessary. Let the reader decide if it is unfathomable. from the perspective of someone with at least basic morals, evil's purpose is to destroy and to annihilate all that brings even the slightest joy. Perhaps it is not Deabrion's fault that he is so consumed by hate and rage. When the Spirit was born from the chaos that was the world in the before time and Deabrion with him, there was most likely little choice of what their inner nature would be. Great perspective. Puts me in mind of Cain and Abel.

Deabrion came forth from the Shadow realm, with a vast armada of hellish spawn and the pain and the suffering was so great it is said that the stars themselves stopped shining and turned away in disgust, and to this day the stars cannot be seen from the plains of Enith, where the Great War took place. Run-on sentence with different subjects. You should break this down by removing the comma and ending it at spawn. Remove the following and, inserting a comma after "great", ending with "disgust". Start the third sentence with "to" with a comma after "day". Both sides suffered devastating losses and the battle seemed to go on for an eternity until Deabrion's forces began to deplete end sentence, remove "and" and he and his main forces were pushed back to the twin peaks of Lockeshtait, end sentence it was then that Deabrion took all of his power and put it forth into one last, mighty spell, the strongest and most formidable magicks ever to have been performed since the creation of Cyrelidonend sentence, remove "and" and the world would have been torn asunder if the Spirit had not shielded his child from the darkness that poured forth from Deabrion. Deabrion was expelled back into the shadow realm comma weak and virtually powerless and the dregs of his armies were easily dispatched after but the Spirit was ripped from this dimension and trapped on the astral plane a world just out of reach of Cyrelidon, the world that one sees out the corner of one's eye, the shadows one notices that vanish when looked at directly and the voices one thinks they hear inside their mind. needs to be broken into smaller sentencesThe world of Cyrelidon torn from the nurturing bosom of its maker fell into ruin and an age of misery and hopelessness descended on the once great land. These were known as the lost years.

The Spirit looked on sadly, unable to do anything to help, watching silently as his creation slowly died. But for a time the land did survive without the Spirit's nurturing hand to guide it,end sentence this was known as the age of mortals, when the ancient ones had released their grip on Cyrelidon allowing the younger races to become Cyrelidon's stewards. It was a reasonably happy time in which to live but the misdeeds of the past always lay as heavy scars on Cyrelidon. However after nearly five thousand years of peace the shadow rises once again. But, hope remains in the form of a prophecy made by the Oracle herself, not long after the Great War. It reads:

From the grasp of shadows shall Cyrelidon rise again,
Delivered by his vessels,
Two of two, and of blue blood,
They shall undo past wrongs and an era of plenitude and peace will come again,
Only when the sun is consumed by shadow,
And only when the moon falls into blackness shall the evil be banished. Love it, love it!






Sariah




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Review of Blue Moon  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Title: Blue Moon
Chapter: n/a
Author: Jode


Plot: The bond between a set of twins that even death cannot break.


Style & Voice: Third person narration


Referencing: not sure.


Scene/Setting: Out by the lake where one twin drowns, trying to save his sister.


Characters:

Hanna - main character, survivor of a boat accident in which her twin brother is taken away from her.

Cooper - sub character, saves his twin sister from drowning


Grammar:

I could not find anything wrong.


Just My Opinion:

I absolutely love this story! Very touching and sweet. I love the ending. I think this could make a great start to a book, if you ever consider doing it.




Ms. Sariah

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Review of Fate Chapter 1  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Mainstream Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Title: Fate
Chapter: Chapter 1


Plot:

The plot of this chapter appears to be finding out about the betrayal of Connie's mother and trying to prevent her mother's death.


Style & Voice:

Told in first person POV and rotates between present and past tense.


Referencing:

I am assuming this takes place in modern day, with the reference made to tarot cards.


Scene/Setting:

Not enough information given to be able to specify a particular place.


Characters:

Connie Handmaid, a fourteen year old psychic who comes from a maternal line of psychics in her family.

Evelyn Handmaid, Connie's mother, is faced with her own death.

Grandmother and Aunt Louise, minor characters, met a suspicious disappearance.



Grammar:

Nothing major stood out for me.


Just My Opinion:

I am in no way an expert. I can only tell you how I feel about your item. In no way do I want to make you feel I am criticizing or saying anything in a negative manner. I only review to help others become stronger writers. Please take what I say as constructive criticism.

This chapter could use some work. The plot could be made much stronger by adding much needed detail about the characters and their past history as psychics.

Also, I feel as if I am not a part of the story, not drawn into it. As writers, we want to make the reader "feel" the story, "see" their surroundings. Make the story more alive by adding descriptions of where they are, what do they see around them, how does their surroundings make them feel?

I love the subject of this chapter. I have always been interested in "otherworldly" subjects. I think, with some time and some work, this can be the start of a great book.



Ms. Sariah




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Review of Jasmine  
Review by Sariah
Rated: E | (4.5)
Content

Another very touching short story contest entry. The opening paragraph grabbed my attention right away. The story is credible and realistic.



Suggestions

I only found a couple of grammatical/technical errors in this piece.

First paragraph, second sentence does not need a comma after classroom. Never separate a subject and verb by a comma.

Sixth paragraph, second sentence - the word no body should be written as nobody.

Seventh paragraph, second sentence does not need a comma after Jasmine


Overall opinion

I am amazed at the huge difference between your contest entries and pieces you have written for yourself. The contest entries seem more organized, better written. You have a wonderful talent for taking a negative experience and turning it into something positive. I can only believe that is from your real life experiences.

Keep Writing!




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Review by Sariah
Rated: E | (4.5)
Content
The content itself is wonderful. The order in which you tell it I think needs some work. I think you should open with your impairment first and then continue on with the other paragraphs. It would be an excellent opening paragraph and an attention grabber to explain your impairment and the result of it afterward.


Suggestions

I think this is one of your better written items when it comes to grammatical/technical issues. This piece mainly needs some reorganizing of thoughts.


Overall opinion

I love this short story! It is very powerful and endearing. I love the thought of using your dolls as a teaching implement! Very inventive. From the story, I can tell you have had to overcome a lot in your life and that your impairment has increased your love of books and writing.


Keep Writing!

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Review of I wanna fly  
Review by Sariah
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hello, Hummingbird.

This is the first of four of the reviews you won in our auction for New Horizons Writing Academy.



Content
Sweet story. Your idea is original and thought out. The long sentences and punctuation took away from the story in some places. But I will elaborate more on that below.


Suggestions

Some of your sentences are too long and need to be broken up into separate sentences. Stringing long sentences one after another can disrupt the rhythm and flow of your story, making the story hard to understand. Below are some of the suggestions I have to offer you.

First paragraph, first sentence can be broken into two sentences, ending the first at plough and beginning a new sentence with I.

Second paragraph, fourth sentence can also be separated into shorter sentences, ending at him and starting a new sentence with He.

Third paragraph, first sentence is a mixture of a statement and a question. This would be better to separate each.

The fourth paragraph I found a bit confusing. You mention that Gabhi is Dhenu's sister, yet you state later they are two different species.

Fourth paragraph, second sentence needs a comma before and after Gabhi.

Fifth paragraph, first sentence does not need a comma after skin.

Fifth paragraph, fifth sentence also does not need a comma after some.



Overall opinion

This short story can use a little work to tighten it up and to fix the grammatical/technical errors. Don't be discourage, though. We all have to crawl before we can walk. It just takes time and patience. *Smile*







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Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Content

This is a very interesting essay. You have definitely done some research for this. You present several different facts in a very knowledgeable manner. Your presentation of it borders on the line of fiction and non-fiction, giving the reader the facts and letting them make the final decision.



Suggestions

One of the things I noticed is your use of the word "that" over and over. I found many places where it is unnecessary. Generally, if you can take the word out and not lose the meaning of the sentence, it is unnecessary. Here are some of those sentences along with other minor grammatical/technical boo-boos.

The first sentence does not need a comma after ghosts. If anything, you can make two sentences and still keep the meaning and emphasis.

Second paragraph, second sentence does not need a comma after cultures.

Third paragraph, first sentence needs a comma before and after the attribute, Pliny the Younger and before and after the attribute, Licinus Sura.

In paragraph eleven, that is not needed in sentence. The sentence reads: Roosevelt himself confided to Carl Sandburg, the historian and poet, that he was convinced that Lincoln was still there. Taking one out, it will keep its meaning.

Roosevelt himself confided to Carl Sandburg, historian and poet,that he was convinced Lincoln was still there.

The same in paragraph twelve, thatcan be omitted and still retain its meaning.

In paragraph thirteen, that can be removed from the sentence.

These are just a few suggestions and are, by no means, written in stone. As with any review, it is only the viewpoint of the reader and how he/she perceives the material.



Overall opinion

I really enjoyed reading this piece. I learned alot and you even made me curious enough to want to look up some of the material. A sign of a good writer. *Smile*

Thank you for sharing this. Keep writing!






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Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Content

Cute children's story. I think it could use a little more meat to it, though. Maybe more about feeding the other animals breakfast might help. The commas were a bit distracting. I will explain about that more below.



Suggestions

There are several places in the story that commas are either misplaced or misused. I also found a couple of sentences that need reworking. Here is what I found:

Second paragraph, seventh sentence is one that needs reworking. The first or isn't necessary. At the end of the sentence, and be lazy makes the sentence unbalanced.

Second paragraph, eighth sentence does not need a comma after garden. You can remove the and and create a new sentence starting with he.

Second paragraph, last sentence also does not need a comma after himself.

Third paragraph, first sentence does not need a comma after breakfast.

Fifth paragraph, third sentence needs a comma after shore.

Seventh paragraph, first sentence is a bit confusing. Earlier in the story, you have Luke going out with his "Grandy" to take care of the goats. The first sentence in the seventh paragraph tells of the goat herd watching Luke and his grandparents approach. Also, I would take out had in the beginning of the sentence. It makes the verb tenses uneven.

Seventh paragraph, third sentence may need rewording. I am not sure of the age range you are writing for but, young children will not necessarily understand the words sauntered or bleating. Like I said, it depends on the age range you are writing for.

Seventh paragraph, fourth sentence also needs reworking. I would take out the semi-colons and replace them with commas and I would take out the comma after big goats.

Seventh paragraph, last sentence does not need a comma after And



Overall opinion

I think this is a cute story, as I said before. With a little reworking, it could possibly be something a publishing company might want.

Don't be discouraged by the commas. Every writer has a problem with commas in some shape or fashion. It just takes practice. If you need any help, please let me know. I would be happy to give you a hand.



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Review of The Long Way Home  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Content

A lovely children's story, short and sweet. I realize this is/was a contest entry and I hope it was received well. The story is about a fairy princess sent to the world of humans to find out why they were being forgotten. Only along the way, the princess forgot why she was there and where she truly belonged.



Suggestions

I only found a few mistakes in your short story. Here is what I found:

Fourth paragraph, second sentence needs a comma after up.

Fifth paragraph needs a comma after said.

Eighth paragraph, third sentence - human's should be humans.


Overall opinion

I think this is a very enchanting story that would appeal to small children. Very well-written.

Keep up the hard work!

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Review of In The Forest  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Let's Publish!  
Rated: E | (3.5)
This is a review from "Invalid Item. Please note that it is just my opinion. You can use what you wish from the review. *Smile*


Content

I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say in this story. Nothing specific stands out to me. I think the description of the forest is wonderful, but leaves me wondering where you are trying to go with this. I may just be dense. *Blush* It wouldn't be the first time. *Smile*

Writing in first person POV is rather difficult for me, but you did a very good job with it.

Suggestions

I think what this story needs is something to tie the carved symbols, the white china teacup, the bear, and the garden together. They are all very specific events but don't seem connected in any special way.

I also notice some grammatical/technical issues with the story. Here are a few that I found:

First paragraph, first sentence looks awkward. I would take out the comma after footpath and change arm to arm's

First paragraph, second sentence should have a comma after me. I would take out that covers and put in covering.

I would also make some of the longer sentences into shorter ones and alternate between the two. It makes it easier to read.


Overall opinion

I think you could go a number of ways with this story. I would keep the cliffhanger at the end if you plan on expanding it.

Keep Writing!

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Review of dark angel  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Content

Good opening scene. It gives the reader just enough information without giving it all away. I like the idea of focusing on the internal battle rather than what is going on around him. You find a good balance between the two.



Suggestions

Third paragraph, second sentence needs a comma before and and after warning.

Fourth paragraph, first sentence needs a comma after shut

There are more commas needed in your dialogues, but rather than put them all here, I will leave it for you to decide whether you need them or not. I would be more than willing to help.

Overall opinion

I think this is a good short story. Inventive and credible, I think it has good potential. You definitely are going in the right direction.

Keep Writing!
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Review of Prologue  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Prologue

A good opening for your book. You gave just enough information to make the reader want to find out more. Leaving a "cliff hanger", so to speak. The main characters were nicely drawn out without giving too much information away. Already, you can see who is on what side.

Dialogue

I find the dialogue to be believable. You define the story even more through the dialogue, which helps to further the story.

Suggestions/Corrections

I did find some punctuation/grammatical errors. This is common among many writers and is not meant to offend. What I found follows below, remember this is my opinion. *Bigsmile*

Second paragraph, first sentence does not need a comma. It reads smoothly without one.

Second paragraph, last sentence, "to late should be too late

Fourth paragraph, first sentence. This is just an aside, something I noticed that you may agree or disagree with. The first sentence could use a comma after beautiful. I only say this because, even though I believe I know what you are trying to say, the sentence can be interpreted in a couple of ways. One, with the way the sentence stands now, makes the description of the seer as having beautiful blonde hair. If that is what you wish to say, then the sentence is fine as it stands.

Second,with a comma separating the two words beautiful and blonde, it would mean that the woman was beautiful and blonde.

Fifth paragraph, last sentence, mans should be man's, showing possession of his name.

Seventh paragraph, third sentence needs a comma after The next time.

These are just some of what I found. I would be more than happy to reread this at a later time. Feel free to email me.

Overall Summary

This is a really good prologue. I definitely look forward to reading the chapters that follow. You have a good writing style. Don't give up! Keep writing!

Sariah

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Review of LUCKY 13  
Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Type of Essay


Opening Paragraph
Good opening paragraph. How many people use the dollar bill without even thinking about what it stands for other than common currency?

Content
You give a detailed description of the dollar bill, letting the reader see it in their minds. They can even pull out a dollar bill and follow along. Very thorough and informative.

Suggestions/Corrections
You might want to rewrite your description and leave out the second is. A simple typo, easy to fix.

I also noticed some missing commas. You can take them or not, it's just my opinion.

For example:

First paragraph, third sentence could use a comma before in fact and after it.
Second paragraph, second sentence could use a comma after the dependent clause on the top

There are a couple more but I will let you make the decision if you want to put commas in or not.

Summary
I think this is a very informative piece. I learned quite a bit, especially where the number 13 is involved. Thank you for sharing.

Ms. Sariah


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Review by Sariah
In affiliation with Native First Peoples Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Type of Essay

Short and sweet, maybe a little too short. I found the subject to be thought-provoking.

Content

I found the content to be credible and thoughts that I have had myself. It makes a reader stop and think about their own personal experiences and leaves the question hanging in the air for comtemplation. It is amazing how much meaning you can put in so few words.


Suggestions/Corrections

I think this would be a stronger piece if you developed it a bit more. It is short enough to make the reader want more. I think some points could be expanded on and could round out the piece better.


Summary

I enjoyed reading the piece. It is rare to find essays like this that leave you pondering the question of reality even after you are finished reading it. You did very well with this.

Keep Writing!

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