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Review of The Last Remarks  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)

This is too good for someone your age. Come on, 'fess up. Who did you steal this from? Don't make me look in the library or Google the real author. Did you change the name or leave it the same? I'll find out, no matter what, you know.

Okay time to get serious. This is a very dense piece of work. That's both a blessing and a curse sometimes. Pieces like this need to breathe, and the way you do that is to break things up a bit. You need to paragraphinate, except there is no such word. If there was, it would mean you need to convert this into bunches and bunches of new paragraphs.

It all stays the same, it's just easier to read, it looks better, more inviting, and is just generally a better way to do this stuff. A lot of folks have trouble deciding where to create new paragraphs, and that's a big part of the problem. Once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite simple. And it's fun besides.

If you'll permit me, I'd like to paragraphinate your entire item. This would not only show you how relatively easy it is to do, but will hopefully demonstrate how fast it goes, also.

There's some interesting grammar issues that also arise with these more complex stories, and while this seems pretty straightforward, it is indeed a very complex tale. One that reads as a fascinating cross between Pygmalion and that Bill Murray movie where he had to repeat every day over again, which itself is a theme based on a far more serious story called, "12:01".

I'm looking forward to reading this a third time, so that I get it all. I'm sure I missed bits and pieces and it will be fun going back and picking them up. Even with it's share of errors and mistakes, this is a five-star winner of a short story. I really liked it, and although I don't say it very often, once in a while you read something where "love" isn't all that much of an exaggeration. In that sense, I can honestly say I loved this story.

But it needs some work. Editing never ends and even among the finest pieces, rough edges still need smoothing out.

For now, rather than deconstruct the story itself and go into this, and out of that, it desperately needs to be paragraphinated. You'd think there would be a word for that, but if there is, I sure don't know it.

So, with your permission, when I get it, I'll revisit this piece and convert it into a much different-looking work. None of the words will be changed and as I said, all else remains the same for now. Only afterwards, can we take a look at some other important issues which deserve our attention.

Until then, this is a minor masterpiece that comes across as having been written by a real pro. Which reminds me, I'm still waiting to hear who really wrote this. Was it Stephen King, or Dean Koontz? I promise not to tell.


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Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Zesty,

Okay, let's see how many adjectives I can conjure that will both describe this zany piece and do it poetic justice.

It's scary, it's funny, it's spooky, and silly, and funny (that deserved a second mention) *Smile* and it's mysterious, and just generally icky.

I think that about covers it. The piece reads like this bizarre mix where The Addams Family, The Munsters, Frankenstein, Dracula, and others are all enjoyably jumbled together, and we're left with something original and interesting, instead of a rehash of old material. Well done, I must say.

This is one of the stories where the reader shouts out, maybe literally, to the main character and says, "No! Don't do it. Don't go!" And especially, "Don't eat anything!" In this case, it's liable to bite back and eat the guest.

This is also one of those weird tales where someone asks, "Why?" To which the obvious answer, to many of us, is, "Why not?" Some things just are what they are and this is certainly one of those.

My only criticism is that the punctuation is all over the map, as they say. I could show you what's needed, but you first have to care, which is not always the case, and secondly, you need to learn where it's wrong, and why. That needs a much longer review. And not many care to get into all that.'

So you're off the hook for now. Which in this story, would mean a big bloody hook, right through the back. Not enough to kill, but keep you hanging around for dessert.

Thanks for listening.

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Hi, Michael,

I found your little tale to be a nice cross between humor and suspense, plus I really enjoyed the casual, conversational narrative provided by the main character of Michael.

I had to go back and double-check because I was thrown off balance when Michael referred to himself by name, as if he was talking about someone else.

Points to me, Michael, for another wonderful episode in the idiot decisions saga.

In the line above, it might be better to leave off Michael altogether, or add "me" as shown. Don't give your readers too much credit for following along close enough to catch the more subtle nuances. *Smile*

While the casual tone works perfectly in this piece, it needs to be punctuated properly. Let me know if you're interested in that end of things. I won't bore you with all of that unless you really want to spiffy things up.

I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the actual content here. For whatever that's worth to you.

In the film, Flatliners, audiences liked the idea of cheating death, as did the likable characters in the movie as well. In your story here, perfectly happy friends seem content to off themselves for no particular reason other than maybe they're bored. For me, the motivation is not nearly strong enough, nor convincing enough, to buy into any part, let alone the whole idea.

Suppose, just for contrast, these people were all members of a support group, all PTSD sufferers, a depression group, drug rehab, whatever. Then not only does everything fit, but especially the last line.

As it is, this is the quintessential bourgeois tragedy. People who have otherwise good lives, health, shelter, jobs, wallow in some perverse, self-absorbed state of dissatisfaction. So much so, that dying is preferable to living.

In a world where people starve and waste away from disease, this particular group is doing the rest of us a favor. This is both a strength in the story and its greatest weakness.

Well, this may seem like a lot to do over a short, simple piece of work. Maybe so. But for those who take seriously the "art" of writing, it all counts, all words matter. *Smile*

Give us a better, more intense reason for why these interesting people want to die. Or let us in on their being within a drug-induced stupor, and about to do something really stupid. In this case, motivation is everything. And yet you give us nothing in that regard.

Okay, so while one could make a case for how doing something for no reason, is itself a reason, I come down on the side of lazy thinking where the writer was in a hurry, and leaves the reader in the lurch, so to speak.

Ultimately this is all just one person's opinion. But I hope it's a good one and finds a warm reception. Other than my snide remarks, I found the piece to be provocative and well written.

Thanks for listening.

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hey, Rob,

Before I go out and step in front of an oncoming bus, after reading your dark poem, I should probably do a brief review and see if my life was worth more than bumper fodder.

I love dark and gloomy. I live for depressing and dismal. I root for the appearance of death and destruction whenever possible. The reason, of course, is because it's the very opposite of these things that make life interesting and worth living.

I suppose really depressed, distressed individuals feel just the opposite if you think about it. They strive to see the Good because they are awash and drowning in the Bad. As always it's a matter of contrast.

Which is precisely what I sense is missing from your otherwise excellent piece of work. I like all your observations, reservations, consternations and even accusatory criticisms, as if nature itself were on trial here. I couldn't agree more. And I would love to sit on this jury where you're so aptly the judge.

Yet I would, in the end, vote "not guilty, your honor." For we would be remiss not to mention, and argue the case that rebuts every negative with its equal but opposite positive.

No one more than I, would be quick to point out the irrational cruelties of life. I say irrational because much of what you discuss in your poem describes a certain mindlessness, an amoral Godlessness that is neither purposeful nor negligent in how existence itself functions or operates.

I suspect that if I extracted an underlying, metaphorical meaning from everything the poem seeks to disparage, we would find humankind at the root of the dying tree. The sole culprit responsible for all the misery and heartache to which you refer. And rightfully so.

But it may be too subtle in this regard. You pull your punches if this was the boxing ring in which you wish to fight. The day is dark not because the sun isn't shining. The sun is as bright as ever. Above the clouds.

In your poem, I miss not reading, feeling, or seeing this sort of comparison, where the good and bad always coexist simultaneously, though it often seems the one is outpacing or obscuring the other.

Instead, you tell us how difficult it is to write about beauty because of the prevalence of ugliness, yet Beauty exists because of the Ugly, not in spite of it.

Although I consider this a good piece of work, I feel like it's "part one" of a twofer or trilogy. What you've done is too easy, too pat, too well understood by most people. What's really difficult is striking the balance, especially over those things that we have direct control over.

I saw a great video the other day. This seal swimming along, then thrown high into the air by the Great White shark that attacked it from underneath. The seal went in one direction, the shark the other, presumably swimming off to find its meal elsewhere.

If they wrote poetry, we can't help but wonder how this seal's version might read. *Smile*

Thanks for letting me prattle on.


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Review of Horse Trailer  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, xXx,

I really liked this poem. I like the rhymes, I like the rhythm, and I really like the story.

Poetry, in general, is a hard thing to judge as to punctuation -- should you use it a little, a lot, or none at all?

In rhyming poems, what's called the "iambic" beat of how a reader pronounces the words, and what syllables are "stressed" while others are soft, is also a very subjective call, and not easily labeled as right or wrong.

Where to "break" the lines and the individual stanzas is often something that only the author has a feel for. And then does the best they can to make the piece as pleasantly readable as possible.

In poems like yours, where the sentences tend to be long, I like to see some degree of punctuation. Either that or instead, check out the following:

Following the trailer
I just couldn't wait
I opened it up
and led him in the gate

It was the first time
I saw my friend again
"You've probably been wondering
where I've been"

See how interesting (and fun) this can be, when we play with the various ways of writing the same thing? Again, for me, I like the shorter lines better. They're nice and clean, where each line is its own thought, its own idea, its own feeling.

And then if it was punctuated, it would look like this:

Following the trailer,
I just couldn't wait.
I opened it up
and led him in the gate.

It was the first time
I saw my friend again,
"You've probably been wondering
where I've been."

While not necessary based on any hard and fast rules, I prefer the punctuation -- what do you think? It's important whether you like the punctuation or not. If you do, then we need to do that mostly (but not completely) right, of course. Just get close and that's usually enough, other than last minute tweaking.

My only other suggestion concerns the following:

And now as i see the horse trailer leaving
I am still standing here and still believing

Or written differently:

And now as i see
the horse trailer leaving
I am still standing here
and still believing

I don't like the rhyme here because the two sounds are exactly the same:

"leaving" and be-"lieving". See what I mean?

Here's one possible fix, but other possibilities exist, too, of course:

And now as I see
the horse trailer leave
I am still standing here
Trying hard not to grieve

The above version is kind of dramatic, in a good way, because now we're not quite sure whether the horse died or not. Not that the death itself is good, but the poem is made stronger and more poignant as a result. See what you think.

Well, I think that's enough out of me. And you no doubt agree. *Smile*

Let me know if you have any questions, and once again, a really cool poem.


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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hello, Stuart,

I came back for seconds, after having had a main course of your poetry. I was not disappointed in your article any more than I was in your verse, and found your delightful treatise on ant versus human perception to be...perceptive, to say the least.

I like how the work intertwines sly humor with a strong sense of humility, a wink and a nod to both our ignorance of the universe, and our ability to appreciate what we can of it.

The comparative analysis of how we ourselves may be little different from an insect in terms of what we truly understand of our respective realities, though not entirely original, was nonetheless an inspired observation on your part.

Some of us, myself included, tend to think of ants and other socialized insects as individual cells of a collective brain. They're like the countless fingertips attached to a near sentient hand. And it is indeed the variations in our mutual perceptions that separate human from bug.

Saying "no" to one's own conclusions forms the basis of an esoteric field of study called, General Semantics. If you Google the term, the result will take you to the institute's headquarters. Folks such as Alfred Korzybski and Ayn Rand are but a minuscule sampling of the kind of people drawn to objective modes of critical thinking. I think you would find it all very fascinating.

But I digress. Your fine article provokes too many responses and reactions to do justice to them here, thus suffice it to say that your points come through loud and clear to all those whose ears are open. And who wish to listen.

Once again, congratulations, my friend. Your thoughtful commentary means a lot to those of us who understand (or wish to) the deep meanings to which you allude so well.

The only criticisms I have would pertain to nitpicky notes about the rough, grammatical and punctuation edges which exist throughout your writing. The good news is that they are minor and easily rectified. I think it's reflective of little more than the fact that you haven't been writing for that long.

Descartes' Evil Demon is alive and well within the details of avoiding all the many ways in which good writing is damaged by needless errors. And such pitfalls are numerous indeed. The old proverb of practice makes perfect is never more true than how it relates to writing.

As a good writer, already, you are well on your way to becoming a great writer. I hope you stick with it and persevere. And let me know if I can help in any way. I like to work with lights burning to shine on a hill. *Smile*


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Review of Darkness  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, James,

I really liked your poem-like item. I think it says a lot, and you have a lot to say, with it. I especially like the last line that includes "...prevention of an internal eclipse." There's some nice stuff going on here.

That said, there's also lots and lots of small but important errors that run throughout the work. If these are important to you, I'd be happy to help out. Since I assume that you consider such mistakes worth noting, I've taken the liberty of pointing out most of them, because the piece is short enough to allow for that.

Your major difficulty appears to be with what is called "verb and subject agreement", plural versus singular and so forth. Please compare your original (word for word) with my revised version below:

As I lie here, I patiently await the inevitable breaching of the darkness. A mere fragment of time whose reoccurring manner is accompanied by a significance unbeknown to my survival. Whose beauty unfortunately coexists amid fears of that unknown, resulting in deprivation of what little optimism is left in my possession. (or, what little optimism I still possess.)

As I lie here, I resurrect prior thoughts whose sole purpose is that of aimlessly understanding a darkness. One whose daily presence allows fears unique only to my perception. A darkness that lies transparent amongst a spectrum of colors.

As I lie here, I prepare what remains of my sanity for yet another seemingly hopeless attempt to brighten a chapter otherwise indistinguishable from the darkness, as it appears before me. The morning sky effortlessly paints a visual representation of victory unbeknown to me, and provides a vague sense of hope and faith equally essential to my prevention of an internal eclipse.


As I went through this, I got lost as to your intended meaning, while still sensing that you wished to express a particular idea. After working with this, I think it needs to be a free verse poem and that you'll see how much better it will work. Especially if you pay attention to the other changes I made, and see if you can grab hold of why I made the changes I did.

Changing this to a poem would be fairly easy, and little more than stacking each separate sentence (or thought) one on top of the other. Don't worry about punctuation until you're finished. And I'd be willing to help with that, also, if you wanted.

Hope some of this helps, and thanks for listening.

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Hi, Bruce,

I saw this terrific little item listed on the main home page and when I checked it out, I was glad I did. This is a rather innovative, if not altogether ingenious approach to describing one's return to the home they once new.

You asked if it was too much for what it is, and I don't think so. If anything, you're slightly guilty of being slightly pretentious. This is to say that you write a poem, then go on to analyze the thing as if it were some great historical document, written by some well known personage. But you do it so well, and so discretely, that we hardly notice. And none will take exception to the liberties taken.

For indeed this is a great poem, all by itself, without all the analysis and definitions. In so doing, however, you've taken the piece to a whole other level of excellence and informative entertainment. The poem becomes its own documentary, its own tour of a land and customs unfamiliar to most. And does it all in a most delightful fashion.

You're to be complimented on both taking a risk, and pulling it off. Well done, my friend. By the end, I almost felt as though I might be a native "Northwicher".

Your wonderfully executed piece reminds us all of where we might call home, and how much things have (or will) undoubtedly changed, much of it in rather melancholic ways; for once gone, their likes shan't be seen again.

There's an unspoken resentment here, I think, and the bitter disappointment, though slight, carries with it the implication that something's been lost along the way. Things of real value, of substance, of a comradery among friends and strangers alike. Much or most of it replaced by housing developments, shopping centers, and the warehouses needed to supply the demands of those who will likely never know what used to be.

But isn't that the way of things? Who's to say whether steps are taken forward or backward? Or if we just march-in-place, to the sounds of those different drummers, so to speak.

Be that as it may, I hope this work is as unique as it appears to be. I've certainly never seen this done before, and had you asked me my opinion beforehand, I would have stomped my feet and declared, "Don't even think about it! You'd have to do it just right, and I don't think you've got what it takes to make it work."

And while you would have had the last laugh, I would have been far from humiliated at being so wrong. It would have been my honor to congratulate you on a job well done.


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Review of Time Away  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Thaddeus,

That's quite a name. Or is it Frank? But I digress:

I like this poem a lot. I think you did a great job with it. I think it works, and is both fun and poignant.

I had only one problem, but one which has an easy fix. In my opinion.

I dislike "forced" rhymes, and I think you're guilty of same in the stanza below:

Stay away from fast cars and bars.
Stay away from cigarette "sticks".
Stay away from cheats and liars.
Stay away from lightly dressed "chicks".

Sticks and chicks doesn't work for me. I don't think of cigarettes as sticks, and the comparison seems too forced. Here's an example which makes more sense to me:

Stay away from fast cars and bars.
Stay away from cigarette boxes.
Stay away from cheats and liars.
Stay away from lightly dressed foxes.

Okay, so while this might still not be perfect, it's closer, I think. With a bit more thought, I think you could do even better. Maybe not, but probably.

And that's it. Otherwise, put ink on the rollers and print this puppy up. A good read, great poem, thanks for sharing.


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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Jacqui,

My mouth was open and speechless as I read your smooth, near flawless writing. I'm quite certain that anything of yours that I might read is equally good, if not even better. So the good news is that, from a technical standpoint, and for flash fiction, this is a truly excellent piece of work.

My only problem is that I may be one of the few, or the many, who don't get it. I think I kind of get it, but I never read Tom Sawyer, kind of know what it's about, so I sorta, kinda think I get it. Then again, maybe not.

The real answer here is not whether I or anybody else understands the literate reference made, but whether the risk is not worth the effort. What I mean to say is that, "Tom Sawyered," may be the perfect way to express the idea you have in mind, but if you lose half your readers in the process, then you need to be more like a movie director who is forced to cut a favorite scene because it just doesn't work.

But like I say, it may indeed work, just not for me. Or not enough. Or in a way that leaves too much to interpretation. Especially true for flash fiction, we don't want readers to have to play guessing games, trying to figure out what the author intended.

If I had to guess, my assumption is that being Tom Sawyered refers to a kind of abandonment or desertion, where somebody runs off, for selfish reasons, and leaves friends or others behind?

That leaves me feeling illiterate for not really understanding, and great writing, as opposed to good writing, should probably be clearer, less esoteric, and leave no doubt as to the author's intention.

My only other quibble is why someone would use such a term in the first place. If this were a meeting of members of a book club, for instance, we would expect a literary reference, but coming out of the blue, so to speak, seems odd to me.

Then again, I've been known to be rather odd myself. So it's likely me, and not you, as the saying goes. *Smile*

If it were you and not me, however, I'd clarify the ending. But that's me. Otherwise, reading this was like silk on satin. For me, it's too well written to not have a slightly different ending.

Let me know if others agreed, or if I should have read the book instead of going fishing that day.


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Review of Ground Zero  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)

I sure hope I got your name, Joel, correct. If not, my big apologies. I went back to the earlier emails to see if I could find where you signed your name as Joel, and nope, no where to be found. But usually my memory is pretty good with that stuff. If not in this case, feel free to dump me into one of those cold-war pits. *Smile*

I copied the stanzas below because I really liked them. I think it's where the poem takes a turn and stops being nostalgic and entertaining, and starts leaving no doubt that those were disturbing times for those who went through them. Especially at nine years old.

I think I was about the same age. I just turned 69, born in '46.

a question answered
and with compassion
and always
some strange mystery
when my father
turned his eyes
away from me.....

Yeah! I imagine lots of parents felt guilty and inadequate at explaining what the hell all of digging and preparations were for. How did anybody explain that to kids? How do we explain things today? A lot of nine-year-olds, today, are more like twenty and thirty-year-olds. Which harkens over to that other essay of mine you reviewed, about half-a-glass of water.

There came
the dark, disturbing dreams
a bit of truth
was dawning, then
this secret cave
was not my friend,

Yup. We gradually figured out that this was serious business going on. Duck and cover? Please.

They built some horns
so Gabriel
could kiss our angel wings,
I guess.........
after awhile
us kids forgot
just what and why they grew
up there on rooftops
of public buildings
so adorned
up there to warn?
prepare? announce?

I remember the sirens and the frequent testing, on a regular basis. Plus the updated, more sophisticated version you allude to later in the poem. Those were the sirens that if they went off, basically meant you were dead and you just didn't know it yet. Unless they were testing it. Which was funny but not funny because as I recall, they finally just gave up on the whole alarm and testing idea. The point was ludicrous and people knew it.

I really like your concluding remarks, the whole ground-zero stuff, and the sun embracing us like a relative of its own, but in this case, the man-made equivalent.

And we still see those maps with circles, based on city hall and spreading outward. Like if you were inside the right circle, you might survive with only minor injuries.

Nature might still have the last laugh, however. Despite our having survived such frightful days. You know those maps with the concentric circles spreading outwards from city central?

Now they use them for estimating the damage from an incoming asteroid.

Does God have a sense of humor or what?

Nice job on this great piece of work. Should be mandatory reading for all ages.


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Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hi, CM,

I think of all this as stratification. Much like the rock strata at which archeologists pick and scrape, each layer possessing its own characteristics, its own tale of existence. In modern America and elsewhere, science and technology has forced together a multitude of individual stratum, tempting and taunting them all to meld into a single, harmonic whole.

The anarchy and chaos we see are all the result of the gross failure and incompetence of older generations to properly mentor the younger ones. It is precisely the "boomers" who have failed to leave an inheritable, enviable, and profitable legacy to their children and grandchildren alike.

And the loss and alteration of many of the freedoms to which you allude represent the severe price which has been paid over the years. The world today, by comparison to only a few decades ago, is so bizarre, different, and intrinsically corrupted, that I am forever amazed that we, as a species, continue to survive at all. Some would argue that the end to my amazement is growing nearer by the day. And I tend to agree.

And yet, despite all, freedom is still out there. For the taking. By the horns and the proverbial bootstrap. We see examples every day and it never ceases to amaze me. Short of an outright police state that would make Big Brother envious, personal freedom still prevails. A kind of privacy to which we're all still privy and privileged.

For me, I draw a distinction between freedom and liberty; i.e. Libertarians believe in near unlimited freedom. Your thoughtful, well written words almost prompt me to write an essay on how liberty and freedom are today antithetical to one another, as odd as that may seem.

What is the old saying, that my freedom ends at the beginning of your nose? Many of today's social ills, such as abortion, for example, are seen as another's exercise of freedom, or liberty. Or is it more a matter of taking liberties with the freedom of others to disagree? Is same-sex marriage a matter of freedom or liberty? You can see how this subject might quickly escalate to an interestng and provocative exchange.

And this is the world we've left for our kids to figure out. And they're pissed about it, I think. At least some are. Which takes us back to that stratification business I mentioned earlier. As to who's angry, what races feel slighted, what genders are still denied their rightful due, all of it squished together like layers of rock, until they do indeed meld into a single stratum of discontent, agitation, and potential violence.

For me, these are the kinds of ideas and issues your piece arouses in my 69-year-old mind. Too many paradigms all crowded together all at once. If you look at the faces of the truly elderly, those in their late seventies, eighties and nineties, they tend to have that faraway look of the "deer caught in the headlights." Their eyes are kind of glazed over, dazed over, as if they can't quite digest the changes they've witnessed. Holocaust survivors stare at the TV news and hear echoes of history repeating itself.

Yeah, your editorial touches a nerve, my friend. Freedom at war with liberty.

What a concept. *Smile*


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Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Hello, again.

I'm not going to give this a thorough review, but not because it isn't any good. On the contrary, it appears to have a lot of merit, and that you've put a lot of sweat into your writing.

Nope, it's just too long for what it is, my friend. But that's far from the whole story. Which is what you need to hear.

Your writing contains its fair share of errors, both grammar and punctuation. Content is confusing whereby we have multiple kings and other characters, most of whom are hard to follow and keep track of, in terms of who's who and what's what.

But, that is perfectly fine. That's how writing is supposed to be. Good stuff is always a work-in-progress. So I'm not all that critical of the story itself. Nothing is there that can't be smoothed out and made nearly perfect, and without a lot of painstaking work. More a matter of learning fine points and not so much big chunks of this or that.

But it's just too long, too much all at once. At least for me. My best advice is to break the two separate chapters into at least four sections, minimum. Like groups of pages from single chapters. Let us review half or less of what you currently have at any one time. This will get you a lot more readers, also.

It's far easier to review shorter works because we can focus on details as well as the big picture. When pieces are huge, like yours, typically the best we can hope for is some broad overview of the whole thing.

But much of the weaknesses here are found in the details, so to rush through them, or overlook them because time won't allow anything closer, is doing you a disservice, if you catch my meaning. You want folks to point out the little stuff right now. Because small errors early on, left uncorrected, can become giant headaches later on.

Give me a "chunk" of this to read, from the beginning, with all the rest of the chunks in numerical order, and you could reel me in, so to speak. Like serials in a series. When it's good reading, people will read the next installment.

I hope this particular evaluation is helpful, and I wish you the best of luck with your future progress. If you ever run into an specific quandary, don't hesitate to ask.

Be well (and productive)

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Review of The Past Lives On  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: ASR | (5.0)
Hi, Iris,

You're old and wise before your years; you know that, right? This story is amazing in every way, and my only concern is that the ending is simply too depressing, too dark, too final. As the author, you leave us with nothing of value, as if one recounted some tale from the Holocaust and then abandoned readers like corpses in an open grave.

This makes for a strong and unforgettable story, but I'm not sure the nightmare ends when your words do. What you've done is write an effective horror story instead of a sad "slice of life" recollection. Without a drop of blood or gore, you play your audience like a musical instrument that bellows with discordant tones and then finishes us off with a stick of dynamite.

To repeat, this works very well as a horror tale, but I'm not so sure that this makes the most of the story's true potential. I think it's an award-winning piece, but whether in the horror genre or as a tale of suspense and tragedy is the real question here.

The remedy, for me, (though you don't really need one) is to let Melissa live in the end. She might easily consider that suicide lets her off the hook too easily. She deserves to suffer in her own mind. Maybe in her mind, that's a more fitting punishment for her unforgivable deed.

But at least it gives her something, and gives the reader something to cling to. Some possible salvation down the road. Maybe she'll meet someone, fall in love, have another child. Who knows? Let the reader decide her fate. Instead of you, the author, being her judge, jury, and executioner all in one.

This needs some work, but not much. All things considered. I've given a few examples below. Know this, however, my friend: this is one great story and you've done a marvelous job with it. The reader is taken in, like a lamb to the slaughter, and halfway down, you start to slowly cut with your knife and never let up. On the contrary, you continue to cut deeper, relentlessly, without mercy, and in the end, abandon us bleeding on the highway as if we were just another traffic casualty.

Here then are some miscellaneous notes that indicate how a more thorough editing job would start to deconstruct your writing:

I like the obsessive compulsive OCD temperament of Melissa. We don't know why, exactly, but the text reads the same way, frantic, frenetic, breathless, barely in control, on the verge of a breakdown, some kind of active depressive, incoherent behavior.

I also have a protocol for dressing up in the following order: first socks, then underwear and the rest of the clothing. I can't close this paragraph without citing that every pair of socks or shoes must be worn first by the right foot.

In the paragraph above, the word "paragraph" is out of place. Is she writing a note or telling us a story? Change it however you wish, otherwise. Something like: I can never finish getting dressed without first slipping into every pair of socks and shoes on my right foot.

Be careful of overly long sentences.

Sometimes, I get unknown calls. Being a young secretary, in her twenties and dealing with different men every day has its perks: some men are also young, poised and good-looking, probably rich, but I'd never be interested because a part of me is shut to feeling anything towards anyone from the opposite sex.

In the paragraph above, you risk conveying the wrong meaning, which is that Melissa may be a lesbian. Something more like: ...but I'd never be interested because a part of me can never again love anyone of the opposite sex.

This leaves us with a mystery, but without giving anything away. And without steering us in one direction or another.

The room is pleasantly bathed in the soft yellow morning light and the ironwood-colored secretary is being showered by tiny specks of clothes fiber and dust.

Be careful of words with double meanings. In the paragraph above, you mean a secretary desk, a piece of furniture, but we stumble for a second because we're not sure at first. Whenever there's the slightest chance for misinterpretation, always clarify.

The eyes are piercing, even though they look just like mine.

The sentence above is too vague in meaning. It doesn't hurt to take the time to explain what you mean. And still not give too much away.

"How am I to say this..." He looks away and lays his eyes on, apparently, a white plant vase, placed on the corner of the office. I remain quiet, nothing occurs to me. "I have an odd request. It's not related to your work here as a secretary, but I don't know to whom I should address this."

Important: in the paragraph above, you make this same mistake on a frequent basis. Look at the same thing copied below:

"How am I to say this..." He looks away and lays his eyes on, apparently, a white plant vase, placed on the corner of the office.

I remain quiet, nothing occurs to me.

"I have an odd request. It's not related to your work here as a secretary, but I don't know to whom I should address this."

See the differences? The paragraph breaks are important and keeps the reader aware of who is speaking and who isn't.

"Don't you feel like having kids?" Her question pops out of the blue. I'm left unarmed.

In the sentence above, change the flow so that we have some nice variations. See the same sentence below: (and note again, the important paragraph breaks)

"Don't you feel like having kids?"

Angelina's question pops out of the blue. I'm left unarmed. Or,
Angelina's question pops out of the blue and leaves me unarmed.

I think Melissa's first name comes too late in the story? Have her boss call her by name.

Worth repeating: clearly delineate and identify who's speaking. It's better to be overly redundant that to leave a reader wondering who said what.

The moment I was dreading has come. I walk with a full bottle to baby Grace and her cry lowers to a murmur. I have to take her in my arms to feed her. Once again, I find myself holding old memories on the other side of my conscience. Hold it, it's almost over. The boss is almost there. He has to. I involve her tiny body with my nervous but firm hands and lay her in my lap in the angle that favors her to swallow better. Not long ago, I was doing this, every day. I rock her up and down in my arms, next to my breasts that had already fed a child. I child I neglected.

I copied the above because it is the most critical paragraph in the story. This means it needs to be the most well written part of the story. This one paragraph might take ten rewrites before it's right. It's close as it is, but could be better. I would leave off the last sentence, also. We don't need to know that yet. Just a thought.

Well done, my friend. One of the best pieces of its kind I have ever read. Seriously.

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Review of Little Djamila  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi, Iris,

Powerful, unflinching, scary and both real and surreal. Poor Djamila is the universal child who, regardless of race, age, country, or any other unimportant details, symbolizes the plight of youngsters everywhere who are at the mercy of a frightening and dangerous world. Thus your subtitle: "The reality about a girl I know. The reality about a girl you know." is spot-on, as they say. The only change might be to say: "The reality about a girl I know. The reality about a child you know." You can see the point I'm driving at. Maybe my version is better, but not necessarily. You decide.

We suppose that this story is more relevant in some places, mostly third-world locations, than it might be in America or elsewhere, but one shouldn't be distracted by what is an otherwise unimportant detail. The terror and horror described here is the same regardless of where it happens, irrespective of poverty or wealth.

You've done a great job here of creating the dismal atmosphere, scenes and conditions where such incidents are likely frequent and remain as unsolved assaults, rapes, even murders. Or simply filed away as missing person reports.

You do run the slight risk of stereotyping the scenario, however. By this, I mean to suggest that you indeed create the "perfect storm" for this kind of incident to take place. We'd almost be disappointed if it didn't. In that sense, the story is somewhat predictable. That said, I'm not sure anything needs fixing, or should be fixed. More important is that you, as the writer, remain sensitive and aware that we sometimes build guillotines first, and then create the victim to suit the instrument of execution. Instead of the other way around. Does that make sense? In this context, your story would work just as well taking place in an aristocratic, upscale neighborhood, the only requirement being an alleyway, if that much.

I love what you've done, however, and I think it works extremely well as written.

As always, this kind of writing is composed of two or three basic elements: content, continuity, and grammatical execution. Everything here shines and presents the general impression that you, as the writer, are fluent in both the language used, and the circumstances that take place.

The good news is that this story is very close to being perfect. The bad news is that "very close" is still a long way from "being" perfect. *Smile* The work should be kept in a special place, wherever you keep your "keepers". The value of an item like this lies in its future use as a publishable short story, submitted to any number of publications. Or, as part of an anthology of short stories and poems. Or still yet, as the basis for a longer, much expanded version.

This is not to say, though, that the piece is even close to being publishable as is. The story needs lots of minor corrections. The tenses are off here and there, plus word choices and sentence structures are awkward at times. While they are all easy fixes, the object is to learn the mistakes and not repeat them.

I must confess, at this point, that I don't get into serious editing anymore. Or do so rarely. Not that you'll do the same, but too often in the past, I've spent time demonstrating improvements and making corrections, only to have the writer come back and tell me they didn't care about any of that stuff, or weren't interested in learning, or the particular piece I fixed was something they never cared about anyway.

So I learned my lesson. Never get into engine mechanics unless invited to do so, and only when the person is 100% serious and committed to becoming a fine-tuned writing machine. For me, there is no such thing as casual corrections. Nor should there be for you, either.

Hey, it's a lot easier on me if you want to do this just for fun. Count me in. With that in mind, just file this story away as 80% to 90% complete and be done with it. In which case my review is a solid four stars and the story deserving of every bit of praise I've given it.

It's certainly no more complicated than that. Which is as it should be. You just let me know when you want to get down into the trenches, so to speak, and get a little muddied and bloodied -- if ever. In other words, don't wear anything that you can't afford to get mussed and soiled. *Smile* Or not. I'm pretty nonchalant about things, regardless of how you want to handle them. Whether uber seriously, or just to learn by rote, meaning you just keep doing as you have done in the past.

And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Seriously. *Smile*


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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hi, Jenny,

I was one of those who went to Vietnam first, then came back and became a hippie afterwards. Even lived on a small commune near Eugene, Oregon during the early seventies. I think the sixties sort of slid into the next decade and no one really noticed until the songs seem to change -- much of it for the better. Then again, the communist takeover of South Vietnam probably went a long ways in announcing that the sixties were officially over.

That certainly did it for moi.

I like how your poem, in only a few words, captures the mood and spirit of those times. Especially for the fast diminishing breed of us who understand every word and syllable. *Smile* But what is really nice about this piece is how it ends with the poignant words, "...and were feeling fine".

Depending on how one chooses read the line, it signifies just the opposite, or denotes the end of a time when "feeling fine" would never again be linked with "care free". It was the beginning of a new decade, and a period that would be no less turbulent than the preceding sixties themselves.

I read the work as a great homage, in its own succinct way, to when all those now-dated terms, phrases, and catch-words were only a diversion, like military camouflage, to the real struggles of a nation -- and its youth -- who were finally growing up and smelling the roses. Or maybe sniffing the marijuana is more appropriate.

I think poems like this one will serve as reminders of another time and another way of thinking, and go on to inspire others, here and there, to wonder what all these strange expressions were all about.

I have a feeling that these words, like the music which is inextricably a part of them, will live long in the imaginations of those who savor some of America's more colorful history.

Right-on, Jenny!


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Review of Pelican Outlaws  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hi, Jess,

Why is there a picture of a flamingo that accompanies your poem about pelicans? Just curious. *Smile*

If you'll excuse my snide remark beginning, you had me both grinning and smiling with this one. It's a kind of children's fantasy, of course, but you snuck in an adult element somehow that also caught my attention.

This has a very cute and whimsical beginning. It's completely delightful and I rushed to see where you were going with this. I think you, also, kind of wondered where you were going with this, and the end fizzles a little. Not a lot, but enough that we lose our childlike sense of humor at the end, feeling a little confused as to what took place. Who was ultimately who, and so forth.

With a little more work, you could turn this into a real winner. We only need to know who the sheriff is (what it is) *Smile* and understand that the chicken pelicans all ran for cover when the real boss shows up.

Other than that, plus some added nitpicks here and there, and you've got a small treasure for kids of all ages. Can you tell I love humorous fables and such?

Do us both proud and finish this minor masterpiece. *Smile*

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, Jess,

You were thoughtful enough to "like" my newsfeed comment about states rights versus big bad government, that I decided to pay you a visit and see who you are. I'm glad I did because you're a very interesting person, talented, with a lot to say, and I'm totally envious of all the many things you're involved in. I don't think you're bored very often. *Smile*

As for your little essay here, that I enjoyed reading, I had to find out what a Sapsucker festival is and now I know. I got hungry, needed to close up my jacket, and loved hearing about Sam and Jack and the Audubon stuff. I could almost smell the trees outside, and the crisp cool air.

That said, there's two kinds of writers, Jess. Whether it's poetry, fiction, or this type of informative essay, some authors just love to write and talk about what moves them emotionally or intellectually. They're not particularly interested in having their work published or whether it is grammatically perfect. They just want to inform or entertain.

Other writers are as concerned about structure, punctuation and the like, as they are in presenting a good story. At some point, authors need to decide how they want readers to see them, and read them. If having fun and expressing yourself is the name of the game, so to speak, then far be it from me to nitpick every little missing period or comma.

If, on the other hand, however, you want to improve your writing skills, and be read as a serious writer, then we need to pay closer attention to the small things, and a few of the larger ones.

Your story here has lots of little errors that can be easily fixed. But as I said, if that part of things is not particularly important to you, then I understand. Thus you don't see me jumping in and correcting every little mistake.

If you really want to know, write back and say so, and I'd be happy to go through some of it for you. Otherwise, keep enjoying life as you are, and leaving me smiling and in a good mood.

Be well and thanks for letting me get up on my sappy box. *Smile*

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Review of Love Daggers  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hi, Farooq,

This is Part of Your Shower from Showering Acts of Joy. I was quite taken (and shaken) by the ferocity of your love poem. Plus its excellent use of language, rhymes, and choice of words. Very strong stuff. Very well written.

For me, a troubling sense of desperation runs throughout the piece. The work is almost too strong in its sense of longing and frantic yearning. It's what we might expect to read as notes left over by a suicide victim or worse yet, a dangerous stalker.

This doesn't hurt the poem, necessarily, but it does stamp it with a distinctive
tone and tenor. The work bespeaks of a neurotic, near psychotic state of mind, where the line between sanity and a disconnect from reality is thin and fragile indeed.

If this is your intent, as the author, then it works. It also allows for the choice of some stronger, more sinister words if you really wanted to drive home the point of the man's (or woman's) desperation.

If this was not your intent, then some thought might be given to "softening" the adrenaline-charged tone of the piece. Make the person sound a bit less mentally "mad", and a little more willing to accept things as they are.

The one thing we don't really know, of course, is whether his desires are realistic. Is she available and he need only win her over? Or is she beyond his reach, forever separated by one circumstance or another?

Good poems make us ask these questions. *Smile* And yours does. Well done, my friend.

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, Kristina,

When I was in high school (about a thousand years ago) the teacher of our "creative writing" class would grade our assignments in two separate ways. That's likely still done in schools today, here and there. One of the letter grades was for story content, the other for grammar and punctuation.

In order to give you a fair and honest review of your story, I found it necessary and helpful -- I hope for both of us -- to consider your story from two distinctly separate viewpoints.

The first is the story itself which I found engrossing and suspenseful as it slowly builds to what is likely the end of the first chapter, or an introductory prologue. I think the descriptions are good, and I definitely got the feeling I was out camping with a bunch of young Boy Scouts. Even more descriptions of the smells, environmental sounds, temperature, local wildlife and so forth can never hurt.

The story thus far, given the pace, continuity, and general flow of the piece is certainly solid "B" material. It would take very little more on your part to quickly raise this is to "A" quality content.

Unfortunately the grammar and punctuation is the major weakness in the work. I would rate it no higher than a "D". I always assume that these are sometimes rough drafts and the writer is not trying for a fully polished piece at this stage of things. Even so, there is hardly a single line that does not contain one or more errors. And serious ones at that.

The question for a reviewer is whether to give someone the good news only, and hope they eventually learn to write better, or is the truth, despite its being hard to hear, a benefit that's helpful the sooner the better. I'm a big believer in the latter because as our mastery of mechanics and structure improve, so does our love of the process. And this shows in story content as well.

So you can see the dilemma we both face, and the mixed emotions that accompany a genuine and totally honest appraisal of where things stand.

Since "editing" is far less important, in the beginning, than finishing the story itself, I'm also more concerned with whether an author has what it takes to write a complete story. Any nincompoop can edit and correct structural errors, and a good story is always the most critical component.

So allow me to encourage you to continue, full speed ahead. Just keep in mind that, like an annoying, overdue bill, the payment will eventually come due. In the meantime, it's up to you whether you want to tackle such matters sooner or later. I recommend sooner, but that's me. Finishing the story, however, is again your first priority.

Should you be curious, I would be happy to show you some of the mistakes that weaken your story, or make it difficult to read. So let me know what you decide, if anything. I'm at your disposal, should you wish.

Thanks for letting me note my concerns.

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Review of The Void  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (2.5)
Hi, Martin,

Those who have been giving you good reviews on this story are being much too kind and patronizing, in my opinion. This is, of course, a story within a story, and the story the mother tells, while interesting, comes across as nothing more than an outline for a short story that still waits to be written.

Few readers will tolerate long, uninterrupted paragraphs that "tell" us an endless story that forces readers to listen to someone drone on and on about one thing or another. What you've done, in essence, is stick a first-draft "outline" into some beginning and ending dialogue, and then pretend it's a short story of some kind. Sneaky try, but no such luck -- not in the view of this reviewer.

Okay, so all that sounds pretty harsh and unfriendly, I know. Good writing is a harsh and uncompromising taskmaster, and a good reviewer will be equally so. There is some good news, however, which deserves equal billing here, so to speak.

This is to say how there's a big story here to tell. The problem is that the story is completely told, and not at all shown. You may have heard that "showing and not telling", or "show, don't tell" is one of the hallmark qualities of good writing. Likewise, "telling and not showing" is death to an otherwise great tale.

If this was a feature film, say, then the mother's tale would be a flashback, and the audience would "experience" the story as a real-time event. And not just as a fireside chat. The importance of this difference cannot be emphasized enough.

My best advice is both a compliment and a suggestion for the rewrite that is needed here. The good news is that this would make a great story if written out as an actual story. One way to do it, and the way I recommend, is to have the mother "start" to tell the story, which then segues into real-time. At some point, usually a lapse in the action, we can return to the mother and others, who then exchange some banter such as you already have. Quickly, however, the mother takes us back "into" the story again and we pick up from where we left off.

The not-necessarily-bad-news is that the kind of rewrite I suggest is not just a recommendation. It's a reality that you either grab hold of and run with it, or you don't. My job is similar to a sports coach, who can train you to run farther and faster, and encourage you the whole time. *Smile* But you have to meet me half way.

This means that you need to understand what I'm saying here, and then ask any and all questions that come to mind. I'm always more than happy to answer questions about the issues raised in this review.

Thanks for letting me voice my concerns.

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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Judith,

To me, your marvelous little essay touches upon the age-old question of whether art imitates life, or life imitates art. Nowhere is this discussion more apropos than as it relates to music: in this instance, contemporary music that reflects the bizarre and potentially perilous times we live in. The song was a good choice, as if it were a famous quote, and you use it well as the centerpiece of your article.

Music has a broad and colorful history of affecting change, and in being changed itself by time and circumstance. Songs and symphonies are their own form of revolution and as you say, sometimes with violent results, other times with more peaceful, positive changes taking place.

I like the parallels and insights you draw with respect to the world stage, and comparing it to the musician's stage. And how musicians are often the real politicians who speak to us about our harried lives.

The influx and increase of information also plays it own tune, so to speak, and seems only to require modern-day lyricists to put words to sounds that are sometimes melodious hums, and others times little more than the raucous cacophonies of jazz played out-of-tune.

I appreciate how you don't pretend to give us answers or solutions in this piece, but instead allow your astute observations to speak for themselves. And the musicians to sing for themselves, thus echoing the sentiments found amid "crowd psychology".

In the sentence below, you'll want to change the semi-colon to a straight colon:
Here are a couple of examples;
Here are a couple of examples:

Other than that, and maybe a "this or that" here or there, your formatting and style of presentation is neither perfect nor flawed; it's just very personal and comes across as such. When I write these kind of things, I tend to do so using a more rigid formatting look. But that's me. Peek at any of the essays in my port and you'll quickly see what I mean.

That said, I really enjoyed this and cheer whenever I see someone make note (no pun intended) *Smile* of how music and life are inseparable qualities of the human condition.


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Review of Death's Minions  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi, Cecilia,

I've made only one single change in your entire story which is copied below. I'm too tired now to do anything else, but I hope you'll feel it was worth the effort. *Smile* Even without me saying any more, it should be rather obvious what the only change is, compared to your original. And only now is the piece ready to be properly read and reviewed.

This one change is the most important improvement that can made all at one time. It makes the difference between a work that can be edited and refined more, and one which is impossible until changed in the same dramatic fashion as I've now accomplished.

The short answer is that each speaker must have their own paragraph. Each event, separate from each character, must have its own paragraph. When done correctly, the result is similar to what we now have below. If you study these paragraph "breaks" and where they now occur, you should be able to see and understand the reasons why I made them.

Such breaks happen when there is a change in the POV (point-of-view) which further translates into a matter of through whose "eyes", a scene is viewed as taking place. Or through whose voice, dialogue is spoken, and in whose mind, certain thoughts are expressed. All of these require their own paragraph.

It's not a perfect science, as they say, and some degree of flexibility is allowed. But in terms of learning the basics, my corrected version should serve you well.

Once a piece of writing is broken down and arranged properly, additional editing can combine paragraphs in such a way that differing Points Of View (POV) can be combined, thus reducing the overall number of separate paragraphs.

There's a lot of tools, gimmicks, and styles that a writer can use, but until the proper paragraph breaks are established, the writing itself represents a complex and confusing recipe that is nearly impossible to follow.

Thanks for listening, and let me know if you have any questions. By the way, from what I read thus far, you have a lot to say, do it well, and have the makings of a fascinating tale.


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My gaze watched the rolling mass of people with distaste. They smelled like grease and sweat. I turned to Jordan only to find empty space. I blinked in surprise, than yelled "s***!"

The people passing by stopped and stared at me, obviously startled by my sudden outburst. I ignored them. Jordan had run off again. My eyes scanned the crowd of people looking for black hair close to the ground, only to no avail. I couldn't see him. Instead of panic and fear I felt frustration and anger well up within me. This was the tenth time he had wandered off. He knew better than this, we were in Italy for a reason after all; we didn't have time to sight see. Gritting my teeth in annoyance I snapped my fingers twice.

A moment passed and then there was a small pop.

"You didn't have to call me, I would have come back eventually," said a voice behind me.

I whirled around and sent daggers through my eyes toward Jordan. "We have no time to spare; you know what is going to be happening soon. We have lots of work to do."

He just shrugged lazily and gazed out at the crowd.

Jordan was only seven years old, appearance wise, with black hair and blue eyes. His black leather jacket and red bracelet matched mine.

He turned to me and said, "Amelia, we're in Italy. It's a miracle we even got the chance to come here. We shouldn't waste it just collecting the dead. It's boring."

I frowned at him, resting my hand on my hip. "It's our duty Jordan, don't forget that. Our job is one of the most important ones out there."

Jordan just sighed, seeming to give up.

I brushed a piece of my blonde hair that had escaped my ponytail behind my ear. I glanced at the sky and nudged Jordan with my hand. "The clouds are gathering," I pointed at a mass of dark clouds floating over a building a few blocks away.

His gaze turned serious and he nodded.

Though he sometimes groped and moaned about our job, in the end, he took at as seriously as I did. Well, almost. I snapped my fingers twice and in a rush of wind I was no longer standing among a crowded street but at the top of the building with clouds gathered above it.

Jordan appeared next to me less than a second later.

I glanced down the building to see a crowd gathered at the base of the building.
They were all silent. I glanced at Jordan and asked, "So what's happening?"

He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Carefully unfolding it he read out loud, "2036, October 3rd, mass shooting followed by suicides, consisting of more than twenty people. I guess this is where the mass shooting is taking place."

I glanced back down at the crowd of people again. Why were they silent? And that's when I heard it, the sound of gun firing, and screams as terrifying as silence. The calm before a storm I guess.

Jordan and I watched calmly as people burst out of the building carrying guns and started to shoot the people at the base of the building. One by one they all fell, blood soaking the streets.

Police sirens sounded in the distance. The attackers hopped in a car parked at the behind the building driving away like mad. They left no survivors.

"Well, that's our cue," I said to Jordan. I stepped off the building, plummeting three stories down and landed neatly on my feet.

Jordan was already on the ground eyeing me with slight impatience.

What, he could sight see but I couldn't jump off buildings? I loved the feeling of dropping from high places.

Slowly we moved through the scattered bodies, touching each of them with our hand or feet, nudging them to get up.

Then, ghosts or spirits you could say, stepped out of their bodies and stood still watching us continue until every one of them was standing. Their physical bodies still lay on the ground, abandoned. Single file they walked over to me or Jordan and we took their hands.

I'm not sure what Jordan told them, he wouldn't say, it wasn't my business anyway, and I didn't tell him what I said either. It is tradition to say a farewell to each dead person's soul you collect.

I made it up as I went, not having a constant phrase like "Rest well." It was more like if they had a shirt I liked I would tell them I liked their shirt or if I thought they were beautiful I would tell them that. If they were asses I would tell them to go to hell, not that I know if it exists though. Personally I had no idea where you go when you die. I didn't care really, I was dead but I wasn't going anywhere.

When I told them what I thought would set them at ease the most I would touch their foreheads gently and they would disappear. When I did that I saw their entire lives from start to finish. When I first became what humans might call a reaper, I was uncomfortable with this; it was their life after all. I had no right to look at it, but then gradually I started to realize I had a duty to remember their lives for them, all of their accomplishments and such, because who else would? After I touched them a second before they disappeared I saw a peaceful expression cross their faces which gave me some comfort.

Fifteen minutes later Jordan and I had taken all fifty-four souls. "What next?"

Jordan frowned at his piece of paper, silently scanning the names and places that needed to be taken care of. "The suicides are the last on the list for today."

I nodded and with a snap of the fingers was off to places scattered around Italy. I collected ten souls, Jordan and I had split them between us.

By sunset I was done. I appeared back in the same crowded street we had been earlier and waited for Jordan to finish up his part. I sighed and closed my eyes, leaning up against a building.

I couldn't remember much about being human, just that I died more than two hundred years ago. When I died, my boss, Death, summoned me to him. He decided to recruit me to be one of his Death Minions, for whatever reason he wouldn't say. And yes, I consider Death to be a he, though I doubt he is really any sex at all. I can't remember what he looked like, if he even had an appearance. The memories were foggy.

Fifty years later I met Jordan. We were to be partners. He was older than me, I could tell by his eyes. They looked old, though his physical appearance appeared to only be seven. Jordan was an experienced reaper, I was lucky to have him as a partner at all.

Usually we were, as a rule generally busy, after all death was a common thing. And it's not like we only worked for humans. Animals and plants died too, and to assume that only humans got to be reaped was just plain arrogant and self-absorbed. Yes animals had souls, as did plants.

I heard a faint pop then Jordan's voice sounded beside me.

"They're coming."

I scowled and said nothing. This would be unpleasant.

Thunder boomed in the distance and with a crack two figures appeared before us wearing all white. Luckily the commoners passing by didn't notice. We could be invisible if we really wanted to. I eyed them warily and felt Jordan tense beside me.

The White Ones had arrived. They both wore white suits with silver ties.

The one on the right with blonde hair smirked at me and said, "Well well, look at what the cat dragged in, the Death Minions."

We both said nothing.

The one on the right brushed his brown hair behind his ear. He reminded me of Hollywood stars these days, trying to mimic the idea of cool and failing miserably. They both looked to be about my age, eighteen years old, physically at least.

"Mark, we didn't come here to converse," the right one said.

Mark shrugged and said, "But we just had to come visit them Ralph. I've been waiting centuries just to meet them." Ralph frowned at us.

"What do you want?" I snapped, irritation eating at me like a parasite.

Mark chuckled and said to Ralph, "Look, blondies got a mouth on her. I'm scared now."

"Why are you here White Ones? As far as I know you have no business in Italy." I glanced down at Jordan. He was glaring at them, obviously irked that he didn't have all the information on their purpose here. Jordan never had liked the White Ones, but then again, neither did I, no one really did.

Ralph look at Jordan with boredom. "Not all of our business is made public."

I didn't like the sound of that. Any business the White Ones had that wasn't made public couldn't be good. I blinked and suddenly wasn't standing in the streets of Italy anymore. I glanced around but only saw darkness.

A clear, ringing voice murmured, "Kill them, they have no business here. They are traitors, having gone off the path set for them. Correct them. Those are your orders."

I blinked again and was back in the streets with Jordan staring at me with a knowing expression, he had heard the same message.

Ralph glanced between us, eyes narrowed. He had noticed something in our air had changed but his partner Mark was painfully oblivious. Moron.

"White Ones, what is your business here?" I asked quietly.

"Like we would tell you, you Death Minions," he spat. "You are nothing more than mindless tools used by Death to collect innocent people's souls. We don't even have to talk to things like you, consider yourself luck-," he stopped when a knife was stabbed into his back. He made a choking sound and he coughed up blood. His horrified expression matched Ralphs.

Mark raised his hand and touched the hole in his chest, his fingers coming away red, before collapsing onto the ground in a heap.

Jordan stood behind him holding a bloodied knife staring at the crumpled body with disinterest.

Ralph looked at Jordan with fear and disgust. "Why?" He choked it out like a stone caught in his throat.

"We have our orders," Jordan said simply. "You have disobeyed. That is all we need to know."

Then, quicker than the eye could see, I was directly in front of Ralph. I slid my knife out of its sheath on my belt, hidden by my jacket. "I am sorry White One. Jordan is right, we have our orders," and in one quick movement I plunged the knife into his heart.

He let out a strangled cry and crumpled to the ground next to Mark.

I grimaced at the blood on my knife. I crouched down and wiped my knife on Ralph's white suit. A dark stain of red on the pure white suit, it could almost be poetic.

Jordan did the same and we sheathed our knives.

White Ones were creatures like Jordan and I, the Death Minions. They were once humans who had died and were chosen to do something. While Death Minions collected the dead souls the White Ones went around protecting people who needed protection, keeping them from Death. For example Martin Luther King Jr., he almost died countless times before he was supposed to and only lived as long as he did because a White One watched over him.

As a rule, we weren't too fond of each other. When we went out to collect their souls they usually got in the way, disrupting our jobs. Though humans might consider them guardian angels, we considered them to be bastards. They had this whole 'I'm better than you so bow down and kiss my feet' vibe, but in reality we were basically the same. I had no idea who their boss was nor did I care to know.
Mark and Ralph must have decided to protect people who weren't meant to be protected or they could have just abandoned their duties. Whatever the reason it didn't really matter.

Death talked to us sometimes, giving orders to us without explaining the reasons. It wasn't our right to question anyway. "Jordan," I said.

He nodded, understanding without saying anything. He snapped his fingers three times and the bodies disappeared, along with all the spilled blood.

Only Death Minions could kill White Ones and vice versa. As far as I knew, when either one of us died you had no souls left to be collected.

"I hate that nickname," Jordan muttered.

I nodded. These names or titles given to us had always been there. No one knows who came up with them or when, just that they are. "Ready?" I asked. I could tell without asking him to take out the list that some were about to die. When there's a massacre this big the air seems to go cold. Italy was collapsing in on itself this week, right on schedule. Many were planned to die. I didn't know why, if there was a war going on what, nor did I need to know. I had enough on my own plate without thinking about human conflicts.

Without waiting for a response I snapped my fingers and disappeared. I do not cause death, nor am I the result. I am the in between, the minion. I bring you to your final journey, but I do not follow. I do not claim to know all, nor do I claim to understand. I just am. I am a Death Minion.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Heroes Among Us  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Hi, Pat

You didn't let me award any stars on this, so instead I'm giving you five starfishes: *Starfishy* *Starfishy* *Starfishy* *Starfishy* *Starfishy*

Although I enjoyed tip-toeing through your garden of other writings, I focused on this one in particular because it touches upon one of my particularly favorite topics: namely heroes and heroism. In this case, the subject is taken a step farther by referencing the "unsung" heroes in our midst. Individuals of extraordinary worth whose behind-the-scenes heroics are every bit the equal of those we read about or see on television.

I wrote my own essay about the tragic lack of heroes in the lives of many young people, with no comparable shortage of villains in the mix. In the sense that we notice and appreciate others who make the world a better, warmer, and friendlier place, I think some aspects of valiance might be found inside our own hearts and personalities.

In your anecdotal account of Ms. Denise and Daddy John, you share with us the perfect examples of both the active and passive folks who enrich the lives of those around them. People who not only support others, but themselves as well.

You've heard, I'm sure, the old aphorism as to how "goodness" is doing the right thing when no one is watching, and you properly point out the fact that real heroes appear to assume that no one is ever observing them; they act upon their own sense of propriety.

Even more important, I think, is your question that asks whether heroes walk among us today. You certainly answer the query to your own satisfaction, but you don't let us off the hook quite so easily. Your follow-up poser as to whether a reader possesses such a person or persons in their own life is, to me, the cutting incision that reveals who we truly are, inside ourselves.

For it is indeed the combined qualities of who we admire and for what reasons, that lie at the very heart of your important essay.

Okay, that said, I did have one issue that concerns me. It's the sort of thing that vexes many a writer, yours truly included:

Just as I was about to walk back inside the Dining Hall, a.k.a. Mess Hall, he swooped down, wearing the hero costume I described earlier, and said, "Ms. Pat, you are gonna come with us on the hay ride, arncha?"

I don't believe that "arncha" is our best choice of spelling here. I had to read it more than once before I got it. I think the reader is slowed down by these kind of slang terms that are intended to mimic actual speech patterns. Finding the right choice of apostrophes and spelling can be quite a challenge, as I've learned all too well. In short quips and snippets of dialogue, it's probably better to be less subtle and more obvious:

"...aren't ya?" likely reads the same as "arncha", but without the slight bit of momentary confusion. If it's really important to express the exact manner of speech, then in my never to be humble opinion *Smile* it's still better to say:

"...aren'tcha?" At least this tips off the reader that you're slinging the words, aren't and you. Not a big deal, like having heroes, but in writing fantasy stories, these issues are critical, so I'm especially sensitive to them.

Okay, so I had to find at least one thing to gripe about. *Smile*

Thanks for reminding us to pay attention to the real "who's who" among us.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Waiting Room  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hey, C.A., (hey, that rhymes)

You asked for an honest appraisal of your story, and I've never been known to give anything but, when it comes to reviews.

The only thing wrong with the piece is the ending. So often I read great stories in search of a decent climax or conclusion, that it's become axiomatic that the difference between decent writers and great writers lies in the ability to give readers satisfying endings.

Unless I missed something obvious in your piece, the ending left me scratching my head. And I wasn't scratching over the mystery of what meaning underscored your story, but rather why my time had been wasted by such a lackluster conclusion to an otherwise well written, captivating tale.

Two big questions remain unanswered at the end. And that's two too many, in my opinion. One is where was all this intrigue headed, for what reason, and what are we to make of the whole photo business?

Secondly, what was the big "test" being performed? By whom, and to what end?

Sometimes an author can do such a good job of laying down enough clues and extraneous props, that the ending isn't so much a single mystery, as it is a question of which of all the possible alternative options, represents the most accurate interpretation.

If you intend to leave readers purposely "hanging" at the end, then we need more to work with. A movie that shares some similarities to where you seem to want to take us, is "The Killing Room". A taut, psychological thriller that all takes place inside a single bare room with only a table and chairs. The film isn't a classic by any means, but it does have an exciting twist ending that is difficult to see coming.

My final suggestion for you to consider is that all stories, whether long or short, should have something to say. Something worth saying. It doesn't have to be profound or earth-shaking, but we should be taken somewhere, and not simply dropped off in the middle of a barren desert. With neither rhyme nor reason.

The long and the short of it all, is that you need both a new ending and more complexity. Even the ending doesn't have to be an end to anything -- if it's scary enough. And just when you crank up the scare factor, things go limp, and stay limp. Instead, we should be grabbed by the throat and squeezed until we're glad it's over.

It's hard for me to offer my own version of an ending here. Which I usually do, when I criticize a writer for giving us watered-down milk instead of heart-stopping moonshine. In this case, I can give you a "for instance" and see what you think.

Imagine that the girl is in the room with the guy, from the beginning. She's sexy, vulnerable, scared, and pretty. Neither of them know what's happening. Maybe the lights go out and we hear one of the doors opening. The door closes and the lights come back on. The girl is gone. Screams are heard. Then the photo is passed under the door showing the girl, obviously tortured to death.

The lights go out and we hear a door opening. So on and so forth, and now we have the makings for any number of alternate story lines. Once you know how you want to leave the main character, whether imperiled, doomed, or with a chance to escape, the story aims in that direction from the first words on.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for listening.


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