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Review of Marshall Road  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Yellow Rose,

My name is Bob and I'm reviewing this piece as part of the fulfillment of your gift package from Miss Bee. As a Vietnam vet, U.S. Army, 1967-69, I felt qualified to review your work, both for its grammar and punctuation, and especially for the quality of its content. You'll be pleased to know that I liked the piece a lot. I found it moving, stirring, touching, and poignant, which doesn't get much better than that. It has the ring of sounding both like a true story, and a fictional tribute work, which reads fine either way. It is a pleasure for me to review this.

Okay, enough of the sentimental stuff *Smile* down to brass cartridges, as they say. Well, it's really brass tacks, but empty shell casings seemed more appropriate.

You've written this lovely piece as both a poem and a work of prose. The problem for me is that I'm not sure which it is, or which it ought to be, but my instinct wants it be one or the other. In my humble opinion, I think it would work better as a straight work of prose, which would present it as a nice story, short and to the point. Here's what I mean:

It set there at the bottom of a hill. The green made it's white paint stand out and the grey roof brought memories back.

I recall the days we played in the attic while mom was fixing an apple pie. I also remember coming down the stairs sounding like a small stampede of cattle. Just to get a taste of pie, with some cold milk, was a big thrill.

The two paragraphs above represent a slightly altered prose version of your original poem format. My suggestion would entail going through and doing the whole piece in similar fashion, as if you were writing a very short story, using all your original words, and making adjustments accordingly. You can see what I did in order to make it sound more like a story.

Once you were finished, the whole work would likely need to be reviewed and edited again, this time as a short story. That may be a lot more work than you feel like doing, which of course, is perfectly fine. If that's the case, here's a better way, I think, to structure the existing work as poem:

It set there at the bottom of a hill.
The green made it's white paint stand out
and the grey roof brought memories back.
The days we played in the attic
While mom was fixing an apple pie.
I Remember coming down the stairs like cattle.
Just to get a taste with some cold milk.

Notice that the lines are shorter, read easier, and look better. Poems need to look good as well as read well *Smile*

The man was dressed in a dark blue suit
with a flag on the lapel.
I told dad, “This is Jeremy Mercer.”
Jeremy reached out his hand
to shake my dad's hand.
In his other hand
he held a blue velvet box
and gave it to my dad.
Jeremy then told my dad
how his own father
didn't come back from Vietnam.
So he went to Vietnam to see
where his father had lost his life.
He found something instead
that belonged to my dad
being sold by a street vender.

You can see how trying to do this as a well formatted poem poses problems in structure, because you've written it so much like a story. Read through the changes I made, also, and see if this is what you actually meant to say, about what happened. It was a bit confusing as it was.

The more I got into this, the more convinced I became that it needs to be a short story, and written as such. Which you're certainly capable of doing. So give that some thought, and if you decide to try it as a story, I'd love to see the results. Plus help you with whatever difficulties you run into, by making the switch.

See what you think and let me know what you decide. Thanks.


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi, Jeannie,

My name is Bob, and I'm reviewing this story as part of the review package gifted to you by Elle.

This will be a mixed review, not unlike a split decision in a boxing match. In the one corner *Smile* is Jeannie, the excellent writer who put together a well crafted thriller. In the other is Jeannie Hitchcock whose story is simply too close to the original story and movies done by other people. Such work is termed "derivative" which means it contains virtually no originality of its own, but at the same time isn't a direct copy or imitation.

I suppose this is somewhat a matter of those who are familiar with "The Birds" and those who aren't. What you don't really want to happen is to lead others to think that your story is completely original, only to find out later, or from someone else, that the theme had been done before -- leaving a distinct impression that you simply borrowed (to be polite) the idea when no one was looking *Smile* Even the scene with the crows (or ravens) is an uncomfortably close "rip-off" of at least two separate movies, but more like three or four because other producers made copies of original movies. So the sheer number of stories, both written and filmed, is huge.

Thus it should come as no wonder or surprise that I feel an urgent need to push you in a direction that will take you into more original territory.

You're far too good a writer to leave this stand as a permanent part of your portfolio which is so uniquely you in so many other respects. Let me critique the work as is, however, assuming you'll make some easy adjustments in the future and quite easily, I should think, convert this story into a more original version. I'll make a couple of suggestions in that regard, also, at the end.

By the way, "paying homage" is what I think you have in mind, but the difference is that an homage piece gives us something truly original that is simply based upon an otherwise well known theme.

My first "note" is that we don't know the gender of the main character until way too late in the story, and even then after "he" is dead. Because the author is female, I wrongly assumed the main character was, also.

Instead of a TV or radio report, we don't know which, consider Michael reading the story in a newspaper, and we read along with him.

The story is chopped into two separate sections, instead of existing as a blended whole. These things work better when the POV is from one source, in this case, Michael's. We thus start out with Michael as our main character, and work our way from there. Probably as a flashback or imagining what it must have been like for his friend as he reads the news of his death. Except we don't finish the news story until the end, pretty much as you have it.

Since a major rewrite is required, in my humble opinion, the focus of this review is more properly placed on how to change it into something more original.

I could sit here and throw out a bunch of alternate ideas, but I'll give you just one, to get you started, then let you create your own version, which will belong solely to you *Smile*

In one of the Twilight Zone episodes (the original) store manikins come alive and live as real humans for one month at a time. In this particular show, a woman forgets she's a manikin and the others have to convince her to return to her normal condition and allow the next manikin to have their turn.

In your story, Michael is actually a taxidermist and is surrounded by stuffed animals of every variety. In his shop, the animals come alive and take turns roaming free once more. Dean Wilson, it turns out, was really a crow or raven who became human and forgot who he really was. Michael puts two and two together because the raven in his shop had gone missing for a long time. Mike may or may not be in on the "arrangement".

The reader doesn't know any of this until the end. Same as with the Twilight Zone show. Meanwhile, the other ravens or crows know that Wilson isn't human, and that he even killed one of his own. Everything else in the story, to one extent or another, remains the same. At the very end, of course, we see that the raven or crow (stuffed) has once again returned to its rightful place in the shop. And maybe the raccoon is missing now *Smile*

There's one idea that would make your story original, pay homage to the others, and not run the risk of being derivative.

Let me know if this helps. I'd like to see a rewrite if and when you do it. Thanks.


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Review of Dancer's rhythm  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, TR,

My name is Bob, and I just finished reading all your poems that you've posted as part of your "gift to self" package. I chose this one because it serves as an example of a general commentary I want to make with respect to all the stuff of yours that I read.

I can tell that you really enjoy writing poetry, and it obviously makes up the bulk of your portfolio. After reading your poems, I checked out your portfolio to see if you had written any prose. Just to confirm my suspicions and my opinions.

Far be it from me to suggest to anyone that they change or alter what it is they appear to love doing. But if you'll allow me to stop just short of going there with you, I found your poems crying out to be prose, which is your real strength. There is so much information and internal details in your poems, that they read, for me, much more like miniature essays, than they do elegant, flowing verses.

The sheer abundance of punctuation that punctuates all your poems, speaks for itself, somewhat. And not because it's incorrect, but more because it seems misplaced. The colorful punctuation "fights" with the poetic freedom we need in poems, but can work wonderfully well with prose, short essays, or monologues.

I found myself somewhat frustrated because the issues and themes you evoke in your poems are interesting and often profound, in and of themselves. The topics deserve more of your intellectual input, which you deny us because the thoughts expressed are couched, disguised, and made unnecessarily "blurry" by your heartfelt desire to dress them up in poetic clothing *Smile* Sort of like putting a tutu on Einstein, if you catch my meaning.

I think your work is deep and thoughtful, but your tendency to "think" in prose, while writing poetry, leaves you with an interesting mix of both, where they tend to conflict with one another, instead of bolster or support one or the other.

I get the impression you're trying to write haiku-like versions of what are otherwise solid, full-page essays. I suppose part of the solution, if you were to sense the need for one, would be to practice writing some haiku's, and taking note of how much fun it can be to reduce things to their absolute bare minimum. And then, in your case, should you still favor the poetic style, expand from simple and move outward. Instead of what it appears you are doing at present, which is "compressing" inward and squishing too much into too small (and limiting) a format.

I'd love to see one of your poems written as a small essay, where you can take your time and tell us what's really on your mind. And not worry about keeping your big ideas "tiny". At the end of such a monologue kind of thing, you could end the work with a small poem that exists as part of the rest, but encapsulates the "core" content of the larger piece. You could also begin with such a poem. And then move on to the main essay itself. This would make a wonderful combination and also present your work to readers, as a rather unique item -- a short poem that supports the story and vice versa.

If you take my advice and make a million dollars, I think you should share 10% with me. Just saying *Smile*

Otherwise, let me know if this helps or strikes you as an interesting proposal. I'd love to see the end results should you go the route I recommend.


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi, Shara,

Hi, my name is Bob and I'm answering your request for a review via your self-awarded gift. Once I gave this a quick run-through, and prior to a second and more thorough reading, I felt a married man was a good choice as your reviewer. So let's take a look and see what we have here.

Obviously you're interested in having this read, and my guess is that you're unsure about the ending. As well as you should be, because it is the weakest part of an otherwise very strong entry in the romance arena. And even then, the ending itself feels right and works to a large extent. But a better closing and final thought on the part of the main character is definitely needed.

By the way, thoughts don't take quote marks. Only spoken dialogue. Unless you're thinking out loud *Smile*

There's some minor word choices and a few awkward sentences that could use a redo, for example:

The clock "idly ticked away" as our labored breathing eventually faded in to even breaths.

The clock "ticked with a steady rhythm" as our labored breathing...(not perfect, but better)

Our fingers were still moving, still exploring and my heart was a fluttering mess of butterflies.

Usually butterflies are associated with stomachs. A heart would buzz, purr, or pound or beat, as a better simile, accompanied by a drum, incoming, outgoing tide, a strumming guitar maybe.

I also found myself wondering where they were located. I thought maybe a beach at first, then figured it was a bedroom? At the end, we wonder whose bedroom. If hers, this would make the scene even more "intense". In the first or second paragraph, let us know where they are, so we don't waste time wondering.

Except for the ending, the rest of the story is excellent, well written, and contains numerous sentences and descriptions which fit the theme beautifully *Smile*

We know, fairly soon, that you're leading to something specific at the end. I didn't guess what it was until the end, and felt kind of let down because of the ordinariness of the whole thing. Sort of, "ho-hum", what else is new? And then the woman wondering whether she had just sinned? Excuse me *Rolleyes* Duhh, hey, lady! So it's the actual question that's the problem.

Consider a statement or question that more clearly defines what the woman is really feeling. Most readers will find the question, as it's currently worded, more humorous than dramatic. What we're expecting is for her to ask, "Oh, God, what have I done?" But that doesn't work because, so what? The answer is obvious. We need something less cliche.

Here's an example. I'm not saying to do it this way, but to give us something as good.

Suppose the last lines read:

It was from my wife, Rita. As my eyes traced his name across the phone, my heart started beating more frantically and a single thought crossed my mind, “Oh Dear God, had I just sinned?”

Now it all makes sense, doesn't it?

If you want to keep it as is, however, you need that kind of punch at the end. Something totally unexpected. It doesn't have to be perfect, or prize-winning, but your whole story balances, rises and falls on the last two lines. So they have to be as good as you can make them.

If it were my story, I'd have something like:

It was from father Ryan. As my eyes traced his name across the phone, my eyes skipped past the nun's habit draped over a chair. My heart started beating more frantically and a single thought crossed my mind, “Oh Dear God, I am in love with two men. Is that such a great sin?”

The other man in her life is, of course, Jesus.

Anyway, I hope this is all food for thought and is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions. Seriously.

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hi Danza,

My name is Bob and I'm writing a review of your story in order to fulfill the package gifted to your from Agape Novels. I noticed, of course, that this was the only piece you're offering us so far, and that you have yet to tell us anything about yourself. I'm also aware that you're even newer here than I am. So welcome aboard and I hope you'll find what you're looking for, or that it will find you *Smile*

Your Christmas story started out like a Hallmark movie, or an image taken from one of those old-fashioned holiday cards that people used to collect; I forget what they were called. Reading your words was almost like celebrating the holidays all over again. So this is not a criticism in any way.

I thought your grammar and punctuation were good enough to hardly warrant mentioning, so I won't *Smile* other than to say that your paragraphs tended to be a bit long during the first half, and the text reads a little like a newspaper report rather than a fully realized "story" filled with the sounds and smells, and other small details that help us feel like we're really hearing and seeing things "as they happen".

I thoroughly enjoyed the somewhat sudden transition of the second half of the tale, where you take us into the tributary of your dream recollection. I found the whole affair delightful and intriguing and have only one minor complaint. You give us all this wonderful imagery and symbolism and metaphor stuff, then drop the whole thing on your readers -- as if to say, "I have no idea what any of that all means, so I'll just let you try to figure it out. If you do, please let me know, thanks."

If you want a piece like this to really shine, we want to know what you made of all the stuff that happened in your garage. I don't know you or your family nearly well enough to play a kind of guessing game, and I found myself far more curious as to what all that meant to you personally. Almost like a poem, in a way. Which is really a cool accomplishment to pull off if you can, and you nearly do *Smile* You don't see that too often where a story starts out in typical albeit interesting fashion, and then culminates as a kind of free verse poem. You come so close to that, it's scary.

If you ever do a rewrite, give that concept some thought. There's few rules to most of this writing stuff, and if it works, then you've created something really special. Instead of something that Dr. Freud might have fun with otherwise *Smile* I, for one, want you to be your own psychoanalyst and let the rest of us in on what you discover.

With a stronger ending, I would have easily given this four stars, maybe more. Do it as a story that evolves into a free verse poem and I'll have to draw in a sixth star, if you catch my meaning. Not saying you should or shouldn't do as I suggest, but it is interesting to think about. Thanks for listening, and once again, welcome to a different kind of asylum. The "guards" are very nice, very helpful, and straitjackets are rarely required *Bigsmile*


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I clipped this paragraph because I felt it should be the very first, and at the most, the second "lead-in" paragraph to the rest of the story. I wondered much too long, I felt, who was telling the story. In this kind of thing, get it out there, sooner the better. With a slight rewrite, this would work perfectly as the first paragraph.

Sometimes instead of going back home, our family would stay the night -- Mom, Dad, me, and my three sisters. We girls always had a hard time going to sleep, we were so anxious about the whole Santa Claus thing. I would just lay in bed staring in the pitch dark. I couldn't stop thinking about it all and couldn't wait till it was finally morning and time for us to see our presents.

*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of Rain  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Fran,

Bob, again, and I could easily review dozens of your terrific poems, which will remain a permanent regret that my limited time will not allow me to satisfy. So suffice it to say that I'm a big fan, wish you well and much happiness in the coming year. And all those that follow *Smile*

In stark contrast to my other review, this one is a cutie that is easily improved, I think. But it's also important that you agree with me as to why the change was important. And then apply this idea to older and/or future pieces, however the implications befit your temperament *Smile*

The last line is the the "zinger", so why not allow it to "zing" to its full potential? I love the little poem, by the way. But I digress *Smile*

If you were to say something like:

Rain "dances" down like


Rain "showers" -- anything but crashing. Why? Because "crashing" is itself an annoying word, as you use it here. Thus when you say it still annoys, it's not only a bit redundant, but overkill -- instead of sneaking up on us and "punching" the idea home in one single shot.

The ideal word(s) would be one which goes with jewelry, gems, or the like. This is an easy fix and I wish it were mine to make *Smile* Since "beauty" is a prominent word in the second line, everything that leads up to "annoying" ought to be beauty-related.

Okay, that's enough out of me for one day. Or a lifetime *Smile* See what you think.


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
Review of New Year Dreams  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hi, Fran,

Bob, here, doing a review for your gift package from WDC Power Reviewers. This is the poem I wrote to you about, that I liked a lot, and for a special reason.

Your poetry is as good as any I've seen and read before, but it's the ending stanza where it shines and stands apart from many others. It's the perfect way to end a poem, the way this is written, and the theme about which it's written. Too often New Years is considered a time of celebrations, whereas it ought to be revered in much the same way as is Thanksgiving in America.

When we think of all those resolutions that are made with respect to the coming year, how many of us resolve to do more for others, in addition to self-improvement? Too few, I suspect. And it is to this unfortunate circumstance that your lovely poem admonishes us ever so gently, so subtly, so accusingly.

As the new year is ushered in tonight, I will think of this poem. I pray that others will share similar thoughts, as I think it's true that the world today is different than before. Than ever before. I think humankind, while enjoying the highest standards of living ever in its history, is at one and the same time supporting, indeed subverting entire countries and cultures, dooming them to poverty stricken lives that are little more than a form of living death.

And it is they who not only dream of something new, but deserve it. The world at large should adopt a universal resolution to end the tragic suffering of those who languish as the unfortunate byproducts of sociopathic technocracies.

Only then will I raise a glass of champagne and toast a new year that would seem to revel more in the immiseration and enslavement of the poor, than in the joy of the few whose single goal in the coming months is to lose ten pounds of body fat.

This is what your poem means to me. And ought to mean to every person who reads it. Well done, Fran. I loved it. If this is any indication of your poetic skill in general, you should be teaching it to others. I suspect your personal tragedies (and triumphs) play a role, and poems are an exquisite choice for you.

I'll do one more before moving on, but I just wanted you to know how something so simple can be so powerful. Thus is the reason why poems are so cherished in a world where volumes of prose are sometimes needed to take us to where we might otherwise journey in a matter of mere moments.


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi, QO,

This is Bob, again, and I found this little piece to be of interest because it allows me to show you what a nearly perfect version of your original writing ought to look like. I say "nearly perfect" because there is always more than one way to punctuate (and write) a given piece of work.

The story itself relates a brief, nice-enough faux pas that we all can relate to, in one way or another. But it is the writing itself that begs for attention from a slew of minor errors and awkward sentence structure. I felt this was a great opportunity for you to see the weaknesses here, and not be too insulted or discouraged by my seemingly arrogant rewriting of your original words.

Please compare the version below with your own, and note the differences, some or which are subtle, others more pronounced. This is also a potentially viable template against which other, similar works might be judged as well. And for which there is no additional charge *Smile* I'll sign off at the very end.

Working through lunchtime one day, while I was clerking for the Supervising Department of the Superior Court in Vista California, an incident occurred that was both bizarre and embarrassing. Normally either Karen or I would lock the courtroom door at noon, and then reopen it after lunch. But on this one occasion, neither of us had remembered to lock it.

I had worked through my lunch hour, trying to get caught up on the nagging paperwork that sat piled in my in-box. I had also picked up a Substitution of Attorney document filed by counsel, who had withdrawn from representing a client and replaced the paperwork with a new counsel-of-record.

The new name which I then substituted in place of the former attorney, struck me as odd -- to say the least. The title reminded me of something from medieval England; it was straight out of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and those other legends that I loved reading about in the primary and elementary grades.

I couldn’t resist voicing an offhand thought and remarked, “What mother on earth, would be in her right mind to name her son Thor Emblem?"

As I talked, the door opened and in came this attorney who announced, “That’s me!”

Karen and I sheepishly glanced at each other, both of us motionless and speechless. What chance did I have, to be so lucky as to have been caught with my foot planted firmly inside of my mouth?

Hi, again, I'm back. As you can see, a piece like this lends itself to a variety of styles and techniques. Mine is only one which represents my own style. All of the punctuation, however, is very accurate and worth paying close attention to. If you have any questions as to why I changed the things I did, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm available 24/7, 365 *Smile*

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, QueenOwl,

I really enjoyed your article on the seeming contradictions and discrepancies found in the English language.

Hi, this is Bob, and this is the first of two reviews that will go towards fulfilling your gift package from Patrick. I have answers to the questions you raise about English, and Mr. Webster in particular *Smile* so I felt this would be a good piece to start out with.

There are some minor grammar and punctuation issues here and there, but overall, I found the writing itself to be excellent, well structured, and logical in its presentation. The conclusions drawn, while sensible, do, however, illustrate a common misunderstanding of English, both its contemporary usage and its origins.

The source of word origins is a field of study known as etymology. It is not uncommon for definitions in English to appear contradictory or strange when analyzed at "face value" as it's called. Nor does any fault lie with Mr. Webster or the other "big name" dictionary brands used as standard reference works.

Just as in science, where purely scientific words must mean the same not just in America, but in every country of the world, the words themselves are not only the same, but their pronunciation is identical. Numerals, you may have noticed, are the same the world over, regardless of culture. Math, of course, is a universal language, thus its graphical constructs -- the symbols used -- must also remain the same for everyone. But I digress *Smile*

English is an amalgam, an aggregate, and in some ways a bastardization of many different languages. And not just European. England was conquered by Nordic countries as well as Europeans, and each invading country added its own words to a common tongue. Even today, many words used in English exist virtually unchanged from the culture in which they originated.

When certain terms appear illogical, especially those which are formed by combining two or more words together to form a single word, it is inappropriate to assume that the "root" words retain their original meanings. Just as in grammar, where some rules make no sense logically, and proper usage must simply be memorized, so it is that the meaning of some words must also be memorized and used accordingly.

In the case of "spendthrift", I could make an educated guess as to how such a word came about. Or I could do an etymological internet search of the word and find the exact history of its origins. I have done such searches in the past and it is surprising how often it turns out that the record offers "guesses" only, without any real documentation.

A term like spendthrift is probably "old" English, or might come from as late as the American Depression during the 1930's. The word likely refers to the act of spending (away) thrift itself. It is thrift that is spent instead of frugality, if you catch the meaning. Thus we need to exercise caution when doing "literal" translations, which is true, of course, of almost any language.

Thanks again for a stimulating article that not only asks good questions, but phrases them in almost near perfect English. *Smile*


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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
Hi, SM.

Bob, here, back for a second look as part of your review package from Patrick. Wow, and I'm glad I did, too. This is a great companion piece to the short story I reviewed the first time. This is the flip side where redemption is no longer an option -- we're well past that -- and it's pure survival until death takes its inevitable toll. This is the kid who already gave up, who can no longer be saved, whose victimization is complete, and who stalks the asphalt jungle virtually no different from the stealthy predators who wait to pounce from the overhead branches of a more typical rainforest.

This piece is reminiscent of those films and stories about demonic possession where the question prevails as to how much, if anything, remains of the original, innocent person who existed prior to being taken over. Is there anything left of the child inside the criminal? This powerful, compelling work gives us a brief glimpse into that timeless question. And provides an answer. In this case, the "boy" is still intact, despite his inability to never find his way back.

For a brief moment, the wild tiger returns to his kitten roots and remembers how there was a better way -- one which has its own honor, but is weak and vulnerable, and could never be his way. He wants the grim reminder removed for it haunts and taunts him. It's the same way someone will find him one day. And he hopes the person will make the call for him as well. And maybe he can join the woman wherever she's taken. And he can ask her to forgive him.

This is a terrific look at the dark side of street life. regrettably we know it's true. That it's authentic. And the author brings it to uncompromising life as vividly as a film in high definition.

In the paragraphs below, I found a few small glitches that I felt needed pointing out:

Moistness filled my eyes as I stared at her body.

In the line above, I questioned "moistness". An "unfamiliar wetness welled" in my eyes -- is better, I think. See what you think.

Why’d you get killed here? Why must you remind me of a past I will never return to? I "kill" people; death is part of my life.

In the line above, I change a couple of the words. See what you think. "Lifestyle" just didn't seem to fit.

"If" people don’t pay for service rendered, they die. "When" off-turf guys invade, they die.

Notice in the line above, I added "if" and "when" because it's a little unclear without them.

Other than that, this is one fine piece of writing that deserves all the recognition and accolades I can give it. Bravo.

I do have one major gripe, however.

What's up with your poetry not being available for standard reviews? OMG, I took a look and they're every bit as good as your stories. I wanted to review one or two, but you won't let me. I'll try not to take it personally *Smile*

Great work, truly.

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Review of Love You To Death  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Hi, SM,

My name is Bob and I'm reviewing a couple of your pieces as part of the review package gifted by Patrick. I like this for a number of reasons, so I'll try to be both brief and thorough *Smile*

At first glance, or first read, a short but poignant work like this is too easily and too quickly passed over or dismissed as just another "feel good" piece. Far from it. What makes this so good is that it is so much more. There is a lesson here to be learned by all of us, and if we're wise, we will heed its message.

I have to digress a moment and ask why Lethal Weapon 4 was left out of your movie list. Plus The Black Stallion and War Horse. Just wondering. We have a Maine Coon who needs a prolonged hug every night. Really. But I digress. Now where was I?

Ah, I remember thinking, if only O.J. Simpson (and other killers) had employed similar thoughts to our main character. I suppose that's what separates the true sociopaths from others whose emotional pain drives them to drastic actions, but for whom redemption is possible, right up to the last moment.

I suspect, as do you, that this scenario has actually taken place many times. In the extreme, how many suicide bombers have had second thoughts, and never carried through? Some I'd bet. Less extreme would be the rest of us, when faced with almost any decision that involves choosing between right and wrong. I always loved the idea of doing the right thing even when no one is looking. That's what our unnamed assailant did in this case, isn't it?

In the end, this is a short and powerful essay about the power of introspection, and the absolute necessity to do it -- often. Especially when doubt is present. The anti-hero of our story concludes correctly that he is a product of a defective, dysfunctional past, and that behavior based on such negative experiences can never produce a beneficial result. He also realizes, in the end, that real love is a matter of finally accepting how the happiness of someone we supposedly love is more important than our owe personal, selfish gratification.

All that is here, and more. It's an entire college course on psychology and philosophy, wrapped up into one neat package.

So what did I not like? Hmmm. Let me think a moment. I'd probably change the last line as follows:

"I've lost her, Mom." My body shook. "But he'll never do the same to us."

I don't know if that's any better than yours, but I had to gripe about something *Smile*


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Review of Deserted island  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Hi, Maryann,

It's me, Bob, back again for seconds with package fulfillment reviews. This one also caught my eye, so when I read your dark little tale, I knew I had to review it.

In 1959, Gregory Peck starred in a movie with an all-star cast that included Ava Gardner among others. I know you're way ahead of me, and know the title was "On the Beach". In 2000, Armand Assante and Rachel Ward starred in an adequate remake of the same movie. This gave at least two to three age generations an ability to appreciate the story -- one which has always held a special place in my heart and brain both.

While your story is very different, it certainly shares some of the same qualities found in the two films mentioned. I like the smaller, more intimate scale in which yours differs from the other epics. The theme itself, of a family caught in a safe area while the bombs went off, was also featured in a Ray Milland film, and I seem to recall others as well.

So while there's nothing new under the sun, as they say, I really liked your updated version which again takes us on a trip of sorts, where the unimaginable happens. If this were made into a film, I'd go see it. The theme is so compelling and profound, that it can't be overdone. And you have done it justice here, absolutely. And did so without copying or mimicking any of the other versions. That's not always easy to do.

If readers are given no clue here, as you've so aptly avoided also, the climax sneaks up on us like a deadly snake, except we don't know that the rustling bushes and sound in the grass is a snake -- until it's too late. As the reader is left in the lurch and the snake strikes, the truth sinks in as if they were themselves members of the camping trip. Utterly helpless. Awaiting a coming storm where the rain itself may be as deadly as any fire.

Once again the writing is superb and the small paragraphs are just right. My only question is whether the author did enough to heighten the suspense as much as possible. It seems like the ongoing descriptions of what seems like an ordinary outing otherwise -- albeit a beautiful island paradise -- lasts just a tad too long before we begin to suspect that something is not only amiss, but something really awful.

Early on, it might be that the radio can't pick up any signals at all -- just static at first. "Try the radio again," he said. That kind of thing. They would have a clear view of the sky and I don't think you say anywhere what time of day it is. I could be wrong about that, but I couldn't find it. The story should end with the sun setting and the most gorgeous sunset anybody's ever seen.

One of the characters could say they saw a picture of a sunset like before. It was in a magazine article about the atomic tests at Bikini island during the fifties and sixties. That kind of thing *Smile*

Lastly, I'd leave off the "End?" at the end. It adds kind of a corny end to the end, which isn't needed and totally goes without saying. The ending is perfect otherwise and leaves us all wondering how we'd all react, and what we'd do.

Thanks for a genuine thiller that tickles (make that punches) the intellect.


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Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Maryann, (RIP your aunt Dottie)

I haven't talked to you in a while and since I'm making my "rounds" of those whose gift packages are still relatively empty since early November, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to say, howdy, and give you a couple of needed reviews. And who better from, than a fellow trekker? And what better story than this one?

Pam writes a nice long letter and we presume it's in a language other than English. Without mention of a translator device, other than "transmission" the colloquial lingo sounds just a bit too "Earthy" *Smile* I think it would work better if Carla were herself from a different planet than Pam (different species)which would emphasize the whole "federation" concept, of which the Earth is yet to be a member, so it would appear.

Otherwise this was a delightful diversion which was both humorous and well conceived with respect to a "friendly" alien presence visiting what is obviously a less advanced planet -- among a collectivized group of others.

I liked the whole learning to walk stuff, which gave us an indication that Pam and her friends were physically different from humans. If Carla were a different species, however, this would afford you the opportunity to have Pam give us a more accurate picture of the situation.

That said, this isn't the kind of piece that can be easily criticized or critiqued for content, other than someone like me coming along and trying to upgrade it to Star Trek quality, as if it was lacking the visuals and other special effects we want to "see" here. Then again, we can't make this much longer than it is, filling it with too many more details, otherwise, of course, it becomes a short story instead of a nicely worded pretend "message".

It's also debatable whether I can legitimately find fault here, suggesting that the ending is weak, with no real beginning, middle, or "conclusion" per se, given that it is meant to be a casual, uneventful exchange -- a school outing, if you will. And it might be unfair to expect more from the piece than what it is -- or ultimately offers.

The writing and overall structure are so well done, so professional, however, that I can't let the author off the hook, quite so fast. With a skill level capable of so much "more", one can't help but ask whether the writer sold herself "short" here. By this, I mean to say that, given at face value, it's a four-star natural. That rating was easy. The author, though, shows a five-star grasp of subject, theme, and storytelling ability. So do we let Maryann "slide", give her a pat on the back, and say, "well done."?

Or do we give her a gentle prod, a tickling of the literary ribs, and let her know that captain Picard and crew, while happy, kind of expected cadet Maryann to "thrill" them a bit more than she did. If she wants that upcoming promotion, the Academy will want to see a bit more complexity and cliff-hanging excitement in her next submission *Smile*


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Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, again,

Yes, it's me again *Smile* and this poem is even better than the first. Actually it's a lot better, and I really liked the other one. Sure, it's longer and deeper, more personal and romantic, but as a poem, per se, it's just a totally cool piece, pure and simple.

Are you familiar with a certain definition of "love" which suggests that when we love another person, it's largely because we see ourselves in them? Friendship also, but especially romantic love. This is different, of course, from "self-love", which might boast of arrogance or conceit, or narcissism. No, this is about a kind of pride and joy we might feel about ourselves, as if we were a great, accomplished artist (or poet) and our personal, private qualities that bring us much happiness. When we see these similar qualities in another person, and we're open to the emotions involved, we may easily "fall" for them, softly at first, then heavily, passionately, shortly after.

Some of that is expressed in this poem, which has even more to say than what I've indicated. A lot more. And it's all good. It's all moving and touching, often surprising -- even when we see what's happening. But it's too late by then. We're hooked. After that, the colorful language the poem uses, the interesting analogies, metaphors, and so on, are perfect.

What isn't quite so perfect is the punctuation which follows no discernible pattern. An evaluation is needed to determine what punctuation is needed or desirable, if any at all.

But even when I'm not sure of the particularly enigmatic:

The dreary gray of daily pains
is broken by the
the peculiar shiver
of the trident flame between us.

I still feel like I can pull understanding from it and more importantly -- want to.

A twitch, a blink, a flying eyelash
A great surprise
when I find myself reflected in your iris.

In the last line above, I'm curious why you used "iris" instead of "eyes" which seemed like a more suitable (if not perfect) fit. And a nice rhyme with "surprise".

I do hope you will reconsider your "resignation" into full time reviewer and no-time writer *Smile* It is our loss, I suspect, even more than yours. I really like making discoveries (similar to the other poem) and love finding authors who show great promise.

Promise me you'll try to crack open the flood gates a bit and let a trickle escape. And what will one day be a river, if not an ocean *Smile* Thanks for listening. I meant every word.


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Review of With Breakfast  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Tab,

I like this little poem in a big way. I'm also going to review your other poem because I liked what I saw at first glance. You've been a member here since 2006. That makes it 8 years, 9, maybe? You don't do much writing and probably have writer's block or whatever. Probably more of the "whatever" than a block of any kind. And the rest of your bio stuff is blank. Except for a slew of community recognitions. Thus you are an anomaly of sorts, have aroused my curiosity, and I feel a strong desire to encourage you to create yourself anew. *Smile*

If these two poems are examples of the general quality of your work, then you're doing yourself a disservice and denying the rest of us the ability to read more of your stuff. After several years, I have a feeling you've got a lot to say, so what's the problem? You waiting for the next go around reincarnation-wise? Well, I don't want to wait that long, so give me something else beside these two lonely pieces. Okay, please.

Pondering, wandering. Forgetting, mourning. Opportunities and dreaming. I love this collection of ideas that make sense despite their brevity. Starting over, as one recovers, as if from a bad dream, but seeking new paths even if it means wandering...perhaps aimlessly for a while -- these are all great concepts about which everyone can relate. Forgotten or missed opportunities are indeed little different from authentic losses that engender sorrow. Which is why I love the ending.

True discovery is the result of wandering paths where the outcome is uncertain, unknown. How could it be otherwise? And this poem captures all of this and more.

The irony here is that the author suggests we do as he or she says, and not as he or she does. Physician heal thyself? The poem is your anchor and it's time to pull it, set sail, and start writing again.

The title? "With" Breakfast, versus "Over" Breakfast, which I also like, but more than your original. Both are good. Over, as in getting over something and moving on, however, is better, I think.

Other than that, this is gold. Not platinum necessarily, but solid gold. Bravo on a piece of fine work. So what's it gonna take to get you off your duff and start writing more? *Smile*


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Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Hi, Ellis,

This was so short, that it would be silly not to review what you have. I'm not quite sure what you have, but I like the beginning -- very exciting and sets the stage for some good suspense to follow.

I was curious about the length. I assume this first section was basically an outline for a much longer, expanded version to come. Full chapters are usually about 200-250 words per page, and about 5-10 pages long, both sides.

My only concern here is the paragraph breakdowns as follows:

“Excellent. I’m prepared to extract my vengeance.” Lord Ailus smiled wickedly and turned to face his battle map. “This will not be pretty for those thieving little bastards, they must pay for what they have done.”

There was a chill of bitter silence in the air, as if the business between the two men was far from finished.

Notice in the paragraph above, it's now two pieces. The straight "narrative" has been split off from a specific character, and I added some more words to make things interesting.

“Your oath, my Lord. Will you let me go so I can return back to Kholis? I’ve done as you asked, there’s nothing that can stop your plan now.”

The King grunted, and then hummed as he moved his long, pale finger from one city to the next on his drawing. “At least, let me leave you a parting gift before you depart wizard. Your service has been... most useful to me.”

Notice above, how the one paragraph has been split apart, separating the Wizard from the King, giving each their own "space". This is a very important structure rule to watch for, while learning to do it right.

Reaching into the sleeve of his white, silk gown, Lord Ailus rummaged until he found what he was searching for. Then, he flicked the object down into his hand. It glinted in the fire wisps flare from the light above them like a rare onyx from the Dwarven mines in Laeroth, but it was no gem.

Before the wizard could react, the black, sinthian knife pierced his throat, staining the King’s expensive outfit a sea of crimson betrayal. “My need for you has ended.”

Once more, the single paragraph above is now two separate ones. The reasons are obvious, also, I think. Notice how much smoother and clearer the text is. There's room for a ton of additional details, such as the location, the weather, the time of day, and so forth. It is these extra descriptions that will give you the added pages. Plus room for horses, the King's attendants, yada, yada. You get the idea.

I like your names, also. "Dwarven" is my favorite *Smile*

Keep up the good work, but let me know what your intentions are with this. And if you have any questions -- ask!

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Review of Attention Adults  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi, Ellis,

Great poem. Says a lot, expresses the frustration of a younger generation, and you accomplish your goal of getting our attention *Smile*

We do need to know what generation you represent in your piece, however. Currently we have teenagers, who have their own "generation". Then those in their twenties, thirties, and forties. My guess is that you're referring to either teens or early twenties.

Here's the actual breakdown:

Gen "Z" is from 1995-2015
Gen "Y" is from 1975-1995

Gen Y is also known as Millennials, and Gen Next.

So early on in your poem, we need you to say something that identifies you (the author) more accurately.

If you're Gen Z, this is perfect, because just like in the movie, World War Z, about zombies, you could really use the snide reference that adults label you guys as Gen Z because we think of you as being zombies, in addition to all else. Use this connection if possible. It would work really well.

If I had a gripe about this, it would be that it doesn't offer us any hope for better days, better ways, or that many young people are real heroes in the eyes of older adults nowadays. Seriously. The brush is too broad, the condemnations too general. We need to acknowledge the exceptions in some way.

The central focus of the poem is fine and makes its point. But there might be some overkill here. Okay, we get it. There's a lot of stupid adults running around -- a lot -- who have no idea of the stress that the modern world puts on the young today. Whether it's a ton of homework, peer pressure, drugs, and stupid politicians who couldn't run hot-dog stand, let alone the country. And stereotypes -- OMG! Wear a hoodie and go to jail, you criminal!

Nope, I'm glad I don't have to put up with all the nonsense like you do. Though adults have our own problems among our own "Gens". I'm not sure what you could add, that would lighten the tension and the mood a bit. But the poem needs something that leaves us with hope for a brighter future.

Or, if you really wanted to get real, to get down and dirty, then don't hold back and act all polite and stuff.

Add lines like the following: (not these exactly, but you get the idea)

The truth is that we see you as the real criminals.
You stole our futures by killing us in senseless wars
And spending money that was ours, not yours.

It wasn't us who created a world where war
and disease, famine and corruption prevail.
You wrecked our world, destroyed the forests,
killed off the animals, and ruined the atmosphere.

And you have the nerve to call us lazy, rude, and arrogant
While you lie and cheat and fritter away our inheritance.
False kings, queens, and phony prophets who have
spelled our doom as well as your own. Thanks for nothing.

Okay, I think you can see where I'm going. You were much too polite *Smile*
Both versions are good, though. Yours and mine, Maybe mix the two a little more.
I think the theme has value and works as either poetry or prose.
You could write this as a short essay, too, and it would be equally powerful.

Let me know if this was helpful. And if you need any more names to throw at those rotten adults!

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Review of "UNGH!"  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hi, Angus,

My last review of the weekend and I'm glad I found you and your hilarious piece to finish up. My name is Bob and I found you as a recommended read by Mona, of Eyestar. She certainly called this one right. I really enjoyed the story, thought it was well written, and definitely builds to satisfyingly funny end. *Laugh* Albeit a bit twisted. This reminded me of something I might see or read as part of a horror anthology -- except yours is better than most *Smile*

I initially zeroed in on this because of the title, thinking to myself that somebody couldn't even type their title correctly. It wasn't long before I realized that a crappy title can be as good as a good one. *Smile* Something you figured out long before I did.

My only gripe is a subtle mistake that is easily made by the best of writers. It has to do with what they call, "author intrusion" where the POV goes astray and your reader is temporarily left adrift as to who the hell is telling the story. I've noted a line in particular below:

Ben popped his beer, took a swig, and looked at his wife. No, make that glared at his wife.

The story is told from the omniscient POV overall, with Jill thrown in for some specifics. In the line above, however, the second sentence leaves us wondering who is telling the story. Suddenly the author is informing us, himself, that no, Ben "glared" at his wife. What? Where'd you come from all of a sudden? Bob said, referring to Angus the author. *Smile*

The easy fix, of course, is just give the observation to Jill. But this is worth paying attention to. It's a hard temptation to resist at times.

Christmas morning dawned bright and blue, and Mike and Tracy arrived promptly at 11 o’clock with a complimentary bottle of wine.

The line above comes right after the hiatus. I think it should be its own paragraph.

Tracy helped Jill in the kitchen while the boys sat in the living room watching football, and by one o’clock they were all seated at the table where yams, cornbread, mashed potatoes and gravy, a honey glazed ham, and a fourteen pound turkey waited to be devoured.

This got thrown in with some subsequent lines that pertain only to Jill and her personal POV. As opposed to the separated paragraph above which is strictly that omniscient perspective again. Thus leaving the newly separate paragraph below:

Since no fireworks had gone off for the last two hours (actually, the only sounds she heard coming from the living room was the football game), Jill was once again thinking that maybe they’d get through this after all.

And that does it for me, my friend. Well, one other, which is my own personal preference, as follows:


Can you see what I did? And I would do the same with the last line as well. Ellipses come in three's generally, right? I shy away from adding melodramatic touches to my work that aren't needed or are arbitrary and abide by no particular rule. If it's overdone somewhat, the work again looks like the author is "insisting" that we read the piece a certain way. Using a jumble of added letters and spaces with ellipses all over the place tends to look sloppy and devoid of any structure. I believe that my version, as shown above, makes the same point as your version, but does so with a minimum of punctuation, instead of a maximum of author input -- which risks coming across as overkill.

Thus the last word would read: uuunnnggghhh!” Is this any less emphatic than your version? Yet it's simpler, less intrusive, which is always preferable if you're a weird, fanatic, psycho nit-picker like me *Laugh*

Okay, so I had some fun with your piece. Not nearly as much as you did, however. Let me know if you see the madness in my methods. And thanks for the hardy, LOL chuckles *Smile*


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Review of BUZZ  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Hi, Lesley,

Happy birthday *Smile* While browsing for someone to review as part of the Raid review weekend, Mona, of eyestar, notified everyone of other members' birthdays and anniversaries. When I saw that you were a true animal person, with your variety of interesting experiences, I couldn't resist the clarion call to contact you.

At the end of this email, I've included a link that will take you to a place on my website where I discuss a prior relationship with Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd. Unless you're a glutton for punishment, feel free to ignore everything else and scroll down to the very bottom of the page. There you'll find a nice presentation of the former connection we had. I think you'll find it interesting. Not life-altering, but interesting nonetheless *Smile*

I found your non-fiction piece on Buzz to be nothing short of exhilarating, chock full of exactly the kind of roller-coaster emotions and thoughts that accompany any well written animal story. Yours does not disappoint. I can tell from this one piece alone that I'd thoroughly enjoy all your stuff, and regret that time does not permit a more expansive exploration of all you have to offer. Then again, I'm not sure I could handle what would no doubt be an exhausting emotional experience, where we find that Buzz has lots of company when it comes to both our attachments and grief-fillled losses with respect to animals.

I particular enjoyed the personal touches that the dialogue adds to this piece. Instead of a more straightforward essay that merely explains an event in your life, you take us there -- almost too closely -- and make the work into a nice cross between fine fiction and documentary *Smile*

Okay, so what's my beef? No pun intended. Okay, so I don't have any. Well, a couple, but they're almost as personal and subjective as your story itself. Maybe I'm too much the science guy sometimes, and not enough the naturalist. Or maybe I shy away from the emotional devastation that so often accompanies our human-animal relationships. I can see why Buddhism calls to you in this regard. Maybe I should be a Buddhist -- or a better one. Maybe we all should be *Smile*

Such feelings are no more apropos than in today's world where the toll on wildlife is nothing short of apocalyptic. Humanity would do well to adopt a more atheistic approach to the world, for our lack of care-taking of Earth's fellow creatures will, by itself, otherwise doom us to God's wrath. If we're lucky, that is. And Earth herself doesn't exact revenge first. Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a rant there *Smile* Can you tell I feel passionately about this stuff?

Okay, back to you *Smile*

Anthropomorphization. I'm always on the lookout for when I can use that word *Smile* It makes me feel like I know what I'm talking about. And impresses others that I even know how to pronounce it. The term, for better or worse, certainly applies in your situation, and represents the only criticism I would dare to make regarding your work. And even then, the quibble is largely nit picky, and worthy of mentioning solely and purely on intellectual grounds.

I explain myself in the following excerpts:

The big black bird fluffed "her" feathers and looked me directly in my eyes.

I'm not an authority on buzzards, so I don't know what the dimorphism is for that species. I know that for many birds, parrots for example, no discernible differences exist between male and female. So when you refer to Buzz (a male name) as if the bird was indeed a female, I'm left scratching my head a bit. Not a lot, but a bit nonetheless. If you'll allow my saying so, this could use a little more explanation. I think it would be helpful if you explained the reason why you used a gender-specific identity in this case -- or in others as well. Just for us naggy purists in the crowd *Smile*

I guess you already know that buzzards and vultures are raptors and often kill for their meals. But eating carrion is easier.

In the line above, I thought of Buzz's dinosaur cousins. Predators like the carnosaurs around which (whom?) a degree of controversy exists regarding their feeding habits. Whether they were true hunters, or opportunistic scavengers. In Buzz's case, he was obviously both. Very interesting.

I felt exhilarated, having such an animal show me affection.

Okay, here's where I cringed a bit. If not more so. For those who aren't experts, they may get a false impression here, which I think is unfair to both Buzz and readers alike. I think the verdict is in on reptiles lacking mammalian emotions. Buzz would just have likely plucked your eyes out, given half the chance, if it suited her. I'm a victim of having seen too many documentaries which demonstrate that reptiles (and birds) are incapable of emotional attachments to humans. Food dependence is about as good as it may get.

I remember seeing a show about falconers who would be the first to tell you how, despite imprinting and the rest, they make the mistake, at their own misfortune, of believing -- for even one moment -- that the relationship between bird and human is anything more than mere convenience -- for the bird. It's as if birds view their human companions as roadkill, sparing them the chase. If that approach is far too Darwinian for you, I commiserate *Smile* and share your misgivings.

"She poops on her legs because it is believed the urea sanitizes them. The dead animals she dines on are full of harmful

I loved this part, above. I didn't know that and, as with so many of these kinds of things, the information tells us so much about the wonders of nature, and how "she" makes the most of everything Gaea has at her "disposal". This was a perfect addition to this particular story. Notice that I have no qualms of anthropomorphizing the Earth itself *Smile*

Buzz will always exist in my fond memories of animals passed.

No matter how one comes down on human-animal relationships, birds in particular, this would be true regardless. For me, it's as poignant as losing the most affectionate of mammals. There's an old saying that I can only paraphrase. It relates to extinctions, but applies equally to individual animal deaths as well. How, throughout the entire universe, they, it, he or she, came this way only once, and only here. In the deepest possible sense, there is a truth there that cuts, like a razor, through all the rest of it -- through all the rest of our petty comments and observations.

It is also why, except in those instances of culling or hunger, my contempt for hunters and hunting is boundless. But I digress once more and forget that this is about you *Smile* And about someone who was no doubt a great friend. Even though she might have thought of it as more of an acquaintanceship.

Well, that's enough out of me. I hope my picayune notes were helpful in some way. Let me know if you felt they were valid, because your opinion would carry great weight with me.

Keep up the great work at telling us about your experiences. If you had something else of particular interest to you, where you'd like my dubiously professional opinion *Smile* I'd love to know. Thanks.




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Review of No Takers  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hi, Cheri,

My name is Bob and I'm reviewing your work as part of the Power Reviewers Raid weekend. I always like the challenge of a first draft and a request for honest opinions as to how a given piece is shaping up. Or down *Smile*

I think the basic writing here is excellent, and except for some minor grammar issues, it's the content of the piece that deserves the most attention. Without reading any other of your works, I can pretty well guess that I'd find the same thing: good structure that allows for a focused evaluation of the story content itself.

This is a strange tale. It would be difficult to imagine a better title when the ending is probably the biggest issue or concern here. I'm curious as to why, when it would have been equally strong, and even more satisfying, you opted for a sad ending to Madonna's story. Except it's more than sad. And not enough of anything else.

What I mean by that (unintentionally) snide remark is that, assuming this is not the first chapter or prologue to a longer work, the story just kind of drifts off without meaning, substance, or consequence. I don't mean that to sound as harsh as it does, but rather as a motivation to give us either something more shocking, tantalizing, or redeeming in Madonna's favor. We like her too much to leave her as you do *Smile*

The shock ending would be for her to die in the crash. The sweet ending is for her to meet Mr. Right as a result of the crash. Maybe the EMT, or a cop, or a helping bystander. All kinds of possibilities present themselves, yet you choose none of them. Which is okay, but it leaves us feeling empty at the end. We want more, and feel a bit angry at the author for dropping us like one of Madonna's blind dates have likely done to her.

The other issue is more interesting than it is problematic. We have three distinct scene changes in this one short piece. Madonna to start. Then Trish. Then back to Madonna. I suggest a name change also. But only because Madonna, the singer, has forever stolen the name, I fear, and I kept seeing her instead of a wholly original character. Worth thinking about *Rolleyes*

The question is how best to make the transitions from one setting to the next. A "hiatus" usually takes us from one place to another, but it's potential interpretation as a time change as well, prevents it, I think, from being used here.

Your version as written, is close to being acceptable. But it needs to be looked at, just to be sure it's our best choice for how to structure it.

I've done my own version using your words and some new ones by me, just for demo purposes. See if this is better. Since we're not using a hiatus mark, the transition needs to be more pronounced and obvious. Perhaps as follows:

The guests turned as Trish screamed, "Noooooo!" Dropping to her knees, she cried hysterically while, over and over again, she repeated aloud, "No, no, no...."

There had been no reply over the phone. Trish had only heard the sound of the crash and then nothing.

So, that's one possible way to make the "cut" more obvious. The next cut is easier and is nothing more than a close repeat of what you already had:

By the time the ambulance arrived at the scene of the accident, the police were locking down the area.

This slightly revised version locks down the next and final scene transition.

Which takes us back to the real scene of the real crime, which is your original ending *Smile*

Seriously, I hope you'll give some thought as to my suggestions for an alternate conclusion. Even if she dies, have her fall in love-at-first-sight, only to look back and see her body lying lifeless in the street. OMG, I scared myself with that one *Smile*

Let me know what you think and if you decide upon some changes. I'd like to see this again if you do. Why? Because the beginning and middle and right up to the end, are very good. The two main characters are immediately likeable and are given a raw deal here. Even Trish thinks her friend is dead, and we're left with that. Which might be another problem I hadn't even considered. Hmmm.

Thanks for listening.

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Review of Dragon whispers  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, again, Ms Dragon,

I liked this much more than my long list of kvetching would indicate *Smile* I really did. These are all little icky, picky things that I wanted you to see because details are important, and self-editing is a big deal nowadays. You want to train your eyes to spot the smallest mistakes. So this has a lot to do with what I've done.

Also, watch your paragraph breaks. Everybody gets their own paragraph. Most of the time. When in doubt, make a new paragraph. Consistency is another biggie. I know it's probably just a typo, but Toothless' font size is different here and there. I like the way you did him. I bought it. And I usually don't like getting fancy in standard text *Smile*

In one spot, you had Mary's dialogue convert to italics like Toothless. No! Don't do it *Facepalm* Unless you're feeling mean, this just totally screws with your reader. Always keep it simple, clean, and everybody does the same thing, in the same way, all the time. Usually.

That said, we can run through these quickly:

"Mary, you're too old for this," (comma) her mother sighed as she obligingly placed the stuffed dragon toy next to Mary's pillow. (paragraph break)

The eight year old girl pouted, then reached out, grabbed her Toothless dragon, and snuggled him to her chest as her mother turned out the lights. (period) Note my variation on how you did things.

"I love you, Toothless." Mary whispered, holding the stuffed, eleven-inch toy close to her chest. Burying her forehead into Toothless' (apostrophe only) head and closing her eyes, she heard a faint, (comma) I love you too, Mary. The girl's eyes flew open.

In the paragraph above, look for the changes I made. I changed 11" to "eleven-inch" which is always preferable with small numbers. It just is *Smile* Instead of Toothless's, I used Toothless' which is better. Both are correct, but I like to drop the exra "s". I just do, so there *Smile*

"You can TALK?!" She gasped, staring at the dragon. This is better, don't you think?

Mary's mom walked past the door and turned on the light. (put into separate paragraph)

"Maryy...." Her mom reluctantly moved in to tuck her in.

In the line above, words like "Maryy" look like typos. Try Mar-ry instead.

Her mom looked at her and scolded, "Mary, stop delaying your bedtime." Smoother *Smile*

"Fine." Mary pouted, then slipped back underneath the covers and snuggled in with Toothless again. As a test, she tentatively placed her forehead against Toothless's head "once more".

Nothing. Maybe, I'm dreaming? Mary thought to herself. When her mom left the room, satisfied that her daughter wouldn't be talking again, a small voice in Mary's head started speaking (to speak)

I broke this into another paragraph to add some extra drama. I can do that because I'm the all-powerful reviewer. *Smile* Watch for repeating the same words over and over again. Words like again. In short pieces, they stand out like teeth in a toothless dragon's mouth.

She recalled the party from three weeks prior. "...at Cousin Megan's Build-A-Bear party?"

Notice how interesting the sentence above becomes by playing with it a little more. Note the ellipsis and how the shift of Mary's thought to the front, mixes things up so they're not monotonous.

Toothless gave a slow nod as Mary gasped.

Here's an important distinction. See how we didn't have to put toy and girl into separate paragraphs? How come? The reason is because the action in combined into a single event, simply by adding "as". If it all happens at once, we don't always need separate paragraphs.

"Why'd you wait 'til today to tell me?" she thought to Toothless. Don't have Mary's thoughts in italics.

"No it's not silly," she whispered, tears threatening to fall. "She doesn't like tucking me in any more. And she doesn't hug me like she used to. Now I have to ask for hugs, and they're not as nice if I have to ask."

Here again, I bumped the speaker narrative up close to the beginning of the dialogue. Watch out for way too much "whispering" going on. Choose synonyms. That's why God made them.

Toothless "nudged" her face. Too much nudging going on, too. Words like these are good for once, maybe twice, but even that is pushing it. It just sounds repetitive and bor-ring.

Toothless nodded his slow nod again. period needed at end. A lot of nodding, too. Nod bad, but I don't like it. Okay my joke was bad.

"But I'm not growing up!" she mentally exclaimed. "If that's the case, I don't want to grow up!"

Again above, a bump of the narrative into a better position.

Mary giggled a bit. "Can you fly?" she quietly asked him in wonderment.

I'll answer that another night, Mary. Tonight, you need to get your sleep. You're still a little girl and little girls need their sleep. His eyes twinkled as he snuggled back into Mary's chest. As her breathing slowly evened out, Toothless whispered, Sweet dreams, my dear Mary.

In the lines above, a font change in size took place.

Let me know if this helps and if you have any questions. You'd never know how much I liked this, but I really did.


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Review of The Smoke Alarm  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (3.0)
Hi, Miss Dragon,

My name is Bob and I'm sort of a Mr. Dragon. Which qualifies me, I think, to make a few comments about your story. I'm reviewing this, BTW, as part of the fulfillment of the gift package of reviews you received.

I'm sometimes reluctant to dig too deeply into the mechanics and grammar of a given piece, because when they're part of a contest, one can never know, for sure, what the rules were. And consequently a fair amount of critical remarks may, or may not be, inappropriate. I feel fairly confident, however, that my comments here are well placed.

If you'll permit me, (and forgive me) *Smile* I want to rewrite your first paragraph. By doing so, this will illustrate, very quickly, the issues that concern me, and which I hope will concern you as well. Also, if this is a "throw-away" piece, meaning you have no intention of ever revisiting it, for any reason, then it can still serve as a learning instrument. Or not. It's up to you, of course *Smile*

The rewrite is intended to accomplish two things:

1) Demonstrate a smoother, clearer approach to the writing, using my own words and changes.
2) Serve as an example only, where a number of different ideas can be employed, but all of which rectify and correct the grammar and punctuation errors that exist. The writing style itself, which is first person, present tense, has not been critiqued as right or wrong, although I prefer third person, personally. But that's just me.

Worth noting here, especially, is the conversion of a single large paragraph into a number of smaller ones. This is not a matter of style, but rather the correct structure for breaks involving multiple characters and events. My version is not intended to serve as a perfect rendition, but simply an example of how these things need to be presented for clarity. I hope that comes across:

My bedroom is right next to the kitchen. In the kitchen, there's a smoke detector. In fact, the two rooms are pretty much connected.

This morning, the smoke detector woke me up. "uuugh," I groan. The night before, I wasn't feeling so well, so I went to sleep early. Still, that's no excuse for fate to wake me up earlier than needed (or necessary)

I rub my stomach. It feels much better this morning, and I'm glad of (for) that. Padding (meaning unclear) over to the bathroom, I scream when I look at myself in the mirror. Oh, my God; I look like a dragon!

My brother hears me scream and comes running into the room.

As he yells, and turn about and glare at him.

Mid-scream, he barely dodges the fireball -- from my mouth -- that I hurl at him. I again emit an anguished shout and then realize I'm not screaming -- I'm roaring!

"Mommy, Daddy!" my brother continues to scream as he runs from the room. "Gina's turned into a dragon!"

It looks like you had a lot of fun with this story, and before I criticize another syllable, I've got to tell you I laughed myself silly with the thing. Keep in mind that while it looks like I'm being overly harsh here, with my review, please understand that these are all easy fixes and only require your desire to do so. Understanding them is fairly straightforward, and the sad part is that they detract from what is otherwise some very well thought out humor and dialogue.

Well, I'm not going to go through any more here. You get the idea. If corrected and rewritten accordingly, this would be an outstanding work. Seriously. My suggestion is to revert or convert to the third person, past tense. But that's my personal bias. It also makes the writing a helluva lot easier, BTW *Smile*

Let me know if we're still on speaking terms, and if so, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have, and illustrate more of what I'm focusing on with respect to the grammar, punctuation, and paragraph issues that diminish the quality of what lies just below the surface here. Thanks for listening.


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Review of Taste Buds  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, BillieGail,

This is another review of your work as part of the Power Review Board fulfillment gift thing. I so enjoyed the last piece of yours, that I wanted to do another.

You know, as much as I liked this sweet little poem, can you guess what I'm going to complain about? What's missing here? You mention everything else, but there is absolutely no mention of meat. So either you are a confirmed vegetarian, or else you got so carried away with desserts that you inadvertently omitted steaks and chops, pork and lamb and fish and bacon and...I have to stop, I'm getting hungry *Smile*

So what's up with that? The sugar rush I got from your poem almost sent me into a diabetic shock! *Smile* Alright already, somebody throw me a burger! With cheese. And a beer. And what about potatoes?

In all seriousness, as much so as one can be about a poem like this *Smile* was there a particular reason why the focus was solely on sweets? And how could you leave out "buns?" Don't you love critics who come around and second guess all this stuff? I hear you. *Rolleyes*

All that said, this is a very cute piece that makes its points and does so clearly and cleverly. If you had thrown in a sticky bun and some bacon, I'd have had nothing to say in my review *Smile*

Let me know if you ever wish to revise and rewrite this. It's great as is, but if you do, I had some ideas about using contractions and a chocolate sprinkle of grammar tip or two.


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Review of The Chocolatier  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)

I was looking for something different to review as part of the Power Review Board review fulfillment package. Whew, that's a mouthful -- which is certainly in keeping with this story *Smile*

I thought this was very well written, and effectively conveys the sensuous relationship between food and sex. I'm a bit confused, without further explanation, however, why these two don't agree to a date. For coffee, for lunch, for whatever. We're left wondering a little too much, I think, as to why neither can nurture a closer relationship.

We are obligated to assume, I suppose, that Pierre is married, and that both people are "mature". Or that Milly is, and maybe Pierre isn't. Perhaps there's an age disparity involved. It's hard to believe that "lustful" Milly would let her childhood upbringing bar her way in more "modern" times *Smile*

Maybe she uses that as an excuse to keep a certain distance. Sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality. Nothing crushes dreams faster than waking up *Smile*

Although the whole food thing, including chocolate, as in the actual story, "Chocolate" has been done before, I thought this was a fresh enough take on the theme to prevent it from coming across as a re-do of similar stories. The "arousal" factor is lessened by a lack of physical descriptions of the characters. And without them, some readers, I for one, were put off a little because the characters didn't come across as physically attractive people.

In real life they don't have to be. In fiction, they do, I think. Or there must be something endearing, poignant, or particularly appealing about the people involved. I think that's missing here, also. The piece is so well written, however, that it almost overcomes the discrepancies I've cited.

The bolding of the words is, I assume, unintentional? If not, it should be. By this, I mean it's just unnecessary, just in case you did it on purpose.

Lastly, in stories of this length, every word is critical. Every punctuation mark and paragraph are crucial with respect to content and placement. And while you did an outstanding job of piecing things together, I found a certain brevity of adjectives and descriptions to leave me wanting for more.

Color, for instance, is almost totally absent, and I yearned to know the sultry shade of Milly's lipstick as it mixed with the subtle shades of the confections' own hues. Instead of the moisture and wetness of perspiration and saliva, I felt the dry warmth of wanting to eat an actual piece of candy *Smile* instead of Pierre's finger stroking the surfaces of her tongue as he fed her the chocolate.

Anyway, you get the idea. Sometimes we want to hold back, and other times, just go for it. Which is precisely what Milly and Pierre need to do, all things being equal *Smile*

Oh, and weeped is "wept". I know, does this guy have no mercy? I wouldn't be a very good reviewer if I patronized you, and that's something I never, ever do. So when I say I really liked this, despite its little problems here and there, you'll know I'm being honest.

Let me know if this was helpful and if you have any questions about this particular genre of writing. It's one of my favorite. As if you couldn't tell, right? Well, they say go with your strengths *Smile*


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Review of Roots and Wings  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Audria,

We've spoken before, and this is a good chance to say hello again. I wanted to do a review as part of the Power Review Board and found you waiting for one, so here it is *Smile*

I cut my writing teeth on biographical novels. Not written by me, but the woman moderator of our critique group wrote several of these kind of novels based on a genealogical research of her own family, which went back to the days of the early Mormons. So you can see I'm a decent choice for what you've written here *Smile*

What I'm assuming is the case, is that you've taken Priscilla's original words and created a quasi-fictional account of things that take us into the person and the times in a more intimate, you-are-there fashion. And that you've created the dialogue and descriptions to match what are otherwise true events. At least that's how I interpret this.

I also know how there are folks who really like these particular kinds of stories, precisely because they mix fact and fiction together in a fun way that no ordinary biography provides. And you've done a beautiful job of taking us there, almost in cinematic style, and made me feel like I was back in an era we typically only hear about in monotone documentaries.

In the second paragraph, you have a quote after "Prissy" which doesn't belong.

“You must hear your fortunes.” She said through parched lips and darkened teeth. You want a comma, of course, after the word, "fortunes" instead of the period that's there now.

“No payment is needed. Your future is almost upon you.” She pointed at Sarah. “You will learn a profession (period needed after "profession". This is all I'm going to do on the punctuation thing because you know what to do, and as you can see, it just needs some additional "cleanup".

She loved Wales. Surely her destiny was here. But what would a gypsy know anyway. She laughed to herself and put it out of her mind. Until now…

Above is your big segue hiatus that time-machine's us to present day -- with Priscilla now on her way to America. It is such a wonderful transition, that I think it's spoiled a bit by the way you do it. Listen to me, right?

First, I don't like present tense words like "now" inserted into the narrative of third person past tense. That's what I was taught and have always agreed with the premise. I don't think you even need "Until now..." It's superfluous and doesn't add anything. With an appropriate hiatus demarcation, which I think this needs, and which, of course, can be accomplished in any number of ways, the reader will immediately understand what's happened and is then happening. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing in terms of the writing here. Except for one other observation.

As she watched him approach, the gypsy’s words came unbidden to her mind, ‘...you will cross the ‘big waters’ and your family will benefit from your labors.’

In the lines above, you got bogged down in what gets a quote, what doesn't, how many and so forth. It's no wonder, because these can be confusing as to how best to "recite" another's dialogue while a character is "thinking" about it. English at its complicated best *Smile*

Opinions will vary on this. Usually the single quote is used within an ongoing piece of spoken dialogue, when someone is quoting someone else while speaking themselves. Which you already know. But what about inside of the thought process itself? I subscribe to the camp that likes italics in these instances. With no quotes at all. As follows:

As she watched him approach, the gypsy’s words came unbidden to her mind. You will cross the big waters and your family will benefit from your labors.

You don't even need a colon or anything else. And look how simple this now reads, with no muss, no fuss. Pretty cool, right? And you don't need quotes around "big waters" either because it works without repeating them again.

Anyway, bravo and kudos and clap, clap, (the sound of me applauding) *Smile*

I don't read this stuff myself, but when I see work like yours, I suspect that it's definitely my loss. Let me know if this was helpful and keep up the great storytelling.


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