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Review of Into The Sixties  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi, Jenny,

I think you yourself are somewhat out-of-sync with the decade you're currently living in. You almost sound more like someone from the sixties commenting on present day, than the other way around. *Smile* You would have made a great hipster.

This is really a delightful story. I like the whimsy and authenticity of the work, and, except for the a-hole who didn't like native Americans, the whole piece plays like a fun and captivating episode of The Twilight Zone -- which was, of course, a sixties show.

You were correct, however, in pointing out how there was indeed a culture clash at the time, between young people themselves, some of whom were entrenched in the "establishment", complete with racial prejudices, while others rebelled--rightfully so--against such old ways of thinking. The Amerindian in the story could just as easily been black or latino, and the scene would have played out the same.

So enough of my glowing review of your very cool story. Time to get down and nitpick a few things. *Smile*

I had a little trouble with Chloe and Carol being just a bit too close, namewise. I got confused here and there and had to remember who was who. If the names were a tad more different, that would help.

Was Reno significant for any particular reason? Couldn't Chloe have arrived (through the mirror) in California just as easily? If it matters, I'd need a bit more explanation.

When they explained she nodded, "I'm not surprised really. I had a dream that someone from the future was going to visit and we'd grow close. You'll get to go back to your own time. Don't worry."

In the excerpt above, I was confused as to the meaning. I take it that Carol had the dream? And if so, wouldn't she have experienced a different reaction when seeing Chloe the first time?

I thought this new paragraph (below) came as too sudden of a jump, from one scene into another. Can you give us more of a segue leading into it?

They went to The Rose Bowl and sat in the third row. Chloe never thought she'd ever be so close to the legendary Jimi Hendrix. She sang along to all the songs and hearing him play guitar live gave her goosebumps. The crowd was dancing to the music, swinging their arms and jumping around. He set his guitar on the stage and knelt down beside it then lit it on fire. Little did Jimi and the rest of the venue know, he'd be dead just two years later.

Finally, at the end: Chloe leaned her head forward and climbed in to the other side, where her mom's room was.

Chloe is "holding" the mirror, but it's big enough for her to climb into it? That struck me as odd and I got confused trying to picture things as described. I like that Chloe can see the other room inside the mirror, and maybe she needs only to reach out and touch the glass in order to suddenly reappear in her mom's room.

By the way, a great last line to end the piece would be for Chloe to stare at her wide-eyed mom and say, "Wow, what a trip."

This has a double meaning, of course, given that "a trip" was also sixtie's slang.

Thanks for the ride in your time machine. It was indeed a trip. Keep on truckin', Jenny!

Bob (Maybe the same one in your story? That was a funny coincidence.)

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

This review is part of your Showering Acts of Joy review package.

I took some liberty with your short story and wanted to see what it would look like if written in the style of a poem. I think it came out well and looks like a lot of fun that kids would enjoy reading, more than just straight prose text. What do you think? There's some other little mistakes here and there, but overall, I liked this so much that I couldn't resist playing with it. I hope you don't mind. See what you think and let me know if you want to smooth it out even more, or if you like as it is.

Informative, has a nice, child-like quality that kids will like. I did, because I'm still just a big kid at heart -- so I should know. *Smirk*

Thanks for letting me tinker with this.

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My Doggie has a flea,
he itches all the time.
I want to help him with relief,
but I don’t know how too.
I’ll give my doggie a bath,
but I shall feel his wrath
because he hates the water
and I guess the soap.
But I shall do it nonetheless
because my doggie is miserable.
He cries with out stopping,
his whine is piercing my ears.
I don’t get aggravated
at my fuzzy little friend
because on him I know
I can always depend.
I know the bites of the fleas
hurt and itch my little fuzzy pup.

In the bathroom I fill the bathtub
full of warm water,
I’m sure to check the temperature
so as not to hurt my friendly little guy.
He runs and tries to hide from me,
but it does him no good,
for I know where his place is,
where he feels safe and sound.
I arm him up within my arms
and carry the medium size dog
to the bath room.
I set him gently in the tub
because now it is time for rub-a-dub-dub.
He fights me every step,
he jumps out and heads straight for the door;
but I know my little pup well,
so I had closed the door
to where he could not get out.
I place him back in the tub
and he starts struggling
but I hold him in place.
He stands there trembling
from fear even though I’m very near.
I take a cup and fill it with warm water,
then I poor it over him,
this I repeat several times
until my little doggie
is soaked with water.
I then take the flea shampoo
I bought from the pet supply store
and pour a small amount on to his fur.
I then lather the soap into a thick foam.
This action will rid my little pup
of all his fleas.
I then spread towels out over the floor
and call my doggie by name, “here Mingo”;
he jumps out of the tub and runs over to me
as happy as he can be.
He shakes his dripping wet body
all over the place
and soaks my clothes.
I take a towel and dry him
and I have a special collar for his neck,
a flea collar.
To further ensure
he is rid of the rascally fleas
I take a vile of medicine
and poor the liquid contents
on to the fur of my pup.
Now I can be assured he can rest
easy from the varmints.

Now Mingo can run and jump
and frolic in the yard
with out a care in the world.
It is important to rid the dog
from the insects
for they spread disease.
And can cause terrible bites
to dogs and humans.
If you see a flea on your pup,
bathe him good in warm water,
using flea shampoo
and then use a collar
combined with a vile of medicine
called frontline,
which your parents can obtain
from the veterinarian (the pet doctor)
or your pet store,
and most large department stores.
But it is important that your parents
use the medicine on the dog
because it can be hazardous to you.
The flea shampoo and collar
can also be obtained from the same places.
Always ask your parents permission
before bathing the pup
they may want to assist you.
Your pup will thank you
and he or she will feel
so much better.
The End.

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

** Image ID #1922401 Unavailable **

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


** Image ID #1922401 Unavailable **

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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.

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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.

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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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Review of Deception  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)

The good news is that I liked your story. The not-so-good news is that we need to talk about the mechanical quality of your writing. The really good news is that I really liked your story. I think it's positively terrific. *Smile*

If I was a teacher and you were my student, I'd give your story an "A". Your writing, however, would receive a "C-". I'm still going to give you four stars because the story itself is that good, and I want to encourage you to learn how to turn mediocrity into greatness. You've already achieved this in your storytelling ability. Now you need to do the same with the mechanical "grunt" work that's involved.

Just as lyrics without a melody do not a song make, a great chronicle without good punctuation and grammar, do not a story make.

You'll likely want to see a few examples of what I'm talking about, so here goes:

"So, what is it you want?"

Kate looked at her father through the security screen. She thought he looked absurd in his day-glow orange jumpsuit, the uniform of all high-risk prisoners.
She paused, knowing that, after her next words, there'd be no going back. "I want to get rid of Alex."

Her father looked up, careful not to let any emotion show. "I'm guessing you mean permanently or you wouldn't be visiting the Belmarsh hotel."

Kate nodded. "I can't see a choice. He's going to dump me for sure. He's out every night, no explanation, won't discuss anything. Five months now and when he's home, it's like he isn't really there." She sighed. "He just says he's tired, mutters something about business and that's it."

Pamela, I'm stopping here for a minute. Notice how I'm spacing the paragraphs between each character and their dialogue. This same pattern should continue throughout the story. Note also how each speaker is fully enclosed within each paragraph, with no extra spaces or separate lines while the speaker is talking -- or doing whatever. It's very important that you compare your original with my version, word for word, and pay close attention to every single detail. Thanks.

"Business? I thought he'd inherited a stash. What sort of business?"
see the space here between these lines
"I've no idea dad and he's not going to be telling me."

There was a silence broken only by the sounds of the prison. Keys turning, clanging metal doors and a guard yelling to someone, "Get a move on!"

the paragraph above stands alone as separate narrative. some important changes there, also.

"And you think I can help from here?" He watched closely for her reaction, touched that she still turned to him for help. (no semi-colon needed)

"Of course, she answered, "you're my daddy."

"And you're my princess," he responded automatically.

Pamela, if you look close, you'll find a large number of small changes which I've made. Some are absolutely necessary, while others could be written in a number of different ways, but all of them better that what you had to begin with. Don't be discouraged, however. You're a diamond in the rough, as they say, and nobody loses interest in a real gem simply because it needs polishing. *Smile*

If you have a questions, don't hesitate to ask. This is such a winner of a story, it would be my pleasure to help you more with it. Seriously.


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

I liked your story that hints at the idea that cats really do rule the universe. *Smile* The ending caught me by surprise, and is almost the reverse of that Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man." Or in this case, to serve cats.

I think the story is charming and well thought out. You may also be happy (maybe not?) to know I am somewhat of a professional editor. I don't do it for money anymore, but for friends, I enjoy helping out. So if you'll pardon my jumping in, somewhat uninvited, I took the liberty of editing your entire story.

Of course, it's strictly up to you as to whether you incorporate the changes I recommend, but just in case you're curious to see where some of your weak points are, please review the following.

This is a case of making a good story into a great story. So I hope you'll accept my presumptuousness that you might find this interesting. See what you think and let me know if this was helpful and made sense. *Smile* I also found the story to be very funny.

A teenager looking through his telescope discovers a new star.

In the headline above, a better form of a news headline might read:

Teenager looks through telescope and discovers new star.

Unfortunately, at that moment my pure bred Siamese cat, King Mongkut.

The sentence above is incomplete. I think you meant to say the following:

Unfortunately at that moment, my pure bred Siamese cat, King Mongkut, needed to go outside.

When I opened the door, I saw that it was snowing, so I placed my mug on the stand in the foyer, sat down in the chair, and put on the cowboy boots that were next to the chair.

Above, I changed "sit" to "sat".

I knew from the tone in his voice that I didn't have time to get my coat out of the hall closet, so I took my sister's silver mink coat off the tree in the hallway. Putting on the mink, I picked up my coffee and followed the cat down the front steps.

Please compare my version above to your original. I think the needed changes are pretty easy to see.

Anyway, I was standing on the front walk, sipping coffee, and watching Mong search for the perfect spot to relieve himself, when I heard a noise. At first, I thought it was the front door closing, but then someone behind me spoke.

"Please, human."

I turned around to see who was speaking. There stood a three-foot-tall creature with grayish purple skin and huge, insect-like eyes.

Notice how the above one paragraph, is now three separate ones. The alien needs his own paragraph is the reason. Pay close attention to all the small changes compared to your original single paragraph.

"Yes," I smiled, thinking that one of the neighbors was shooting a video which would appear on YouTube in a couple of hours. "May I help you?"

Above, I added a comma after smiled.

I think it might be really cute to have the alien first try talking to the cat directly. What do you think? Or would that give things away too soon?

"Yes." I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing because I had not intention of screwing up a video that could go viral.

Above, I put a period after "Yes." And changed "bit" to "bite".

"Good." The creature managed a big grin.

Above, I put a period after "Good." And capitalized "The".

"Uh..." I heard Mong yawl and then I lost consciousness.

Above, I changed "yawl" to "yowl". A better choice, I think.

When I came to my senses, I was sitting in a cot in a small windowless and doorless cell. Mong and another cat, a large female Maine Coon, were sitting next to me and looking very proud of themselves.

Neva, I have an 18-pound rescued Maine Coon who is more human than feline. Or is that, more alien? No changes needed above.

"Well," I said as I continued sipping, "at least I didn't spill my coffee when I blacked out." I looked around and wondered where I was.

Lots of small changes above. Please compare with your original. Thanks.

The wall in front of me slid open. "Good morning, Miss...?" said another grayish purple creature carrying a tray of food.

Above, note the period after "open". And the question mark after the ellipsis in Miss...? This allows you to answer in the next line.

The creature seemed to frown. "When we took Queen Moxie Gore, her teenage human was looking through a telescope.

Above, I put a period after "frown". It could also be written: The creature frowned as he spoke. "When we

Before we could capture him, he ran into his house, apparently excited over something."

Above, I added "apparently".

"OK," a panel opened in the wall next to the cot and a table emerged. The creature placed the tray on the table.

It's not clear what you're saying here. The creature gets its own paragraph, however, when he does anything. Do you mean, "OK," I said. If so, then the next lines all go on a separate paragraph as follows:

"OK," I said.

A panel opened in the wall next to the cot and a table emerged. The creature then placed the tray on the table.

"Uh," I just stared.

Above, the line reads better this way:

I just stared and only muttered, "Uh...."

Above, note the fourth period in the ellipsis, which means the dialogue just trails off.

"You wish a...job description? I think that is what you humans call it." The creature started toward the door and then turned around. "Miss Margo, your job is to care for Queen Moxie Gore, her mate, King Mongkut, and their offspring."

Above, I closed up the space in: a...job description? And added the question mark. Otherwise this reads fine.

Okay, that's enough out of me. *Smile* Consider yourself thoroughly edited, and I hope it has some value for you.

Be well.

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Review of How You Say It  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi, Maranda,

I ran your little poem through my own filters, trying to determine the best possible way, including grammar and punctuation, to structure the piece. While you may not agree with my alterations, I think the newer version is superior to your original. I think it's stronger, clearer, and nothing reads better than clean, uncluttered punctuation.

See what you think and get back to me if you have any questions or comments. Even though you might think this is a small, insignificant work, it is strictly conversational, and I approached it as a piece of important dialogue, as if taken right out of a novel -- albeit an angry one. *Smile*

Thanks for letting me mess with your stuff. I just hope I don't incur your wrath in doing so. *Facepalm*

Your original:

It's not what you say
but how you say it?

then how do you
kindly say
"I hate your guts,
now get the fuck out"?

My version:

It's not the words we say,
but how we use them?

Well, then,
how do I
kindly say
that I hate your guts?

Now get the fuck out!

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Review of Carpe Diem  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, April,

I think your poem is quite lovely, and poignant in its reference to the California drought. I think you captured the moods, both sad and uplifting, just right, in how you structured the work. Kudos on a job well done.

If you're waiting for a "but", I won't disappoint you in that regard as well. There are some problems here. Nothing major, but little stuff you might want to pay attention to. It is, however, the difference between a good, okay poem, and a great one that leaves a lasting impression. Unfortunately the last impression I got, as a reviewer, was a last line that made the whole thing sadly forgettable.

Please allow me to explain my reasons:

Your punctuation in terms of periods, semi-colons, and so forth, is inconsistent and without a pleasant or pleasing pattern. How one punctuates a poem is largely subjective, but even so, a certain degree of consistency is necessary. Otherwise readers can become confused, either pausing or failing to pause where you want them to.

provide an enhanced verdant scenery

Always watch out for sneaky redundancies; they like to turn perfectly good lines into overkill. In the sentence above, "enhanced" is a bit repetitive for "verdant", where verdant kind of already means, enhanced. My suggestion is to use a different word for enhanced, and see if you can find one that more precisely says exactly what you mean.

The day might grow hot –
or not,
for one can never really predict the weather,
at least not here
in the Bay Area.

Even in poetry, we can have long, run-on sentences which quickly grow tedious. Try some added punctuation in the stanza above, wherever you want, that makes the reader pause a moment -- where you want them to.

Nocturnal night owl turned early bird
I am;
how fortunate I am to carpe diem.

The term, carpe diem is not a verb, as you use it. Rather the words together form an interjection, their own phrase, as if they act as a collective noun. I had to do some real research on this in order to discover why I didn't like it -- I just knew I didn't.

Here's a better way to say the same thing:

how fortunate I am to embrace the adage, carpe diem!

See the difference? You can also see, now, how there's a bunch of different ways to say this. If possible, I'd eliminate the double use of "I am". One is enough, in my opinion. It's up to you, of course. It's not a matter of right or wrong. Except for carpe diem, which strictly is.

I know it's probably hard to believe that I liked this poem as much as I do, given all my criticisms of it. But that's why they pay me the big money, to be a critical nag. *Smile* Did I earn my wages?

Let me know if this helps. And thanks for letting me nitpick.

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Review of May Day of Doom  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
Hey, Brom,

This is a great story with a ton of potential. I'm always looking for a new take on the same old themes and plots, and you've hit upon a certain something in this interesting variation on a story that's been done dozens, if not hundreds of times.

I highly recommend you rent the movie, "Melancholia". The reason is because that, too, also put a different spin on the classic doomsday tale. I think your story could benefit from whatever you take away from the film I suggest, and add to your own version.

One of the things I really like about your story is the happy ending. We don't see that a lot; it's rare and works really well here. I love the idea that this huge asteroid is just small enough that it burns up, but is otherwise so terrifying that no one doubts it's the end. This is a fairly unique twist and I was both surprised and pleased with how well you pulled it off.

Okay, now for the bad news. This work needs a ton of work. Gobs of misspellings, loads of grammar errors, and a host of other problems plague this otherwise great story, as if it, too, had suffered an actual hit from the "bad English" asteroid. *Smile* But take heart, my friend. I'd rather see you struggle with proper English and have great stories to tell, than know your grammar like an expert and say nothing interesting about anything. Thus you're on the right side of street, so to speak. *Smile*

As just one example, I copied your first paragraph below:

John sprinted out of the classroom and down the hall then made a sharp turn at the school exit. He hopped onto his bike and raced home. As he energetically burst through the front door, the fourteen year old greeted his mother Irene.

Although not the only revision possible, here's a sample of how this paragraph ought to be written:

John sprinted out of the classroom, sped down the hall, then made a sharp turn at the school exit. Hopping onto his bike, he raced home. As he energetically burst through the front door, the fourteen-year-old greeted his mother, Irene.

In order to properly edit this story, I'd have to rewrite almost every paragraph in the same manner. Which I'd never do. The idea is to encourage you to do it, and do it better than before. Nobody's looking for perfection. But we all want to work towards writing better, and gaining a clearer understanding of what that process is all about.

By listening to me, you've taken your first big step to greatness and stardom. Okay, so maybe that's overstating things a bit. *Smile* But you get the idea. And yeah, it's a lot of work, and it's a pain in the rear, but the rewards are tremendous -- especially when you've converted a good story into a truly great one. The idea is to do things well enough so nags like me never have more than a little to complain about.

So you have your work cut out for you, my friend. If you're willing, I can help you with this, but not so much the grammar end. I can't teach you all the stuff you still need to get a handle on. But I'm great with content and theme.

I hope you bring this back to me once you've fixed all the nasty little grammar gremlins that haunt this particular story. As I said, it's a marvelous tale with lots of potential. You've got your finger on the pulse, as they say, of something truly original, and let that remain as your primary focus. The rest is just eating your vegetables.

Thanks for letting me spout off.

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Review of To The Surface  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi, Walter's Not My Real Name,

Mine is Bob, and I'm first-generation German. My mother was born in Austria and moved to America as a teenager. Unfortunately she died when I was young, and mein vater was more or less out of the picture. I only mention this because you might find it mildly interesting.

That said, this is one beautiful, absolutely terrific poem. With one, horrible ending. There, I said it! *Smile* And I feel much better now, thank you.

I can only assume that you meant for this piece to be introductory in some way, or have an additional twenty stanzas still waiting to be written. All things considered, I reduced your score by a half-star because of the lousy ending, which ruins an otherwise gorgeous piece of outstanding work. Some of the best rhyming lines I've seen in a long while. My sincere congratulations -- and condolences -- for what you've left me with, as a reviewer.

If you're not familiar with what is called, "steampunk", I should be very surprised. The punkers will love this poem, they'll positively adore it, regardless of your actual intentions. I refer to how the sudden and unexpected appearance of the robot comes as a rather shocking -- albeit not altogether unpleasant -- surprise.

It's a nice touch that I liked in spite of my more critical tendencies. The fact that our "nameless" lass utilizes some kind of technology, the description of which is too little, and a bit on the odd side, is as problematic as the lackluster ending. Were it not for the poem's strong and eloquent writing, I should quite dislike this item and rate it accordingly.

The piece is written so damn well, however, that I am forced to mostly overlook its shortcomings and applaud what there is. With a standing ovation, as they say. If this is indeed an experimental work and you're looking for encouragement to continue, then please allow me, mein freund, to urge you, in no uncertain terms, to move forward with this story. Either as a full fledged poem, or a short story, even a novel. You obviously have the "chops" to do whatever you wish and accomplish the endeavor extremely well.

By the way, allow me to reiterate the notion that if you're not familiar with steampunk, you may want to look into it. Or not. The genre is not for everybody, but most sci-fi peeps tend to like it.

I'm still somewhat amazed at how quickly you took us from us a Disneyesque "Little Mermaid" kind of thing, to a solid, more serious -- and inventive -- type of story. I look forward to the next chapter, literally and figuratively. If and when you choose to take us further, please consider me as a fan before I read a single word.

Regardless of how this work eventually evolves, can you promise me one thing? I don't ask for a lot. But some kind of an ending would be nice. You know, just for us stubborn nitpickers. *Smile*

Once again, kudos on a fine, wonderfully executed piece of work.

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Review of Amazon  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | N/A (Unratable.)
Hi, Osirantinous,

Wow, that name is both a mouthful and keyboard full *Smile*

My name is Bob and whenever possible, I always like to look at what writers consider to be their weakest style of writing. Usually it's poetry and in that respect, you were a pleasant exception to the rule. The exception sometimes proves the rule, so they say, and in your situation, this is certainly the case.

Your drawing a parallel between your mum's loss of a breast, and the Amazon warriors of old, is sheer genius as far as I'm concerned. I'd not seen that exact comparison made before, in reference to female cancer patients, and I found it positively brilliant, stirring, touching, and poignant.

I'm proud of you for writing this, so I can imagine Mum was pleased as punch. It's quite the heartwarming story packed into a compact, superbly written poem.

I had forgotten the legend of how the Amazonians cut or burned off their right breast, I believe, presumably to enhance their archery skills and so forth. I did a quick fact check to make sure, and was, of course, satisfied in short order.

In my never to be humble opinion, this poem should be posted (as a poster) in every cancer ward in the country. I think untold numbers of women would greatly appreciate its powerful message. I'm a stinky old man, and I did.

Well done, my friend. Very nice.


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Review of Sounds of Spring  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Lynda with a y,

My name is Bob with a b, and I was originally going to send you an email only, with my comment. Rather than do a whole review thing. But then I realized that there is a small lesson here, perhaps, for others to pay attention to, and that could only be a good thing.

Speaking of good things, your lovely poem hardly needs a critical review. And although it's a bit Disneyesque, so to speak, meaning your anthropomorphized all the creatures (I just like using that word), *Smile* you used your skill to paint a pretty picture for us, one that captures the spirit of Spring with just the right, few words. Not too many and just enough. Sweet.

There is one line only about which I have a concern:

And have you seen
the trees are glowing.

Enough people (not all by any means) will likely derive the same impression as I did. It's a commentary on the times, however, and not your writing ability. There's a joke in the common parlance, as they say, which attributes glowing trees to nuclear radiation -- whether from war or a nearby power plant. Since this is utterly contrary to your meaning, you might want to reword the line in order to disassociate yourself from an unnecessary (and unfortunate) distraction.

These things often sneak up on us without our knowing it, and sometimes it matters to us, and sometimes it doesn't. Part of my job is to bring this to your attention and let you do with it what you will -- or won't.

I also don't want to suggest a different wording, which is not my job in this particular situation. Only you know what you want to say, and how to say it. *Smile* I'd probably say something silly like "the trees are booming!"

I also took note of your commas and periods, most of which are just fine.

I saw the caterpillar
weaving it's cocoon.
soon it will be a butterfly
enjoying all my flowers.

In the stanza above, you put a period after cocoon. That means "Soon" should be capitalized.

My backyard is
full of chatter and joy.
All the animals
and insects too,

Are happy Spring is here.

In the closing lines above, you put a comma after "too". The first word of the next line,"are" should therefore be lower case. You could also put a period after "too". This makes things very interesting because it effectively doubles the meaning. Can you see that? With a period, all the animals and insects are full of chatter and joy. Plus they're simultaneously happy that Spring is here. It works both ways.

People will think you did this on purpose and consider you brilliant for doing so. And I won't let on that you heard it from me. *Smile*

Oh have you heard
the Cardinals chirp.
She is calling,
Spring is here.

If you want to have some additional (and optional) fun, the last line above, "Spring is here." could be written in italics and include an exclamation mark. Spring is here! The reason is because the Cardinals are chirping the words, and announcing it for all to hear.

Thanks again for sharing this piece, I really liked it. Let me know, too, if you have any questions.


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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 | (4.5)
Hi, Dogpack,

My name is Bob and that seems like a terrible way to say hi to a stranger, calling you "dogpack". Then again, I love dogs, so anything with the name "dog" in it, is okay by me *Smile*

I have a special place in my heart for service animals, especially of the canine variety. I just love it when I see the two together while out shopping or walking. *Smile* The perfect union of animal and human. When we see riders atop horses, doesn't it seem almost too natural of a match-up? I feel the same way when I see folks with physical challenges matched with dogs who are more human than some people *Smile* (and smarter).

Your delightful poem captures this connection in a wonderful and strongly personal manner, and I think you just may have had the last word the subject *Smile*

I did have two, small, Chihuahua-sized critical suggestions as follows:

We travel all over
Even walk through the clover
Some people call her rover
Now this ditty is over

In the last line above, saying the ditty is over, comes too soon in the poem. See if you like this better:

Now this ditty is far from over

My only other concern is periods and commas. You have no commas and only a period here or there. It's okay not to have any commas. Who needs them? Not you or me. But periods are nice, if you put all of them where they go. And not just some. If you go back and look, I think you'll see where you want the periods, and if you do, feel free to sprinkle them in where you think they should go. I counted half-a-dozen or so.

That said, I'm sure Bella is a sheer joy, and she even looks it in the pictures. Pits have gotten a bad rap of late, and I like how you admonish us not to get in a snit over it. Only an ignorant person would. And who needs them? Not you or me.

Thanks again for sharing this. I loved it.


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In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Hi, Jeannie,

As a Vietnam vet, I'm either the perfect person to review your terrific letter, or the most unabashedly biased. There's no such thing as a "bad" version of this kind of thing. Or one that needs more of this, or less of that. They're all great, and every combat soldier loves getting them.

There's not much else to say other than this well written piece contains just the right mixture of patriotism, parent-like concern, and sympathy for the hardships that troops endure. As these things go, your letter, however, is certainly up there among the best of their kind.

As you may know, there are numerous resources on the internet where citizens can obtain the names and addresses of soldiers all over the world, and send them everything from letters like yours, to gift boxes which contain any number of necessary or luxury items. It's amazing (and very alarming) how often our troops lack some of the basic necessities, and welcome packages which are shared among their comrades.

Over the years, my wife, Madeline, alone, has mailed out over 1500 boxes to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Letters from children are also a special treat. Of special note is how the Post Office offers fixed-price boxes of varying sizes for which no weight limit exists. So as you can imagine, those packages are filled to the brim and bulging.

Worth mentioning, also, is how frequently it's the case where soldiers have no loved ones back home -- no friends or family who might otherwise write to them. Part of the reason for this is that orphans, loners, and others who are less than gregarious, tend to make up a certain percentage of today's enlistees. Many of these folks in particular, submit their names as potential recipients of "letters from home".

On occasions too numerous to count, we received "thank you" letters in return for both our correspondence and gift boxes. It's a great feeling to do "our part" as stay-at-home citizens, and your missive represents the quintessential best of its kind. I'd go so far as to say that you've designed a template, a guide of sorts, for others to copy if they don't know where to begin or what to say.

Congratulations again on a great piece of work. Betsy Ross would be proud *Smile*


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Review of The Big Bang  
In affiliation with Showering Acts of Joy Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, Ken,

My name is Bob, and nice work on The Big Bang piece. Right before it ended, I saw the ending coming and wasn't disappointed. Well, that isn't completely true. You pretzeled up that last sentence as if it got caught in the tail rotors of your chopper. *Smile* But otherwise the writing is as good as story itself. Well, that's not entirely accurate, either. There are a few other little things that make this review worthwhile, I think. Did I tell you, first, how much I really liked this? I really do.

Okay, so what's my beefs?

"According to my calculations, we'll be there in ..." Alex paused. In the blackness, he couldn't see the chronograph. "... soon," he finished lamely.

"According to my calculations, we'll be there in ...." Alex paused. In the blackness, he couldn't see the chronograph. "Soon," he finished lamely.

Too many elipses get tedious really fast. I like the first usage, but since Alex definitively paused, then we need a period at the end of the elipsis. To add another elipsis before "Soon" is dramatic overkill, I think. It works fine without the added emphasis. Short works like this should "look" good as well as read well.

His theories on time and space had led to this moment. He had found a way to use the energy of tachyons to not just move almost instantaneously across any distance but to short circuit time itself. It was possible to go anywhere and anywhen ... and Alex had proved it.

The word, "when" should be italicized in the word, "anywhen". The reason is because anywhen is a made-up word that doesn't exist, but is obviously a play on anywhere. Italicization alerts the reader to the fact that you, the author, know what you're doing and haven't just messed with language ludicrously.

Secondly, try not to use elipses in both the narrative and dialogue both. They work great in dialogue, but when they start appearing all over the page, things get problematic. A period works fine after anywhen. New sentence: Alex had proved it.

Harlan Ellison, he recalled, an early twentieth century science fiction writer, once said, "The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity." I stand here, Alex further surmised, and proclaim him the world's greatest prophet!

I like the quote above, but see how I changed it? Now it's really good! Writer, not write, with comma. Comma after "said" and the only part in italics is the actual quote itself. Not that my version of this is perfect, but it's better than the awkward construction of your original.

"Rebekkah, have you ever heard of 'Murphy'?" In this line, the quote marks before and after Murphy are unnecessary. Instead, put Murphy in italics.

There's still other little nit-picky grammatical stuff further on, but I wanted to jump right to the end, because you probably don't like me messing with your stuff any more than I have. *Smile*

Alex's last thought, as he, Rebekkah, and everything that existed – but shouldn't - disintegrated into primeval atoms was, we're here, Rebekkah – and we always will be ...

As he, Rebekkah, and everything that existed – but shouldn't – disintegrated into primeval atoms, Alex's last thought was, We're here, Rebekkah! And we always will be ...

Again, I would experiment with a few of the other possibilities as to how this might be stated, but notice the most important rearrangement I made in structure. Makes all the difference, and see how much smoother (and sensible) the line reads. I would also consider Alex's comments to be said aloud, rather than a thoughts. But either way is fine.

Well, this is enough damage for one night. I hope you can see some of the madness to my methods. I noticed that your forte is poetry and that prose is something you want to do more of. If this is true, then you could do a lot worse than follow my suggested changes.

That said, let me know if you have any questions; I'd be happy to explain myself. Especially in exchange for instructions, via email, on how to fly a helicopter *Smile*


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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: ASR | (4.0)
Hi, Teargen,

I liked your poem because as poems go, this is very well written and the rhymes are both clever and free of feeling "forced". I also liked this because it made me think. I wasn't sure whether to take this seriously or as some kind of light satire designed to make us smile. I decided the style is intentionally light, almost humorous in tone, but that the subject, based on the real-life example of the planet Uranus, is something worthy of serious consideration. For any number of reasons.

(I'm assuming, of course, planet turn would be so
that the north pole would face sun-ward--it's apropos
because I am a north-leaning earthly life form
and so, "light from the sun," predilection is norm.)

It requires excessive amount of space knock
to turn Earth on its side--O how people would talk!

In the two examples above, I found only two issues that I felt warranted mentioning. In the first, I don't like the parentheses being used in any poem. They're so unnecessary and distracting. I don't get the need for the extra emphasis they force upon the reader. I think the lines read fine the way they are, and if you wish to extract yourself, as the writer, from the process, such lines could easily be written as follows:

It's assumed, of course, planet turn would be so

If written in similar fashion as above, there would be no reason, as I see it, to use paretheses at all. And simplification is always a good thing.

My second comment is "O" when used by itself. The word is actually "Oh," and we don't see it used as a single letter except in Irish words like "O'Reilly". So the line should read as follows:

to turn Earth on its side--Oh, how people would talk!

That now concludes the grammatical portion of our review *Smile*

Now for the fun part, which is an examination of the efficacy and veracity of your observations themselves. Your conclusion that a tipping of the Earth on its side would be "lights out" for humanity, may be unnecessarily gloomy and presumptuous. Such a change would be either sudden or gradual -- hopefully the latter. The scenario is, however, not altogether unlike the coming reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles, which also may be sudden or gradual. We don't know which.

While "sudden" anything, geologically speaking, is never good, a slow, gradual change might be a lot easier on us. If you'll indulge me a bit further, though, your poem really poses some interesting questions and hypothetical outcomes. For instance, while the magnetic poles would become east and west, the new polar regions would take their place at the top and bottom of what are now the equatorial regions of the planet. Depending on how much "wiggle" existed in Earth's spinning, a new era of seaons would be very interesting.

Imagine looking at this a slightly different way. Since there's no up or down in space, it's as if the sun had moved to a location directly overhead the North pole. While everything else remained the same. Don't think of the Earth as being on its side, but rather staying the same as it is, but now with a stationary sun over the North pole. Or over the South pole would work, also.

Because the atmosphere and ocean currents move, the heat from the forever daylit, upper half of the earth, ought to be spread evenly around the globe. Not much different from normal nighttime temperatures, depending on where you're located.

I'll end my speculation here, but what I love about this, besides being a great poem, is the wild ideas it conjures for those who possess some degree of proficiency in such areas of thought and analysis. For example, I never considered the ramifications of what the effects might be were the sun to take up a stationary position above the poles. Or how would that have changed the course of Earth's development early on.

We may one day know the answer to such questions, because it's likely that an earthlike planet is out there, someplace, where noontime siestas last a really long time *Smile* Thanks for letting me exercise my brain cells. All three of them.

Again, great work, great food for thought.

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Review of Stingy Jack  
In affiliation with WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hi, TJ,

What a delightful slice of history this is, which I thought you did well in the telling, and reminds us how colorful and interesting are the backgrounds to many of the things we take for granted. Particularly how so many of them come to us from other countries. The transition from potatoes and turnips to pumpkins was especially fascinating.

Because of the Irish potato famine and the historical role it played as well, I found myself wondering where that tragic event fits into the chronology of the tradition you describe. I forget what the years were during the famine, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is some additional connection to all the details you provide.

I couldn't help but notice, too, that as generally well written as this is, lots of minor errors riddle the work from beginning to end. Nothing major, but enough to warrant mentioning. I'm tempted to think that this was written in haste, and that many of the mistakes are a result of rushing to finish.

If this is not the case, I'd be happy to show you a quick run-down of where the problems are. If you're interested. I can do this as a separate email, and none will be the wiser *Smile*

The reason for this review is also due, in part, to your fanning a piece of my own writing that you apparently liked. Which made my night, thanks. You have a lot of great stuff in your portfolio, and like I say, I think you'd find my technical critique to be helpful. That said, keep up the good fight and the good work.


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