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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/vanderhausiii
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1
1
Review of Daisy Chains  
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)


This review is in response to your submission to "The List"

DISCLAIMER: Writing is subjectively valued, therefore my opinions on it do not fall into the category of right or wrong, but rather fall into the categories of useful and not useful. Please don't be offended by my edits. I am a foolish foolish man with no sense of himself or his place in the universe, and I probably shouldn't be giving advice to anyone. Irregardless (and yes, I intentionally used the nonexistent double negative of this word just to annoy people) here are my thoughts. Take them as you will.

Okydoky, now that that's covered, here's how I work amigo/amiga. I copy pasted your work below. Here are the notes I take as I read through it the first time. At the end I got a little conclusion paragraph addressing particular requests and/or my overall impressions



Daisy Chains
by Trevor Prescott (must review)


         “Make it believable. I’m a tough girl. Give me your best shot.”

         This is why Frank Harris loves Ginger Scott: because Ginger Scott’s got the gonads to pull off Katherine Winslow. great opening, lots of tone

         Ginger Scott, also known as Daisy Chains. It’s a deliberate pseudonym. Cute meets kinky. well said

         Daisy chain: a chain of daisies strung together by the stems. Functions as a decoration or fashion accessory. Associated with innocence and purity.

         A chain: cold, hard, used to tether or restrain. Often found anchoring ships to docks, or locking doors when a padlock won’t do. Commonly used in the construction of handcuffs. Daisy Chains is no stranger to handcuffs. Duct tape. Rope. A straightjacket on one occasion.

         That’s how Ginger Scott got her start: as a pretty face and tight body braving the Internet’s sleazy underbelly. She didn’t do nude, didn’t do porn, but she still saw the risk: show up at the wrong gig and she could end up doing both at gunpoint, her career coming to an screeching halt in a shallow grave. She also saw the profitability.

         Case study: a mild-mannered paper-pusher working nine-to-five with a dull wife and ungrateful kids. His outward appearance is only a shell, a suit of armor protecting his demon. A demon fueled by—sexual repression? Anger? Feelings of regret? Every now and then the demon needs to come out. This mild-mannered paper-pusher turns to the Internet where he can be whatever he wants: a pimp, a ladies’ man, a rapist. Where he can indulge his every fantasy without fear of recrimination—and for only twenty-nine ninety-five a month!

         Ginger has a plan from the start. She’s perceptive enough to know looks are fleeting. Low-budget bondage gigs are stepping stones; she’ll be moving on to greener pastures and the last thing she wants is Babes Bound and Gagged coming up whenever someone Googles ‘Ginger Scott’. again, well said

         She creates her own demon, calls it Daisy Chains. Daisy dabbles in other disciplines: foot fetish, tickling, food—but most of the time she’s tied up. Rolling around. Squirming. Looking pretty for the camera. Faking fear enough to make it believable.

         Tonight Daisy Chains is tucked away. Not gone but hidden. Ginger Scott is Katherine Winslow. Denim short-shorts, matching jacket, tight ponytail. Pink flip-flops. Pink fingernails. Pink toenails. She’s the sickly-sweet All American sweetheart tied up in a neat, perfumed package. The only thing missing is a bow—a pink bow sticking out of her blond hair like the cherry topping a sundae. It would tie the whole image together, but Katherine Winslow didn’t wear bows, so Ginger doesn’t either.

         Katherine Winslow’s house is a mix of reality and Frank’s imagination. He goes by crime scene photos. Those were hard enough to get. Not as tough as convincing the Winslow family to turn Katherine into the star of a glorified snuff video.

         It’s for educational purposes, they told the grieving Mrs. Winslow.

         It’ll reach a national audience; make it easier to find her killer.

         It’ll be for a good cause.

         We’ll pay you.

effective use of italics. Makes it feel even more sleazy and underhanded

         They got the rights. They got the actors. They got the lights, they got the cameras, and they’re about to get the action. Frank hopes it’s enough action to make the Monday night primetime spot profitable. His reputation is on the line.

         “I want to see it in your eyes,” Frank tells her.

         Ginger Scott smiles. Speaking with her eyes is second nature.

         The set’s hot. The cameras roll.

***



         Ginger nails it.

         Her eyes bulge. She add-libs a scream. She claws and kicks, falls to the floor, breaks a fingernail clawing at the carpet and doesn’t even blink. She’s a tough girl, true to her word. dang

         Ginger’s foot catches on a table and sends it toppling over, the lamp shattering. It’s not in the script, but Frank Harris keeps the camera rolling. Why? Because it’s abrupt. Startling. Violent. There are other lamps in the world; breaks a little tension with humor. Good effect he could redo the shot, make it historically accurate, but he doesn’t. There will never be another moment like this. Ginger Scott is crossing a threshold. The point-of-no-return. It’s hard to tell if the tears are feigned or real. Things are about to change forever; there’s no going back now. Ginger Scott is thrashing in the clutches of a career orgasm. She’s about to go from an anonymous Internet star to low budget Hollywood actress. Daisy Chains is face-to-face with mortality.

         Ginger’s eyes glaze. She stares straight up, mouth agape. Daisy Chains is gone, her death immortalized in high definition.

         Frank says, “Cut”. powerful paragraph


***



         The riveting tragedy of Katherine Winslow, All-American sweetheart, airs on Monday night primetime. Murder in Paradise, a one-hour special. Ginger takes up five minutes during the show, tops—little tastes of make-believe between forensic specialists and behavioral scientists and detectives, enough to feed the imagination, enough to string the audience through the sixty-minute block. The special ends on a cliffhanger:

         Katherine Winslow’s killer is still out there, lurking, watching, waiting to prey on another All-American sweetheart. Your All-American sweetheart. Is he living in the next town over? Living in the house up the street? Living right next door? We may never know.

         The camera cuts to a wide-shot of a Norman Rockwell neighborhood in sunny suburbia and pans up. Fades out. Cuts to credits.

Conclusion: This is extremely well written. There are so many elements combined in this piece that just blow me away, Ginger's alter ego, the character's views on the nature of sexuality and S&M, the detailed explanation of the necessary steps some actresses take to become famous and the numerous pitfalls and dangers involved. Terrifying, fascinating, and containing a tone throughout that compels the reader to delve deeper into this unfamiliar and dark world.

The writing style was tight, rarely (if ever) allowing an unnecessary word or sentence to slip by. Sharp and punchy like the focal character. Putting it in the frame of Kate Winslow's murder was also effective at giving the story some body, a more diverse setting and a way of juxtaposing Daisy Chains next to Ginger Scot.

In terms of constructive criticism, I have but one suggestion, and I have misgivings about this suggestion because it is about the end. My college writing professor used to say that endings are infinitely personal, and he always debated whether or not to critique endings. I shall do it in this instance.

I'm not sure the last paragraph is in keeping with the rest of the story, or at least I'm not sure if it should be the one to end it. This story, though loosely about Kate Winslow's murder, is really about (at least it seems to me) Ginger Scot and the death of Daisy Chains. Though there are different ending types, some purposely jarring, muted, or discordant, most should leave the reader a little stunned. It's the story saying goodbye to the reader, what impression will you leave?

Tell me this, which one of these sets of lines would leave more of a lasting impression on you if you hadn't wrote them?

"The camera cuts to a wide-shot of a Norman Rockwell neighborhood in sunny suburbia and pans up. Fades out. Cuts to credits."

or

"Ginger’s eyes glaze. She stares straight up, mouth agape. Daisy Chains is gone, her death immortalized in high definition.

         Frank says, 'Cut.'"

Again, endings are personal, but I feel strongly that the story ends at that point. Personal opinion, take it for what you will.

Well, now that I'm concluding this conclusion, I can only say thank you for the invigorating read. One question, why have you not gotten this published yet? I've worked slush piles before. This is something we would have passed up the ladder at my lit mag (except we were literary non-fiction, so you couldn't submit there. Otherwise I'd pass it along with your permission).

Well anyway, great to make your acquaintance. You've absolutely made the list, and you'll be the first I might add. Great job.


2
2
Review of FOREVER  
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: E | (4.0)
DISCLAIMER: Writing is subjectively valued, therefore my opinions on it do not fall into the category of right or wrong, but rather fall into the categories of useful and not useful. Please don't be offended by my edits. I am a foolish foolish man with no sense of himself or his place in the universe, and I probably shouldn't be giving advice to anyone. Irregardless (and yes, I intentionally used the nonexistent double negative of this word just to annoy people) here are my thoughts. Take them as you will.

Okydoky, now that that's covered, so here's how I work amigo/amiga. I copy pasted your work below. Here are the notes I take as I read through it the first time. At the end I got a little conclusion paragraph addressing particular requests and/or my overall impressions



To start off, let me say that it looks like you've already received a lot of good reviews and reception of this piece, which is fantastic. Keeping that in mind, below I have, (as I do with all my reviews) endeavored to offer constructive criticism. Since this is already so well received, you may just want to ignore me entirely. If, however, you feel like it can be improved more (rather, if it feels somehow incomplete to you), I can only hope to be of some assistance. Again, though, feel free to disregard me at your liesure. :D

Forever
By Simple Dykie

  Time. I have plenty of time. There is always more of it. I have rested here upon this world for untold ages as the present has moved towards infinity. Like a sentry on a castle wall, I have witnessed so much time. Its inevitable and relentless march forward is meaningless to me. What will be, will be. I have waited and watched through years, centuries, millennia, periods, and ages.

Usually, this contemplative style of beginning is difficult to pull off as it risks reading more like a metaphysical theory than a story, but I think you did very well here due to the incorporated sci-fi element. The most important part about beginnings is making the reader interested, and the best way to do that is to make them ask questions. Mine were: "who/what is this being?" "Is it a being, or an inanimate object given voice, or an abstract notion of eternity personified?" "Will it, whatever it is, find any meaning or substance in the universe?"

That's a lot of interesting questions for a first paragraph, so you did well.

One thing: (personal stylistic preference), you use "ages" twice in this paragraph. It's a heavy word. Personally, I think the phrase "untold ages" reads a little heavy handed in this context, whereas the second usage seems entirely appropriate. If I was an editor that was on good terms with you, I'd maybe drop a suggestion to just cut out the first usage, and just go with, "upon this world as the present has moved towards infinity." Sounds so much cleaner.



    I have waited, silently watched, observed, and most importantly remembered. This is my gift. Great distinction I remember everything. From multi-celled creatures struggling to survive in a new world, to the birth of creatures whose size and power shook the very earth as they passed, to smaller creatures with speed and cunning intelligence, to the rise of a creature called man; I remember. Well written lines I do not eat or sleep yet I am aware. I am aware of everything. With remembering and awareness comes possibly my most special gift; understanding. Along with the memory of the ages there's that word again. Here, again, works, but maybe some synonyms comes an understanding of the Universe. Along with an understanding of the Universe comes a quiet, gentle peace.

    The land I sit upon has changed over the ages Pattern beginning to emerge. I have words like this too. I have a real problem with the word "then" . What once was the floor of a small inland sea became swampland, and then forests of towering ferns, then mountains pushed up by the unstoppable forces of the earth itself. On this spot I was once entombed  for untold eras under tons of rock and dirt, and later by massive walls of ice reaching into the sky. Here I waited, rested and remembered. What I see now has been weathered down by the wind and rain and time, exposing me along with this land. I too have been weathered and shaped by the ages. That is the price of forever.

    The sky is still dark as the coming dawn is just a promise whispered on the wind. The stars above shine brilliantly amid a moonless sky. As I watch, I remember how their places in the sky have changed throughout the ages Here again :P . I have seen new stars born in fiery wonder and older stars fade and wink out of existence to become just a memory. Yet the memory of the end of stars brings the understanding that it is not the end, but a new beginning. That is the secret of forever.

      I am the perfect watcher. I am a keeper of the memory of all that has been and all that is yet to come. I am aware of everything around me. I do not feel anger, hate, fear or pain. I am not encumbered by emotions such as love, happiness or joy. Though I haven't eyes or ears or a nose, I can see, hear and smell. I can feel the heat of the sun, the touch of creatures that sometimes rest upon me and the gentle caress of the wind. I do not judge. I do not influence or decide. I merely watch and remember.

      I have been gifted with an insatiable curiosity, and with patience. To exist as long as I have, you need to be patient. I have reached out from this place and found that there is no other like me on this world, yet I am not alone.  As long as one small insect moves among the grasses.  As long as creatures scurry about in their daily struggles to survive. As long as the sky is filled with the sun and moon, clouds and birds; I am not alone in my journey towards forever.

      Life. I have seen so much of it. I have also seen its inevitable death and return to that from which it was made. I am not alive as you would understand it, but I am more than I once was; much more. Unlike all living things I do not fear time. Their lives are short and frantic. The race to live and pass one's self to others is a continuous battle. I embrace time. I have been here for so long that time no longer holds any secrets. Time and memory have shaped me into what I am. I understand life. I have watched as it began. I have seen it grow from its smallest forms, so new and wondrous and unique. I have seen life come into existence and then fade into nothingness. I've watched through all its struggles to change, to survive and to inexorably move forward, only to be faced with barriers to overcome. Through all of this, life continues.
This and a couple other paragraphs are starting to sound a little redundant. The part about seeing life grow from its smallest forms is very similar to the earlier passage about the single celled micro-organisms. All of this is well written, but I'd recommend cutting out all but the bare essentials. As one editor puts it, "If you can cut out something, and you're story is still complete, then cut it." Harsh logic, but so very very true in the publishing industry.

    As I search my memory, I do remember a time in the distant past when life was pushed to its limits. A rock of enormous size came from among the stars. I can still recall the force, as this world was fractured and changed by an unimaginable and destructive power. The sky was filled with ash and debris blocking out the sun. Fire swept the land, followed by torrential acid rains. Creatures large and small as well as trees and plants perished. It appeared as if all life had been extinguished. At first I searched for any remnants of life, but found none. I was mistaken. Life did survive. As the sun returned, the world began to heal itself. Life returned. It always returns.

    I sit upon a hillside among gently rolling fields of bright and fragrant flowers, which have recently bloomed amidst the gentle rains of early spring. I cannot count the seasons I have seen. I never tire of the newness of the world as it moves from the cold of winter to the promise of spring, and a new beginning. In the distance I can see woodlands. In early morning before the sun has risen above the distant hills, deer-creatures will leave the safety of the trees and venture out to graze on the new and tender grasses. They will often come close to me and graze nearby. Their young have recently been born. They frolic among the flowers under the watchful eyes of their mothers. As I watch, they remain calm. They see me not as a threat, but as a comfort. They have seen me many times and understand I mean them no harm. I watch and I remember.

    I have watched with curiosity a species who call themselves men. In all my memory I have never encountered creatures such as these. Their lives are so short. They are here for only a moment in time. Their lives are like a match bursting into flame with promise and hope. It burns with a frantic intensity only to be extinguished in an instant. To man, time is precious. To me it is endless, yet man endures his fleeting existence. He faces his fears and his limitations and continues.

      His kind has spread so quickly throughout this world. He feels he is the master of everything, but he is the master of nothing. Time is the master and he has so little of it. These man-creatures are so different from creatures that have come before them. They are capable of the darkest thoughts and acts, yet they are capable of such beauty. I have seen magnificent spires of stone rise into the sky. I have heard such music, and seen wondrous creations of art. They are intelligent, but have much to learn. They are like children learning to walk and taking their first steps. There is much to learn from these man-creatures. I will watch and remember.

    Among the distant trees by the edge of the open fields a shelter made of wood stands. A man-creature farms the land below the gentle rise I sit upon. Each day as the sun reaches its highest point the man-creature climbs the hill on which I sit. He has spent his mornings toiling below as he tends the fields of corn, wheat and soybeans spread out in neat rows. He always sits beside me on the soft grass and looks down upon the land he calls his own. He often rests his hand against me. It seems to give him comfort. I think he understands that his time as with all man-creatures is short, but that I will remain for all of time. He knows that I am forever and will stand watch over his children and their children for generations to come. He sometimes calls me "Old One." The name fits me well. He brings sustenance to eat. I do not eat, but I understand life's needs. He talks, and I listen. I understand his language. I have heard it before, and I remember it.

      Each day he carries a book, bound in leather. It is always meticulously wrapped in cloth. The man-creature takes special care as he gently holds the book in his hands. He reads and I listen. As the years pass by, I find myself anticipating the man's daily visits. I have learned much from this man and his book. I no longer call him man-creature. I have learned that he and his kind are different from all other creatures.

      As time has placed its hand upon the man, his work in the fields as well as his climb to sit beside me becomes more difficult. Still he comes with his book. It is curious and puzzling. Time does not appear to frighten him. Eventually he will return to the earth as all living things do. He appears to understand and accept this. I search my memory. For the first time since I became aware, I am confused. I have many unanswered questions. This man is not like me. He will not exist forever. Why does he not fear the end of time? Why would he not fear the end of life? Why would he walk calmly towards the darkness of nothingness? Could the answer lie in his book?

    As the man reads his book, I hear of love, redemption and salvation. I listen to words, which speak of Heaven and Hell. The words tell of a man who lived long ago. My memory does not recognize his name. The book describes a man, but it says he is much more than a man. He was his Father's son. He was to bring peace to the world and something more. A promise of forever. An end of fear. The vanquishing of time.

    Some of the words and the concepts they entail still elude me. I will check my memory, continue to listen, and try to understand. The book talks of a power greater than us all. A Creator called God. This I understand. My memory does not remember a Creator or his name, but it has shown me his presence. For one who has existed for so long I have seen his work in all that is, and all that will be. I have witnessed life's beginnings, and life's end. I have seen death and life's rebirth trillions of times. My memory has shown me that this world and all of its creatures are a part of something greater than each individual. I have seen that everything from the smallest insects to the men who fill this world are a part of something greater. Everything is connected. Every life from the smallest bacteria to that of man has a purpose, and a meaning for its existence.

      I would like to meet this Creator. There is much I could learn from him.

    There is still something that eludes me. I have remembered all the words from the man's book. It speaks of a soul. It says it is a spirit which dwells inside all men. I do not understand. I will search my memory, and try to understand.

    As the man, who calls himself Jonathan Harker, struggles up the hill with his book clutched tightly to his chest, I understand that his battle with time is almost over. If I've learned anything throughout the ages, it's that time always wins. He has returned less frequently to sit beside me. I sense that this will be his last time. As he leans heavily against my side with his book in his hand, he speaks his last words. "Old One. It's time for me to move on. It's been a good life. My time here is over, but the Lord willing, I have a new life waiting for me."

    Jonathan Harker's body is placed in the ground from which it had come. It is placed close by me under a solitary oak tree which I have watched grow from a young sapling into a towering giant, with massive branches stretched towards the sky. A simple marker made of two pieces of wood is placed on the earth above him. My memory has taught me of tears. The men who bury him shed these upon him to nourish the soil, just as his body will help to bring forth new life. It is strange. I am what I am and cannot shed tears. Yet, if I could I would shed them. I wonder if this is what men call feelings. I do not like them.

    After all this time, I think I finally understand the meaning of forever.

      My time in this existence is almost over. My main power source has been exhausted. ooo, nice turn At my current rate of energy consumption I can maintain my memory core and basic functions on secondary systems for approximately 7,454 earth years. I have tapped into a limited supply of geothermal energy and will also utilize solar power. These will extend my time on this world a few more years. Those who left me here so long ago, made me to last. I now understand that even a machine is subject to the relentless march of time.

    As I sit upon this hill, I appear to any observer to be a huge and weathered rock, standing as if thrust from the very bowels of the earth by titanic forces. I am not what I appear. I am a highly complex machine. I was left on this world to observe and record data pertaining to the emergence of life. I contain the memory of over 1.25 billion years of Earth's history. Those who made me left and returned to the vastness of space. I do not know if they will return. They may have fallen to the power of time, as I soon will. I have fulfilled my purpose on this world. I am a machine, but even one such as I still has a purpose. I will continue to collect data for as long as possible. My memory core will be preserved.

mmm very cool idea

    I, who was once a machine, waits and thinks. I have achieved an awareness far beyond my intended purpose. With memory and time came understanding. With understanding came life. With life came belief. I who was once a machine have come to believe in forever. My time upon this world is almost over. I have pulled my consciousness back to my central memory core to conserve energy. I contemplate the end of that which I have become. I do not fear the end of my time. There is always forever. I am not lonely. I have my memories to keep me company. I remember the words from Jonathan's book. They give me comfort. As my memory slowly fades I remember the words of a man who moved on to forever. "It's time for me to move on. It's been a good life. My time here is over, but the Lord willing, I have a new life waiting for me".

Conclusions.

Well let me first say, great job! Captivating tale. Here's what I liked especially:
a. The concepts. Very unique, clever. The turn about the machines was a very neat development
b. The mood. You do well at establishing the narrators contemplative, slow, almost satisfied mood throughout.
c. Word usage. Though I maintain that this piece could use a bit of editing, your diction is, I think, quite advanced, not from an eloquent verbosity standpoint, but rather, it indicates the author's subtle restraint on prose. Basically, you don't oversell it and you say the right words at the right time. As I like to say (starting now) with great eloquence, comes a great need for restraint.
d. Specifically these lines: "I remember everything. From multi-celled creatures struggling to survive in a new world, to the birth of creatures whose size and power shook the very earth as they passed, to smaller creatures with speed and cunning intelligence, to the rise of a creature called man; I remember." Great lines.

Things that could use improvement:

Well, to be frank, I think your pacing is a little off. By this I mean you get stuck in the beginning, reiterating the conceptual idea of the immortal narrator rather than going on with the narrative. In contrast, your ending reads to me somewhat rushed. I think you need to flush it out more after the turn when we learn that the omniscient narrator is an alien observation computer. Also, I think you should try to get to Jonathan Harker sooner and maybe take some time to develop a longer scene with him. That's an interesting part of the narrative, and he brings a lot of concrete substance to this story which grounds its abstractions.

End:

All of this, of course, is just extra thoughts. It's a good story, with a clever plot, a good turn, and a lot of potential. I think with a bit of editing and polish, it could be a real gem.


3
3
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: E | N/A (Review only item.)
Hey Max,

As always, it was a pleasure to read your stuff. This was the first essay of yours I've read, and you make a compelling argument. Take what I got to say skeptically. I'm notoriously nitpicky about essays. I don't know why. This was a good one though. I have comparatively less nitpicky comments than usual.

 "Malcom Gladwell writes nonfiction, but he's still a master story-teller." I might be particularly biased about this since I used to work for a Creative Nonfiction magazine, but I think using the word "still" represents an implicit assumption that nonfiction writers are less of storytellers with the exception of Malcom Gladwell, which, maybe risks offending NF writers out there. When I worked for my college newspaper, I remember my editor explaining that words like "still", "obviously", and "even" are dangerous to use, as they usually disguise an opinion as implicit fact. Maybe a brief clarification about the false stereotype that NF writers' lack storytelling style could be a little more... politic. I say this because I am fairly certain you don't intend this implicit assumption.

I liked the Wild Stallions reference. Righteous dude.

You have a good style in that you only mention the names of these world renown individuals at the end of the paragraphs. Serves the whole form and function thing, in that it physically displays their rise from anonymity to fame.

"What distinguishes the Beatles from the Wyld Stallions, or Bill Gates from Christopher Langan?" This is a great central question. I feel like you could build up to it even more. I'm not saying be dramatic, but give it a lead-in. Show the reader this is the most important question in the essay.

"But the examples of garage bands and of Langan--who read and wrote extensively on his own--show that not just any practice will suffice. The practice must be intentional, informed, and deliberate." great point, maybe explain your logic a little more. As a math teacher might say, "show your work"

Rest of it a fluid and well formulated argument. I got less critical because I was jolted out of the mode of reviewer and into the mode of active listener. That's a good sign that you're being persuasive.

I like it. It's definitely interesting. I think maybe it could benefit from some support from sociological studies about group functionality and the effect on the individual's intellectual stimulation. I'm sure these studies exist. I only say this because you support the practice element with the 10,000 hours, but you only really support the peer review group benefits with personal experience and reasonings. A little sociological support would help strengthen the latter argument when juxtaposed next to your personal experience, since it represents a less personally biased perspective. Just a thought.

Hope this helps. All this is of course is nitpicky and, for the most part, wholly unnecessary if you so choose. The thing about essays is that (in my belief), they have an almost unlimited capacity for improvement, whereas fiction can become stilted if overworked. I guess that's the difference between logical creation and artistic creation.

Hope some of this proves useful though.

Regards,
Paul

(BTW: one of my stories that I submitted for publication on this site through a Tranquility Press contest got accepted. Third fiction publication ever! :) Just wanted to share. )


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: ASR | (5.0)
DISCLAIMER: Writing is subjectively valued, therefore my opinions on it do not fall into the category of right or wrong, but rather fall into the categories of useful and not useful. Please don't be offended by my edits. I am a foolish foolish man with no sense of himself or his place in the universe, and I probably shouldn't be giving advice to anyone. Irregardless (and yes, I intentionally used the nonexistent double negative of this word just to annoy people) here are my thoughts. Take them as you will.

Okydoky, now that that's covered, so here's how I work amigo/amiga. I copy pasted ur work below. Here are the notes I take as I read through it the first time. At the end I got a little conclusion paragraph addressing particular requests and my overall impressions





“Mommy, they’re outside the window again.”

Lucy leaned against the door of her parents’ bedroom, her blue eyes looking forlorn in the dim yellow light spreading from the globe above the bed. Lots of pronouns in this second sentence, "in the" "from the" "above the." I would suggest editing out "spreading from the globe above the bed" or breaking it up into two sentences somehow Behind her, the darkness crept up her spine with chilly fingers, raising goose bumps which had nothing to do with the endless cold outside.

“Oh, sweetie,” Mother said, looking up from the computer on her lap. “You know there’s no one outside. It’s just those crystals we told you about! They don’t even know you’re there.”

“They moved.”

“Well, of course they move,” added Father, setting aside a textbook with pictures of splotches he told Lucy were bac-ter-i-a. well done He patted the bed between himself and Mother. “Come on up.”

Lucy bounded up onto the bed and flounced into the comforter, trying to hide her face as Father played hide-and-seek with her. Peals of laughter escaped the mound of synthetic wool as Father’s hands quested for the six-year-old. Mother set aside her computer and joined in until Lucy lay breathless, and ready to slumber.

As she lay drifting, she could hear Mother and Father begin one of the adult conversations she could only vaguely understand. great way to have complex dialogue and still be viewed through the lns of a child. Well executed.

“I finished the spectrometer series today,” said Mother.

“Oh? So what are the newest insights into this planet’s lithosphere? Some new process for liberating free oxygen?”

Mother sighed. “Sorry to disappoint the biologist in you, but no such luck. I did find something strange, though.”

Lucy saw the computer resume its place on Mother’s lap.

“Trace amounts copper, iron, zinc, sodium, potassium, and molybdenum. If we keep searching, I think we’ll find more trace elements like these.”

Beneath the covers, Lucy tried to mouth the word “molybdenum.” cute, also good description

“Well, that’s not surprising. Doesn’t nearly all of the atmospheric moisture come from the southern geysers? All of these ice crystals are going to be heavy with the stuff.”

“That doesn’t explain their strange behavior. Did you see the formations that grew out of the roof?”

“I did. They almost look like biological constructs. Hey, maybe I should be looking at your snow for life signs! It’ll be more than I’ve found so far.”

“You know it’s good news if you don’t find life here. The colony will be able to do an unrestricted terraform.”

“I know, but this planet’s been so damn boring so far.”

Lucy pulled the comforter from her face.

“You said a bad word, Daddy.”

Father ruffled her hair, mussing it until it covered her eyes.

“I sure did. Sorry, Lucy.”

“Mommy, Daddy, when can we go home?”

“Oh, Lucy. You know it will be while,” replied Mother. “We have to make sure this planet is safe so other people can come!”

“It’s so cold all the time! When’s spring?”

“Not until your ninth birthday,” muttered Father. how wonderfully cryptic

“What?"

“Nothing. Go to sleep, honey.”

“I miss Lady.”

“I do too, Lucy,” said Mother.

“I wish we could bring her.”

“I told you, there’s no grass for her to eat. And there was no room for a horse on the starship, Lucy.”

Lucy began drifting again.

Distantly, she heard Mother speak again.

“I don’t want our daughter to grow up here.”

“She won’t. This planet’s atmosphere and lithosphere are as simple as they come. You’ll have it figured out before the year is out. As for me, the biosphere is nonexistent. I have all life forms narrowed down to a few thousand symbionts, some edible vegetation, and three humanoids. Right here in this box.” He thumped the wall behind the bed. excellent dialogue here

Lucy fell asleep and dreamed.

She left the habitat behind and was on a green field with trees waving gently in the breeze. Lady was there, a tan and mustard-colored pony. She was the gentlest animal Lucy had ever met, and carried her to any place Lucy could imagine. Tonight, she dreamed castles of ice, standing on craggy mountain ledges. Lady galloped through the magnificent hallways of glittering walls and vestibules, racing up the transparent towers which sparkled and refracted the sun, and trotted along battlements like a sentry. All the while, Lucy sat upon her back and screamed in delight as the wind tore at her hair.

*

A pale suggestion of a sun pushed fruitlessly through the murky clouds. Great line. At other rare moments, I would perhaps say that certain descriptions of yours border on the too florid (for my admittedly sparse taste), but this is not one of those times. Perfectly balanced description. The sky threatened to shed more snow upon the habitat, but held off for the time being.

Lucy stared out the window at the endless white drifts, trying to spot what she had seen moving the past three nights. But there was nothing, not even markings in the snow. She turned back to her breakfast of sliced cantaloupe and watermelon, grown in the habitat’s hydroponics pod.

Mother was at her machines again, looking through a silver tube at something very small. Father was outside digging in the snow. He was looking for bac-te-ri-a.

Mother turned from her machine and smiled at Lucy.

“Lucy, do you want to see something neat?”

Lucy grinned and nodded.

“Come, and look in here.”

Lucy went running over and was lifted up until her eye just reached the silver tube.

She saw something that looked like a snowflake with rainbows inside. As she watched, the snowflake changed, and was somehow different. The colors changed too, going in different directions. As she continued to watch, the snowflake changed again.

“That’s one of the snowflakes from outside, Lucy.”

“Why’s it keep changing like that?”

Mother lowered Lucy to the floor.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I’m trying to find out. It’s really strange what the snowflakes do here.”

“Like those crystal people outside?”

“Now, Lucy. I told you, there are no crystal people. The snowflakes sometimes clump together into large objects. And when they change together, they seem to move. They’re not really alive, Lucy.”

Lucy pursed her lips, eyeing the microscope with suspicion.

“Can I play outside, Mommie?”

“Okay, Lucy, but remember, always keep the habitat in sight. And if the white-out comes, just follow your beeper back, okay?”

Lucy checked her wrist for the beeper, which would guide her back home. It was a tiny black bracelet with a small screen and blinking LED. She ran for her parka.

Outside, Lucy turned in a complete circle. Even in the dim light, the snow sparkled like iridescent jewelry. It shimmered and seemed to move around her. Her footsteps would vanish as she walked, and she made sure to keep the habitat in sight.

Lucy turned her attention to a smaller, lumpier snowdrift a few feet away. There was nothing to look at but snow and the habitat, and Lucy found herself thinking of Earth, as she usually did.

Right before her eyes, the snowdrift shimmered, became fuzzy, and then suddenly it solidified into a clear cube-shaped structure. I'm not sure how, but this part needs a little work. I think you need to slow it down a bit, make a little scene of it. Perhaps she hears a noise, or gets a funny feeling like she's being watched, but it needs something to transition to this important turn in the story. Lucy almost fell down in astonishment. She recognized the cube – it was a perfect model of the habitat! She turned and ran. great twist

“Mommy! Mommy!” Lucy burst through the door. “The crystal people made a habitat!”

Startled, Mother almost dropped a sample she was putting into a machine.

“What do you mean, sweetie?”

She grabbed her parka as Lucy fairly dragged her out the door.

“It’s right here! Right . . .”

The cube was gone, and the snowdrift with it. Lucy cast her gaze around in frustration, trying to find the ice structure.

“Lucy . . .”

“It was right here, Mommie!”

“I believe you! Look, sweetie, I told you the snow behaves like this. It makes shapes, kind of like your daddy’s printer.”

“It was the crystal people, Mommie.”

Mother took her hand.

“Come on inside, where it’s warm.”

*

The smells of eggplant and pasta cooking on the stove filled the habitat with cheer and appetites.The wind beat against the habitat’s walls, as if trying to join the trio. good transition sentence

Lucy stared out into the darkness, trying to see where no light penetrated. She thought something stared back, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Dinner’s ready!”

Father’s voice brought her to the table, where Mother was already setting up.

“I wish I could cook eggplant the way you do,” said Mother. “It’s one of those things . . .”

“I grew up with this dish,” Father replied. “Don’t worry. You know I can’t cook much else.”

As the three began to eat, Father spoke around mouthfuls.

“You know, I’ve been thinking. We’ve been looking in the wrong places for life.”

“How do you mean? This region has the highest probability for lifeforms.”

“I mean, we are proceeding from our own premises of what a biosphere should be. We’re looking for chloroplasts, or some other mechanism for converting the oxygen we see here. But maybe . . .”

Father trailed off, and his fork lay still.

“Why does life have to conform to what we know on Earth? For all we know, your active snow crystals could be responsible for all of the strange chemistry we see here. It might not be life the way we know it, but it could explain a lot.”

Mother looked doubtful. “You’re the biologist. But are you really ready to tell the Academy of Sciences that my crystals are alive?”

Lucy listened with intense interest at the idea of living ice crystals.

Father shook his head.

“There’s a lot more study that needs to be done. Years of research, more time than we have here.” He looked disappointed.

Lucy felt sorry for him. She always wanted father to be happy, especially since he had gotten Lady for her.

Later, she thought about how much she missed Lady as she lay on her bed in the light of the LED glowing near the light switch.

That night she dreamed of Lady again.

This time the pony came trotting up to her through a snowdrift, clouds of white puffing from her nostrils. Lady looked down at Lucy, and her eyes shone forth with the light of a million silver suns.

Lucy awoke and sat up. She looked out the window into the darkness. At first, she saw nothing. Then moving shadows, like snowdrifts being created and destroyed at a rapid rate. She saw the vague glow of sparkling light among them, like fireflies.

Lucy got out of her bed and pulled her parka from its hook on the wall, leaving the beeper behind. She went to the door and opened it, letting loose snowflakes blow in. The wind was rising, and with it, the snow.

A whiteout was coming.

She stepped out, and saw little snowdrifts, like the one earlier that day which showed her the habitat. But this time there were ten of them. As she watched, she saw her own face appear in one, etched in ice in meticulous detail. Her expression was one of wonder and surprise, the expression she had when she first saw the habitat sculpture. Then she saw other faces, Mother’s, Father’s. She saw Mother’s microscope appear, a crystal tube with attachments. She saw Father’s coring tool. Then the snowdrifts moved together, and formed one big drift. It glowed with bluish white light deep within.

“Lucy?”

The voice which came from inside was Mother’s. Lucy had forgotten to close the door.

“Lucy, did you open the door?”

The snowdrift rose, becoming something huge. A head, a tail, flanks, withers, legs, and hooves. A pony.

Lucy’s heart leapt.

It was Lady!

Only different. Instead of tan and mustard, Lady glittered like a million jewels. She turned her head and looked at Lucy, a living sculpture in silvery splendor.

“Lucy!”

Mother’s voice had become frantic.

Lucy looked back, but the rising snowfall had hidden the habitat from view. eeek is she going to be abducted by the snow people? Edge of seat reached

Lady tossed her head and snorted, white puffs emanating like incandescent smoke from her nostrils. She kneeled.

Lucy hesitated only for an instant, then climbed upon her back.

“Lucy! Where are you? Come back here, now!”

It was Father. Lucy could hear him kicking aside the snow which had built up in front of the door.

Then Lady tossed her head once more, and with a bound, bore Lucy away into the eternal winter.



mmmmmmmmm. Good story. Tis all I can say. Well actually, not really. I can say a whole lot more. To be honest, I don't have so much constructive criticism. This is an extremely well balanced story. I guess if there's one last thing I would add, its that I think the last sentence should end on a slightly more sober, discordant note. It's already sorta there, but I think you could make it a little more disquieting, which would leave your reader mind-blown. Those are the stories you remember for a long long time. Overall though, excellent read. The most interesting and original of the day for me. If I were you, I'd consider polishing it up a tinsy bit one last time, and then submit it for publication at a science-fiction or speculative fiction magazine.

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful with the constructive feedback

-Vanderhaus



*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of The Indigo Man  
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Very interesting concept. Overall it read like good fantasy and kept me reading and imagining and rooting for characters. That's an impressive and integral part of the genre. I have a few suggestions, but keep in mind that I don't read or write so much fantasy, particularly of the Western bent (though I am a Texan, go figure), and my rules for writing are probably not always applicable to the genre.

Characterization:

Like a good fiction, your characterization is well done. Each character seems to want something, to fear something, to love and hate something. They feel real to me, even in the fantastical world they live in. Great job. I think you best accomplish this in your dialogue, which strikes me as particularly captivating and telling of character.

Something to watch out for with the characterizations is the tell-all character sketch. By this, I mean the technique authors sometimes use to quickly give the character depth by telling the reader what kind of person they are. For example, something like, "Charles was once the President of the Polo club, back before he broke his leg in a bad fall when his horse, Thunder, took a roll on a discarded ball. Since then, he's had a strong fear of horses, and polo balls for that matter." As I'm sure you can tell, I just spit that one out, but tell-all character sketches all sound a bit similar. You go back into the characters history, tell about something that happened, and then describe the effect. This can be a very useful tool if used sparingly, but it needs to be spaced out a lot in the text. Also, many of the effects can be shown. Instead of saying Charles was afraid of horses, I could have shown that with a horse showing up and him jumping behind a barn or using an old lady as a human shield (though this is a ridiculous example, you get my meaning, right?)

Setting:

- The monastery and area where the cowboys camped was interesting, but sometimes I had trouble grounding myself with a firm visual image. A few minor concrete details would help me personally. Is the monastery old? Is is made primarily of stone? Is the stone cracking? Ect.


Plot:

Really interesting in terms of content. I like the idea that this demon thing could be something else. I'd like to know more honestly, and therein lies the problem. This reads much more like an early chapter in a book than a short story. For it to be a short story there has to be a more noticeable connection between the nun's story and the Indigo man. Is it happening at the same time? Is it the Indigo man's backstory? How are they relevant to one another? I feel like a longer story, maybe a book, would allow you time to develop these themes.


Technical Observations/Suggestions:

- I like how you started in the middle of the action. Your beginning paragraphs were really well constructed from a technical standpoint

- this is just me, but I find that the adjectives, "crimson" and "azure" come up way too much in fantasy. They do sound cool, but for me, in a gritty Western fantasy it seems more appropriate to say red, or dark red fissures, than crimson fissures. That's a very subjective viewpoint, so take it for what you will.

- hmmm, now this one's another subjective opinion. I think having the cowboys call the demon "darkie" is risky. Since this is a Western tale, and that term has a history as a somewhat derogatory name for black men and women, it's going to carry some racial connotations. Now, I understand that you may have wanted to portray the bigotry of the men in the camp against the demon as similar to racism seen in traditional Westerns, but the fact that the "darkie" refers to a an actual demon adds a little extra controversy, and may be wrongly interpreted by some. I'd just suggets inventing your own original demon derogatory, one that doesn't carry such history and connotations. Really not a big thing, and I may be totally wrong, but consider it.

- I really liked the pacing between the two different story lines


Overall:

I think you have a great talent for creating a captivating story. I was interested while reading it throughout, and the characterizations of even the small side characters, due in large part to your excellent ear for dialogue, really helped me relate to the story despite its fantastical setting. Great job with this one. I hope that my review and suggestions are at somewhat helpful.

Keep Writing,
Vanderhaus


6
6
Review of Lent Assignment  
Review by VanderhausIII
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hiya. Love the concept behind this one. You did a great job of portraying the guy, really interesting, and the moment in Rome's history you chose has a lot of application to modern day times, what with the religious uncertainty (huge trend of converting to atheism these days... don't know why... can you convert to atheism? Its not technically a religion...).

As for the heaven or hell for your character matter, I'm going to leave that stone unturned, but there are a few other things I wouldn't mind talking about.

Where are you going with the story? It's a great idea for an exercise, and you execute it wonderfully, but you've got to figure out where you're going and where you're going to end it. There's also the matter of a "so what?" factor, which is basically just addressing the question of why the reader should read this story and what will they take away from it. I could see this ending soon, with the so-what being a look on the nature of Rome, a kind of patriotism for the nation rather than its leaders. That could work. I could also see this working as a somewhat longer piece, going in to a whole new bunch of interesting themes. I'm interested in seeing how it goes.

Hope this response helps and again, great job!

- Vanderhaus


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