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Public Reviews
Review by wildbill
Rated: E | (3.5)
The sun was beginning to drop in the sky, might as well look for a place to camp for the night" ---This looks to me like a first person POV (thought) while the rest of the story is in POV of a narrator. Could be cured by writing it this way:

The sun was beginning to drop in the sky, might as well look for a place to camp for the night, he thought.

Lots of good western stuff for flavor, eg. hammerheaded roan, saddle bow (don't think bows is right), rigging, rubbing down the horse with grass

but hard to think of a place with sandstorms, creeks, grouse, and summering Apaches.

I love westerns so keep writing. There aren't enough of us.

Review of The Best  
Review by wildbill
Rated: E | (4.5)
A very interesting super-natural take-off on the young guy takes on the old champ theme. It moved well from beginning to end, and I had no problem with the unexpected entry into the super-natural world from the prosaic bowling center.

When I get a request for a review I do a line by line analysis and edit. I'll make a few comments and suggestions, but they're only made with an effort to help tighten it up and not to criticize.

You wrote:"Slowly passing rows of parked cars in the crowded lot, the driver noticed a person by the entrance pointing and others watching the car as it made an easy turn into the space reserved for Dice Johnson"

Comment: Long complicated sentence. Maybe you could simplify by: Slowly passing rows of parked cars in the crowded lot, Dice Johson noticed people pointing and (admiring, digging, watching) his car as he made an easy turn into his reserved space.

You wrote: Dice smiled at the sight of a full parking lot which meant more people to see him bowl. It was Friday night and the Center was packed."

Comment: Consider moving this up to the previous paragraph where you're describing the parking lot and trying: Dice smiled at the sight of a full parking lot. Friday night meant a packed Center and more people would watch him bowl." Moving it also makes the sentences describing Dice in one paragraph.

'set' of dice? You mostly hear 'pair'

Comment: Independent phrases"Stepping out of the car, Dice casually ran..." This is an introductory participial phrase and uses a comma. You did it right here, but weren't consistent and sometimes missed them. Same goes for constructions like " He walked up the steps to the center [comma] pulling the key out as he neared the door." Use a comma to give clarity.

you wrote: (popcorn smell)"...the air as he passed. Comment: TRy "...the air as he passed the concession stand. [paragraph]Dice ignored the distractions. He was only there for the bowling..."

you wrote: “You know it Mitch; you can set your watch by me. One day I will be known as the greatest bowler in the world."

Comment: The second sentence seems to be a non sequiter here. In fact, you use this phrase or a similar one a lot in such a short story. I'd give some thought as to whether you need to keep repeating it.

you wrote: "Barely twenty two years old Dice had rolled eighty-five perfect 300 games, more than any one alive. The only person that had bowled more perfect games than Dice was the legendary Johnny Green with 140 perfect games."

Comment: I wonder if this would be better placed in its own paragraph to make it stand out,perhaps after the part that records his 300 games that night. Or even down in the paragraph where he goes to bed and starts thinking about his games and Johnny Green.

"On the drive to the center..." Comment: Elsewhere you capitalized Center. I think it's a proper name and should uses caps. Similarly, Johnny dubs Dice as "Kid" as a substitute name while Dice returns the favor with "Old Man".

"beyond astonshiment." Comment: me too. *Wink*

Comment: I like to use contractions,(he'd, you're, I'm, etc) especially in dialogue, because that's the way people speak and it keeps prose passages from being stilted. (It also hides the dreaded 'passive verb construction, eg. he had.)

You wrote: "Settling into his stance he felt a nervousness that had not affected him during the entire game. He walks back and picks up his bowling towel and wipes his ball down, willing his nerves to go away as he wipes the ball."

Comment: You changed the point of view from past tense to present tense here. That will throw your audience off.

Overall Summary:
GRAMMAR: Very few spelling or punctuation errors.

Structure: I think if you re-read your story and self-edit you'll get your paragraphs tighter in the sense of keeping them focused and unified on one idea

Plot: Real Good job of taking a prosaic subject (bowling) and investing it with drama.

Characterization: Believeable characters, but you might have done a little more with Mitch since you introduced him into the story. But I don't know if you were working on a word count maximum. (I hate those things. They ruin flow, tone and texture.)

Spealing of tone and texture, you did a pretty nice job. (victory yell of foosball players and smell of hot buttered popcorn) but the main thing I want to see in a story about bowling is description of the sound. A bowling center is all about the noise--of balls rolling down the lane then hitting the pins.

You show a lot of skills here. Keep writing.
Review of ALONE  
Review by wildbill
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
A hard look at the mean streets through the eyes of a cop.

Alan and I had responded to a disturbance call to a convenience store about incorrect change.How about: Alan and I responded to a disturbance call about incorrect change at a convenience store It was a s***-ass dumb call, but one that we had been assigned. When we arrived, the tellerclerk? and the complainant were bickering and arguing like two school children and we'd just gotten them calmed down and talking in coherent sentences when the door to the Qwiki-mart burst opened and in ran these two idiots, looking like Bonnie and Clyde.A very long sentence. I'd break it up after children. They didn't appear too happy to see us.

Bonnie and Clyde drew out some nice looking shotguns and told everyone in the Qwiki-mart to put their hands up, us included. They had the drop on us, so we complied and they cleaned the store{c:red)cash register? out in about forty seconds or so. Alan and I stood there for a moment, looking at the other two and then we realized we'd better do something as we watched Bonnie and Clyde running to their car. We both drew our Glocks and ran out, screaming for them to stop. A couple of run-on sentences need commas to make them legal

We exited to the sound of screeching tires and Alan screaming at me to jump in the cruiser. We raced off after them, lights and siren wailing, and I called in some back up.backup or back-up? After a minute into the chase the suspects realized they couldn't shake us and ditched their car. Alan drove the cruiser in front of them ,cutting them off. and we jumped out, pointing our guns and ordering them to let us see... to see their hands. They were caught out in the open, with no one around to take hostage, so both of them started shooting at us.

Alan took cover and crouched around tobehind the front of the cruiser and shot Bonnie almost immediately.You don't establish where the narrator took cover. Since you want continuity with Alan shooting and Bonnie dropping, I'd have the narrator establish his position BEFORE "alan took cover"

She dropped and when Clyde brought his shotgun up to use with his handgun, I felt like I had just lost all my money in Double Jeopardy. Before he could unload directly into both of us, I dove over the hood of the cruiser and landed in a neat pile OK you've got him on one side of the cruiser--but is he on the same side as Alan? It seems so because the gun could "unload directly into both of us" You have to let the reader know their positions. Which side would provide cover? Later on Alan falls over on him. How did that happen if the dove to the other side of the cruiser?

while his weapons barked.I don't see him shooting both a shotgun and a pistol at the same time. Thats why I cut the handgun out above. I don't see that two guns help, and it probably hurts your authenticity

I looked down to see that my radio had saved my life. It was frazzled, broken, and beyond repair; however this was probably the one time in my life that a piece of electronics worked for me. I like the radio gimmick, but two things:1. Hit by only one pellet from shotgun? Possible. 2.You don't have anything about feeling the shot hit the radio and him thinking he was hit. Might be good for a line or two. Or you could have a comedic effect with him trying to talk with the dispatcher "Shots fired." "Did you say, shots fired?" Squawwkkk...."

There was a moment in which I felt limitless possibilities that my guardian angels were looking over me. 1Couple of things. Editors hate the use of There was, there is, there could be, etc. 2.The sentence doesn't scan very well. Try reading aloud.The problem seems to be in the "limitless possiblities that" wording. I like the meaning of it. Can you rethink and rewrite?

Then something landed on top of me as I came to my knees; I pushing the thing away and saw it was Alan. I didn't even have time to react as another shotgun blast took out the windshield of the cruiser, the deadly pellets whizzing past my ear.Positioning question again? If he's still on his knees, how pellets hitting windshied whiz past his ear? To distract Clyde, I returned fire in order to drag my partner to safety. Alan was bleeding out of his face, neck, and arms. The side of his head had been peeled away by the shotgun blast and I felt sick as blood ran freely from the wound.

My partner Alan was my best friend, my confidante.How about: Alan was not just my partner, but my best friend. Is confidante too metrosexual for the genre?*Smile* He and I had been partners since we had joined with the force, eight years ago, and we'd been through everything together.had been is passive tense and used freely here and elsewhere. You ought to get used to picking this up and trying to change to more active verb tense. Example: We partnered up when we joined the force and went through everthing together.

I'd cry now at his loss, but there was still something in the back of my head that wanted me to believe he would survive. Then again, there's another thing that tells me he's dead.You change your Point of Vies to present here. There is...tells me. It's my gut. There's no way someone could've survived his injuries.

I dragged him to the driver's side of the car, and remembering my radio was destroyed,{c:blue)Here's a good place to introduce a little of the incoherence of action: You could have him try to use His radio. He's in shock, enraged, pumping adrenalin--and suddenly remembers it's cratered.

I managed to use the car radio to call in an ambulance as I watched Clyde take off. I left my partner to their care and ran after his murderer.whoa! This sounds like they've already arrived. Might want to give a better explanation?
My foot chase with Clyde lasted about six or seven city blocks, which equaled about a quarter mile of full out running. Now, I'm hardly the best runner in the world, but Clyde made me look like Ben Johnston and I quickly closed the gap between us before Clyde ran down the a instead of the? cold, dark, slimy alley.

And then it hit me like a brick wall; I was alone with a murderer. Actually not alone with. Rewrite to give the sense of being after the murderer without help.
The darkness consumed no it didn't. Covered? Concealed? enveloped? me as I chased my suspect down the alley. He was stumbling into boxes and through the slime of the alley.How about describing both men stumbling blindly down the alley with all the garbage and junk. They are both terrified--but your guy has the edge because he's enraged. At some point, have him go stone cold. Terrified, and furious at what he'd done, I ran blindly, my heart pounding incessantly in my ears. Sirens rose in the distance and I knew help was out there, somewhere.

I kicked through the garbage in the alley, my pant legs tearing as I caught edges of crates and boxes. I was sweating, tired, and wanted to give up, but of course I also had a privileged duty to protect society from animals like him. I'm not sure his primary motivation is to protect and serve at this point. How about something like:Of course I had a duty to protect society...but this chase was personal because of Alan."
Ahead, he stumbled and hit the side of the alley wall. There was a crash as he went tumbling through a door. I had to go in after him. If I lost him, what would I tell my partner's widow and their children?I'd use quotes here I'm sorry; I let the bastard get away. I reached down inside myself for courage and resolve.

I drew my Glock.I got a problem with this. I know he can run faster with it holstered--but would you chase a guy with a gun through a dark alley without a gun in YOUR hand? The darkness in the portal stood like a carnivorous, hungry tiger.darkness stands? I like the tiger image. You could use:The broken door swayed open, the darkness within reminded me of the cave of a... (portal is a little much)

I only had my mini-maglite on my belt, where it would stay. My suspect didn't have a flashlight, and there was no damn way I was going to give him a bull’s eye to shoot at. He wouldn't give me one.How about: Although I had my mini-maglite on my belt, it would stay there because there was no damn way I was going to give him a bull’s eye to shoot at. My suspect didn't have a flashlight, and he wouldn't give me a target.

My heart pounded against my chest as I took a breath of reassurance and toed the door open. The “thunk” of my foot hitting the steel traveled through the darkness. At this moment my ears seemed capable of picking up sound but the only thing that confronted me was silence; a long, drawn-out eerie silence. I stepped inside, my heart pounding faster and faster, my breathing shallow. I had to calm down and relax. If I didn't I wouldn't able to shoot straight, think clearly, and most important of all...get my man.Several minor grammar punctuations need revising or implementing in above paragraph.

I moved through the hallway quickly, but cautiously. All the doors I tried were locked. Finally the hallway led me to a flight of moonlit stairs on which I could see the impression of fresh footsteps left in the dust.
Could see, is another no-no to eidtors. You either saw them or did not. All the 'could'+ verb constructions are passive and weak. Run a search for "could" constructions in your word processor and edit them out, and you will be ahead of most writers.

I moved up to the landing, careful to cover my back. I could feel the hairs on my neck stick up like little radar antennae and they pointed me in the direction of the suspect, so I followed their lead. I had to follow their lead.

I came to another hallway. It smelled terrible. I couldn't pinpoint the smell, but it was the smell of decay. Something had died up here, literally, and before I could figure out what it was, out of the darkness came a cry, a crash, and the sound of splintering wood.

Cautiously I approached the corner and peered around it. My suspect was kicking at a door that appeared not to have been used in decades.Can he tell that in the dark? Maybe you put this phrase after something about the dust flying off. Dust rolled off the doorway each time he struck it, and without warning, it gave way and fell into the room. My suspect dashed inside.

Running up to the door I peered inside. As I expected, it was pitch dark and a new shot of adrenaline hit my system; a new dose of fear pumped me up. The smell emanating from the room caught me off guard as I paused and thought about going in but didn't because I knew the little bugger was waiting for me.give me a little punctuation help here. And I'd ney paragraph the next dialogue

"I'm a Police Officer! I know you're in there!" I shout at the suspect. "Come out now, or I'm coming in after you!" How many times have we heard these same old lines? Can you come up with something different? "I got you now, you little mf." *Smile*

Silence. "Don't make me come in there after you!" I shout.You change your POV here to present ( I shout, I pull) More silence. Damn, now I have to go inside. I pull my mini-maglite from my belt and slowly, silently got down on my hands and knees and prepare to crawl along the floor. Just my luck, the smell seems to be coming worse from the floor. It reminded me of a slaughterhouse in the summer.

Like every good landed Irishman, my dad was a cop and he died doing his duty.I like the idea of getting into his head, but I think you need to preface this with something like: "It reminded me of the slaughterhouse in our neiborhood when I was a child. Like many Irishmen, my dad was a cop {surely all landed Irishmen aren't] and it was all he could afford. He died doing his duty...etc." Much like I might tonight. I felt no selfish pride in my actions because I knew my kids would never know me...only faded memories, if I died here, like this. What good would I be to them dead? Sure, my wife would be able to take care of them. But they'd receive my possible commendation, my "early" retirement gift, and I'd be stuck in the paper somewhere between "Dear Abbey" and "Ann Landers". I wanted to be remembered for more than fertilizing the garden and blind stupidity. And that's what I was being...stupid. However, I had a good reason for being this stupid: Alan.

While I crawled along the hard wood floor as silently as I could, the hairs on the back of my neck kept me on track.While I thought the radar hairs was okay the first time, it's been a while and the reader has probably forgotten the image--and you're pushing reality here anyway. The closer I got to the center of the room, the more the smell grew worse.the worse the smell grew? It was pitch dark and I had to feel my way slowly along. I didn't have the luxury of knowing where I was going, as my suspect probably did. I found a corner and then felt linoleum. This was probably the kitchen to my left. I was trying to make a mental picture of the apartment in my head, and now I fit the kitchen in to the plan.

I heard a click in the darkness. Dry fire. Then I heard someone curse. I saw the flash of the gun, and the report pierced my ears. I sucked in my breath, closed my eyes in terror and waited for the piercing pain that would signify my end.
If I had heard the shot, that meant I wasn't hit. I was just going to make the observation that waiting for the pain was rideiculous. It would have been instantaneous.That's at least what they told us in the Academy or maybe I heard it in a movie, but it didn’t matter because I was still alive! I had to focus on my suspect and my antennae were focused ahead of me, about ten feet away. I only had one shot at this, and if I couldn't find him with my first shot, I was dead. I readied my mini-maglite and prepared to twist it on as I reflexively gripped my sidearm and slowly rose to one knee.

This was my chance. I felt I had him localized and I turned on my flashlight. The light came on and illuminated the far wall. My suspect wasn't there. I looked to my left and saw him leaping toward me. My shoulder slammed into the wall, and he and I tumbled to the ground. we tumbled?

I felt a punch land on my thigh. I dropped him with two punches, then jumped on top of himdropped him and jumpted on top? they were both on the ground and tried to entangle his arms while I hit him. We disentangled and after he threw me over on my back, he rolled to one knee to strike me. I felt the room start to spin, and my head hit the ground. He was now standing over me and started boot kicking my rib cage; I hoped my kevlar vest was protecting my ribs because he was really laying into me.was standing, was protecting, was laying--are all passive voice. "He stood over me. I hoped my vest protected me [although I think he'd know, don't you]as he laid into me."

Managing to hug his left ankle, I swept his stable foot out from under him.I didnt understand this. He came crashing down onto the floor and my brain fought harder to focus. I had to get him under control, or he would kill me. Sick to my stomach and exhausted, I jumped on top of him.

Not thinking I could go on anymore, we started to wrestle on the dusty floor. This reads as though both parties agreed that he couldn't go on so they started to wrestle We both gained momentary advantages, landed punches, and had several more miss. Every fighter has a good plan going into a fight, and every fighter has that plan destroyed when he gets hit. Unluckily, I was that fighter. He was going berserk; I was taking a pounding and I didn't know what to do to get him under control.

Getting behind him how did this miracle occur?Sounds like the writer who was asked by his editor about how the hero managed to cross a thirty foot chasm. The writer went out and came back with the rewrite: After making a world record thirty one foot leap, I resumed my journey on the other side.*Smile*

I wrapped my arms around his waist while he tried to elbow me and throw me of balance so I would release my grip, but I had him firmly in a bear hug. I pressed all my weight on him and his legs buckled. The fight was over when his face smashed into the hard floor. He went limp in my grasp and my weakened arms handcuffed him.

Leaning back on the wall, I sighed and looked down at him with weariness. I could barely feel myself,I think this needs some rethinking and a rewrite. and my lungs heaved for oxygen. I was sweating profusely and I wiped some of it off my brow and then realized, with elation, that I had won this round. Serves him right, I thought as my body started to recharge. He had only been fighting for his freedom.

I had been fighting for my life.I'm not sure about this. the bad guy had to know he was a cop killer and probably a dead man if he got caught so he had a pretty desperate reason to fight. But what the hero had was the advantage of rage caused by revenge for his friend. "My fight was personal. I fought to revenge Alan."

Good story, lots of action, fast paced.

Don't know if this is a short story or the beginning of a novel.

Grammar: Generally pretty good, you basically know the rules, but when you get into an action scene you seem to forget grammar and leave out punctuation on compound sentences and such. If your word processing software is current versions of Word or Word Perfect, they have grammar checkers built in that will help spot this.

We never get to know the name of the policeman, only that he's Irish. You could introduce him with some dialogue with Alan, either in their squad car,in the convenience store, or during their gun battle. A rather poignant way would be for Alan to call his name in a death scene.

There's not much dialogue so the narrator (you) tells us almost everything instead of showing us.

In gun battles and fights, you have to really work out the choreography to make them work, especially in long and detailed scenes. It's not hard to describe something like: "We took cover behind the cars and fired at each other." But when you start getting into details it becomes more complex, and you have to reread to make sure the details mesh. Sometimes it takes another reader to point out problems, because while we can see with our mind what we mean to describe, the scene may not play that well with an outside reader.

I love this genre and am glad you are aboard. I'm new here too, so we'll have to see what the others say.
Review by wildbill
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
“I bet’cha didn’t know that your grandmother’s name was Jill.” I'd put a "naming tag" (his father said) here to let the reader know something about who's talking. It's distracting for the reader to suddenly be in Jim's head in the next paragraph(he hadn't)
In fact, you could pull up the beginning of the third paragraph: The old man shifted in the bed toward his son, who was sitting at its edge. Jim’s father…his Da…was dying.

I don't know about the accent mark on da'--I think most people will go along with the idiom without it--especially if you use it as capitalized form as a name early on--and would this mean you'd need to use "da''s" when using possessive case?

He hadn’t. Jim was only a teenager when she had died, more occupied by the many new and exciting ways to fry the brain with needles and pills, and enchanted by the overwhelming number of anti-war songs heard from street corner to street corner. it reads as if SHE was more occupied by drugs. Rewrite to: When she died, Jim was only a..."

The old man shifted in the bed toward his son, who was sitting at its edge. Jim’s father…his da’…was dying, and had rejected all hospitals and nursing homes for the familiar comforts of his own home. He’d lived there for the better half of 60 years, and though Jim grieved, his father’s warmth emanating from the sheets reminded him of better times—and so Jim was momentarily soothed enough to be contented. It had been a trying week altogether, but Jim felt he could at least enjoy this moment. After reading the whole story,and coming back I realized that this was some foreshadowing--a really bad week with Ma--but it's so faint that no one will pick it up. I wonder if you shouldn't mention early on about Ma's death--without letting the cat out of the bag of course. Jim, a good son, could simply be expected to shield his father from the sad news on his deathbed.

“Jim,” his father said, “I don’t know when the others are supposed to arrive, but I have to confess something…something horrible.”

Jim’s temperature dropped at the same time it rose.a long oxymoron. I'm sure you were trying to show conflicting emotions, but perhaps you should rethink this image. He had his own horrible confession to make, but he'd only intended on sharing that insight with his father's headstone.

”Son,” his father began to struggle to swallow, and Jim grabbed a juice box and promptly held it to da’s mouth.maybe you mean: "Son," his father began, then struggled to swallow..." You wouldn't say: "Son," his father began to dance." We often bring in action verbs as tags after dialogue, but they don't really explain the dialogue.

Jim was only slightly disgusted by the sprouts of gray hairs that hung from his da’s ears like wiry weeds, and the plumped, mounded moles that decorated his neck. It was his da’, after all, and he would love him even if he were to grow horns and hooves. If you wrote: "Jim wasn't disgusted by the..." Wouldn't this be more in tune with the last sentence--and make Jim a little nicer?

I wrote the above before I realized the story wasn't supposed to be taken seriously--but then neither will the reader. I'm not sure that it works without a signal that you're having fun.

Slight tears collected in the tattered skin-pockets beneath da’s eyes, and his cold hand gripped Jim’s tightly. tattered skin pockets?? Tattered means torn, raggedy as a garment. Wouldn't "wrinkled" or "seamed" fit better?

“You remember when I told you kids that your grandma passed away in her sleep some forty years ago?” His da’ asked. Jim felt his throat knotthroat knot first impression was of a tie. tighten? clench? and he squeezed his da’s hand nervously. “Well, truth is…I killed her. She was lyin’ there in bed and I gagged her good.”

Da’ was crying now and Jim asked the only question he could think of to stop those maddening sobs.three of your last four sentences lacked punctuation (commas) and were run-ons. It could be an editing problem, but I suspect you need to freshen up on this aspect of grammar.

”Why da’? Why’d you do it?”

Jim didn’t actually give a rat’s ass why his da’ had done it. He hadn’t even known his grandma, and in some sinister way—a way that made his face blush—he felt relief by his da’s deed. I started to make a comment about this in my first reading, but then held back. I think it was about here that I began to smell a rat. It's obvious that Jim's a sociopath and has committed a crime here. (/i)

The old man shrugged and coughed drool onto his collar. “She was there, I was there…it seemed to make sense.” comma splice and another complete sentence after pause signal should take cap on 'It'

Jim hadn’t prepared for the heavy guilt that began to plug his throat.he has a lot of throat problems *Smile*I'm not sold on this image.

Without even thinking, he whispered, “Da’…I have a confession to make, too.”

Da’ dried his eyes with the frayed end of the bed sheet and looked at his son with surprise.

“I killed ma’,” Jim whispered, “I killed her good…last night…stabbed her several times.” Why the accent on ma? and since it's used as a name, capitalize

Da’ simply stared at Jim blankly. This made Jim nervous, for he’d expected his da’ to cry. He couldn’t read the blankness of da’s face, nor could he translate the unexpected gentleness of his moistened eyes. The man obviously recognizes a chip off the old block.*Wink*

”Da’ I’m sorry,” Jim whimpered, “I’m so sorry, da’.” He leaned inward toward his da’ and rested his head against his chest.”

Da’ was unnervingly calm. “Why’d you do it, son?”

Jim sniveled and snorted, then patted his teary face with a blanket. How about a humor signal here> ...patted his face with the drool-covered end of his da's blanket “I don’t know,” Jim said truthfully, “it just…seemed to make sense.”

Da’ nudged Jim off of him, and offered a faint smile. “Tell me what happened,” he said.

Jim straightened and calmed himself. He took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. The room smelled of musky death, and Jim supposed the irony was appropriate. He couldn’t understand why his da’ was taking this all so well, but he supposed that a dying father could appreciate that the two of them had found that they had something new in common…something very unique.

”It was late last night,” Jim began. “Ma’ had gone to her room to sleep alone. When I was sure she was asleep, I crept into the room with a blade I’d found in the kitchen. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her breathing—quick and sharp breaths. I moved slowly across the room and stepped on someone’s hand! I thought it was odd that ma’ was sleeping on the floor, but when I heard a loud groan I began stabbing. I stabbed her once and then she began to fight back. She hit me with some hard metal object…hurt like a son of a gun…then she moved to the bed, I think. She kicked me a couple of times before she did, but once I stabbed her three or four more times she stopped moving altogether.”

Da’ looked away for a moment, and then took Jim’s hand.

”Then what happened? Da’ asked. close quote missing.

”Then I split…ran out of the room as fast I could.”

”It’s alright, son. It’s over.” Da’ was smiling, but Jim thought he saw some grief in da’s eyes. “We’re not to mention this to any of your siblings when they arrive.”

Jim meant to nod in acknowledgment, but was too stiffened with guilt. The two sat silently, hands clasped tightly together, for several minutes. Jim had hoped to share a meaningful moment with his da’ before he’d passed on. However, this was certainly not what he’d had in mind.

Then, the door tilted tilted open? doors tilt? open and Joe’s head peered through its crack. “Hey bro, hey, da’,” he said. “It ok if I intrude?” Why not use: What's new? *Smile* I'd love to hear their rejoinders

Da’ grinned brightly, as though everything was (x)once again (/x)right with the world. Jim supposed that perhaps everything was, in a way, though he still felt a fizz of discomfort from the whole ordeal. a fizz of discomfort? Discomfort fizzes?

”Hiya, kid Joe,” da’ beamed. Hiya, Kid," da said, beaming. Once again you can't use a verb like beam as a tag line because you can't 'beam' words. Joe hated being called “kid,” which was precisely the reason that da’ always called him that. Joe didn’t seem to mind this time, however, and ran to give his da’ a hug. Joe pulled a chair beside Jim and began talking to da’. Jim was mostly silent throughout the conversation—his mind elsewhere.

“Jim, Da’,” Joe began to stammer, “I’ve got something to tell you guys. You won’t like it, but if I don’t tell you now…” I'm afraid I know what's coming *Smile*

Da’ looked at Jim nervously, and then looked back at Joe. “Son, what is it?” Da’ asked.

“I…I killed ma’…killed her last night, while she was in bed.”

Da’ and Jim’s eyes widened and the two exchanged a confused glance.

“I went into her room late last night…it was so dark. She wasn’t there, though, it was just me an’ the dog…so I waited for her with a shovel I’d grabbed from the garage. Finally, the door opened and ma’ walked in. I crept up to her. I was sort of crawling and she must’ve known I was there, because she attacked me with a knife just after she stepped on my hand.” Joe uncovered his sleeve to reveal a bloodied bandaged wrapped around his right upper arm. “She got me once pretty good, so I hit her hard with the shovel.”

“What happened next?” Da’ asked. my guess is the dog began to yelp in pain *Smile*

“Next?” Joe’s face had gone flush, while the hairline of his forehead began to damp with sweat. “Well, I don’t think ma’ was quite dead yet, because she tried to choke me—but I slipped through her fingers and fell onto the floor. I was a little dizzy, but I was ok. Then I got the hell out of there.”

“So how do you know she was dead if she attacked you after you hit her with a shovel?” Jim asked.

Joe considered this, and finally shrugged. “I got her pretty good. I guess I figured the blow hadn’t taken full effect yet. I’m sure she’s dead, though.”

Jim was astonished. He hadn’t been alone in that room.( he knew that and shouldn't be astonished. He should be astonished that it was Joe Remembering the shovel, Jim felt where a soft but shapely lump had ripened on the summit of his hairless head.

“I just don’t know what to do, da’.” Joe began to cry. “I’m so sorry, da’…I didn’t mean to do it.”

Da’ smiled much the way he smiled after hearing Jim’s confession.

“That’s ok, son…it’s quite alright. Tell me why…tell me why you did it.”

Joe stopped crying. “I don’t exactly know…it just…seemed to make sense.”

Jim wasn’t surprised by the answer.

John and Jay, the twins, were the next of the siblings to arrive.

“Git outta bed, ya lazy good-fer-nothin’,” Jay scorned rowdily. “I know yer fakin’.”

Jim thought the twins had always had the misguided delusion that they were in someway comical. To Jim, however, they were never anything but idiotic, and he grunted at the sight of them. someway or some way?

“How’s the ticker, da’,” John set a box of chocolate covered cherries on the table next to him.

”You crazy kids,” da’ smirked, “you know I can’t have that stuff.” smart move, da.

”Who said they were for you?” John grinned back at him, and then in a more serious tone said, “And why can’t you have them, da’? Because they might kill you?”

Da’ shook his head and laughed. He seized a chocolate cherry and popped it in his mouth. Brown juice streamed down the lines of his cheeks as he chewed. unless he's a particularly messy eater, it probably streamed down his chin.

“By the way, da’,” John said, “We did what you asked us to do. It’s all taken care of.”

Jay’s expression hardened and he elbowed John in the lower back.

”What, Jay-Jay?” John said. “The rest of them don’t know what I’m talking about.”

”What are you talking about?” Da’ asked. His face was half-blackened by chocolate and cherry mess. My mistake. He IS a particularly messy eater *Smile* Joe grabbed a tissue and began to wipe his da’s face, but da’ swatted at each attempt.

“We killed ma’, just like you asked us to.” John shot da’ a confused look, while Jay shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“You killed ma’?” Da’ muttered.

“You asked them to kill ma’?” Jim gasped.

Da’ looked slightly embarrassed. “Well, your ma’ was going to rewrite the will so that you kids got nothing when she died. Plus, she was always a pain in the ass.”
Makes sense to me. I love this. It's a fun story

Joe looked very confused.

“What are you talking about? How could you two have killed ma’? What exactly happened?” Joe asked.

John’s shoulders sunk, and his eyes began surveying the room nervously and rapidly.

”It was late last night…very dark. We went into her room…waited in the closet for her. When we heard the door open, we waited…she crept around and we heard some noise—a loud bang and a groan—we figured she had tripped on something. I’m not sure why she hadn’t turned on the light, but she seemed to be ok because she was moving more quickly after that. We carefully crept out from the closet and Jay strangled her.”

Jay interrupted, “She fell hard on the floor when I let go. I never killed anyone before.”

”There was still movement,” John continued. “I figured she was convulsing, or twitching, as bodies can do right after a person dies…so I kicked her just to be sure.”

Joe’s lower lip hung wide, like it had been loosened from the jaw.

“This doesn’t make any sense. How could you all have been in that room?” Jim said, ignoring the confused stares from the twins. “I mean, if I only stabbed Joe once, then who did I—?”

Jim was cut off by Judy’s screams. The youngest of the siblings had finally arrived and she was carrying a bloodied dog in her arms—Max. Her white dress was covered with red splotches, and her face shined with a glaze of tears.

“I found him in ma’s room,” she cried. “Someone killed Max! Someone stabbed him! Who would do such a thing?”

No one seemed able to respond. The room was silent apart from the shrill screams of Judy. Somebody shut that silly bitch up," Da screamed, and the twins promptly throttled her. (just a thought to get rid of an otherwise innocent figure before Ma burns them all)

Finally, da’ sighed and said, “Ah, mercy. The woman lives.”

Suddenly, the door shut hard behind them, and Jim noticed how warm it had become. A note slid under the door, and Joe fetched it up and read it.

“It’s from ma’,” he said. “I don’t get it. All it says is ‘I’m sorry, but you’re all just too dangerous’.”
Mom always knows best.*Heart*
Black smoke flooded the room almost instantaneously. Joe tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He cried as he pulled away his burned palms.

The large, old house was three stories high and overlooked a cliff. They were inconveniently on the third story. Ma’ must have known that jumping out the window wasn’t an option, though John would try. Jay would try breaking the door down, but that would only let in a gale of red flames.

This is author intrusion--telling the reader what must've happened after the fact. Also I'd dicontinue the use of 'would'--Try something like this: Jay tried breaking the door down, but that only let in a gale of red flames.

Jim remained quiet next to da’, while the other siblings wheezed and coughed and dropped to the floor one by one. Da’ took Jim’s hand and the two sat silently as the room filled to blackness. They sighed and shared the moment. Quality time!

Ok, the contest was to write a mystery with the prompt a deathbed confession of a murder. The mystery turned out to be a new murder: who got killed in the darkened room. Considering the problem of the prompt: solving a murder mystery where there is already a confession, I think you did a pretty good job of turning the tables.

However, a mystery always ends with the clues and questions answered--and you had a problem the twins strangling someone--presumably Joe?--although Joe never mentions getting strangled--but you didn't nail this down.

I can understand your problem--if Ma is fighting back, then why did they think they killed her? This is never resolved.

But what the heck, there was so much improbable stuff going on that even the most fervid mystery genre readers might consider these errors as forgiveable or very minor. I quit reading it as a mystery and enjoyed it as farce--and any serious critique comments pretty much detiorated from there...

Personally, I kind of liked the way the stories about killing Ma built on one another. My early astonishment and creepy feelings dissipated as I realized I'd been conned...that this was a satire. So I hope you'll take some of my comments as intended--simply laughing with you.
Review of Hidden Lies  
Review by wildbill
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Excellent story! Well written.

The prompt was to create a mystery out of a confession which sort of solves the mystery, doesn't it.

I'm not sure how much mystery there was here--the plot was more of a clever ruse than a mystery--but you did a better job than could be expected with a stupid prompt.

By the way, at least you folloed the prompt and had 'children' in the mix. First place only had one child--so you should have won.

I got so into the story, that if there were any grammatical mistakes, I missed them. I usually find so many that it the other way around. *Smile*
Review of His Mother's Eyes  
Review by wildbill
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Cool story--but not a mystery. I see you had the same problem I did. How do you make a mystery out of a deathbed confession that solves the crime. Stupid prompt. Oh, well.

As far as the writing is concerned it was generally too smooth to carp over a couple of small places. for example: She had been taught to be content with the best of everything. (how can you not be content with the best--and does this need to be taught?)I might have written it: She'd been taught not to settle for less than the best.

Loved the surprise ending.
Review by wildbill
Rated: E | (2.5)
Kylie inched toward the window" why inched? No one else is there to cause her to "inch" to the window

Unlike usual, however, this time" redundency piled on top of redundency. unlike usual is awkward. Rethink and rewrite

headed over to the window" In my lexicon, 'headed over' means she was some considerable distance away. How far had she jumped? Maybe she simply turned to the window behind her and peered inside.??

in the living room she was gazing into" another small redundency. We know from the previous sentence she was looking into the room. You will bore your readers if you repeat information needlessly.

"...then turned back to the window and climbed inside the dark house" Three comments about this sentence. 1. She turned back? When did she turn away?
2. Climbed inside--I'd put something here about how she managed going through a broken window. Ever seen one? They usually have glass around the edges
3. dark house. You might want to reconsider since you mention the lights are blazing.

frowned at her own thought" Another redundency IMHO.If you leave off the 'at her own thought' the reader will 'get it' without the elaboration.

silent decision" same problem. She's by herself

shiver rumbling" Do shivers rumble? Maybe ripple?

ominous feeling that dominated her mind" Here you have to help the reader. What ominous feeling?

"but could only force herself up by willing her legs to go on." This sentence is a little awkward. Smooth it out, eg, 'but by force of will, she continued up the stairs.' or "but she forced herself, willing her legs to take her upward.'

felt her pace quickening with each step." when we use the 'feel,felt' construction in a sentence, we are using a passive construction. Look at how much stronger the sentence becomes if you use, 'her pace quickened with each step'

"deafening silence" oxymoron

Lying in the bed were not her parents..." and "Realizing who the laughs were coming from," awkward sentence construction-rethink and rewrite.

Kylie’s fear was soon replaced by anger" How about deleting 'soon' or using 'immediately' here? Soon connotes a passage of time whereas she immediately reacts and speaks.

Readers of mysteries are the most meticulous of all readers, insisting on accuracy of detail and wording, because they always look at these items with special care for clues to help them solve the mystery. So be careful about your word selection and your details.

For example, you made a good observation about where the force of the blow that broke the window came from, (good clue) but didn't cover the question of broken shards remaining in the window. If they had been cleaned out, it would certainly have meant that safe passage through the window was comtemplated by the perpetrator. (another clue)

WHAT'S AT STAKE in a Mystery?
Many critics and readers think a mystery is pointless unless there is something valuable at stake in both the 'crime' and in the solution. In fact, some go so far as to say that a mystery isn't a real mystery unless a murder has been committed.

I wouldn't go quite that far, but when you write a mystery try to make sure that something serious is at stake so your readers won't be disappointed. Here, there isn't much at stake (grounding? being laughed at?)and not much mystery.

However, imagine this story being re-written as a murder mystery--using the same premise with the same clues.

Suppose she jumps out the window, finds the broken glass, and upon re-entering the house finds that a murder of [a family friend, relative, servant, watchdog, etc.] has occurred in the living room, the sounds of which were covered by the blaring TV or stereo. (Who turned the stereo up, hmmm? sounds like a clue.)

She reads the glass evidence correctly which tells her the perpetrator broke it from inside while trying to set it up to look like a house break-in. She now knows the murder was an inside job.

Meanwhile, the possible suspects (those having motives for murder) were all around the house doing various things at the time of the murder. One of the suspects claims to have been in bed, but knowing her own artifice, she goes upstairs and finds a similar doll in the murderer's closet. He/she had placed it there in case anyone looked in on him. GOTCHA! Mystery Solved!

This is only one possible scenario, and you will come up with a better way if you put your mind to it. But it shows how raising the stakes from a rather tame practical joke to a murder can make the whole story more interesting to a reader.

Although it's harder to write a mystery with such a scenario, because of the addition of more suspects and clues, it also makes it more fun when you've finally accomplished the feat. Go for it!
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