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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:36 pm GMT 
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Unfortunately, the last writing contest, with the theme of 'Fire', did not get enough entries to go ahead. Since Doniago has gone ahead and posted his entry over here in its own thread, hoping to get feedback on it, I think the time has come to make these other entries public, so that they can hopefully also get some feedback. Sorry it had to end up like this, but maybe these folks can at least get some constructive comments on their entries. I will post the other entries in separate posts below, and then you can give any comments and feedback in this thread. We're a talented bunch of writers on these forums even if I do say so myself- well done to all those who took part.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:40 pm GMT 
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Elena, by Artemis Selene

Watching her was not at all what he expected it to be. They’d asked him to do this task, said it was important. But he didn’t feel like it was at all. What was important about watching a little old lady? She seemed fine other than she looked one breathe away from death. She was curled up on top of nest of blankets, strangely looking like the ones you used to put small fires out. But who was he to question what she wanted to do. He was new to this whole thing. But still, this seemed like such a waste of his talents.

He looked at the frail old woman, watching the way her hair fluttered in the slight breeze of the ceiling fan. It made a lazy circle of the room and as the blades passed by her, pushing the air in its wake, it stirred her feather like hair. It had that orange hint hiding the white and grey that dominated. Her eyes even, as they occasionally looked up at him, were an orangey-red under the milky white of the cataracts that had taken over so much of her iris.

She was silently, and it made him feel uncomfortable when she did stare at him. He didn’t think she could see, and he felt like even if she could see, she wouldn’t be seeing him anyways. But she stared nevertheless and he fidgeted and moved while he waited for the spell to pass and her to look away. It wasn’t like he could make conversation with her really. She spoke with a heavy accent, and hardly in English. He didn’t speak Russian, or he assumed it was Russian. It was hard to tell, she mumbled so much. All they said was that her name was Elena and that was going to need some help soon. Whatever they’d meant by that.

He studied her as she dozed, looking at the way her face seemed to look almost like a birds, her nose somewhat beak like. But she had that look about her, despite her wrinkles and grey hair that said she’d once been beautiful. Even in her wizened stage, she seemed to move with a grace that would have made him turn his head if she was a few decades younger. He wondered, passingly mostly, what she must have been like. And better still, who she was to warrant such importance to be looked after.

As the day wore on, more and more people stopped in to poke their heads into the room they were sitting in and then leave. They said nothing, just smiled at him and left the room. They all seemed such an odd mix of people, all from different departments and none of them seemed to be sad about what was going on. That confused him more than anything. If they were stopping in to look at her, surely they knew she was on death’s door. So why did none of them look sad? Better still, why did some of them look so excited and near giddy? He couldn’t wrap his head around it at all. There was something going on that he did not know. And he did not like being left in the dark.

He tried asking a few of the people he knew who popped in what was happening, who she was. But they didn’t give him answers that he wanted. They all just simply told him to wait and watch. He didn’t like that. He stood up, pacing about the room he’d been confined into. He didn’t look at Elena curled up on her blankets. He couldn’t.

The room grew warmer, the air drier. He stripped out of his jacket, then his vest and tie followed. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt at last. But it was still too warm in there. There was a window he could open, since he had no control over how high the fan was. He’d been told not to open the window, but it was just starting to get too warm to be comfortable. He couldn’t begin to understand how Elena was coping with it.

As he’d paced about, the people who’d popped their heads in before came back, all lingering in the door way, chatting among themselves, some peering in through the mirrored glass behind his back that had been set to clear so he could see out and didn’t reflect the room back at him. He’d watched the people gather instead of his charge. So when he’d turned to go and open the window, his breath caught in his throat.

Elena’s hair seemed to flutter and move far more than it had before. She looked flush and feverish. Her eyes were closed when he first looked at her, but she could sense that he was staring at her. She turned her face towards his, eyes opening slowly to look at him. The irises weren’t foggy any longer. They were white still, but white hot. Like a light bulb was burning in each of them. “Don’t worry,” she whispered to him as he stepped forward, her accent distorting the words some. “Everything will be fine. You will See.”

A small smile stole up her own face before her eyes slide closed again and she sat silently again, the only movement of her body the slowing rise and fall of her chest.

And then even that stopped.

He stood, looking at her with eyes wide and unbelieving. Even more so as he watched her hair start to smoke and curl, turning black before crumbling away. Then the fire caught. It spread quickly, consuming the tiny old woman, turning her soft cotton dress into ashes in seconds. The light from the fire was becoming blinding, and the heat was starting to cook even him. He took a few staggering steps back, shielding his eyes with his arm, knowing that the fire still burned from both the heat and the sound of the flames roaring in the small space.

Despite its intensity, the flames did not lick out at him. They stayed confined to Elena. They burned hot and fast, lasting only a few minutes, but they felt much longer than that. Finally, the heat faded, the rush of wind that was the fire stopped as well. He lowered his arms and looked at what had become of the woman who had spontaneously combusted. But she was gone.

A pile of ashes sat where she’d been on top of her blankets. There was silence outside the room, but he refused to look over his shoulder at them. Hesitantly, he took a few steps forward calling her name stupidly. There would be no one to answer. She was gone. Up in a flames. But he did get a response. From within the pile of ash, a stirring started, then one, hiccupping like noise.

He stopped walking, waiting for the movement to come again. Sure enough, it did, and then a short cry. He hurried forward than, brushing the ash away from the squirming form of a tiny baby girl. Her hair was bright red, the tips of her short curls orange and feathery. The watery eyes that looked up at him burned brightly as well, that rusty orange that he’d seen hiding under the cataracts before.

“You’re a phoenix,” he said stupidly, scooping up Elena and holding her to his chest as she snuggled against his warmth. “That was the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen…” He understood then why he’d been set to watch her. No matter what he thought he knew of the supernatural, what he thought he had seen before…This was not something you could fake. Not this beautiful Fire Bird.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:41 pm GMT 
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Little Gods, by Fotecp

By village standards, Mikhail Afanasyevich was a waste of good food. As a homely boy of fifteen, he had far more pimples than kopecks. In fact, he had precisely no kopecks at all. His slow pace was taken for stupidity, his stupidity taken for laziness, and his laziness taken for the greatest of all sins. Worst of all, it was a gypsy woman who had brought him to the village and dropped him in the church. The villagers all agreed that Father Afanasy was a martyr for taking the swarthy child in. Now Misha helped the old man with earthly chores, looking sullen the whole while.

On any other night, Misha would sleep on the floor of the cottage behind the church, curled up in a pile of hay. The old priest, however, had been sent for by the woodcutter’s wife. Some said the woodcutter had been found with his heart torn out of his chest. Others said he had simply been crushed by a falling tree. Either way, he was dying, and Father Afanasy went off into the woods to administer the last rites. He left Mikhail Afanasyevich behind to keep an eye on their little church. It was a pitiful thing, with a dirt floor, a shabby thatched roof, and no windows to speak of. But there was silver on the altarpiece, and even in those days, you couldn’t be too careful.

As soon as he heard he’d have the place to himself, Misha thought only of one thing. The priest used to sleep on the stovetop, which was tiled and smooth and warm as could be. When he asked Father Afanasy’s permission to take this place of honor for the night, the old man hardly heard him, preoccupied as he was with priestly concerns.

“Do as you like,” said Old Afanasy, hurrying out the door.

Misha waited for a long time. He swept. He scrubbed. He weeded the pathetic remnants of their summer garden, which was already succumbing to the icy grip of fall. All this time, he felt giddiness rising in his chest. He might not be free, but it was the closest he’d ever come. With a bit of the devil in him, Misha grabbed a lantern and crept over to the church.

Dusk spilled in through gaping cracks in the windowless walls, and blue shadows distorted the familiar place into an eerie cave. The glowing coals of the lantern cast specters and demons across the empty floor. He wandered over to the altar. There was a linen cloth, a pair of candlesticks, and a silver altarpiece, embossed with emaciated angels. For the first time, Misha examined the flat halos and crooked wings in detail. The Savior’s sunken eyes stared back.

That’s when a powerful wind came gusting through the walls. The church moaned and the lantern flickered out. The only sounds were Misha’s terrified sniffles and the gasping of wind. For a few moments, he listened to his heart pounding in his ears. But then the clean, holy light of the rising moon filtered down into the church. Misha laughed at his folly and ran home at a nervous trot.

When he opened the door, a blast of frigid air knocked the breath out of his lungs. The fire Misha had just left merry and hot was completely dead. He ran to the hearth, but there wasn’t so much as a wisp of smoke. No matter how he blew and coaxed, the flame would not return. Misha started to curse. If he asked any villager for a few hot coals, they would surely tell Father Afanasy that his worthless servant had let the fire out again. But it was nearly autumn. Frost had fallen. A night without fire could kill.

He was just marching outside to ask a neighbor for a light when he saw one in the darkness. For one paralyzing moment, Misha thought he had seen an animal's glowing eyes. But then he realized it was a lantern, swinging in the night. He stood on the threshold, trying to decide whether or not to greet the apparition.

“Good evening,” the figure called. As it strode closer, the shadow resolved itself into a tall young man. In those days, strangers were all but unseen in the village, and Misha eyed this one with suspicion. Still, the man wore no sword or knife around his belt. Misha had been prepared to slam the door in his face, but something told him to wait and see.

“I’m looking for a place to stay, brother,” said the stranger, sauntering up to the door.

“I have no brothers,” said Misha.

“Says who? Perhaps you were never told that they exist. Or you knew them so long ago, you’ve forgotten them completely.” The man’s pale face fell under the light of the rising half-moon. He had high cheekbones, a hawkish nose, and bright hazel eyes. A few black curls poked from under his fur cap. He was handsome in the fierce way that wild things—wolves, eagles, vipers—so often are. “You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been on the road, brother. May I come in?”

Misha glared up at him. “I don’t know who you are.”

“Svarozic,” said the visitor in a pleasant voice.

“What kind of name is that?”

“A very old one.” Svarozic stared back at Misha, as if he’d just answered the stupidest question ever asked. “Who are you?”

“Mikhail Afanasyevich.”

“Very well. I’m glad we’ve gotten acquainted, Mikhail Afanasyevich. Now may I come in?”

Misha glanced down at the cheery blaze of Svarozic’s lantern and swallowed hard. After a moment’s consideration, he stood aside and ushered him in. The guest immediately sauntered over to the hearth.

“Why, no wonder it’s so cold in here. The fire’s gone out! How careless of you, Misha,” chided Svarozic with brazen familiarity. He crouched before the fireplace, his long cloak draping down over his boot heels to touch the dusty floor. “Ah—there’s still a live coal or two. I’ll build it right back up, seeing as you’ve been so friendly.”

When Svarozic stepped away, the fire was burning as bright and strong as ever. He looked at the dumbstruck boy and grinned.

“I haven’t lost my touch.” The villagers’ mouths were full of rotting teeth, but the foreigner had a perfect smile—white, straight, and shining. “Aren’t you going to offer me a seat?”

Misha grabbed two little stools and rushed to prepare some tea. When Svarozic saw what he was up to, he plopped onto one of the seats and shook his head.

“No need, little brother. Tea’s no good without sugar, and I doubt the old man keeps any. Stingy bastards, priests these days. Besides, I brought something better.”

He produced a little bottle from his cloak, waggled it at Misha, and took a generous swig. Then he tossed it across the room. All his life, Misha had dropped things. This time, however, he managed to snatch the bottle clean out of the air. He stared down at the simple clay object in his hands. It was warm to the touch and exuded a faint odor—familiar, though impossible to place. Despite the metallic smell, something told him that it would taste better than anything he’d ever had.

“You work here, eh?” prompted Svarozic.

Misha nodded.

“Do you like this shrine? Any pretty girls?”

Misha shook his head.

“Sort of pretty ones?”

Misha shook his head again.

“Pity, that. Anyways, you’ve got to be careful of women this far north. Wily as foxes. Always have been, always will be—some things never change. I don’t suppose you’ve ever traveled outside of the village, eh, little brother?”

Misha shook his head. There was a pause.

“You could come with me, you know,” said Svarozic.

In spite of himself, Misha glanced up.

“I haven’t had a follower in a very long time. You’re not quite a thoroughbred, but you’d do.” He got up to stir the coals, his face aglow in the dancing red light. “I wander through forests and villages, finding the spark of joy where I can. I don’t like cities. I like mountain paths that no one else knows. Days, weeks, seasons—they mean nothing on the road. Sometimes people give me offerings. Other times I take them.” For a second, the handsome face hardened into a stony mask. Then he glanced back up with that dazzling smile. “What do you say, Misha? Will you drink to my health?”

Misha thought about the endless sweeping of dirt floors. He thought about the dim mornings, the early nights, and the oppressive silence in which he and the priest ate their meager meals. He had been raised in a church, but gypsy blood flowed through his veins.

He was just raising the bottle to his lips when he noticed a growing tremor in his hands. Svarozic took this pause for refusal and sat back.

“You’ve made your choice, little brother. I wish I could say you won’t live to regret it. After all, what would you be leaving behind?”

Misha shrugged.

“You’re not much of a conversationalist,” said Svarozic, laughing to himself. “The last time I traveled through these parts, the peasants were friendlier. They even threw me a festival. But that was far before you were born, little Misha, and these days the Russians are as cold as December. At least in the old days they had a spark of imagination. And now…well. I can’t pretend to understand.”

He closed his eyes and sucked in the smoky air. Misha took advantage of the moment to study his strange face. The man was clearly an addled foreigner, but Misha could not even begin to imagine from whence he came.

Svarozic’s eyes snapped open and met Misha’s gaze. For the first time, he realized they weren't hazel at all, but a deep reddish gold. And those two golden eyes were completely insane.

Silence reigned. Then Svarozic’s voice, slow and deep, cut into Misha’s trembling thoughts. “Do you have any questions, little brother? Do you have anything you’d like to ask?”

“No,” stammered Misha. He stood up suddenly, but there was nowhere in the tiny room for him to go.

“Are you sure? You never know. This could be your last chance.”

Misha didn’t want answers. He only wanted to escape. And yet those burning eyes held him, helpless and squirming. At last he managed to speak.

“What do you want?”

Svarozic stared at him for an eternity before bursting into laughter. He reached up and took the bottle back out of the boy’s damp shaking hands.

“Misha, Misha, Misha,” he said, taking another gulp for himself. “What do I want? I want all the same things as humans. I want good drink, a roof over my head, and a fire in my hearth.” As he spoke, the heat in the cottage was rising. Even in his thin tunic, Misha began to sweat. “Like you, little brother, I want entertainment. I want to be feared, applauded, noticed, loved. Even worshiped. And every now and then…well.”

Misha suddenly noticed that the man was very close. He couldn’t remember sitting down, but there he was, seated across from Svarozic on a stool. The fire roared, louder than ever, and the stranger had stopped blinking. He snatched Misha’s wrist, squeezing it so tightly that the boy writhed in pain. The muddy walls closed in around them, creating a furnace so intense that he could only see red—a deep, aching red that seared him to the bone.

“Every now and then,” whispered Svarozic, “I want a decent meal.”

* * *

The villagers said that Old Afanasy nearly died of shock when he laid eyes on the rubble. There was nothing left of his home and house of worship by the time he returned from the woods. These days, the village has a beautiful little church. It boasts eight shapely windows, a shingled roof, and a wooden floor.

They never found any melted candlesticks in the cinders, so some say that Mikhail Afanasyevich made off with the silver and burnt the rest down out of spite. A few even suspect that Father Afanasy put him up to it, since the old man had been waiting for decades to build a better church. Or perhaps the congregation had strayed, angering a passing angel. Either way, on crisp, still days, Marina Yaroslavna tells me that you can still smell the ash as it seeps up between the floorboards.

As the years passed, I came to understand that all of them were wrong. Whoever heard of a church without windows? There’s no trace of it now, just as there’s no trace of Mikhail Afanasyevich. It’s far more likely that the old church never existed at all.

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 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:42 pm GMT 
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Reading, by Intimidating Scones


The year had been 2007.

"Are you in pain?" The moment drew out in which there was no response to his concern. "Ariana?"

"Yes." The response answered the question, not her name. Ariana heard a bottle rattle as it was opened.

"Here. You just...wouldn't know it from looking at you." She felt her hand gently guided palm up, and a pill placed in the middle. Her other hand was guided to cold glass. She felt up to the lip of the cup with her thumb. She placed the large pill on the back of her tongue and drank from the glass. She emptied the contents. Her head pounded from too violent of crying.

"So, your parents are talking about what color of lab to get you. You want a boy or a girl?"

Ariana's head moved away from his voice. She couldn't look away; it was then that she realized people do that so that they can't be seen. "I...don't know yet."

Ariana couldn't stop the slight advent of her shoulders quaking. "I'll think about it."

"Yeah, well when you decide, we can talk names, okay?"

"Okay."

A long silence fell over them. Ariana had nothing to say. She thought about nothing. Her mind processed this very new sensation of nothing.

"I...brought you something. They told me not to, that it would upset you. But, I think we've known each other long enough, that I can... Well here." Ariana felt her hand taken again, and a distinctive shape and familiar mass and texture was placed into it. It was longer, and slightly heavier than playing cards. She felt the weight, felt the slickness of the cards, the edges, the sound of her thumb passing over the side. Tears welled in her eyes again.

"I also brought this." She felt the cord slide over her hair and rest around her neck, and the guiding hands withdraw. She reached for the weight around her neck and instantly felt the serrated scales of the dragon's neck and the cold pewter. "As long as you wear this, I'm here with you. You are not alone."

Ariana's arm wrapped around him and he held her tightly. "Thank you!" she sobbed. "Thank you!"

"Shh, you're going to be fine."

She buried her face into his shirt. "They didn't tell me how long your tour is going to be."

He squeezed her gently. "Three months."

"Okay. Go."

"What? Now?"

"Go before I can't let you go!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes..."

"Okay. I love you. You're going to be okay."

"I love you, too." Ariana sat, quivering, unmindedly dwelling on the feel of her legs quaking beneath the blankets. Her tumultuous hands shuffled the cards, again and again. She continued shuffling, feeling a growing energy increase in her chest. It felt as if hours passed. She hadn't the courage. She shuffled, sobbing. Shuffled, sobbing. Shuffled. Until she finally flipped the top card.

Instantly emotions flooded her mind, guiding her thoughts towards loss of love, emotional despair, an end. She ceased breathing. She remained sitting, without moving, hardly swallowing, lightly exhaling. At last familiar footfalls entered the room.

"Dinner time, Ariana! How are you doing?" The nurse placed a tray in front of her.

"Pam? What's this card?" Ariana held up the card.

"Well it looks like Adam and Eve. It says 'I V'... or no it's upside-down so it says 'V I'."

The card tumbled from Ariana's hands. Fear caused a roar in her ears.

"Whoops! Here you go, honey."

Ariana slumped back, her stomach cramped. She couldn't bring herself to breathe. Forty-seven days, eight hours, and six minutes later, an American jeep hit a mine in Iraq.

Five years later, in October of 2012, Ariana cheered as she threw the rubber toy, shouting, "Go get it, Sam!"

She watched, actually watched, as four paws beat against the grass, barks ringing in the air, and the image of burning orange light skid to a stop, scooping the ball into her maw, and bolting back towards her.

Ariana dropped to her knees as the Labrador barreled into her with slobbery affection. "That's my Sammy-Sam-Samus! That's my girl! My pretty, pretty girl!" Her voice squeaked with the pet coos as she rubbed the flickering burnt-orange tummy. Sam barked, sending a beacon of orange light into the air.

They walked together, Sam on a leash, back towards central Urbana. The only reason Ariana kept Sam in her vest was to take her wherever they pleased. She walked in a world of fiery color, surrounding her, blotting out the darkness, and guiding her along the same angles and contours that everyone else navigated with their eyes. She never felt along the wall, or counted steps, or relied on Sam anymore. No one quite understood what transformation had happened within her, in fact most rarely realized she was blind.

The shop door jingled as she and Sam entered. Most of the shop glowed a hazy indigo. Ariana turned to the back, and looked directly at the large, canary yellow flame. "Hey, Trish! Who's your friend?"

Trish's yellow flame grew brighter, smugly turning to the deep blue fire next to her and motioned at Ariana, "That's our blind reader! Ariana, this is Emily. She's still deciding if she wants a Tarot reading. Mind showing off for me?"

Ariana smiled and removed her sunglasses as she approached the back counter. The blue fire flickered lower; Ariana didn't take offense. She was used to a shy response to her blindness. They were afraid, but only because they were thinking of how terrifying they would if placed in her shoes. Ariana couldn't take it personally, because she herself at been terrified in the beginning.

"Oh, who's this?" The blue brightened into a lovely deep hue as Emily reacted to Sam's inquisitive sniffs and waggles.

"That's my Sam. It's okay if you want to pet her."

"Her?" Emily cooed to Sam as she ruffled the dog behind the ears, "Is Sam short for Samantha? Are you Samantha?"

"Short for Samus Aran, actually," Ariana replied.

The blue aura stood, the flame sparking with confusion. "Oh."

"Where's your deck, Ariana?" Trish asked. "I want to show Emily what you can do."

Ariana fetched her Tarot cards out from the display case on the wall.

"Emily, pick a deck of cards from that shelf. Any one," Trish told her.

Ariana watched as the dark blue Emily selected a deck and shuffled it. Ariana spent that time shuffling her own deck. Trish also held her own deck of cards.

"Ariana, flip a card," Trish requested. The young reader obeyed.

An intense emotional sense of growing skill filled Ariana. The feeling melted into an idea of calm reflection. "Seven of Pentacles Upright."

Ariana saw the blaze that was Emily flash with an impressed reaction, but it faded into a dull lapping fire of skepticism so quickly that Ariana wondered if the girl had held a poker-face through it.

"Emily?" Trish requested now.

The girl flipped a card. Ariana hated this trick, but Trish loved it. "I don't know," the blind reader admitted. She had known from the start she wouldn't have been able to tell.

"But what's the next card in your deck?" Trish asked her.

Ariana closed her eyes and flipped. A sad feeling of passing time, passing because of indecision while opportunities fell away, filled her mind. Without opening her eyes, she said, "The Hanged Man Upright."

Confusion and doubt showed on Emily's fire, which she could also see without her eyes. The blue fired girl flipped another card and held it for Ariana to see.

But she couldn't see. She opened her eyes to humor the two women, but she told them, "I can't tell."

"Here, try one from my deck." Trish handed Emily a third deck of cards which the girl shuffled and audibly flipped the top card. Her aura flickered with anticipation, wanting to know if the reader could tell.

Ariana smiled apologetically. "You know, I don't know."

"I know. Here Emily, hold that card and think really hard on it." The canary yellow aura encouraged the blue flame to hold the shapeless bit of darkness up, presumably faced away from Ariana.

Emily must have been curious enough, because as she held it, her aura flickered rhythmically with thought. Slowly four dark blue spots formed in the bit of darkness in hand. After a moment of intense concentration, the dots pointed and Ariana could tell.

Ariana spoke up, "Four of spades."

Emily's aura flared. She must have been visibly shocked that Ariana had sensed it was a deck of playing cards, not Tarot, because Trish's aura bounced with the woman's pleased chuckle.

"How do you do that!?" she gasped.

Ariana shrugged. "The Force."

Emily's aura calmed a bit at the joke, but not by much, "Y-yeah...I'll take a reading."

Ariana smiled and nodded. "I'll go prepare."

As she and Sam went to unlock the Tarot room, she heard Emily whisper to Trish.

"I don't get it. Does she do it by sound?" Emily asked.

"I honestly have no idea," Trish responded.

"There's gotta be a trick to it. I mean, how can she know what piece of card-stock I'm holding, but she's blind enough that she named her dog after a character who wears oran--"

"Shhh!" Trish hissed. Ariana paused, curious. Trish went on in a lower voice, "We... we haven't had the heart to tell her Sam is a chocolate lab."

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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:43 pm GMT 
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Please give some feedback for these great stories below, and thanks again to all who took part.

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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 1:40 pm GMT 
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Yay, I got the ball rolling, sort of? :p

Anyhow, I'll try to offer comments on everything here, or at least comment to anyone who's willing to give mine a look. If you don't end up hearing from me within a week or two and would like to, feel free to PM!

Ouch, Fotecp in particular hasn't been around in awhile. Might I humbly suggest PMing the authors to let them know their work's been posted?

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:42 pm GMT 
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Good stuff everyone. I had a chance to read these my lunch break, and in no way did that allotted break time extend into designated work hours so I could finish reading. A fine variety of subject matter, even with so few submissions.

For what its worth, I'd be happy to provide my meager appraisal should the thoughts of a novice be of value to you.


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Just Damn Cute
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:17 am GMT 
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Faux Kadat wrote:
Good stuff everyone. I had a chance to read these my lunch break, and in no way did that allotted break time extend into designated work hours so I could finish reading. A fine variety of subject matter, even with so few submissions.

For what its worth, I'd be happy to provide my meager appraisal should the thoughts of a novice be of value to you.


We're all novices here, so go right ahead :)

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:24 pm GMT 
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Ok, well hopefully no one finds my feedback overly critical but I can only be honest.

Elena
Overall, I like where the story was headed and particularly enjoyed the foreshadowing descriptions of her true form throughout. However, there was one obstacle that kept me from really getting sucked in -- the onlookers. I found myself becoming frustrated with their refusal to tell the man about what was transpiring. I became too focused on that aspect to fully enjoy the mystique and beauty of the old lady's transformation. I understand for the sake of the tale that they could not divulge what they knew, but it seemed more like they were playing a trick on the observer than subtly encouraging him to witness the impending magic.

Beyond that, there were some slight grammatical flaws, but nothing that overly detracted from the story. Also, and this is totally a matter of opinion, this story seemed like a perfect chance to use a first-person narrative -- a first-hand account of his annoyance with the assignment, his disdain for the gawkers, his horror at witnessing her engulfed in flame, and his eventual awe at the story's conclusion. There's a very powerful emotional ride herein.

Little Gods
I liked this one very much as I have fondness for the creepier side of writing. The writer did well to bring forth the setting and characters of this eerie folk tale. About the only thing I didn't fancy was the last paragraph. I think its just better to let the reader decide the validity of the tale for themselves than to openly have the narrative discredit the entire piece with a single phrase.

Reading
I had a tough time with this one. I caught on very late in the writing of the protagonist's handicap, which may have been intentional. Though there was nothing wrong with the opening, I couldn't figure where the story was taking me or truly what it was about -- not until the tarot card hit the ground at roughly the half-way point. Then there was a somewhat awkward leap forward in time that completely skipped over the tragedy that happened at a very specific (and possibly random) moment in time. Only then did the fire theme finally come into play as the protagonist's "vision". While I did enjoy her fiery perception, I was again somewhat lost at the meaning of the second half of the tale which culminated in a joke that missed its mark -- particularly true if you didn't know who Samus Aran is.

Sorry to be harsh. Maybe I just didn't get it.

Fireside Chat
As I've already said, I really appreciated this story's eloquent descriptions. The reclusive Shaughnessy's abode really came to life and his transformation was splendidly detailed. Before that, I found enough subtle cues to glean the story's direction and hints at the antagonist's true nature. It was another tale that had a darker vibe and those just tend to go over well with me. In fact, the only real gripe I may have comes in the last line -- "I'd worry about others." I can't place it, but I feel like I've seen that particular ending dialogue elsewhere, or at least something very close to it. Déjà vu, perhaps.


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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 7:46 pm GMT 
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Fireside Chat
As I've already said, I really appreciated this story's eloquent descriptions. The reclusive Shaughnessy's abode really came to life and his transformation was splendidly detailed. Before that, I found enough subtle cues to glean the story's direction and hints at the antagonist's true nature. It was another tale that had a darker vibe and those just tend to go over well with me. In fact, the only real gripe I may have comes in the last line -- "I'd worry about others." I can't place it, but I feel like I've seen that particular ending dialogue elsewhere, or at least something very close to it. Déjà vu, perhaps.

Thanks for the kind words! I wasn't sure if I was playing the foreshadowing well or not...or even how much I should throw in, so that was a bit of a challenge which I hopefully handled well.

I'm not entirely satisfied with the last line, but I can't quite think of a better one, and I kind of like the tone of dread there. If it's been used elsewhere, it at least wasn't a conscious rip-o...er, homage.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:20 pm GMT 
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doniago wrote:
I'm not entirely satisfied with the last line, but I can't quite think of a better one, and I kind of like the tone of dread there. If it's been used elsewhere, it at least wasn't a conscious rip-o...er, homage.


You know what? Maybe my brain is playing tricks on me, incorrectly combining lines from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and formulating something my mind insists it has seen before. Déjà vu is quickly becoming more plausible as your story does harken but not steal such images. I may have to rescind my lone gripe.


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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:46 pm GMT 
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So, Flawless Victory, then? :p

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Just Damn Cute
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 7:06 am GMT 
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This is what I've got so far, still working on the other (very slowly :/)

Little Gods

I find it funny that both you and I wrote stories with Russian characters, though Elena's Russian-ness is more in my head than anything outward. But it amused me while reading. ANYWAYS. Fotecp dear, this is fantastic as always. I love the atmosphere you set up and the realness of the characters was great. The 'struggle' between old beliefs clashing with new, great. Good use of the theme as well.

Reading

I caught rather early, what I thought was a fire-accident-related blindness, though as I read I was unsure if that's what you had meant. There was a lot of conversation which can make reading a little choppy. Which is also a problem I tend to struggle with as well, so no advice for that just commiseration lol The theme felt a little hard to find, even with the firy vision near the end. And I agree, the Samus joke can be lost on those not familiar with who she is. But I enjoyed it.

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Just Damn Cute
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 7:45 am GMT 
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Faux Kadat wrote:
Elena
Overall, I like where the story was headed and particularly enjoyed the foreshadowing descriptions of her true form throughout. However, there was one obstacle that kept me from really getting sucked in -- the onlookers. I found myself becoming frustrated with their refusal to tell the man about what was transpiring. I became too focused on that aspect to fully enjoy the mystique and beauty of the old lady's transformation. I understand for the sake of the tale that they could not divulge what they knew, but it seemed more like they were playing a trick on the observer than subtly encouraging him to witness the impending magic.

Beyond that, there were some slight grammatical flaws, but nothing that overly detracted from the story. Also, and this is totally a matter of opinion, this story seemed like a perfect chance to use a first-person narrative -- a first-hand account of his annoyance with the assignment, his disdain for the gawkers, his horror at witnessing her engulfed in flame, and his eventual awe at the story's conclusion. There's a very powerful emotional ride herein.


The on lookers were meant to be frustrating lol But I can totally see how that could be a catch for readers as well. I wrote this while rather sick and didn't bother to edit, so I'm surprised there are so few problems. I did consider first person pov, but that would have made it too long for the word count. Perhaps I'll give it a rewrite in first person. :)

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: 'Fire' Contest entries for comments and feedback
PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:51 pm GMT 
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Artemis Selene wrote:
Perhaps I'll give it a rewrite in first person. :)


Well, post it if you do. I'd like to see how it turns out without the word count restrictions.


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