Category Archives: critique

Morgen’s Email Critique Group

Hello. I know that writers, myself included, need – and appreciate – feedback on our work. By that I don’t mean “Oh yes, that’s great” – although that would be good too. We need to be told where we’re going wrong. I am a freelance editor so it’s my day job to do that but I thought I’d start this critique group so that you could also get feedback from other writers.

The idea is that you submit your writing (max. 2,000 words per submission*) and I will collate them and send them on to others in the group for them to return to me within two weeks, although the sooner the better) so that I can return it to the original author.

In the meantime, hopefully, they will have been working on something else and have more to send. *By submission, I mean complete story (up to 2,000 words per submission) or story / novel extract.

For every submission you critique, you will get your work critiqued by one other writer. The more you critique, the more feedback you get on your own work. I will be the facilitator keeping track (using a nerdy spreadsheet) of who does what so how much ‘credit’ they (you) have.

If you submit more than there are people to critique for, I will hold it until there is sufficient credit. Equally, if you have critiqued more than have submitted work for, I will have made a note of that.

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Short Story for Critique 016: Wings of Fantasy by (Ernest) John Swain

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the sixteenth story on this blog. This 1,618-word piece is by crime / thriller novelist and interviewee (Ernest) John Swain.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

Ernest said, “This is a trial run in writing within a new genre for me. I normally write in the Crime/Thriller genre so I would appreciate a candid opinion of this ‘Fantasy’ short story. There are other stories in the pipeline and feedback on this would help with the others.”

Wings of Fantasy by Ernest J Swain © 2013

I wouldn’t have believed this if I’d heard it from someone else, but it’s true – I give you my word.  In fact I’m a little embarrassed to tell anyone, even you, but I think I can rely upon your discretion, can’t I?

It was unusually quiet for such a beautiful summer’s day. I was feeling very relaxed and the whole atmosphere, together with the birdsong, gave me a wonderful notion of being totally at peace with the world. I strolled along through the dappled shade of the woodland glade. I won’t tell you exactly where because I feel it needs to be kept secret.  I noticed a ring of yellow toadstools in a grassy area to the side of the path, and there, in the centre, a mossy mound that almost invited me to sit upon it.  I sat to rest and just listen to the birds. I opened the book I was carrying and began to read, but strangely, tiredness began to overcome me.

As my eyelids grew heavier the book fell from my grasp. It was almost as though a very fine net curtain had descended over me. I gradually felt a warmth spreading through me that left me quite dreamy. It’s difficult to explain the feeling but I was somehow unfettered; still earth bound yet able to float – what do they call it – an out of body experience? What a glorious feeling. The smell of honeysuckle and succulent fruit was strong in the still air. I could almost taste the smell; such a sensuous arousal.  The dappled sunlight brought shafts of light through the canopy above me that appeared like ladders enticing me to climb to ecstatic heights.

The sunlight flashed like sparkling diamonds through the leaves, as a beautiful white dove silently glided down to rest inches from me. It seemed unafraid and looked inquisitively at me, cocking its head from side to side.  Perhaps the euphoric feeling made me slow to perceive, but then I saw it, a tiny, delicate little fairy with gossamer wings, sitting astride the bird. Her own wings spread and began to flutter and she rose and hovered only inches above me.  Dust, silver sparkling dust, began to fall from her outstretched hands, and fell into my eyes.  I perceived myself beginning to shrink; what a strange sensation, I was becoming smaller and smaller.  It must have been that dust, fairy dust, magic fairy dust.  I was in a different world where everything had just become enormous; how weird it felt.  Suddenly, there were more fairies, hovering and darting around me in a ballet of fantasy. How I wished I could fly; join them in their flittering.

We all seemed to be of a similar stature, and whilst the other fairies hovered, spun and darted around me in such magical aerial terpsichorean splendour, the fairy that first arrived on the dove, came face to face with me. She was beautiful almost beyond description, such flawless skin, such silky golden hair, such exquisite smiling eyes, and a figure of perfection.  She beckoned me and whispered, “Come with me”.  I rose from my mossy woodland resting place and with only the faintest whisper of wings another of the fairies came to my side. They each took me by the hand and my feet suddenly left the ground.  I was rising effortlessly in a shaft of sunlight, and then speeding through the glade yet I didn’t feel the wind in my face. We landed so very delicately beside a huge toadstool with a bright red cap, spotted with white. Its enormous size had made it possible to carve a doorway and windows into its thick white stem; obviously a home to them.

There were very boyish elves and pixies in green tights and livery busy about the place, dashing here, dashing there, without seeming to have a moment to spare. I didn’t see any of them with wings so I don’t know if they could fly.  My fairy, her wings now folded, again took me by the hand and led me through the open doorway into the toadstool. Moving inside from the intense sunlight, I could see that each fairy had a visible aura, a subtle luminescence.

It was then that I saw the purpose of all this – why they’d brought me there.  Lying on a bed of gossamer thread from spiders’ webs, was the forlorn figure of a very young fairy with a broken wing. It was quite clear to me they believed I could fix it; but what could I do?  My fairy saw my look of concern and said, “This is Princess Lillipet and we’ve only until dusk to make her well. As the light fades, if her wing isn’t mended, the Hob-goblin will take her away and we’ll never see her again”.   I could see that Princess Lillipet’s aura was already beginning to wane.

This fairy-land, this exotic paradise of beautiful people, still seemed to be ruled by our own concept of time and it was already late afternoon.  I felt I must do something for my new-found friends, but what?  I turned pleadingly to my fairy and said, “What can I do?  I don’t have magic. Why can’t you use your fairy-dust, your own magic, to heal the wing? “She took my hand, caressing it softly, whilst looking into my eyes and said sadly, “Fairy dust doesn’t work its magic on us. Somewhere, long ago, we heard tell that only a kiss from a handsome prince could heal a broken wing. Will you try, please, for Lillipet?”

“But I’m neither a prince nor would I say I was particularly handsome”, I said.

“Surely, you’ve heard it said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and that ‘handsome is as handsome does’. Just try, please”

I looked again at the prostrate figure lying before me in her splendid, diaphanous, silken gown and I was distressed to see that her aura was diminishing by the minute. Call me a pessimist but there was no conviction in my heart as I went down on my knees and bent forward to gently caress her face and place a tender kiss very lightly upon her lips.  As I pulled away I could see the slightest flicker of her eyelids and as a peculiar tingling sensation spread through my body I could see her aura gradually becoming brighter. Princess Lillipet opened her eyes and sat up just as though simply awakening from a dream. She looked into my eyes and gave a smile – a smile that felt so radiant and special, then held out her hand to me.  I took the hand, and her skin felt so smooth and creamy, as she graciously rose to her feet. I watched fascinated as her wings unfolded, cautiously at first but then stretched to their limits and began to gently vibrate. Oh, the joy that we we’re all feeling.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

In all this euphoria there was a sudden alarm and we rushed to the window just as a huge black raven glided into the glade and folded its wings. Riding on this harbinger of doom and gloom was an ugly, misshapen, figure dressed in black – a hob-goblin. Those fairies that had remained outside the toadstool house, scattered in alarm; even the elves and pixies had retreated inside the toadstool and there was a quite obvious fear and trepidation in the air.  The hob-goblin, now dismounted from his winged steed, looked up to the window and for the first time I could see the wicked, twisted look upon his face; enough to put a terrible fear into the heart of even the most brave. I confess, I was feeling rather afraid myself.

Princess Lillipet stepped forward bravely and placed herself in full view of this fearful hob-goblin, through the window and she threw it open wide.  Her wings begin to beat and with imperious grace she began to hover and propelled herself through the window into his full view.  There were no words that passed between them but I could see that he was displeased. Even the raven looked incredibly cross and began to squawk loudly.  The hob-goblin purposefully strode towards the door to the toadstool; it seemed he had retribution in his heart.   The elves and pixies scattered in all directions.  Afraid as I was, my own sense of chivalry wouldn’t let me stand idly by – or was it self preservation? I’m not sure, but some innate force, impelled me to the door where I confronted this ogre in black. I blocked his path and tried my best to look as menacing as I could but all I achieved was a wicked sneer from him and his lips tightened in a show of determination to get past me.

As the hob-goblin bore down on me I suddenly felt that same strange sensation I’d felt at the beginning, but this time I began to grow – the magic was wearing off.  As my size increased I could see the fear suddenly grip the face of the hob-goblin and he turned and ran. He only just made it onto the back of the raven as it too was frightened and in a flurry of feathers took off into the fading light. Things then became a blur to me.

Incredibly, I found myself only a few strides away from the mossy seat where I’d been reading. I looked around but I could see no-one, there were certainly no fairies, but as I bent to pick up my book and wondered if I’d been dreaming, I felt the ecstatic sensation and slightest moisture of a kiss upon my cheek.

*

Thank you, John.

If you’d like to see my notes, click on the links below but please give your comments to Ernest here first. That way you won’t be influenced by my feedback, and we can see if we think alike. Thank you.

**

Jack in shafts (2)John is married with grandchildren.  He is a retired police officer with an exciting and colourful career behind him. On retirement he purchased a small and secluded hill-farm high in the Pennines of the Peak District National Park which has somewhat inspired his writing.  He is a musician and plays the organ and keyboards – which is his relaxation. With a lifetime’s experience of working horses – from Shires and Clydesdales to lighter carriage horses – he has enjoyed a long membership of the British Driving Society and has restored and renovated carriages.

He has self published two novels, ‘A Surprising Legacy’ ISBN 978-0-9574852-0-4 (Set in the late 1700s, it’s a story of myths, legends and folk-lore woven into a romance with tragedy, crime and poverty as its setting) and ‘The Lightning Tree’ ISBN 978-0-9574852-2-8 (A stand-alone story that employs the same characters as the first book but here they face a situation that tests their marriage and their moral fibre. It also puts them in extreme danger when a someone with dreadful facial injuries purports to be a figure from their past. Is he genuine or is this some confidence trick?)

John can be found on the Independent Author network site http://www.independentauthor.com/ernest-swain.html and on his web site http://ernestswain.vpweb.co.uk.

You can also read my interview with John (Ernest) here.

***

If you’d like to (family-friendly) submit your 2,000-word max stories for this blog, see the Submissions page.

And or 500-word max. stories for consideration for my main blog’s Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback privately, take a look at my main blog’s Feedback page.

My online writing blog / Facebook groups are:

Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group

Thank you for reading this and we look forward to your comments.

Short Story for Critique 015: Elenor Margaret Delaney by Heide Braley

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the fifteenth story on this blog. This 737-word piece is by Heide Braley.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

Elenor Margaret Delaney

Her friends called her Lenny, but her official name was Elenor Margaret Delaney. On the surface, she seemed like any other pretty teenager, living her life as it came, content with her friends and family. She was a great student in school, maintaining a strong B average over all her classes, an active contributor to the school newspaper, a player on the girls basketball team and well-liked by all. She never complained, her mother always said, but rather looked for solutions to conflicts in her life.

But she was fifteen, just fifteen when she died. She had no time to invent anything or write a hit song, write a famous novel, or become a special advocate for children’s rights or any such thing. It seems as though young Lenny died short of missing the mark, her short life wasted and cut short before her promising career had even started. Her classmates will grieve and then after a year or two will go on with their lives, barely remembering her as “that girl who died” in their high school. Some of her teachers might immortalize her as one of their best students in their graduation speeches, but her name will probably slip out of the public eye within just a year or two.

Was her life a waste? Did she have to be the one who died? According to the law of averages, she was a good girl and didn’t deserve to die – she was living by all the right rules. The night of her death was pretty common, a few teenagers hanging out at a friend’s house swimming in the above-ground pool and just having fun on the warm summer evening. They weren’t drinking or being obnoxious. The injury happened purely accidentally when Lenny dove into the pool and cracked her neck, leaving her paralyzed and unable to surface for air. It was no child’s fault that they didn’t notice her absence until it was too late and she was gone. Her sweet life was over before it even got started. Or was it?

Her parents, John and Mary-Jane Delaney were high school sweethearts that met at the age of fifteen in the small town of Blackstone, Idaho. Elenor was their first child, born when they were both just seventeen years old but they stubbornly determined to live a happy life together in spite of the warnings from their relatives. Little Lenny was the joy of their lives and she quickly became the focus of their home and the homes of her grandparents. She was a smiler and ready to hug any stranger that came her way. No pills could have given her parents the thrill and joy of living with such a happy child. Although they didn’t get to see her into adulthood, she certainly gave them the satisfaction of being successful parents.

Elenor had a brother, Michael, born when she was almost two years old and they became inseparable friends. She loved him without any of the jealousy that older siblings sometimes have and he learned to be happy from her example. She shared her toys with him and cried with him when he skinned his knees. It was as though she cared more about him than herself. He got to experience years of living with the best kind of sister that any guy could ask for.

Mr. and Mrs. Delaney, Sr. and Elenor’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wasden will never regret the times they got to watch Lenny grow from a precocious toddler to a loving little sister into a responsible teenager entering high school. They both received the satisfaction of seeing their children turn what could have been a heart break of a young relationship into a warm and friendly home. Their investments into their children had come to such a rewarding fulfillment that even the death of Lenny could not take that away. Even in her death, she left no one at fault and no blame to act as a cancer in their lives.

The list could go on of the folks in whose lives Lenny had a positive effect, but the point of this biography is that she did make a difference. Her life was not wasted just because she didn’t make it to the age of 70 or more. Elenor Margaret Delaney was my best friend, and I will always remember her and smile.

*

Thank you, Heide.

If you’d like to see my notes, click on the links below but please give your comments to Heide here first. That way you won’t be influenced by my feedback, and we can see if we think alike. Thank you.

*

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHeide is a freelance writer who lives and writes from her home at the top of the Chesapeake Bay.

For the last five years, she enjoyed writing about various topics, focused mostly on home and garden issues in a commercial setting.

However, Heide is now an emerging writer in the short story market and finds it a far more creative and satisfying venture.

***

If you’d like to (family-friendly) submit your 5,000-word max stories for this blog, see the Submissions page.

And or 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for my main blog’s Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback privately, take a look at my main blog’s Feedback page.

My online writing blog / Facebook groups are:

Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group

Thank you for reading this and we look forward to your comments.

Short Story for Critique 014: ‘Home is where the heart was…’ by Elle Kristianson

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the fourteenth story on this blog. This 2,331-word piece is by Elle Kristianson.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated! Elle did say:

“I’m interested in feedback on this story in progress. As it stands, it’s a series of moments that I am posting on a blog (http://elliekristianson.wordpress.com) in order to keep moving the idea forward. I’m not crystal clear on where its going at this point, but I am wondering what others might think about it. I don’t even know if this material is right for your group but I’m sure you’ll tell me. (There is more but this is a representative sampling.)”

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

*

Home is where the heart was

Did we touch? Probably not. We lay side by side on his sister’s bed in the dark, listening to the chaos in the house, feeling the seriousness of the moment. Graduation in a small town involves a lot of goodbyes, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized I didn’t say mine. I didn’t grasp what was happening. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have identified the opportunity, much less articulated it. And I didn’t know at the time that I wouldn’t have a reason to go back. I wasn’t real to myself then. Its possible I even made this memory up.

I realize now too that I never really lived there, not like the rest of them. I moved in when I was 14, when the others were already established. At best, I was a temporary transplant, made even more tenuous when my father moved away. He and my stepmother didn’t consider me in their decision to leave, and I’ll never know if the move was truly necessary or whether they could have stuck it out for me. I moved in with a friend and finished high school without them. Its irrelevant now. But I never answer a “hometown” question when prompted, because it makes me feel like a fraud. I was a visitor, and the ties I feel to that place and time aren’t connected to anything solid, anything that would offer enough tension to enable me to find my way back there. The only line that has never been cut is the one that leads to that moment on graduation night.

Why did he pause there with me? Did he entertain for a moment the possibility of sharing something important? Did he want to touch me? I think now about how easy it would have been to reach for his hand. It’s a memory I should have forgotten by now, an instance that should have been swept away by an adulthood’s worth of experiences that have occurred since.

*

Signs

How to write about the signs without sounding like a total nutcase?  I admit I have given one of these objects enough weight that it can shift the energy of a moment. It has the power to make me stop and feel something. Ache. Fondness. A chill. Do I conjure it? Do I summon it into view? Do I give it meaning or is the meaning already there?

I am always looking for this particular sign, even when I try not to. Its almost subconscious. Even when I assume not seeing it is better than seeing it.  Even when I acknowledge that it can’t be real, that it’s just coincidence.  Even when months go by without seeing one.

Could I make it mean something? Am I that powerful? Did a thought of me just cross his mind? Or is the sign a warning? Maintain your focus, stay the course, because he’s not thinking about it. And neither should you. Stop this childish impulse and get on with it.

But in this one area, I want to be like a child. I want to believe that an angel gets its wings every time a bell rings. It’s not real. Then again, what if it is?

*

Just passing through

Black car on a black night, parked outside the tavern near the river. I don’t have a clear impression of his face. Why did I go outside, and why did he follow? Or did I follow him? We sat in the dark, me in the passenger seat, him behind the wheel, escapees from the reunion. Beyond a thin layer of trees and down a steep bank, the water would have been moving at a good clip. It had been 10 years.

Certain parts of the memory are preserved perfectly. The crispness of his sleeve as I brushed up against it, reaching for the radio. The halting, awkward conversation. We sat there long enough for the leather seat to warm under me and the quiet to deepen.

He seemed unsure about why he was there, and I may have stayed a few minutes longer than he did. I’m sure I wondered what I did wrong. I didn’t go back in to the bar.

I would wake in the morning in a cold motel room and head out without breakfast. The last of my things that hadn’t fit in the moving van in Salt Lake City were in the back of my little white car. I’d been too long in the desert. My reserves were low, and my resolve had withered and begun to crumble. But as I drove that day, as far up the west coast as I could, to where the air was cooler and the sky promised to rain, I reassembled the pieces.

I stopped for coffee when I crossed the state line.

*

To know or not to know

At 31, I left a devastating relationship with a married man. There are lots of things to say about this, and maybe I will say them here at some point. For now, it feels enough to acknowledge the enormity of the mistake. I was uncertain about my place in the world, and I felt very alone. Trust in myself was at an all-time low.

Then Jake appeared. Our introduction was an unexpected gift from co-workers who took pity and pulled me into their circle of outdoor thrill seekers, faux spiritualists, and unabashedly ambitious friends. For a time, they were a fun and lively group, and I was grateful to be among them.

Jake was solid, a graduate student who had grown up in a comfortable idwest suburb, with a stable family and an objective point of view. A philosopher, he had come out to the west coast to be an organic farmer, and then a writer, and finally a small business owner. I was drawn immediately to how normal he was. Confident and generous, handsome and untethered, he was everything the former lover wasn’t. From him, I felt no I. Jake offered the perfect chance to reinvent myself, and I eagerly took it.

When I realized I might be at a major fork in my road, I went looking for him. The other him. We hadn’t spoken since our high school reunion years before but when I found his email address, I sent him a message. I felt a sense of urgency, and I knew that if I paused, I wouldn’t have the courage to challenge our status quo. Would he respond? He did. But when I told him I was keeping a key under the mat for him, a metaphor I thought was evocative, it was met with silence.

As it turns out, he was married, disastrously. In the thick of it at that time, he was questioning his own value, measuring himself through someone else’s eyes. How I wish I could have helped him through that. But I didn’t know. I tugged on the thread between us, the vibration itself a message, but he was gone.

I knew he was a question I could never answer on my own. To move forward with Jake would mean agreeing to never know.

*

A wedding

Jake and I were married when I was 34. The wedding was on an island, at a time of year when the ferry lines are long and the sunlight is so soft and filtered, it soothes resistance. Late summer roses decorated the gazebo that looked out over the harbor, and voices carried over the marina. My mother and her friends still talk about how strikingly beautiful the setting was. They expected nothing less from me.

It was years before I could think about it without wincing. It was a bruise that couldn’t be touched. Like one of those dreams about a beautiful place that ends up being a stage background someone can roll away. One that has a void behind it.

Jake was calm. Awed, I think, to be taking this step, pleasing his family, measuring up to his friends. He may have been a bit bewildered about being the one in the tuxedo, but he liked it. His high school friend came in pajamas made of Chinese silk, and his best friend’s twin boys were our ring bearers.

But I wanted it to be over before it started. I felt like a gawker at an accident, watching my past meet my future. Family and friends from various eras tried to mingle. The maid of honor nursed a grudge. My best friend brought her cheating husband, who sat at the head table with the wedding party, holding their four month old son. My aunt got drunk and gave several overly sentimental toasts. Jake’s sister sized me up, holding her baby, flaunting evidence that she would always be one step ahead.

Friendships imploded that day. The caterer had a fit when guests uncorked their own wine. My parents forgot their keys and were stranded back on the mainland until late at night, when guests finally came to their rescue. Our reception photographer left without saying goodbye. (I have never seen the pictures he took.) And my new husband suffered his first disappointment of many when I, exhausted by the day, fell asleep before we could consummate the marriage.

Very little about the wedding felt right. Did I force it? Had we moved too fast? Had I picked the right guy for the wrong reasons, or the wrong guy for the right reasons? It wasn’t that I didn’t love Jake. But it wasn’t love that motivated me that day, it was gratitude. I was grateful to have the question of who was going to love me answered. I felt grateful and relieved to leave the old me behind. From this day forward, until death do me part, I would belong.

What I didn’t feel was happy.

*

The undertow

I can get through parts of the day without thinking about him. I might even laugh and realize I am laughing, and see that life goes on, whether or not he is here. I might be proud of those hours. I am proof that what we said did not matter, that his presence was never meant to be permanent. It’s as if I hadn’t said those things that he witnessed. What passed between us in that space no longer exists. It ceased to exist the moment I deleted it. Or maybe before, when he did.

But there are other moments in which I feel completely derailed. As if I am dissolving from the inside out. I reel and step quickly into the shadows to let the ache subside. In those moments, everything I am doing right is in jeopardy and at risk of being abandoned. If I succumb to the urge to back up slowly, to let the undertow pull me completely away from shore, I might not come back. But if I can just stay out of view, the ensuing silence might settle me again into my life. If I wait, the day might snap back into focus, so that I can move forward.

It’s crushing when the vacuum sucks these feelings in just as I think I am doing okay. At lunch with a friend, smiling next to my husband, hugging one of my children, I feel the weight of him and realize I am not whole. Even when I should be. Even though life is so much easier here than it could ever be with him.

I want to hear his voice. I want to see him. That is the terrible line I have drawn in the sand. I want to be real. And I am realizing that it isn’t that he doesn’t understand or hear me. It’s that he doesn’t want to. And there is no way around or over that. There is only through.

*

For better before worse

We didn’t have the first year everyone talks about, the newlywed year, the one where you have sex on the dining room table and then eat on the kitchen floor. The one where you buy pillows and stand for hours in the store aisle, playfully arguing the merits of various washing machines. The one where you learn each other chapter by chapter, in a linear and logical way. We didn’t wade in to our marriage.

Instead, Jake and I bypassed the warm, shallow waters and jumped from a higher and rockier place, where the water below was deep and cold, heavy and isolating. Where it was every man for himself. Jake wouldn’t have jumped, but I didn’t stop to think. I needed to be in all the way, immediately, for worse before better.

That first year was a dog paddle. We fought about everything, struggling to maintain ground and trying not to change. It was touch and go. We took turns being clingy and distant, and I was demanding in a way even I didn’t know I could be. Sex came in waves, too much and then stretches with none at all. I remember the things Jake broke—the phone, the bedroom door, and the leg of a kitchen chair. He wasn’t abusive, ever. Just incredibly frustrated by my inability to relax into our life.

Looking back, I can see I was testing to see how far he would stretch, determining his breaking point. How much would he take? It was a question I asked myself multiple times, both fearful and defiant. But Jake was like a pliant rubber band. Nothing I said deterred him permanently, or kept him from coming back to me with arms outstretched, ready to say sorry, willing to make it right. Even when it should have been me issuing the apology.

It took some time, but I came to understand that I could trust Jake with any feeling and any half-baked thought. I could be negative and insecure and stingy with my affections, and he would still come back for me. I was safe.

This was new. Unsettling.

*

Thank you, Elle

If you’d like to see my notes, click on the links below but please give your comments to Elle here first. That way you won’t be influenced by my feedback, and we can see if we think alike. Thank you.

Elle Kristianson is a writer, editor, and brand strategist; a mother of two beautiful girls; a wife of an entreprenuer and philosopher; and a person of often overblown imagination. She is currently writing a love story and is not sure yet how it will end, but these are the glimmers that keep her moving forward. You are welcome to help her figure it out. One of her favorite quotes is: If you don’t get your hands dirty, get messy, and tend to your creative fire, you will go crazy. — Erin Joy Henry.

That’s great. Thank you, Elle

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If you’d like to (family-friendly) submit your 5,000-word max stories for this blog, see the Submissions page.

And or 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for my main blog’s Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback privately, take a look at my main blog’s Feedback page. My online writing blog / Facebook groups are:

Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group

Thank you for reading this and we look forward to your comments.

Short Story for Critique 012: My Strange Boss by Blaise Ezeokeke

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the twelfth story on this blog. This 2,419-word piece is by Blaise Ezeokeke.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

Blaise has asked, “I would love to be shown my areas of weakness. I would like to know how to create a better suspense and ending for the story.

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My Strange Boss

I had worked for my boss for six months, yet everything about her remained strange to me. She went to office at exactly 7 am and left at exactly 7 pm, the gate keeper said. That’s an hour before we came and an hour after we had left. What I found most strange though, was the way she treated me. I’d been sure other staffs gossiped of the preferential treatment I received.  A typical day at our advertising agency went this way.

“Dimma. Please come.” Her mild feminine voice would mellow over the intercom. “I have work for you”.

“Yes, ma”. I would say.

She would then pick a file from among those sprawled carelessly all over her desk and say how she believed I could handle the project perfectly. All the time, touching the tip of her flat nose with her upper lip, giving a little smirk and showing deep dimples. Strange. To be honest, my boss looked beautiful for a fifty-three year old. Her dimples would show more and her smiles bolder, when she would remark that I should have supplemented my breakfast with more fibre.

“It is a good source of calories”, she would say, her upper lip touching the tip of her nose, glancing at pictures, drawings and documents in her hands. On average, she spent thirty minutes giving me a project to work on each day.

Two hours later, she would call again. This time she would want to know what I thought about this or that. It could be a completed commercial, a clip from an on-going shooting, her hair, her blouse or even items in her office. She would chatter on, about how this commercial was the defining moment of her entrepreneurial career and how the cleaner had never been absent in the last four years. One thing, she was always positive. She was the kind that sees only the good in people. “There’s a silver lining in every cloud” she always said. This session would last two hours.

After about another two hours, she would call me again. This time she would ask someone else to take over my project. That way, my boss would have three sessions of aimless conversation with me each day. Or rather, aimless speech, because she never let me put in a word. She would simply chatter on excitedly, like a little girl promised lollipop.  Of course I couldn’t complete the project; never completed any in the last six months. Yet, I received more benefits than any other staff. She even got me an apartment; paid-in-full and furnished. Seriously.

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Short Story for Critique 011: The Smell of Perfume by Graham Smith

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the eleventh story on this blog. This 4,394-word piece is by crime writer Graham Smith.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

The Smell of Perfume

Noon

My life had recently taken a slight turn for the better. A rube called Spratsky had given me a great payday which had let me pay off all my debts. I even advance paid the rent on my flat and office for the first time since I’d laid down the deposit. The advance payment was more precautionary than altruistic, as I knew I’d end up drinking every cent otherwise. This would keep me off the streets for a few more months while I sank my bodyweight in bourbon.

I was heading towards Jimmy’s, my usual haunt. It’d be open soon and I planned to spend the day ambushing Jack Daniels. Once I’d ambushed him I was going to surround him until his fiery tang leeched through my stomach and into my nervous system. When his retaliation captured me from within, I could relax as he chased the ghosts of my past out of my head and halfway down the street.

A voice rang out of the shadows cast by the noonday son. ‘Hey, Harry wait up a minute.’

I turned to look who’d called my name. The voice was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then I saw him across the street standing on the sidewalk. My old army Sergeant. The man who’s teachings had kept me alive when I toured Europe with a pack on my back and a rifle in my hands. Uncle Sam had sent me and brought me back, but it was Sergeant Thomas Hamilton who’d made sure I walked off the ship at New York on my own two feet, instead of being carried on a gurney or in a cheap pine box. Sure I’d had basic training but that’s what it was, basic.

Sergeant Hamilton never once saved my life, but without him at my side I would have died a hundred times over. I owed him my life and I knew it.

My right arm rose into an automatic salute and then dropped when I saw his face. Ten years had passed since we were demobbed, but he’d aged more than forty. His once cheerful and ruddy face was now grey and drawn. This was a man who’d told me jokes to keep me calm as the bullets flew. I couldn’t believe how he now looked.

I felt a wave of shame wash over me. Here I was bleary eyed, still stinking of last night’s bourbon and unshaven. I owed him too much to let him see what I’d become.

I knew I had to face him though. He wasn’t the kind of man you could avoid. If he wanted to talk to you he’d follow you until his shoes wore through, and then he’d get new shoes and keep on coming.

He crossed the street and we exchanged smiles and handshakes. I asked him why he was in town. The last I’d heard he was living nearly seven hundred miles away.

‘I came to see you Harry. I need your help.’

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