ghosts and appirations

Creative writing is a very rewarding experience enjoyed by many, and it is often said by some writers that they write mainly for their own pleasure. However, this does not mean that they are writing in a vacuum or cocoon.
If a reader has given up his or her time to read the story, it would be a churlish writer that would deny the reader the opportunity to review or comment upon the story should they so wish. Our writers are as far from churlish as it is possible to be, so please feel free to post any such reviews or comments below.
Provided they have read all the stories, anyone who reads this is encouraged to comment and your opinion will be valued by our writers as part of the whole monthly creative writing experience.
Your thoughts are invited, so why not get involved.

16 thoughts on “Do you have anything to say about the entries in the February 2019 tcwg competition? Your comments and/or reviews will be welcome.

  1. Oh, Ara – your comments mean so much to me. I actually feel more exposed as a “reviewer” than as a writer….but I know that for me ( and so I presume for others) what truly helps is not the points ( lovely as they are, obviously!) but the critiques. So -thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your generous remarks seadamss, they are much appreciated. I did wonder about the whole poem but really wanted to get the last line in about going to Paradise by way of Kensal Green. As for the commas, I agree and I shall try to. curb them in my next story. Thanks again, feedback is always useful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A bit…

    There is a Light… by Billy Foster
    Effective build up of atmosphere and tension and a clever plot – although this reader became somewhat confused from Young Mabel’s sleep onwards, partly because of frequent switches in time/character and a rather erratic use of italics. I found the pact at the centre of the story genuinely disturbing and spooky, and thoroughly enjoyed the twist regarding Nathan’s intentions. Subtle segues as the two Mabels blur, along with sleep and wakefulness, raising questions about reincarnation, possession and even time travel.

    Forces for the Good
    Angie, your writing is so often characterised by optimism and positivity, and this uplifting tale is no exception. Well-observed, sensitive writing inviting us to ponder grief, reconciliation and the circle of life. I do think you must be a very spiritual person. I felt that you were tackling such big themes in this story that you couldn’t fully do justice to your characterisation within the word count; the result for me was that I found them a bit under-developed.

    The Stone by Giselle
    This was my 5 pointer this month. Straight away, we’re presented with a lump of basalt in the middle of an avocado plantation, and this reader felt immediately its prehistoric, pagan pull. This monolith dominates the entire story, physically and symbolically. It is sinister, menacing, and yet somehow also imbued with wisdom and nobility (which is weird for a stone, but such is your power of suggestion).
    Rogelio senses the threat, feeling a “pressure wave of fear” and that “darkness had escaped into the air” when he moves the great hulk. And sure enough, retribution comes in the fire that destroys all. Loved the contrasts of light (fire, flame, blaze, brightness) and dark (gap, hole, black wind, dense blackness, black road)… A parable! Biblical!

    The Man Who Never Was by Bleda
    I thought the deserted factory setting worked well – nice and creepy. For me, though, your characters needed more development to move this from slightly breathless anecdote to fully-fledged ghost story. I was far more interested in the “quick bonus mystery”, which put flesh on the bones (pardon the pun) and offered a poignant, meaningful glimpse of other lives lived.

    The Inn on the Green by Colmore
    This opens well – the humorous tone draws the reader in, and the opening is pacy. Unfortunately, I think, your decision to chronicle the action over several days means that the initial vigour dies away to a bit of a plod – I really did feel the time dragging for your main character, stuck in the grim surroundings of The Saracen’s Head!

    For me, the structure of the story slowed it down in other ways too: I thought the professional backstory detracted, and the “frame” of the dinner party is incomplete – the story ends without taking us back there, and I don’t think you really need the frame at all.

    Be on guard against accidental repetition eg “dim lighting”, “sharply”, and against inconsistency of tense (past/pluperfect) and description – you had your sign both “swing” and “move ponderously”. Which is like having your cake and eating it, no?!

    The Apparition by Atiller
    I found the snappy, factual, no-nonsense voice of “your intrepid chronicler” highly appealing, and the lovely description of Jim in 1947, aged 28 is saved from sentimentality by self-deprecation. The sardonic moments too (“The only thing missing…was a harp…and singing angels”) serve to increase the reader’s engagement with the narrator, which is a clever thing, when you think about it.

    When I got to the italicised section – “a personal indulgence…” I felt it had the ring of absolute truth – and sure enough, your postscript confirms this. This is writing straight from the heart, and that cannot fail, really. So why no points? Precisely because of the admixture of fiction and personal writing….apples and pears, innit. It does make me think that a month of personal writing could be an interesting – and challenging – exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your generous review of my story, seadams. I was digging up rocks for my rockery in a patch of waste ground at the end of our garden when I had that peculiar sensation that there was one rock that really should be left alone. In retrospect it was probably some pre-syncopal disturbance of the blood supply from prolonged kneeling down. But there is a tradition in Ireland that some features of the landscape belong to the fairies and shouldn’t be disturbed. So I left it back in its hole. So far nothing has caught fire 🙂
      G X

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My Grandma used to describe someone as being “away with the fairies” which I took to mean a bit dreamy – but no! Turns out it has a much more sinister implication, of abduction and possession. So I wouldn’t mess with the fairies either 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, fairies here aren’t the diaphanous winged sprites of Arthur Rackham, but shrewd and merciless individuals who will steal your soul with a glass of poteen or push you to starvation by blighting your farm animals. Someone who is away with the fairies for what is to them a few hours may return to their home to find their relatives have grieved them for a year. Or so says the folklore. Definitely avoid!

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Funnily enough I had just been reading about how the avocado pear cultivation is in the hands of unscrupulous gangs because of them being considered a superfood consumption has rocketed. Some cafes in England have even taken them off the menu in protest, this might be fake news !

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for taking the time to present your reviews, Seadams, I know from experience how much time and effort this requires and you have done our writers proud.
      With regards to your kind review of my entry, I accept your comment regarding the lack of character development and my only excuse is that the characters have lived in my memory for so long that I fell into the trap of forgetting that seen through the eyes of the reader they are complete strangers.
      The first thing to get out of the way is that this story is, in many ways, a cheat.
      For this is not creative writing … it is an accurate report from memory of something that actually happened to me many years ago. Nothing has been fabricated or embellished, and every line of this story is true, and from that you will realise that Danny and I are one and the same person.
      I did toy with the idea of writing the story in the first person but I wasn’t comfortable with doing that and didn’t think that it would work so well in that form, therefore it is what it is. On the other hand, it was easier to write Danny’s explanation of the scene in the workshop ‘in his own words’, so perhaps I was wrong with that as well.
      I pleased that you were convinced by the creepiness of the deserted factory, believe me it was all of that and more. With more words to spare I would have included the workroom where, if one stood quietly for five minutes or so, the deathly silence of the night was shattered by the sound of glass being thrown into the waste bins … a regular occurrence during the day, but a hair raising shock to the system in the darkness of the deserted workroom.
      That factory, now demolished, had a reputation of being haunted, and apparently many of its employees had reported seeing things that had been difficult to explain, but I learned of that only after my sighting of the ‘man with the webbing belt’.
      And I still would not argue with any conviction that ghosts really exist … I simply keep an open mind. But I do know what I saw that night.
      I am also glad that you enjoyed the short bonus story, for that was also perfectly true in every detail as my daughter would testify to even to this day.
      However, that episode happened almost forty years ago and we have lived in that property ever since and no-one has ever called out ‘Dolly’ to me (or anything else for that matter) when I’ve been cutting the back lawn … but would I have heard it above the noise of the mower if they had?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Aha – I strongly suspected that Danny was you!! Yes, big deserted industrial spaces really do give me the heavy fear; I would have been utterly terrified…

        Thank you for your kind comment about my comments. I feel bad that I don’t make the effort more often, and am always amazed that you somehow unfailingly make time to do so. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you for your kind review, Seadams.
      You are correct about the section that was set in italic … I was present at that meeting and this is an exact description of the encounter with the supposed highly respected surgeon. There was absolutely no excuse for treating the anxious wife of one of his patients in such a brutal and callous manner. It was a disgraceful episode that has been impossible for me either to forgive or forget.
      But I have to take issue with you over what you refer to as ‘the admixture of fiction and personal writing’, because nothing in the main body of ‘The Apparition’ story was any more of a fiction than the description of the meeting referred to above.
      All that is written in the story is an accurate account from memory of an episode that actually happened within my family some 40 years ago.
      So on the question of ‘nul-points’, I think the answer is one of two things …
      Either a) I can’t write convincingly enough in the first person to persuade the reader of the authenticity of the story, or b) When the other entries are considered to be more worthy of the readers points than yours, then ‘nul-points’ is what you get. 🙂
      Of course there is one other very likely possibility … nobody liked it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Apologies, Atiller – I should have been clearer. I didn’t mean that your entry was an admixture of fiction and personal writing. I meant that I find it difficult to compare genres in any one month , eg your (personal) writing cf others’ fictions. I have a similar struggle when poems appear amongst short stories.: I just can’t apply the same judging criteria across different writing forms.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Seadams,
          No apologies necessary, Seadams.
          Like you I also sometimes find it difficult to fairly judge one story against another when writers approach the topic from altogether different angles.
          How we readers each deal with this is perhaps a subject for proper discussion one day, but in my case I fall back on questionable old subjectivity.
          Did the story leave me in a better mood than I was previously, did the writer do his or herself justice relative to the standard that they themselves had set previously, and in some cases with the single third point, do I feel that regardless of individual merit did the writer show signs of improvement over previous entries (in which case a little encouragement would not go amiss).
          Strictly speaking, none of that would be fair on our better writers if our first prize was of real value, but choosing the topic for a future month is hardly a life-changing reward is it. 🙂
          In my original reply to you I agonised a bit over the use of the phrase ‘take issue with’ as it did read rather more confrontational than was intended.
          But without the wider understanding that this was an account of a real happening, ‘Apparation’ wasn’t really ‘a story’ at all and perhaps the true lesson to be learned here is that in the world of creative writing, fiction is King!
          And I for one wouldn’t argue with that.

          Liked by 2 people

    4. Thank you very much for your kind and generous review of my story. I’m not very good with ghost stories because I get easily frightened, but my parents really were such good people and very brave and full of love and humour so I really thought might heal a tragedy with their wonderful energy, but the woman in the story wasn’t based on me , I could have developed her more , she seemed a bit washy washy even to me.
      Congratulations on your story, always a pleasure to read .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Greetings to all! I have failed to write this month, but enjoyed reading!
    I even got organised enough to make notes as I went along, and hope the following will be of some use.

    Eavesdropping by Gazoopi
    Pacy and plot-driven, no loose ends and even a happy ending! Entertaining for sure, though the protagonists struck me as foolishly indiscreet and I I couldn’t fathom why Gary would have hidden his will under the floorboards…

    Emily by AmericanMum
    A skilfully executed tale of gentle nostalgia, loss and letting go. I particularly liked that the narrator gave Emily permission to leave.

    Grandma Brown by Aramina
    An engaging account of a battle of wills. I thought you gave us just the right amount of detail about the disappearing and reappearing items, and I felt a real sense of foreboding. However, I felt as the story progressed you were a bit too generous with information about Mrs Black’s behaviour – her living in, the phone being disconnected – and the dramatic tension popped away as a result. That didn’t stop the ending – the scheming Mrs B fleeing from Gramndma’s wrath – from being very satisfying!

    Plan B by Capucin
    This was my 2nd place – and congratulations on your win!
    This tale pulled me in straight away because of the completely convincing narrative voice of a rather stuffy professor with a wee eye for the lassies. Quickly we were drawn into the setting – dusty academia, spooky lower basement, forgotten archive material. This all put me in mind a bit of that movie, The Mummy, which is a hugely enjoyable romp through every supernatural trope known to man.
    So – voice, setting and then a truly ingenious plot, and elegant expression such as “white cottoned index finger”; “slowly but surely the slight indents gave up their secret”; “I won’t bore you with the details of my own autopsy” – !!
    For me, the insertion of Chesterton’s poem was far far too lengthy, and indeed unnecessary: you had already described so well the “deliberate disorder”. And this reader could do with far fewer commas. But that could just be the old teacher in me.

    More in a bit…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Seadams.

      What splendid reviews – you are really good at at articulating what works and what doesn’t. It’s really helpful.

      So thank you for the generous positive thoughts on my story this month, and as for the negative, I can only agree with you. Too much information was given where it wasn’t necessary. Had I done a bit more editing…. – but I didn’t. I will try harder next time.

      Many thanks again, you have taken a great deal of time and trouble with your reviews and I appreciate it.

      Liked by 2 people

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