Deathmatch 2017 – Lightning Round

Bubba Sparx

Round Complete!


Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Create a user account for comment and voting access.
Step Three: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Four: Sound off in the comments. (Check out below for the commenter perks)

Like your favourite comments.

Liked Comments = greater voting power!

Bronze: 50 up-votes will earn commenters Bronze status, which means that their votes will count for 2.

Silver: 200 up-votes will earn commenters Silver status, and their votes will count for ???.

Gold: ??? up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for ???.

Gold: 400 up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for 5. – See more at:

Step Five: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!   #bpdeathmatch
Step Six: Repeat until Deathmatch Champion is crowned winner!

Click here for the extended description of Deathmatch rules and regulations. VOTE AND COMMENT! By registering an account you agree to be signed up for Broken Pencil’s newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.




Ok. I am sending you a fresh bun and expect karmic rewards. (I secretly believe your story was written by Margaret Atwood and was placed as a test – the thirteenth labour of Hercules, in prose.) I flinched my way through it again and like PD (who kinda sounds like he thinks he is the BMOC) wrote, it’s got something.

Now I am going to the Jacuzzi to unclench various regions.

Seive de! – M&A



577 Responses to “Deathmatch 2017 – Lightning Round”

  1. Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

    Greetings fellow gladiators! Well, if life is like a box of chocolates, yesterday was one of those nasty milk chocolate nougats with a mushy soapy tasting center. I’m in Nashville visiting friends but spent most of yesterday fielding calls, texts, and emails from frustrated friends, family, and followers who tried repeatedly to vote for my story “Fogger” but were foiled at every turn (and many of whom still haven’t received a confirmation link to register). Colin Brush explained the problem like this: “This is a very complicated case Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous,” to which I replied “This is not Nam, dude, this is bowling and there are rules!” To those of you valiant warriors who win the lightning round, I say, may the odds be forever in your favor. To those brave technically sabotaged souls who are eliminated, I say, count your blessings, and know that if the system had actually worked the results might have been vastly different. To the folks at Broken Pencil, I say get it together people! Some of us are professional writers here. These stories are our precious babies who deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Today, I’m taking a whole different approach—I’m apologizing to all my supporters for sending them down the rabbit hole, and I’m advising them to just chill and not keep banging their heads against the wall trying to vote—cuz it feels so good when you stop. I’m putting my phone on silence, and I have a Super Bowl date with my husband, son, and a bottle of fine 15-year-old scotch. I figure if nothing else, this will all make for a great new short story! Peace out.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Her Shadow’s Bones – I loved this, it was chilling and dire and beautifully poetic in its torment. I thought it ran a little long and could have been tightened a bit, as I started to loose focus in the middle there and felt the point was almost worn thin by the time of the ending and the final paragraph, which I found to be note perfect, didn’t have the impact it could have but for shaving a little fat from the overall tale. I rarely feel that eerie sensation of fear and horror when reading, but there was definitely a tingle all told.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Good call. I was doing this on whisky… I’ve never been in a contest like this, and I’m not a big online / social media type… sleep and coffee first.

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      You’re right. I don’t think anyone submitted a picture with their story, but I am pleased to see it is equally divided between the sexes. Was that by design?

  2. michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

    This contest is very schizophrenic. On the one hand you have a voting process that requires battling it out with everyone else by getting friends, family, and perhaps even the occasional interested reader to vote. But then we see thoughtful and useful comments being made by the constestants about each other’s work. I wonder if there can be a way that the contest can be designed to be less Celebrity Apprentice-like and more Better Together.

      • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

        I think it would be interesting if the contest included some reward for the writers’ contributions to one another. For example, in addition to having the public vote, the writers — and only the writers — could vote on which story they liked best (without being allowed to vote on their own) and whatever story won would receive some kind of bonus. The writer’s could also vote on whose comments they found most constructive and insightful and the one with the most votes could, agan, be given a bonus. Most important, the idea that one and only one story can in some way be superior to all the others is to transform art into a blood sport. Rather then one story winning and one person getting all the benefits, couldn’t there be some way to share at least some of the rewards among two or three people? I think that would be a more productive way to run a competition of this kind.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      That was pretty clear going in though, wasn’t it? I got an email about this contest (from God knows where) about a week before the very last deadline – had never heard about it before (though I’d read Broken Pencil), but googled to see the contest from last year – and comments. That way I got an idea of what it would be like. Then spent the next days figuring out if I wanted to put myself through it before I submitted.

  3. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Well, this is a brisk way to start a Saturday!
    It’s too bad we couldn’t compete as one three-ring roadshow –

    Phage Match Theatre Presents:
    “I Want You Around, But My Dog Is Ruining My Life, My Illuminated Throat Is Sick To Death, And Mr. Chekhov Jones Has Made His Last, Fatal Error By Failing To Cooperate In Obtaining A Gun.”
    Followed by an encore presentation of:
    “In The Shadow Of Her Bones I Heard Morse Code For Romantics And Suspected It Was The Last Ragamok.”
    (Brought to you by the good people at Fogger and The Fukhäus Archives)

    Have a great weekend, all! See you on the other side of the wormhole!!!

  4. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    Chaos MacKenzie’s Night at the F A is a challenging, but ultimately rewarding read. These are the risks you take as a writer when you open in the always bold 2nd person, and place the main character in the midst of a sloppy and unforgiving “fuck”. Honestly this initially turned me off, it was too early in the morning, and I wasn’t prepared to step into that role. But I knew there was a story there, and I came back for it. I really love the writing AND the story, and I think you’re right about it being an important one to tell. That said, I think there is room to improve the delivery of this difficult story. Except for the “action” scene in the opening, it reads almost too – what’s the word – too early again – descriptively? Like, you were explaining this world really well, but even though I was the “you”, I didn’t feel like I was there. Though now that I’m writing that I’m thinking, well that’s probably what it feels like being there… Dear God I need more coffee. I really like this story and I hope you make it into the next round. Your input on here has been great, also.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Thanks very much… I kinda understand what you are saying. I had a lot of trouble with establishing the setting. I wrote the first draft in 3rd person, which was more physically descriptive, but ultimately it became a story about some unknown entity and easy to write off. First person it becomes about me and I really wanted to hit on the common stories I was hearing from partiers while volunteering so I made it 2nd person, so the reader can’t disconnect from the experience. The opening was intentionally vulgar – when I first worked on the idea i read various opening lines to friends at a gay pride BBQ, the lines that got everyone to turn around and look at me got used. Thanks again. Much appreciated. I hope to go to the next round too. HA

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        Nice! I like your writing process haha I also appreciated the intentional vulgarity – had an Irvine Welsh quality to it, an author I also find very readable but difficult. I think the 2nd person served exactly the function you intended, and it was a strong choice. Maybe a bit of dialogue or some other concrete action (not necessarily “action”) would anchor the heavy internal narrative? Just thoughts. I still think it’s great

  5. Jonathan Valelly ( User Karma: 81 ) says:


    I’ve read a lot of Deathmatch stories over the years and I’ve read almost all of this year’s batch now, but I was so not ready for how much I lovedddddd the bleak, drug addled, numb bizarro bath house of the FUKHAUS.

    Of course, I think bath houses are actually great, and drug users deserve respect like everyone else, and pathologizing/shaming people’s sexual decisions and health is a bad thing, and blah blah blah… but I also just liked getting dark and twisted with the story.

    Trying to locate it somewhere between Kramer’s Faggots, Delany’s Hogg and some awful victim blamey James Robert Baker story I read once (poor baker really took hard right at some point before he passed… bummer)

    Anyway, I’m getting into the other stories and spreading my votes around but I guess I’ll just always have a weakness for a some dark fag shit!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      I think bathhouses are like communism … sounds good on paper, but requires a base level of respect and equality that humankind just isn’t capable of. (in my experience)

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        Or it’s a culture that has fallen apart as the majority (of the gay community) has abandoned it, and thus, what’s left behind is some… at least highly unrepresentative form of what was. Some people talk about the good old days of the 1970s (pre-AIDs, pre-present day party drugs?) as a golden age. I have no idea. It’s a totally alien world to me. There was a pretty great doc about the Continental Baths (just called ‘The Continental’, I think) at Inside Out a year or two ago. That place was even crazier, in that it became a destination even for straight celebrities like Mick Jagger and Woody Allen. And of course Bette Midler and Patti LaBelle got their starts there. Reminds us that in some ways we are living in a much more conservative time now, whether of necessity or some other set of forces… I don’t know. Someone will have to consult the archives to find out!!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Thank-you, sir.

      I believe in harm reduction, and being aware of extremes. I was trying to show people in the extremes plus the thought process in those extremes. I wasn’t trying to pass judgement on anything.

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        I totally got that sense from the story, and I think that is the right stance to take. This story challenged me on so many levels. It’s deeply sad, and queasily uncomfortable, but I think it does – for those with the intestinal fortitude to get through it – what fiction is supposed to do: bring us into an empathetic understanding of people we are not. The choice of putting the reading in the position of the main character by addressing us directly as “you” makes this all the more powerful and uncomfortable. I like the metaphor of the Archives – both because of its academic resonances, and because this part of the gay world is (I assume) fast disappearing, and thus, becoming part of past that will only exist in some fossilized, denatured, ‘dead’ form. The extensions of that metaphor – bathhouse patrons as ‘scholars’, working your way through the crowd as ‘skimming the files’ – great. Still, it’s a sexual hell scenario to match the nightmarish visions of William S. Burroughs in ‘Naked Lunch.’ The Taper character is very intriguing – at first he sounds like a potential saviour, someone with a little more humanity and perspective, a ‘safe’ person for the unnamed narrator to connect with – but of course it turns out not to be so. Your narrator wants something, and he needs other people to get it – which is the basis of all good storytelling – but he’s trapped in a world that cannot provide it, and that is the uncomfortable, sorrowful aspect of the tale you spin. I think these are my ‘favourite’ lines: “You want to believe that you deserve to be happy. You still hope for a relationship, though you’ve given up on soul mate or life-partner. Someone who finds your purple-hazed backstory endearing, not threatening; someone who wants to be with you, not just save you.” A difficult, disturbing, but enlightening read.

  6. Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

    Anne Baldo (I wish there was a way to tag users in the comments. Unless there is and I’m just silly) BUT! I’m also from Windsor (although I live in Toronto now)!

    • Jeff Braithwaite ( User Karma: 508 ) says:

      Yeah something like that would be nice. With one giant comment page it gets hard to keep track of who is who and “where is that thread I’m looking for!”. I see a number of good suggestions here in the comments perhaps in the next contest BP will take some to heart and continuously improve as all great firms do.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        That’s bloody mental. I downvoted once (won’t say where, but feel dirty). I’m still having huge problems helping my friends register. It’s nuts, ’cause I don’t know how to help them.

        • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

          Yes, the gloves seem to have come off with downvoting. I keep getting knocked down from 50. Not really in the right spirit, I think. If the ‘User Karma’ score were truly Karmic, it would adversely affect the downvoter, not the downvotee!! 🙂

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            I’ve been trying to upvote everywhere. I’m not sure where all my Karma has come from, so I am trying to spread it around especially with writers i loved.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      It might just be me, but the Karma system might just be a little broken.

      That, or it’s all a strange, confusing, part of this Deathmatch. It’s almost like flooding a gladiatorial arena then giving one man a sword and snorkel, and the other a rubber dingy and a slingshot.

      Or it’s nothing like that at all and I’ve been mixing my NyQuil with DayQuil again.

  7. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    ‘Fogger’ appears like a dream and develops like a photograph. Immersive, poetic, beautiful. My only criticism is that it ends as soon as it seems to begin. But that is definitely a sign that I like it.

  8. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    Good morning from the east coast! I am looking forward to reading these stories, if I can figure out how to get passed the paywall.. (Anyone else waiting on an unfulfilled subscription?)…

    Mostly wanted to say Hello and good luck to my fellow authors! Glad to be in the ring

  9. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “Failure to Co-operate” made me think the author knew what she was writing about. That sick feeling when you have to convince everyone including yourself that you didn’t do what the finger pointing people said you did. Nice! Really good dialogue. You can tell the writer put in the time.

  10. cal.mcrae ( User Karma: 81 ) says:

    “The Last Mr. Jones” Didn’t quite satisfy as a read. I totally bought into the two girls, but the writing left me wishing for more in some places and less in others. I can see to tweens doing something like this to get away from their lives, but I can’t get passed the metaphors that don’t ring true.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Interesting comments, I have to say I felt the EXACT opposite (that’s literature for you…) My feelings were that the writing was top-notch, it really stood out for me in this competition. But I had trouble buying into the girls and their activities. I’m gonna re-read it though because I like the style enough to keep working for the meaning.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        The Very Last Mr Jones – I felt was extremely well crafted setting and story… felt like walking through a postcard. I had entirely different expectations for the story based on the title and was pleasantly surprised by what came. That difficulty of dealing with and being witness to aging, to decay, it’s hard for many. I really appreciated the friendship between the two main characters. It was a great story – but I was also confused to the context of the girl’s purpose. Though I kinda just took it for granted that they were doing like a school volunteer program or something, the idea just clicked into my mind when I couldn’t see another in the text itself.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Though school volunteer program doesn’t make any sense in context of what is going on. Someone higher suggested a psycho aspect to them, which I kinda dig. I think now, giving it more thought and having read others’ comments that ambiguousness of what they’re doing, and what they’ve done really works for the story. So I think my initial confusion is without merit, as I feel all details don’t need to be laid out. The ending then works for me, because I can wonder and wonder with the details presented and still be satisfied.

          • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

            Thanks! I hate endings. Can’t do them – unless the story is born from an idea of an ending (and even then – I screw up). I’m still not convinced about the one I chose – but I guess it’s too late now.
            This is quite different from what I write most of the time – a late-night twisted idea that for once came with a voice I think fit. The writing was all about the voice and trying to keep it consistent – and maybe the plot suffered from that.

    • coalw ( User Karma: 90 ) says:

      I liked this authors writing style and would like to see more of their work. I find it had to believe that teens that seem to live for the “now” would commit enough time to see this through. Those that would work for a future goal would put their effort into something positive.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      “The Very Last Mr. Jones” put me in an odd state I will admit. I kinda liked the coldness of the narrator, it seemed to establish Jenna as a sort of foil. It was great to see Jenna pushed to her limit, but I would have liked to see more of the effect it had upon her.

      I would also have to say that I’m not quite getting the motivation behind the girl’s actions.

      I know that it was probably just a typo, but who’s “Emma”?

      • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

        Never being a teenage girl in a world that lacks anything that even resembles an interesting activity or adult supervision, you wouldn’t know what that kind of boredom/freedom feels like. You can really get yourself in trouble when no one is looking.

        I got how they got to that place, I just didn’t see that bored teenagers would put up with the work involved to fake a relationship with a “dying senior”.

      • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

        Oh my God, you’re right. So embarrassed I’m covering my eyes…
        I thought I’d changed every instance of the name from the last version, but clearly not.

        I really should be punished in some horrible, literary way for such an oversight.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          And i can relate to not quite getting the motivation, I said the same thing when I first heard about rimming…
          I guess I was trying to play at “people like what they like” and if adolescent girls can dream about and plan weddings, why not funerals?

  11. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “Gun for Chekov” paints a lonely picture of isolation and the lengths we will go too, to feel connected. Its like facebook and buying the props to show how great our lives would be if we had lives. Sad to think that there are people who face this everyday. It leaves me wondering what the next thing will be that Chekov will need to store at his friends house while he is “out of town” and if the friend will start being Chekov. I found it to be an interesting read that I bought into right to the end.

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      “A Gun for Chekhov” is a lot of fun, with some great lines (“This gun is older than my grandpa.” “One of these guns possibly killed my grandpa.” “the brand-named dish detergent that I represented smelled less like granny smith apples than five pounds of mouldy ass wrapped up in seven pounds of dead rats”). I like the way it sort of snakes around, keeping us uncertain as to what the narrator is going to do with this gun. The rhythm of the story is great. I like the cutting back and forth from internal monologue to the interaction with the gun-seller (though I did get confused when the Mormon Missionaries were mentioned. I thought the next line of dialogue was with the Missionaries at the door, and it took a second to realize – no, we are still back in the gun transaction.) I like the irony, if that’s what it is, that in the end, he doesn’t really change his life – he just kind of adds a layer of evocative storytelling, about the mysterious Chekhov, to his otherwise banal existence. The title works on two or three different levels and carries us right to the end with the ambiguity of what the gun is for. Great job.

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        The writing in “Gun for Chekhov” is a good read, you have a very smooth way with words and a clever eye for detail. I do have two issues with it thought: (1) The kind of man who can convince people to blow him in bathrooms must have some ability to make people like him, so I don’t entirely believe that he can’t make friends and therefore requires an imaginary one. If there is a reason he *chooses* not to make friends, perhaps that needs to be a bit more clear. (2) There are a couple of epically long run on sentences, and perhaps that was a stylistic choice but they read awkwardly.

        • coalw ( User Karma: 90 ) says:

          The only thing I can see that is not of the characters imagination is the gun deal. I am left to wonder which part is second personality, wishful thinking, need for adventure(a life)

    • coalw ( User Karma: 90 ) says:

      See what your getting at. “Chekov” could be any of us. So many people with lonely lives. Facebook lives and then the things we wake up to everyday. Not sure I’d by a gun, but I know people who have bought into the whole “I’d rather deal in fantasy than reality”. Overall I enjoyed the story and feel I could enjoy other stories by this author.

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        I would agree, except that I think we need to be careful about who we mean by “us”. The main character of this story suffers from a particularly male type of meaninglessness, as indicated by some of his fantasy solutions to the problem – “marry[ing] a girl twenty years my junior […], travel[ing] to foreign nations known for their lucrative ‘sex tourism’ industries.” Those potential choices are not going to attract everyone’s sympathies. I’m not saying one can’t or shouldn’t have this kind of protagonist – fiction is often about helping us sympathize with unsympathetic people – but it’s simply not accurate to suggest his problems are everyone’s problems. Having a comfortable, secure life the biggest problem in which is boredom is a LUXURIOUS, rather entitled problem to have. Which is why, I think, McRae makes a smart choice by keeping the tone very close to (dark) comedy – the humour struck me a lot more than any sense of desperation or isolation; this is a Coen Brothers-esque story, to my mind, more absurd than sad – and NOT ending the story with, say, a shooting rampage, which would have robbed him of all sympathy. The protagonist maintains our sympathy to the extent that he doesn’t take his (rather entitled) frustrations out on people in the world around him. He finds a way to enrich his inner world instead. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I think McRae does a great job of it.

      • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

        Boredom as motivation. How many times have people started something and gone down roads to find themselves in situations they just didn’t anticipate? Just because there was nothing good on TV. At least we have a weekend of good reading.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      That’s nicely put… I really liked this one too… I didn’t like your narrator at first, Wyatt, but I warmed up to him quickly as I started to find myself agreeing with him more and more. The hipster gun-spert is a vivid and fun visual, well painted. Originally when I read the title I felt it a little on the nose, but I really fell in love with Chekhov and loved the way you weaved between the now and the moment… and the twist on the expectations was well handled.

      • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

        Thank you very much.

        I’ll admit that I have a habit of being “too on the nose”; I’m horrible of writing ending lines that are overly appropriate and I’m terrible at coming up with titles. Once in a while I’ll get lucky, but it doesn’t seem to happen enough.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Phage Match – I like the uniqueness of it, but I question your format – the faux teleplay doesn’t promote your story, I feel, and wonder if you tried going full script format, or going full prose – though I guess that would loose the spirit of the piece. Anyhow, I don’t get your purpose… it’s all fun and quirky, but I don’t see it’s purpose outside of listing dangerous drugs and their effects and your common man, “Arlo” giving witty sidebars from the perspective of the curb. It feels more like an editorial or weekend feature, I just felt cheated in terms of getting a story. Much praise for taking chances, though.

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          Thx. Drugs are bad. Guns (and wood-chippers) are bad. Vampires are bad. And yet we tend to legitimize them in entertainment and creative. Phage Match puts its foot on the accelerator to point to that.

          I wanted that absurd over-amplification, plus pace, plus originality. I low-balled everything else and kept it short so readers got a break – wading thru 15 short stories is a lot of wading. “It’s a mess, but it’s a short-frickin-mess,” as Arlo puts it.

          My normal material is a lot different; I took this to be an opp to go batshit crazy. Also, it is hard to get critical comment – easy to get friendly kudos. I figured I might get some useful comments, although in hindsight, I want critiques of my favoured style, not this “weird on-purpose” style. BUT, I knew a subtle story about 1961 prairie small town life would not get included.

          I am also entered in NYC Midnight and Bath Short Story contests and both of those offer critiques and judge/reader comments.

          Arlo: Much praise for taking chances? You should know.

  12. cal.mcrae ( User Karma: 81 ) says:

    “Gun for Chekov” Nice rhythm to the back and forth and a hipster with a gun collection seems so plausible in today’s society. The quality of the writing leaves no room for doubt that the writer has taken his time and crafted a story that carries you with him through the heat of an Arizona day. Well crafted and interesting in its characters, whether imaginary or not.

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      I got it, but didn’t enjoy it. I think I spend to much time on computers trying to get them to behave in an expected fashion to enjoy someone else’s struggles. i knew from the beginning that the BSOD was bound to rear its ugly head, I just wasn’t sure if a full cold boot would fix the outcome.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Fatal Error – Paddy Scott
      I loved this and hated this. I read a lot of comics and I always glaze over when the writer’s have the cyborg and computer characters talk in symbolic, faux techno babble… so at the start, only from a personal perspective, I had trouble getting into your piece. But I really love the use of social breakdowns between class and gender as presented through the order and logic of mechanical thought process. It’s an impressive piece, but I honestly don’t know if I fully grasped it.

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        I think this is a great description of my reaction to Fatal Error. The right reader will love the shit out of this story, but the jargon-y programming lingo is going to be difficult for the average reader to overcome. That said, even though I didn’t fully understand it, it made me think and feel things, if incomprehensible things. So, well done!

        • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

          Hi-ho. Just saw your comment. Much pleased somebody read the story and is still here.
          Anyway, I kinda answered things in the timeline just above, or below you,(not sure how this board works, relationship-wise). Hope that answer helps with understanding my attempt. I appreciate your input very much, either way.

      • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

        oh hey, just saw ur post. Was out to dinner. (well, pizza) Actually it’s meant to be exactly as it appears, except for the BP layout issues. The story is told as a series of error messages sent to a man’s computer by the woman’s (chatbroad) server, not unlike what you and I might receive when we attempt to access a sight that has denied access, service etc. So, not so much futuristic as sadly realistic. It’s an odd presentation I admit, but I was confident in its finding a home here. All that being said, I absolutely agree with the hard to get into thing at the begining, and had adjusted it once, but then the problem comes up with one trick ponies like this – when do you introduce the trick? So, I had to try and establish my premise and still maintain reader interest thru the arc of the male character’s attitude and panic as he tries to find a way out of his predicament with the ‘chatbroad.’

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          i just reread it… I still struggle with the language, but your explanation helped a lot. Thanks! I enjoyed it a lot more on the second read. And yes the digital layouts are not aesthetically pleasing.

          • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

            Agreed. Not a superfan of reading online. I like stories to look like stories, laid out on the page. Still, I have to give BP props for handling the sections of my story that demanded different formatting. One of the things that went right amidst the many glitches.

              • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

                oof, this is gonna get squeezed but I’ll put it here anyway.
                Yours was in fact the first one I read. Take away the situations and I
                think the technical language barriers might be quite similar. And both are
                relationship-driven main characters trying to re-adjust to surroundings
                lately indifferent to their existence.

                • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                  Nice. I can see the similarities. Very interesting points. It’s interesting how we both used different extremes of language to illustrate our points.

  13. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    A night at the F.A. I can’t comment on the subject matter, but the writing kept me to the end. Like driving past an accident, I just couldn’t look away.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      I think the writing in this is very good, some excellent descriptions and cleverly brutal lines. The title sells it a bit short, makes it a bit too flashy and gimmicky considering this is actually quite a thoughtful story. I don’t know why exactly but I loved the “Everyone thinks they’re a great lay and no one knows each other’s name” bit.

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        I agree about the title. Maybe the seeming playfulness of it, though, is like a lure into the story, the carnival barker drawing you into the funhouse, and then s*&% gets real!

        • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

          I can see that for sure, but I still think the tone of the title and the story don’t quite mesh and could easily put people off who might otherwise read and enjoy the story.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        I think I held on to the title too tightly… it was one of the first things that cemented when I started developing the story. That line in particular has been changed numerous times, so I am immensely pleased to have it called out, makes me feel like I made the right choice. Thanks for reading.

  14. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    I enjoyed “I Want You Around.” It made sense in every way. A relationship can be many things, but these well chosen snippets show the writers ability to show the tests love has to endure. Not big highs and lows, but the small and mundane.

  15. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “The Illuminated Throat” Just not my favorite. I know this sounds harsh, but it struck me as “B” Horror movie. The third person perspective just felt like a lot of work to keep moving through the writing. I couldn’t get past seeing this as written for “the Twilight Zone”. Good to watch not to read.

  16. coalw ( User Karma: 90 ) says:

    “The last Mr. Jones” It started with such promise. Totally bought the first part, but totally lost me by the end. Just missing something. Perhaps the story took a turn for me when there was no expanding of the reasoning behind the “WHY”

    • Davethomson ( User Karma: 453 ) says:

      I struggled with the why as well. They kidnapped an old man, bought him some porn and then left him to roast in the sun. Maybe the girls are just a couple of psychopaths, destined to become serial murders. Or they could be big fans of forced euthanasia.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      I agree. Your writing was good and the story flowed well and it’s concept was initially engaging. By the end I was baffled though, we really need context for why two teen girls would be hanging out with random old men. It took me out of the story, thinking about the why and receiving no answer. Even if they were bored-hanging out with elderly stroke patients is not an activity known for its crazy fun. So we need to know more.

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      Like why do you visit someone your not related to just so you can go to their funeral? Wasn’t there anything else these two could have done to cut through the boredom that they found themselves enveloped in. I know just a story, but just didn’t make me want more.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I can relate to the “why”? Just like I can relate to the why in the A clockwork orange (not that I consider myself to by that kind of genius to be sure). I wanted to hold back on the why and not make it into a story where the motives are understood fully. I also wanted to twist the typical thing many girls that age would do (back in my time) – babysit and plan/play weddings. For a lot of readers I’m sure it doesn’t work, but that’s OK.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      I agree! Maybe it was the skull and cross-pens, but I was prepared for harsh criticism, or petty insults from faceless fakenames. So far it’s been real nice.

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Agreed. Will it remain that way, or will the bare, bloody knuckles be out in weeks 2 and 3? I hope not, but this is a nation whose past-time is watching grown men throw punches at each other in a sport where skating and moving a puck are the only actual ways to score points.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      I know, it has been cozy so far. I can’t read stories till this evening because I am at work, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun to see critiques popping up though.

    • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

      Morse Code for Romantics: A sad story with beautiful and delicate descriptions. Love the parts about lighthouses. And if I’m ever holding a teen magazine for any reason, I hope it gets promptly replaced with The Bell Jar. What an upgrade!

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Just gotta wait a little while.

      It’s Saturday; as soon as us literary types get into the whiskey and gather a few friends the scathing criticism will begin to flow.

  17. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Apologies to folks struggling with the middle part of my story. Something seems to have gone wrong on the backend. Some glitch on the site has the first line of the next paragraph tacked on as a duplicate to the previous one. Trying to get it sorted out with the Broken Pencil folks! Thanks for your patience! 🙁

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      Hello, just read this one. A good story, probably one of the one’s I’ve most enjoyed in the competition. And as a sidenote, I think your feedback to people has been very insightful.

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        I can’t tell if this is my thread (I think it is), so thanks! You too – very much the same – good thoughtful critiquing. Hopefully once this rather hectic lightning round is over, there’ll be even more of that.

        • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

          It was your thread. Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to tell what goes where. I should have specified but my brain is jumpy with these shenanigans!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Sick to Death of Stories – I like the irony of the title in our present situation. Bravo. I really liked this one, the atmosphere was brilliantly captured, and I felt like a drunk at the bar in much of it. Love the section about there being only so many ways to fuck up your life. Felt true, felt real. The use of script format for the cut away scenes were really well handled and I thought it aptly done. Good show!

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        Thanks. The story started from the title, actually, and that passage you identified – there only being so many ways for people to screw their lives up. It was meant to be flash fiction, but got a bit too long. The screenplay stuff just evolved organically out of the other threads – I actually try to avoid writing about writers as much as possible!! Just seems too… I don’t know, safe, or not relatable for people that are not writers. Very relieved now that all the glitches have been ironed out of it. (Thanks, Colin.) It’s been a busy Saturday, but I’ll be reading ‘The Fukhaus Archives’ first thing in the A.M.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          it was really nicely structured. And I’m a big fool for the physical aesthetic of a piece of writing as well, which I think your story was really good with. All my stories are about me, in a way, but I rarely make the characters writers… i wonder if that means something.

          Sleep well

  18. Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

    Holy freaking crap. As I’m toodling around here, I get an email from Grain Magazine this very I-kid-u-not second, telling me that they’ve accepted one of my short stories! I am a mess right now!!! A soon-to-be drunken mess!!! I’m in love with everybody!

  19. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “Her Shadow’s Bones” Wow! In so many ways “WOW”. Got to hand it to the writer, she can really put a picture together. I can’t say I loved all of it, but most of it was beautifully written, just tied together in a clunky way in places.

    • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

      Ah, thank you!!! I meant it to feel very DIY to kind of emulate the haphazard feelings and attempts at healing and control in recovery from trauma and mental illness, so I’m really glad it stitched itself together just like the Frankenstein story I knew it could be 🙂

  20. Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

    Good Evening Fellow Gladiators! In the final moments of the lightning round I just want to say it has been an honor to have competed with all of you. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, I’ve never met a finer group of writers! Your stories are diverse and surprising and pretty much mind-blowing, each in it’s own twisted and wonderful way! If I make it to the next round, thanks to all my supporters. If I don’t, we who are about to die, salute you! Good night all.

  21. scarlett0 ( User Karma: 10 ) says:

    Too Many Variables has Too Few Votes!! The dissonant blend of poetry and prose pulls you into the narrator’s world, and inner-world, leaving you as uncertain of what’s real as she is. A few overly-clunky sentences, but even they are in keeping with the scrambled understandings of the main character. I am a big fan of this piece.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Ha! Doy. This comment above was written by me on my roommate’s account. ‘Cos technology is hard. We are both BIG fans of Too Many Variables 🙂

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      I get it, but then I don’t. Something wrong with me and not with this story. Makes me question, which I think was its purpose. It needs to move up the scoreboard.

      • Nikki ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

        My goal was to capture the process what writing means to me. The characters, locations, time zones, potatoes, cutting boards and radio stations morph continuously, it feels like an abstract painting in progress, I know when it’s done but I might not be able to explain what’s on the canvas.

  22. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “Morse Code for Romantics” In the top five for me, so far. An easy read except for my empathy with Livvy. Maybe the best description of a wedding reception I’ve read. More proof of the “All that glitters is not gold” theory.

  23. coalw ( User Karma: 90 ) says:

    Illuminated Throat. Not sure how this story made the cut. Just not even close to a “Fogger” or “Morse Code for the Romantic”, “Welcome to the Future” or “A Gun for Chekov”. It really could have used a less tedious perspective. The Dr. This and the Dr. That just got tiring.

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      Yes, agree. Arlo is making a grilled cheese right now, but he yelled, “Adolescent rumyafect nanny goat milk,” or something along those lines.

      He is so harsh.

      Hazel is napping but she commented earlier: “It’s so pre-school!”

      coalw gets a free bun. Maybe even a rare *dreibach*. (Although I am saving those for the Arid Zone windsurfing majel who came up with the terms “rumyafect” and “dreibach”.)

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      This was just not what I was looking for in a narrative. Although the descriptions were clear the writing style made me wish it was over. Would have made a good TV episode, maybe.

  24. Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

    “Morse Code for Romantics” should be way, waaaaay higher up. The descriptions really bring the reader into the space and stay away from being heavy or unnecessary. The dialogue felt natural and there was a lot of wit. So many favourite lines, including: Mothers didn’t have any use for potential, whether they ever had it or not. Ugh, the dialogue was so clever! Great job, Anne.

  25. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Arlo has been out on a busy street corner (that one in YVR where there are two Starbucks across the intersection from each other) registering voters. He came back with a long list of email addresses, passwords and also, a surprising amount of cash. So things are looking up and once Arlo’s list, my telephone book full of Mennonite cousins, and my friends in Argentina kick-in, it’s gonna be *moving day* for Phage Match. Bigly. Tremendously bigly. Btw, My friends are 61 and chose to rot their oldster asses in S Am, working at a winery.

    Arlo and I are taking the day off. I have a story to write about a golf foursome: Obama, Justin, BOTUS (Biff of the United States) and God Almighty. They are playing Chambers Bay, walking, playing high stakes. Trump keeps kickin’ his ball around and God, all three of Him, is getting upset.

    After that, Superbowl.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Don’t worry about that, worry about the possibility of there being no electronic afterlife to greet your digital spirit in the even of a 404, thereby forcing it to float aimlessly through the cloud until it manages to either fade into obscurity or find it’s rightful place in The Wayback Machine.

  26. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    OK. I’m the nice Gramps-lookin guy who wrote the weird-ass story about a Foster Hewitt/Fred Willard cross and the harm of drugs as if it were a contest. Or some shit like that. And yes, I accept that 15 people are now Googling “Foster Hewitt”. Fred is Phil’s Dad on Modern Family, although I know that no one here even OWNS a TV, much less watches primetime comedies.

    Anyhoo – I wrote the story and Arlo – the strange dude in the story – manifested himself, physically. Jan and I are on vacay in Mexico, so it’s a little crowded here in the room. Espesh with all three of us eating Mexican. You know.

    Last: vote for me and I will send you a fresh, homemade Mennonite bun. For serious! Some conditions apply. C’mon – you can spare ONE LOUSY VOTE!

    • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

      Ah-ha! I got that (the Foster Hewitt, not the gramps bit) right away and apologize sir, because I meant to put here as my own observation. Also how much I enjoyed it, except it was a little short. When I finished it my first thought was that it could have had a bit more wrap-up, rather than the typical sign-off, which I know u were going for.

  27. Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

    Failure to Cooperate is a story full of character. Though I wish it was a bit longer, the main character felt very real to me. Great job, Susan!

  28. abacus ( User Karma: 652 ) says:

    I found Sick to Death of Stories especially engaging and lovely to read. I think it stands out among a wonderful set of stories. Congratulations to all the authors!

  29. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    I didn’t feel the title “My Dog is Ruining My Life” spoke to the truth of this story. A dog is a dog. What you bring into your life in the way of relationships is your weight to carry, along with your dog. Some parts were so well written, but the ending was just not satisfying.

  30. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    My Dog Is Ruining My Life – So full of strength and sadness. The broken tail passages are wonderful. I’d make that part of the title and change the ending, which for me is a swing and a miss. My opinion – likely way off. Everything else is filled with compassion and wisdom – just like a dog!

    Well done. You also should pass me by, tail wagging, in this goofy contest!

    – m

      • Steve Thornton ( User Karma: 16 ) says:

        I really liked My Dog. The writing was clear, the characters real and the protagonist was sympathetic. I found myself engrossed as I read, and that doesn’t always happen, but you told a rather straightforward story from beginning to end, and put a deeply emotional story behind a simple plotline. Gotta say I feel for the guys in your story, but the main character is complex and troubled and looking for something she can’t quite find, and I cared about her. Nicely done. I think I’ll spend a vote on it. will check out your website too.

  31. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    “‘Who does that?’ she was thinking. ‘Who takes up motor-biking at 61 years of age?’

    And who wears a leather jacket in hospital, as a patient? Only someone who wants to assert that, unlike the rest of the oldsters rotting in the rehab ward, he had plenty of life left to live.”

    Arlo here. I find 61-year “oldsters” or 81-year-olds for that matter – rotting and otherwise – just like their juniors. Some are unctuous and some are not.

    Arlo out.

  32. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    I thought The VL Mr. Jones was a strong piece. Unpredictable, dark but a streak of sunshine too. I loved the deft good and bad mix. Like Arlo and me: I’m an SOB and Arlo is confused.

  33. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    “Welcome to the Future” A good read. I would have liked a little more from the man in the bed, but I can believe the premise and I think it was well thought out and carried me to the end. Would I stay or die, not sure. I can see this leading to some interesting conversations on technology and humanity. Could we adapt to a future that in no way resembles our past or present?

    • Davethomson ( User Karma: 453 ) says:

      ‘Welcome to the future’ has a great premise. There are so many directions this narrative could take but instead it focuses on how everything old is gone. That wouldn’t be news to anyone waking up from stasis and isn’t all that interesting. The interesting part of the story occurs after the patient decides to live or die but that is completely unexplored. A more apt title would be ‘Goodbye to the past’ as very little is revealed about the future.

    • Stu Sherman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

      Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the feedback. I’m also on the fence about which I would pick, which was part of the motivation for the story. I find the idea of a world in which everyone I love is gone, and everything I enjoy forgotten, to be terrifying.

  34. Nikki ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

    Good morning from the West Coast! 🙂
    Anybody had deathmatch related dream like me yesterday? We were in a huge Wholefoods, every author had a corner decorated with stickers and a huge bowl of “kale in miso gravy for $8 a piece” was on display at the center of Everything. I woke up at 5am, confused and hungry.

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      Arlo asks, “What the feck is Wholefoods?” Also, he is wondering if you are single, but don’t worry. He’s harmless. Just Arlo bein Arlo.

      Also, #freebuns.

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          I know, I lived in Chilliwack and Abbotsford (Steinbach, with a view). It’s that Arlo. He has a dark side, that guy.

          My youngest daughter lived on Nanaimo where people go to complain about the people moving onto Commercial Drive, who complain about the gentry who buy the $7 avocados at Wholefoods.

          I think I will send you a free Mennonite zweibach bun. Made with scalded milk, which sounds kinda Wholefoodsish, yes?

          “The microwave rings like it wants to answer.” Love it. I predict a move ahead for you.

          (Arlo is asleep under the palapa. Jan is keeping an eye on him. Should be calm for a while. Remember, he’s a fictional character.)

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      RE: “Plight”. Yeah, plight is right. I got finally in. Arlo n me, both. Arlo has been ranting steadily. Also, he says there is no way you are getting any free buns. #freebuns Sorry about that, but we are a team. (I might sneak you a little Bothwell cheese – but no buns for you.) See if you are curious. #toplessbakers (that last hashtag is Arlo’s idea.)

    • lanadelyay2 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Hi, I’ve gotten emails from friends saying that they jumped through all the hoops and they still can’t vote, and I’m supporting a piece that … er, could use the votes! Total bummer.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        This is today’s mantra… it’s been very frustrating. Thanks for voicing it, I think we sound whiney when ramble on about friends not being able to vote, but there’s definitely still issues abounding. I wish the folk who have managed to overcome the issues would post some pointers for others.

  35. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    OK. I just put my Gdaughter Hazel up as my Profile Picture for the comments. Yeah! ARLO: It’s like the time in the action movie when all the heavily armed good guys start yelling, “GO!GO!GO!GO!GO!” and jump out of choppers.

  36. Deborah Batterman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

    Even if I’m a little late to the comment party (not available much of yesterday), am certainly appreciating the range of work here and, as Anne Baldo pointed out, the ‘civility and friendliness’ in this deathmatch. A number of really good stories here, with literary merit, which, as Chaos McKenzie points out, is not necessarily what garners votes in this first round. Maybe a slightly bruised ego, but no sour grapes re: my positioning at this point. This is all-new terrain for me, and nothing diminishes the satisfaction of being in the contest, getting friends to read something new of mine (even if the registration/voting process frustrated them too much to vote), maybe even gaining some new readers. I will say, too, that Hege Lepri’s story, going strong in the #1 spot, is a very well crafted story with a dark undercurrent, indeed.

  37. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Log-in, schlog-in… I still think the best thing about Deathmatch is maybe a few friendly folks will visit my Publications page on, see that I write everyday, see that I wrote 100K words last year, see that I published 18 stories, see that I am rotting, but it’s only a slow rot …etc.

    Arlo is mouthing the word “pussy” to me over and over. Cat lover?

    • Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

      My voters have been having technical difficulties out the wazoo! And, I’m out of town on a previously scheduled visit to Nashville (set up months before the schedule was announced) Thank you for your support, however. It means a lot!

    • markji ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Agreed!! I have been able to vote, but many people in my reading group have tried to vote and can’t get a registration link or are being told they can’t vote again. Is this contest rigged?!? 100 votes for Fogger!

  38. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    THE LAST RAGAMOK – “I looked at the trucks coming with their big headlights and no sound, and I put my head down and started to go into them and their death silence and then there was one sound.”

    I liked the whole story – stream of disturbed consciousness. This sentence (ABOVE) is exceptionally good, IMO. The last paragraph is tight, from the gut – feels like. Thanks for this, Steve. I’m a fan. Hope you pass me and a few others and make the cut. This story deserves a second look.

    Arlo loves that key sentence too. “Fuck, yeh,” Arlo said, with a faraway look.

      • Deborah Batterman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Trying to capture the voice of someone distressed/disturbed can take a writer off the deep end (as in trying too hard) but he gets it right.

      • steve ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

        I don’t know if you’re talking about me and Ragamok, but if so, I’ve been busy with other things–preparing a 10th anniversary party for the Toronto Writers Co-op, mainly–and haven’t had time to vote. Thought about getting co-op members to support me, but the difficulty of setting up an account and then logging in and then voting seemed to much to put to people whom I like, or at least share a group with, so I did give up. The contest seems like a popularity contest more than a story contest, and I don’t think I stand a reasonable chance in any case. That said, some of the stories on this site are quite good, and I hope the best one wins. It won’t be mine, but it’ll be a writer’s, and that matters. Hmm, and now reading other entries I see you are talking about Ragamok. Well, thank you! That’s really encouraging, and I’m sorry for my absence. A matter of unfortunate timing. You’ve swelled my heart, though.

            • Steve Thornton ( User Karma: 16 ) says:

              Thanks, Deborah. I know what you mean about details — I make the odd typo myself. Anyway, nice to hear from you. I was just about to read your story, coincidentally. I like the title so will have at it in a sec.

  39. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    “The Illuminated Throat” has an interesting concept. The idea sounds almost like something that George Saunders or Harlan Ellison would think up. Unfortunately the concept is bogged down by some strange, unnecessary descriptions, lack of backstory, and character actions that feel abrupt. I hardly have a reason to vote for the protagonist because no other reason has be given to besides: He doesn’t want this to happen. The story needs a bit of subtext, and it could be introduced so easily. In the end I was left just asking more questions about the story than what was happening in it.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      The Illuminated Throat – though not in a genre I usually read a lot in, an enjoyable read. I struggled a bit at the bit at the beginning at picturing the two doctors and who was doing what, where, something I believe could be helped by switching to first person. That would also make a more intimate and intense description of the procedure, without switching POV.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      The Illuminated Throat – You have a really good grasp of the story your telling, and clearly you know what readers want to read. I found the story interesting but a bit too close to Mike Mignola or Scott Allie’s Hellboy and BPRD type tales for my comfort. I felt like you had a great grasp of the standard steampunk or Lovecraftian form, but I kept waiting for the twist that would make it standout and be unique from those types of stories. But folks seem to love it, so go you go.

  40. Stu Sherman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

    Informal “Welcome to the Future!” poll for readers. I’m curious to know what you would do if you were the “you” in the story? If you haven’t read it, it might be best to avoid the answers until you do.

  41. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    TOP COMMENT! Arlo woke up, ate a half-quarter pounder with cheese from a few days ago and then fell back asleep. (His way of expressing excitement.)

    I’m gonna call it, ‘HAZIE’S COMMENT”.

    Bartender — free buns for everyone, and butter one for y’self as well!

    Danke Sehr!

  42. Steve Thornton ( User Karma: 16 ) says:

    Just read The Very Last Mr. Jones and liked it a lot. Nicely honest, well written, and has a feel of reality and a chilling finish. I’m sure those old guys got something out of it all though, don’t you think? The ambiguity of the ending lets us make up our own minds about the fate of Mr. Jones and how we feel about the characters, but personally, I like them. They seem nice.

  43. Steve Thornton ( User Karma: 16 ) says:

    Many really good lines in Morse Code for Romantics, and I loved the ending. Nice build-up of tension there. I wish this writer luck in the voting.

  44. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    “Morse Code for Romantics” is a pretty well crafted tale of shrouded dissatisfaction and opportunity closing its doors. Great details and descriptions were strewn about in the right places. Dialogue was terse, but said everything that was necessary. The writing worked wonderfully to allow the imagination to fill in the blanks.

    However, I will say that the unrequited love element introduced at the end seems to be a bit abrupt and kinda out from left field. It does add a nice element to the story, but it might have added more if it were hinted at earlier.

    All in all, I say good show!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Morse Code for Romantics – I loved the opening on this… it’s not the type of story I would enter into knowingly but you took gold and sequins and spun them into a magical realist form that I sunk right into. I was way more into your atmosphere and scene settings than the characters, I’m not sure why, but that feeling let’s up with the faster dialogue a little later on. “’Show me,’ I said, ‘what you would have shown her.’” I think that line has a lot of weight, and I’ll end that awkward thought there … Good show!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      First, I have to apologise – something I picked up from doing workshops at school, but I almost always end a critique with “good show” – so not trying to bite yer thing.

  45. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    Well Folks

    As we enter the final moments of this round I would just like to say that it has been a pleasure to share the field of literary combat with all of you.

  46. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    A note about my karma score… my very supportive parents have been regularly upvoting my comments to help me get more votes to narrow the gap and maybe tie for 8th. It’s a big gap, but I still have some optimism. Hope to share the podium with you Fogger.

  47. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    New ATTITUDE! Vote for Change! Vote HAZEL! (my new avatar pic)

    B’cuz Hazel is now in this – new discipline from the Phagesters: NO MORE SWEARING!

    Arlo: Aw, fuck, no!

    (Ok, that was the last one.)

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Wow – I just looked up your website. Too late, I know. But I just realized how different this piece was from your other writing. I really like your Mennonite inspired writing, can relate to tundras and long winters in ways you can’t imagine and will check in on you from time to time

  48. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Each vote for Phage Match will help make *HAZEL* the first Mennonite-Metis-Francophone-Ukrainian woman PM of Canada, some years from now.

  49. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    I’m so tired, but feel it essential to strive for tying at 8th (sorry fogger). The comments are starting to blend together in my vision like the colours of a Pollock painting. So close… so close…

  50. Bokchoygurl ( User Karma: 57 ) says:

    I don’t really have bad things to say about any of these stories so far. You all have balls to put your work out here like this so kudos. The VL Mr. Jones by Hege Lepris is well written, dark and funny in unexpected spots and the ending unnerving. I like when a story makes me uncomfortable.

  51. Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

    My Dog is Ruining My Life is a slice of life story about our pets: why they piss us off sometimes, but also about their unconditional love towards us. A good read.

  52. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    Self promotion time… I genuinely believe the issues of crystal meth abuse in Toronto need to be better covered, and I’ve been trying to find ways to tell that story for a long time. I get that it’s pretty purple in prose, but I wrote it in the spirit of someone who feels you have to go further to get anyone’s attention, let alone keep it. The weirdest thing about my story is that RIGHT NOW in every bathhouse, in every big CIty in North America, the events of my story are playing out in real time with all types of folk. Gay men doing meth and dangerous sex, its almost a joke to some people. I felt strongly that it was a story that needed to be shared.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Well said. It really comes across both in discussions and your story that you care about this subject, and you bring a wonderful, gritty voice to it all. I wrote a full review elsewhere, just wanted to say, this is a tough piece and good for you for writing it.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      This info is actually illuminating to me, as I somehow thought the story was about a time a couple of decades back. Maybe I got too lost in the “purple” to see the message and drive behind the story.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Sadly meth and the gay community have gone hand in hand for decades. But it’s a good point that one might not see the story through the penises.

  53. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    I want you around – Rachel Rosenberg
    Good show… very different, refreshing even. I didn’t really connect with it, the Ramones are a gap in my large music collection and I honestly started looking the songs up to see if I was missing something. There’s something about these stories that cite popular references, I’m not sure I connect with it or get it. To me, I would have preferred you to make me feel those songs through the atmosphere and action of your blurbs, instead of being directed to a feeling by the section titles. You use a lot of pop culture reference which I think weakens the impact of your otherwise punchy and exciting tale, you have real poetic pace to your stuff, and if I hadn’t gotten tripped up by the Ramones, I might have liked it more. Errr, it’s odd when you start writing thoughts about stories ranking above yours, it’s like you second guess yourself and worry about sounding like a poor looser or sour grapes or whatever… hence a long ramble to say I liked your story but I don’t know the Ramones very well.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      Ha! I understand the thought you expressed at the end, but I think most writers appreciate feedback, regardless of if we 100% agree all the time. It’s rad to learn what stories do or don’t do for readers. Anyway. Thank you for the thoughtful feedback!

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      (slowly catching up on my commenting backlog now that my fever seems to be gone)
      What you say here, Chaos (is that your real name? Cool!) mirrors my thoughts.
      I thought the story was well written, really smart, but to me it became too much about the framing mechanism and the “smartness of the writer,” at the expense of the story itself.
      There are great sentences here – great ideas – but I feel the framing mechanism to take up too much space in this reading experience

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        Thanks Hege! I appreciate the feedback. Always really good to hear people’s perspectives.

        And I’m glad to hear your fever has resolved itself.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        It’s my pen name from high school, but I have tons of printed credits in magazines and newspapers with the handle, so have decided to keep it. Plus my real name, I share with my father, so to spare him getting asked by business partners about that crazy gay sex story, I feel keep the pen name proper form.

  54. Anne Baldo ( User Karma: 18 ) says:

    “I also thought in the past that my future window still will be wide enough to sit there with a book.” (Too Mary Variables)

    That was always my dream, too! No luck so far…

  55. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    OK. This is it. While it’s fun to be an arsonist with a blow-torch, I really should bail out and let the serious writerly types be serious and writerly without me and Arlo and (as of recently) Arlo’s even-less-filtered sister Arleau (she just showed up) taking oblique, internet forum, pollo loco pot-shots at the earnest and the deep, sad-eyed lads and ladies of the low-lands.

    Hazel just said, “Gramps, give it a frickin rest,” so, well, when the kid is right, the kid is right.

    Adios amigos y amigas! Read my shit, if you get a chance!

  56. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    “Goodbye is just too sad a word so I’ll just say fare thee well.” – B. Dylan.
    “Smell ya later, rumyafeckers!” – Arlo from Phage Match.
    “Grain Magazine, don’t mess with my boy Paddy or I’ll send Gramps’ friend Arlo after you!” – Hazel from mitchandarlo’s avatar picture.

  57. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Come backs are the way to go! Phagesters unite! Follow the streaking star in the sky, Hazie’s Comment and join our revolution. This is getting Riel!*

    Arlo: We in dis bitch, finna get crunk; eyebrows on fleek, dafuq?

    *Manitoba insider humour.

  58. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    More self promotion and righteous gay indignation – – So meth is HUGE in Toronto, just HUGE. Toronto’s gay community has an international reputation for being meth addled. It is apparently cheaper here than anywhere else in the world. And though we usually think of meth heads as having dead teeth and skinny bodies, in truth meth users in Toronto include bankers, financial planners, teachers, doctors, and politicians. I believe that’s why meth isn’t heavily covered by the media. I know I couldn’t get an article about meth past an editor once because it struck too close to home for them. I once interviewed a drug dealer who painted a rather bleak portrayal of the drug trade within Toronto’s gay community. And it’s not new, meth is big part of the gay underground’s past. Consider how prejudice and bigotry, especially before it became uncool to be bully, so many homosexuals were isolated and depressed and then they turn to a drug that makes them feel like royalty, and just like that the temptation spreads. In particular people with HIV face bigotry even within their own gay social groups. Many loose their jobs, due to health issues and are forced onto disability with no program in place to get them beyond that and independant again. It’s like this vortex where people feel like they’re nothing, and so they turn to this drug that keeps them high, feeling like gods, feeling indestructable while ignoring reality and they find a new community among similar abusers who will mask the symptoms but never accept a cure.

  59. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    This is a good one. A lovely sense of tension and annoyance is pleasantly built up over the course of the story. I almost wish that there was some big explosive moment at the end, but what you gave was good enough to leave me feeling satisfied. The fact that you didn’t give the interviewers much in terms of emotion or personality only amplified the experience of frustration. I’d say you’ve done a good thing here.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Thanks for the feedback! I am also not fully satisfied with the ending (neither in the real life story, nor the fictionalized account). I’ve never been good at endings, which has a lot to do with my lack of publishing credits to date. How do things end? Things don’t end. I don’t even know how to end this comment

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        Haha. Yeah, endings are tricky, especially in short stories, as they can arrive suddenly and come off as trite or overly tidy, or, on the flip side, maddeningly ambiguous and indefinite. I’m sure none of us has this problem licked. You’re in good company there!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Failure to Cooperate – I like the sass of your narrator, which I assume is you, first paragraphs and sentences are make or break for me and I was very hooked from the start. Tarsucks is such a simple change-up and perfect. I’ve been in a similar situation with a big retail chain, and I could really feel the frustration in this. That sense of the future being corporations that distil humanity into awkwardly fitting categories that do nothing but to confirm the disgust corporations express towards the human spirit. That way they use you like a tissue paper… did you used to have to go in 10-minutes before your shift starts, though that 10-mins isn’t paid? That power game of having you dress up in uniform, knowing they’re going to cut you loose. My blood is boiling, I have a lot of anger issues and this story is a reflection of that. Well done. I really think it captures that disconnect between humanity and society which is getting bigger and bigger while we pay less and less attention to it. This is a really well told horrible experience.

  60. Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

    Gotta ask. Did all these comments pop up on everybody’s page all at once or just mine, because I’d been reading the same ol’ same all day, with nothing new past 10 or 11 AM. Now all of a sudden – BAM! 5 scrolled feet of comments.

  61. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    “Too Many Variables” almost lost me. Almost. The first few paragraphs left me in a haze, but it was soon cleared as one-by-one the elements of the story became more solid and visible. The language is quite fluid, this is a story that is practically screaming to be read aloud. There’s a bit of odd word choice in places, but aside from that there isn’t much to complain about. This one’s a keeper.

    • Nikki ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

      I appreciate you feedback. 🙂 Interesting, when I wrote it I thought of it as a monologue. Could you please give me some examples of what you thought were odd word choices? I would like to improve my vocabulary. 🙂

      • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

        Well, ask and you shall receive. I will say that this is only my personal opinion and that many may disagree, but ultimately you are the author and it your final choice. Examples include:

        -“For the neighbours to see and feel obliged”
        Obliged for/to what?

        -“Picks it up eventually”
        With how quick, and soon you make the approach of her stop sound, the word “eventually” feels a little out of place; it seems to imply that she has more time left on the bus than you’ve lead us on to believe.

        • Nikki ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

          Fair enough.
          (With “obliged” I felt I could twist the English grammar into a position that might not be healthy. Probably I should have left it in peace.)
          Thank you for taking the time to help. 🙂

  62. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    “Welcome to the future” is good. There’s no way around that. It is good.

    It provides a perspective on a cold, curt, and overwhelming honest awakening. The narrator does have a bit of character to them, but not enough to make the reading distracting. There are a few good hints as to features of this future, which does good for the world building.

    I’ll have to admit that the amount of forgotten culture and history made me shudder.

    I would have liked to have seen more indicators as to what life would have been like if the offer would have been accepted, maybe provide a relevant comparison to past lifestyle (“You will most likely spend the next 65 years living in what I’m told is similar to a ‘single floor bungalow’, with little chance for expansion). I realize that such a hint might be a bit of a stretch, but it would have been nice for establishing some of the absurdity of this future. However, the vagueness of it all might just be the point.

    • Stu Sherman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked my story. I’ve always found the idea of cryogenic preservation actually working to be terrifying. We generate so much cultural content these days, the odds of any of it surviving in the popular conscious past our death seems very remote. I remember a famous writer saying once at a reading that she considers any book surviving for 50 years to be an astonishing success. When I think about what I engage with (movies, books, music), even irregularly, from 20-50-100 years ago, it’s sadly not much.

      I was wrestling with how much of the future to let in. I think the group that set the rules of his re-entry or death, would be very specific about what he was could be told, but they’d probably allow a little more detail than was given.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Welcome to the Future – Man… I really had a different idea of what qualifies as an Indie Writer, seeing a career like yours grouped with folks like me, make thoughts of my future kinda bleak, which is apt, I guess, with this story. This is great. What a wonderful peace. The narrative voice is consistent through out and though the unfrozen in the future trope is common, you presented a fully unique and well thought-out future presentation. This is a great story! Like really.

  63. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    I’ve been trying to comment on as many stories as possible before closing time, while finishing a translation job at the same time. I may not make it. I’m truly sorry for the stories I won’t get around to. I read each and every one and they all deserve mention and attention. Lots of great writing in this group.

  64. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    Beautiful imagery – lovely writing and interesting idea. I like the fact that I don’t know if the protagonist is right about whet she tells us, or she’s an unreliable narrator.
    You had me fully in the first 2-3 paragraphs. However, I did feel that there was too much telling all at once when you start to reveal the motives of the protagonist, if you could bake that in bit by bit, that would make it a better read for me.

  65. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    Welcome to the Future
    Really like the premise of this story – and the opening WOW – I’m envious of that.
    It is well crafted, easy to follow, even though not in a genre I read a lot of.
    However, since you are creating a new world here, it requires me to suspend my disbelief, and I’m not sure it does that all the way through.
    One reason is that there is no linguistic sign that 400 years have passed. Rather, it feels like language has been frozen as well (and this a pedantic linguist talking). Also, it feels like the speaker panders to the person waking up, more than I think is psychologically possible – it seems too tailored to the needs of the protagonist æ which I think is impossible across 400 years . To believe this fully, I’d need it to be weirder, the differences between now and then more tangible.

    • Stu Sherman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

      Thank you for the feedback. The linguistic aspect was very important to me. I agree that language in the future would be so dissimilar from contemporary vernacular as to possibly sound like a foreign language. That was the reason in the 2nd paragraph the speaker apologizes for his diction being inappropriate and changes his language, since he wasn’t supposed to be speaking in contemporary vernacular but his perception of 21st century speech. Perhaps on another edit I can try to make it clearer that the present language would be too foreign for the protagonist to understand, which is why he is speaking in a dated tongue.

  66. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    Sick to death of stories – Walter

    Really well told story, compelling and at times funny dialogue. Well crafted.
    On first read I found the therapist scenes a bit clunky in the middle of the story, but second time around I “got it” and though it was really clever.
    If I were to criticize something, it would have to be that the plot is a bit predictable.

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, in earlier drafts the regular character names continued into the therapist scenes. But then I thought it was more interesting if they more obliquely commented on the main story. It also asks the reader to consider, If Nick is writing these scenes (or at least the first of them), what does that say about his understanding of his partner’s emotional universe, vs. her dissastisfactions with the relationship? Hopefully it makes the ending more poignant.

      Still working my way through the stories. Yours is next! 🙂

  67. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    How much do our literary talents weigh in this first round do you think? Looking at my own promotion and the people voting, I think very little. Thoughts?

    • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

      Oh I agree. Which is why it’s important to get to the ‘blood-fest’ (I kid) if you’re here for subjective input. That being said, what’s been offered here is pretty solid, advice-wise.

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      From what I can tell, nothing. Although I have read and liked some of the entries in the top eight, I can see that merit is not what is going to get you passed this first round. It is not your writing, but your followers loyalty that will make or break you in this competition.

      Perhaps, that following is what this competition is about. You bring readers. If your followers read other stories than yours, they may change from voting out of loyalty to voting on the merit of the story. Lets hope that in the future rounds that is the case.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Well and truly. I’m not on social media, but my local comic shop tweeted it for me and my school did a blast too. My friends aren’t the type to sit around voting all day though, so here’s hoping everyone gets snowed in tonight or something.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Nil. A few of my friends were considering voting for one of the underdogs (as far as votes go – not literary merit) but even that wouldn’t be a pity vote – not based on the literary merit of the story.
      Most of my following had already read my story, and given their input and were clearly biased – even if I didn’t coax and bribe them into voting for me.
      For my youngest daughter (now 19) it is the only story I’ve written she’s actually liked, so she voted voluntarily.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        That’s awesome about your daughter. My parents struggled with the subject matter of mine, but I was happy to hear they got through it and understood it.

        Who are your friends? How can I woo them? I’m so close.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          Roughly 60% of my following is Europe and will go to bed before the voting is over – so I expect to slide quite a bit after 6 p.m. Lucky for me the weather was nasty today in Florence (where I lived 10 years) and Oslo, so people there really voted for me out of boredom.
          The rest are writing group friends and some translator colleagues. My tip: if you feed people frequently enough they’ll be conditioned to do anything if you mention there might be food to be had at the end of the contest.

  68. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    My Dog is Ruining my Life – Deborah Batterman
    Uh oh… another suspiciously pro-style “indie” writer. I really liked the play in this. It’s unique in it’s sense of the ordinary world, the regular world. We know this dog. We know this narrator. We know these men. I don’t know if the, would you call them flashbacks (?), strengthened the story overall. And I kept being frustrated by not taking Misha for some obedience classes – I feel it would have been a quick solution to the issues, but perhaps there’s something in our narrator’s past, about the other dog that make the idea of obedience classes mute? I dunno. Good show.

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Haha. Yeah, it’s a good question – what makes an “indie” writer? Especially given that the average annual income of WORKING Canadian writers is around $10,000. (Like, people whose names you’ve actually heard of.) Less than a McDonald’s employee, by a long shot. By that measure, we’re all “indie” writers, no?

    • Deborah Batterman ( User Karma: 22 ) says:

      I appreciate this kind of thoughtful reading. To my thinking, the best stories are underscored by style and voice, so I’ll take your comment as a compliment 😉 Re: obedience classes — that’s an interesting question, and you’re right in your suggestion that it doesn’t even occur to the narrator for reasons that have much to do with her memories of her earlier dog, brought into her life at a time before the era of obedience training, crates, etc.

  69. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    Failure to cooperate – Susan Read
    There is a lot to like in this story. Love how we get drawn in to the Kafkaesque slowly from what at first seems like a very ordinary situation. Love how the story flows without snags. Clean, crisp and easy to follow.
    The only thing I’m not convinced of, is the ending. I feel that there may be too much telling of something that’s already been shown over several pages.
    I don’t know that I’d be able to come up with anything better myself though…

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Thank you so much for the comments and feedback. I agree that the ending doesn’t entirely satisfy. All I can say (besides I’m not great at endings) is that the experience itself left me feeling similarly frustrated. I wanted there to be a moment of epiphany or for my sassy side to wake up and tell these assholes off.. but they succeeded in crushing me instead. I stuck to the reality of the what happened, but from the comments I’ve received I am going to take another look at it

  70. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    HEY EVERYONE IN THE CONTEST… Can we get a consensus on who’s supporters are having trouble and who’s aren’t? What’s the general sense of the tech issues currently? My concern at the moment is that some folk seem to be having a ton of issues, and I am worried about all of us not having an even chance due to the issues.


    Everyone sign in. I’m an over-worrier so I need that consensus to help me relax. I’m overly curious about everyone. Lemme know.

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      Most of my friends/would-be supporters have had issues registering. Some have gotten through, but far more reports of failure than success. I imagine this may have chased some voters/readers off, but I am taking small comfort in the fact that we all seem to have the same problems.

      In more ways than one, I’d bet. hehe

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      I think mine have all sorted it out, but I had a lot of people say they had trouble making an account, signing in, AND voting. Seems like the site is slow to refresh, if you’ve got it open in your browser, but if you click on the axe icon a couple of times you get a fresh one that will take your click.

    • Nikki ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

      Some of my friends are having trouble voting. But I’m ok with it, I’m totally happy with just being here in this group of native English speakers. 😀
      Underachieving makes me less anxious now. I hope your worries will dissolve soon. 🙂

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        I loved your story… Too many variables – I liked the narrative flow of the variables, I felt you could really feel your artist’s background in the way the story flows out. I really enjoyed it. The idea of variables and the shifting quality of memory it really played with my own sense of anxiety, but in a good way. I liked it. I’m studying Woolf in school right now, so I will say this a lot but this also felt very Mrs Dalloway to me. Good show!

  71. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    My story is a bit of a hard sell… it’s a love story set to the backdrop of sex and drugs that has become a dominating presence in the gay community. I based it on a mix of personal experiences and stories collected while volunteering with the Toronto People with AIDS foundation. In particular I started noticing common factors between addicts and their tales of the bathhouse, and I formed the story around those common experiences. Anyhow, it’s a bit purple in its prose, but I hope everyone enjoys.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I don’t know if your story is a hard sell – but it may need the right audience.
      What I felt was that there is great writing here, funny, gritty sections – and I (as boring, middle-aged heterosexual woman) can see the protagonist and imagine the smell of the scenes. What I don’t get is the “feel of being in the situation” – I don’t really get what drives the main character. The slightly preachy part in the middle, where there is some inner dialogue about addiction, doesn’t quite do it for me. It makes me understand with my brain, but it doesn’t make me feel his motivation in my gut. But again, that may be because I need more than other due to my lack of experience with this scene.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        I understand what yer saying, thank-you. I wanted the inner dialogue to be like the rapid fire thoughts of someone tweaked out on meth. Those thoughts about addiction and what not all being things I know from experience go rapid fire through the brain when you are high, feeling out of control. The main character’s only motivation is searching for a feeling of belonging. I’m not sure how to make the story more open for a wider readership, but it’s something to think about.

  72. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    OK – so I just received 7 e-mails from people who said they’ve registered and never received the email back from the website that allows them to vote. One even tried two different email addresses but is still waiting for Godot.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      It seems the system has a special dislike for gmail addresses – I can understand wanting to resist the high-tech monopoly google is building, but still…

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Has it gotten any better for your supporters? You are getting votes now. I’m starting to panic a little as I don’t fully understand the issues my supporters are relaying to me, so I can’t figure out how to guide them through registration or an official problem.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          50% of my family/diaspora/fan base with gmail addresses had to use alternate emails (and it took hours to get the link). 6-7 people are still stuck.
          How about your support base?

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            My heart does break a little though, when i get an email from someone I would never expect to make the effort, saying they’ve been trying and trying but just don’t work. I wish they could verbalize their exact problems and then I wish I could solve them magical 1950s Dad style.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            I think I lost most of it, they tried a few times, but I think they’re in the wind now. They made a valiant effort, but I can’t blame them. I told them about gmail, but not all of them had alternate addresses. I took my computer to the local pub to get people registered there, but it didn’t go too smooth. I was bummed about it, but I figure if I’m missing out on a bunch of votes, I imagine everyone else is too. It’s too bad. Wish it could have been easier for the voting. I’m starting to feel weird about the whole contest as I don’t know how to get conversations going, and it’s all I want to do. I don’t really get new media promotion, so for me I guess, the value of my writing was making it this far and now I’m left relying things out of my control. I made a good go of it at least, I posted ads on Craig’s List. My local comic shop the Silver Snail tweeted it for me, and my school did an email blast but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be complicated. At least my mom figured it out, her and dad have been doing a great job of support. D’oh, sorry, I’m super ramble thoughts at the moment…

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Bah. My parents are having the worst time with it all too. I thought it was just technical inexperience but I keep hearing from my hip and with it friends having issues too. Le sigh. Needlessly complicated. Stay strong!

      • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

        I think I win the bid for the most incompetent parents… Still haven’t been able to log on.

        (Thank God for a kids, brothers and sisters and writers group friends to compensate)

      • Paddy Scott ( User Karma: 61 ) says:

        Make them aware that when that first series of boxes pops up, they aren’t to fill in their pswds etc into those but click the nearly hidden link just below, for unregistered users. Maybe? I don’t know for sure?

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          That was the issue for them. Thanks for saying. I don’t really get all the different complications people are having. I just keep getting emails from friends saying they can’t vote. I’ve had no trouble at all. So it’s just silliness really.

      • steve ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

        I don’t know if you’re talking about me and Ragamok, but if so, I’ve been busy with other things–preparing a 10th anniversary party for the Toronto Writers Co-op, mainly–and haven’t had time to vote. Thought about getting co-op members to support me, but the difficulty of setting up an account and then logging in and then voting seemed to much to put to people whom I like, or at least share a group with, so I did give up. The contest seems like a popularity contest more than a story contest, and I don’t think I stand a reasonable chance in any case. That said, some of the stories on this site are quite good, and I hope the best one wins. It won’t be mine, but it’ll be a writer’s, and that matters.

        • CanlitLuverLady ( User Karma: 560 ) says:

          As well people have read your story and it is getting quite the praise as well! That to me would be more of a “win” than being voted as #1! Let that knowledge spur your future work!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      The Last Ragamok – Steve Thorton
      First, I’d like to call shenanigans on your credentials as an indie writer. You are clearly a professional, so I want to know if you’re a ringer for BP or do you represent some other nefarious plot?

      I really enjoyed the almost Woolf-esque free flow of the narrator’s voice, having a rhythm of memories unfolding at random. I enjoyed the twist at the end, but I feel strongly that you project that twist right from the first line of the story that when you actually read the twist, it feels like a foregone conclusion. I would have challenged you to express voices of the head without directly referring to having voices in the head. All done though, good show.

      • steve ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

        Thanks for that. Your suggestion piques my interest, though I’m not sure if I’d have liked the story that resulted; nevertheless, something for me to think about. Regarding my status as a writer, I was a professional, but am now retired; it may sound stupid or just unthinking, but I didn’t equate my experience with a qualification as indie writer. I just saw a contest I wanted to enter and a magazine I liked. Anyway, I don’t know what BP is, and I’m no ringer, just a writer trying to figure things out. Cheers!

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          Steve, if you need an Avro Arrow connex, I have a friend who know some stuff and is connected to others. He has a sizable private collection of war memorabilia and lots of random aeronautical stuff too.

          • Steve Thornton ( User Karma: 16 ) says:

            Yes, Mitchandario, I am always interested in meeting or hearing from people who know things about the Arrow story. Not sure if it’s foolish, but here’s my email address: Well, I don’t suppose it’s against the rules to put that in, is it? Whatever, rules is made to be broke.

  73. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    Hey… is anyone still up at BP? The title is wrong in my piece in the list… I didn’t want to be the first to whine, but it’s gunna drive me nuts!

  74. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    A message not related to writing in any way whatsoever: There are “yuge” problems with logging on and voting -according to a dozen friends who went at it at midnight.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Curious… is it technical issues or confusion when registering? I’m getting a lot of mixed messages this morning, everyone complaining about not being able to vote, but I can’t figure out if they’re having actual issues or just not able to register. It’s a needlessly complicated registration system. I get BP’s POV, wanting more visitors and hits on the pages and all that, but it really seems needlessly complicated. Le sigh. Since I’m not on social media at all, I tried a blitz of promotion for folks who aren’t really the type to figure out what’s gone wrong and try again.

      • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

        There were 2 main issues that my supporters have encountered. 1) Not getting the email with their password after registering. 2) Many of them tried to vote as soon as they got back to the ballot and didn’t know they needed to wait for the cleavers to turn white after the page loaded.

  75. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    This is definitely an odd sensation. I feel a democrat watching votes troll in.

    I’ll be the first to admit something stupid – I honestly got the midnights confused and thought it didn’t start until tomorrow. D’oh.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      I’ll admit that I kinda felt a bit rushed as soon as they said that voting started tonight.

      I guess it must have been a clever tactic to keep us on our toes.

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        I got confused because of the time difference and couldn’t understand why people were already able to vote (I’m in Vancouver so it’s only just turned 11). So now I feel a bit bananas nervous, it seems to have happened so suddenly.

        • Dillweed ( User Karma: 595 ) says:

          Yeah I think they initially had the a.m. / p.m. mixed up on the 12:00’s too, or I read them backwards myself which is probably more likely!

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Oh shit… I never considered that… it would kill me. I’m a bit frustrated, title has a typo and people keep writing me saying they find the vote hard to discover… le sigh. Cheers to 48 hours of nerves and stuff?

          • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

            I hear ya. The middle part of my story is all messed up with a bunch of randomly repeated lines. Very confusing. Hopefully BP gets all the glitches worked out soon. Hang in there! 🙂

          • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

            Oh. “Nerves”. That is nothing. I have Arlo here and he was going off like that Scottish guy who was trying to order room service from Siri. (Seriously sad that so many people will recognize that totally oblique reference.)

            Living with a completely self-centered, druggie roomate is no fun. Even if he is completely imaginary. He is a handful… don’t get too excited there Fukhaus guy, just speaking figuratively. If you’re reading.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        I never thought I’d be a finalist… I recently made the decision to unplug from social media and the like. Bad timing.

        Good luck mister, and all that

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          Hi. OK, full disclosure – I only got in cause someone else withdrew. (Again…Fukhaus guy, these are just phrases. Relax. Jeez.) Anyway, someone bailed and they put me in.

          So, I am doing pitifully – mostly because my story sucks but also because I had no luck with log-ins, etc. Arlo then came up with the #freebuns ploy. He is a miserable tool, but has some good ideas. More here:

          Cast a vote for me (what is one vote?) and get a free bun. And cheese. This is real, man.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            You seem to want me to jump at your word choices, as you keep telling me to calm down, but I just want to be clear that the words you seem to think will trigger me, don’t even register in my lexicon of Fukhaus culture. Try harder friend, try harder.

            • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

              Ok, Chaos. I respect your calm response. (A little whiney.) Have a bun. I will be gone soon – consider Arlo the warm up band. I think the “Fukhaus culture” (Arlo: “Holy catshit – did he write that?”) might get roughed up a bit more. But you seem to have a strong voting team, so, who cares?

              • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                I genuinely believe the issues of crystal meth abuse in Toronto need to be better covered, and I’ve been trying to find ways to tell that story for a long time. I get that it’s pretty purple in prose, but I wrote it in the spirit of someone who feels you have to go further to get anyone’s attention, let alone keep it. The weirdest thing about my story is that RIGHT NOW in every bathhouse, in every big CIty in North America, the events of my story are playing out in real time with all types of folk. Gay men doing meth and dangerous sex, its almost a joke to some people. I felt strongly that it was a story that needed to be shared.

                • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

                  Yes! And the fact that Arlo pushed at you says that your topic is not a sacred cow with an implicit “no touch” rule means that your strong writing and good intention will be read. Flinches? To be sure, but, that is what this venue is about, right? We all need to be taken to unfamiliar worlds.

                  Arlo is some pissed about me agreeing. I am cuddly, due to two fast Margaritas. (The drink, certainly not the Mexican slang for girlfriend on the sly.) – M

                • Jonathan Valelly ( User Karma: 81 ) says:

                  I just came back from the bathhouse and I talked about your story with some guy in his room. Thought you’d get a kick out of that! And we of course, talked about the realities of crystal meth use in Toronto, in bath houses and also kind of all over…

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