Deathmatch 2017 – Round One


Round Complete!

What’s happened so far:

Back to the Lightning Round Results


Step One: Read the stories.

Step Two: Create a user account for comment and voting access. NOTE – if you do not receive an email from Broken Pencil confirming your login/password after you create an account, please check your spam/trash folders. If you still can’t find the email, email us at and we will manually generate a login/password for you. We’re a small staff so it might take a few hours to get to your request but we’ll do our best to get you up and voting asap!

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.

Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Three: Sound off in the comments.
Step Four: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!
Step Five: Repeat until an Ultimate Winner is declared and all others lie bleeding in the dust.
Click here for Deathmatch rules and regulations and for links to all the people and presses that have generously donated awesome prizes for our winner and runners-up. VOTE AND COMMENT BELOW! By commenting you agree to be signed up for Broken Pencil’s newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

– See more at:


We need more petty insults!
Get in here you bastardized, limp-wristed, yellow-bellied, scum-sucking, spoor-gurgling, frog-fondling, fear-mongering, gang of bicycle-riding, day-dreaming, sweet-smelling excuses for Tennyson wannabes!

– lightnessofbeing


The Very Last Mr. Jones

By Hege Lepri

The very last Mr. Jones was grumpier than the others. He’d been something or other during the war that still made him feel important. He had steel-grey hair, combed to one side, leering eyes, and all his shirts had blue stripes. He’d wait for us in his arm-chair ready to boss us around. And when there was a word he didn’t remember, or something fell to the floor, he’d find a way make you feel it was your fault. “Ennah!” he’d thunder, and there was no point in telling him that wasn’t your name.

Read on...


By Vicky Savage

I am an artist, and a remarkably good one considering the conditions under which I’m forced to work. Mostly I create true-to-life drawings of the mountains where I grew up. They say I’m a genius at trees, at faithfully capturing dappled sunlight on their finely veined leaves, and recreating the mysterious dark fingers of lichen that clutch the throats of their craggy trunks. Though, I admit I struggle sometimes with the color of bark. Crayola doesn’t make a precise shade of bark brown, so I’m obliged to meld and merge various colors together until I get it just so.

Read on...

I Want You Around

I Want You Around: True Tales of A Relationship in 10 Ramones Songs

By Rachel Rosenberg

I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

When we met, I thought that you seemed sullen and you thought that I was a bitch.

It was a cold, shitty grey afternoon.

As all Great Love Stories begin.

Read on...

A Gun for Chekhov

By Wyatt McRae

“It’s called an Obrez.”

The garage is blistering.  I’d ask to open a window, but then I recall just what I stepped in from when he asked me to join him inside.  Arizona in September is a far cry from Alberta in August.  I’ve been here for less than a week and every one of my shirts have been recoloured to a permanent sweat stain.  I’d complain about the constant stream of sweat running down my back, but at this point the slight chill that I get with every stray wisp of breeze or the half-second shiver I feel after I peel myself away from of my rental car’s leather seats has become my second greatest motivation for living.

Read on...

Failure to Cooperate

By Susan Read

I arrive for my second last scheduled day of work at, well, let’s call it Tarsucks.  This is only based on a true story, after all.  I don my green apron, punch in my seven-digit code, and get called to the back office before I can make myself an Americano.

In the crowded back room, four folding chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, three of them occupied by well-dressed, smiling people—a man, and two women.  A plastic cup of water and a pile of napkins sit on a desk beside my empty chair.

Read on...

Her Shadow's Bones

By Kaitlin Tremblay

Elizabeth didn’t know what she was doing, just that she couldn’t keep doing what she was now. She had had enough of this life—her life, lying awake at night, staring at her ceiling and the shadow puppets made by car headlights as they passed by her window. The shadow puppets were perverse revisions of mundane things—a T-Rex that looked like it was dissolving, a star that was crumbling. One car drove past, disrupting the reptilian shadow puppet she was looking at, severing it in half. Elizabeth swung her feet off her bed and bolted up right. Her shadow swung with her, a thing far too thin, elongated, and delicate to be a fair representation of herself.

Read on...

The Illuminated Throat

By Rob Onofrey

Now that he only had his left arm, the lab coat felt strange on Dr. Martin Voltala. The right sleeve hung empty beside him as he leaned on a wooden cane and held his eyes closed. He stood next to his colleague, Dr. Thomas Melker, in front of a large steel door in their private laboratory.

Read on...

Sick To Death Of Stories

By P.D. Walter

The black leather biker jacket had been a gift from his ex-wife, Josephine. She gave it to Jake right
before she left him. At 16, their daughter Katie was old enough to decide who she wanted to stay
with. Now 26, she wondered if she’d made the wrong choice.

Read on...

659 Responses to “Deathmatch 2017 – Round One”

  1. Davethomson ( User Karma: 453 ) says:

    There appeared to be a real ‘Tragedy of the comments’ in the last round. Instead of insightful, useful comments being upvoted to the top, writers appeared to solicit upvotes on every comment, thereby ruining the comment resource. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen this round. (See Tragedy of the Commons if you didn’t get this great pun). Good luck everyone.

    • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

      This is a great pun! Yesterday clearly was a tragedy. Let’s hope today doesn’t turn out to be a farce. Lucky the stories are great! Worth the effort. Even posting a comment runs at a glacial pace.

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

        It is a great pun! I got it. 🙂 And with ‘Fukhäus’ (sadly) out of the running, there are – shall we say – fewer perverse incentives at play. (Cue the muffled, vintage comedy horn that signals a dad-quality joke)

        I think a great way to spend the week – or part of it anyway – would be for each pair of writers to take a thread and treat it as a long conversation back and forth about their process, inspirations, whatever. Make it less of a competition and more of a kind of running dialogue about writing. Probably more interesting for the casual visitors, too, than reading about the glitches.

        Whaddaya think, scribes?

      • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

        Why is it that puns are so much fun? As writers you guys must have some ideas. Personally I think it is because puns are creative, provide an instant audience response (usually groans), and don’t have to go anywhere. They have no story to tell, they just display a flash of wit.

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

          It’s probably an overly intellectualized response, but the French philosopher Henri Bergson has a theory of comedy, and his general idea about verbal humour is that it plays on an apparent absent-mindedness of language, that is, language’s unruly ability to contain multiple (or accidental) meanings. Puns force those accidental meanings, and we just delight in that sort of wordplay (accidental or otherwise). It’s rather like misdirection in jokes: your brain is expecting it to go one way, and it goes off at 90 degrees. Puns do something similar with individual words/phrases; your brain is keyed to receive the normal meaning, but then the punster twists it off in a surprising direction. And we humans do love surprises. 🙂

          • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

            I have a friend who is obsessed with puns, and I am quite impressed by how quickly his brain makes those connections. Also after he says one he always has quite an amazing expression on his face, opens his eyes and mouth wide (like it’s a surprise) while he waits for you to get it, and it’s adorable.

            • iWoo ( User Karma: 107 ) says:

              P.D. Walter, that is really interesting and reaffirms my value of a good pun. Why then, do people groan about them? Are they not surprised, or are they simply reacting negatively because they are upset about being surprised? Ie: they feel momentarily deceived, and are then resentful rather than able to laugh at the minor mental gymnastics they just did to get it?

              I get twice as amused by french puns when I see / understand them, and I feel like maybe my brain is congratulating me on being able to quickly figure out both meanings (as it is my second language and learning it is always a work in progress).

              Rachel, they sound absolutely adorable. I hope you laugh at half of the jokes, while just doing a careful sigh and tilt of your head at the rest. It wouldn’t be as fun if you were uniformly delighted or disappointed. At least, that’s how I like my puns to be received. 😉

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

                Maybe the problem is puns are NOT usually that surprising? You can sort of see them coming up Broadway. I don’t know. We probably need a whole subordinate theory of ‘corny’ humour. They’re kind of the jokes we love to hate. My dad claimed to hate puns, but made them all the time, and said his mother was the same. I’ve inherited it, and my partner can swap stupid puns all day long. (None of them worth sharing here!)

                That said, I feel like I had a moderate amount of success making puns in Japanese when I lived there. The language is kind of made of syllabic blocks, like lego, so its easy to swap them around.

                For example, ‘mizugi’ means bathing suit (lit. ‘water clothes’), and mucus is ‘hanamizu’ (lit. ‘nose water’), and when Japanese people are sick they wear those disposable masks, so I dubbed them ‘hanamizugi’ (‘nose water clothes’). That usually got a good response!

                Or, ‘bangohan’ means dinner, and ‘ichiban’, ‘niban’, ‘sanban’ mean first, second, third. So if you are really hungry, like a Hobbit, you might need an ‘ichibangohan’ (first dinner), ‘nibangohan’ (second dinner), and a ‘sanbangohan’ (third dinner)! 🙂

                • iWoo ( User Karma: 107 ) says:

                  Hahaha I love those P.D., especially hanamizugi. If you didn’t catch my cheese pun, it was a hypothetical name for a french cheese shop… Fromagie (fromage + magie: cheese + magic). Maybe compound word jokes are in a category of their own?

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

                    I think compound words count as puns, depending on how they’re used, but I am no expert. In any case, there’s literally a shop in Kensington Market called ‘Cheese Magic’, so you’re on the right wavelength! 🙂

      • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

        How about a thread for really bad poetry? You know you want to. Its also a way for us non-contenstants to display our writing prowess at being really, really bad. It can keep us entertained while we wait for the cleaver to brighten. The writer’s equivalent of doodling.
        I’ll get us started:
        Roses are red
        Glasses are clear
        Forget about the contest
        And go have a beer
        Or two

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

      Did the Chosen One make an unscheduled appearance today? Something seems to have restored some balance to the Force. Glad to see Jake Lloyd is getting work again. 🙂

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I didn’t understand how things kept moving around yesterday – was that an effect of upvoting?

      And I kept thinking that my fluctuating karma was an effect of technical glitches – but I realized after a while that it ups and downs had become strategical tools in the match. Guess that is part of it.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I was a bit disheartened to discover on of the contestants here actively soliciting his fans to use the upvotes and explaining how – on his website. It did explain why some minor comment with little content could get 20 upvotes.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        That was me! My parents upvoted everything I said and near the end of the lightning round, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the cut I posted the explanation. Let’s be honest now Hege, a lot of this is about your ability to work promotion and all the angles. So work those angles. No sour grapes.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          Not just your parents. I did too. During the lightening round you seemed to be the only person friendly enough to engage with. And now you’re telling me that was only you working a promotion angle…

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            It was something I realized later in the process, if I knew it early in the came I would’ve been all over the place with comments. I am friendly and easy to engage with, but I’m also blunt and all that so generally come off like an ass. See my new rant up above.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          I may have both feet in mouth… I was not in on the comment tragedy of yesterday, and was unaware of further and greater shenanigans than I.

    • MisterF ( User Karma: 4 ) says:

      I’m New to Broken Pencil but with the current top comment from The Lepri, I wonder if there will be a Savage literal response forthcoming to achieve Top Comment. Somehow I doubt it, so is it time for the Vicky Voters to now back her Deathmatch opponent? Listen to me, at this time we can ill afford not to now vote for Le Pri-x as this is not a Deafmatch but a Pun-ishing battle.

  2. michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

    Its interesting how this competitive process, which is in many ways disruptive and even destructive, not only generates a sense of comraderie among the contestants and a desire to provide useful comments, but even some individual self-reflection on their own work and what the goal of writing is. Some writers may be egotists, but to write well you need to be attuned to and care about people as well as keep trying to understand yourself. This contest seems to be proof of that.

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

      Well said, Michael. Of course, it also feels a bit like one of those reality shows where they put 12 strangers in a house together and then slowly reduce the food, turn up the heat, and deprive them of sleep, until someone cracks and it’s erupts in a ‘Lord of the Flies’-type massacre. Here’s hoping we don’t get there!!! 😉

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        It definitely feels like that, P.D. If we were all in the same place, I think hair pulling and spit-in-beverages might be happening. I feel like, to some degree, the cozy of the lightning round has passed and now there is a lot of sneaky scheming going on. Which is fine, is the point, ladida. But if it feels like this on day one…

          • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

            I wanted to say the same about the Twitter joke, but then I was worried it would be so unreadable due to scrunchiness that people might injure their eyes trying.

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

    I didn’t get to properly introduce myself in the comments before (and for the sake of getting to know everyone throughout this exhausting week!), but I’m Kaitlin (duh) and I wrote the terribly disgusting body horror story, Her Shadow’s Bones (double duh). I’m a game developer and I really like Godzilla.

    Her Shadow’s Bones is a (thinly veiled) metaphor for trauma and eating disorder recovery. My goal with my fiction and my games is to talk honestly about mental illness through metaphor (and body horror specifically). But I still can’t watch any horror movie with any amount of gore at all. I’m a major wimp. And despite being a writer, I’m terrible at Scrabble and I hate playing it.

    Oh, I’ve made a friend almost throw up before doing a live reading/playing of one of my horror games, so I guess that’s one of my proudest moments.

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

      Hi, Kaitlin,

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to reading ‘Her Shadow’s Bones’. (Susan and Vicky, I aim to get to yours tomorrow morning! My apologies there too!). I haven’t read all the posts about your story (which are probably 3 or 4 times the length of your story by now!), so I apologize if I am repeating things others have said.

      This is wild story. Not my preferred genre (body horror?), but it held my interest throughout. Even though it is not written in 1st person, the narrator’s POV is so close to Elizabeth’s that we really feel trapped inside that claustrophobic experience of body dysmorphia (if that’s the right word?) with her. It’s uncomfortable, but powerful, and you do it with skill.

      One of the best critiquers (if that’s a word!) in one of my writer’s groups says we need to know what the protagonist wants on the first page, or certainly within the first few pages. In your story, we know in the first paragraph—she wants to be thinner, and then we watch in horror as she proceeds to lop parts of herself off. This literalization of her desire is very effective and very disturbing. It reminded me a bit of the Bjork/Matthew Barney film ‘Drawing Restraint’ where they are on a Japanese whaling ship and they are lopping strangely bloodless chunks of flesh off of each other.

      There are too many interesting, creepy, incredible images and lines to list here, but some of my favourites are: “He never raised a hand to her, but her skin bruised nonetheless, blossoming from inside of her.” “…water that swirled with bone marrow like oil…” “the sound whistling through her fleshless jawbones like wind through reeds in a shallow river.” Amazing!

      It’s one of the most thoroughly interiorized stories here, which reflects the diversity of the stories that – sadly – we start to lose as the competition narrows down. There’s not a lot of dialogue, but where you do use it – like when we get the backstory on Harry calling her ‘Beth’ and her discomfort with that – it is used very effectively; concise and to the point.

      I also really like the jump to the second part: “This is not where the story ends.” This device moves the story along and gives us a bit of a reprieve from that horrifying first scene, but then we are straight into a new horrific scenario. And it never lets up! Which is why we can’t stop reading – we need to know how she gets out of this nightmare.

      My biggest concern for this story was that Elizabeth would remain a kind of passive victim of her situation and not find some action she can take to get out of it. But about midway through, she starts to get some more outward-directed agency, when you pick up the image of Harry ‘smiling like a bite’ and then give her ‘weaponized teeth’. It’s a turning point because now she’s not just taking it all out on herself. And it prefigures the solution she ultimately finds to her problem, so that’s very satisfying from a storytelling point of view. Eating her shadow is a perfect metaphor for accepting your body as it is, as gross as the actual scene is! 😉

      Two more turning points that are very effective are – first – when the shadow starts to parrot Harry’s words (and – of course – it exerts a similar hold on Elizabeth), and – second – as she is disappearing, her shadow is becoming more “beautiful and glorious. It was unapologetically robust. It seemed to delight in its curve, its fullness, its weight.” Brilliant way to reverse the meaning of her basic struggle, which is to become weightless. You really capture that horrific inability of anorexics to see themselves as they are, seeing instead fat and things they want to change everywhere, when they are already painfully, dangerously thin. Your whole story is a metaphor for that, and a chillingly effective one. It’s an important issue, but you’ve found a unique and very story-like approach to it. It doesn’t feel like a lecture on the dangers of eating disorders; we experience the horror of it almost at first-hand. 🙂

      And I really like that even though she does find an active solution (within herself, not the approval of a man or some such cop out), the story doesn’t end on a saccharine or overly uplifting note. We are optimistic for her, but she’s just been through hell, and this is only the first step in her healing process, if I can use such an Oprah-ish term for such a nightmarish story! The ending, while basically positive, doesn’t deviate from the overall ghoulish nature of what we’ve seen her go through – indeed, it ends on one of the most ghoulish images of all, grinning though a mouth full of bone marrow. Ee-gads!

      In terms of things that could be improved, I’m sure others have commented on this, some of your sentences are a bit too wordy (I have this problem too). There are a few run-on sentences that would work better chopped up into shorter ones.

      Most of your images and metaphors work well. Some really good ones are:
      “Weightlessness, weighed down by a shadow.” (This is excellent, and a perfect summary of the protagonist’s dilemma, prompting us to wonder how she will solve it.)
      “A branding of sorts. Hot and forceful.” (Great – short, concise, clear, powerful.)

      In other places I think you diminish their strength by using too many words, and not flowery or descriptive words, but just too many small grammar words or awkward grammatical constructions. I’ll only give two examples:
      “a defiantly non-hesitant action.” (This is awkward and too abstract; why not just say ‘defiantly, without hesitation’?)
      “for what she had to do next. Best to do what she had to do in the dark.” (Why repeat the construction? Why not just say, ‘Best to do it in the dark.’)

      (And yes, I realize the irony of me trying to give tips on concision in what is probably the longest post to date! Oh, well. ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ right? 🙂 )

      A related ‘problem’ is overexplaining your meaning, something we all do at times.
      “it felt like being given a new identity, one she didn’t ask for, one shaped only by his perceptions.” I would omit the last clause completely. Less is more. We understand, and the less you spell it out, the more pleasure we will take in gathering your meaning on our own.

      But this is a tricky balance to strike – how much to explain and be explicit about and how much to trust the reader to understand – and I am sure we all struggle with it. So it’s not a problem that is unique or special to your story in any way. Just something to watch out for.

      In any case, these are minor problems in a very strong, very original, very impactful story of which you are no doubt rightly proud. It is as deserving as any of the others of the big win. Great job! 🙂

      Peter (aka P.D.)

      Vicky and Susan, see you tomorrow, hopefully!! 🙂

      • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

        Peter (aka PD), this was such a wonderfully thoughtful and kind message to read this morning, thank you so much for taking the time to type out your thoughts in such detail and length. I absolutely agree with some of the awkward wordings and sentence constructions, but am heartwarmed to hear that my images struck the chords I was hoping they would, and that the ugly optimism of the story shone through. It’s why I use horror to talk about these things, it gives a vehicle for me to talk honestly about ugly realities while (hopefully) not becoming too didactic.

        I owe you a thoughtful response to your story, as well! I also just wanted to echo what I’ve seen said elsewhere and thank you for being such a kind pillar of support and honest critique throughout this competition. Potentially going up against your story in the next round is an inspiring thought, haha

        Keep on fightin’ (and writin’)


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

          Thanks, Kaitlin. Glad it was well-received. (I was afraid it sounded too teacher-ly! I am a teacher in my regular life, so it’s an occupational hazard!!) 🙂

          Maybe save the detailed critique for the next round. After two weeks of this, we’re running out of discussion topics! I really would kind of like the non-author participants to step up and lead the discussion of the stories, personally, but happy to chime in when necessary. And happy of course to read critiques from the other authors too.

          Hang in there. Hopefully we both make it through to the next round.

          Enjoy your weekend. 🙂

    • Alison Lang (Moderator) ( User Karma: 12 ) says:

      i feel your stories visualize “body horror” in the truest sense of the world and “Her Shadow’s Bones” is no exception. I also feel this is a super Deathmatch-y story in that it goes to dark, awful, squeamish places and unearths a larger truth in the bargain. I love this freakin’ story!

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Your story carries a thematic weight that touches primal aspects of our culture, and I speak this time of humans as one culture, with no time to consider how diverse the prism has become. I realized it the other day, watching the new season of The Magicians – – Her Shadow’s Bones doesn’t just speak to body terror, but also that long held struggle in all men between the cultured creature of a society vs the primal jungle we came out of. This story echoes a lot of that. Now, that said, there’s a lot of on the nose sentences mixed with paragraphs dark metaphor, and I feel the story just needs a tightening. I bet if you read it now, there are sentences that itch, a few here and there. I almost just said to trim the fat, groan, but it definitely needs a morning routine.

      • BraydonBeaulieu ( User Karma: 127 ) says:

        Hey, it’s me, your friendly neighbourhood past Deathmatch contestant. Maybe don’t make weight loss jokes which target a story (and its writer) that deals explicitly with eating disorders? That’s a pretty shitty thing to do.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Oh, that wasn’t my intention, I caught the mistake as I typed and tried to make it a joke to ad some levity, which apparently failed. I realize everyone thinks I’m a bully now, but I was really just trying poke fun at my mistake. It wasn’t intended how you put it, and I think that’s clear. But again, I’m an easy scapegoat as the “bully” now. So have at…

            • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

              I said something of dissenting opinion, I’m not playing the victim, but I find it funny that people are acting like I beat her up and kicked her dog. And I wasn’t making body image jokes, I was using a common term “trim the fat” but realized it was a poor choice.

              • BraydonBeaulieu ( User Karma: 127 ) says:

                “Hey, it’s me, your backspace key.”

                You 100% made a body image joke by doing the whole “wouldn’t it have been just HORRID if I’d said this awful thing but I didn’t say it, it didn’t say it AT ALL because I’m CLEVER” thing, which no one’s buying, and for which no one’s giving you a cookie and/or a pat on the back. And making a shitty joke is not saying something of dissenting opinion, Chaos. It’s making a shitty joke. They are two discrete rhetorical actions. Take responsibility for it. No one here thinks you’re edgy except you.

                • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                  Dude. Chill out. It wasn’t intended like that and you are making a mountain of a mole hill. I do take responsibility for it, I could have done it better, but I thought in my perceptions that I was downplaying my error not making it worse. My mistake. But you are making an issue here where none was intended and I don’t appreciate you trying to aggravate it.

                  • BraydonBeaulieu ( User Karma: 127 ) says:

                    Thanks for taking responsibility for it, but don’t now play it like I’m making a big stink over nothing. You’ve been bullying people, and now others (and the people you’ve bullied) have called you out on it. That’s not some form of reverse-bullying, my friend, that’s holding you accountable. I’ve only spoken to you, so if you think that I’ve aggravated the situation, then you might want to think about the very limited audience on which I might have had that emotional response (again: you). I saw you acting shitty, and I said what I need to in order to make you understand that. And in a situation like you making jokes at others’ expenses, I won’t apologize for hurting your feelings by calling you out.

                    If all else fails, then remember: This competition is public, and people in publishing talk.

                    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                      I know people talk. The trim the fat thing was out of line, but I still don’t feel like I was bullying anyone. I’ve bullied a lot in my life, and I guess my interpretation of bullying is something more. I’m sorry everyone disagrees with me, but I still think Rachel’s story relies on a gimmick. I wasn’t mocking her as a woman, or anything else, just for misappropriating another’s work to promote her own. And I don’t understand why I am not allowed to defend myself when others take the same road that they’ve just labeled as wrong. It’s a bit hypocritical. I mean Kaithlin herself posted a comment about the frustrations of not being able to edit posts, so for the screw up with her I really thought she would understand. It’s ok though, I do have thick skin and if it’s easier to call me names and stuff instead of making a valid argument against me, then have at. Anyhow, trying to stop posting, just keeping with the votes.

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

    ‘The Illuminated Throat’ – didn’t get a chance to read this one yesterday, so here goes…

    This story’s a LOT of fun. It’s in that sort of wild Frankenstein-meets-Mel Brooks sort of tradition (perhaps by way of the insane laboratory in Woody Allen’s ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex*’?). The initial description of the arms in the tank is great – “One swam, flapping and wiggling its hands, fingers, and wrists to get around. A couple of them wrestled each other” – and there are lots of nice images and turns of phrase throughout. I like the more of less direct jump from pre-surgery to the arm going nuts. Good way to move the story forward without bogging down in unnecessary exposition.

    It’s an amusement park ride that carries you swiftly along to the end, which is what it should do. So there’s not much point critiquing it from a conventional literary standpoint. The idea of using a serum to train the arms is no more absurd than, say, using humans – which are net energy consumers – as batteries in ‘The Matrix’. Which is to say, it’s completely absurd, but that’s the world the story takes place in!!

    I guess I might say I feel like the foreshadowing of the arms going nuts is a bit obvious. Again, given the world the story takes place in, we pretty much know this is going to happen from the moment they are revealed. But the resulting chaos is still fun. This story is pure plot, which is not a problem, but if we knew more about the backstory between the doctors, I think we’d care more in the end that they die. Still, a wild, very enjoyable ride! 🙂

    This is also what makes this competition both great and frustrating – the variety of stories, in all different genres and styles – is richer than what any one story has to offer. So how do you judge the quality of two stories, head-to-head, in such totally different literary universes?

    Anyway, let the best axe win, I guess! 🙂

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

        Hey, Rob —

        Maybe, as we wait the week out, a good way to keep this interesting and friendly for us (and for visitors to the site) is to treat this space like a long conversation between two writers chatting about inspirations & aspirations, process, favourite writers/genres, the writing and/or other communities we belong to, and anything else that comes up.

        Belonging to a couple of writers groups, I just find that while we often critique each other’s work, we seldom take the time to get to know each other as people, or talk about why we write the things we do, or what made us want to write in the first place.

        Could be fun. I’d be up for it, if you are. (Full veto power on both sides, of course, to ignore questions that we don’t want to answer.) Doesn’t have to be all serious, either! The zanier the questions the better!

        Anyway, lemme know! — Peter (aka P.D.)

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

              Ee-gads, we’re right in the mess, eh. Well… at the risk of saying too much, I was a huge admirer of Jonathan Franzen for about 5 or 6 years. The longest piece I’ve written is certainly trying to do some of the things he does with his fiction – weaving multiple stories together around pretty BIG IDEA themes. I still think ‘The Corrections’ is a brilliant book. Was less keen on ‘Freedom’ (just felt like a less good version of ‘The Corrections’), and haven’t read ‘Purity’. His public persona began to overshadow his writing. And he’s said some rather embarrassing things in public. A warning to us all!


              And if I can tack on an additional question, I notice you’re based in the States. How did you hear about the contest, and what motivated you to participate? (I hope you’re ready to drive up here if you win, cause I don’t think BP has the resources to send you a plane ticket!!) 🙂

              • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

                In terms of writers, Lovecraft is a newer obsession that has put me on a more of a horror bent. I also love Chuck Palahniuk, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Joey Comeau, Deb Olin Unferth. But my biggest influence is probably The Mars Volta. I usually listen to them while I write and their creativity and style drive me to create. Which other writers do you like?

                I think I may have found out about the contest on the r/writing subreddit. I’ve known about it for a while and decided to submit this year. As for the question about driving, I was hoping the “makeover” meetings could be done via webcam or something.

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

        In response to Rob’s last post: (columns were getting too narrow!) – Yeah, Lovecraft is someone I have been meaning to read for years. I’m not a huge horror fan (too easily scared!), but Lovecraft is classic, so you’ve bumped him back up my list. There aren’t many authors I read consistently, but some books I have loved and reread multiple times are ‘The Ogre’ by Michel Tournier, ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry (yay, Canada), ‘White Noise’ be DeLillo, and some classics, like ‘1984’ (which is apparently surging again in sales now – I wonder why…?). Lorrie Moore is also one of the funniest short fiction writers I have read.

        Writing to music is a cool idea. I think I would find stuff with lyrics distracting, but I have definitely written to (modern) orchestral music (very quietly!). And I’ve made playlists for the piece I am working on, to sort of trigger the memories, moods and atmosphere I am going for. Stephen King says he writes to Metallica!!! So, you’re in good company. Mars Volta is a great choice for inspiration!

        What’s the writing scene like in Indiana? Are you part of a writing community there? I feel like here in Toronto it has changed a lot in the past 10 years, with less and less face-to-face activity (readings, etc.), and more and more widely dispersed stuff online. Like this competition, I guess.

        • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

          I really need to get into DeLillo. He’s always on my to-read list, but I haven’t gotten to any of his work yet. I love David Foster Wallace’s work and he always talked about his admiration of DeLillo.

          There are some small writing groups and university publications in this part of Indiana, but nothing really that big. All of the publications I know of are online and some of the groups are face-to-face and some are internet-based. I live about an hour outside of Chicago, so that’s probably the best place to be around here for a writing scene.

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

            ‘White Noise’ is definitely his most accessible, and entertaining book. The others I admire more than enjoy. (Not a lot of strong lingering impressions of characters left on the brain after I have read them.)

            ‘Infinite Jest’ broke me. I saw ‘The End of the Tour’, loved it, and knew that Franzen and Wallace were mutual admirers, so I tried to organize a group to read the BIG book over about a month, and bailed on page 66. Haven’t been that discouraged by a book since ‘Finnegans Wake’.

            But his shorter stuff, his essays and what-have-you, is great. Did you see the film? What did you think of it? I thought Jason Segal did a great job. Was distracted by Sting and Meryl Streep’s offspring, though. Both excellent actors, but it didn’t seem to make sense to cast them in a story about a guy who was so allergic to fame.

            • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

              I watched that a couple times actually. I really enjoyed it, Segal was fantastic. And like you, I was not a fan of Eisenberg’s job in it.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Which is funny, as DeLilo is so focused and conscise compared to Wallace. “White Noise” is the best start, but I love “Cosmopolis” the best.

        • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

          Zany question time: Would you rather fight one Hemingway-sized raccoon or 20 raccoon-sized Hemingways? I’d go with the papa-sized trash panda, personally.

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

            Definitely the Hemingway-sized racoon. 20 racoon-sized Hemingways sounds like a quick way to die very painfully! At least against the full-sized one you’d have half a chance.

            Okay, next question: What’s the scariest book or story you’ve ever read? And what was the funniest?

            For me, ‘Transformation’ by Whitley Strieber scared the daylights out of me, and I read it in broad daylight! But then I was totally primed to believe alien abduction was real when I was that age (about 12).

            Funniest: Gotta be ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ by Gary Shteyngart. A entirely possible near-future dystopia in which privacy is gone and everyone is instantly rated via their Aparat (like a smartphone) – sound vaguely familiar to anyone? Anyway, he’s the sort of fabulously talented writer who would make you bitter if he wasn’t simultaneously making you laugh so hard. 🙂

            • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

              I haven’t read those, I’ll have to check them out.

              I’ve never been more scared reading a book than I was with “House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski. Had a hard time sleeping after reading it some nights.

              Funniest is definitely “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. It’s a must read for anybody.

              Next question is the same question, but for movies:

              Scariest: Kubrick’s The Shining. To me it’s the epitome of horror cinema. It does everything perfect. It’s tense, creepy, frightening.

              Funniest: Probably Kingpin by the Farrelly brothers. One of my favorite Bill Murray roles.

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

                We’re runnin’ out of space again! I was delighted to realize a year or so ago that one of my favourite shows from childhood, ‘Dr. Snuggles’ (don’t laugh – it’s better than it sounds!) was co-written by Adams.

                I am waaaay too chicken to watch ‘The Shining’, though I know I should, as I like most other Kubrick films, even the sort of flawed masterpieces, like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. I’d have to go just as old-school and say ‘The Exorcist.’ Not sure I could sit through it again even now. And ‘E.T.’ scared the pants off me when I was 8. I couldn’t stop picturing that creepy little thing coming into my bedroom. ‘E.T. go home’ indeed!

                Funniest, hard to pick. ‘Flirting With Disaster’ still kills me. As does ‘Lebowski’, but that’s almost too obvious. Mike Judge’s ‘Office Space’ makes me laugh every time, and holds up amazingly well. The Family Guy Star Wars trilogy is a riot, but not technically a film, I guess.

                I was gonna ask about board games, as I see you are a gamer. 1) What are your favourites? and 2) When Hollywood runs out of 80s toy and cartoon franchises, which ones would you like to see made into movies?

                These days, I’m playing a fair bit of ‘Isle of Skye’ (great all around), ‘Princes of Florence’ (that’d be a nice movie), ‘Kingdom Builder’, ‘Carcassone’ (of course), and ‘Patchwork’ for light evening entertainment. As you can tell, my tolerance for games tops out at about 45 mins to an hour. No ‘Agricola’ or ‘Twilight Imperium’ for me. I leave that to the serious gamers!! 🙂

          • A.G. P ( User Karma: 117 ) says:

            How drunk are the raccoon-sized Hemingways? If they’re like last-match-of-the -bullfight drunk then they’d be stumbling and bumbling all over each other and I feel that with the right boots I could take them all down.

              • A.G. P ( User Karma: 117 ) says:

                In that case, I’ll bow to the wisdom of the crowd and for sure take the Hemingway-sized Raccoon. Maybe after a brief tussle we could say, “Hey, man, what are we doing? I love you, man!” And then Raccoon Hemingway & I could go fishing for Marlin off the coast of Key West, bobbing in our boat as the sun goes down.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Your mad! Raccoons are fucked man. Don’t mess with Racoons, any size or shape. They got thumbs man! One day they’re get their little mitts on guns and then we’re all fucked. Don’t fucking, fuck with raccoons. That’s just mad.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          I write everything to a soundtrack… everything, I waste a lot of time picking out the soundtrack when procastinating the act of writing itself.

          • A.G. P ( User Karma: 117 ) says:

            I’m always interested in writers & music! How long are your soundtracks generally? Do you listen to the same soundtrack again & again as you write a piece? Or do you mix it up depending on the scene you’re writing? Or, as The Buddhists say, do you follow a Third Path: some mix of writing & music I didn’t touch upon? I thought your story was great, by the way!

            • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

              I don’t usually listen to music while writing unless I am specifically using it to help inspire the writing (like my above story). Otherwise I tend to like background noise like a cafe because you get people talking and general music and it just feels more alive. If I write at home, I get too in my head and that can detract from what I am trying to do.

            • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

              I know, I saw the comments. Thanks so much, means a lot. The soundtracks help set tone and attitude for the narration. Sometimes it can just be a long playlist, such as with Fukhaus I wrote it to a frankly awful circuit-house dj set. I’m doing a story now about an atheist nun and a dying elderly heroin woman with a soundtrack of female motown singers, to give my nun the funk I want her have in her step and stride. They’re all different. I collected a ton of old victorian music box albums to do a series of victorian themed stories for class. All kinds. I find the music puts me into the world I’m building.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Ok… so to continue with what I said yesterday and seems a lot of people have seen similar in this story but you really get your genre but the major problem with genre tales is that you start covering the same ground, over and over and over and over… just for fun because I thought your story felt familiar I started going through some favourite Lovecraft inspired comics of mine… I encountered hand/throat monsters like yours over ten times. Not in the same way, I’m not accusing you of plagarism in the slightest, BUT in these Steampunk, Lovecraftian horror tales you start covering the same ground in terms of monsters and themes because they need to fit certain standards of the genre. And obviously you get your shit, people obviously like to read it. But I really feel in is overall technically strong, but spiritually uninspired. I call BS on your claim during the lightning round that you aren’t familiar with Hellboy, there’s too much here for that to be true. People who write these kinds of stories know Hellboy. Anyhow, what makes Hellboy greats is that he covers all this done over and over and over type stuff from horror magazines, anthologies, collections, ad nauseum and found a truly unique and interesting cast of characters to hang it all on. And that’s what saves genre fiction, character work. A hundred versions of Game of Thrones come out every year in fantasy publishing, but few show the same depth of character work. Your two doctors lack that inspiration, so the skill of your writing fails to me, to be great. But on the flip side of that, people devour poorly written genre fiction in droves, so the fact that yours is well written, well, I wouldn’t be surprised if you won, but I really feel your story is uninspired. Sorry.

        • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

          No need for an apology, I appreciate your feedback. And I never said I hadn’t heard of Hellboy, I said I’ve never read the comics. I’ve definitely seen the movies.

            • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

              And I really do appreciate your thoughts. Funny thing is, this is the most genre specific story I’ve ever written. My other stuff tends to have a weird horror/dark bent, but they’re more literary than Throat. I pushed it too far with my minimalistic tendencies and I wish I would have gone first person with it.

              By the way, your story was my favorite of them all. It’s outstanding.

              • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                Thank-you sir. I appreciate that. I’m kinda glad I got cut, I couldn’t handle what you guys are going through right now. I think first person could have made the characters stand out more, it would have forced them to automatically seem distinct as one would be the narrator.

    • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

      Alright, “Sick to Death of Stories.” For such a brief story, you did a fantastic job creating authentic characters. I really enjoyed the screenplay excerpts as a device. Initially I was feeling that the jump from Katie and Jake’s conversation to the second script excerpt might have been too abrupt, but I think we know enough about these characters that the abruptness of that and the ending isn’t too vague and works in making the reader make their own guesses. Despite that, I think I may have liked a bit more on what Katie was planning on doing after leaving, but your story works marvelously without it.

      Good luck! A character-driven piece vs. a plot-driven piece. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!

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

        Cool! Thanks for the thoughtful feedback!

        As for looking forward to the rest of the week, I don’t know. The weekend was a sprint. This is a marathon. And I still need to read and comment on 4 or 5 of the other stories. I am ready for a nap! 🙂

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        P.D. – – I don’t have much more to say to you. I was totally crushing on you all through the lighting round. I think your story is the most literary of the lot. I think if you read it over there’s likely pieces here and there that you would change or cut, but there’s little to be done about it now. I will stress that if the story sees publication you strictly enforce correct screenplay format for those sections, fuck the editor and their space requirement issues. Fight. For. It.

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

          Aww, thanks. That’s very flattering. (My partner of 4 years might have something to say about that!!) (chuckle)

          Yeah, there are a few little wording issues that I don’t love. ‘Glint of’ instead of ‘glint in’ – not sure how that happened. And I originally thought I was writing flash fiction, so I didn’t add as much description or more lyrical stuff than I might have otherwise. If I were to revise and expand it, I would probably go in that direction. There are some pieces here (Gun for Chekhov, Last Mr. Jones) that really exploit that to the full.

          But, yes, I would definitely fight for proper screenplay formatting. And BP was quite accommodating about doing what they could to retain it here, so I was grateful for that. 🙂

          Wow, you have almost 1,000 karma points. You could be the kingmaker! Wield that sword wisely, Sir Galahad! 😉

    • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

      I haven’t heard of Dr. Snuggles, but if Adams had anything to do with it I’m sure it’s great.

      So “Eyes Wide Shut.” I was 9 when that came out and I would always try to sneak to watch it as a kid since I happened to catch a glimpse of it when it was on HBO or some other movie channel. I was transfixed and am still transfixed by that movie. It’s up there with one of my favorites (as are Lebowski and Office Space).

      Now, board games. Yes! I pretty much like any type of tabletop game, but I tend towards the thematic ones (though when I first got into it I was far more into eurogames than anything else).

      My favorites at the moment are Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Five Tribes, Spyfall, Codenames. The list goes on and on and changes constantly. Of those I think Mansions would make the best film. In fact, the world needs an authentic adaptation of Lovecraft’s work. I want a noir flick set in the 20s with tentacle monsters. Is that too much to ask, Hollywood?

      I’ve been wanting to try Isle. I love Carcassonne and Patchwork! While I do enjoy a game like Agricola or Twilight Imperium from time to time, I mostly like shorter games. First time I played Imperium it took 12 hours and we didn’t even truly finish!

      Do you own a lot of games? My collection is sitting around 150 or so.

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

        12 hours! Holy s&$#balls! You are a better man than I. And, alas, my (our) game collection is limited by the shelf space we can dedicate to it. Currently it sits at about 25, but we are curating and culling all the time. We actually went to a conference in California a couple of years ago with 2 game ideas, but the main thing I learned is that game publishing is just like book publishing (except – I guess – you play test the games first). Anyway, the bar to entry is just about as steep! 🙁

        I haven’t played ‘Five Tribes’ or ‘Codenames’, but I’ve heard great things about them. I too like thematic ones, particularly old-timey ones. ‘Star Realms’ is a fun deck building game, but I think I’d like it even more if it was set in like medieval Croatia or something!!

        A quick Google search suggests there have been a number of adaptations of Lovecraft, but – I gather from your post – none of them are very good? I wish I knew someone in Hollywood to pass your ‘Mansions’ idea along to. Sounds like a great movie. They are so into recycling, I’m sure they’ll find their way (back) to Lovecraft eventually. 🙂

        You will love ‘Isle of Skye’ – it’s got the best features of Kingdom Builder, Princes of Florence, Ra, and Carcassonne, all in a quick, easy game (to set up and to play). It’s my current fave by far.


        On a sidenote, I’m enjoying OUR conversation, but I gotta say the negativity and aggression of some of the other threads is rather depressing. I think people need to chill out a bit, maybe take a break. (I plan to.) This is not ‘The Apprentice’, and – whoever wins this thing – it is not going to make them into the next Margaret Atwood or Dave Eggars. Sorry to burst that bubble.

        Part of the problem is that most of the posters are the authors themselves, so there are very few unbiased votes being cast. I would be very curious to see what would happen if everyone took a day off from voting for their own stories, and let the actual visitors to the site choose. But most of them are partisans too, so the notion that literary merit is what’s driving this thing, is pretty… well, anyway. The Sun Also Rises, folks. And it’s day 4 of a 21+ day competition! Maybe let’s all remember that!


        Okay, last question for the day (and then I really do think I will take tomorrow off from posting; this is just consuming waaayyy too much time): Would you rather have a leprechaun give you a perfect book – that you didn’t write – but then published to great acclaim and success, or would you rather WRITE the perfect book yourself, only to have it gather dust on your shelf, never to be read by more than you and a few of your intimates?

        • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

          While there are a number of Lovecraft films, none that I know of (besides a silent short film called “Call of Cthulhu”) are set in the 20s era Lovecraft was writing about. And for me, part of the allure of his work is the kinds of horrors he was writing about happening in that era. I like the aesthetic of it.

          I’m definitely with you about the negativity and literary merit sentiment. I was thinking that this whole thing would be much fairer to the writer if only BP readers were allowed to vote and the writers could answer questions. While I appreciate the idea of an open vote and campaigning to get more, I think it opens up the door too wide for rule bending/breaking which takes away the literary legitimacy of it all.

          As for your last question of the day: I would much rather write the book myself. Would acclaim and success be nice? Of course, but I’d rather work for it myself than have it handed to me. Writing is much more to me than about a possibility of success. It’s about honing the skill and seeing what I can do with it’s edge. How about you?

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

            Agreed – on both fronts. I have always loved the film ‘Carrington’ – do you know it? a bit hard to find now – about the painter Dora Carrington and the author Lytton Strachey, whom she lived with for years. Carrington was a painter and was several times offered gallery shows of her work, but she always shunned them, saying, “The paintings are not for the world. They are for us.” I’ve always liked that idea of art that is meaningful only to you and your close associates. But it’s also a kind of aristocratic ideal, since most artists would like to make a living from their work if at all possible, if only so they can continue to do it! 🙂

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

    Finally was able to fully into Failure to Cooperate today! (Sorry in advance if my comments were made yesterday by somebody else, I wasn’t able to properly get into the comments at all yesterday or the day before.)

    Failure to Cooperate is a ride! It reminds me so much of Picard yelling “There are four lights!”, which is an instant love for me (and Tarsucks is a fantastic tongue-in-cheek name). I also like the sly bits of humour in there, although at times they do feel a bit inconsistent with the tone. I think that’s the one thing that stood out the most for me, was I couldn’t get a solid footing with the tone of it. It’s intense, and it feels like it’s supposed to be humourous, but it oscillates a bit too much between humour and intense seriousness for it to gel (especially with the otherwise solid ending). Maybe this could have smoothed out a bit with more characterization? Not understanding the protag’s perspective left me feeling a bit untethered, unsure of how I should be rooting for her (do I want her to succeed in her deception? Do I believe her?) The structure feels a bit jarring, rather than letting it all unfold at its own frenetic pacing. Overall it’s a rollercoaster of a story, very FBI meets frustrated everyday barista.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Hey… earlier I was talking about your story and tripped over my words, but I wasn’t trying to make a joke, so very sorry for that. I’ve been pegged as the bully now, so I just want it clear that wasn’t my intent, I was typing “trim the fat” and realized how insensitive that was so tried to make light of it. Wasn’t my intent. I have been voting for you.

      • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

        This ain’t my first rodeo with criticism of my writing and how these things go, I understand that process. But I find it funny that you realized it was insensitive as you were typing it, but kept going anyways and decided to post it. To be honest, I don’t care what your intent was. There’s a huge difference between being brutally honest and having fun in a tournament like this, and being cruel, and if you realize what you’re saying is insensitive, maybe consider that it falls on the cruel side of that continuum.

        And that’s fine if that’s your M.O. and how you want to play this, but I’ve seen how you’ve been responding to other people in this competition, and I thank you for apologizing, but hot tip: next time if you think you’re being insensitive as you’re typing something, maybe don’t post it. Think of something else clever to say instead. You are a writer after all.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          You posted on the weekend about your frustrations with the lack of being able to edit comments, maybe posted quickly, without thought. I really thought you would understand that. Like I’ve been voting for you and everything, but I wasn’t trying to be cruel, there was an honest mistake there and it’s really frustrating being attacked like am. My inbox, as apparently my email is easy to figure out is full with abusive and threatening emails in support of you and Rachel, so please – I admitted to the mistake, I didn’t mean to be cruel. If you are aware of which friends or whoever are sending the death threats, can you tell them to stop. My email account won’t let me block emails and they keep coming. (I know it’s likely you know nothing of this – but I don’t know what to do about it)

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          I honestly thought in this situation that I had did good, it was an honest mistake, not intentional. It was one of those things that I realized after posting how tacky it was… I can admit my mistakes.

  6. stigjakobsen ( User Karma: 681 ) says:

    Finally got around to read all the lightning round candidates, and I have to say that all the three that I thought were top class, made it to the finals.
    Am not going to state any names of who I rated the highest, only wanted to point out that it is good to see quality is being valued.

  7. kchannnnn ( User Karma: 419 ) says:

    Finding the voting system to be a bit of a convoluted hoop jump but glad to be able to support my favourite stories and writers! So impressed with y’all for writing, submitting, and mobilising your networks.

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

      Thanks, Kchan(?). The conversation is getting a lot richer now that brave souls like yourself are wading in more. I hope that trend continues. Thanks for reading. 🙂

      • kchannnnn ( User Karma: 419 ) says:

        Thanks for the moral support! I wish I had more time to sit down at a computer and make more effective comments. Scrolling through and commenting via mobile is a bit of a drudge. Bu I’m enjoying learning as much from the comments section as from reading the pieces themselves

  8. stigjakobsen ( User Karma: 681 ) says:

    Congrats to P.D. Walter for being the first to break the 1000 votes barrier. Well deserved, I think your story is great. After having read all of them, I had you down as the favorite to win the whole competition. I’ll wear a leather coat to work today in homage to you and your character Jake.

    • scruffy_nerfherder ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Wow, thanks for the ringing endorsement. 🙂
      All the stories are great, though. And any / all of them deserve to win. The race remains TIGHT!!

      • stigjakobsen ( User Karma: 681 ) says:

        Excuse me for saying so, but I certainly don’t think all of the stories are great. To me, 3 are of top quality. I am not going to name the other two, nor slag the ones that I think are not, but P.D. Walter’s story is brilliant.

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

              No, no, Stig – if I may call you that – they mean me! I posted from another account by accident. 🙁

              The lizard is slain, down a dark alley, by a particularly vicious Taun Taun and Captain Chaos Kirk wielding Mr. Chekhov’s gun! Once a karmic defender, now karmic kryptonite. :’(

              I’m at your mercy… Let the rain of down-votes begin… I got at least 3 more stories to read (and a body to dispose of)… 🙂

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Wyatt, I’m so sorry. I went off last night and it’s gotten your competitor a lot of sympathy votes. I’m so sorry. I still feel like your story is top craft. And I believe literary gods are with you, and that you will still symbolically fire the gun before the end. Good luck man.

            • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

              Not worried Chaos. I’m not worried.

              I’ll admit that I probably haven’t done myself many favours by taking on my usual mindset of “avoid all drama as if it were the magically revived corpse of Joan Rivers wielding a SARS-ridden Vince Vaughn as a sword” (ever notice how Vince Vaughn always looks like he has a fever?). If I were more of a polarizing character in these comments I might have been able to stir up some votes on my own behalf. But that doesn’t seem like it’d be any fun.

              In the end of it all, I’m just glad to see that you’ve come back to keep commenting. Heck, if I don’t make it to the next round, I’ll probably stick around too.

              Continue to be scathing in your criticism, and unrelentingly harsh in your words. It’s refreshing, and brings out the deadly risk that are supposed to be inherent in a Deathmatch.

              And if you don’t, then the Lizards will win.

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

              As in Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’, the gun is there at the beginning so that it can be used to effect in the end. Hang in there, buddy! 🙂

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

    Good morning Gladiators! Well, before her mind migrated to an alternate universe, my old Aunt Agnes (yes, the inspiration for my story) used to say, “Vix (that’s what she called me), when you wake up each morning ask yourself ‘What will I do today, to bring joy to myself and others’?” So, when I woke up this morning and asked myself that question, the answer jumped up and pistol-whipped the crap out of me. Suddenly the path became clear. My apologies all around for engaging in a negative “my cancer’s worse that your pink-eye,” whinefest yesterday. That’s not me and never will be. I want my writing and my whole persona always to be associated with fun, entertainment, and positivity. So, in the spirit of making myself and everyone else happy, I respectfully bow out of Deathmatch 2017. Ms. Lepri, I hope you go the distance and achieve your dream. I’m delighted even to have been chosen to compete with such a fine group of writers, all of whom I consider professionals. Your stories intrigued and entertained me, and I learned something from each of you. A tip of the hat to a couple of my favorites: “Sick to Death of Stories” and “Her Shadow’s Bones.” And a shout-out to Susan Read, because she’s a cool person. Today, after I tell my voters to stand down, I’m going back to work on my new book (Chronicles of a Dead Rock Star), I’ll address my daughter’s wedding invitations, and preview my son’s latest film project. Tonight I’ll fall asleep with a smile on my lips. My fellow warriors, it was indeed an honor, and I leave you with these parting words: “Fuck it, dude, let’s go bowling.”

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

      Like Kaitlin, I’m just catching up on this thread, and feel very sorry that anyone feels they need to step away. It is an intense process – I’m sure after 4 days we could all use a break.

      I also appreciate the endorsement of my story. I have been remiss and haven’t had a chance to comment on Fogger yet. I will try to do so in the coming days.

      In any case, Vicky, your story stands on its own merits. It continues to attract a healthy number of votes, and when and if you decide to come back into the discussion, you’ll always be welcome.

      No Deathmatcher Left Behind! Take care. 🙂

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      No, please Vinni, don’t step down.
      This competition is doing bad things to all of us – and unfortunately we are not able to edit our comments once they’re out there – unlike Facebook and twitter. I already tried to apologize to you, and I repeat that here. I tried to be funny – but clearly failed miserably.

      There are many reasons to vote for your story:

      1) Mental illness and sci-fi is a great mix.
      2) You’re an ace at descriptions
      3) If people vote your story, you may be prompted to write what happens next
      4) You deserve some votes for receiving the worst comment on Amazon ever

      • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

        FWIW as someone just catching up on everything that was said in the comments, I do think the fact that this tournament is tough, we can’t edit comments when we’ve realized we may have said wrong things, and that everyone has apologized when they felt they had to definitely makes everything understandable. Just wanted to add my voice to Hege’s in saying don’t step down, and to also second that mental illness and sci fi ARE a great mix (it’s my jam, too).

        If that helps at all! Shit is tough (here and in the world and personally and interpersonally). We make mistakes, we fuck up, we challenge each other, and we grow. If you feel stepping down is the best for you, that’s totally one thing. You know, do what you gotta do, but know that there is still some room for you in here to do some fighting 😉

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Oh shit… things got real while I was gone. Sorry, didn’t mean to poke. But come on. DEATHMATCH! And when it comes to pity parties, my mother is a nationally ranked champion. So don’t force me to bring her on here to up the ante.


      • lightnessofbeing ( User Karma: 7 ) says:

        “We can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory.”

  10. michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

    When you first get onto the site to vote, the tally of votes for the writer on the left of each duel has a score of 0 and it takes a while for the site to indicate the correct number of votes. We just have to be patient when we vote.

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

      Well, the name ‘Deathmatch’ suggests that it is not strictly about anything as genteel as ‘literature’!! 😉 (I am kidding, of course :-))

      I totally understand and share your ‘disappointment’, if that is the right term, but I don’t think anything as sinister as ‘hacking’ is going on.

      If the story votes are going up and down significantly it means people are doing a good job of getting the vote out for their story. For better or worse, this is an ELECTION, not a POLL. A poll is a scientifically valid survey of opinion. An election is the result of whoever shows up and expresses their opinion. We can only work with what we’ve got, which is the community of people paying attention.

      My impression is that after some very dramatic and upsetting episodes this week, the rampant, strategic up and down voting of karma seems to have cooled off, and people are finally voting based on – I assume – (1) the merit of the stories, and/or (2) the contributions participants are making to the online discussions, positive or negative.

      This is a GAME. And there are only 4 resources in it. Any player is rationally going to try to maximize their supply of each. (That’s how games are played.) They are:

      1) The quality of the writing [no longer subject to change!]
      2) Story Votes
      3) Karma Points
      4) How you behave in the forums, and the flipside of that, which is the good or ill will of the community that is paying attention

      Only the last three are subject to change at this point – the stories are what they are, and while many (maybe most?) voters are partisans (that is, friends and supporters) of one author or another, there are also a lot of people visiting the site and voting based on the other two criteria, including the one you prefer – story merit.

      I’m confident that Broken Pencil would not have selected the stories if they didn’t think they ALL deserved to win, so I am less concerned about that. A good story WILL win, because they are all good stories.
      Despite the ugly episodes of this week, my impression had been that this competition has finally become a SELF-REGULATING COMMUNITY, and that it has become capable of policing itself.

      If the hostility has gone off-line to some other part of the web, that is very sad indeed. And certainly, if there are death threats being made, that’s a matter for the police. 🙁

      What concerns me is that people are being harmed either on purpose or incidentally due to the perception that this is a super-high-stakes competition. People need to calm down. This is not high-stakes. Your reputation is more valuable than anything that will come out of this competition. Indeed, it is tightly bound up with how you conduct yourself in this competition.

      If anyone does think it is an absolutely crucial launch pad for their writing career, then they should treat it like a 3-week long job interview. Everything you say and do HERE is visible to potential editors and professional colleagues in the future.

      This is a professional activity. Treat it as such, and you can’t go far wrong. 🙂

      It is also an opportunity to forge relationships that may continue long after the competition is over. That’s an opportunity that should not be lost.

      Here’s hoping Week 3 will have a substantially better tone all around. 🙂

      • jenk ( User Karma: 371 ) says:

        PD, you’re a class act. Your attitude and contributions throughout the competition have been major highlights for me as an observer. The way things have been going, I was starting to think that we humans are just incapable of having nice things (because we’re so determined to ruin them). I really hope you’re right and that the tone of the competition changes post haste. Although I’m sad to see that so much damage is already done :/

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

          Thanks, Jenk. Your contributions have been great too. I feel like the non-author participants have really stepped up this week, and are sort of taking over, which is good. 🙂

          With the non-stop diet of miserable CEOTUS news we are getting these days (Chief Executive Of The United States; need we call him President?), we don’t need more negativity!

      • kchannnnn ( User Karma: 419 ) says:

        Well said. Looking at your karma points, I’m glad to see level-headedness, thoughtfulness, and kindness winning out over insensitivity and meanness. Let’s hope we all learn from your example

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

          Thanks! Sorry our conversation’s kind of gotten lost amidst all the turmoil. ;-(

          Want a new zany question? If you could hybridize any two authors into one Frankenstein-like creature (or one Voltala-like creature!!), who would they be? And why?

          I’ll have to think about an answer myself… Gotta go eat dinner… 🙂

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

              Haha. Nice. Or dragging its own corpse through the ocean until it’s been torn to shreds and then decamping in a vine covered, falling-down Southern mansion to drown itself in alcohol?

              I sort of like the thought of Gary Shteyngart and Lorrie Moore hybridized into an unstoppable literary joke machine, but maybe there’s no need – they could just fall in love in real life and have an awesomely talented kid. 🙂

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

    Readers, BP Staff, and Fellow Deathmatchers:

    Much like the sentient creatures in “The Illuminated Throat,” something has been created by a devious mind that is attacking the sanctity of humanity. We are seeing comments with first-time posters that have over 600 karma.

    Who are they? What are they? Alien-human hybrids? Government robots (pronounced old timey like “ro-bits”)? We must find out. #whoarethey

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      You’re wrong! They cannot be robots for even those of the governmental variety are still incapable of pouring a decent crantini much less rig a literary vote.

      I say this must be the work of THE LIZARD CONSPIRACY


      • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

        We need to get David Icke, Alex Jones, and Jesse Ventura to investigate. I will not be a tool for our Lizard Overlords anymore! Hey, why is it making me capitalize Lizard Overlords? Crap, it’s them again! The lizard people our in our computers, phones, and tablets!

        • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

          Quick, strip naked, don a poncho, and cover the windows in tinfoil and pictures of George “The Anit-Mel Gibson” Clooney (because we all know Mel Gibson is actually a lizard).

        • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

          I know nothing about lizards, but I upvoted someone who had 1 vote and then they had six. I then upvoted someone else who had 1 vote and they then had 2. Very slippery business. And a little bit scaley and slimey.

          • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

            I know if you don’t refresh your page, the upvotes stay the same. So if you upvote on a page that hasn’t been refreshed in a while you it’ll update the number to where it actually is currently. So that may be what you saw. If not, tin foil hat time.

              • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

                But not too tightly; you need room for injecting in my patented mixture of iron filings, mercury, and that funny smelling run-off that I found seeping from a culvert outside of a swine processing facility.

  12. stigjakobsen ( User Karma: 681 ) says:

    Congrats to Rachel Rosenberg for being the first to make it to 2.000, after what has to be called an astonishing comeback. Chaos’s criticism of her most people clearly disagreed with, unless the two are the “Underwoods” of the literature world, and it was all carefully calculated. “Gabba gabba hey” to you both.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      D’oh. Totally unintentional but yer probably right. Tomorrow I’ll say something super awful about Wyatt to help him close the gap.

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

    A new technical issue as well, don’t know if anyone else is having it so I’ll post about it. Someone who was able to vote yesterday suddenly can’t, he is getting the login page over and over when he tries. This feels rather hopelessly frustrating!

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

    I’ve been looking for this page since this allegedly started. I am seeing no link from the home page or last round or anything else… anyone else having this problem? Guess I’ll share the link… Thanks to P.D. Walter for sharing on Twitter. Only reason I found my way here

      • A.G. P ( User Karma: 117 ) says:

        Sorry to hear about all the trouble! From the top of the main BP page, hover over’Deathmatch’– that should pull down the Deathmatch Menu– then, from that menu, click on Deathmatch 2017.

        Or, as Rob says below, should get you to the current round.

        Good luck to all!

        • LiteracyTest ( User Karma: 508 ) says:

          Yeah that Deathmatch 2017 link was missing for a while at the start there which is where the confusion came from. All in all I think the contest is handled very well by the site admins.

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

            Curious. Another one-time-only poster who has mysteriously rocketed up to 536 up-votes? My guess is either Russian hackers or BP staffers!! Not sure why it matters, actually, as the up-votes don’t seem to move anything up to the top of the feed. Anyway… wheels are turning somewhere…

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

              Or maybe it’s literary super-delegates, like in the Democratic Party – Sheila Heti, Russell Smith, Miriam Toews or Shyam Selvadurai lurking behind ultra-powerful avatars, like the gods looking down from the heavens to watch the peons destroy one another before swooping down to raise the victor to the pantheon? I guess we’ll never know…

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

                Looks like you, Fox, and Bubbles got the job done. There’s been a precipitous drop in Karma for ‘LiteracyTest’ (aka the head of the Toronto Public Library) and ‘CanlitLuverLady’ (probably Maggie Atwood). It’s whatever the opposite of Morphin’ Time is for these superheroes. That or they stood too close to the kryptonite. 🙂

            • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

              I’m going to flat out say it. These have to be some kind of booster accounts to pump up the votes for somebody. The truth is out there. I’m going full Fox Mulder.

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        Thanks! Still hit and miss working though, and votes not at all. I re-re-directed them to go outside and go sledding. Enjoy the rest of the match!

    • iWoo ( User Karma: 107 ) says:

      I really enjoyed reading your story Susan. And you’ve been getting my votes when I get the chance! In fact, it was very compelling and immersive, and I felt your character’s personality come through so strongly as well as the intensity of the situation. (Is it hot in here? Gotta get out!) So glad I haven’t had a service job since my teens! So in a way maybe I can’t say I -enjoyed- the story while I was reading it, since it made me feel acutely uncomfortable… but I really appreciated it experience after I finished, so I think that’s a great success.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      I know. It seems like every thing is working even worse than yesterday. My votes keep showing up as 0, I can’t vote, my friends who could vote yesterday can’t vote today. I am pretty frustrated by the whole process.

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        Same. Everything the same. I just told my wanted-to-be-voters to go outside a play. Enjoyed round 1, but I’m gonna leave this one to the gods.

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

    The comment board is unforgiving.
    You cannot take back,
    Or soften with a gentle tone;
    There is no undo,
    No friend to phone.
    Your words are judged
    At every click,
    While strangers tell you
    You’re a dick.

    It’s sick. But we don’t want to forfeit.
    It hurts but we’re too proud to fold.
    Surge ahead with a rush of endorphins,
    Fall behind ‘cos my friends are too old.

    This contest should come with a warning,
    But not just to thicken our skins;
    It’s a click every night, noon, and morning,
    That’s over before it begins.
    Cost of entry includes lack of sleep,
    helping elderly people navigate poorly designed websites,
    and potentially triggering your anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic, OCD, etc., ad nauseum.
    Oh, and nausea.
    It will definitely cause that.

    Best of luck to the bots who deserve it,
    Best of days to the people who cared;
    May your life be for you, and be worth it;
    May you never regret that you dared.

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


      I’m sounding like a broken record here, but sorry for taking so long to get around to reading ‘Failure to Cooperate’, and I apologize if I repeat anything that has already been said elsewhere in the comment threads that have become too long and tangled to read through.

      I don’t have a lot to say because this story is (a) a lot of fun, (b) reads very cleanly, quickly and smoothly, (c) made me laugh more than any other story, (d) is virtually flawless, or (d) all of the above. [The answer of course is D.]

      This story competes with ‘The Illuminated Throat’ for sheer entertainment value, and goes by at a similarly frenetic clip.

      I love the tone of the piece, a kind of wild, ‘1984’ meets ‘Office Space’ comedy about corporate paranoia and workplace social control. “We not only read what you tell us, we read what you don’t tell us.” Brilliant! So much of comedy is about delighting in the absurd clash of contexts. I love the high-stakes CIA-style interrogation in the low-stakes word of beverage slinging. Hilarious.

      Susan’s initial confession (bold to give her your own name!) is delightful, maybe because we expect her to just keep denying she did it, and because I am sure most baristas do do it! “I give out free coffees to my friends. No. Not just coffees. Whatever they want. Lattes. Strawberry blended lemonades. Even Frappuccinos.”

      But there are so many funny lines:

      Page 2. How would you conduct this investigation?
      I’d make everyone fill out this stupid fucking form and hope for a confession because otherwise I have no legal recourse in the matter.
      Shouldn’t say that.
      Page 3. List five (5) reasons why someone might take this money.
      I am having that dream where you show up to an exam that you haven’t studied for, and suddenly can’t remember having ever attended a single class.
      Terrible wages. Poor treatment. Low self-esteem. Bad day. Good day. Family problems. Mental problems. Corporate rage. Service industry burnout. Sticking it to the man. Just for a laugh. Drugs. Debts. Depression. Desperation.

      “Also, I believe that anything I say can and will be used against me in a
      court of lattes.”
      This is almost too cute, but as we’ve learned here, people love puns. No, I think this line is great. 🙂

      There are some nice images, too, like “the twenty-two watchful eyes of the Tarsucks surveillance system”, but I think what I liked – and what impressed me – about your story is how spare it is (not a lot of description or poetic flourishes), and yet how rich it still feels. We are persuaded by the world of the story (maybe because we have all patronized Tarsucks!), and you don’t need to fill in a lot of visual or atmospheric details. I have no idea if this is really how they handle internal theft, but I can totally believe it’s this Orwellian. If only you could have worked in a little comic riff on: “We want you to say, and believe when you say it, that 2 + 2 = 5.” (Is there a coffee pun to be made in there somewhere, I wonder?)

      Anyway, I said I wasn’t going to say much except that I really enjoyed it and hope it makes it through to the next round.

      Incidentally, I’d be curious to hear more about your teaching, but it sounds from your poem like you’ve decided to bow out. It’s understandable. Whether as target, ally, or appalled bystander, this has been a trying week. The lines where you start to lose the rhythm and just vent (“Cost of entry includes lack of sleep, helping elderly people navigate poorly designed websites, and potentially triggering your anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic, OCD, etc., ad nauseum”) captures that frustration perfectly. 🙁

      Have a great weekend. Thanks for writing such an enjoyable story. 🙂

      Peter (aka P.D.)

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        Thanks for this, Peter. A really nice message to wake up to (even as I see my karma falling again, lol.. is this because i said a thing?)

        You nailed my hesitation to participate this week (appalled bystander is perfect).. but my frustrations are with the inner workings of the competition, certainly none of the authors or participants. Frankly this whole karma thing, if it can’t be controlled (which is clearly the case) should not be weighted to votes. That is just asking for vote manipulation, and the moral high ground WILL ensure you lose.

        I was looking forward to constructive feedback from BP’s established readership, with authors participating but not relied upon to keep the entire comment board going.

        It also needs a redesign, can you just t’ief Reddit’s code or whatever? Collapsable comments. That’s all I’m sayin.

        Anyway I never told my supporters to stop clicking, I haven’t backed out, but I am also equally reluctant to move forward. In case it is unnoticed, numbers wise it looks like Kaitlin and I are in the battle for who could care less. I can’t imagine keeping up with your voters next week Peter! But good on you for rallying and persevering. You are stronger than I, at least at whatever this is.

        If I do scrape into the next round (it remains a close battle), I would like to come back to the message board and get back to discussing the stories based on their merit, and finding ways to learn from one another as authors. At least until the board gets this crazy long again.

        I really enjoyed your story, Peter, I owe you a critique and will make a point to do one. More importantly, I just had a revelation, you should be a teacher!! What do you do now? Teach. I think you are a natural.

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

          “If I do scrape into the next round (it remains a close battle), I would like to come back to the message board and get back to discussing the stories based on their merit, and finding ways to learn from one another as authors. At least until the board gets this crazy long again.”

          I agree 100%! That’s what I’ve been trying to do. (And I am a teacher in my other life, so… like recognizes like!!) 🙂

          Collapsible comments, yes, yes. And maybe sorting by most recent post, as it just gets harder and harder to find the new stuff.

          The other way that this is like an election, is the constant pressure to go negative. So we have to channel Michelle Obama – ‘When they go low, you go high!’ 😉

          Hang in there!

        • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

          Hey Susan, I just wanted to chime in that I agree with you’ve said here, especially about for whoever makes it through to the next round for the message board and comments to focus on what we can learn from each other 🙂 Reading the thoughtful comments and critiques on each story and learning and growing from each other is an important and fun process.

          Definitely kudos to everyone who has the energy to be so rallying! Genuinely impressed with so many here 🙂

          As always, continued good luck to everyone, both in this and outside of this!

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

    Greetings Readers, Writers, and those who stumbled upon this site while looking for a pencil repair shop! This Deathmatch is billed as a bloody, gorefest between pen wielding gladiators, but if you were here for the lightning round, you already know that’s not how I roll. My competition in Round One is THE VERY LAST MR. JONES, by Hege Lepri. Ms. Lepri is a talented writer whose work has been published in some fine journals, and “Mister Jones” is a well-written, interesting little story. But as we all know this competition is based less on quality of writing and more on who can gin up the most votes from beleaguered friends, family, and other unspecified supporters. Consequently, rather than try to trash a fine story, I’ll dive right into the more serious stuff: FIVE REASONS TO VOTE FOR FOGGER: 1. At a minimum I deserve the pity vote because I live in the US and my countrymen just elected Donald J. Trump president (enough said); 2. My sunglasses are cooler than Ms. Lepri’s (just sayin’); 3. “Mister Jones” garnered so many votes in the lightning round, I’m almost certain Ms. Lepri was engaging in the illegal use of magic (somebody notify the Ministry); 4. My Aunt Agnes was the inspiration for “Fogger,” and Agnes would be so pleased to hear she is famous (or infamous) she may even draw you a picture; and 5. Hey, I’m the underdog, and who doesn’t love an underdog, right? So, good luck to all my fellow warriors. I’ll see you on the flip side!

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

      Nice! But I think Roy lives in the States too, so we gotta spread the pity around. What if we just offer to sponsor you to come to Canada as political refugees? 🙂

      The story about your Aunt Agnes is lovely. But in the spirit of the times, we might have to ask you to produce her birth certificate. 🙂

      Sunday witnessed two awesome comebacks: YOURS, and the PATRIOTS. (Coincidence??? I think not…)

      • Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

        Hahaha! You’re a funny guy, P.D.! I like your story too and have cast a few votes your way today. I’m not in competition with Roy, so he can play the “Trump” card on his own. As far as Aunt Agnes goes, according to her she was never “born” at all. Do have to say, though, I kinda resent being lumped in with Brady and Bleachick. Someone might think you were accusing me of cheating. Inflategate perhaps?

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

          Well, far be it for me to associate you with any inflategate-type scandal. (I plead ignorance of both sports in general and Mr. Brady’s record in particular!!!) 🙂

          I will, however, happily up-vote your always amusing comments to inflate your Karma!! 😉

          P.S. How is everyone getting all these clever emoticons? I am just typing them old-school (that is, sideways).

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Deathmatch for the Underdog status:

      When Vikki Savage present herself as the underdog, it is a credible as when Trump claims himself a victim of persecution.

      In her presentation of reasons to vote for her, she is right about one thing- Her sunglasses are cooler than mine (and certainly more expensive than mine – bought from a street vendor in Milan to cover up the worst case of pink eye in years – I know I look like a complete asshole in my profile picture – but that is the reason)

      Vikki has several published books, presents herself as a professional writer (I assume full time), and has a following. She has been doing this for a lot of years.
      Part of the prize for the winner here is a author’s make-over with a publisher – and this is something Vikki certainly doesn’t need (and probably doesn’t want)or even want.

      I’m a relative novice, despite my age, I have a few credits – but they are all over the place – there is no strategy and I’m still just stumbling about in this craft. I also write in my 2nd (or is it 3rd?) language.

      While Vikki needs compassion because she lives in the country where Trump is president, as a white, native-born American, there are others who will really feel the heat.

      Though I live in (and love living in Canada), I’m part of one of those families where the Trump and Brexit era world takes a toll, we’re travelers, mixers and matchers with a double citizenships, married to foreigners every last bastard of us – colourblind in our choices, and now traveling to meet family has just got much harder.

      Do I win the underdog trophy at least?

      • Davethomson ( User Karma: 453 ) says:

        I love it. A real deathmatch shaping up here. I’m picturing the characters from ‘The very last Mr Jones’ taking an interest in visiting mental hospitals and befriending the anti-fogger. I wonder what would ensue. I’d love to read that story.

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

        Wow, if you guys are ready to go full stump-speech on Day 1, what are you gonna do for the rest of the week??? 😉

        In any case, you write beautifully, Hege, in whatever language. I am frankly jealous. And, I agree, the prize *should* go to someone who can benefit from the makeover. The mechanism of the competition may be about who can mobilize the most support, but I suspect – come week three – when said supporters are exhausted, desiccated husks crippled with carpal-tunnel syndrome, literary quality (whoever feels competent to judge it) will trump (forgive the pun) the click factor. 🙂

      • Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

        Good golly Miss Molly! I’ve rarely seen such scathing anger directed toward someone the person knows nothing about. I would not trash another writer for the world, because I know the gut churning, ego crushing anguish we writers go through for the tiniest bit of acceptance or just an audience of one (even if it’s only the dog). Hell, I thought my comments were a little bit humorous. But, you called me out—yes, I describe myself as a professional writer because I’ve been struggling for years to make it in this business while facing scores of rejections from agents and publishers and finally struggling to self-publish three books on my own. Like most indie authors I make an embarrassingly pitiful income from my books, about enough to support a family of marmots (if they’re small). News Flash: I entered this contest expressly for the Indie Author Makeover, because so far, I ain’t making it. I feel I have the talent but have never received the breaks. I know we all have struggles, Ms. Lepri, I had breast cancer and was undergoing radiation therapy while trying to finish the third book in my trilogy. The exceptionally understanding reviewers on Amazon advised people not to buy my first two books because the third one might never get written. That was a real kick in the ass, but I didn’t give up. Oh yeah, I try to write full time, while raising a family and doing volunteer work, and generally just making it through the day. At long last, my short stories are beginning to get some attention, but I’ve never been published in a journal of the caliber of Sycamore Review, like you have. You’ve been writing for much longer than I have. I envy your skill and your accomplishments, but not your anger. I love my life, and by the way I’d bet money I’m older than you are. I just choose to focus on the amazing things in my life and I admit there are many. Lastly, the most hurtful part of your condemnation of me was the comparison to Donald Trump. I worked tirelessly on behalf of Mrs. Clinton, and was proud to participate in the Woman’s March on Washington last month, and I will continue to Resist as long as there is a breath left in me! My first husband, who died in a tragic accident at age thirty-four (true, by the way), used to say, “Everyone’s just shit-kicking their way through life,” and I have found that to be the truest statement ever spoken. I hand it to you Ms. Lepri: You win the Underdog Trophy! Hell, my sister told me she’s even going to vote for you now!

        • A.G. P ( User Karma: 117 ) says:

          “The exceptionally understanding reviewers on Amazon advised people not to buy my first two books because the third one might never get written.” Wow, that’s crazy. Leaving aside the horrendous lack of empathy, the “final book might not get written” argument never stopped anyone from buying, say, George R.R. Martin’s books (or, for the historians in the crowd, Robert A. Caro’s…)

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          OK – I’m sorry for anything I said that hurt you in my response (taking the deathmatch bit down a notch). And the comparison to Trump was awful and not funny. It wasn’t a light touch at all – I’m especially sorry for that.
          I didn’t want it to come out quite that way (typos included) – it was written between jobs, in a rush.

          However – what irked me in your sales pitch – is how it came at odds with one of your comments during the lightening round when you (just like everybody else here) experienced problems with the voting system and then came out and said “Some of us are professional writers here. These stories are our precious babies who deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

          I felt that saying that the your story deserves extra respect because you’re a professional writer one day, and then selling yourself as the underdog was a bit…

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Ok. After reading through all of this, I want in too… it’s too late for votes, but just to show that life sucks and you can get over it… my top 10 struggles of the underdog (not in top 10 order)

            1 – My first published gig only happened because I caught the editor doing coke at a party
            2 – I sold two scripts to a big name graphic novel publisher in Europe, at a very early age, but they were never drawn and still sit in a desk somewhere in Belgium. The sale gave me an epic confidence boost, but even undrawn and 12 some years later, according to the contract, I still can’t use the scripts.
            3 – I quit my job as a television producer to help write a big comic artist’s book, he had the ideas but no story. After a year of work he kicked me of the studio, because he didn’t want to share any of the attention he would get for the book with an unknown.
            4 – Marvel comics, yes, Marvel comics ran a shady talent development deal where you basically had to sign away any idea you showed to them, so they could take things from stuff you were pitching at them and still not give you credit. This was the failed Epic comics line before the Marvel BOOM in the early 2000s.
            5 – I sold a graphic novel to a publisher who gave a very flexible contract, the deal requiring the book to be done before anyone was paid and what not. Over 3 years, while fighting cancer, I waited for the artist to finish the book. One day the publisher asked for an update, wanting to be able to start promoting the book. 18 pages from completing the artist backed out due to the sudden application of “pressure”
            6 – When I was younger I started using a pen name because my sister’s shady reputation was so widespread in town, no one wanted to look at anything I did.
            7 – Though all I want to do is write fiction, I seem only able to get journalism gigs with no training or education in it. Mostly because I worked one week in the CityPulse newsroom before moving to Much Music.
            8 – I’m always sick. So much so that when I list health issues to a nurse or doctor their eyes inevitably bulge with shock, yet I keep going, always moving forward and everyone says (well the two who read it) my stuff is super depressing
            9 – I once had an idea for Charlie Angels comic book and went so far as to successfully get Drew Barrymore’s production company interested in the idea, only for Sony to tell us no, as Sony prefers to go and persue those kinds of ideas, rather than have them pitched at them.
            10 – I literally have over 1,000 rejection letters – my first at age 13 when I tried to pitch DC a spinoff to their Sandman series (early 90s)

            There are no underdogs, there are only voices… so many voices. As the population continues to boom out of control, their will only be more and more voices. But in a hundred years who knows which voices will be remembered. It’s not like the 17th century where every writer will be praised and remembered because there were only a few bushels of ’em. So fight on!


        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Wow. I can only wish to have such bad reviews on Amazon. So far, this weekend is the most readers I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve written for national newspapers. You guys are being silly. Life sucks shit. Get over it. Make an omelette.

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        How you guys have the energy to petition so hard right now is very impressive. I napped, which is something I usually don’t do. Vote for me if you love naps?

    • kendog ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

      Ha! All good reasons, Ms. Savage! Glad to see there is still some light-hearted fun involved in this process even with all the technical difficulties!

      • Andersoc44 ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

        Oh my goodness — the technical part is annoying — and could be the inspiration for your next book! I would love to chat with your Aunt and hear her rendition of the stories of life. I will keep playing the game – and I love your writing! ( also like the sunglasses …)

  17. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    As I sit here on a Friday evening, enjoying a glass of wine and reading some of your posts, I am glad that my life is not so dramatic. You’re winning, but your leaving. Your losing, but your leaving. What was it about “Deathmatch” that you didn’t understand? Writing is a profession that no matter how talented you are, there will always be critics.

    I agree that the competition is setup to cause hard feelings. You’re up voted, your karma disappears overnight, someone writes a funnier comment than you. You begin to question, so many things. That is no way to win a competition.

    You get all your friends and family motivated (through whatever means necessary) to get online and vote. Remember those early days when you couldn’t even get on and everyone was frantic because there followers couldn’t register. Well they finally did. They voted for you, continually. Now you want to quit. Shame on you. So, someone said they didn’t like your piece. So show them that they are only one, not everyone. You got into this competition on merit. They weren’t the judge. Stand and deliver. Be brave enough to win. The person with the second highest votes will probably be leaving as of Sunday. The least you could do is stop pouting because you won.

    I will finish my wine, vote AGAIN! Remind Wyatt why he will stick to the end, whenever that comes, watch a very funny episode of “Last of the Summer Wine” and think that you competitors, followers, commenters and Lizard People should be so lucky as to write something as entertaining as an episode of this show.

    Good luck to all of you. May you find the courage to continue.

    • kchannnnn ( User Karma: 419 ) says:

      I don’t think it’s fair to shame people for quitting after 3 contestant out of 8 have chosen to discontinue their participation. As Susan points out in her poem below, “the cost of entry includes lack of sleep… And potentially triggering your anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, etc.”. The atmosphere of this forum definitely got toxic and out of hand for a time and if people choose to remove themselves for the sake of their own health I think that is wiser than continuing out of spite and wearing down their bodies. I’m glad that some people have been lucky enough to have positive experiences and keep on with the competition, but I don’t think we should judge those who have not

      • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

        kchannnnnn, I have read some of your posts and found them to be positive in there content. So, I have gone back and reread my post. Perhaps it is poorly worded. Perhaps she didn’t read what I had wrote about her story in previous posts, where I congratulated her on her writing. Why should she quit the competition? Why should she give up on the hard work she put into her story, into mobilizing her followers and contributing interesting posts? Did I not mention her merit or ask her to find the courage to continue? This may not have been the best halftime, were down 10 points speech to get someone to fight to the end, but she wasn’t down ten points was she. Will she fight to the end? I sincerely hope so. Thank you for commenting.

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

    Thanks to Hege for discovering this. I wanted to put it in it’s own post for more visiblity. This Canlitluverlady has somehow gotten 522 votes on one comment on the old lightning round page. This account had gotten a similar amount of upvotes on this page, went back down to something like 15, and now the account’s karma has shot back up. How is this even happening? #bpkarmagate

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

        I’m not sure there’s anything sinister going on with the super-delegates (or lizards, as Wyatt likes to call them! ouch! I wonder how Bill and Barack feel about that?), but I do think that the contest would be more fair if BOTH the Karma Scores and the Story Votes reset to ZERO in each round. Otherwise it’s like heaping advantages on top of advantages.

        As Connery says in The Untouchables, “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!” I know it’s a Deathmatch, but putting the weapons down for cleaning and redistribution after each round just seems like a good policy (and good manners)! 🙂

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

    Over dinner, I started thinking of one of the themes Chaos (Writer of Fuckhouse) touched upon in some of his many great comments yesterday and Saturday:
    What is an “indie writer”? Is being indie about what we write about? Is it about how established we are as writers? Is it about about a certain literary style?
    I have no idea how to answer any of these questions – or even if I am an indie writer.

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

    Lol just read this on BP’s most recent recap: “Employee-turned thief goes head-to-head with a self-mutilating perfectionist”… I can’t speak for Kaitlin but you TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT OF MY STORY.

    My apologies to the intern who probably didn’t get paid to write that.

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

    OK, so as convinced as we all were getting in to this round that we’d make it to the the semis, it is dawning on some of us that not making it is a real possibility. So maybe we can prepare for the pain by sharing some rejection/failure stories.
    To me the one rejection that conditioned me the most was having my poetry collection rejected – I was very young and thought that by writing to three important publishers of poetry, one of them was bound to see the merit in my writing. The rejection letters hurt so much (and they were actually rather constructive) that I didn’t try to write anything serious for 20 years.

    A more up to date one is that Malahat magazine absolutely hates my writing. I get personal rejections from quite a few magazines, but not the Malahat. They chuck my stuff out after max 29 days without as much as personal word. I sent my stuff to them first, because I know they’ll reject me, and that first rejection numbs the pain.

    • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

      I sort of vaguely like rejections because at least I know, and if they give constructive feedback I can really dig in and try to work on those things. What I hate is not hearing back and my words just disappearing into the void.

      It does hurt, I am often very disappointed when I receive rejections. Sometimes I won’t write for a few weeks or months after. But how else can we learn to improve? It’s important to have unbiased people’s opinions. In Creative Writing, I found that valuable as well. A really good book that I’m sure isn’t news to anyone is Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t read his fiction much, not my genre, but he has many valuable things to say about rejection and process.

      • kurtalert ( User Karma: 47 ) says:

        Yeah, no kidding. One bad review and you call it quits. You might have to toughen up if you want to get anywhere in the cruel world of publishing. As the other writers said, you will get way more rejections that actual approval.

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

      This is a great idea! Share the pain! (And, like you, I’ve never had any success with the university-based literary journals. I think you have to have done an MFA with them and know some of the editors personally to get past the gatekeepers.)

      Anyway, I don’t know if it tops your story, but my biggest disappointment was when I DID get a contract to publish a short novel, which I had been flogging around Toronto in a self-published version for 6 months. I was over the moon when the email came that said it would be put out by a little U.S. press with a queer imprint. I packed myself off to Japan for a year of teaching and then I was gonna come back and organize a little shoestring book tour. I wouldn’t likely make any money, but it would have been a great experience.

      In the meantime, however, the press was sold to a big academic publisher that wasn’t interested in fiction. So they folded the fiction division and all its imprints, and my book died!! (Interestingly, if it had been a Canadian press bought out by a foreign publisher, they’d have had to fulfil all their outstanding contracts. That’s a holdover from old programs meant to safeguard Canadian culture.)

      Anyway, they sent back my manuscript with a note that said something like, “Thank you for letting us consider your work…” I thought, “Consider my work?! We were back and forth on email for 3 months negotiating the contract!! I have your signature on paper!” That was truly insult added to corporate-merger injury. 🙁

      But I’ve changed my mind about rejections. Now I almost look forward to them, or certainly expect them. I saw a blogpost last year that said you should AIM to get 100 rejections a year, because there are bound to be a few acceptances as well. And it has proven true, in my case. If one is too afraid of rejection to send stuff out, the acceptances won’t come either. You just have to grind away at it till something sticks. 🙂

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        Brutal that they did that switcheroo on you. And I’m glad you have come to term with rejections, me too. Though they still hurt my heart, obviously.

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

        BTW, on the topic of poetry and rejections, I went to a great talk yesterday by Dwayne Morgan (, a local Toronto poet – labelled a ‘spoken word artist’ by cultural gatekeepers, the same way ‘soul’ was arbitrarily segregated from ‘rock’ for reasons of colour – and he talked about how early in his career he kept running into all kinds of barriers (like that what he was doing was not ‘poetry’, so-called), and how he found innovative ways around them.

        So, of course, even after he was an established name on the poetry slam circuit (which he helped to build here in Canada in the late 90s), he got rejected by every mainstream publisher he submitted to. So that forced him to get into self-publishing, and he says he sold a lot more books (and kept more of the money) than he would have if he’d gone through a traditional press. CDs too. Now he’s launching his own APP!

        And, ironically (or appropriately? not sure), this DIY approach, has insulated him from some of the other big shifts of the past decade or more, like the disappearance of book stores (and now live houses), as people stay at home more and more, stream all their culture and entertainment, and try to avoid paying for culture as much as possible.

        Anyway, it was a very inspirational talk. The takeaway from which was, “You’re either in the business of building people up or tearing them down.” He came down definitively on the side of building people up, and surrounding yourself with people who do that for you. The Grade 6’s in the audience loved it. I did too. We never had talks like this from cultural entrepreneurs when I was that age. If you weren’t headed for engineering, they had no idea how to guide you.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          I’m amazed by people who go down the self-publishing road. To do that you need a set of skills I certainly don’t possess – marketing, networking, staying on top of things in the virtual reality. Also, I feel really need the recognition from outside the group of people I’ve selected as my friends, in order to have faith in my writing standing on its own two feet. I easily fall victim to self-doubt, and start wondering if people say they like my writing just to be nice, or because I’m a good cook, or because it’s so pathetic to be an emerging writer at my age.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Another failure favourite is Tin House, where they kept my story for 15 (!!!) months and then still not one personal word.
      Geist – once rejected a story of mine without even sending a form rejection – I just receive a message from Submittable that my story had been moved from Active to Rejected.

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      My “only gay people will get it” writing has been repeatedly rejected by “gay” publications for being “a little too on the nose”. My favourite was “why bring light to such things?”

      I once got a rejection letter for a script from Carrie Fisher that was super insightful and brilliant, she is one of my favorite writers, and just cause she’s dead now.

      My favourite rejection letter though, is honestly my first time submitting to the deathmatch and the editor compared me to Chuck Palahniuk, which is now pinned on my cork board beside my desk.

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

          Wow, you got a personal rejection letter from Carrie Fisher? I hope that thing is framed. Seeing ‘Star Wars’ when I was like 4 is literally my first memory in life (for better or worse!) and my Leia figures were the jewels of my collection. (Big surprise. I’m gay!)

          Poor Carrie. I loved the young, beautiful, weirdly insecure Carrie of her early Letterman interviews. (She seemed more confident when she had a separate claim to fame as an author.) And I loved the older, unhinged, devil-may-care Carrie who let it all hang out (like her dog and his tongue!), I think in part because her manner reminded me a lot of my dad, who was similarly challenged, similarly gregarious, and similarly goofy – doing anything he could to get a laugh. Rest in peace, Princess.

          Which reminds me, my *favourite* rejection is a set of materials Paramount Pictures sent me when I was about 13 about submitting story ideas to ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. They were one of the few shows that had an open submissions policy, and I sent them a bunch of episode ideas. They wanted me to resubmit them in proper format, and the materials showed me how, but – like the child who mistakes the box for the gift – I was just so jazzed about getting that letter I never followed up on it!! 🙂

          • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

            That Star Trek anecdote is so super cool, P.D. As I said somewhere else, I started off writing Darkwing Duck scripts and I desperately wanted to submit them, but I never even tried! To be fair, I was probably 7 or 8 years old, but still. I admire that you really did it!

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            It’s a ten page letter with notes for improvement, it was party of screenwriting workshop I did once. Her novel and screenplay “Postcards from the Edge” changed my life.

            Your Star Trek TNG rejection, sounds wonderful.

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

    I must confess: before doing all of this posting I decided to make myself a good stiff drink. What I concocted was essentially a perfect Manhattan using chocolate whiskey.

    Challenge: I need a simple but catchy name for this new drink.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      There’s still hope!

      Hurry everyone, clap your hands and make a wish! He may not be in the competition but maybe we can bring him back to join in on the conversation (he did have some good things to say).

      • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:


        Thanks for coming back to our little den of inequity!

        And thanks for proving to myself the my lifelong belief in the existence of Santa Clause is not misguided nor delusional.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Meh. I’m out. I was gunna keep commenting, but I made a couple of dissenting opinions and people are acting like I beat her and killed her dog. And all it’s done is get her story a mass of sympathy votes and me overwhelmed with attacks. WHich is fine, I guess, but really I can’t keep up – like do you keep responding, let it go, what’s the ettiquet? It’s also funny that people can call me a bully than use harsher language to put me down, which puts them on the level they are mad at me for being on? Bah. I wish you luck. Your story is so good. I’m so sorry for upsetting the vote like that. She’s knocked me down 600 karma points in under a few hours. It’s gotten nuts and I’m not even a contender. I’m so sorry man. Good luck.

          • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

            I understand Chaos.

            You did kinda get dogpiled there, and that isn’t cool.
            You could take this as a “nothing to lose” opportunity to let loose with the comments, but if your heart isn’t into it then that’s okay; a person can only handle so much.

            Thanks for contributing.

            Have yourself a good one!

            • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

              Thanks man. I’m still voting, but I’m not going to be called a bully while getting bullied. It’s moronic. I love you story and I think her’s is reliant on a gimmick. Good luck man.

              • jenk ( User Karma: 371 ) says:

                Hi there Chaos. I thought I’d just chime in as one of the people who objected to your style of critique to say it would be a shame if you just went silent. The way I see it, you articulated some critiques which (while I don’t agree with them) are valid to share and could have been constructive. In fact, I think the tone you struck in the lightening round was pretty much just that: critical, but not descending into personal attacks (e.g., calling the author privileged, criticizing the legitimacy of her life experiences, suggesting that only the most superficial manufactured music could be something she could really relate to) and avoiding language that you realized might be hurtful and/or insensitive. I asked whether you thought you crossed a line and you said no, and specifically claimed that being called “mean” was not a critique you cared about. It seems like a pretty large contingent of the commenters here disagreed and called you out on it. I personally think this is healthy and precisely the risk you run when you exercise your right to say whatever you want in a way that’s “mean” (call me crazy, but I think that matters a whole lot).

                All of that said, I think (1) you’ve walked back the tone and taken responsibility to some extent and (2) I can understand why the exchanges have encouraged you to be more defensive than I’d like to think you might otherwise be. While I think it’s right that you were called out (and I do sincerely hope you can understand why), I’d much rather see you welcomed back into the discussion than ostracized into silence. Don’t know who will even read this, but my proposal would be that we assume that you’ve heard the objections, that we simmer down and let the prior exchanges go. Maybe we can all do better going forward.

                • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                  You sir, I tip my hat too. Yes, I did it all wrong. I still feel her story relies on a gimmick but the whole thing went out of control. But literally I’ve been getting emails of death threats and other types of abuse to my writer’s email and they’re all in support of Rachel and Kaitlin, it’s very confusing to be called out on something while being abused in the same fashion. ‘Cause then you don’t learn anything, you just keeping scrapping. It was wrong of me to call her privileged, but it’s not acceptable for her followers to call me names in return. It just becomes a horrible cycle of abuse. I feel bad for starting it,but I’m also the only one willing to take responsabiliity for the bad things said. But pulling out of the comments was more for hoping the mass emails would stop filling my inbox with abuse. And I’m sorry but her story is still gimmick based and I’m entitled to my belief of that, though I understand once you put your foot in it, you become personae non grata.

                  • jenk ( User Karma: 371 ) says:

                    Thanks for this thoughtful response. I respect your willingness to acknowledge where you were offside. It’s definitely NOT ok that you are receiving threats of any kind to your email. That is seriously fucked up. I really hope the volume on all this gets dialled-down a fair bit. (Oh… and I’m not a guy…)

    • JesFletcher ( User Karma: 64 ) says:

      Rachel! You story was so wonderful. I loved how the narrative was crafted. You are a brilliant writer. Sadly my recollection of song titles is abysmal, otherwise I’d have more to say on that subject. Your story evokes a youthfulness that makes me yearn for earlier experiences of love and aimlessness…that time just before the next stage. Nice work!

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

      Hey, Rachel — I’m trying to get through the rest of the stories by the end of the week, and I haven’t read all the other comments, so if I inadvertently repeat things others have said forgive me.

      Alright, onwards! ‘I want you around’ — what a cool piece! Wow, just so many lines and images I liked:

      You said, “High-School-You would never have spoken to High-School-Me.”

      …the fact that when I ate bread I’d tap out the crumbs like I was ashing a cigarette.

      Our relationship was like a plant that we kept forgetting to water regularly – its leaves were fucking droopy.

      I like how each little episode has its own flavour, almost its own rhetorical structure, if that makes sense. It would be a real trip to read this while listening to a playlist of the music. I guess it serves as the playlist for their relationship; so a kind of second narrative layer floating above the first. Very cool structure.

      The only one I couldn’t quite square was ‘The KKK Took My Baby’, unless it is meant to just signal general paranoia that when things go wrong, it has to be some ultra-sinister force, like the KKK, when there is probably a perfectly banal explanation.

      The ending: an airport goodbye is a minefield of melodramatic clichés and sentimentality, but you handle it beautifully, elliptically. We know they will break up, so it only makes it sadder that they seem to be telling themselves – at least for the time being – that they’ll make it work, somehow, from across an ocean. (I did it. Also for 2 years. It sucks!) Just beautiful.

      Reminds me of the basic insight of ‘Eternal Sunshine’ that when we fall in love we know that, as likely or not, it will work out badly, but we keep doing it over and over in the hopes that this is the one that sticks. How did you get all that into a story of under 3,000 words? Wonderful!

      Congratulations. If there were a prize for innovative form wedded to just exactly the right economy of words, yours would win it hands down. Great job. 🙂

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        P.D., thank you very much for that detailed and thoughtful feedback.

        I will say that the KKK Took My Baby Away part is meant to just sort of cover the overarching theme of loss and London is such a strange and overwhelming place, it’s easy to feel crazy there. Though I think what you wrote about it is true too, we always blame outside forces as things begin to go wrong. I also based it on the way the song makes me feel, the sound of it, it has a sort of roundedness to it that called to mind that memory of going in circles on cobblestone streets.

        • iWoo ( User Karma: 107 ) says:


          A thought I had was that since myself (and a handful of others) didn’t “need” the Ramones references, it is interesting to note that the piece could work and still communicate what you seemed to intend even if you had invented your own song-names-as-chapters, and simply removed “Ramones” from the title.

          The references undoubtedly have deeper personal meaning and significance to you as the author, but perhaps you could consider Roland Barthes’ ‘death of the author’ text, where it is argued that the author’s intentions etc become secondary or irrelevant when it comes to the reader’s interpretation.

          Since my art school days, I tend to agree with it because once work is in front of a viewer or reader, the amount that they know of the authorial intent can be vanishingly small. The format with song titles to introduce each vignette is of course essential, but I feel an alternate version of your story that does not lean on pop culture references (that a lot of readers may not get due to taste, nationality, age) would not be a weaker approach, and in fact allow for the reader to invent, imagine and project their own experiences perhaps in an even stronger, universal way.

          • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

            Hi iWoo!

            I definitely understand that. There are many sad lesbian love stories I have written that do not use any framing device and those can be available for people’s perusal if they are interested (I have no agent but can be contacted by one at any time). In this case, though, this story may not be to everyone’s taste and that is totally fine. This was playing with form, playing with music, and honestly even if only a small amount of people enjoy that I am absolutely fine with it. Thanks for taking the time to think about my writing (again).

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

              iWoo’s response does say it all. Wow, it’s a lesbian love story? How did I miss that? (Maybe because the first line is ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’?)

              FWIW, I don’t think anyone owns the meaning of the Ramones. Music – all music (maybe all art?) – is what you make of it. (I am a huge Bowie fan, had the good fortune of seeing him twice, and both times I was impressed at how mixed his audience was, so clearly a lot of people took a lot of different things away from his music. I’m sure that’s true of any strong, enduring musical act.)

              That said, although the piece would lose something, I think it would still work as just numbered vignettes. It’s in a very spare, minimalist style. Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but it works for me. 🙂

    • iWoo ( User Karma: 107 ) says:

      Serious comment time!

      Hi Rachel, I really enjoyed your story, even if I didn’t know more than one or two songs, and had to look them up to remember how they sounded! There is a sort of wistful youthfulness that really got me after reading it. Instead of imagining a soundtrack to the chapters, I imagined (abstractly) different images or scenes, as though this was a framework for a bittersweet short movie.

      Maybe the vibe I get from the story is because it feels like a written equivalent of a mixtape that is carefully planned, but never sent. Or perhaps maybe even more particular to our generation: a series of ten LiveJournal posts… never read by the unnamed person in the story.

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        That feels so much of what I wanted it to do for people, I’m glad it came through. Life is all about mundane, wistful moments that are so fleeting and meshed with our own music or pop cultural references. For instance, how a song can remind me so vividly of people I haven’t seen in years.

        Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        See, I really dislike your story. Sorry. To me there’s a truth to the anger original punks feels when people take on the punk mantle today, without a clue of what it’s originators went through at the time. To me, you seem 100% privileged, ironic, hipster. Your comments, echo it, I’m not trying to be school yard bully or anything but I feel like I’ve lived your life in Wes Anderson film, or something. So not being a fan of the Ramones, but being nearly forty, I have friends who were there when the Ramones were at their peek and I went to them to discuss your story. (I lie, I ran into them at the local pub during the lightning round and we discussed it)… their opinion of your story was “I don’t think she gets the Ramones.” And it’s how I felt, but more I don’t think you get the era that gave birth to the Ramones and therefore I don’t think you get the social ramifications that gave their music a voice. I think you sell your own writing short by relying on the Ramones as a crutch to attract readers, and not Ramones fans, but those people who only know say 10 Ramones songs and think themselves ultimate fans. I love flash fiction, but I would have challenged you to avoid linking yourself to the Ramones and therefore Punk and therefore a social movement that you can really only know at an extreme distance. But as the hipster douche readership that I think your link to the Ramones appeals too, I’m not sure if you actually ended up doing something brilliant as ironic hipsters currently rule all levels of say indie magazine publishing and entertainment and the like, so your story will never fail to appeal to a large population, sadly I just think that large population that is touched, is also largely false. Sorry.

        • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

          Wow! What a load of crap. I suppose I should let the author reply but since you don’t only attack her but her readers, which means all of us, then I think I have the right to respond. If I’m a bit vicious, then you asked for it. Let me begin by asking who made you the guardian of literary and musical authenticity? Clearly you have a problem, but it seems to be less a problem with the story than some imaginary audience of hipsters to whom you think she is pandering. Somehow the very same story would be ok if Nirvana rather than the Ramones were referenced. Why? Because your punk friends own punk and they get to decide what is or isn’t punk. But the story isn’t about being punk. No claim is made that some kind of punk aesthetic is being invoked. Rather, it is about the feelings that these songs evoked for this particular person going through a set of experiences. To claim that punks own punk is to affirm that culture is property, that it is locked only into one context and can never be of value to anyone outside of that context. The implication is that I can’t read and enjoy Jane Austen because I didn’t live in the 1810s. That I can’t read and be moved by James Baldwin because I didn’t go through the experiences he had as a Black man in the US in the 1950s. It happens that the Ramones leave me cold. If I like the story, it is not because of the Ramones but because of the content of the story itself. If you don’t get that, if all you can do is latch onto the externals, then you lack the emotional insight and moral judgment to be much of a writer yourself. If you don’t like the story thats fine. But to produce this kind of put down is pathetic.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Culture is not property, it is an ever evolving thing… so in fact what you consider punk today, isn’t “punk” it’s something new that has evolved from what came before. Culture is a biological thing that is always evolving and changing. No one owns culture, it is there to be shared and grown upon but one must show the culture respect of it all goes wrong and part of that respect is having some knowledge of where that culture came from and its purpose in time.

            I do honestly believe that hipsters and the millenial generation are the worst yet to be produced by this world, and it’s greatest sin is this in ability to understand what came before, the struggles and all that has lead to the lifestyles we enjoy today. Fuck I wrote this long response, then closed my browser by accident and lost it and now I’m all fired up and can’t focus. But here’s the thing, she invited this comparison, she entered an indie contest and instead of impressing us with the power of her very strong writing, she used a direct link to cultural icons to illicit a direct response. There is validity to comment, and you completely misunderstand it but your knee jerk reaction is exactly the type of response I associate with the hipster douches, I so cited. You can’t base your story around cultural icons without expecting a certain response and their is no way for me to prove this to you concretely unless we first remove all references to the Ramones and then ask everyone who voted for the story if they connected to the writing or a nostalgic connection to highly popular songs that have a universal popularity.

            So yeah, I guess you’re right, I do have a problem with this. Because I think it’s cheap. She’s one of the strongest writers here but she used a cheap framing device that ultimately, in my eyes, weakens her writing, which again, is very strong.

            OK, let’s see, I hate hipsters, ummm, what else… oh yeah… You don’t have to live in Jane Austen’s time to read her books, but you do require some knowledge and understanding of the time period to be able to enjoy or understand them. Same with James Baldwin. Same with all cultures, of all kinds. I know nothing of the Ramones, I know that punk today has nothing to do with punk of then except for the core rebellion (but even that’s shifted), what I do know is that happy go-lucky tones of the Ramones were based in irony (something I thought you hipsters got). I do know that a 60-yr old Ramones fan who saw them live felt disconnected from the story. I think the device is disrespectful. I still think she’s a good writer, but… ah fuck it, this is too long now and I just think yer a moron.

            • michaelr ( User Karma: 523 ) says:

              So now I too am a hipster douchbag. You don’t know me. You know nothing whatsoever about me but if I disagree with you then I must be hipster. You dismiss my respeonse as no more than a knee jerk reaction, probably because I didn’t go out to a bar and check with my friends to see if it was autentic or not. You still fail to get the point. Suppose I tried to write a story about your 60-yr old punk friend and what the Ramones meant to him. Then it would be his story and my concern would be to try to get his thoughts and feelings across. But the story you are complaining about is not about him and it is not about punk. It is about how a person reacts to and make use of music and lyrics in making sense of their own lives. Your 60-yr old punk has every right to feel disconnected from the story. So do you. But you do not have the right to pontificate about what another writer is or is not allowed to write, how they are or are not allowed to make use of “cultural icons”, or to throw around the accusation that who or what you dont like must be hipster. Luckily for me you finally conclude that I am just a moron, which, as I see it, must be better than being a hipster since hipsters “are the worst yet to be produced by this world”. And you claim that I don’t know my history? I wont even waste my time mentioning some of what the world has produced that just might be worse than a hipster. Worse even than a moron like me.

              • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                This means more to you than me. So I’ll say, sure, you’re absolutely right. I called you a moron because you called me pathetic, it’s only fair. My opinion is still valid. But you will note your anger keeps shifting, your point as well, mine was consistent. Off to be now, nice trolling with you.

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          I honestly feel your story would have been more true to me if you linked your story to Nirvana songs, ’cause I would be more willing to believe a closeness to that era, though if we’re being really honest with ourselves it likely should have been linked to Backstreet Boys or the like. It doesn’t matter how good your story is, it will always be judged by it’s forced and physical link to musical legends. It’s cheap.

          • jenk ( User Karma: 371 ) says:

            I strongly disagree with you Chaos (as if every writer who ever made an allusion to the Bible was cheapening their work by making a forced and physical link to a messianic legend who was crucified when they knew nothing about what being crucified by Romans was like). It seems pretty clear to me that allusions can change and develop new meaning based on the contexts in which the work alluded to is being interpreted, rather than only the very specific context in which the work was produced. I don’t know a damn thing about the Ramones, but if their music speaks truths that extend beyond a precise historical, political and economic context, so much the better, no?

            More importantly (much more), I wish you hadn’t decided to hurl epithets at the writer and readers. And no, prefacing and concluding your comments with “sorry” does not a respectful critique make. Obviously a “death match” entails a degree of wry and robust sparring in the comments – but I wonder if you can honestly tell yourself you didn’t cross a line here.

            • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

              I think I understand where Chaos is coming from, and I recognize myself as someone who has done what he is accusing Rachel of. I wrote a short-story “Watching myself read Derrida” where I used (not very much, but enough to now feel ashamed) quotes by the French philosopher Derridà. The rest of the writing isn’t bad, but I know I was using his name and quotes to pander to a specific group, no, Hell, to be liked and wooed by a specific group of people. You’ll find it online as an example of what he is saying. (and the version I have in my computer now – clean of all that posing, is much bettr)

              • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

                Hi Hege,

                I really am not sure why you assume I am pandering to a specific group? Do you guys all write with an audience in mind? I wanted to try something and I did. You 100% don’t have to like it. You 100% don’t have to read it. Many writers have played with similar concepts, I can do some library tech research and give you all a list if you want.

                • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

                  If you reread my post, you’ll see I was talking about myself, Rachel. I recognize what chaos accused you of, in myself. The editors who published the story did not call me out on it, but in hindsight I know what I did. I don’t know if this is true for you Rachel even if some readers may pick up that vibe.

            • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

              There are differences between allusions and hanging your whole story on a framing device of allusions. I might have said it better, but I still feel my opinion is valid, even if unpopular. And I’ve been cut, so really I don’t care how my opinions are taken at this point. But if everyone is going to attack me, I’d rather you each did a close reading of what I said and attack me point by point. Because, I’m just being mean, isn’t going to fly.

              By referencing that the story is told in 10-Ramones songs, she as the writer is telling the audience to become familiar with those songs, she is making an intentional connection, which I feel weakens the strength of her piece. I think it’s cheap. I think it flies in the face of the intentions of the original artist (which are to be considered, because she calls attention to them at the very start) and for that it offends me. She could have even removed the first line and I would have been more accepting of it, but she wants that direct connection. She invited that interpretation.

              I’m in school the next couple days, so I won’t be able to come back to this for a few days. But no, I do not think I crossed a line. I just think my thoughts upset you.

          • bbsanharr ( User Karma: 10 ) says:

            Every human experiences art differently, music, literature, a painting, whatever it may be. To insult someone because their experience is different than yours is quite pathetic.
            Rachel, your story spoke to me because of how much emotion and personality you put into it. The story is good because it has something authentic to and has heart and soul. Good luck.

            • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

              I don’t understand how just because I don’t like hipsters how I’ve suddenly insulted her. Again, I think her writing is great but felt it weakened by the framing device. You will notice that I expressed an opinion and now too of you have called me pathetic. I got the strict opinion on the weekend that Rachel has thick skin and can handle what I have said. But also, note that Rachel has presented herself as someone for whom the contest doesn’t matter, it’s just a thing. She naps and questions others severity or intensity, when Hege and Vicky are throwing blood, sweat, and tears into this. I did not insult her because my experience is different than hers, I insult the use of cultural icons to frame the piece. I’m sorry Rachel, but even if you win, your story will always be linked with the Ramones and I think it cheapens your excellent grasp of flash fiction.

              • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

                I will respond to you, Chaos, and then not again because you and your insults are a waste of this competition’s time. Please don’t presume to know me by speaking for my thick skin. I’m not allowed to nap on my day off? Or eat snacks? You must have a tough life, being such a pure writer that you don’t sleep or eat. I entered this frustrating, exhausting competition because it means a lot to me, so again: do not to presume to know my mind because I don’t want to roll around in dirt being an asshole to people I know are trying their best.

                Also? I love the fuck out of The Ramones and I’d be delighted to be associated with them.

                Enjoy your exalted existence.

                • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

                  That’s fair.

                  But I don’t presume anything, I’m just going on what you’ve presented of yourself.

                  And that just proves my point, “I’d be delighted to be associated with them”. It’s a cheap device. Instead of using the strength of your writing, you rely on a gimmick.

                  And to be clear, I didn’t sleep or eat on the weekend due to anxiety, not due to writing. I only wish I had that kind of commitment.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Sleep is for mere mortals and fools.


      Maybe sleep would be a good idea.

        • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

          Well that all depends on a few things:
          1) What do you mean by “get rid of”
          2) What’s my budget?
          3) Can this be considered a government project? (Want to get some of those sweet government benefits)
          4) How much time do I have?
          5) Who’s posting bail?

        • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:


        • happilyhopeless ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          Well… if you insist…



          COME FORTH!


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

    Readers, writers, everyone here: just a reminder for those who might need it that death threats, spamming people’s emails with aggressive or abusive messages, are NEVER cool and is always seriously fucked up.

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

    Writer related but not contest related:

    Did anyone else get tickets to Paul Auster’s presentation at the Toronto Public Library? There may me even be some left (free tickets, but you need to sign up).

    Auster was the man who kept me confused and odd and non-conform through years of child-rearing and doing repetitive, conventional stuff.

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

    Since Vikki made a point of highlighting her own status as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER in the lightening rounds, I thought – since I am not – I better resort to something I’m professional at (and since translating the story into Norwegian or Italian won’t sway many voters – I return to my social scientist/project management tools).

    Applying a SWOT analysis to The Very Last Mr. Jones:

    Strengths: the voice is good and consistent. It has a clear plot line. The story is not over-written. The theme and plot are is very original – to the point of making some people say “What, why would anyone do that, why?”

    Weaknesses: This is not a story that leaves with an understanding of why the protagonists act as they do. The characters are sketched at best, and only revealed through hints, words dropped here and there.

    Opportunities: This story makes you feel something new, leaves you looking for the “why” behind the actions in your gut more than in you brain. It also casts young girls doing the opposite of what young girls are supposed to be doing – pursuing smelly old men instead of boyfriends, dreaming of funerals instead of weddings.

    Threats: It is a story that will turn many people off, it will not make it into woman’s magazines, it is not a “refreshing read.” It is also under threat by the 2 typos left in there, so if someone is really obsessive, they will not get past that.

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

      Not that anyone’s been waiting for them, but for what they are worth, here are my thoughts on ‘The Very Last Mr. Jones’.

      (Same caveat I gave Rachel – I haven’t read the rest of the comments on this story, so I apologize if I am repeating anything by accident.)

      “Between Jenna and me there wasn’t enough boob for a single bra, and money was too tight to spend it on fencing in our teeth.” I think this is one of the best lines in the whole competition. I love that image of fencing in one’s teeth.

      At the sentence level, I think this piece is incredibly solid – easily some of the best writing in the competition. The details are wonderful, the logic of how they get access to these patients is great. This piece feels tight and worked over to chilly perfection. 🙂

      At the level of story, however, I am not sure how to feel about it. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve read or watched anything about the cruelty and solipsism of kids / teens (not my cup of tea), but I can’t really identify with either of these protagonists. My heart goes out to their victims, though. (But is that the idea?) Only the ambiguity of whether the Last Mr. Jones actually dies at the end saves them from being completely reprehensible. So, as a reader, I guess I wonder why am I being asked to spend time with them? (Mind you, this is coming from someone who stopped watching ‘Breaking Bad’ halfway through season two because Walter White lost all my sympathy. So, maybe it’s just me. Again, entitled anti-heroes, not my cuppa!)

      To me this is where it shades over from a kind of perverse game into sociopathy: “And it was me who never looked back to see the very last Mr. Jones one last time as we headed for the streetcar stop. I didn’t need to, I knew his kind.”

      I’m not sure what this means. What’s his kind? A dirty old man who wants to buy ice cream for little girls? But they’re the ones who bought the porn and put it in his lap, no? He’s a helpless and defenceless invalid that they’ve fraudulently taken out for the day, no? They barged their way into his life, no? (The fact that this story of elder abuse takes place against the unfortunate backdrop – at present – of a nursing home serial murder case here in Canada also just makes it less enjoyable for me personally. It feels less like a sort of Edward Gorey-esque romp than a case study that almost revels in junior sociopathy.)

      But anyway, the story WORKS, I’m persuaded of the reality of these girls, and the literary flourishes (the wonderful metaphors and images) do remove it from everyday reality. I guess I’m just not sure what it all means. Or what I am meant to take away from it? But, again, maybe that’s just a matter of taste.

      And it’s still entirely worthy of the big prize! 🙂

      • Davethomson ( User Karma: 453 ) says:

        I love reading your comments for each piece. One of the highlights of the contest for me. Thanks for putting so much thought into each story.

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

          I don’t know if this is directed at me or Hege, but maybe I can thank you for us both!! 🙂 As one of the non-author participants (right? I’m not mistaken there?), you’ve added a lot to the conversation too!! We need more folks like you here inside the echo chamber! 🙂

      • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

        It is incredibly generous of you to take critique my piece so thoroughly. I now feel ashamed of the 5 sentence run-through I gave of yours the other day.

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

          I’m glad it was appreciated. Giving good feedback is so hard. Being in writers’ groups and doing it face to face has been very educational (for me), and even there it can get a bit tense! I enjoy going because even if my work is not being critiqued, I always learn something from what others say.

          I think the Stephen King rule is a good one: If you show your piece to 5 people, and 2 have a problem with something, and 3 don’t – you’re probably fine. If ALL 5 object to something, maybe you need to think about changing it. So much of writing (or improving your writing, I guess) is just having the confidence to know where to draw the line between saying ‘I’m open to doing this another way’ and ‘No, this is what I was doing and I am sticking to it.’

          You should stick to it. You are a very skilled writer. I’m just a wimp about unsympathetic characters!! 🙂

          (And don’t feel ashamed about the 5-sentence run through! There are several I haven’t read yet. Gotta get on that!!)

          • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

            I agree with Dave, P.D. I love reading all your critiques, which are kind without being suck-up-y. You are a smart and classy person, and I think you are doing well in this competition both because of your excellent writing talent and because you are genuinely thoughtful and in-depth.

            Thanks for having integrity.

      • elenaors ( User Karma: 26 ) says:

        I like this comment! I agree on almost everything.
        About the wondering what take away from the story, the doubt does not hurt…
        It remains as well as the power of some images of the pieces that, as you said, feel tight. I finally think that these images prevail over doubts!
        So I love this spotlight directed onto th distance beetween youht and old age.
        A sort of cold spotlight.
        I will not forget the “Ennah!”, the fenced teeth, the smell of the rooms and the importance of time to have an ice cream.
        Forgive my English…
        Thank you P.D. Walter and Hege Lepri!

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

    As always, anyone having login issues should contact me at! So far I’ve got a pretty decent track record of helping out any individuals who can’t login or never got their password — but I can’t help them if I don’t hear from them! That said, the deeper issues with the glitch should be mostly resolved by now…

    Also, the slow-loading of the site should be resolved as well.

    A note on the current round not showing up when you plug in — each deathmatch round begins on the Monday at 12 noon and goes live then — seems like it was a little late going live today (looking into it), but it won’t be visible before then!

    Happy death-ing!

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

    “The Very Last Mr. Jones” – Another fantastic story and definitely the funniest one in the group. Clever, dark, it reminded me a bit of Palahniuk’s work.

    • deadlydan ( User Karma: 45 ) says:

      I can definitely see that! Thanks for mentioning it! There’s that kind of moral distancing and weariness that you find in much of Palahniuk’s stuff.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Thanks. I have actually never read Palahniuk – since I hail from Europe, my “canon” of things that should be read frequently doesn’t overlap what North American readers perceive as must-reads. Will put him on my list.

  28. forestale ( User Karma: 27 ) says:

    and for the second night in a row the dark forces of the night have been voting in draws for Fogger….. must say zombies make a difference for sure!

  29. stigjakobsen ( User Karma: 681 ) says:

    I hope those of you who aren’t somehow related to or personal friends with Susan, Kaitlin, Hege or Vicky help to decide these close contests. I’d much rather have the one YOU think has written the best story win, as opposed to the one who has the best mobilizing power.

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

    Morning everyone!

    I have a question for y’all. How/when did you start writing?

    I started as a tiny person, writing Darkwing Duck scripts because I was too obsessed with the show to limit myself to just watching it play out on TV. Then I wrote an entire scripted sequel to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. From then, I just never stopped.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Started off totally unaware of a possible future in writing; I was just that kid in class who constantly exceeded the recommended number of pages by 10-50%.

      Started to realize the path that I was on when I realized just how much I loved writing scripts for films.

      5 years of Uni, 10 months of Scotland,four years of hopping about Alberta, and here we are.

      • jenk ( User Karma: 371 ) says:

        Thoroughly enjoyed “A Gun for Chekhov”. It felt kind of Fight Club esque to me, but I appreciated that it was altogether lower stakes. Maybe it made it more relatable? Anyway, I’m definitely going to come up with a badass buddy, there’s no way that could go wrong, right?

        • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

          Thank you very much for that!

          Now remember, every proper Invisi-Buddy needs to have a good name to match! I’d suggest using a list of popular names used by Eastern European Migrants as a jumping off point. It’s also best if the name is short (maximum 5 syllables in total length, both first and last names) but has a bit of a snap to it so that it will look good on any stationary you decided to print up (consciously or unconsciously).

          Have fun!

        • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

          I was reminded of Fight Club as well, but we are seeing the creation of this imaginary friend instead. Another thing I loved about the story is the implication that this modded gun might only be good for one shot, yet he still buys it. His intentions with the weapon are just ambiguous enough for me to still be thinking about what might have happened with the narrator and his new pal.

          • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

            Thanks Rob.

            I’ll admit that I have a bit of an obsession with the “Obrez pistol”. It’s a weapon that has an interesting history and I’m honestly surprised that more people haven’t heard about it. It’s one of those guns that you’ll either love to fire or refuse to touch for fear of your own life, so in a way it might be good for only one shot.

            • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

              Hi! I wrote a flash about the glorification of drug culture (from Walmart to the anti-hero – Arlo). Did u write a story that glorifies gun culture? I am ASKING. It could easily be that I am just too dense to see it, if you were actually making a statement against guns. To me, an often-contradictory Menno pacifist, with a history of black eyes and busted knuckles, it is a big question. (Warning: this question is vote-bait.) Whatev – your story was original! Almost as original as mine – just more better writed.

              • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

                I don’t think that I did, but I guess I can see how people would read it in that way (“death of the author” and all that). I personally do not own any firearms but I do enjoy objects with interesting histories and stories, and the Obrez pistol is one such item.

                My intent with the story was not to create any sort of commentary on gun culture, but when writing a story where a gun is the primary prop you’re going to wind up using some inescapable tropes.

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

        I’d love to hear more about your screenwriting projects (though it’s getting harder and harder to find the new posts in all the back-and-forth), and Scotland. What were you doing there?

        I saw ‘Trainspotting’ there back in 1996, and walked out of the theatre into the world of the movie and thought, “Holy s%$t, I hope Begbie is not out here somewhere bustin’ heads!” Worst Scottish tourism promotion film ever made! (Can’t wait for the sequel.)

        For my money, maybe I’m not supposed to say this, but I think your story is one of the strongest in the competition. And your posts have been good-natured and hilarious all around. I really hope you make it into the next round. Time to get the lead out! 🙂

        • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

          Screenwriting is more of a passion for me than an actual form of employment, that’s not to say though that I haven’t benefitted from being able to write out a script.

          Screenwriting started as a means of getting an easy A for me and my friends back in school. We’d always be given group assignments where we had the option of making a film, so the choice was obvious. There was a brief period of time I became a script editor/writer for this guy who was trying to put together a children’s TV show about safety and Christianity (an odd combination, especially for me because I was atheist at the time), but that quickly fell through. Fortunately I managed to get paid for my work before he disappeared. These days I’ve got myself a stack of scripts that mainly act as a sort of dream or distant plan.

          If you want to learn more about screenwriting, I’d suggest getting the book “Story” by Robert McKee. It’s a massive text but well worth the read. Even if you aren’t looking to write scripts, it’s great for helping you with putting a story together.

          Scotland was a great experience. I went there for a working holiday, but didn’t realize that I was going there during an economic downturn, so I did more volunteering than actual work. I spent the whole time almost entirely in Glasgow, which is a beautiful city if you manage to look past it’s industrial exterior. I volunteered with the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall (think a vaudeville theater), the oldest surviving music hall in the world. I also became a member of the Word Factory poetry group, which kinda helped me develop my poetic voice form “angry young man shouting at everything” to “perturbed young man speaking to you in a calm but threatening manner”.

          I’ll admit that Trainspotting doesn’t exactly depict Scotland in the best of lights, but the book is still worth the read. Plus it’s an excellent little thing to copy and paste into a chatbox if you find yourself tired of dealing with people who refuse to type in complete sentences using the Queen’s English as it was intended to be used.

          If you’re interested in visiting Scotland I would highly suggest visiting Glasgow and the North country. And as for the Two other points of interest that I visited:
          -Aberdeen is a nice city but you should only visit it once, and for no longer than 3 days. I say this because it is the most depressing city in the world besides Detroit; everything is made of granite so Grey is the primary colour, it’s constantly raining, and there aren’t enough Pound-shops.
          -Edinburgh is nice to visit, but the whole place felt strange to me. It was almost like the entire city was Disney Land painted brown. Everything has a historical significance, Everything has an entry fee, and Everyone is a tour guide. Good place to visit, just be prepared to empty your wallet.


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

            Wyatt, thanks for the detailed reply. Sorry I missed it – you posted it two days ago! I wish these threads were collapsible, or that we got notifications of replies, cause it’s really hard to find what’s new.

            Going from “angry young man shouting at everything” to “perturbed young man speaking to you in a calm but threatening manner”. Hilarious.

            I have read, and love, McKee. I think he is useful for all storytellers, not just screenwriters. (And I love ‘Adaptation’, in part because he appears as a character. So many things to love about that movie.) I wish I had read him years ago. That said, I am not sure I would have gotten as much out of McKee if I’d read him before I had struggled through writing a 600 page novel. Dealing with the storytelling challenges that arise in a multi-plot, multi-protagonist work of that size and finding the best solutions I could on my own, meant I had so many eureka moments as I was reading McKee. But now having read him, I feel like it helps me to avoid pitfalls and unproductive approaches to scenes and things in advance, so it save time.

            Studying Improv has also been hugely helpful in terms of understanding what a scene is, what subtext is, what we are telling stories about and why.

            I think the best takeaway from him is: “You have to give the audience what they want, but not in the way they expect.” That’s true of all good storytelling. And I think you do it in Chekhov’s gun. 🙂

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I started early enough, but had a hard time finishing anything (still do) and turned to poetry in my teens because that was at something I managed to get to the end of.
      I got my poetry collection rejected three times when I was in my mid-twenties and then decided I couldn’t write, but still wrote “real life stories” for women’s magazines and erotica to make extra money while in graduate school. All of this writing was in Norwegian.
      And then I wrote nothing but papers and shopping lists for 20 years.
      Took my first writing course in 2011 (mid-life crisis), still had a hard time finishing things. Took a course in meditation and writing – (which helped me be more patient and concentrated in my writing). Got my first short story published in English at the end of 2013 (but had it mislabeled as non-fiction – and my name was misspelled), and have since been at it regularly.

      • Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

        Boo about the misspelling and the incorrect categorization of your first published work. I can’t usually reread my stuff once it’s published because I see so much I yearn to change.

        Poetry is not my forte. I stopped writing it in my early twenties- the last truly successful poem I wrote was at 7 years old when I did an homage of Dr Suess’s If I Ran the Zoo. It was called If I Ran My House.

    • Rob Onofrey ( User Karma: 1004 ) says:

      I started writing pretty much as soon as I fell in love with reading in 4th grade (thanks, Harry Potter!). Started writing fiction and eventually poetry and screenplays as I got older.

  31. omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

    This is to start a new thread. Post something else that relates in someway to your story. I enjoyed knowing more about Vickie’s Aunt. So, what made the rest of you go the direction you did with you stories.

    When I watch this video I turn the sound off. The words are not Wyatt’s, but absolutely everything else is. But, I can hear the narrators voice in this piece.

  32. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Rob O vs. P.D.

    ‘tween Rob and P.D. (clap, clap)
    not much to choose (clap, clap)
    the rules they shud change (clap, clap)

    – The Arlones

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

      Yeah, hard to read the tone of this, but I shall respond in (good-natured?) kind. 😉

      To borrow a line from Shakespeare, “Hadst thou in person ne’er offended me, Even for thy [Phage’s] sake am I pitiless.”

      “Free to roam where the spirit takes us
      The high ground is both wide and spacious
      Where petty quarrels cannot waste us
      Undead spoil sports should be more gracious.”

      — The Ancient Order of the Knights of Ren & Stimpy 🙂

      • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

        Most of my stuff HERE is petty by design. (When else do I get the chance?) Also, narrative about rotting oldsters in your entry… weak. Beneath you, but obviously not on your radar. So, do u really own the high ground? Say crap like that about ANY other minority and you would rec’v a lot of hounding on this site. Besides…ain’t this whole thing intended to be like online rugby? We bash each other around, then go drink together? Thot that was the deal here? No? Earnest people talking about craft? OK, thot THAT self-indulgent stuff was the bailiwick of CBC radio at 3 A.M.?

        Shake it off and insult me. I am defenseless (rotting old unpublished Mennonite) and I won’t cry foul. Although I too, “begin to weary of this motif” – Arlo’s buddy Sam

        ALSO (can’t leave it alone) a criticism is a gift. Right?

        Still willing to buy allya a beer (#freebeer?) – m

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          Want the beer! When? Where? Do you brew it yourself up in Mennonite country? (Had a look at your website – it is amazing how different tour usual writing is from the story you had in the lightening round here. And I always wanted to be published in Rhubarb.

          • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

            Hey Hege! Ya, beer is so good now wherever you go, it seems a shame for me to waste good water-hops-grain on the stuff I make. Rhubarb is great pub! I have since written a prequel and a sequel to the piece they accepted. (Who knows?) Yes, the Deathmatch thing was all weird science for me. Enjoyed but I was many miles from basecamp, it’s true. I am voting your story, I think u did great with a tough ending. Gutsy! The best kind of sy. Cheers! In YVR soon? In GTA this summer? In Wpg anytime. 🙂 Tchuss!

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      Sacked: There are issues, no doubt. The vote counting mechanism does seem to work, and that must have been hard to set-up and fail-safe! (Gotta trust BP that it is accurate, but seems so.) Although I do understand from tremendous sources that non-registered voters were bused in from New Hampshire. Sad.

  33. LeishaRiddel ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

    First time commenting, I really like this contest because everyone has such a different approach. But some of them just really hit home way harder on a personal level and I like that. Good luck to all the writers!

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

    Does anybody have people *actually* named Mr. Jones in their life? I have two. Both great Joneses. One’s an architect, the other… well basically he’s a keep-to-yourself video game type, but he’s always generous with his vintage beer cellar.

    My 5th grade teacher was named Mrs. Jones too. Real winner, that one — she let me lead a yoga demonstration (I was kind of a new age 10 year old)

    Can we compile a list of top 10 Joneses?

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

    Another question for the authors and other commenters:

    AUTHORS: If you could write a prequel or sequel to your story (or a novel-length treatment), where would you go with it? How far ahead (or back) would you set it? Where and why would you choose to pick up again with the characters?

    NON-AUTHOR COMMENTERS: Which of the stories would you like to see prequels or sequels to, or novel length treatments of? Why? Where would YOU like to see the stories go? Why?

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Prequel: Focus on the narrator’s father who, while capable of keeping his family fed, housed, and happy, feels as though his life is no longer in his hands. He cannot afford therapy and he isn’t very assertive, so he keeps it to himself and begins feeling physically sick because of it. One day he finds his father’s service revolver while searching through the attic. Hold the gun gives him a feeling of power and confidence, so every night he sneaks up into the attic to hold the gun. Eventually he begins to feel less sick because of it.

      Sequel: Father visits son and stumbles upon the obrez. Son and father stare at each other in silence. Father thinks that his son suffers from the same perceived lack of control that he suffered from, and must have seen him in the attic with his gun. Son thinks that his father must be ashamed of him and begins planning out the story he’ll tell his father. In silence the father approaches his son, gun in hand, and wraps his arms around him in a hug. Son is confused but hugs back.

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

        THIS IS AWESOME, WYATT! I want to read these stories! 🙂

        No, seriously – have you thought about expanding it in to a novel, or at least a novella? Could be very Cormac McCarthy. These story treatments are amazing; they show that you really know your characters and the world they inhabit.

        Now, if it was all done tongue-in-cheek, I will look like a real dolt. I hope not! 🙂
        (Sarcasm is so hard to sniff out in forums like this!!) 🙁

      • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

        Completely missed this. And it is great! I hope Broken Pencil spends some of the money from increased traffic to their site to spruce up the online forum format. If new posts appeared on top, that would be great help for the half-focused reader – and if the individual responses were collapsible as well (and titles – titles for each post was a great novelty in the late 90s and really helped follow the thread.

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      I’d follow Arlo’s life before and after abuse. Before – he falls for aggrandizement of drug life in pop culture; sees it as freedom, adventure. Falls hard. After – he squeaks thru, sees how lucky he was, gives a shit and tries to make amends, where he can. Falls back in? Dunno.

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

    Hi all,

    I’ve made the decision to be done. Upvoting and downvoting and people being shitty to each other is not how I want to spend my time or be published. Much like Vicky (and no, this isn’t marketing), I am going to ask my friends to stop. I’m sick of sleeping poorly and being bullied and then told I’m not bullied, I don’t know what being bullied is, etc.

    Chaos, I think you are genuinely a terrible, sad person. I’m sorry you have to live in your head. Wyatt, it’s gross for you to be congratulating a person for bullying others on their personal experiences- I can see why you require an imaginary friend. You should take a page from P.D., Rob, Kaitlyn and be kind to people. Like P.D. said, it’s a writing contest. None of us are going to become insta-stars from this. Frankly, If I ever have true success in publishing, I don’t want it this way.

    But thank you, because what this has shown me is two-fold: (1) I have the best, most supportive friends in the world. (2) A lot of people liked my story as well, I don’t have enough people with free time to be crushing it like this if the general public wasn’t voting for me too.

    Don’t waste your time replying, this isn’t a voting strategy. I’m out. But just remember Chaos, I was still beating Wyatt even with all the tricks. Keep it real, sugarpie.

    • JessieBrennan7 ( User Karma: 49 ) says:

      I’m so sorry to hear you are dropping out Rachel but I totally and completely understand why. I will continue to vote for you anyways as I’m sure many others will too. I feel like the nature of the competition (the up voting and the down voting) rewards bad behaviour. I cannot believe the mean and insensitive things said to you and others framed as “critiques” As I said I will continue to vote for you but I will not be returning to witness this competition ever again, I hope that measures will be taken to moderate this section in the future. Lovely lively competition is good for all and something to strive for in the future. Thanks to P.D. for being kind and always conducting himself in a way a competition of this nature deserves, a wonderful example of good sportsmanship, something hopefully we can all agree on! 😉

    • omcrae ( User Karma: 328 ) says:

      If you are truly out of this competition, please do not do so because you believe you are the better person. You know nothing of the other people in this competition. I however know at least one competitor who has taken the high road, no matter what you have said in your post. He is the funniest, loyalest, best guitar playing writer that I have had the privilege to encourage along his journey through this life. You can degenerate his writing, scorn his sense of humor and find his puns “not funny”, but you do not get to say you were beating him when you weren’t. At least not before all the drama started. You were neck in neck. Everyone paying attention to the competition knows Wyatt was holding his own. A little drama and suddenly you’re getting more votes and Wyatt’s karma disappears. You don’t hear anyone else crying fowl.

      I really, sincerely hope that you continue in this competition. Everyone wants the best piece to win. After the first round I knew this would not be the case. I suspect the best piece wasn’t even picked to be published. It wasn’t even entered. All of this is subjective. Would your followers have voted if you hadn’t entered. Neither would anyone else’s.

      Yes there is a prize at the end. Glory and fame. NOT!! Personal happiness? The one thing that life has to teach us is that it is not what we quit that matters, but what we push through, persevere, conquere that make us not regret at the end.

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

      Rachel, this is very sad. I totally understand where you are coming from. If I had been through what you have experienced this week, I would be ready to walk away too. But I do hope you will come back.

      There are lots more good, sane, productive conversations we could be having about these stories (and writing in general) without all the drama.

      We will miss your voice, but your story looks set to win its head-to-head competition. So maybe after you’ve had a few days to recuperate, you’ll come back and share it with us again.

      Take care of yourself,
      Peter (aka P.D.)

      • kendog ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

        P.D., you’re a class act and an extremely talented writer. As a non-author following this reality fest, I have really enjoyed reading your thoughtful reviews and your encouraging, heartfelt and entertaining posts.

    • Kaitlin Tremblay ( User Karma: 525 ) says:

      Hey Rachel, on the off chance you check the replies to this just wanted to say your story was great and I’m glad I was able to read some of your writing from this competition. I hope you’re well, and you get some good sleep, and take care of yourself, and it’s totally understandable! And I’m on Twitter if you want to chat writing any time, you can find me by my name.

    • forestale ( User Karma: 27 ) says:

      so, just to understand, your decision was to do exactly like Vicky. I pretend to quit because the world hates me and I am so pure, but behind the scenes I am going to spend sleepless nights voting myself and my friends……wickedly brilliant!

        • kurtalert ( User Karma: 47 ) says:

          But what does it mean “to quit”? Quit commenting? Their stories are still in the competition and garnering votes. Does it mean, their opponents’ stories get automatically promoted into the next round? I doubt it. To me, it means abandoning your friends and followers, who went through a great deal to get you through this competition. Sometimes I wonder how those writers expect to make it in the real world,if the pull out after one or two negative encounters. I guess, they have to answer that question for themselves. Good luck!

    • kurtalert ( User Karma: 47 ) says:

      Rachel, this is very sad indeed. Unfortunately when tempers flare up, things can turn nasty in a hurry. But in all fairness it should be said, that Chaos was hit with the brunt force of backlash – which in my opinion was way over the top (death threats!!) – not you. Also, nowhere in the comments – and I went through all of them – did Wyatt congratulate someone for bullying another. That is just plain wrong to make a dig like that at him.
      But I do hope, that after things have calmed down a little for you, the sun will continue to shine in your life.
      Good luck!

      • JessieBrennan7 ( User Karma: 49 ) says:

        I think she is referring to his comment where he encourages Chaos to keep posting, considering the nature of his posts at the time of the comment its a fair assessment that Wyatt was encouraging his behaviour. Maybe it was out of context? And Wyatt was unaware? but that was what I understood as well

        • kurtalert ( User Karma: 47 ) says:

          I see what you are saying Jessi, although I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a fair assessment, more like very emotional. Rachel got her feelings hurt and feels everyone that don’t openly supports her and still remains friendly with Chaos is out to get her.
          Also the way these comments are set it is sometimes hard to tell, who is commenting to what. So, in my opinion, that personal dig at Wyatt was uncalled for.

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          I think Wyatt actually said something quite different. He did not encourage Chaos to keep going after Rachel (which I don’t feel was the case in the first critique, but probably as the discussion deteriorated, he did), but to continue critiquing the rest of the pieces.

          There is huge difference between these two.

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      I’m sorry it has come to this. I guess sleeplessness really doesn’t help when tempers run high – everybody feels more hurt than they would if they’d slept well.
      Forum life is not easy. I’ve felt what you feel in the past, in other forums.
      I don’t understand why you’re hitting in Wyatt’s direction (he really has seemed very even keeled through this past week), but I have to finish a job before 5 and don’t have time to go search for it.
      I wish you the very best in your writing. If you feel I’ve been mean to you, it was not my intention.

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      Dear Rachel

      I guess that I have a few things to say in response to this comment, and considering that I now have nothing to lose now, this is as good a time as any.

      Yes, I was on friendly terms with Chaos, but I was not congratulating him for “bullying” you. I will also say that I did not agree with some things that he had posted, but then there were things that I could agree with. What I wanted Chaos to do was keep posting and engaging in conversations. This forum that we have going here has a very small number of active posters, and every additional voice that we can have only works to keep the forum interesting. Chaos did more than provide criticism to yours and Kaitlin’s stories; he cracked jokes, entered discussions, made suggestions, and talked about other stories. He provided a source of insight from a different perspective, and sometimes a different perspective is a welcome thing to have.

      Next, on the subject of me needing to be “kind”. I have tried to be amicable and humorous during my time on this forum. I can think of only four instances where I may not have been:

      1) In the petty insult thread (but that’s all in good fun).
      2) When I referred to P.D as a “lizard” (but he seemed to take that for what it was: a bit of a joke)
      3) With my criticisms during the Lightning Round.
      4) This post.

      I have tried not to slight anyone, but apparently that attempt has failed. For that I will apologize, but I’m nonetheless confused as to when such a slight might have occurred.

      Finally, on the subject of my needing an “invisible friend”. I like invisible friends, they don’t send people death threats.

      Thank you very much for your time and contribution, honeybunch.

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

    There have been a number of comparisons (in the various story critiques and discussions) to movies with similar themes, moods, characters, or situations.

    I wonder what the authors would say if we asked, ‘What movie or movies do you think your story is most similar to?’

    (Don’t forget about secondary characters and sub-plots. Maybe yours is a story that takes place in the wings of a bigger story) 🙂

    • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

      Hmmm. In my writing process, films don’t really influence me much (that I know). The first that comes to mind may be A Clockwork Orange – just with much less violence. No, that sounds wrong. Maybe Light in the dusk by Kaurismäki. But I’m talking about the tone here, not the plot.

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

        I’ve only seen one Kaurismäki film, but I really liked it. I should seek out more.

        Your story reminds me a little of ‘Heavenly Creatures’ by Peter Jackson. Have you seen it? It’s a really good film, small and character-focused, before he became New Zealand’s George Lucas. Like your story, it’s about two sort of amoral girls (based on a true story, one of them is now a famous mystery writer) who end up murdering one of their mothers. It captures the fantasy-life of girls at that age really well.

        Another story that sort of resonated with yours, I though, is ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. I have to admit, I haven’t read it in like 15 years, but I seem to remember some vicious cliques of girls in that story, not that your girls are so vicious. Just sort of morbid, kind of theatrical, and a bit oblivious to the consequences of their actions – so, pretty normal teenagers, maybe? 🙂

        I also thought of the Gus Van Sant film ‘Restless’ about two weird young people who go to funerals for people they don’t know.

        But I don’t mean to reduce or conflate your story with any of these. It has a very particular flavour that is very memorable. It has stuck with me… 🙂

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

    “Fogger” – Wow. I love how creepy this story is. You nailed it. And it’s so relatable; those restaurant crayons are just that awful. Great job!

    • Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

      I wouldn’t say it was so much creepy, but uncanny in a way. It does take a bit of effort to try and depict madness from a first-person-perspective, but she seems to have pulled it off here rather well.

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

    Vicky, not sure if you are still following any of the comments, but here are my thoughts on ‘Fogger’.

    This is a very touching story in a very surprising genre. The turn about a third of the way through – when you reveal that she is a kind of android – was really unexpected, and I resisted it at first as gimmicky. But you did exactly what your story needed to – brought us into an empathetic understanding of this ‘person’ (I think she is a ‘person’, in the ethical sense) and we really care for and feel sad about her situation, particularly the seeming ambivalence of her adoptive family.

    “A toxic gray sadness settled like ash inside our house, blotting out color and starving the place of oxygen.”

    “Her [sisters] eyes can never make up their mind about me, so I roll over in bed and turn my back to her burying my face in the pillowcase.”

    It’s very well done. You have found a very effective and evocative blend of lyricism and exposition that never shades over into the purple.

    The way the meaning of the title is slowly revealed and then deepened as the story goes on is really cool. It’s kind of a sci-fi version of Alice Munro’s ‘A Bear Came Over the Mountain’ (aka ‘Away from Her’). It also put me in mind of family friends who lived long enough to see multiple waves of friends die off, to the point where they stopped making new friends, because they all go away.

    It also made me think about seeing the film ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ with my mother when we knew she was dying, and how I disliked the – I thought – phony, bizarre fantasy at the end of the robot boy coming back (from the dead, as it were) to make his mother her coffee the way she liked it. Ick, as if that’s what the parent-child relationship is about! But your story accomplishes what that scene could not, which is that it moved me by this fabricated being’s desire to connect with and be genuinely loved by humans. (Let’s see if the ‘BladeRunner’ sequel coming later this year has as much heart!)

    I guess the only thing that didn’t work for me, or that I wasn’t sure about, was why – if the protagonist will live forever – does she choose to live so passively, pretending to be a ‘fogger’ in a nursing home? Eventually, this will no longer work, no, when she hits 110, 120, 130 years of age? Why not go off and be a hermit somewhere, safe but independent? Or why not connect with animals instead of humans? A dog seems like it would be a perfect companion for this sort of forlorn creature. (Maybe that’s in the sequel???)

    Anyway, a good piece of fiction should leave some provocative questions lingering in the mind, and this one does. So great job! 🙂


    P.S. I would add that, having read all the final 8 stories now, I am more convinced than ever that any of them could and should win. I almost feel like the authors should all take a bit of a backseat at this point and let the non-author participants hash it out, because judging the merits of these stories – which all have something unique to offer – is not for the authors or their partisans to do. Like parents of growing children, we kind of have to let them go out there and fend for themselves, and just trust that they will survive!

  40. mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

    Remember on that US TV show, “Cdn Politics Lite”, when Rachel and Arianna had that Hannity guy on? The time where Hannity got super sweaty and Ms. Huffington wiped his forehead with a MILLION DOLLAR bill and Hannity has not been seen since? Well guess what, hipsters and hensters, Rachel & Arianna were the girls in Hege’s story, “The Very Last Mr. Jones”! (Audio: sting from Law & Order). So if you know what’s good for you…
    you vote for Hege (clap, clap)
    she knows her stuff (clap, clap)
    she’ll tellya no shit (clap. clap)

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

    Hey everyone.

    So I would like to say something I have been avoiding saying. Chaos, for someone who complained consistently about anxiety and nerves, for you to be bullying me the way you are doing is actively gross. We spoke regularly during the lightning round and I was