• The Light is Low by Peggy Rockey – Scene 2#Minsang jumps at the sound of footsteps coming from the foot of the alley. Throat gone suddenly dry, she hurriedly pushes the heavy door closed behind her. She panics […]

    • This was jam-packed with action. I enjoyed it!

      The paragraph below was written well. The only thing I have to offer is in the last sentence:
      reflecting back at her from the dresser mirror.
      The word back can be omitted.

      Skirting the tiny kitchen and bathroom, she stumbles as she reaches the bed. She almost shrieks at the sudden movement from the other side of the room. Whirling, she faces her opponent, eyes widening in shock as she realizes it’s her own reflection, reflecting back at her from the dresser mirror.

      In the paragraph below, you can get more gritty if you add her vomiting and shaking:

      The drugs she’d been fed are beginning to wear off. She shakes from shock and fatigue. “You’re safe here,” she tells herself, unconvincingly, “you’re safe now.”

      The sentence below requires more structuring. The sentence reads as if the writer is unsure of the scene.

      running as if life depends on it, for surely it does

      It should read simply: She ran for her life.

      The piece is coming along great. Keep at it!

      • Thanks so much for the great feedback. Your advice about these paragraphs is spot on, and will definitely be added to my final edit. Thanks!

    • Peggy, Last night I met Magera and today I meet Minsang. I’m intrigued to wonder how their connection develops. I got a little confused by her journal entry referring to “here,” after just learning she had escaped from somewhere and she was in her brother’s hideaway. It was quickly resolved and I thought the recap was very well written.

      • Thanks, Kathy. There’s quite a few characters that will be introduced in coming weeks, all involved in one way or another with the main plot/goal. Eventually the connections will come clear as the story develops, and hopefully will keep the reader intrigued.

    • Hi Peggy, I was grabbed by the pace and intrique of this scene and really enjoyed it. I did wonder why you started the scene in the third person then switched to first person in the typed diary to tell us what had happened to Minsang. I would tell the whole scene in the first person from Minsang’s point of view. First person is very dramatic and immediatly connects the reader. And you can use it as a way to mis-lead the reader if you like, as its just one person’s point of view. 🙂 I did wonder why she would be singing when she had just escaped from captivity – I’m not sure you need this to tie the two scenes together. I’m terrified by the old woman with the tight bun – but not sure you need to describe all of her features in one sentence – one striking image would do the trick for me. When you’re on the next draft you could take out the repetition of she in the first half. I am really enjoying your story. Loved the red dress and rubies in the hair, very visual.

      • Thanks for the reading and for your feedback. I can see how writing the whole scene in first person POV would have made for a more dramatic scene, starting with Minsang escaping, but I deliberately have Minsang capturing her story on her laptop for reasons which will come clear in later installments. Perhaps as the story progresses, I may rethink this…

    • Hi Peggy, I’ve just re-read my feedback and it sounds a bit unkind – I didn’t mean to be. I look foward to reading about the role of Minsang’s diary. I’m a fan of using letters to tell parts of the story and think it works really well. Great stuff.

      • Hi Julie, I didn’t see anything unkind in your comment at all, you were simply responding to the story as it was written, and your observation was valid and spot on. I appreciate constructive feedback, which is what you intended, and I appreciate your willingness to call attention to areas that maybe could be improved upon. It may be that my intended plan for the laptop may not work out in the end, and I may have to go back and rewrite these early scenes. That’s probably the greatest part about this challenge, putting the story out there in a safe environment and receiving invaluable feedback such as you give. Thanks for that, and happy writing!

    • Hi Peggy,
      Wow! I loved this scene and what you’ve done here in bringing Minsang to a safe place and then recalling her experience through her writings. The action and tensions escalate quickly, and we know they are coming for her.
      Here, what stood out for me are your descriptions of your character which are truly remarkable and it is something I have a lot of trouble with.
      Before I forget, I have to add also that some of your imagery from last week haunted me for quite some time – why did he tell her about the girls, what is down the alley? Well done!

      • Thanks, Jan. I’m afraid that not every scene is going to be as gripping, but hope to keep the momentum going and to escalate the tension throughout. I appreciate your kind words, thank you!

    • Damn! Intense. I do like the perspective switch (with the Word document she’s writing), it didn’t strike me as usually. I’m not sure a first-person perspective would work in a book with multiple characters across different chapters. This scene was well done, gritty, real and scary. The implication of there now only being 6 ladies was well done – felt almost casual. I was a little confused as I was waiting for more on the original character. But I see what you’re doing. 😉
      I wonder myself how best to proceed with something like this, do you go back to Magera next week, or introduce another character, or go Magera, then Misang again, then someone entirely new. I wonder if there is a format for this somewhere.
      I would suggest you put Minsang at the top of the chapter, like you did with Magera, then the reader can perhaps get their head in the right place for who we’re following this week.
      I enjoyed this.

      • Hi Michael, thanks for reading and for your suggestion about starting each section with the character’s name. I actually have it that way in my word document, but when I copy/pasted I missed the header. I’ll go back and edit the first two scenes to add the header in and will remember to add it going forward. I’ll be switching back and forth between characters, so this is definitely good advice. Thanks again for reading, and glad you enjoyed it.

    • Hi Peggy,
      I’m getting tense as I read this and the old lady with the bun and chains on the ankles are particularly troubling. The word that stuck out at me was “exotic”. I’m not sure what it means in this context, but I feel that its a description that others use to describe someone but one that people don’t use to describe themselves. I particularly like how you started your story in an emotional stab of fear that grabs the reader and makes us eager to get the backstory. That was a clever way to do it. I was fine with the POV switch on the laptop-I interpreted it as the fact that writing about herself in the third person made it easier to put down disturbing details and to try to move on as dispassionately (which she doesn’t really do) as she can.
      Very well done but I’m getting scared. (not a bad thing).

  • Scene 2: Red by Aisling Doonan#Grace frantically tried to move forward, but there were hands on her shoulder and at her elbow. Her aunt and cousin tried to lead her to a chair backed against the wall.“No, I’m fin […]

    • Hi Aisling,
      The dialogue is so authentic and the mood builds up slowly but inexorably. I chuckled at the annoying nosy cousin and you particularly handled the overheard snippets of her Aunt Maura very skillfully. I loved the description of the food brought over by the neighbors: “Food and commiserations in return for a few free drinks and ample opportunity to snoop around the house. ” That was FANTASTIC and it showed so much about how Grace doesn’t like to deal with BS and sees through the “kindnesses” of those around her. I am quite intrigued by what you have so far ( I read and commented on the first chapter) and I’m very interested in seeing what develops!

    • This is really strong Aisling. The observations about her aunt and cousin are great and reveal her discomfort as part of this extended family. The exchange with Tom is good also. It intrigues but doesn’t give too much away. Well done!

  • Peggy (PJ) Rockey's profile was updated 2 days, 13 hours ago

  • 13 Jan 2021/52/The Queen’s Executioner 2 by Elaine Dodge#It hadn’t been here the last time I was down in the cellars. But then the last time had been a weekend long celebration of my twenty-first birthday and tha […]

    • Hi Elaine – DI Wrexham is an interesting character who might be a bit shambling but clearly had done his homework. I wonder if he’s going to have a bigger role and support your MC. The fact that the uncle’s hit and run death was just brushed over by the MC is a little surprising, I thought that might have warranted a little more suspicion by the family, but let’s see where this goes and who killed Princess Caroline…

      • Hi Deryn,
        Well…hit and runs happen. Usually, the driver does a runner because he doesn’t want to get caught by the police and not because they actually wanted to kill the person they hit. In this case, as it was the police/army that ransacked the house and that Wrexham mentions the Chief Pathologist Malory was also a victim of a hit and run, it’s not so much he’s done his homework as being involved in the deaths somehow, or at least being ‘in the know’ about who is and why. Wrexham, at this point, is a potential bad guy.

    • The plot moves gracefully forward, revealing detail after detail about the mysterious plot our young pathologist is now a part of! We’ve moved neatly from ‘what were they looking for’ to ‘aha… now what to do with this.’ It confused me that he reported the aunt as being in Italy, not the Caribbean – it seemed as if the MC made this fact up to hide it from the police? Or was her rendezvous with the chauffeur changed in the plot? The dry injection of the butler’s feelings towards him is priceless. I laughed that the pathologist had a make-shift light box and wondered what he used it for. I found the medical details realistic. I’m intrigued to find out what happened to Princess Caroline and why covering up her cause of death was so important!

      • Maybe you could work these details into your plot, if you’re looking for a thicker medical layer: base of skull fracture produce characteristic physical changes to the face like bruising around the eyes, especially below the eye (called ‘Racoon eyes’ for the resemblance to the animal) and bruising behind the ear (called Battle sign – eponymous).

      • Hi Preston, Thanks for reading! The MC was defintiely hiding the fact that the aunt had gone to the Caribbean. He’s just seen that the police/army are responsible for ransacking the house so he’s not sure who to trust. It’s also way they made a copy of the tape. Glad you enjoyed Oats feelings towards the chauffeur. Good point about the light box – I may need to add in another line. In my head it was because he would have needed it at home to study X-rays while he was studying to be a forensic pathologist- would that be accurate? If it’s not I’ll have to think up some other reason. Glad the medical details were realistic! Phew.

        • I see! The light box works if your character is rather obsessed about his studies, but most students study from computer images now. It would work just as well if he taped the x-ray to a window. Light boxes are rare even in hospitals these days!

    • I definitely disliked DI Wrexham and saw him as untrustworthy. He sounded as if he was trying to find out what John knows. I agree with Preston’s comment about the light box and how rare they are in hospitals now. As I read, I was secretly hoping that the John and Oats had made a copy of the security tape, no one would turn that in without keeping it. The police/military issue is tantalizing as is the questionably coincidental hit/run deaths of people who are somehow connected to the details of the case. I like the subplot of John and the butler gallantly protecting Lady Sandrigham.
      This story is exciting and I am looking forward to the next chapter!

  • Aisling Doonan changed their profile picture 2 days, 14 hours ago

  • Scene two by Maria Delaney


    The island breeze that washes off the atlantic tickles Bijou’s skin. She finds Calico on the deck of the Sinful Abby hauling boxes of food below deck. His weather worn skin drips w […]

    • I like the interaction between Bijou and Calico, she obviously wants more from him then he seems willing to give her. I’m trying to place the timing, is this a continuation of where you left off in scene 1, or did we go back in time?
      I seem to recall from your December short story that there was a tangle between Bijou and Nala, and here we see Calico’s interest in Nala driving Bijou to a bout of jealousy. Will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
      Am looking forward to reading the story as it develops.

    • Hi Maria, you’ve an epic story and an imagination to boot. I’m not a follower of the genre but do dip into as many stories as I can to see whose doing what, and how. Just a small comment:, I wasn’t sure of the time frame of this one becuase of Bijou’s archaic way of speaking. ‘ I have work to do my love. There is no time for what you seek.’ This would have contractions in modern speech, so I guess its not now. Sorry if i have missed a beat here. Swashbuckling armies of women taking over…love it. You’ve switched tense a few times, from present to past. It’s tricky but you might want to check this later on in your final draft. Great stuff. Thank.

  • “You have a client waiting for you in boardroom 6,” Alma’s assistant told her when she got to the offices of Bruce & Brookman at 9 am.“I don’t know of any meeting?” Alma was sure there was nothing entered int […]

    • Hi Hm – I see this isn’t strictly a continuation of last week – except Alma is the mother of the fractious teen. I like this scene better, the dialogue and the whatsapp convo insert is more realistic . I suspect as a lawyer, Alma might have handled the daughter somewhat differently, but who knows. I will wait for all the threads to start coming together!

      • Hi Deryn, thanks for these comments. I’m still feeling my way through this story. I had something different planned altogether, and then, as I was lining up my characters, in came this one – from nowhere – which was very intriguing but didn’t fit my planned story at all. So I redirected at the last minute, and now I’m really trying to drive through dense fog with this one. As for Alma being so seemingly competent at work and so helpless at home in navigating relationships – that part was deliberate. I have plans for it.

    • I liked that this scene allowed the reader to see another side of the mother in last week’s scene. It clarifies the occasional sense of impatience the mother has with her daughter: it’s hard to keep the frustrations with one’s work like from causing or worsening frustrations with one’s personal/family life. We also get a bit more insight into the mother’s history, at least as far as her job duties, and the obstacles she’s faced. I really like the line about climbing the ladder but finding out that it’s been against the wrong wall.

      I don’t have many suggestions. I did have a question when I read “conducting a disciplinary.” Is there a word missing, like “investigation,” or is that professional shorthand I’m just unfamiliar with? The idea that she’s worried her phone may be tapped threw up a red flag, too. That doesn’t seem like something most would have the power to do, which leads me to wonder if this company is not fully on the up and up… Some sort of crime syndicate, maybe?

      Engaging read so far. Thank you for sharing.

      • Thank you Elizabeth. I like that you ask those questions, because I did want to create a sense of suspense here. Hopefully all will reveal itself. And yes, I was trying to make the dialogue sound authentic by shorthanding some phrases, but your comment makes me think that it might be taking things too far for the reader. So that is helpful too. Many thanks for coming to read again.

    • This scene grabbed me. Lot’s of unanswered questions and dilemmas that are current in our world. Your dialogue and language choices feel close to the mark and naturalistic.
      – The disintegration of a workplace affair – it sounds mutual but is it? There’s tension and an unanswered question still to be uncovered. is it mutual?
      – The nervousness of Alma’s friend and colleague – why is she so suspicious of the CEO? Is there more to her reluctance to handle the case than meets the eye?

      I like the link back to Scene 1 in which Alma has a troubled marriage. And now we have her confronted with an affair.
      re Deryn’s comment about a lawyer being able to handle a fractious teen better (in Scene 1). Ha! I remember being discombobulated by my teenage daughter, she could derail me, and at the time I was teaching Youth at Risk (aka teenagers who were not allowed or wouldn’t go to school. Two different worlds drawing different aspects of our character.

      • Thank you Leona! I’m glad you noticed those things, as they were deliberate on my part. It tells me I’m on the right track. I had to laugh about the daughter remark! Isn’t it funny how we are sometimes so inept with things that fall squarely within our range of expertise/talent/skill, just because they’re personal? And teenage daughters, eh? Different planet.

    • SM replied 1 day ago

      WOW!! Fantastic chapter and the What’s app was done spectacularly well. The flirting, the sexual favors, the sudden coldness–you described it so well that we knew who was talking in each line.
      I kept looking for a tie to the last scene which was much more about her personal life-the only connection I saw was the school camp.
      I would have liked to know a little better what Faye’s obstacles were to conducting the investigation in-house. There was a comment about the headquarters in Berlin asking her to weigh how the investigation should be done and that the CEO is the guilty party. I don’t understand the corporate structure well enough to understand who has authority over whom–the HQ or the CEO.
      It may be interesting if Alma and Faye have a little bit of reaction after certain sections of the text conversation more than raised eyebrow or incredulity.
      This chapter has inspired my curiosity and I can’t wait to see how this environment ties into the previous one.

      • Thank you Sudha! To let you in on a secret, I cringed with every line of the Whatsapp.
        I’ll weave the links between the different worlds as the opportunity arises with future prompts. Thank you for asking those questions about the backstory. I itched to put more in, but the word limit… anyhow, I’m going to paste your questions as comments to this scene, and then answer them by padding the scene once our 52/52 joyride is over. Yes also to the more reaction comment – I’m with you, and will add it.

    • Hi Deryn, thanks for these comments. I’m still feeling my way through this story. I had something different planned altogether, and then, as I was lining up my characters, in came this one – from nowhere – which was very intriguing but didn’t fit my planned story at all. So I redirected at the last minute, and now I’m really trying to drive through dense fog with this one. As for Alma being so seemingly competent at work and so helpless at home in navigating relationships – that part was deliberate. I have plans for it.

    • Hi Hanri,
      Wow! I can only echo Sudha’s praise and in particular the work on the whatsapps!
      To which I would like to add that I wish I could come up with phrases like this: “You ever had the feeling you were climbing a ladder and when you get to the top you realise it’s leaning against the wrong wall?”
      This rea

      • *I pressed send before finishing..
        This scene also reads like and opening scene as you have all the magic ingredients present, an unplanned meeting, an old friend, and a big messy problem. Beautifully executed.

        In particular what I liked was the backstory of the friends which was very expertly worked into the larger text.

        In the closing paragraphs you could perhaps consider adding some movement to up the “heat” in the room and show Faye more worried (unless she is meant to be composed) e.g. she stands up, she walks to the windows with her hands in her hair, “Alma, I need your help with this.” etc.
        Looking forward to next week!

  • An offer Fran can’t refuse by Deryn Graham#The subterranean Berlin bar was buzzing by the time Fran arrived to meet her colleagues. She was late after her extended meeting with Laszlo and she didn’t even have a c […]

    • Hi Deryn! I am reading your story with great interest – and a feeling of inadequacy because I know nothing of the world you are describing here. It is just so foreign that I guess I am beginning to understand how you feel about elves 😉 That said, I am as always excited to experience something new. What makes it even better is the “effortlessness” of your prose. I especially enjoyed the phrase ‘his gaze […] held hers like a firm handshake’. I suppose that Duncan is going to be the leading man in your narrative, am I right? If so, I wonder who your antagonist will be? A wife back in SA? A half-discarded boyfriend in Fran’s life? Or will Laszlo try to convince Fran that they are ‘destined’ to be together? 😉 Looking forward to next Wednesday

    • Hi Eva Maria – if this genre is foreign to you, you just pretty much summed up the plot!!!!! Right up to the half discarded bf… hehehehe
      I figure ‘ destined’ will work for all of us, hey? Who thinks they are destined to be with Fran and who actually is, are 2 different matters!!! Thanks for the read and compliment xxx Off to see who’s hiding in your genie lamp now…

    • I’m glad to read another scene and see where Fran and her business is headed! You’ve moved the story along very neatly, the pace of the story and the narrative works to unveil the layers of entanglement. I wondered what she said in describing her interactions with Laszlo. Interesting that she gives a different version of events. You’ve told us why, alluding to the not-so-secret affair between the CEO and her colleague! Mystery and intrigue abound! But is there a level of resentment towards herself for enjoying the flirtation with the sleazy Laszlo? I wanted to know a bit more about what Chrissie and Geo were doing while Fran was flirting with Duncan. Were there any cheeky looks? Did they huddle close to each other, watching them, whispering and giggling? You’ve set the scene in a bar, so I imagine there being a lot more shouting, more noise. Duncan having to lean in to speak in Fran’s ears for her to hear him, for instance. Looking forward to the next installment. Best of luck, and thanks for sharing!

      • Hi Preston -thanks so much for following Fran and for your feedback. Will definitely include some of the elements you suggest when I collate all the comments. Off to Blikkiesdorp now – see you there!

    • Hi Deryn, I really got the Berlin bar, could smell the smoke and feel the anticipation of who might meet who hanging in the air. Is poor Fran destined to be pursued by pretty sleazy men for the duration of the book? Duncan isn’t as slimy as Laszlo but he’s close enough! Having said that, she’s clearly able to look after herself and she’s an engaging character.

      I love the tension between Fran and Chrissie and will watch with interest to see if they get blown apart – it seems a bit of a maintenance friendship rather than an emotional connection. I’m also wondering if the taxi driver will drop them off at Laszlo’s hotel???

      Your sense of place is really well-drawn and the characters are coming across strongly (and not just when hitting on Fran). I look froward to meeting the four-poster bed!

      • Hehehe – Duncan is supposed to be a real smoothy…but Sc 3 will show just how smooth he is. And luckily, he and Laszlo are in different hotels!! x

    • Wow, Fran certainly attracts a lot of attention. While I got the impression/idea that Laszlo was a definite sleaze, Duncan seems so nice by comparison. But, having said that, perhaps he is a wolf, at least with Laszlo you now exactly what you’re getting into.
      Even though there wasn’t a lot of description about the bar, I could see/feel it. The dialogue was spot on, and I do like all the company politics clouding the background here and creating tension between Fran and Chrissie.
      I don’t have any constructive suggestions. Perhaps change ‘there’ to ‘here’? “They had been there a while.” It’s the only thing that I read twice. But I’m no expert. 😉
      It was solid every step of the way.

      • Hey Michael – the opening scene with Laszlo was changed significantly from my original draft and wasn’t as come on-ish and so I was nervous having another similar scene follow right on, but if I differentiated Laszlo and Duncan, and Fran’s reaction sufficiently then I might have got away with it! Don’t know if a publisher would feel the same!!! Funnily enough I changed the here and there and couple of times but will maybe revert to here…Thank you so much for the read and comments.

    • Wow Deryn, you have done such a brilliant job of this scene! It flows and reads so well and I’m intrigued and want to find out more about all the characters you’ve introduced. Gio, Chrissie and Duncan all feel like real individuals already – I cannot wait to see how the relationships between them evolve and play out. I’m especially falling in love with Fran. That line where she tells him it’s his round was so unexpected and ballsy, I loved it! She’s so strong and she knows what she wants, I’m already rooting for her.
      There are many gems in your style too in this scene, but ‘even her hand gesture was slurred’ really stood out for me, such a great image! If this was already a book, I would definitely not have been able to put it down at the end of this scene and so I genuinely cannot wait until next week to see how the nightcap went!

      • Thank you, Ben – I am sooo hoping that this time, after so many years I will finish this book! I am encouraged by everyone’s feedback and galvanised to keep going! D

    • Deryn, Well done! I particularly like the line, “Fran noted that even her hand gesture was slurred.” You describe multiple characters with multiple backgrounds, and you do it so well. You don’t shy away from providing details, but you make it look easy. I happen to know it isn’t. I am interested to know what Duncan’s story is, and what his intentions are (I’m thinking it’s not as simple as it seems). -Becky

      • Thank you, Becky – I am so excited to push on with this and with everyone’s feedback it’s beginning to feel like it really could be a book!

    • HI Deryn,

      Your story flies along and I love your smooth prose. You tell the story deliciously. You’ve had plenty of comments so I will restrict mine to a few for you to consider to make your story even better. ‘He had a nice strong forearm’ I would avoid nice or good as they don’t really mean anything or conjure up a precise image and this lets the sentence down. Instead of being expensive wine you could name one that everyone knows costs an arm and a leg, then we might visualise the bottle and Duncan’s auroa will come to life. I think he comes on too quickly to Fran if he is a good guy and his lines are a bit cliched. You could suggest how he feels attracted to her with a gesture or two, then have him tentatively make an advance so we empathise with him. Great fun to read. Thanks.

      • Hi Julie
        Thanks so much for the read and constructive comments. I will definitely revise and edit before next week and will include maybe some looks across the room before Duncan comes over as well as taking that ‘nice’out!!

    • Hey Deryn
      Nice job. I love his gaze as firm as a handshake. Worried about your girl now…nice cliffhanger. I’m hooked.

    • Hi Deryn, you’re setting this up nicely. You’ve had so many compliments already, it’s hard to come up with something original to add. I loved the gaze/handshake simile too, like others here.
      I noticed a shift in the narration halfway through the scene, more or less where Duncan comes into the picture. From there, we get to feel a bit more with Fran, we get to be a bit more inside her mind, or closer to her heart. The first half of the scene, by comparison, is almost clinically told – the narrator is further away from the character, and the speech is a bit more reporter-style. Is this intentional? Just to say, I liked the style in the second half of the scene better.

      • Hi HM – thank you for the read and analysis. That’s an interesting observation re the the differing halves. Not intentional at all, so something I might need to look at. ..Thanks for the feedback. D

    • Hi Deryn,
      This bar scene was great. You did a fantastic job contrasting it to the interaction with Lazlo, but as someone else suggested, I’ve been wondering whether he has some kind of connection to Lazlo-maybe a scout sent out to see whether Fran told the truth about herself. I loved the part about sleazy Chrissie…that was great and unfortunately, so typical in so many workplaces. You have created some great flow and I raced through the story to find out what happened and had to go back and re read it. This one transition here tripped me up:

      ” Fran had never found politics so interesting.

      Fran grew tired. It had been a long and demanding day.”

      I know that you meant that despite how captivating Duncan was, it was time to change the scenery. But those two sentences juxtaposed, were contradictory.
      I’m really looking forward to reading more about Fran’s adventures!

      • Thank you, Sudha – this is great feedback – I will definitely edit those 2 sentences as they do jar…Very best Deryn

    • Hi Deryn,
      Well done on your second scene! This is building nicely and as Hanri say – there are so many compliments already, I am finding it hard to be original.
      I liked the bar scene and in particular the descriptions of Gio (everybody just falls in love) and of the easy Chrissie. How you suggested the rivalry between the woman was great without going into too much, until we get to Chrissie ‘offering her help’ to close the deal with Laszlo. What a girl!
      Duncan is interesting, I find myself looking forward to learning more of him, but there is something that tells me there might be a lot going on beneath the surface and we are in for some surprises 🙂 Looking forward to next week!

      • *as Hanri said #lahonte

      • Hi Jan – thank you so much – finally I am beginning to enjoy my story again – I have been tinkering with it for so long, but I feel re focussed and am happy to entirely re work some of the scenes that I have flogged to death. Glad the character traits are coming out as intended – I’m still pondering how to make the Laszlo of Sc1 less sleazy so he can crop up again… Thanks for the read and positive comments… D

        • Always a pleasure Deryn!
          An idea – take the focus away from his weakness and voracious appetite for woman and show us his professional side, where he is another person?

          • Yes he goes on to be (semi) professional – it’s that opening scene I don;t want to entirely alienate the female readers!! (#MeToo!!!)

            • I see what you mean. At the same time you’ve done the sleazy part so well that it would be a shame to change that. If I think of anything I will let you know 😉

    • Hi Deryn,
      the others before me have already described how easy it is to read your story: you have a nice flow, the characters are well-described, good dialogue, great contrast between Laszlo and Duncan…everything is there to make us want to follow the story! So, yes, please finish the book!!!
      I have delved a little deeper into your text and I hope you don’t think I am too picky – I just wanted to say things that haven’t been mentioned.
      As a German, I find a subterranean bar in Berlin rather unusual. Yet we don’t get any more description other than “subterranean”…why? I would at least need the description that this is a meeting-point of an international business community. For this, I have 2 reasons: how can Duncan be sure that Fran will understand English? Normally, a South-African in Berlin would have to approach someone in German, unless she talks so loud that he has noticed her speaking English..also, Fran’s suggestion to buy the next round is a practice very common in Britain but certainly extremely cheeky in Germany…
      Jumping to the end: if the next scene concentrates on Duncan, why not ditch the last paragraph of this scene? “A nightcap she was interested in” would make a great cliffhanger IMHO…
      I have had lots of fun reading this, looking forward to scene 3!

      • Hi Susanne , thanks for the read and close attention you have paid to the narrative. I take your cultural points, but I guess I assumed that Duncan had spotted a bunch of Poms a mile away and so they both went straight into English. And in any case that’s part of the British arrogance to make the assumption that whatever your nationality, you speak/understand English. (She says, with some national shame!!!)
        As for subterranean, I seem to remember the bar on which this was based was down a number of steps but that can easily be deleted if it is in fact inaccurate or impossible to find somewhere that plausibly matches the description! And Fran telling Duncan it was his round was meant to be a bit brusque and rude to put him off, hence her surprise when he returns with the wine…
        And I like the cliff hanger – I will go and edit the scene to end where you suggest…thank you!

        Scene 3 loading…!

    • Thank you Deryn. I have to agree with Eve-Maria about the effortlessness of your writing. You are revealing Fran anc circumstances so well. Tt’s only natural we all want to know what happens next…

    • Hi Deryn, you’ve set a really good pace and your words flow so easily in these two scenes, so i am in. You have clearly shown us the strength of Fran’s character and it’s believability. Your descriptions also really make me ‘feel’ the come-ons of both Lazlo and Duncan….well done. You have set up some potential conflict between the two close friends. With the men on the scene, you have set up lots of interesting roads to take the reader down. Good stuff.

      Small things: when Fran tells Chrissie her story perhaps show Gio leaning in to listen. As it reads now, it would appear that everyone (the junior execs included) are also tuned in. I’m not sure Fran would want that. Also perhaps show us Gio’s reaction when Fran say she hasn’t yet closed the deal.

      One other thing: With Lazlo’s sleaziness, Gio the marital cheater and Duncan’s calm but straight-forward come-on leave the male reader wondering when a real ‘nice, humble man might join the scene……just saying 🙂 …..write on.

      • Hi Glen – many thanks for the read and great suggestions re Gio’s reaction. I will certainly write that in as it plays in to how Fran’s career plans pan out…Sorry you feel that Mr Nice Guy is missing 😂 but Duncan is kinda him altho there is another character yet to make an appearance who will take on that role…Thanks again for the read.

    • Hi Deryn,

      Oh I like Duncan way better than Laszlo. Please don’t make him a bad guy! Hehe. This story is beginning to shape out quite nicely already. The corporate rivalry, the sleazy Laszlo, the charming Duncan and a self-respecting protagonist, this story has everything. You, my friend, are a word wizard!

  • Michael vK and Profile picture of del richardsdel richards are now friends 1 week ago

  • Packed by Aisling Doonan


    Dear daddy,

    I have a secret. One that may have already doomed me to hell, so understandably I have never told a soul. Until today. Today nothing is the same anymore and I am visited […]

    • Aisling, thank you so much for sharing this, there is so much to celebrate in your writing. Your description of the toasted sandwiches and the guitar are wonderful so may small but exquisite details.
      It can’t seal the sandwich with the weld like qualities I remember, you would have to suck the crusts to soften them as you might lose a tooth otherwise

      I’d have to quote and paste most of the paragraph about the guitar. I think it’s a great start for your story but I do have a question. As I don’t know the relationship. Is Grace a sister and they are both writing a letter to their father?

      Also, it felt to me like your MC’s language and the rhythm of it changed from the first two paragraphs to the second two but perhaps that was you getting into the stride of it. For me the second two had a stronger rhythm, if that makes sense. Great job and roll on scene two, I’m looking forward to finding out more. Thank you

    • Hi Nonie, thank you so much for your comment. I have realised that I have already run into trouble with my point of view! I suppose you have to write something out and see if it works, but to progress the story I think I am going to have to change it. I have rewritten the scene and I am going to post it in the comments (not sure if we can edit the main scene or not…) so if you see it, let me know what you think.

      • You can definitely edit an existing post. Go to your profile, select 52 SCENES, find the EDIT button next to your post.

        I really enjoyed the style of this scene. It reminded me of Poe or Lovecraft, probably even Bronte and Alcott, though it’s been awhile since I’ve read either.

        I love SO MUCH about this. Grace’s memories were so vivid that I could expereince everything she remembered as if I were there. I wold only suggest that, because the language is so (wonderfully) dense, you might want to break up the paragraphs. A lot. Most modern reader will only be able to absorb so much in each “chunk.”

        I would also add “I wished you were dead” to the END of the previous paragraph rather than the beginning of the one it’s in. Either that or make it a standalone line. That way you make it like a mini cliffhanger propelling the reader into the next part of the scene.

        I can’t wait to read the next scene… which I can, because you’ve already posted it!

        • Thank you Michael! Lots of great points there, I will keep them in mind when I go back over it. I nearly dropped the laptop when you mentioned Bronte, I am now swanning about with an overgrown head 🙂 Thank you for reading.

    • Grace, pulled the paper closer to her and flexed her hand before picking up the pen. It was a large black cigar shaped fountain pen that sat on the desk on its own little stand. Always inked, ready to write, it felt strange and cold in her hand. All the warmth leeched away by the tone of the room. Grace inhaled carefully and began.
      Dear daddy,
      I have a secret. One that may have already doomed me to hell, so understandably I have never told a soul. Until today. Today nothing is the same anymore and I am visited by these unwelcome thoughts that pierce and shatter what is already broken. I have kept a memory of an idle but certain wish deep in the bottom of my recollection. It is packed tightly into a crevice where no light ever shines and it can never grow or change. It is a memory doomed to fester and corrupt. Thoughts like these do not die from starvation or maltreatment, they hide and wait until you forget about their existence. Time means nothing to them and their hope lies in the fact that one day they will be remembered again and that is when they can truly wreak havoc. The pain that erupts from their renewal is brutal and unforgiving. How can I ever rectify what I did?
      When I was younger, I thought a lot about death. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of it, or of the ghosts that followed it, but it occupied both my waking and sleeping hours, tinting my thoughts with morbid flashes of purple and brownish black. Sometimes I saw things that weren’t there, couldn’t be there. Scents would appear from nowhere and occasionally I just knew things that there was no reason for me knowing. Sometimes I wonder if it was all the Dickens, Bronte and Alcott books I read. Immersed in a world where childhood illnesses and mortality were common place and sadly expected. Grandad was afraid to get to know his own children until they were over the age of two, for fear they would pass away. I don’t think of that as a cold outlook, my aunts and uncles were loved, but it is a sobering thought readying yourself for a perceived inevitable. I think in some ways I was doing the same. Alerting to myself to the absolute possibility and planning to make the best of it. How I wish I hadn’t. I want to strike the thought through its core with ice and fire. To annihilate it, crush it to ash. I am destined to ash and ash is what I will receive in the end. The light remainder to be blown away, specks that are airborne for meters or miles. Away from me. It’s nothing more than I deserve, my mind dreamt it as a possibility and so it was, I am sorry I ever let the words form in my head.
      I wished you were dead. My horrific daydream began with ‘if one of my parents has to die, who should it be?’ I chose you. In my ignorant defence I was choosing my second caretaker. Mam stayed home to look after us and yet I remember you bringing us to school, to the park to play Donkey with a plastic ball, to after school activities. Countless games and bedtime stories. You brought me up a scone to eat when I had been banished to bed for not finishing my dinner. You made breakfast and kept us warm by putting a blanket on the cold parquet floor in front of the Superser as we listened to Aunty Poppy on Poparama. All the comfort food I ever ate, I contribute to you. Pancakes, sausage and eggs, toast and soup. The miracle of toasted banana and honey sandwiches with the gold oozing from the glossy innards. I can still taste those sweet hot bananas but I cannot replicate the taste myself no matter how hard I try or how many I make. No sandwich maker can toast as well, leaving the correct golden sheen on the bread. It can’t seal the sandwich with the weld like qualities I remember, you would have to suck the crusts to soften them as you might lose a tooth otherwise biting into them. Small triangles with a shell pattern moulded onto the top. They looked so beautiful and a step up from the usual soggy ham and cheese cold version we usually ate. They were a glorious treat.
      I have memories of Mam too, good ones, where we walked to the shops, home from school or took the bus into town. I have no distinct memories of food in the same way because those memories were every day, they were mundane to the eyes of any child or adult alike. I took them for granted. As I did you. I never realised then, in my childish yet sensible thoughts, that when I chose you as the one to fall, that you would. All based on the fact that I chose the caregiver who stayed with us during the day. I did not appreciate every moment that was spent with us after work or at weekends, all those nature walks and trips, or visits to relations, the museums, local amenities and music. I miss the music the most of all. I would sit and listen to you while you practiced with the folk choir. I was intimately acquainted with the insides of your guitar case because I would go over it, millimetre by millimetre, small fingers grazing the olive velvet interior, tracing paths on the pile making the olive turn dark brown. The guitar, strung with 12 taut metal strings nestled importantly inside. The wood was glossy and cold and there were rub on transfers of birds all over the front of the soundboard. Swallows, blackbirds, eagles and falcons, soaring upwards. Each one diligently scratched into place under my instructions. I loved when he lifted out the guitar, holding the base of the neck and lifting her up carefully. There would be a hollow echo as the strap hit against the body and you would immediately lift the strap over your head to tune her. The strap was a glorious construction of green leather tabs, each a different shade of green, folded over and each one feeding into the next through two holes in each end. It was a magical strap, it was stretchy and it seemed to go on for infinity, as I looked up at you from my perch to see you play. When I made my wish, I never once thought how it would silence the music.
      How can I ever tell you that I am sorry?
      Grace stares horrified at the sheets of cream stationery in front of her. She had written it in a rush out of fear that someone would see or that in order to release herself of the words, she must feverishly offload them before they register inside of her. Swallowing, trying to dislodge the dry sourness in her mouth, she gently blew on the ink to dry it and folded the pages in half to fit inside the matching envelope. She wrote a single word on the outside of the envelope and this is what finally causes her to pause. She no longer hears the hushed whispers around her or smells the candle that has guttered and turned to smoke as the wick runs out. It is one word she cannot address to a single living soul again. She forgets to breathe until a hand at her elbow guides her to standing and whispers in her ear.
      “You can place your letter in the casket now Grace, and we’ll close it for removal to the crematorium. When you are ready.” The funeral director discretely took a step back, his eyes downcast.
      Grace nods, a single tear tips over her eyelid and makes its solitary journey downwards. There is no earthly reason why she should look up and focus on a corner of the room, yet her eyes are inexplicably drawn beyond the people to a man standing alone and still at the furthest point from her. His eyes lock with Grace’s and he makes a small nod before disappearing behind a clump of mourners by the door. Grace, her arm outstretched, stumbles and makes a choked plea ‘no’, the letter drops and gets trampled on by the surge of people who rush to her side.

    • Aisling,
      This was wonderful. I read your second chapter first and then this one, and frankly, I liked it in that order. In the second chapter, Grace is trying to find someone she saw, there’s urgency but then there are so many distractions that she never gets to go look for him. I was so curious to find out the explanation for why she left her family and didn’t stay in touch, that I sailed through this letter and I was so satisfied by the explanation. Your letter is so emotional. The small details of the comfort food, the museums, the visits to relations, each has emotional impact and authenticity. When you go to look at your whole work later, you may want to put this letter as the second chapter. Really fantastic read!!

  • The Light is Low by Peggy Rockey



    Magera stood on the balcony overlooking the city below. The sun had just set and lights were beginning to flicker on in the surrounding buildings. The Bay Bridge was […]

    • Hi Peggy,
      Happy New Year! We must be gluttons for punishment lol. Well, here we are and it must be for a reason.

      I read your story. It isn’t as tight as I’m used to from you. I get the idea that these aren’t supposed to be perfect pieces like on 12 short stories. If so, my advice is during the re-write to tighten up. There are lots of she, and, was, etc…

      I wondered if this is a piece about Asian people? I would be careful about trying to write other cultures.

      I can’t figure out what Magera is getting herself into. It’s been said grab your audience in the first three paragraphs. Then again, who the hell am I to talk lol. I have no idea what the heck I wrote lol.

      I like the setting. The city is a fun place to begin. The names are great!

      Every week is gonna be tough. I’m glad we’re in this together!

      Read ya next week!

      • Thanks for the feedback, Maria. I appreicate your comments, especially about writing about other cultures. The story is not specifically about Asian culture, although there will be Asian characters in the story. Looking forward to journeying with you through this challenge this year!

    • Peggy,
      Great start! I’m eager to see if/how Benji is pulled into this story, as well as the detective Helen works for. And I’m guessing we will eventually discover what is behind that heavy door!

      A few suggestions:
      –putting some of the scene/dialog of Sung sharing “About young girls gone missing and whispered rumors of a slave market…” It is mentioned twice but I’d like to hear this from Sung himself instead (or just remove the redundancy).
      –right after saying she had no resources, it is revealed she has a lot of money saved–money is a resource (and if she is a regular at a sushi restaurant, a money cushion could be assumed by Sung)
      –the line “Magera no longer enjoyed being alone” surprised me, I got the impression from her character description that she was an extrovert, and friendly, and would always prefer company. I think you described her character well, maybe just rephrase this part of the sentence.

      I’m excited to be on this journey with you. Reading intriguing stories like yours will keep me going! And, now I want some sushi!

    • I really enjoyed being introduced to Magera, an adventurous woman of a certain age. Your writing flows seamlessly. Magera’s being spooked by the chef’s tales could maybe occur after an incident in the alley. She seems fearless at first and I felt it might take more to change her sunny disposition. I thought she was going to hitch up with Benjamin for a walk on the wild side but now think his poor girlfriend has been kidnapped into the sex trade. Will this be her motivation for becoming involved in investigating the rumours. I look forward to reading the next draft.

      • Thanks for the feedback, Julie. You’re intuition about Benji’s girlfriend is spot on, we’ll learn of her disappearance in scene 3,.

    • HI Peggy
      You do such a great job of creating a slow creeping sense of dread. It peaks when she is captivated by the singing voice at the end of the alley. The private detective that she recognizes was a little too neat, we’ve never heard of Helen until that point so I tried to figure out why the reader should know her. Also, the line “encountering stimulating situations” is a little awkward. You can probably leave it out and just show us as the story goes on.
      I’m looking forward to reading this thriller as it unfolds, I think this is a sweet spot for you!

      • Thanks for reading and the constructive comment, Sudha! I will make these edits in my final version. I do find this genre a good one for my writing style, I hope I can pull it off as the story progresses!

    • Hey Penny,
      Nice work on the opening. I like the overall flow of this, you’ve added a lot of information about Magera in a very short space. I feel like I know her well. The things you throw in about the construction job, the divorce and her state of mind all fell into place effortlessly. I struggle with this aspect myself, so I end up adding these kinds of details over more words/time.
      I do agree about the detective, it felt to convenient. Perhaps just make it a police car, which would then prompt the interruption, and allow her to muse about her friend Helen. This way you can bring him (the detective) and Helen in naturally. But I don’t know… 😉 It’s tough when you know where you want to end up, then finding ways to get there is always a challenge.
      I enjoyed this start.

      <Kidding on the Penny BTW>… I laughed when I thought about doing it, which means I must.

      • Hi Michael, thanks for accepting my apology for my faux pas and the chuckle for calling me Penny! Your humor is one of the things I love most about your stories, and I can see where it comes from, as it must be one of your deep character traits.
        Thanks also for reading and for your comment. I agree, having the detective drive by just then might have been a tad too convenient. I’ll keep that in mind when I work on my edits. For now, I’m off to scene 2!

    • You’re freaking me out. I was so relieved when she didn’t go down that alley, but I am also dying to know what was there. Good one, Peggy. I’d love to know what she does next.

    • Hi Peggy,

      Well done on your fist scene! I can’t wait to read more. The tension buildup here in her own her was very convincing!

      The only constructive comment I can offer is on Sung’s speech – I’m not sure he would use words such as ‘scowl’, unsavoury’ but those might be trivial details.

      Looking forward to reading you!

      • Hi Jan, thanks for reading me, I’m so happy to see you doing the challenge,and look forward to developing the story and reading yours as well!

    • Lots of tension in this scene.I like how it started out lighthearted with the boy in the car and grew darker, introducing a dark theme and a sense of not knowing what to believe. Good start!

    • Hey Peggy! Oh, this is great. You’ve set the scene very well and I’m already swept up in the story. I get the feeling that this story of yours is going to be a wild, nail-biting ride! – Rachel

    • Hi, Peggy! I didn’t write the first week so I’m playing catch-up already. Magera seems interesting. She reminds me of myself when I was younger and used to boldly go walking by myself only to get freaked out by certain things I imagined. I have a feeling she’s going to end up much braver than me, though, and in more danger than I ever was! Looking forward to finding out.

  • 6 Jan 2021/52/The Queen’s Executioner 1 by Elaine Dodge#CHAPTER 1We’d been driving for hours. I didn’t recognise the countryside at all. Were we in Scotland now? The journey was not only long but it was also ine […]

    • Hi Elaine – and here we go on week 1… Good luck!

      Of course everyone is a sucker for a Lady Di related story and you have piqued my interest, but I just felt like there was a lot of scene setting and exposition and you were in a bit if a rush to get to the crux of the issue instead of how they all got there. Maybe some more description of what the Uncle’s job entailed. Did John ever have any contact with the princess? Did he spend much time with the uncle and aunt? What kind of stuff would be in the files? Were they official or all personal ? Stories, anecdotes? Maybe tell us one that the uncle may have related when he was still alive… And a bit more about the glamorous Lady Sandringham…etc, but I am definitely interested …! Well done !

      • Hi Deryn, Indeed! Week 1! Best of luck to you as well! Thanks for reading my opening chapter +. I’m delighted you are interested.

        I was unclear as to whether you were asking for more scene setting and exposition or not? I work from the ‘toss the reader right into the action and explain as you go along’ school of thought.

        Hopefully many of your questions will be answered as the story unfolds.

        The files were ‘copies of files of every job he’d ever worked on’. As they were copies, yes, they’d be official. He was a coroner, so they’d be files of autopsies he’d either done prior to the post when he was a forensic pathologist, or that he’d ordered done once he was a coroner.

        I’ll bring this out in the story as we go along but as you’d asked: (From Wikipedia): The Coroner to the Queen’s Household’s function was to investigate the death of anyone whose body was lying ‘within the limits of any of the Queen’s palaces; or within the limits of any other house where Her Majesty is then residing’. If the Coroner empanelled a jury to investigate the death all members of the jury had to be chosen from among the members of the Royal Household. This led to some controversy concerning the independence of the jury in the 2006 second inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Section 46 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 abolished the office, effective 25 July 2013′. As a result of this the post was abolished.

        Something I have to bear in mind when dating stuff in the book.

        Thank again for reading.

        • Hi Elaine…for some reason I didn’t read coroner properly and imagined it was some obscure royal household title with a strange job description, so
          of course it makes more sense now and ties in with the MC’s career choice!! My bad!
          The ‘ throw ’em in the deep end’ of the story style can of course also work – I kind of did that then went back and revised the whole opening scene – (on the advice of my silent beta reader!!!).
          One down, 51 to go!!!

    • Hi Elaine, we met in Mia’s plotting session and I was immediately intrigued by your story idea. And I wasn’t disappointed! This is going to be a great novel. And quite a page-turner at that – you have a real talent for cliffhangers.
      In Chapter One, I didn’t feel the need for more detail on the whole (sorry, Deryn, have to contradict you here ;)), if anything, I wanted to get into the story faster. There is one little detail I do feel missing: I’d like to know who Mike is. For all other names in the text you give some little detail, but not for Mike. I somewhat felt something was missing.
      There were two minor typos: you might want to check the spelling of Marilyn Monroe and of chauffeur. Speaking of chauffeur, you wrote “”they” were taking the chauffeur – who is “they”? Or do you just mean Lady Sandringham, then it would be “she”, wouldn’t it? Sorry if I appear picky but that just stopped my reading. Otherwise: a great read and I am looking forward to Chapter 2!

      • Hey Susanne! point taken about Mike. He does feature quite heavily in the book but perhaps a small info note here would help. Thanks. Marilyn and chauffeur fixed.
        They = ‘After the funeral, the aunt, leaving me to hear the reading of the will alone, had gone to the Caribbean with a few of her bridge friends.’

        • Hi Elaine, thanks for clearing this up about the chauffeur…I think I just didn’t read this as Lady S travelling together with her friends as one party. Gotta read better! I guess I just wanted to get on with the story…

    • Hello Elaine: First, loved it from the first sentence to last. Concise pacing, efficient, and wonderfully described. You give just enough to keep going – dastardly thing, to come to the end of your chapter. Was surprised–don’t know why–to see the narrator is male. Certain lines stand out: ...and shoved a short, snub-nosed gun in my face. I lost all desire for conversation at that point. Speaking with a plummy accent is no detterent to being a bore. The house had an almost naked, embarrassed air. The room had been assaulted.

      I can’t wait to read more.

    • Hi Elaine! What a gripping read! The scene drew me in completely and ended with me wanting more! I think you’ve done well unveiling the story, starting with the kidnapping and working backwards from there. I could imagine the old manor clearly, complete with Oats. The line ‘he sounded old all of a sudden’ worked well. I felt a pinch of hurt when I came to the description of the books strewn on the floor! There’s a sinister explanation for all this – the aunt in the Caribbean, the royal coroner’s files, the police raid. I’m intrigued to find out more!

    • HI Elaine,
      I was quite excited by the story. I expected the MC to be a female as well, so when you wrote, Master John, I was surprised. The details are presented well and I didn’t realize that I was at the end of the chapter until I got there. The police conducting the raid and having hard evidence for it is fascinating as a hook to draw us into the story as well as the kidnapping, of course. It might be helpful to have a little more about the pain, the bruises/damage or at least the fear that he is feeling at the beginning.
      This is an engrossing story and I am going on to the second installment right now!

  • Career goal fail by Deryn Graham#Laszlo Vadas, Hungarian, burly and attractive and the owner of a magnificent if run down hotel in Budapest, had allowed his eyes to roam freely over Fran’s body since the moment s […]

    • What a gripping read! You’ve portrayed the clash of the meeting’s mis-matched agendas and Fran’s wavering engagement well. An interesting commentary on the gender roles and power dynamics in business, layered with the fact that Fran finds Laszlo attractive, but is reluctant to play along, at least initially. I wonder what made her give in towards the end? Was it the Hungarian wine or is she so desperate for the contract? I’d be interested to read about how she feels later, too – will she regret agreeing to their arrangement afterwards? I’m looking forward to reading more.

    • Hi Deryn, oooh, I’m liking this a lot! I especially loved the part where she decides to play the game and flirt to get him to sign the contract, I thought the dialogue there was especially gripping and captivating.
      I’m trying to find useful feedback which is tough as it’s such a great scene so can only think of the following. I was wondering if it was worth bringing forth to the start a hint that Fran is actually tempted, as, at first, I found Laszlo creepy in his actions in the first paragraph and so was a little surprised when she didn’t actually mind it. Once you know that she kind of likes it, it becomes funny rather than creepy.
      The only other tiny thing is the view of the city at the start gave me the impression they were in Budapest so the fact that they were in Berlin made me go back to see if I’d read that wrong. Perhaps it might help including something in the description of the view to indicate it’s not real. As always, for both of these, it might just be me, how I read it, and other people might not feel the same, so please feel free to disregard if you don’t agree.
      Oh, I almost forgot, the line ‘Such a pity we can’t bring our discussion to a satisfactory climax for us both this evening’ is just brilliant! 🤣
      I really enjoyed your first scene, you’ve got me wanting to read more and so I cannot wait to see where the story goes next! xx

      • Hey Ben – thanks so much – the Berlin/Budapest story is a long one and I need to sort that out and explain why and how it’s in Berlin. Also, see my comment to HM above re making Laszlo less creepy – he needs to be a bit inappropriate but not sleezy and Fran does collude with him and encourage him to a certain degree so I need there to be some relatability and not have him alienate the reader completely…keep telling myself…first draft. So exciting!

    • Hi Deryn, you’ve created a real slimeball of a man in Laszlo. Brrr. I wanted to shout “Run, Fran, Run!” Which is good, because this scene leaves no doubts as to where our loyalties should lie. And because you have an MC which clearly is prone to getting ahead of herself and thus will make all kinds of juicy mistakes that will drive the plot. Off to a great start, I’d say. (I’m guessing that contract is never going to get signed…)
      I was somewhat confused about the setting. First it seemed like Budapest, so I was surprised at the reference to Berlin, and things clicked only later when I understood it was a massive blown-up photograph of Budapest in the background. Perhaps a sentence clarifying the context early in the scene?

      • Hi HM – Thank you so much -you’re right – it’s a long story why it’s in Berlin and I took the proper explanation out but it needs re inserting so it makes sense. I might have to make Laszlo a little less scuzzy as he will crop up again…Thanks so much for commenting!

    • I thought Fran’s contradictory feelings about ‘portly but attractive’ Laszlo were part of the fun of the story’s opening and provided the conflict element needed to get the story moving. I too was a bit confused about being in Berlin but thought perhaps it was a metaphor for the false premise of thier encounter? The two characters were very clearly set up and differentiated. With Laszlos dialect empahsising this at the same time as sounding authentic. Fran’s secret attraction to Laszlo adds an interesting dynamic. During the scene Laszlo’s character is static and Fran’s is dynamic in that she undergoes a change of emotion but he does not. Laszlo does come accross a little too neanderthal; his hands roaming Fran’s skirt hem is pushing it a little maybe. However, I took her change of approach as a sign of her taking control of the situation to try and get what she wants. I really look forward to the next chapter and hope that Fran gets to go to the Budapest Hotel. I am sure Laszlo will re-appear, and get his cumuppance, or maybe in Budapest we will see him from another angle in his home town and he will be a little more of a sympathetic villain. Great stuff.

      • Hi Julie
        Thanks so much for the insights and encouragement. Some tweaks needed, but am feeling a little more positive than when I posted this! Onwards and upwards!

    • I’m intriugued and seduced by your story! We (the readers) are plopped in the middle of some stuff, and I think it’ll be interesting to see it all get revealed–especially the Budapest/Berlin question. I was briefly confused by the budapest view mentioned, it must have been a mural on the wall? The dynamic between the characters was fun to read, I think if you avoid having Laszlo explicitly state “for us to make love” it might appear more playful and indirect. Also, his first couple lines of dialog seemed without accent, so it surprised me when it appeared–maybe make his accent more apparent in the first line or two.
      Your second paragraph is perfect! Congrats on your first scene of 52! Thanks,

      • Hi Becky, thanks so much. I am going to go back and edit in some more accent as you suggest and work on the Berlin/Buda bit. Many thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Nice work on this. Just a different perspective from me, I run exhibitions, so I understand the reference and setting. It was subtle, but I got it. 😉 I think a simple line about meeting at a travel conference or something would suffice. As for Laszlo, my God what a pushy guy. He’s a mixture of comedy and lechery all rolled into something I can’t even grasp. You played him well. It was particularly interesting that your MC found him appealing on some level. I guess there’s someone for everyone. As a suggestion I would pull him back a little. More of a hard tease than being so direct all the time. A little aggressive predatory behaviour like he was doing, then something sweet and innocent perhaps. This might soften his overall heavy impact. But this is your choice on how you want to handle him – I’m just adding to what others have said. But well done, a great beginning and something I’d want to read more of.

      • Hi Michael- thank you so much. It’s clear that I need to clarify the expo thing (I spent half my working life attending travel shows so know them well) as well as making Laszlo somewhat more appealing – making it clear that had he not been a client, he might have been in with a chance with Fran. He has more of a role to play later so I need the reader onside with him and not to be repulsed (especially in the #MeToo era – I can’t afford for him to be predatory) Thanks for the read and valuable inputs.

    • HI Deryn,
      First of all, let me say, that this type of cat/mouse interchange is always fun to read, because the words don’t usually have much to do with what the character really wants. So for the reader, you have to sit up and try and get your clues from what is not said and from the other info. As Michael says, there’s someone for everyone but Lazlo came across as pretty creepy and unattractive even though he’s described as “portly, but not unattractive”.
      I found myself wondering about Francesca’s motives: What does she look like? Sometimes a person who thinks that they’re not good looking or maybe feels like “time is running out” may be willing to put the two opposite adjectives of portly/attractive together. But a young woman who thinks that she’s ready to meet someone may be less “charitable”.
      Your dialogue was fun to read, but I appreciate Becky’s comment about the foreign “ness” of his speech showing up later. I laughed at this line, ““Such a pity we can’t bring our discussion to a satisfactory climax for us both this evening. But I am waiting for after we make business together for us to make love. Goodnight, beautiful Francesca.”
      I think you can make it more effective if you take out some of it so it reads: “Such a pity we can’t bring our discussion to a satisfactory climax…this evening. Goodnight, beautiful Francesca.”
      Maybe his hinting is little too obvious with the ellipse there, but I would read it that way out loud.
      You can reduce some “telling “by taking stuff out. For example, if you remove this, “Laszlo’s every gesture seemed designed to arouse her, and every comment was a veiled suggestion. “
      You show it really well right after that sentence.

      I’m assuming that we will get backstory on Francesca’s agenda in later chapters-right now we have to trust that she needs her job, she’s got a background in seduction and Lazlo’s got a vibe that appeals to her-I don’t understand it now, but maybe we’ll see it in subsequent chapters.
      Really fun read, I was smiling the whole time.

      • Hi Sudha

        Thank you so much for the read and valuable inputs, all of which I will edit in/out. The back story is coming…

    • Jan replied 1 week ago

      Hi Deryn,

      Well done on the first scene and introducing us to Laszo and Fran and this interesting energy between them. She wants to close a deal, and he also wants to close a deal – deal in his language is perhaps not the same as hers.

      How he comes onto her! I loved these lines – “bring our discussion to a satisfactory climax ” and “waiting for the slightest hint that it might be permitted to creep higher.”

      The only critique I have to offer is that I was confused about the location, I thought there were in Budapest and then was surprised to learn they were in Germany.

      Very happy to be working with you on this!

      • Deryn replied 1 week ago

        Thank you, Jan – thanks for the read and comments! I have made a number of edits on my offline version and have yet to update this one but will get round to it in case anyone goes back. The BUD/BER location definitely needs clarifying! Will make sure it all makes sense in the end!! D

    • HI Deryn,
      it’s hard to add to what the others have said, there are already a lot of things there that I noticed, too.
      First of all, I liked the concept of your story, it seems to promise a great novel! I liked reading this, my pace as a reader was smooth and there was really nothing to stop my reading. For me, that’s something I really like 😉 as I am a pretty fast reader…

      A few minor questionmarks have popping up though inside my mind. First, why does Fran play along with Laszlo? A sentence of yours seems to answer that, namely that she sees Laszlo’s dance as a challenge and that she likes challenges. You might want to bring that up earlier because then the reader knows why sophisticated Fran puts up with sleezy Laszlo (sorry, I am pegging them into clichés here 😉 you have sketched them brilliantly by the way!)) Another idea: maybe Fran has always had a secret penchant for Hungarians and she just finds his accent irresistible?

      Second, “the King Bela IV”: is that a painting or a statue? I am led to believe it is a work of art. As a reader, I would like some detail here, also to hear why the restoration of this King Bela would be extremely attractive to Fran. Unless, of course, you intend to chuck that later…

      The others have mentioned the point about location: At this point, the reader might need a reason why they are meeting in Berlin. If King Bela is so important, then any restorator would surely travel to its location. Unless Laszlo and Fran have problems finding an appointment, busy schedules, or if one of them is stuck in Berlin with another engagement, and the travel expo simply is most convenient.I don’t believe you need to put a lot of detail in this at this point, though.
      In any way, I thoroughly enjoyed this and I am curious to read more!

      • Hi Susanne Many thanks for the great commentary. I have as Mia suggested gone back and edited my offline version for clarity on a few of those points including the location – Berlin vs Budapest. The King Bela IV is a hotel, I need to also make that clear as it is the work that Fran does ie interior restoration of heritage hotels. I will get round to editing this version hopefully tomorrow but in the meantime, thanks for the encouraging words on the bits that worked!!

        • Oh boy the King Bela is a hotel? Good thing I asked…I was wide beside the mark 🙂 don’t worry about the edits, actually I will myself will do this only if I need to clarify things in my mind so that I can go on writing…do you think we are supposed to edit the online version?

          • Deryn replied 6 days ago

            I was thinking to edit this online version, should anyone want to go back and refresh their memories, although I am mindful of Mia’s warning not to keep tweaking what is only a first draft. I may not worry too much about stylistics but getting the plot clear I think is a good idea.

    • Hi Deryn, I read the first chapter of your WIP on your website way back last summer (winter in your part of the world), but I remember it being ‘gentler’ in that Laszlo did not come across as quite the creep he does here (I know I am not telling you anything new here, others have pointed that out before). I just wanted to check in with you to let you know I am reading, even though I am – as usual – really too late to comment. I’ll try to be quicker next week 😉

      • Deryn replied 6 days ago

        Hi there – thanks for catching up! It;s going to be tough to write every week and comment and the 12SS prompts are all quite long at the beginning of the year, so it’s a lot. The original scene of Laszlo was much shorter than this so in the interests of expanding it to meet the 1200 word count for here, I expanded it. I realise now I have to make L more flirtatious, and less creepy as he has a role to play in the book and we have to like him more! Thanks for reading and ‘see’ you on Weds!!

    • Whoa. So…very readable prose, though the first sentence felt crammed until I got the sense of the venue which justified it. The tension between the two characters and her inner tension are superb. And the back and forth, cat and mouse, was clever but I found myself constantly distracted by why your MC would be attracted to someone so slimy. She comes across as smart, savvy, and ambitious. However, I look forward to where you are going with this storyline and, who knows, maybe his animal magnetism will catch me too. I think maybe the initial description of him as burly set me against him? I saw him as a Hungarian Sidney Greenstreet (The Maltese Falcon).
      Was this a KWC story?

      • Hi Nina
        This has been (a slightly different version) part of 12SS but not KWC…I think you have read the edited version here after comments below, but clearly, Laszlo is still too slimy and not sexy enough to warrant Fran’s interest. That needs some more work, clearly!! Just looked up Sydney and it’s DEFINITELY NOT him!! I’m tryig nto think who I would cast in his role if this was a movie…I’ve got an image of him in my head, but can’t put my finger on who it is. Thanks for the feedback and read…2 more days until S2… Dx

    • Hi Deryn,

      I finally found time to sit down and enjoy this story with the attention it deserves. What a great beginning, my friend! I like Fran already. You paint such a pretty picture of the setting with your words that I find myself wishing I could travel there as well. I’m not a fan of Laszlo, but I do like that despite his obvious attraction to her, he sought her consent. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

      P.S. I know a Francis Copeland personally. He’s balding, big, burly and with a semi-handlebar mustache. So I might’ve had a fit of laughter when I saw Fran’s full name. 😀

      • Hi Anne
        That’s so funny re the Francis Copeland name!! He’s morphed into Laszlo here!! Thanks for the kind words…I need to make Laszlo more appealing – and that she’s pretty much only resisting him bc he’s a client and not bc he’s a sleaze ball…work to be done!!! Dx

      • Deryn
        You’re right.as soon as I posted my comment, I knew I git the wrong actor.
        I’ve no doubt you’ll tweak your guy so her temptation is believable.
        See you Wednesday 🙂

    • Hi Deryn,

      I have to admit I’m finding Fran’s attraction to Lazlo tricky to comprehend, even if he is a challenge and she enjoys challenges. And even if he is potential client. He’s such a creep that the fact she didn’t stick a fork into his hand makes me think less of her and also that if she sleeps with him she’ll get what she deserves. But perhaps there’s a twist to the story that’s still to come? Hope so.

      • Hi Elaine – Laszlo needs some work to make him appealing but a little sleazy round the edges; he is clearly putting people off and he does have a role to play later on so I am going to revise him… Thanks for the read and feedback!

  • Honey Mustard and Profile picture of DerynDeryn are now friends 1 week, 3 days ago

  • I Don’t Want To Go by Honey Mustard


    Alma Lindley tapped her fingertips on her daughter’s closed bedroom door before turning the knob and entering. 

    “Look, Em, I found you a pair of cute hiking boots at Cape U […]

    • Hi H…So we’re really doing this!! Week 1 of 52…
      So this sounds like so many households and don’t even get me started on school camps SA style…The themes of the phone, untidy room, objections to meeting a school obligations etc are v relatable but I kind of wanted more tension between the mother and daughter. More tight lips, more snarly replies from the daughter, more histrionics and maybe show the dad’s POV on the camp issue as he storms up the stairs to arbitrate in the escalating row, and he takes the daughter’s side openly against his wife in front of the daughter which makes the angry triangle even more interesting. Quite likely the daughter is wearing headphones (in my parenting experience) and refuses to listen …the whole scene could be much more fraught I think, but first drafts, and all …Well done!

      • Hi Deryn, thank you for this – I’ll be aware of upping the tension more in scenes going forward. Over-the-top doesn’t exactly sit naturally with me, so it’s something I really need to work on.

    • Oh my, this brought back memories of my daughter digging her heels in at that age. I like the startup, the character’s mannerisms made me want to read more and also linking the father in – the triangle of conflict that I imagine you will develop in your novel. I like the way you have the mother cornered. Wanting to do the right thing by her daughter but also aware of the obligations of the school and her position on the Board.You have packed a lot into the first scene; as a reader I am aware of their social position, the state of the marriage, the ages and so on. well done. only one suggestion to increase the tension in the middle of the scene. perhaps the daughter losing it earlier and giving us more of an example of the alliance she creates with the father (isolating the mother).

      • Thank you, Leona. This is food for thought, and I’ll keep it in mind as I rework. Very useful feedback – much appreciated.

    • I work with teenagers, and I feel you capture teenage girl angst well. She’s adequately contradictory: wanting to be heard but not wanting to listen, seeing through the somewhat flimsy reasoning of adults, alternating between adult and childish behaviors. I can totally relate to not wanting to go to an 8th grade outdoor camp. I wouldn’t have wanted to go either. The mother, too, seems realistic. (I’ve never been a mother, but I imagine her desire to keep her daughter happy would at times conflict with her own wants and her marriage. It also seems realistic that the father would side with the daughter: I see that often–the parents aligning with a kid rather than being a united front that communicates. His status as a litigation attorney sets up future conflict nicely. I agree with others’ comments about seeing other POVs, but I don’t think I want that in this scene. It might confuse the scene too much. I hope, though, that we see more of their minds in other scenes. I look forward to reading more.

      • Thanks Elizabeth – this is gratifying feedback. I’m with you on the POV, and I’ll continue committing to one POV per scene. I really appreciate you coming round here to read.

    • Jan replied 1 week ago

      Hi Hanri,

      Congratulations and well done on your first scene! I like the story already 🙂
      I cannot offer anything from a parent’s point of view, but I do think you pulled it off and that the roller coaster of emotions reads like the real thing. I like the tension between the mom and her daughter and the hints also of things not being ok between mom and dad.

      The dad’s argument against the camp was absolutely irresistible!

      I look forward to the the next scene and seeing why she doesn’t want to go to camp, what is on the phone and what is happening with mom and dad 🙂

    • SM replied 1 week ago

      Hi Hanri,
      I love your characters. My kids have just left their teenage years, so I can relate-even though as a reader, it seems that Alma is so wrapped up in her issues and POV that she doesn’t take time to empathize with Emma-Leigh. We never see her ask Emma-Leigh why she doesn’t want to go or try to probe if there is a problem with her friends etc. I know that is probably what Alma should do, but frankly, I’ve been there as a mom of 3 teens–and I understand the overwhelm of her issues with her husband, her “standing” with the school advisory board, and her need for a break from dealing with her teen-all understandable reasons why she doesn’t have the bandwidth to ask Emma-Leigh about her life and her feelings.
      So Alma is definitely relatable. Emma-Leigh-we don’t get to see much of her intentions besides the fact that she doesn’t want to go and that she doesn’t like being pushed around by her mother. Alma resents that Emma-Leigh lies around on her phone and yet enables it by cleaning up her “floordrobe”–we see that Alma isn’t good at articulating her feelings to her husband and her daughter.
      There were a couple of things in the text I wanted to point out.
      Mum, ple-a-se” How would one say that? I tried it and couldn’t figure it out.
      I didn’t understand why we needed to know that their home was in Upper Tamboerskloof or that the original Iron balustrade was intact. These details come as Alma is sorting out unspoken resentment toward her husband so they were distracting in that emotional setting.
      The conversation between Alma and Emma Leigh felt authentic and I think you have a great hook for drawing in the reader in this scene!

      • Hi Sudha, I’m so pleased that Alma reads the way I wanted her to read. You picked up on even the subtleties, which is fantastic. Thanks! The setting details – they should say something about the family’s standing and class – where you live in CT says a lot about you – and that they like preserving rather than breaking down / modernising (that, and the inspiration I got from a picture on Pinterest 🙂 ). I’m not sure if this is actually going to be relevant; it’s just the kind of person Alma struck me as when I was developing her character. About ple-a-se – I heard it as that nagging sound kids can make when they’re trying to bargain, you know, with the lilt and the flourish on the vowels.
        Thanks so much for the feedback, It means a lot to me.

    • What a wonderful start! It totally reads like women’s fiction right now, being misunderstood by the teenage daughter and husband… the voice is strong. I also like the use of dialog. Not usually my genre as a reader but I couldn’t help but keep reading!

      • Thank you, Christa, for sticking with this. I’m taking it as a good sign if one can keep the interest from someone who isn’t fond of the genre. Actually, I’m not yet sure what genre this will take me to. Let’s see where it leads.

        • The important thing is to have fun! I’m sure the genre will reveal itself in due time. My characters keep revealing things as I write… now my original first scene (from plotting) is going to take three scenes to wrap up…

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