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ATTENTION: All COVID 19-related restrictions have been lifted. The pandemic is over! Ooops, April Fools’ Day here in the old U S of A. Welcome back! And welcome to the best month of the year. We celebrate fools—we all know a few of those—this month. Mother Earth has her day this month. My niece—didn’t I just hold her as a newborn?—will turn twenty-four this month. And a foolish, tree hugging, white-haired, old biker has his birthday this month. Happy April, y’all. The member who sent in last month’s question also asked something of poets. Due to the total number of individuals involved, I decided to feature them in separate months. And even though not all poets I contacted replied, the responses we do have are outstanding. ◊ ◊ ◊ Do you have a favorite metaphor? An image or analogy you come back to again and again? If so, what is it about that metaphor that draws you back? ◊ ◊ ◊ @AC Benus When I first got this question, I thought, "No. I don't go back to well-worn ideas over and over...." And then, lol, I thought of a couple of things that I have gone back to a few times. One seems to be the "Alice in Wonderland" theme. It has appeared several times as allusions in my poetry, and then, last year, it somehow wound up being the central theme in my havin-a-baby novella Finding Joy. Another area I come back to is more nebulous. This especially shows up in my poetry as opposed to my fiction, but I use concepts and theories from Physics as metaphors. String Theory, the Butterfly Effect, Quantum Mechanics, and many more wind up as ways to express the sort of mystical connections some of us feel for others. One area I have plans to write a prose piece deals with discoveries made by a doctor of Anesthesiology concerning the human body and reactions people have far, far, far below the conscious level. So, thank you for your question. It really made me think ◊ ◊ ◊ @Mikiesboy Hmmm , interesting question. I write a lot about depression, i have lived with it for many years. To me it is a soul and spirit sucking vampire. I often use words such as fog, darkness, viscous, heaviness and chains, to describe it. I included some samples in my answer: In the early morning I can hear its song though its wee small voice is fleeting my soul yearning for something more and sadness I can feel comes creeping And the tears sit waiting but are not wept for what earthly good will it do? I can cry for an age but it would not be enough There is no cure for what ails, not even you You speak of hope but I have none at least I don’t today But I cannot do what must be done To take this pain away On days like this I am tired of life of the pain I carry like a canker It’s a Dickensian chain heavy and thick and its weight wants to drag me under I like words with texture. To describe clouds for example: felted or woolen skies. Here is an other example of clouds: Whales of gray clouds drift past my windows blown by on fierce seas of gusty wind While the sun teases and taunts us with golden rays The first cold of winter is triggered and as the first flakes fall i think spring And i write a lot about life and what it means, i write what i see and feel about it and people: I walk in the world, a pretender, a lonely visitor I don't know the path and there is no map There is no place to stop to ask for directions I watch the world around me and despair People don't see outside, their universe is inward It easier to ignore the downtrodden, to close our eyes Our houses are crammed with baubles Shiny toys that blind us to what is right in front of us And we scamper on whirling wheels Like hamsters ignorant of life's meaning I am one - and there's no reason or rhyme Ours is to race to the end; to the finality of death Desperately I search my cage for a map Seeking the reasons for my incarceration But i am terrified to take that step Afraid of what i think life really means. I hope that answers your question and the examples helped a bit. Thanks for the question. ◊ ◊ ◊ @Wayne Gray Yes. I love the power of storms and the ocean. They're these tremendous forces of nature - awesome, impossible to stand against. Instead we're battered about, forced to simply endure. If we're lucky, we're looking at them from some safe place, marveling at their power. You can see my take on them both here. Thunder Just Breathe Thanks for the great question. ◊ ◊ ◊ Hope you enjoyed those as much as I did. We’ll be back next month with another edition. In the meantime, send me additional questions for any of our authors, and I’ll do my best to have them answered.
Welcome to the final installment of Ask an Author. Yep, you read correctly. I’m out of questions, so unless I get a few new ones, there will not be a December blog entry. In the meantime, a member sent in a query for several authors. "Which is harder to write and why... short stories (so much has to be crammed into so little space) or a chapter story (so much research to get it right, like CJ and his environs or Donny and Louis in Mikiesboy's Changes & Changes Again?) @Carlos Hazday Unless it’s a throw-away flash piece, writing a short story’s harder than some chapters in a multi-installment story. Part of it, as you mention, is the need to cram so much into so few words. Just because it is short does not mean it should be incomplete. Leaving certain blanks to be filled in by readers’ imagination, does not absolve authors from the need to provide a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even when creating a slice-of-life tale, the need for a structure remains. If not, a shopping list could be considered a short story. Now, there’s an idea for a prompt. Anyone interested in writing a flash piece with ‘The Shopping List’ as the title? A chaptered novel or novella is definitely more difficult than a short story; mostly because of the time required to research, write, and edit. You ask us to compare an individual chapter within such a tale to a short and in many cases those can be easy. Every long tale has a rhythm; some chapters are full of action while others not so much. Those slower chapters can be easier to create. Giving readers a break from non-stop action allows us to write atmospheric chapters. A quick glance at past events, location descriptions, or small romantic interludes can round out the story and provide the breathing space needed before plunging back into the maelstrom. @Mikiesboy Which is harder to write and why? Wow, okay, let’s see. They are not really comparable; they are two different things altogether. It’s a skilled author who can write a good short story and that’s not just my opinion. Anyone who wants to or thinks they can write, should start with short stories (yes, Virginia, there are always exceptions to any rule). They help you learn plotting; help you find your voice and style. They will help you develop the skill you need so you can write that novel you want to write. Okay, this isn’t answering the set question. Short stories normally have one main character and plot, while novels have more and may have a number of subplots. Short stories are not shrunken novels yet they must have a beginning, middle/climax and end/twist. To me a short story should be around 7,500 words or it’s drifting into novella territory. That’s a chapter in some novels. Novels, though, should not be long rambling things that go on and on just to raise the word count. Unnecessary words, subplots, and the continued introduction of new characters, show up very quickly. They muddle things. Long descriptions, and character’s mental diarrhea (in other words, a lot of Telling) make your novel a long trip to Dullsville. But novels let you show your world to the reader, up close and personal. So, which is harder? The answer is both, each have their own personality, and needs. Each must be written differently, if they are to work. @AC Benus Right now I’m tackling a new genre of book, and the research needed to do an historical murder mystery is driving me insane! Well, okay, it’s not that bad, but it takes a lot of time. However, is an honest to goodness Short Story any easier than a novel? The two are not scalable. A novel can’t be boiled down without harm, and a Short Story cannot be “padded out” to 20 chapters without losing its soul. Both require individual types of inspirations. Short Story inspirations are probably rarer, which makes GA’s writing prompts such a valuable asset. Keeping in mind that real Short Stories should have twists at or near the end, one can look over the posted prompts and see if anything sparks. Once the idea comes, a Short Story can be organized and written in a few days. For me, it’s all about the drive to get it out. There is almost a kinetic buildup, and the story itself should flow easily if you are ready to write it. With novels, first and foremost, novelistic elements should be present. I guess these are unexpected turn of events as well, but very large-scale ones. Think of Oliver Twist. The boy runs away to London, and through some accidents, is eventually placed in very home of his dead mother, with his grandfather and aunt. Fate has stepped in, and we as readers – just like Twist himself – know nothing about this till the very end. Novels can do these things very well, where in Short Stories, they seem artificial. The why of it is, novels offer more room to explore and develop people, situations and relationships. But they take more time to plan and write. So, it is easier to get started on a novel, but easier to finish a Short Story. That is my backwards conclusion @northie Well, there's something to make me think. In my case, a 'short story' can be anything from micro-fiction (under 50 words) through to a tale that stands on its own but has in excess of 10,000 words. As you might expect, both extremes have their separate challenges as well as some similarities. I regularly post flash fiction pieces on my external blog, written to one or more prompts, which have to be 750 words or under. The prompts are posted on a Saturday; the entries have to be in by the following Wednesday. Finding an idea that fits exactly into the word limit is key. There's enough space to tell a complete story with all the components you'd expect, but it must be focussed, and pared back to the essentials. I have a chequered history in this respect. One of the worst comments you can receive is 'This is a great start'. It's difficult to let go of an idea when it can't be made to fit, no matter how many words I excise. Writing such a piece is an excellent discipline in being concise, showing, not telling, yet coming up with something that grabs a reader's attention. At the other end of the scale, finding a story to fit is still key. Yes, the canvas is larger, allowing more detail, conversation, and depth. However it must leave the reader satisfied that the story is complete: no hanging threads, no redundant characters. It has to gather momentum throughout, with little room for diversions. Questions might still remain – that's OK. Sometimes it's good to leave people wondering about what happens after the conclusion. I have much more experience in stand-alone shorts than ongoing stories. That said, my two chaptered stories are where I feel my learning is more apparent. One thing I wrote early on in my writing career was the first chapter of Never Too Late. Here I am, a little over two and a half years later, preparing to close the second volume. That story in particular documents what I've learnt. Quite apart from my increasing technical knowledge, this is where I've discovered story and character arcs. And becoming so wrapped up in my principal characters, they talk to me; direct the story almost. That depth of characterisation means I have to spend much more time discovering just who they are. You can't get away with the outline sketch that serves for a flash piece. The locales are another matter. I started out in Eric's story not naming anywhere; in a way the intimacy of the first few chapters doesn't make this a problem. Gradually it became more of an issue; this combined with my increasing confidence meant that when the second volume began posting, most places are named except for his home town. Yes, they're real places and what I describe bears some resemblance to reality. To come back to your original question of which is more difficult – my answer would be neither. Written properly, both long and short stories should challenge authors. I know they do me. @Geron Kees I have to say that I don't see much difference between short stories and longer ones, other than the time involved in creating them. I usually write long stories, anyway. I have written some stories that were planned as chaptered tales from the get-go. I don't think there is more planning for a long tale than then a short one. I research subjects as I need to while moving along, so while it does require more research for something longer, there is no more planning involved, because I start with an idea and simply create the balance of the story as I move along. I know some writers plot out the whole tale before they start, but I don't do that. So I'll have to say that neither format is more difficult, and that one just takes longer than the other. If anything, very short pieces are hard for me, because I generally wind up with more ideas I want to add, and have to stop myself before it gets out of hand. That’s it for now. I hope someone hears my cry for help, and we get to visit again next month.
Please join the Author Promotion Team in congratulating AC Benus as GA's newest Signature Author! AC Benus has been a member of GA for just over four years and was first promoted to Promising in July of 2015. Since joining, AC Benus has written a total of 57 stories, and is the leader of the Live Poets Society. If you want to check out AC's other stories, you can visit his author page. Please join us in congratulating AC Benus on his well deserved promotion.
Hello, All! Is that a hint of fall in the air...? Maybe for me it is I've been busy working on a wicked little tale to darken the spirits of this upcoming Halloween. Set in San Francisco, we meet a banker and his irascibly fey rescuer with a stammer...a certain demon-in-training named Terrance. ...Starting to sound familiar...? Without further ado, I offer for your consideration: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- It’s a Dreadful Life – a Halloween Classic Story Description: A demon from Hell is sent to show a desperately frustrated businessman there is still plenty of evil left to do in the world. **mild warning for devilish language** [...After his rescue from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, the human and Oni warm up in the abandoned Toll Booth Operators' break room...] “You sound pretty well informed.” “In Demon School we devote an entire semester to studying avaricious human plots.” The hellion’s Pollyanna-fey cum-wholesome wickedness emerges to the fore with a wink. “We learn all the classic examples: GM/Firestone buying up every light-rail system in North America to scrap ‘em for buses; the bill of goods saying Artificial Intelligence will help people, ha! Oh, oh, the 2016 Elections! – Heavens! All the big cons.” The banker nods his head. “Yep, but you be careful and remember to act naïve while you’re tooling around here on Earth.” “Oh, yes,” the evildoer says in total innocence. “We’re warned by our professors not to venture up here on our own; our own. You can never tell what’s on a man’s mind, and you’re likely to be out-deviled at any moment.” As Gregory bundles up tighter, then sips and starts to feel more alive again, he takes a good gander at his rescuer. Terrance’s age is indeterminate. With its store of wrinkled frown lines, a solidly middle-aged face expresses a long, experienced life already lived. Now that the pair sit inside, the banker can see the novice demon’s curly black hair steps away from two bony plates on his skull. They’re in line with Terrance’s temples, and remind Gregory of the protrusions from which deer antlers grow. The remainder of the Oni’s appearance is less interesting. Besides his flame-red skin and yellow cat eyes tricked out with mascara, his tubby beer gut is ill disguised beneath his 70’s era leisure suit. The brown triple-knit polyester – a truly hellish fabric – looks hella uncomfortable and clashes style-wise with the black satin cape he wears with standing velvet collar in back of his head. “So, what’s being a demon-in-training all involve?” “Well, ya see; ya see, we have to pass our final exams and then go out into the world and spread a little wickedness around. You know, make sure people feel sufficiently hopeless. And then, like me, to graduate to a fulltime, tenured demon position, we’re assigned a testcase for our final thesis.” “So I’m your testcase.” “Yep.” “Meaning…?” “Meaning, I help you see things clearly again, and I’ll get my horns.” “Horns?” “Yes! Teacher says every time a banker shouts ‘Get a job!’ at a homeless person, a demon gets his horns.” “That’s all very well and good,” Gregory says, totally self-absorbed, “but in case you haven’t noticed, I want to die.” After a half minute of despondently looking down in his lap, Gregory sees a fiendish hand settle atop his own. “And I’m here to help,” Terrance says as soft as a malicious notion come to a person on the crapper. “How can you help, demon?” “By raising your chin. By cheering you up, by making you see there’s still so much bad left to do in the world.” “You think?” “Yes. And don’t worry about Hell. It’ll always be there, waiting for you. Why, just the other day, Bub himself was saying ‘If there’s one man I need more than any other up there on Earth, it’s Gregory Bailiff. He's an awesome dude!” “Beelzebub said that, about me?” “Yep. He’s a big fan of your work.” “Look, thanks for the evil pep talk, but I’m just a banker. Just a humble…money changer.” Suddenly Terrance sounds like Mr. Paul Lynde. “Oh, you’re so much more than that.” “I still don’t know—” “Don’t know if you should trade one hell for the other?” “Yes, if—” “Look, right now your P.E.I., Personal Evil Index, is low. You’re being exhausted by all these sham do-gooders, raising a stink about a few puny billion dollars; billion dollars. But if you think about it, with your naturally crooked nature, combined with your amazing skills at lying, manipulating, deception – being a banker! – you’ll go into Leavenworth and wind up running the joint in three months.” “Ya think?” Terrance sits back confidently, hands locking behind his head. “I know it. You’re one wicked son of a bitch.” Gregory demurs. “Ah, you’re just saying that.” “No! You are. So I propose we take a look at three special Halloweens: one past, one present and one future. Then you can make your final decision.” “Um – Isn’t that from a different holiday movie—” “Shush”—glances over his shoulder—“they’ll never notice the difference. Plus, they're not paying that much attention anyway.” The banker thinks the proposition over but still hems. “I don’t know.” Terrance pops to his feet. “Oh, come on, Greggy Boy – help an Oni out. You decide if you want to live or die, and maybe I’ll be promoted to fulltime demon in the process; the process.” “Well, what do I have to lose?” “That’s the evil spirit!” Terrance runs and gathers Gregory’s clothes as the man stands to dress. Once they’re all set, Terrance chirps, “Excellent. Now, grab the hem of my cape and we’ll be off.” Gregory does so, thinking they will be whooshed up into the air. Instead, Terrance hoofs it for the door. “Aren’t we – you know – gonna fly?” “Heavens, no! That’s Fallen Angel College, and it takes several millennia to be that bad.” “But if we’re walking, why do I have to hold your cape?” “Atmospherics, and just for chuckles. Now, shall we?” “Lead the way.” Both go back out into the gray blanket of air and start heading for the Marina District. What Gregory can’t know, is they are also stepping back in time. ˚˚˚˚˚ _
Well, we're at the start of another week and, to finish off the year, we are going to look at a story written by AC Benus called "Christmas at Famous-Barr". If you like what Timothy M has to say in the review, why not go check out the story and leave the author a review! Also, if you've read a story you've enjoyed lately, and would like to see it featured in the GA News Blog, simply shoot me a PM and send me a review. I'm always looking for reviews. Christmas at Famous-Barr AC Benus Reviewer : Timothy M. Status : Complete Word Count : 279,124 Who wants to get in the mood for Christmas? Or if you don’t celebrate Christmas you can simply enjoy a series of eight well-written and heartwarming tales with a most unusual main character. AC Benus’ impressive chronicle of Famous-Barr, a Saint Louis department store, takes us through more than a century, beginning in 1880 (story VIII) and ending in 2005 (story I). You can either read them chronologically, or you can read them in the order they were posted, starting with story III (Katie’s Sketchbook) from 1976 and my personal favorite story VI (It Had to Be Good) from 1929. It’s difficult to give justice to the huge amount of research AC did to get every detail right. There are pictures and links to documents and historical facts, both in the stories themselves, in the story topic, and in AC’s Famous-Barr blog, which are also well worth a visit. All of this is weaved together with an amazing set of main characters who capture our hearts as we follow their struggles to do the right thing and find love. Their stories will make you laugh and cry, whether the love is gay, straight, parental, sisterly, or even the love of working in a special place alongside your colleagues. Famous-Barr turns out to be an example of what we today would call an inclusive and socially aware work place. Long before corporate social responsibility, CSR, became a buzz word, this department store showed progressive thinking and behavior towards both employees and customers, irrespective of gender, race, and orientation. AC Benus depicts not only how narrow minds and tradition caused injustice but also how the influence of kind and clever Famousites (the nickname for the staff) made all the difference needed to set matters right. What better Christmas presents could you possibly get than acceptance and recognition of your worth as a human being? Now, before you get bored or scared off by all this philosophical stuff, let me assure you that Christmas at Famous-Barr has plenty of fun, tender, dramatic, and holiday-spirited moments. Not to mention vivid descriptions of the beautiful Santalands, Christmas window exhibitions, decorations, events, and presents, which are bound to make you either nostalgic or envious of the Saint Louis inhabitants and visitors who were lucky enough to experience these holiday miracles in person. Famous-Barr actually invented the concept of a department store Santa ! Visit Famous-Barr and find the true Christmas spirit of giving joy to those you love. No matter what your preference is, you’ll find a tale to suit your taste. Happy Holiday. Category: Fiction Genres: Historical, Comedy, Drama, Romance Tags: christmas, philosophy, psychology, parents, child, coming of age Rating: Everyone/Teen
One year ago, the thirteen stories written for the Secret Admirer Contest posted in time for Valentine’s Day. Like the regular GA Anthologies, the contest let authors try their hand at short stories within a common theme. But in this case readers could vote for the story they liked best - all without knowing who the author was. After the contest there was a guessing game about who wrote each story. Half the stories were so well disguised no one was able to pinpoint the author. Three stories were distinct enough that the authors (Cole, AC Benus and Thorn Wilde) were recognized by four people each. Perhaps the reviews below will give you the answer why. The Valentine's Day stories were very different; some made readers cry and others made them laugh. The genres ranged from Romance (naturally) over Drama to Mystery and even Historical. Why not explore or revisit the stories as a prelude to this year’s holiday? There is something for every taste whether you feel happy or sad. Don’t forget to leave a like and comment for the authors so they know how you felt about their stories and as an incentive to keep writing. If you're not sure where to start, the reviews below may inspire you to choose a story. Valentine’s Day 2016 Secret Admirer Contest Cupid Central by Aditus Reviewer: Timothy M. Word count: 3,961 Of all the wonderful Secret Admirer Contest stories last year, this one was probably the most light-hearted and fun. Did you know Cupids have arrows of different colors depending on the situation? Or that missing a shot can have dire consequences, not only for the humans involved, but also the hapless Cupid who bungled the job. The management at Cupid Central assigns punishment for tardiness as well as sloppy jobs, but also rewards good work. If you want to know how, you’ll need to read the story. I was chuckling most of the time, and I’ve asked Aditus to lend me a couple of his angels to help out in my A.I. story. But most of all, I hope we’ll get more Cupid Central stories, because the concept is delightful, the dialogue is funny, and the characters are vividly portrayed. Jager by Cole Matthews Reviewer: Aditus Word Count: 3,332 This is the story of Adam and Glenn, ‘the dynamic duo, in love and in charge for more than forty years, always having each other’s back.’ They share a life of genuine affection and care: from the beginning, when it took great courage to be together as gay men, to overcoming a severe loss, raising their son and having a grandchild. Now that old age has finally caught up with them and joints are stiff, and hips hurt, Glenn fears Adam is slowly losing his sanity. Why else would he talk to people who aren’t there or suddenly drag Jager, the old rocking horse Glenn’s grandparents gave him when he was a kid, from the garage into the house? They are only ‘two old queens on their last leg in the journey of life. No one is there. They only have each other.’ Right? So, what is Adam doing? If I had to associate one word with Jager, it would be trust─trust to follow through with the words they might have had promised to each other in the past: to have and to hold/from this day forward/for better, for worse/for richer, for poorer/in sickness and in health/to love and to cherish/till death do us part. Jager won first place in the Secret Admirer Contest for a reason. Make sure you have tissues ready. And then there is this brilliant twist Cole invented, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out what it is. Lupercalia by Puppilull Reviewer: Cia Word Count: 7,169 Valentine’s Day usually makes you think of love, sweets, and romantic nights… but Puppilull’s story, Lupercalia, is set in the most unlikely of places for this: a prison. An ancient prison in Rome, actually. The story revolves around a tortured prisoner sentenced to die by the emperor in the annual Lupercalia celebrations. Varius is warned about him, but he can’t see why the prisoner might be a danger to him or any of the other guards. But as the days leading up to the Lupercalia pass by, Varius finds out more about him, and his reason for being imprisoned, than he likes to know about those condemned to die. Varius questions the dictates of his life and the strictures put upon him as a soldier of the Roman empire, and it’s nearly impossible to accept the prisoner's fate, even though he remains steadfast in the convictions that led to his death sentence. Love and compassion should never be forbidden. Their tragic romance might be doomed, but don’t let that keep you from reading Puppilull’s tribute to love in all its bittersweet glory. There’s always a chance… if you’re brave enough to face the potential pain in pursuit of love. Making Sense of Secret Gifts by Timothy M Reviewer: LitLover Word Count: 12,488 Timothy M’s submission to the Secret Admirer contest was a story about a very private man, named Colin, who starts receiving some very public attention, in the form of gifts left on his desk by a secret admirer. The gifts are thoughtful, and some, such as a carving of his cat, give the impression the benefactor knows Colin fairly well. Colin is a caring, if lonely, man who has been hurt in his past. In order to alleviate some of his loneliness he gives up his weekends to volunteer in a group home. Colin’s partner in crime is Sol, his sneaky cat, who can coax a smile out of the most sullen teenager. The more I read about Colin the more fiercely I found myself hoping he would find someone to care about him as much as he cares for others. This sweet, but introverted man is unsure of what to make of the mysterious packages. A part of him is flattered someone would put so much thought and effort into these gifts, but his discomfort is almost palpable when he starts to become the center of attention in the office. It takes him a great deal of courage to leave a message for his admirer, and ultimately decide to meet him/her in person. I’m not going to give away the identity of the secret admirer because it would spoil the fun of reading the story, and trying to puzzle out the mystery for yourself. All I can tell you is you will be more than satisfied with the answer. Nobody’s Valentine by Thorn Wilde Reviewer: Puppilull Word Count: 4,664 So it’s that time of year again. Hearts everywhere and everyone acting so lovey-dovey it’s making the air turn pink. Or red. But what if your reality doesn’t fit in? What if your life has taken a completely unforeseen turn, leaving you feeling disappointed, lonely and perhaps even despairing? A story of a Secret Admirer that deals with these less written about sides to this thing we call love can be such a relief. If that story is friggin’ well written as well, things are looking up. Thorn Wilde has provided us with a story of Mike who is fighting an uneven battle to get over the boyfriend who dumped him. When that infamous date rolls around, he finds the sadness flares up and seeks ways to deal with it. One remedy turns out to be the one to lead him on his way. But where will it take him? This is a truly bittersweet story telling us life isn’t always a bed of roses. I think it’s important to not lose sight of that. It’s actually somehow comforting to know bad stuff will happen, but you will be OK. A bit scarred perhaps, but OK. Sunshine by AC Benus Reviewer: Timothy M. Word count: 9,480 Writing a Valentine’s Day story filled with sadness, loss, longing and even anger, and naming it Sunshine, is the kind of chutzpah few people can get away with. But AC Benus has the unique ability to pluck at our heartstrings and fill our guts with dread, holding the story on the precipice of anticipation, yet letting us hope for a miracle. Will the two characters make the right choice? Will their innate goodness break through like a ray of sunshine? Will it become a Valentine’s Day to remember for the triumph of love and kindness or for the loss of innocence and trust? Go read the story, and afterwards go hug someone you care about and tell them they matter. The Cupid Complex by Valkyrie Reviewer: spikey582 Word Count: 5,127 In this little treat from last year’s Secret Admirer Contest, Valkyrie takes us through one year in the life of Gabriel as he searches for that special someone. He doesn't always have the best of luck in his search, but he is a romantic at heart with a penchant for holiday decorating. A Valentine’s Day misstep leads to a humiliating situation, and some accompanying depression that he battles throughout his journey for the relationship his heart desires. Dealing with obvious hurt, Gabriel plays the “hook-up” game, hesitant to really put himself out there. As the year progresses, some new friendships are forged, but everything in relationship territory remains starkly “casual.” Yet, as the next Valentine’s Day approaches, Gabriel discovers gifts and notes being left on his doorstep. Whose admiration has Gabriel drawn? Will Cupid’s arrow strike after all? This was the kind of story that left me smiling in one instant, and frowning and frustrated the next. Valkyrie packs quite a lot into such a short tale. I found myself feeling Gabriel’s sorrow and rooting for him to finally be with someone he truly deserves. Join Gabriel through this fun little tale, as he realizes life is full of surprises, which are often much closer than we think. The Lady in the Flames by jfalkon Reviewer: Lisa Word Count: 7,711 Imagine driving past the scene of a car accident and noticing one of the drivers slumped over the steering wheel. What would you do? There was already rubbernecking on the road, so you know someone must have called 911. Would you just drive on by, assuming the driver would be taken care of? Or would you stop and try to get him out of the car? What if you had the day off from work because you lied and told your boss you were home sick? What if, by helping this person, you were ‘found out’ and you were fired because you lied to your boss about being sick? Our protagonist James has a lot on his mind as he ponders these questions. Of course being morally sound, he saves the driver’s life and pulls him out of the car before the big chunk of metal explodes into a ball of flames. On the news, the flames in the background make him look like a woman, so he thinks he’s pretty much off the hook of being found out. I found this fast-paced story captivating, and I was riveted from the first line. It didn’t hurt that the characters were very relatable also. What I liked best about it, however, were the beautiful words jfalcon used toward the end of the story to describe a moment of passion. I would highly recommend reading The Lady in the Flames if you haven’t already, and if you have, why not pick it up again and enjoy it a second time around? These are by no means all of the stories from the Secret Admirer Contest; there are more wonderful stories for you to take a look at. You can read all of the Secret Admirer Contest stories here. And don't forget the upcoming April Fool's Day Short Story Contest. You still have time to submit a story. Entry deadline is March 1st, 2017.