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Reviews from
The Christmas Present


How can a Christmas present alter so many lives?

  32 total reviews 
Comment by
sammielwf
Premier Author
 
Poet Rating
  Rank:  19
Author Rating For Short Works
 
Review Stars
  Rank:  80
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Wow! I am going to give you the best compliment I could ever give a writer...
"What happens next? I want to know- what happens next?"
You have developed an intriguing story line here- your characterization skills are evident throughout the entire tale.
This story has many subtle layers to it and none of which are tied up in an ending yet.
Well done.
Sammielwf


 Comment Written 29-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 29-Dec-2020
    Thank you so much, Sammie! You got that right. A writer does want to know that he/she left the reader grafted to his words and wanted more! The six! So delightful.
Comment by
Sharon Nolen
Premier Author
 
Poet Rating
  Rank:  121 (+2)
Author Rating For Short Works
  Rank:  95
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Wow. This story was woven into a surprise discovery. Later in the story, I could see why originally one of the sisters asked why Mrs. Harvest kept her daddy as a doctor anyway. They discovered that it wasn't just about the Dementia. But it's interesting that the Dementia didn't cause her to forget her love affair with the doctor.

I loved how descriptive this story is. It made me see it, like I was watching a movie. I need to study this story to help me develop this skill.

I loved the choice of wording for a dementia like mind. Descriptions like
"fog-sealed chambers of her mind" and "slippery and evaporating mind". I would have never thought of that.

I loved the description "her hair reassembled in soft tumbles of auburn curls". I can just picture that.

I picked up some new words to look up. They are:
wispy tendrils
vagaries
trajectory

No wonder you're a great writer. I don't know what I could say to you for ideas for improvement.
The only thing I could think of is that sometimes, I kind of got lost with the dialogue as far as who was talking or who they were talking about. Now. That's probably because I am not experienced yet in writing dialogue.

This is definitely excellent work. No wonder you're a top ranked author. I hope to follow in your footsteps one day.


 Comment Written 29-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 29-Dec-2020
    You know, Sharon, you couldn't have said words so kind to a writer as, "I need to study this story to help me develop this skill." That takes you beyond mere enjoyment of a story for twenty or so minutes. You feel it is worth learning something from! Bless you for those words, Sharon. Bless you!

reply by Sharon Nolen on 29-Dec-2020
    Oh bless you sir. I truly appreciate your greatness.
Comment by
Jeff Watkins
Premier Author
 
Poet Rating
 
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  Rank:  70
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
The dog in a fight metaphor is especially good. I wonder if "We'll get you back in time, KT" is meant to be a suggestion of events to follow--a sense of fatefulness.

Dot's knowledge of her dad and Mrs. Harvest's long term relationship awakens Dot to life's possibilities and her freedom to explore them. At least that is how I interpret the story. The exploration of that relationship seems to be training for a richer life of her own.

If I got this wrong, it's my limitation, not yours. You are a better writer than I am a reader.



 Comment Written 28-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 28-Dec-2020
    You were spot on, Jeff. It's always good to know when my writing connects.
Comment by
David Newkirk
Premier Author
 
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Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
OK, so this is really well done. The dialogue is fluid, easy, and educational as to your characters and their traits. Writers unconsciously shy away from dialogue because exposition is easier, you don't have that issue. The whole story flows nicely to an end, and makes me wonder what will happen later - hoping that maybe this is part of a longer work.

The sense of time with this piece is really nice - I know that I am reading about a historical point in time that your characters are navigating. Also, your two sister protaganists are not interchangeable, each has a developed personality, wants, etc.

The love tangle of the multiple suitors is intriguing.

Loved the exchange with the gas attendant in the first part - added a nice sense of verisimilitude. Fantastic dialogue. Also very little exposition - that's good, pulls the reader in. Clever use of the year of the car to further underscore the "when"

This is a beautiful phrasing - "carved out of a continuum of time that had now become elastic enough to contain the wispy tendrils of old Mrs. Harvest's slippery and evaporating mind" - I might suggest splitting the rest into another sentence. My rule of thumb is 25 words (but i do break it sometimes). You have some other nice phrasing too - "slowly drew her palms to the outer edges in an openhanded gesture that seemed to Dorothea's imagination like the presentation of a religious offering" -do as much of that as you can organically work in, its a real strength and not common.

criminently - not sure of the usage here - criminy?

Anyway I am going to hit the fan button. The dialogue, character building, sequencing of events, and the dialogue/exposition blend are all things I'd like to do better. Very well done!


 Comment Written 28-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 28-Dec-2020
    David, your review made my freaking day. I don't have much else to do but write and read and read about my writing and write about other people's writing ... and yes, I need to get better acquainted with the period.

    Criminently was one of those words that had a little juice left in it when I was a kid. It was just a stronger version of "gosh!" I don't know why I made it part of K.T.'s vocabulary. But she and I would change it with the drop of a hat (a fedora) if shut off the reader's mind for even a moment.

    I'm as old as dirt and remember those times with the full-service gas stations, or filling stations. I remember when the top-grade of gas was called ethyl, which was a nickel more than regular gas ... and that topped at 25 cents a gallon. That would be somewhere between '54 and '57, my high school years.

    And as you pointed out, and I would be a fool in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary, to deny, I do have rather an unhealthy flirtation with sentences that grow and grow.

    I'm happy you chose to fan me. I hope you can find something of mine to keep entertaining you and perhaps even to learn something from them.

    Jay
Comment by
Ric Myworld
Premier Author
 
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Review Stars
  Rank:  69
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
It's always a pleasure to read your outstanding writing. After being away from the site for two years, I came back to find a majority of those I read, and those who read me with any regularity, had either passed away or moved on. I'm glad there are a few of us left to make the other smile. Thanks for sharing.


 Comment Written 28-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 28-Dec-2020
    How odd, Ric. I was gone two years myself. Thought I would never return. Now I wonder why I even left. I had the same discovery you did when I returned about 5 months ago. All the bright lights that were extinguished, but some greats still here.

    I'm sure glad to have you back as well. Glad to make you smile.
Comment by
Father Flaps
Premier Author
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Poet Rating
  Rank:  69
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  Rank:  34
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Review Stars
  Rank:  76
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Hi Jay,
I loved the foreword! What a fantastic feast! My compliments to the chef.
I looked it up... Bing introduced "White Christmas" publicly on Christmas Day of 1941. But it didn't become #1 on the hit parade till the following Christmas season when it got a lot of air time, especially on Armed Forces Radio. So I'm thinking the young gas station attendant was working a Christmas shift in 1942, and war was raging in Europe.

"It's influenza, Sister dear! In-flu-enz-a," she emphasized. "That's another reason Mama wanted us out of the house. People are dying from it. Daddy probably got it from one of his patients." ... It was in 1942 that scientists discovered influenza type B. This required a new bivalent vaccine that would protect against both H1N1 and the influenza B virus.

"Dorothea watched the snowflakes adhering to the windshield, being dragged away and replaced by more. Snow was packed in mounds at either side of the road.
They drove on in the enveloping silence of the snow." ... (I'd be a little worried about the drive home.)

"That they're allowing deferment for married men?"
"Yes, but he said it wouldn't work if the government figured he got married just to be deferred." ... (I didn't realize the government did this. It's interesting, and I wonder how many weddings were pulled off in 1942.)

You are a brilliant writer, Jay. The references to Christmas are here with Bing Crosby's hit tune, the snowflakes falling, and the Christmas gift. But I feel there's more than meets the eye.
I see sisters, so different from one another. Yet, they are close. Katherine depends on her older sister a great deal... to the extent of trusting her with very private feelings. Namely, that she has waited, refrained from having sex with the boy she loves, Frankie. She wants to marry him. She is afraid he will be yanked off to war. A wedding might save him from that, but there are no guarantees. She has decided to give herself to him if he is drafted, even though it may mean pregnancy and breaking her parents' hearts. But what about Dot? What about the older sister? Will she give her blessing? Will she stick up for Katherine if, in fact, she does get pregnant?
The thing I wonder about, which you don't even mildly hint at, is... was Mrs. Harvest unwilling to move to Europe with their painter dad? Was she pregnant, and reluctantly obliged to marry Walter, perhaps? This would certainly be a surprise for the sisters.

"She gave her pretty head a toss (and) her hair reassembled in soft tumbles of auburn curls on her shoulders (and) spilled over the front of her white cashmere sweater." ... (I suggest,
She gave her pretty head a toss and her hair reassembled in soft tumbles of auburn curls on her shoulders, spilling over the front of her white cashmere sweater.)

"If I waited for the song to end, we'd have both died of tobacco poisoning. ...(you just for got the ending punctuation mark)

I think I'm going to have to go back and read this again.

Nicely penned! Good Luck in the contest!
Cheers,
Kimbob









 Comment Written 28-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 28-Dec-2020
    I could just cry, Kimbob! There is something about that kind of review that shakes me to the core. It says, Hey! He's reading this, He's actually letting it squiggle around his brain--no hurry--and taking time to look up references, geez! It's so rare to see evidence of involvement in my writing. You and Turtle. Do you know Turtle here? You two are creative brother and sister. I wish I had 1/10th your zest for what moves you in what you read.

    What a tribute! Thank you, Kimbob. So much! I think I've given you and Turtle reviewer nods for this month. I don't have any left, but your name goes on my list to be nominated for January.

    You have no idea what your review means to me. Now, I'm going back and adding the 'and' to make that sentence hum, and fix that closed quote.

    Wow! Happy new year.

    Jay

reply by Father Flaps on 28-Dec-2020
    It's my privilege to read and review such great work, Jay. I may have told you before... I think a lot of Fanstory members miss out when they offer a two-line review. Reviewing is an ideal way to become a better writer yourself. You miss so much when you skim the surface.
    I don't believe I know Turtle, but I'm sure she enjoys reviewing as much as I do.
    You should be published!
    Cheers,
    Kimbob

reply by the author on 28-Dec-2020
    You ought to look up "Turtle Who?" here and sample a few of her things. She has some fantasy things on FS that would blow your mind. And as with your reviews, one would happily pay for hers.

    Hey, friend, thank you for the compliment.

reply by Father Flaps on 28-Dec-2020
    I will look her up, Jay. Thanks for the heads-up!
Comment by
Carol Hillebrenner
Premier Author
 
Poet Rating
 
Author Rating For Short Works
  Rank:  52
Review Stars
 
 
Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
You write dialogue very well and have a great story going on here. You make all three females individuals who grab the readers' attention and caring. Did you really find a dictionary that spelled "crimeinnetly"? I haven't. Still remember people using that word. I was really into the story until I came to the writing below the line. I hope that is a description of what is going to happen but is not part of the book. For it you moved away from the characters and picked a god-like view with some $5 words. I really enjoyed reading your work and plan to look for more.


 Comment Written 27-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 27-Dec-2020
    Hi Carol. Not quite sure what you mean about below the line. There were three scene breaks. The last one, though, is what I believe you are referring to. And yes, old Jay was playing God a bit, I'm afraid. But about the $5 words. I checked each one of them and I believe you'll find that none is worth less than 10 bucks.

    Sorry, I'm playing with you. It was probably more like an epilogue that took Dorothea's point-of-view and projected it into the future. Not completely happy with the ending, I must admit. It was, compared to what went before, rather abstract.

    Thank you for reading, and for your candor.
Comment by
catch22
Level 7 Pro
 
Poet Rating
 
Review Stars
  Rank:  325
 
Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Hi Jay, this is an excellent story with good use of descriptive detail and balance of plot to make for a compelling character study. I really enjoyed reading the rich prose writing. The ending felt a bit unsatisfactory for me, like ths was a cliffhanger on a book jacket or a public reading. I guess I hoped for more of a resolution for Dorothea, but I do believe that would likely be an entirely different story. The resolution she does have is very subtle, the beginning of openness to possibility for her life and that of her sister. I really like the generational contrasts and themes in this story and it is a very accomplished write. I do feel this could be a compelling novel.


 Comment Written 27-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 27-Dec-2020
    Yes, I agree with you on every point. It would be better cast as a novel. Thank you for your candor. It has oddly been very well received. Go figure.
Comment by
Iza Deleanu
Premier Author
 
Poet Rating
  Rank:  121 (+5)
Author Rating For Short Works
  Rank:  13
Author Rating For Novels
  Rank:  14
Script Rating
  Rank:  5
Review Stars
  Rank:  4
 

#5 Ranked Script Writer

#4 Ranked Reviewer
Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Interesting and unusual Christmas story: "She knew she would make the sixty-mile trek from Templeton to Hayhurst many times over the next months. It would take patience and perseverance to help Mrs. Harvest find the many fog-concealed chambers of her mind and then to unlock them. That was when Dorothea's courage would be tested.
Would she be able to open and embrace the gift of full disclosure with the same childlike innocence as when Mrs. Harvest opened the gift of her past?" Thank you for sharing and good luck with the contest.


 Comment Written 27-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 27-Dec-2020
    Thank you.
Comment by
2012 Script Writer Of The Year
Spitfire
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  Rank:  276
 
Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Oh Jay, this is so beautifully written. Especially noted is the background that set the time period i.e. the attendant at the gas station, reference to Bing Crosby, and more obvious the threat of being drafted.

Hints of Mrs. Harvest's growing memory loss, but clearly able to remember the past and her secret affair with the sister's father.

There is so much philosophy and room for discussion in this piece. I hope you send it to a literary magazine. This certainly proves you are a genius at writing.


 Comment Written 26-Dec-2020



reply by the author on 26-Dec-2020
    Shari, are you trying to make me blush? Oh, I am thrilled that you feel it is so worthy of kudos. I'm just so pleased that a person whose writing has given me so much pleasure finds my story pleasurable.
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