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Thread: "Guess-the-Author" Analysis and Critiques

  1. #1241
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    OK, on Sunday the authors will be revealed and a new topic presented. Let me also foreshadow that there will be some news, hopefully seen as good by most of the contributors here.

    If only there could have been more of you writing critiques...

    But maybe we can fix that!
    Last edited by The Yogi; 28-03-2009 at 02:44.
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  2. #1242
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    Today was the day the names were to be revealed, but my kids are sick, and kept me up until very late. Will do tomorrow instead. <yawn>
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  3. #1243
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    Sorry it's taken me so long to finish these! I'll concur that 3 authors might be the optimal choice in the future.

    Author #4

    Not entirely different from #3 in the types of ideas explored. The setting is certainly less conventional!

    I enjoyed the humorous tone of the piece, even where I might disagree on some of the political points (and agree on others!). I wonder if perhaps the overbearing political tone might have distracted a little from the piece, though. There are no heroes here (it -IS- Hell, after all!), but then again people enjoy reading about heroes, and a cynical, ideal-less Friedrich the Great is the closest we get to one (Jefferson just comes off sounding like a fool, so no hero there).

    The story was well crafted, with threads that seemed to have gone away, which then come back toward the end. In my opinion, that always improves stories, because it adds a level of depth. The final lines were a great way to wrap up a piece which otherwise might have had either no ending (it's ETERNAL!) or a flat one (the temporary end of a perpetual argument).

    I think I was a bit jarred, at first, by these historical characters being quizzed and challenged on the basis of modern-day political choices and situations. I think this was explained, somewhat, during the piece, though (it's "present-day eternity" and they keep track of the news).

    I loved the line about John Adams betting away with "a few years purgatory"! The author shows a good knowledge of history.

    Very well done! Thanks.


    Author #5

    Very humorous, and very well done! This is a complicated style, and yet it was pulled off very well, despite the brevity of each mini-scene (which is largely what makes it a complex and hard-to-do piece).

    It's a really hard choice, but I think this is my favorite out of the 5 pieces.

    The character sketches and poking fun at stereotyped characters in section #4 reminds me of The Yogi's tremendous writing style! But other portions of this, and the humor, remind me of either Storey or Peter Ebbesen. It's hard for me to tell for sure without being more recently familiar with reading their styles more recently than I have.

    Despite the irreverence, I really did enjoy the last section parodying Genesis.

    Great work!



    And great job, all around! Thanks! Let's get more comments generated next time, and keep this really great tradition going!

    The Yogi, thank you for reviving this tradition, and keeping it going.
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  4. #1244
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    A bit of history: the original idea for 'Guess the Author' was mine, though it made more sense in the days when there were fewer than fifty people writing on a regular basis and EU2 was the newest, hottest game going. Secret Master deserves the kudos for transforming the idea into its present shape, which is a writers' workshop and roundtable discussion. The idea was to encourage writers (especially newbies) to tackle something short, before setting out to write 'The History of the World, Day-by-Day', and to give more experienced writers a place to try new things.

    Getting the forum members to embrace criticism has always been a tough job. In one Gazette article (here) I argued that this forum does not and by its nature cannot provide much in the way of constructive criticism. But it does provide appreciation and it can build confidence, hopefully allowing the new writer to take off the training wheels in short order. Most writers here don't have the self-confidence and maturity to take a really honest critique of their work. I know Peter does - he's always been able to take with grace and give with style - but even my brass-plated ego quails a bit at the thought. It's like serious exercise, or giving up ice cream; I know I should, but I don't want to. And if that is cowardice, well... it is cowardice. OK, I confess. But I won't give up ice cream. So there.

    Hmmm. Ice cream... Where was I? Oh, yes. Guess-the-Author has always had to push for contributors and commentors, but it does provide a unique service in offering a venue for short fiction, with some comments and suggestions added. I do think the forum would benefit from a second thread, one devoted to detailed, brutally honest and painful criticism, but I confess I don't have the time and energy to run it. If there was such a workshop, I'd be in it... IF I get to eat my ice cream, afterward.

    If the various parties were agreeable, I think an AARlander article on the purposes and uses of 'Guess the Author' would be beneficial. It is, I think, one of the best ways for an author to try out something new, whether it is his first post ever or just something strange and different. But good critical appraisals are like good comments in an AAR - rare, valuable, and much prized. Too many people just read the bits and never pay anything back - but that's an old and familiar complaint of mine. If I knew how to sizeably increase the number of people willing to read and comment in GtA I would gladly share it. Short of a constant, low-level promotional campaign waged by PM, comment, signature and AArlander, I just don't know.
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  5. #1245
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    All right, finally the time has come to reveal the names of our vict… errr… authors. And the brave ones are…

    Author #1- comagoosie
    Sample Work: For Rome’s Honor

    Author #2 - The Swert
    Sample Work:ThundAAR from down undAAR

    Author #3 – Rensslaer
    Sample Work: Fire Warms the Northern Lands -- A Prussian AAR

    Author #4 - Stuckenschmidt
    Sample Work:The Duke's Chronicles - A M&B AAR

    Author #5 - Peter Ebbesen
    Sample Work:It came from the mountains

    Thank you all for writing for GtA, and thanks also to the kind souls who contributed analysis and critique:

    Rensslaer, commagoosie, dharper, Peter Ebbessen and I guess, yours truly. You guys are what make or break this thread. When you’re good, you not only encourage writers to try their hand at GtA – you make us better writers in the process. When you're bad, you're even better.

    A New Order
    To try to breathe new life into GtA, I have listened to the many good suggestions in the recent discussions and I’ve discussed with canonized. Beginning the upcoming round, those who deliver A COMPLETE (ie, of all submissions of the round) analysis and critique will get to pick a favourite. The one most picked, and all the critique of it will appear as a regular feature in the AARlander! This will be announced also in a short article in the upcoming AARlander. In this way I hope to create more interest for GtA and some incentive to write and critique.

    Apart from that, while I run this, I will apply some personal rules from now on; there will never, ever be more than four writers, but I will run a round with only two. And this will be a monthly thing – 2 weeks to write, 2 weeks to deliver critique. When I hand over the torch, the next guy can do as he likes in these matters, but more runs than once a month will require some renegotiation with the AARlander editor.

    And so, with no more ado, I’d like to present the new topic for April;

    A MOMENT OF HORROR

    Deadline for submissions is April 15th. Now who want's to be in this round?
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  6. #1246
    Roman LibrAARian comagoosie's Avatar
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    I think I shall take me and my english major away from here
    Nah I kid, thanks for the critques, it was a fun round everyone. And I do feel a little bit awkward by critiquing author's already well established, but it is what I feel--albeit in my most intolerable mood.
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  7. #1247
    the Conqueror Peter Ebbesen's Avatar
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    Hah, 'twas what I said, Comagoosie, in relation to #1. You are capable of considerably better storytelling in your entry than you presented to us.

    I've been reading up on EU:Rome AARs a few days ago, and though your current Rome AAR is one of those interminably long AARs that I generally dislike on general principles due to the time investment required of the reader, I did have time to skim through a few entries.

    The random updates I skimmed through, though having a tendency to be a bit long in the descriptions (something you are excellent at writing), demonstrate a good grasp of basic storytelling, so I assume you were pressed for time in the GTA writing or just had a bad day (happens for all of us).

    That said, I noticed in the Rome AAR one defect much the same as I did in this GTA entry: a quality of dialogue that is poor when compared to the quality of descriptions. As you note that you are an English major or on your way to becoming one, I cannot blame it on a poor grasp of the English language*; Is it, perhaps, that you have primarily written decriptive narratives rather than dialogues before hitting the AAR forums?

    I just cannot help but wonder how it has come to be. Usually people (on these forums) are approximately equally weak (or equally strong, if you will) in those two areas of writing. (Exceptions made for historians and their ilk).


    * hopefully.



    If I might make just one suggestion on that topic it would be to make your dialogues a) sound more human (easier said than done), and b) not be interspersed with more narration than, well, dialogue.

    Take as a very unfair example something that you thankfully never wrote, though you came uncomfortably close in one update:

    X was newly returned from his mission to the utmost of the really far parts of the forest on the other side of the exceedingly distant mountains, through which he had been travelling on an errand of the utmost importance, and he wondered, as he approached Y for the first time in two months, whether he would finally be allowed a week's rest together with Z and W after delivering his report to Y. He rode of to Y's tent and said "hello, I am back! I thought you were dead!"

    Y looked up from his maps and saw X appearing in the distance. It had been a long time since he had dispatched X on the mission, but it was good to see him again. With joy in his eyes, he cried out "Hi! I thought you were dead too. What a coincidence. What's your news?"

    [X commits the crime of a one-paragraph monologue 'mission report' without interruption or comments of any sort by Y despite Y standing right there in front of him]

    [Y has a one-paragraph introspective dwelling on his view of the past that X has just reported before ordering somebody to get him his horse].


    ...etc. Sure, it gets the information across, but it isn't alive, so to speak.
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  8. #1248
    the Conqueror Peter Ebbesen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by comagoosie View Post
    And I do feel a little bit awkward by critiquing author's already well established, but it is what I feel--albeit in my most intolerable mood.
    I liked your criticism of my piece - it was one of the few apart from my own that did not pussyfoot around the fact that my Genesis story was not just confusing as all hell, but also a shoddy piece of work.


    A note on the response to my nonsense story:

    I'm a bit surprised by just how gentle a treatment it received overall - I can only hope that it was the result primarily of the "we know how hard it is to write/praise the positive aspects" as discussed previously rather than an overall evaluation of the quality of my entry.

    This entry was, if possible, even more confusing, idiotic, and missing the target audience than my old "Death of a King" entry in GTA.

    Though given that it was more in the vein of this particular bit of silliness which I wrote to revive that particular round of GTA (and which thus ended up preferred by the readers over my actual entry), perhaps I should not be so surprised.


    Even so, I do wish I could get a bit more criticism, especially in those cases where I know perfectly well that what I have handed over is unworthy of both me and the thread. In this case, my plans to spend two days on leisurely writing, reviewing, and editing over 6-7 hours total with time to do things in between (while also thinking of my story) were dashed when I got computer problems on the first day, were informed that my big sister had just divorced her husband that night, and thus rushed south to spend the second day - the Sunday of the deadline - with my big sister and her children.


    The entry thus got written in what can best described as a rush. One hour in the morning of Sunday convinced me that I had no time to write anything good, so I discarded all of it except that weird paragraph concerning Buddy-7 that ended up as chapter #2 (believe it or not, I had four paragraphs just as awful written at that time on the evolution of Buddy-7) so I went full bore silly mode with the intention to somehow making it make sense along the way. I do not usually use a laptop, but fortune favoured me in my having acquired, just two weeks previously, a good laptop, and while I hadn't set it up yet, surely that is something that could be done pronto! So I set it up in doubletime (except that I didn't get the spellchecking turned on somehow in the Word version installed), copied what little I had on to a USB stick, and ran for the train station.

    Once on my 2 hour train down south, I wrote whatever came to mind. Since alliteration is a pet peeve of mine, I wrote a paragraph containing a lot of it, trying to write something as bad as can be, and I saw that it was awful - which pretty much made it match the Buddy-7 paragraph I had left over. At that point I decided to continue with a winning formula: choose a type of writing I hate, exaggerate it, and make it the representative of a culture. (For the record, the Vs/Ws could just as well have been any other letter: I didn't choose V to imitate anything in particular, it is just that it is one (well two) of the easier vowels to create longer alliterations with)

    #3 was of course inspired by a) Terry Pratchett in the sense of humour, and b) every single hack writer to generalize single character traits to represent all members of a race or species. It became clear to me that these three dummies must be participating in a competition of sorts where they evaluated writing based on truly bizarre criteria so I added the master/apprentice pieces for #1 to #3. If it appears unclear in those pieces exactly what is being evaluated and why, that is completely fair: I did not know at the time of writing, I only knew that I would play it as an "apprentice thinks it is awful from a literary perspective, master accepts it anyway" setup.

    As my train was rapidly approach its destination, I began writing #4. Realizing that I already had a bloody idiot, an artificial intelligence, and a stereotypical dwarf signed up for whatever cultural clash was yet to come, it took very little time to decide on one type of writing I truly hate: the truly bad science fiction. The one that uses name-dropping or pseudo-techo-babble in place of explanations. The one that uses internal monologue to feign intelligence or "charm". The one that has people spend way too long time on explanations when they ought to be panicking under time pressure.* It was obvious (to me at the time) that crossing that with the worst of the cliches of movie science fiction (and a great thanks to the writers of Galaxy Quest for serving up so many examples in an orderly fashion that I could pluck them whole from my memory) could not help but being awesome - if nothing else, then with respect to bad taste. Insert the obligatory HHGTTG and stir mildly.

    --- I threw in the good ship Moab's Washpot as a bonus to both the Deathstalker fans (Simon R. Green - read his books; do so now) and as a puzzle to the few biblical scholars amongst the readers. I don't know if anybody got it.

    * For a particularly good example of this, one that I half-remembered while writing, was the winner of the 2006 Bulwer-Lytton contest in the science-fiction genre:
    "Send a message back to Command Central on Earth and ask for their advice, which we will be able receive immediately even at this great distance, thanks to the ingenious manipulation of coherent radiation through a Bose-Einstein condensate and the bizarre influence of the Aspect effect, which enables us to impart identical properties to remotely separated photons," Captain Buzz told the feathered Vjorkog at the comms desk, "and tell them our life-pod is going to explode in eight seconds."

    - Christopher Backeberg KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


    By this time the overall plan of making the four people chosen be the creators of a culturally messed up world had solidified in my mind, and my train appeared to have materialized at the end station without managing to engage the hyperspace drive, so I went to entertain my nephew and niece as their kind uncle Peter (for so I am - a humanitarian with a heart of gold, as I have often claimed).

    Chapters #5, #6, #7 plus a half-hearted attempt at revision of the first four chapters took about an hour and a half with my submission reaching the Yogi at the very last moment (to be fair: slightly after the very last moment, though that was an email issue).

    In total it took something like 4 hours to write under slightly stressed conditions and the result is clear: a shoddy ill revised and poorly edited piece of nonsense that should have been much, much, better. To end this little story, let me assure you that most of you absolutely suck at criticism when compared with my big sister.

    - The reason being that she doesn't pull her punches.


    Oh, and may I once again advise people to keep an eye on the Bulwer-Lytton contest? It really makes for great reading year after year, both the winners and the dishonourable mentions. It not only shows the amazing possibilities inherent in even the mildest of words, it also, on occasions, reminds the reader of things he should avoid at all costs when writing.

    Here's a favourite winner from 2006 that feels so appropriate to this forum:

    "I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' — and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' — well do you, punk?"

    - Stuart Vasepuru Edinburgh, Scotland

    For recent years lists of winners, runners-up, and dishonourable mentions:
    2006: http://www.grownups.co.nz/read/lifes...er-lytton-2006 (2006 was a good year for the contest: just read those entries!)

    2007: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2007.htm

    2008: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/scott.rice/blfc2008.htm

    1983-2007 Grand Winners: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/lyttony.htm
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  9. #1249
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    Peter,

    Fair enough on the criticism (or lack thereof) of your entry! But, honestly, I don't feel qualified to critique absurd or sublime pieces like I can serious ones. Does the story make sense? Well, no -- it's absurd! Actually, I was impressed that you did have some sense and structure to the whole set of stories, and that they related to each other, and had some internal consistency within themselves. It was primarily on that basis that I judged them, and upon the fact that, in their strange way, they did entertain me, even though I didn't understand them. I just figured I wasn't meant to understand them, and that was the point. To be honest, I find myself daunted and turned off by pieces that purport to be humorous, but really fail the test and end up being just jabbering that's supposed to be funny to some people, but which fail with others and additionally have no coherence or significance as a real storyline. Yours was NOT that, and so that, also, impressed me.

    It’s funny reading what authors say about their own works, trying not to sound like they’re the authors of the said works…

    I am delighted to find that #4, which I liked very much, was by an author I’m not at all familiar with. The humor of #4 was really impressive to me, and it was one of those few styles of humor (understated situational humor) I really like. I’ll have to go take a look at your other work, Stuckenschmidt!

    I’m not at all surprised by Comagoosie’s #1, as I’ve seen and liked his writing before. I’m familiar with The Swert, of course, but not his fiction. I see he’s been involved in Free Company stuff, and so I’ll have to go look for more of his fiction!

    This was a really good round! This was a round of good stories by good writers. I also, for that matter, enjoy the rounds when we have beginning authors trying out their craft, because I think those rounds are more instructive, and hopefully are more useful for the budding authors. Director, I plead guilty to offering constructive criticism in the past in a way that might come off as hypercritical, but I agree with you that it’s those pieces of criticism (like Peter Ebbesen’s!) that are the most useful and instructive for a learning author. Encouragement is always important too. But if you (Director) or someone were interested in starting a more critical thread – a hard-knocks writer’s workshop – I’d certainly hope to be of assistance.

    Now, as for that criticism… My story was #3, about the two Britons in the foxhole. Peter, you’re absolutely right about overdoing the accent in the story. The Yogi was very kind in explaining that it did work – on a certain level – but it got in the way of the story, and I probably should have toned it down. This is the second time I’ve gotten wrapped up in a heavy accent (the other time was also for GTA, a while back), and I should learn my lesson! I just couldn’t imagine a lowerclass coal miner talking with a standard British accent, and I wanted to lead the reader (by the nose, as it seems!).

    Then again... Sometimes my ornery side comes out, and I think to myself why should it be easier to read a Welsh accent than it would be to listen to one? Dharper picked up on this (literally, he was aware of it before I was!). If you have to struggle to understand what's being said in real life, then why not when you're reading? In a way (and this is only a partial defense of my tactic, but it's a real one also...), the accent was meant to get in the way, in order to portray the cultural rift between these two cultures. What better way, really, to get that across than to contrast the complete comprehensibility of the one speech versus the other? Just a thought, though it came to me only subconsciously as I was writing. Certainly not a planned tactic, though the way I write is halfway subconscious anyway, and so I won't deny this is part of my art (just I didn't realize it at the time).

    I’ll blame part of my wish to capture the accent on my inspiration for the story, too… Why, DHarper asked, did this start off seeming to be a World War I setting, and yet it's on the cusp of World War II? Well, because that's about the state of the British army in 1938 -- refighting the last war, in so many ways. Actually, the whole story came about because shortly before seeing the subject The Yogi set out for this GTA round, I’d listened to the BBC cd book called Eyewitness 1930-1939, which was a collection of audio recordings from the 1930s. They interviewed Welsh men and women with that very interesting accent, talking about the socialist movement and their despair (I wanted an atypical Welshman, because I refuse to believe they all turned their back on their king in preference to socialism). They talked to objectors and resisters who didn’t want to fight (partly because they disagreed with the war, but largely because of their socialist views), and talked about the college lectures by resisters. And they had a recording of Mahatma Gandhi’s words (though I think in someone else’s voice) about Munich being a betrayal. I thought the whole thing was so fascinating, I yearned to include elements of it in my writing, and this seemed like just the opportunity to try!

    Thank you all very much, also, for the praise that you gave my work! I did enjoy writing it, and was glad to see some merit was seen. It's certainly not what I would consider my best writing -- far from it -- but it was a fun, situational setup. Didactic, yes... And I'm sure it suffered from that, too.

    I’ve been away from GTA for a while. I’ve even missed the last few rounds of commenting, though what I really missed was contributing, and I was glad to finally be able to get back into that, despite the fact that I still don't have the time to really excuse my participation.

    I would love to see this tradition get back on it's feet again. The Yogi, thank you again for hosting this, and resurrecting this, which is probably my favorite of all the "clubs" on the forum.

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  10. #1250
    Yours Swertically The Swert's Avatar
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    Thank you to all the critics. This is the first time I've done a GtA and wasn't exactly sure how to go about it with its brevity and all. As most of you picked up on, my piece is more of an excerpt than a standalone story. The actual AAR on this storyline I intend to write as a historybook but I feel it could work well with occasional narrative interludes like the one presented here. I opted to write here to get a gauge at my narrative skills so that I can improve them as I am preparing to write one of those epic narrative aars that tend to be so popular.

    Your critique is much appreciated. I'm surprised nobody wondered as to the timeframe or game used in my story. As for more individual responses:

    Rensslaer - I did actually separate it into two scenes with a dotted line but it seems the dotted line disappear upon transfer/posting.

    comagoosie - Perhaps I could have added some action however I tried to actually write a story where little happens. Most of my attempts at narrative so far required action to precipitate the words (cf my Athens aar). I wanted to see to how I could go without much action.

    The Yogi - A fair critique on technique. I admit I get confused on paragraphing conversations. Some people identify the speaker on each line, others never do. Personally I find it easier to read when each speech is on a new line. For the segment you quoted I probably should have done more to emphasise a break in conversation. As for the characters, as this is was designed as a excerpt their roles would be assumed from previous updates (obviously though that doesn't really work in GtA). For the record they are two of his court members.

    dharper - In some ways I intended this story to be question-raising. It puts the reader in the middle of a situation they know nothing about and I hoped they would wish to learn more about how things came to be (again that doesn't really work in GtA).

    Peter Ebbesen - Considering the depth of your other critiques I was surprised by your lack of comment on my piece.


    As for the GtA's future, personally I don't understand why the guessing part can't return. Obviously there are now too many authors to differentiate but then why not just provide the names of all the pieces and have the critics attempt to match the author to the piece. I stayed away from this thread during the analysis period as my unprecendented presence here would have given away my contribution but it seems as though nobody cares who writes what anymore.
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  11. #1251
    Roman LibrAARian comagoosie's Avatar
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    Wow Peter, you are truly a blessing to AARland, not only did you critique me here but in my Rome AAR too! I won't cut to the chase I have been struggling with dialogue my whole life. And if you notice in my last update, I don’t think there is any dialogue! That’s how much I have come to disdain it. When I try to make it human, I get critique saying, "is this for a two year old?” Consequently, I then fall back on rather classic literature, books where people do have monologues. Yes, you know what I am talking about. Shakespeare interjects monologues here and there and I get caught in the trap. It isn't as if I am trying to mimic him, it is something else. I am a teenager and I follow the 'cool' people and if they write monologues, then I am writing monologues. <- Ok maybe I am not that stereotypical, but still.

    Hopefully I will learn someday. I am taking AP English next year (among many others) and from what I heard is that it greatly improves your writing, albeit there is a lot of homework. I am the kind of kid that will sacrifice his time now to better his future, and AP English looks like a firm investment. Now only to see immediate results.

    However, I am not an English major, nor will I ever become one. I am a native speaker, top of my class sophomore that has won many a writing award. But as you said, I kinda rushed my entry and it wasn't because I was running out of time either! On a Sunday morning, I woke up and all of a sudden sat down and spent the next 2 hours writing nonstop. I ended up with around 3000 words, but that was kinda long, so I trimmed it up and sent it to Yogi. I didn't spend anytime to review it!

    I did appreciate the comment where you said that I write in a style lost, or something or other. I don't know if it was a compliment or not, but I took it as one.

    Thanks your views everyone, much appreciated!

    Ok, I finished reading Peter's posts...onto Rens.

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  12. #1252
    the Conqueror Peter Ebbesen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Swert View Post
    Peter Ebbesen - Considering the depth of your other critiques I was surprised by your lack of comment on my piece.
    Your piece deserved better and the only thing I can say in my defense is that yours was the absolutely hardest for me to comment on. I thus wrote the other responses first, saved yours for last, and in the end gave it neither the attention nor time it probably deserved.

    My main problem was that I was not quite sure what you were trying to carry off, but the thing I thought you were probably trying to carry off - a distant new landlord touring his quaint new land, no emotions evolved, practically no characterization of anybody because they are not important as people but only as roles, a stylized setting of the scene in which something interesting might occur later on was done very well.

    It might not be how I would have preferred writing and it may not have been what you intended, but it worked.

    It is very easy to read it as an obligatory slightly dusty introduction to one of those interminably long novels where people spend the first couple of hundred pages on not wanting to lose the family farm (or fortune, or morals) while the author adds dozens of characters, only a few with real personality, before something finally happens. EDIT: Or one of those "short grey introduction of arrival on the uttermost frontier of the known world, then a 'chapter the first: 50 years later' where the introduction merely sets the scene for the antics of the descendants".

    Ah, well. As you can probably easily follow from these comments, I have real problems coming to grips with your entry - I just do not have much actual content to critize unless I try to read it as something that it does not read like to me.
    Last edited by Peter Ebbesen; 31-03-2009 at 20:23.
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  13. #1253
    General Stuckenschmidt's Avatar
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    Hi folks.

    Thanks for the critiques. I wish I`ve had the idea that Hell is a place in the outskirts of Chicago. That reminds me of an old "Calvin and Hobbes"-Cartoon:

    C: Where do you think we`re going when we die ?
    H: Pittsburgh ?
    C: You mean if we`re good or if we`re bad ?

    The setting was inspired by "The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu" by Maurice Joly, a book with a rather tragic history. But I like the idea. A couple of famous leaders come together someplace and exchange their experiences and ideas. Well, Heaven wouldn`t be the right place. Of course it doesn`t seem that Hell-ish to sit around and play chess. But imagine you are Henry. You died at the end of the 12th century and you are locked in the same room with the same people, forced to play chess for over 800 years. I mean, how worse can things get (and that was the point of the "Can`t we play something different"-joke; or maybe because we`re all hanging around in a game publisher`s forum and that a place not connected to the web MUST be Hell ?) ? THAT reminds me of a quote from the movie "In Bruges". At the end Farell says something like "Maybe this is hell, to spend the rest of your life in f****** Bruges."

    I didn`t mean to depict Thomas as an idiot. He wasn`t and he made a few points in my piece too. But Jefferson wrote (at least in documents that were designated to get published) in such a pathetic tone (that didn`t match with reality), that I thought he should get kicked. And I couldn`t resist to make a hint towards Adams (their correspondence in their old age is quite interesting - especially the "Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence" incident).

    All in all it was fun writing it, although the grammar is terrible (due to my laziness). And finally I have to say (why do I write "say" when I write something ? Weird), that Peter`s work was my favourite. That`s entertainment at it`s best: Funny, witty, subtle. More of that.
    Last edited by Stuckenschmidt; 31-03-2009 at 18:16.

  14. #1254
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ebbesen View Post
    A note on the response to my nonsense story:

    I'm a bit surprised by just how gentle a treatment it received overall - I can only hope that it was the result primarily of the "we know how hard it is to write/praise the positive aspects" as discussed previously rather than an overall evaluation of the quality of my entry.
    Peter, I can only say that I really liked your nonsense story - even though I usually dislike nonsense. I've been trying to reason WHY I did, despite all the flaws that you mentioned, and I've come up with a little theory.

    Your story is like a puzzle or jigsaw, and it takes some work to see how the pieces fit together. As mentioned, I only did so on the second reading, when I had the clues from the end of it.

    The thing is, when a story makes the reader work to understand what it's all about and he finally succeeds, it makes him feel clever. I think that this is simply a question of you having stroked our egos with your piece. And we like to have our egos stroked. At least I know I do.

    You're right about pulling punches though. I was going to conclude my critique with the following, but decided it would have been to mean:

    The piece can be best summarized with a quote from it: “A tour de force of idiocy – highly recommended!”
    Last edited by The Yogi; 02-04-2009 at 11:33.
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  15. #1255
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    This is just to make people aware that there are still two spots free for anyone wanting to take a shot at writing about "A moment of horror". The round will go ahead regardless, but I'd rather have 3 or 4 writers than 2.
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  16. #1256
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    All right, I've recieved three fantabulous contributions which will be up this evening. Be prepared for three "Moments of horror", coming shortly to this thread!
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  17. #1257
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    Author #1

    'Captain Venerat, what brings you here? The lady said,' a lieutenant shouted as the cohort rode into the encampment, but Mattius cut him off 'Whatever she said, it's over.' Shocked, the lieutenant stood frozen at the spot, while Mattius rode on to the command tent.
    'Captain, explain yourself' Commander Tenare said, looking up from a map. Saluting as he dismounted, Mattius replied: 'Sir, the Mirian hills are overrun by the cult. The blessings failed.' The commander frowned and rubbed his head, 'As we feared. The lady has called a meeting, perhaps you should make your report there. We have little time, and far to travel. Come, your message is dire enough that we shall use the portal.'

    **


    Marcellus felt the pain slowly subsiding from his head. The attack had been fierce, and when he fell he had feared for the camp. Still, he had woken up with his companions caring for him, though his wits seemed slowed by the blow to his head. Perhaps it would soon be better. For now, the commander and Mattius had left the camp, so he was in charge of the defence of the Mirian hills. He was surprised to note how many men remained to his command, and wondered if he had simply fallen and the attack was just a feverish dream

    **


    'The facts are such,' lady Julia spoke, 'The last horseman has been spotted, and our allies are being thrown back on all fronts. A second great Preacher has been seen, even if our blessings keep him at bay, but the lesser cultists are swarming over us. If we are to save this world, we must...' a sudden rumble went through the camp, and then a greater quake. Suddenly Mattius felt the urge to die, to have his soul leave this world for another, any other. Slowly he got to his feet, and looked out of the window, to see the sky burning red. 'Hell..' someone muttered behind him.

    Rushing out, they saw that the red sky was spawning portals, and the cult was marching out in force. 'Captain Venerat, the west. Commander Tenare, east. Salanar, you're with me!' the lady shouted. Quickly Mattius mounted and rushed to the western gate, glancing over his shoulder while wondering if this would be his last battle. A single cohort was holding the western wall against a mass of cultists, and more importantly the air they breathed seemed to be sucking out their strength. 'Lieutenant,' he yelled to the commanding officer of the group, 'send in those reserves now. We can only pray that they do not intensify the push at one place, we need it now.' The lieutenant saluted, and as Mattius rushed up the wall the last reserves followed him. The wall itself had already turned red with blood, of men and cultist alike. Mattius hacked his part of the wall free, and then saw a portal open over the wall.

    **


    Marcellus finally felt better again, if only slightly. Orders had been delivered, and he and his men started to move towards the portal that would take them home. Shimmering through the magic, he saw the tall spire of the Priory where he had studied. As he stepped through the portal however, it seemed wrong. Cultists walked the walls. Clearly he had to arrange an attack, so he arrayed his men to storm the gates. The tall walls of Talarus were hard to take, but he saw other armies being gated in, by cohort or by legion. A soft rumble went through the ground as a fireball hit the northern gate, followed by an earthquake as if the earth meant to answer. As he looked up the sky seemed ablaze.

    One of the mages came up to him 'Confessor, from here I think we could open a gate to the wall. If we get right on it, our numbers will win the day against the cult.' 'Alright, do it.'

    As the familiar haze appeared, Marcellus saw what looked like a commander standing on the wall. As he stepped through, the cultist attacked, and he parried while his companions rushed through. The cultist hesitated, and seemed to shout a name. As Marcellus slowly spun his head, he looked back at his own siege lines, and at the walls. Was something wrong? As he looked at his arms they seemed to rot before his eyes, and he screamed as they slowly started moving against his wishes.

    **


    Mattius yelled as he saw his friend, a mess of cuts and infected wounds. Was he even still alive? Suddenly Marcellus started screaming, and as if in reply the gate gave way. Mattius yelled 'fall back, fall back!' Likely useless, getting back was as good as a death sentence, but what good would the few hundred cultists they killed here do? Better perhaps to keep a few extra men at the priory, to hold it that much longer.

    **


    Almost there, Mattius was almost there. Just around the corner, and then through the cellar into the keep. It had to be open still, though the smoke rising from the buildings around him was a bad sign. Just then he heard the door open, and turned to see a man enter his hideout. Marcellus? 'You?' As he saw the sword come down, he had just enough breath to scream 'Nooo!'
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  18. #1258
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    The darkened trains ran east into Pomerania, towards oblivion. Inside, the only light came form the lucky few who had cigarettes. It was February 1945 and few had any illusions about what they were going to face. The 7,300 Frenchmen of SS Division Charlemagne were about to be hurled into the front line against the Soviet Juggernaut. They were being sent to die. For the 1,000 volunteers who had fought for years against the Soviets in the French Volunteer Legion, well, this was nothing new.

    For the rest, well, their place on this train was more or less collaboration gone wrong and all were terrified. Over a thousand of the soldiers had actually volunteered for the Kriegsmarine. Many more came from the sons of collaborators, impressed into service as their families fled the Allies and comparative security in the Reich. The rest were mostly construction workers and factory workers, and a few unlucky Alsatians. There was also one American, a Foreign Legion veteran and Sergeant. He sat in the open doorway, chain smoking and staring into the night, oblivious to the noise, the wind or the discomfort of anyone else in the train car.

    Finally, Francis, who had wound up in a combat unit quite against his will, having volunteered to work in construction in the Reich to feed himself and his family, left his shivering friends and moved forward, despite the cold, and sat next to the American.

    “So, Sergeant, tell me. We are heading to the front. I have not fought before, what can I do to prepare?”

    The Sergeant looked up, regarding the man for a moment. “Prepare to die, soldier, what else is there to do?”

    Francis looked pained, “I understand that, but how? I mean, look at us, scared sheep, even packed like livestock. We are being sent against Soviet Tank Corps with a handful of rockets, cardboard boots and Volksturm Rifles! Yet you sit here, quiet as usual. Calm as usual. I’ve asked around the old LVF guys and you’re always like that, even during the winter retreat, even when Armeegruppe Centre collapsed. The other LVF guys say you were like that in the Foreign Legion as well. You were decorated for actions in Morocco back in ’37 and you’d have been decorated again had things gone different in ’40. How do you stay so calm in the face of death?”

    The American flicked the butt of his cigarette into the night before turning and regarding his companion quietly. “You know you are going to die right? Even if you can survive the war, men like us, we won’t get to survive the peace. Your best hope is to be hanged by your own countrymen at the end of this. Tragic, no?”

    Francis shivered involuntarily. The trains were moving in the wrong direction for that possibility. “Still, Sergeant, that is dodging my question. I am terrified at the thought of death. This whole train is filled with men who are soiling their pants right now at the prospect of what is coming-“

    The Sergeant cut him off, “especially those damn Kriegsmariners.”

    “Yes, especially the Kriegsmariners,” Francis suppressed a sigh, he’d gotten the Sergeant saying something, there would be no use in annoying him further. “But not you. Why not you Sergeant and how can I be like you?”

    That got an unexpected response as the Sergeant whirled on his erstwhile companion. “Be like me? My God man, who would wish such a thing!”

    He angrily lit another cigarette. “If I weren’t such a damn coward, I’d have hung myself years ago. As it is, I enter every battle hoping to get shot, blown apart, something. And every damn time my cowardice kicks in. I dive for cover. I shoot back. I live.” The Sergeant looked at Francis with empty eyes. “I don’t fear death, Francis, because I am already dead.” He stared back into the darkness. “I died on the 19th of June back in ’35.” The American lapsed into silence before breathing hard and shuddering. “You want to know why I’m not scared Francis? I’ll tell you why.”

    “I came from a wealthy family. Wealthy and lucky. Even as we were all suffering through the Depression, I could still go to College. And I went. And I lived it up. And I met a girl. She was beautiful. Sweet. Heart of gold. All the clichés, only here, in front of me and real.” He shook his head. “Man, she was something else. The kind of girl who just makes you want to be a better person, someone you want to do nice things for, just so she’ll smile and light up your whole world. Yeah, she was something else.” The American smiled wistfully. “Something else.”

    “Of course, I fell in love with her, who didn’t? She was simply that amazing. And, you know, she loved me too.” He smiled, “Oh I had competition, don’t get me wrong. A girl like that has lots of options, but I was winning. At the same time, well, I was losing too. See, I was in a fraternity. President of my chapter. Had a lot of responsibilities. Drank a lot of liquor.” He smiled, almost conspiratorially at Francis. “Even you Frenchmen would be shocked at how much.”

    He scratched the back of his head. “This went on a few years, and I was still winning her heart, but she was a teetotaler and I couldn’t stop drinking, carousing, what have you, so I knew I couldn’t win her over in the end, but I had to try.” Here, he sighed. “Oh how I tried. Finally, I told her, I said ‘Jenny, I’m quitting school, going home and find some honest work and clean myself up, become the kind of man you should have on your arm.’ Oh she begged me to stay, told me she’d help me, but it was no use. The pull of my pals was too much. Habits, you know. Habits. I had to start clean and fresh. I told her, give me one year and you’ll have the man you deserve and she promised, well sort of. I wanted her to promise to wait. Convinced myself she’d promised to wait.”

    Here a single tear traced its way down the American’s cheek. He cupped his face in his hands, suppressing several shuddering sobs before taking a single deep breath and looking up again. The face once more a blank mask. “It was a terrible mistake Francis. A terrible mistake. You see, I came home and cleaned up. Quit the drink, quit the carousing. It wasn’t easy.” He tossed another butt into the darkness after lighting a fresh cigarette off the dying ember. “I shook the drink, but I’m hooked on these things now. And coffee.” The Sergeant sighed. “God how I miss real coffee. Anyway, so I did clean myself up, and in only six months or so, but I wanted to give it a real year, just to make it stick, so I stayed away. I wrote her only a little. She sent me cookies. On my birthday, at Christmas. Even at Easter.” He smiled sadly.

    “You know Francis, if you put a few pieces of bread in with parcels of baked goods, they’ll arrive anywhere you send them fresh and moist. The bread will be hard as rocks, but the cookies, my God, like they came fresh from the oven.” He pointed at Francis. “There you go, now if we still received parcels and if you weren’t going to die soon, then that would have been useful to you and Jenny would have touched another life.” He shook his head. “I digress. We were discussing the end of my life.”

    And now his hand shook, ever so slightly, as did his shoulders. The American continued his story, but now in a monotone. Staring straight into the darkness. “She loved the sounds of the Ocean. Loved strolling along the beaches. Her friend’s family had an ocean cottage in Norfolk and she went to spend a summer there.” His lips pursed. “Had I not been on my…sabbatical…I would have gone. I know I would have. But I was not there. No. I was in Atlanta. Upholstering furniture. Her disappearance did not make headlines, though I heard about it quickly enough. When the Norfolk Police found her body. That did. I was walking to work when I saw the newspaper headline. She was dead. It took nine days to find the body. Two drunken sailors did it. Did awful things to her before they finished her.”

    “And that brings us to my moment of death. I told you before it was June 19th, the day she died, but that is not strictly true. Really, it was June 29th. The day after her body was found. The day I saw the headline. I saw it. I grabbed the paper and read and re-read the words. I stared at the picture of the two police-men holding a large, black bag, misshapen and bugling. I felt in that moment, complete and utter horror.”

    “I saw all my dreams for the future, our engagement, the way her face would light up and reward me with a treasured smile and a ‘yes.’ I saw our wedding day, her moving down the isle, as always slightly embarrassed to be the center of attention. Our children growing up strong and happy as we lounged on a porch-swing watching them play. Even the weddings of our own children and the births of our grandchildren. Even the final dreams of sitting on a porch, rocking in chairs and watching the world pass. Holding hands in our old age. I saw all of that. And it disappeared.”

    “I saw my cavalier attitude. A whole year? Madness! God, time is so short and life so unpredictable. Better to have spent that year a drunken lush, chasing after and losing her. At least to have not wasted her last year! Oh how I pined for her, little knowing I would be doing so for the rest of my life. I should have been there. I should never have left her side, no matter what.”

    “And then I saw her last moments. Walking alone on a beach, enjoying the Sun. Two drunken villains approaching, harassing, molesting. God. I can not even think of it.” He glanced over at Francis, grief visible on his face once more. “They did awful things to her Francis. And I don’t know? Did she cry out for me? I always tried to be her ‘Knight in Shining Armor,’ well, some Knight. Did she cry out for me in her terminal terror and pain?” He turned back to the night. “I know she couldn’t once they were done and clamped hands about her throat, chocking her until blood spewed from her nostrils.” Here he shuddered again.

    “And still, my vision was not complete. I saw 9 days her body lay there. I saw it bloating in the hot Sun. I saw all manner of tiny creatures, and some not so tiny, coming to feed on her swollen body. Tearing at her flesh, climbing within her destroying all that was beauty. Destroying all I loved and will ever love. Destroying not just her and her life, but everything I wanted. I saw it all Francis. It all tore through me in that moment.”

    “So you see, Francis, I am not concerned with what happens to me now, because everything my life was supposed to be was destroyed in that instant and all that is left is this empty husk, waiting to die.”

    “So you can be with her again?” Francis murmured.

    “No Francis, she’s dead. Even if there is something after that, I would never be allowed to set foot in the place reserved for one such as her. No, I am waiting to die so that I can stop thinking about her. Every day, Francis. Every minute, I am thinking about her. I cannot stop.” He lit a fresh cigarette, tossing another butt into the darkness and sighed. “I cannot stop.” The American lapsed into a sullen silence and Francis, sensing the moment had passed rose from his seat and returned to his friends.

    Two Kriegsmariners huddled in the back shivering in their cheap felt great-coats. “So, Francis, will he close the damn door?”

    Francis shook his head, “no, and you two’d probably best not bother him about it.”
    4x WritAAR of the week, Best Character Writer of the Week (for Fu Manchu), June 28th 2006
    Where the Iron Crosses grow (Completed) PDF OscAAR for Best Completed HOI AAR
    Master Plan of Fu Manchu (Completed) PDF
    Empire of Fu Manchu (In progress) PDF x1 Weekly AAR Showcase, AARland Choice AwAARds;Fav.HOI1/2 AAR & Fav.HOI1/2 Narrative,Q2 2006 & Q3 2007
    The Eagle and the Lion (On hold) Golden Readers Choice HOI2 AwAARd, AARland Choice AwAARds-Favourite HOI1/2 AAR, 2005 Q4 and 2006 Q1
    Knights of the Western Empire (On Hold)
    The III Reich in World War III (In progress)

  19. #1259
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    Author #3

    A Moment of Horror: An Execution


    Say this if nothing else, say he was an evil man.

    The keeper's voice gently broke the silence, slithering through the bars, calling me, telling me that it was time, finally my time. No doubt, no despair, no enthusiasm, and no joy ever graced his face, nor found a home in his speech. He was, as ever, unaffected by the spectacle of life and death that day when he broke my reverie.

    The door to my cell swung open noiselessly on its well-oiled hinges, a sliver of wavering light from beyond illuminating the darkness in which I dwelt, as I rose to my feet. I raised the hood of my robes to cover my head and went penitently to join him in the corridor, bidding the cell that had been mine for these last days a final goodbye.

    The keeper had brought along two guards, great and muscular brutes, presumably as a precaution against my legend, for I had been a man of renown once, and much feared before so many things went wrong, but I had confessed and given my word, and even in my depravity my word was my bond still, a greater bond than ever before, my wows sealed in a pact unbreakable – they would not be needed this day.

    So many crimes to atone for, my accusers had claimed at the secular trial, the hypocrites. So many deaths every day of the god-blessed year, and they had chosen to single out my few murders? My experiments? My heresy? My unnatural acts? Accusing a baron over the loss of peasants? over wayward sons and daughters of the salt of the earth? The shit of the earth, I say. I caused more damage and ruination in my youth in the king's service, which could never ever have been worthy of any god's plan, no matter what the clergy said, and was lauded for it by all who mattered. My wrath grew, even now, to think of the unfairness of it all, but I clamped down the rising heat. My wrath was ever my servant, not my master, and I would go to my destiny as my own man.

    The ecclesiastical court had been so much easier to deal with – a showing of true remorse had voided the excommunication and granted the opportunity for confession. It probably wasn't needed, really, since I did then piss on their god, but I have found during my long life that it is best to cover your bases. If guilt be determined by intent, I was certainly a most guilty man, but why should not a man reasonably balance the power of God (or gods) and of demons? All this either-or seemed a conjecture of human frailty! When Barron offered me power to the left hand, did that not leave the right hand free to accept the church? A much more reasonable entity to deal with than human institutions.

    A flung root vegetable of some sort greeted my down-turned face as I entered the courtyard, soon to be followed by cries and jeers of the peasantry and a veritable airborne cascade of rotted produce and stones. My guards did nothing to protect me, it goes without saying, harrying me on towards the scaffold. Just for a moment I let my temper get the better of me – I straightened out, removed my hood, and with blood streaming down my broken face I stared down the mob. It was a feeble effort, no power was there in it but that of my personality, and soon the cries rose again: sorcerer, child abductor, heretic, witch, but I had steeled myself against mere words decades ago.

    I wondered then briefly what my accusers would have said had I told them I took their precious 'maid' for my own for a time during the war, binding her with my power, before I led her to her doom? She really was an awful example of the human race, but she broke well and, in the end, she burned well. Silly bitch didn't even have the guts to avoid her excommunication, she probably did believe in her own legend, and if I'd spoken up to my accusers I'd probably only have added to hers rather than my own in the end. I, who was once a marshal of France and always, to the end, a nobleman!

    A push – an insolent push to my back – set me walking the few steps to the scaffold where the noose awaited. No burning for me as a heretic, nor gentle beheading as befit my office. A common noose was to be my fate as a common criminal. If only they'd had the gall to use a good hook to hang me from, perhaps one of my own, worn with use, now that would have been shown style, but alas not. A pedestrian death in front of the crowd in Nantes was to be my fate.

    Sooner than expected, I felt the noose tighten around my neck, and I felt the beginning of hope arise. Surely, I would be rescued soon. Surely, Barron would grant me the power to burn brightly, ending in glory! Despair fled me! Nothingness? Who can possibly fear nothingness! And, if not, then soon, my absent friends, I shall return to the dust from whence I came and we will dine in glory on the day of the resurrection of the Lord. Either way, I would win! I cracked with laughter as the executioner, the laggard, got moving.

    And the ground disappeared under me. The noose broke my neck smartly and that was the end of the monster Gilles de Rais.

    Awakening alone in the earth brought on a feeling of sheer terror never matched in my living experience, but I have put such human frailty behind me, now. I live now to serve, and I serve well indeed, collecting and taking what is needed when nobody notices, a despoiler of life, love, and innocence, and when the last trump sounds, and when the serried ranks of angels take to the field, then I too shall marshal my armies, and I shall fight at the side of my master, the fallen angel Barron, and I shall have my revenge, for the clergy lied to me.
    4x WritAAR of the week, Best Character Writer of the Week (for Fu Manchu), June 28th 2006
    Where the Iron Crosses grow (Completed) PDF OscAAR for Best Completed HOI AAR
    Master Plan of Fu Manchu (Completed) PDF
    Empire of Fu Manchu (In progress) PDF x1 Weekly AAR Showcase, AARland Choice AwAARds;Fav.HOI1/2 AAR & Fav.HOI1/2 Narrative,Q2 2006 & Q3 2007
    The Eagle and the Lion (On hold) Golden Readers Choice HOI2 AwAARd, AARland Choice AwAARds-Favourite HOI1/2 AAR, 2005 Q4 and 2006 Q1
    Knights of the Western Empire (On Hold)
    The III Reich in World War III (In progress)

  20. #1260
    Evil Genius The Yogi's Avatar
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    Hearts of Iron IIIEuropa Universalis III: In NomineEU3 Napoleon's AmbitionVictoria: RevolutionsEuropa Universalis: Rome
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    And that's our three authors! Now that they have come through, it's time for some analys and critique. Deadline for comments is April 30th, when the authors will be revealed and a new subject chosen.

    Remember also that you are to name a favourite piece among the three, the most popular one and the critique of it will be featured in the AARlander!
    4x WritAAR of the week, Best Character Writer of the Week (for Fu Manchu), June 28th 2006
    Where the Iron Crosses grow (Completed) PDF OscAAR for Best Completed HOI AAR
    Master Plan of Fu Manchu (Completed) PDF
    Empire of Fu Manchu (In progress) PDF x1 Weekly AAR Showcase, AARland Choice AwAARds;Fav.HOI1/2 AAR & Fav.HOI1/2 Narrative,Q2 2006 & Q3 2007
    The Eagle and the Lion (On hold) Golden Readers Choice HOI2 AwAARd, AARland Choice AwAARds-Favourite HOI1/2 AAR, 2005 Q4 and 2006 Q1
    Knights of the Western Empire (On Hold)
    The III Reich in World War III (In progress)

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