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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Green Thumb

Maggie tended the roses in her garden. There was so much work to be done, and the weeds were getting out of hand. As she looked at the flowers, her thoughts ran on the new boarder and she smiled.

Ben Mathews was a sweet old man who had recently taken up residence at her home. He had no close relatives and didn't socialize at all, preferring to be by himself and often took long walks. Ben was just the type of boarder she liked.

The money made from renting the room helped take care of her needs, and upkeep of the house which had been in the family for generations. Later, when Maggie was preparing dinner, Ben came through the back door with leaves stuck to his clothes.

“Ben, where have you been? You look a mess!" she exclaimed.

"I went for a walk and saw an enclosed area by the white picket fence at the back of the woods. Thought it would be nice to go in and take a look, but the bushes are overgrown and it was getting dark, so I decided to come home."

"Didn't I tell you not to go there?" Maggie asked, showing concern. "That place has old family graves and is very rocky. You could hurt yourself."

"Yes, you did warn me. I'll try to be more careful," said Ben, putting his hand on her shoulder. She smiled, taking a cake out of the oven.

Maggie woke early the next morning as she had to drive into town. Before leaving, she handed Ben a basket containing some sandwiches, cake and a thermos of coffee. There was not enough time to cook the large breakfast he usually ate. The man had a healthy appetite.

She spent a couple hours in town going to the post office and bank, then got some shopping done before heading home. After putting away the groceries and changing into overalls and sneakers, Maggie grabbed her gardening tools and went outside. It was a sunny day for gardening.

She went through the open white picket gate and walked in the tall wild grass, doing her best to avoid the prickly shrubs in her way. Ben was sitting against an old apple tree which no longer bore fruit. The basket lay opened beside him, its contents gone. Perfect timing, she thought.

"Ben," Maggie called out, but he didn't respond. She touched his shoulder and he fell sideways. Maggie checked for a pulse beat, but didn't get any and turned away.  Below the apple tree was a tall wall covered with vines and wild shrubs. This spot was not too overgrown with grass and bushes like the other areas, and the soil was recently tilled. Maggie walked there and sighed deeply, before digging with her shovel. This was the part she hated, but knew it had to be done. Ben’s curious nature had sped up her plans.

Maggie only took in elderly boarders like Ben, so she could live off their pension. She went to the post office every month and collected pension for her boarders, past and current. They trusted Maggie, believing she was being helpful when she offered to deposit their money into their bank accounts. She did make the transactions, but forged their signatures on the personal cheques she took from them. It was so easy and no-one suspected.

It was in this spot that she buried all the boarders she poisoned. Their graves were in rows near the wall. On top of each grave was a different type of rose plant that Maggie had planted, believing it was the only way to clear her conscience for the crimes she committed. After burying Ben, she walked slowly back to the house, thinking of a rose to plant on his grave. Maggie looked up at the sky and hoped the rain would come and water her beautiful rose gardens.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Writers' Review

I've been spending more time on my assignments which includes writing book reviews, and less time on creating content for my blog. I know I need to balance my time and am trying to rectify that. This is a general post on the quality writing I come into contact with, and is based on my observations as a book reviewer. It's for this reason I decided it was time to express my thoughts on this topic and point out a few mistakes which are frequently made. 

Proofreading: To give credit, most of the published and unpublished literature I've read so far are written by authors who not only compose good reading material, but also spend time ensuring their work is properly proofread before promoting it to the public. This process enables favourable review ratings for them, and hopefully, an increase in sales.

On the other hand, there are writers, especially new ones, who appear to have penned and published their books rather hurriedly, without giving much thought to this critical area which needs special attention. Fortunately, I don't publish poor reviews, preferring to contact the authors by email or other means with summaries highlighting my reasons for the low rating, and possibly, suggestions to adjust the flaws. 

Spelling: It's understandable if writers overlook a misspelled word, but there are times when novels are infected with so many. Oftentimes, the same words are repeated throughout, and they're basic ones too. Please, don't ignore the red highlighted or underlined words made by the spelling and grammar checker. It's an indication that the words are incorrect. A dictionary is also an essential writing aid that will give you the proper spelling and definition.

Punctuation Marks: The correct form of punctuation is important to a story and specific sentences won't have the desired effect without them. This is a vital necessity that is needed, especially when characters are conversing. I have noticed that it's occasionally omitted from dialogues, or added to the beginning or ending of paragraphs which don't require it.

Format: Some authors write with a confident, relaxed ease, making their sentences blend with a good selection of words which flow smoothly. This gives readers better comprehension and visuals from the stories. Others have displayed rigid or poorly developed sentence structures which have the opposite effect. I've also read material containing unnecessary sentences, or the writing is too detailed, making the stories lag. Proper editing could have even reduced the quantity of pages, and the content would have been more interesting.

There are other key issues I intend to address, and will soon post other articles in The Writers' Review series. Have you encountered similar problems when reading?

 a writer's fate  (senryu)

writing a story
must be very creative
reviewers hold fate

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