Reviews for Grilling With Uncle Joe
Corinna Tate chapter 1 . 8/25/2012
I never have an issue with reviews, until I HAVE to do it. Congrats on winning, BTW. I didn't see a preference for what you want reviewed, so I chose the one with the most potential for weirdness. I review as I read, so it might seem as if I'm clueless at times.

I like the preface, because it shows that this story was inspired by your real life; those are often the best stories. Morbid humor and an unwillingness to volunteer ever again; that easily grabs my attention, short and sweet.

Right from the beginning, your opening sentence just pulls me right in. It's not that big of a stretch to imagine a grill that big, but it definitely points where your story could go. It's the kind of opening that would make people sitting around the campfire lean in a little closer.

Wow, you jump right in with both feet, pulling out the body right away! This is a skill I still need to learn; I'm green with envy. By moving smoothly from the body on the ground, to the way he feels about his uncle, makes the willful suspension of disbelief a whole lot easier. At fifteen this feels like a macabre rite of passage in a way.

It makes me want to laugh, that Uncle Joe is worried about being late to dinner, rather than the dead guy on the ground. Very good description of the fire pit. This is such a country staple, I can envision the fire pit at my Uncle Dales, where we roasted weenies and marshmallows.

It's funny, but unrealistic, that the kids are supposed to make sure the drunk adults don't fall into the fire. I wonder how that looks... (“Step back Aunt Mable; Johnny, help me get her before she goes in!”)

I wonder why he used lighter fluid to burn the guy, instead of gasoline, which would be cheaper. But then again, it's more like a real BBQ, I guess.

So, the abusive guy gets toasted. In a strange way, I like this kind of country justice. But then again, what if Anna had been lying? There's a lot of hear/say for someone to die over it.

I like your description of the smell, and the smoke. Fireworks really do have a distinctive odor, and by mentioning them, you've planted the thought of holiday cook-outs in your reader's minds. I think it's pretty telling, that no matter how innocent this character wants to be, he's covered in bits of the dead guy. I'm reminded of campfires where you come home smelling so much like wood smoke, it's as if your skin has absorbed it.

I like that Uncle Joe gives him a beer. It really finalizes that rite of passage I mentioned. This is a kid who will keep that secret to his grave (or his own barbeque.) I also like that Uncle Joe isn't some kind of homicidal monster. He's got a good cause, a desire to keep the women out of it, and he expects to feel guilt.

Just when I thought you'd be heading to wrap up the story, you bring out the ghosts. Very nice touch, whether they're real, a figment of his overactive imagination, or a manifestation of his guilt. Wonderful!

I really love the imagery here, with the smoke shadows and ember eyes. I think you've engaged all the senses with this story. Very well done.

Now back to that rubric...

Hmm, as far as the ending, it felt a little lighthearted for the subject matter, but considering this is supposed to be darkly funny, it does work. If this was the opening for a larger work, it would be good enough to hook your reader. I could see this as a beginning for something like Deliverance, from the Cajun POV.

Your dialogue was good. I easily got the feeling of country people, but you didn't hit me over the head with such a heavy dialect as to be difficult to read.

The characters felt believable—except for that part about guarding the pit against drunken accidents. Maybe a row of benches around the pit would be enough of a deterrent?

As far as the grammar, I noticed some missing commas. I'd point them out, but I don't want to out myself as being completely ignorant, since I myself have the same issue. It looks like you follow my rule: When in doubt, leave it out. There were only about three or four times when it seemed needed. Other than that, there were no mistakes that took me out of the reading.

The plot and pace were both good. In fact, you did your job admirably well. We're told to start as close to the action as possible, and you did just that. It kept steady from the body, right through the ghosts. You also wrapped it up with a bow, which I sorta love, no matter how unrealistic that can be.

You also didn't go too far into the ridiculous. I was afraid from the premise that there might be a little bit of cannibalism in here, along with someone complementing Uncle Joe on his famous BBQ sauce.

I really don't have any complaints to bring up. It was interesting, well written, and definitely didn't make me feel like I'd wasted my time. I can't imagine who won over this—competition must have been stiff (no pun intended.)
Rainbow35 chapter 1 . 11/18/2011
[Happy trick-or-treat prize review!]

I liked the opening. It was short, simple and interesting, kinda like a summary or a prologue.

I really liked the plot too, it's a good idea/concept. It's really cool and interesting.

Uncle Joe is really cool. I think it's cool the way he joked about being able to fit a body on the grill, and it's funny in a sick kind of way that he actually did do that. I like that he did it for a good reason, though, as opposed to just for fun, and also that he didn't want to bring Auntie May into it.

When the main character asked if Joe needed any help around the house, and Joe looked at him like he was sizing him up, I actually thought that the main character was going to be the one to be cooked. xD So it was kind of a surprise that he wasn't. It would've been more horror-ish if he was, but it's probably better that he wasn't.

I also like the way the characters have accents. I'm not sure why I like it, I just kinda like that it's a random detail thrown in. It makes it more realistic, or something like that (I'm not sure what exactly I mean, but realistic is close enough...).

Anyway, I like this! :D
lookingwest chapter 1 . 8/22/2011
You know, I was surprised this was under "Supernatural" after reading it, I think it might be more suited just for horror, despite the description of the monstrous reaction towards the end. That being said, I really liked it, and I was surprised because it's normally not my thing. I like that you took something from real life and created a story out of it, and a good short story at that.

The characters were fun, my favorite of course, being the narrator. I thought you did pretty good with his accent and I like that you added it into the narrative itself and not just the dialogue, that made it more present and unique for me. I think that's also a big highlight of the story, too. The language brings more to the atmosphere, and you did a good job with that setting too-it was pretty simple but very visual as far as the grill. The way our narrator just kind of accepts his duty made for a good reaction to dumping a body. I like that you added a bit of back story to the body and the reasons, and also that our narrator didn't regret what happened.

The twist at the end involving the visual of the shadows and the fire-pit worked well. It made me wonder if what we were seeing was actually there or not, but I like to think they were. I think you captured the flavor of the fire during the process too, and I liked the description of the paragraph starting with "By the time the sun was setting..." everything in that gave the story a great hue of visuals.

Well edited, well written, and I'm always astounded by your ability to just pick up and write a short story that feels so complete out of a prompt. You've been very busy these past few months with WCC, it's pretty cool!
Stephanie M. Moore chapter 1 . 8/15/2011
Opening: Wow. What an opening sentence. That certainly grabs your attention (it's a great hook.) It's creative and intriguing, and I can't believe how imaginative you were with the prompt for that month.

Voice/Style: I love the colloquial language. It gives your narrator a strong voice, and I have no trouble at all hearing him speak in my head. (Living in Alabama may or may not contribute to this ability.) It's reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird... except for the murdering-uncle part. But you capture the accent and speaking rhythm very well.

Plot: This is so unique! It certainly brings new meaning to the skeletons in the closet. What a family secret. I think it's very clever you used his murdering to explain bad husbands who supposedly ran off. The way the neighbors know one another's business and disapprove of his abuse is very "small town."

Technique: Ah. So many compliments. You framed this wonderfully with the bit about helping his uncle, and the part about the shadows/smoke was well-written. The transition between the burning and the smokey ghosts could have been rocky, but with the alcohol, I thought it was good. After all, he's bound to feel guilt, and I'm glad you tackled that. It was very realistic.

All in all, I'm very impressed. I really enjoy reading your works, because they are always very well done. On that note, I was pleased to see that you won the WCC this month, because you had the best piece out there. So congrats!
Sarah Isaacs chapter 1 . 5/7/2011
A bit odd, but very interesting. You made your point nicely, obscuring it in the setting and characters. Subtle. Your imagery was strong and I admit I could taste the wood smoke. Job well done

PS...I ain't asking Uncle Joe if he needs help either ;)
ChocolateCookie chapter 1 . 4/24/2011
Wow. The entire supernatural element of the setting was unexpected. Until that point, this was a morbid and pretty average story of it's kind - quite well written, though I'm not sure about the vernacular. It sounds like a country american slang or something, so it sounds really weird to me, because I've never heard people actually speak like that? I mean, maybe if I had time to get used to it, it would flow easier to me. Anyway, one you introduced the ghosts it really upped the level of this story heaps. Made it way more interesting. I almost think it could have been longer, more invovled, but as it is, it really is more satisfying than most short stories I've ever read.
Sercus Kaynine chapter 1 . 4/9/2011
Is it wrong that I found this story more funny than anything? The voice (in dialog and out) of the narrator was hilarious, and Uncle Joe was one of those wtf? characters I'm not really sure what to do with.

What a funny thing to wonder. I loved the matter-of-fact country tone of this piece.

Good job and good luck in WCC!
thewhimsicalbard chapter 1 . 4/8/2011
I really like this piece, in a weird way. Definitely an interesting take on the prompt. It was well edited, obviously, and it was interesting to read. I thought that maybe the kid could have done a little bit more flipping out, but then again, maybe the fact that he doesn't is what makes him special. That being said, I wasn't sure I liked the ending very much; it seemed a bit out the blue, perhaps a little bit underwhelming or cliche.

I did like the accents, even though those were a pretty big theme in last month's contest. This was definitely gruesome, and the sort of back-country, The Exorcist/Blair Witch Project aura to them, except minus the supernatural. I definitely liked the part where his uncle was sizing him up. I felt my eyebrows go up - I was thinking, he's going to have this kid barbecue a man. And I was right. So, maybe it was a little bit predictable, but otherwise it was really good.

Best of luck in the WCC this month. Heck, great job getting one out right before the deadline!

-twb