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Ian's picture

In The Tall Grass, Bloody

By Ian in Scare Us

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A young nun discovers that love does not alway conquer all and the faithful are not always friends.


Daniel W Broallt's picture
Daniel W Broallt from Texas is reading The Emerald Mile July 26, 2012 - 6:40am

Hey Ian,

You have a great sense of place. All the descriptions of the setting were very well done. The details in the opening scene were strong. Not being Catholic, I wanted perhaps more of an explanation on the importance of her rosary beads and why they were so hard to give up. Can't lay folk also have rosaries? Or was it because of her failed vow to her mother that the beads now filled her with shame?

So with the first several "the mob said..." or "the mob moved..." I planned to make a comment on how mobs don't speak, iindividuals in a mob speak, but then I realized the mob was the monster(?) Could you have an opening scene where one person says a word then another person and then another and together it forms a sentence? It would be an inverse of what is in the Bible where one person is speaking with several voices, saying I'm Legion, when what you have is several people speaking with one voice. And because that is weird, your sisters should comment on it so we as readers know we should be spooked (and not confused).

I really like how you had an early scene where she is listening to the children play and feeling peace and then you close your story with that same imagery of hearing a child play. I love symmetry like that and I think it really makes your pregnant Sister' character resonate, makes her real and whole. Good job!


Thks for writing,


Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 10:02pm

Thanks for the comments. I'm going to play with the mob a bit over the next couple of days and see if I can come up with something that maybe works a bit better. Thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 26, 2012 - 10:23am

Well, looks like my first comment didn't post, so I'm trying again. Apologies if this is a duplicate. I loved your story, loved that it was not just another horror tale. The mob is a true monster. The characters are very vivid. I love Sister Abigail. (pardon the bad pun but she's definitely a "sister" under the skin to Mother Molly!) I also think you handled the period atmosphere and details very well. I think a Civil War-era setting can easily get stereotyped and/or romanticized, especially in such a short piece with no room for extended scene-setting. This really works. I really enjoyed it.

Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson July 27, 2012 - 12:38pm

You write beautifully! The picture painted of Civil-War era Shreveport is gorgeous and your characters have heart and dimension. I imagine the story opening up slowly, like a flower, becoming more detailed and more revealing as it goes on. So many emotions here, too: devotion, shame, hopefulness, terror.

Your monster is clever and horrific. I can picture it, undulating, swarming, leering. At this point it's not people anymore, it really is something nightmarish. 

Excellent work! Loved it!

WesFord's picture
WesFord from America (CO, NE, NC, AK, NY, WA) is reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Portable Atheist by Hitchens, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill July 30, 2012 - 12:50am


I really only have three letters for you.

1) W
2) O
3) W

Just... wow. I started reading your story while still waking up for the day and gradually went from slouching in my chair to literally on the edge, bent over my laptop, and my legs tucked tight behind me. This is the kind of horror I like. The story with a build in tension. Wonderfully done and I have massive respect for your lack of exclamations. I'm personally one of those "use less exclamations" people and there are plenty of places you could have used exclamation points, but I think it would have cheapened your story, so well done on that front too.
Your final image (which I won't ruin for new readers, but the "trail" image) was fantastic. I hated-loved that I could see it so clearly. Loved because it was so clear, hated because I don't want that to be clear. :)

Can't think of any criticisms I'd make, there's too much here that I enjoy.


Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:25pm

@Jane, Emma, and AA - You guys are the best. Really appreciate your feedback. Glad you liked it.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch July 31, 2012 - 3:25pm

Hi Ian! I have to add my own kudos to such a beautifully written story, full of detail and strong characters. And I had just watched the movie The Crucible (just a cool coincidence, kind of).

My only concern is that I keep seeing the name "Clara" everywhere, too many times in each paragraph. Is that on purpose, for some effect? Maybe a few of them could turn into "she" or some descriptive of her, just so it doesn't become so repetitive.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:24pm

Thanks, Liana. I went back and looked specifically for the overuse of the name "Clara". I think you're on to something. I'm glad you like it and thanks for pointing that out.

Pushpaw's picture
Pushpaw from Canada is reading Building Stories by Chris Ware August 1, 2012 - 6:10pm

I enjoyed this. Especially like the section just before Clara leaves and when she's travelling (I've marked it in the attached doc with a bit of feedback as comments). Some really wonderful writing.

Really enjoy your attention to detail and the characterization, particularly of Clara. Felt very real.

Of the monster, I have to say that I like the concept behind it but perhaps for it to be a bit more effective (ie scary) I'd need the detail fleshed out a bit more. How does the mob work both as a collection of people and as a single mass with one voice? It's almost like the thing I liked most in your writing (the detail) was missing with the depiction of the monster, so somehow it isn't fully integrated into the story. That said, it appears that other reviewers probably don't agree with me on this, so maybe it's just me. Just one guy's thoughts.

Still liked it overall!

Thanks for sharing.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:27pm

I really appreciate you taking the time to put together these comments. I'm new to the site and you doing that really means a lot.

I'm definitely going to address some of the issues you've raised. Based on the comments thus far, my monster concept appears to be either fundamentally flawed or something I need to work on for it to work for at least three reviewers. While writing, I was trying to capture how surreal a mob must seem when seen through the victim's eyes. As a result, there is a definite shift in the writing, e.g., speaking with one voice, etc. I'll wrestle with this some more and see if I can come up with something.

Again, thanks so much for putting these notes together.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 1, 2012 - 9:36pm

Riveting. This story reads so easy for such a complex idea. Your words flow with great authority and pace. Each one specifically chosen. Reminds me a bit of Hemmingway. Not sure if there is anything i can help you with. I'm new to giving criticism and you have written a beautiful story. Sister Abagail makes the story. It's great how she was the balance between your Monsters and your sinners. The dialouge was as effictively well written. Thank you for sharing this, Ian.



Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:20pm

You, sir, are entirely too kind. Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles August 2, 2012 - 9:48am

I really enjoyed this story. It was creepy in all the right places. You did a great job letting the tension mount slowly. 

The three main characters – Clara, Abigail, and the priest – are all very distinct and engaging, but I'd like to know more about all of them (the curse of the 40k word limit, i know).  I’d like to know a bit more about the priest's character, so that the reveal that he’s actually spineless and a liar really hits home and yanks any hope out of the story. Clara reminds me a bit of Hester Prynne – is there any way to distinguish her a bit more? Maybe an extra layer of sexuality? I liked Abigail, but I didn’t buy her death (see line notes).

So: the monster. I love the idea of the “monster” being a group. It’s a great metaphor: the real monster is inside us, or 'we are the monsters.' However, if you want the ‘mob’ to read like a single entity (which I think you do), there needs to be less dialogue. It’s hard to imagine a mob saying so many lines together, especially since the voice is so stylized. Or, if you want to take a totally different tact, you could have a single person stand out to speak (and that person could change up each time), then get sucked back into the group think. Whatever you choose, I really like the idea of a giant mass of undulating humanness attacking a woman and her unborn child. It’s chilling.

One last thought: the scene in the bayou perfectly matches the ugliness of the mob. 

I'm going to upload my LBL edits on our Beginning Novel class page.Great work.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:19pm

Thanks so much for the LBL and the kind words. I really appreciate your feedback. Like I said above, it looks like I whiffed on my execution with the monster for some of you. In particular, it looks like the dialogue is causing the most trouble. I'm going to put in some work this week and see if I can't come up with a better way to communicae what I'm after. Again, thanks so much for the comments. Greatly appreciated.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia August 2, 2012 - 12:17pm

Superb.  Loved the build, the sense of place and time.  The pacing, the use of language were all excellent.  Not sure I can add any useful comments as it all seems to come together perfectly.  Excellent.

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger August 6, 2012 - 1:31pm

Pretty fantastic. It's one of the few stories I've read here that's immersive enough to make you feel like you can physically see everything unfold. Really creepy and really vivid.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne August 6, 2012 - 9:26pm

@Scott and Sancho - Thanks for reading and I'm glad you guys liked it. I really appreciate the feedback.

Shawn I.'s picture
Shawn I. from New York is reading Important Things That Don't Matter August 14, 2012 - 8:06pm

This is very impressive. Absorbing and realistic. Really put me in the story. I agree the mob as monster could use some tightening up and like the idea mentioned of limiting the dialogue to do so. Maybe replace some of it with gestures or single word statements. I told another writer I felt unqualified to constructively criticize their work (I did anyway) and that sentiment applies here as well. But this contest has really helped me break out of my inferior writer complex so I attached some comments. Hope you find them helpful. 

TigersMS's picture
TigersMS from Australia is reading House of Leaves August 8, 2012 - 8:31pm

Excellent stuff. Very well written and certainly one the best in terms of writing quality on here. My only minor issue was the Mob. I didn't quite get a idea of what it was, perhaps the ambiguity of it all, whether it be a mob or the collective hate of people was why I found it hard to picture one way or the other and maybe that was point? Regardless - A cracking story, with a bittersweet but ghastly ending!!

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep August 15, 2012 - 6:08pm

I don't think I can say much that hasn't already been said. A great story, and your take on a creature is truly unique. I too fluctuated between confusion and understanding about the mob. I'm sure you'll figure out a way to make that clearer, but it's certainly a great idea.

I'm glad I read your story!

edsikov's picture
edsikov from New York by way of Natrona Hts PA is reading absolutely nothing September 4, 2012 - 11:23am

“In The Tall Grass, Bloody”, by Ian Sadler
Review by Ed Sikov

One of my favorite things about Ian Sadler’s great short story, “In the Tall Grass, Bloody,” is its setting: Sadler has the guts to imagine the past as being every bit as fertile a ground for horror as the present, and he has the creativity to back it up. This story is creepy and frightening, but it’s also quite believable. Each sentence has both literary craft and our national history behind it. It reads as Gothic but feels as genuine as a yellowed newspaper clipping. I’ve always been terrified of the mob mentality that periodically rears up around our country and isn’t satisfied until someone’s hanging from a tree by a rope. Ian Sadler’s story captures my paranoia well and makes me feel less paranoid, more justified. Good work!

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne September 10, 2012 - 12:24pm

Hey Ed,

Thanks so much for taking the time to review my story. As someone who is really trying to write for the first time, it means the world to me to receive notes from an established author who really  knows what they're doing. I sincerely appreciate your thoughts and the kind words. Again, means the world. Really does.