Review: ‘Unknown Sender’ builds suspense in tight 23 pages

Unknown Sender” by Ryan Lanz starts as a somewhat predictable tale of a young college student haunted by a series of text messages from an anonymous source. The texter seems to know everything about our protagonist, Jessica, from the clothes she’s wearing to what she’s doing at a specific moment.

Unknown Sender (427x640)Jessica, naturally, goes through a gamut of emotions, from curiosity to straight-on fear. Her suspicions grow as the texts continue to the point she starts lashing out at anyone who might be her mysterious texter. Her roommate tries to calm her down and offers a getaway for the weekend to a secluded cabin, where no one can bother her. Of course, the unknown sender somehow still manages to get his messages through, even though there is no cell signal.

It all leads up to a surprising plot twist and a shocking ending that can’t be shared here or the story itself would be ruined.

Lanz does a good job of building tension and suspense as the story unravels. The reader can easily sympathize with Jessica in the face of this unusual cyber attack.

At just 23 pages, the story is a quick, entertaining read. Given all its buildup, however, the ending felt somewhat rushed and left me wanting something more. Perhaps there’s sequel in the making?

Short story gives new respect for country’s veterans

I got something accomplished today, and I’m kind of proud of it.

I submitted a new short story I wrote, “Deadwood Soldier,” to the first-ever Nashville Reads Short Story Contest. It’s a short 1,200 words about a nontraditional family consisting of a young girl, her aunt and uncle, and her father, who has just returned home from the war in Afghanistan and is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

In writing the story, I did some initial research on the web as to the symptoms, causes and treatments for PTSD. The research included reading numerous accounts from military veterans of the traumas of war they endured and how that trauma has affected them since their return home. Their real-life stories are, quite frankly, among the most haunting and moving stories you will ever read. You cannot help but feel a newfound respect for these veterans and what they went through to make our lives safe and secure.

My short story was not an effort to simply regurgitate their stories in a fictional format, but to focus in on the family, particularly the daughter in my story. I hope that it captures some semblance of how this sad condition affects not only the veteran but his family as well. We’ll see.