Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
Christy Corp
Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 8:23 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Christy Corp » July 13th, 2010, 8:26 am

Title: Don't I Know You
Genre: Women's/Literary Fiction
Words: 249

March 14, 2007
Sylvia swore as the heavy gold chain again eluded the clasp and snaked across her clavicle. She hit the switch for the wall sconces and leaned closer to the mirror. The face that stared back from the glass did nothing to lessen her anxiety. Familiar green eyes and thin oval face took on an alien cast in the formal makeup and strange half-light of late afternoon. Normally unruly brown waves had been tamed by the hairdresser that afternoon. The disembodied face peering from the mirror twisted the corner of her mouth as a cloud shifted across the pale spring sun.
The chain lay in snarled coils on the polished walnut where she had let it fall. She rummaged through her jewelry for dangling earrings that would compensate for the lack of necklace; she could not complete a circle tonight.
Sylvia Milne would not have elected to attend her husband’s medical school reunion. Her idea of a great night involved blowing the steam of cocoa across a mug while snuggled on the couch for a movie with Josh and their daughter, followed by a couple of hours of writing before bed.
Standing in a room full of half-forgotten strangers, while clinging to some pink drink in a martini glass, held the double threat of social awkwardness and a revival of long-buried memories. “Think of it as an opportunity to gather material for a story,” Josh had said. But that story had been told long ago. Hadn’t it?

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 8:26 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by MarkARayKY » July 13th, 2010, 8:31 am

Title: Not From Around Here
Genre: Comic Novel
244 words

Chas queued up a Hank Williams song, hoping against hope there’d be no yodeling in this one.

“I’m a-headin’ back to Dixie/That’s the place I long to be.”

He sat back with a sigh and looked slowly around the broom-closet broadcast booth, with its mishmash of battered equipment, ancient Danish Modern furniture, and soundproofing panels made of Styrofoam cooler lids.

“Where the cotton grows and the Swanee flows/That’s home sweet home to me.”

“Heaven help me,” Chas whispered. After a month in Salvia, he’d found only one thing that resembled real music. It was an old “Switched on Bach” 45 in the Pine Sap Diner’s jukebox. And it was scratched.

“Where they meet you and they greet you/With the sweetest how you all/Well, shut my mouth, I’m a-headin’ south/On the Dixie Cannonball.”

God. When the song finally ended, Chas lifted the needle, keyed the mike, and began to speak in a clear, measured voice.

“You’ve just been listening to a performance of ‘Dixie Cannonball’ by Hank Williams Sr. here on WUWU-FM, coming to you live from the historic Crowder-Pease Funeral Home in downtown Salvia, Mississippi. This is your host, J. Charles Newcomb, and my time with you this morning has now mercifully come to an end. After a few brief words from our sponsors, Jerome Dearmond will arrive to present Swap Shop, the farm report, and more of your favorite music.”

He queued up an ad, then took the warped 45 off the turntable.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 11:29 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by amynathan » July 13th, 2010, 11:40 am

Title: Picking Daisy
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Word Count: 237

For eighteen years and three months Daisy thought her father was a test tube specimen. Now, she was standing at his front door.

It was freezing outside, probably way below zero. She didn’t lick her dry lips, afraid they’d freeze together and she wouldn’t be able to talk. With Daisy’s fist raised and drawn, the door clicked and opened about eight inches. Daisy saw a petite woman in a pink T-shirt with a white Nike swish and fitted black Lycra shorts.

They must have ESP and the heat at eighty in there.

“I’d like to speak with Elliot Evans,” Daisy said. She smiled, opened her black-rimmed eyes wide and then chided herself for trying to look cute, like a kitten someone would want to bring in from the cold and keep for their own.

“He’s not here. Can I help you with something?” The brown hair bobbed woman opened the wooden door wide but stood behind the glass storm door holding the handle. Daisy didn’t know if Bob-Woman was unlocking it or holding it closed.

“I’d like to meet him,” Daisy said. “I’m his daughter.” No need pretending she was there to sell cookies.

“Very funny, young lady. We don’t have a daughter. I should know. I’m Maggie Evans, his wife.”

“Then you’re my step-mother. Nice to meet you.”

The woman smiled with a tight mouth, looked at the floor and stepped back, pushing the door closed.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 1:15 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by DavidR » July 13th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Title: Aerochronica
Genre: YA Fantasy/Adventure

Located just a few blocks from the White Palace, the Bellevista Hotel was one of the most exclusive properties in Balloniere. The four-story stone building was surrounded by a high brick wall; an iron gate, flanked by inconspicuously armed doormen, was the only entrance.
Inside the gate, teak tables were spaced evenly throughout a garden of roses and ferns, with an ornate terra cotta fountain serving as the focal point. Songbirds chirped jovially, as if they had not a care in the world and intended to let everyone know.
Here, two men, who did not share the worldview of songbirds, conversed in hushed tones. The courtyard was fairly busy, but the fountain’s gurgle drowned out their voices.
The men frowned at each other, though not like enemies. The older of the two spoke first, smiling wryly.
“I suppose you are feeling pleased with yourself.” Rowley’s expression was grim, his eyes intent.
Vincent looked up through the blonde hair that fell over his eyes. “I have little time to feel pleased or ashamed. Politics is a demanding business.” Rowley barked a short, harsh laugh. “Politics! Is that what you call it? I have experienced your ‘politics’, and I would say it’s a risky business as well. You’re a gambler, to be sure, but you bet lives instead of cash.”
“If you are referring to Ashnar, his life has been on the line for years. He only performed a routine removal.”
“You might be interested to know that he failed,” said Rowley.

Posts: 17
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:54 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by esther » July 13th, 2010, 1:31 pm

Chapter 0:
I was born. I lived, and then died.

Chapter 1:
How elegantly simple if it were just that? But what about all that happens in between? The nuanced pain and suffering in birth, in living, and in dying. And what about what happens before and after? Where did I come from and where am I headed? Why can’t we be like germs, like fireflies that do all this in a mere span of 24 hours or less? What is so glorious in this life that it is worth living, a year, a decade, 80 years? And what more could there possibly be thereafter?

If you ask me, the key is in suffering. Not so much the state of agony, however you want to define this, but what you suffer for. You wouldn’t want to suffer in vain, would you?

All life is a struggle to figure out what to suffer for.

Those with a keen eye would probably know by now what the next few hundred pages are about. My suffering.
You decide. Is this all in vain?

Chapter 2:
So we start at the beginning. The birth, right? Let’s not get too philosophical here. Keep it simple, just the way I like it.
On the night my father lied on his death bed, next to him was my mother, screaming as she pushed me out.
“That little rascal!” My father smiled, as he took his last breath next to my crying mother.
Maybe I was cursed by my father’s last words, but that’s exactly what I turned out to be. In fact, I was cradled against my mother’s bosom as the light faded for her as well.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 3:02 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by misterfweem » July 13th, 2010, 3:06 pm

Title: Through A Glass Darkly
Genre: Fantasy

"Parents don't understand," he said.

He picked up an apple-sized rock, threw it in the lake where the ripples spread on the still surface.

I had to agree. He's my best friend, after all. We sat on a log near the shoreline, throwing rocks, listening to the spelunks the rocks made, watching the ripples.

“What don't they understand?” I had to ask, finally.

He held a rock in his fist, stared at me. Laughed. He threw the rock into the water. “Everything.”

We sat in silence a few minutes longer. Everything, I thought. That's a lot to not understand. But I knew what it felt like – there were so many things I didn't understand: Where the water in the lake came from. Why the sun was warm and pleasant when the land was green, cold and unfeeling when the snow came. What the lights in the sky were. Why my hands weren't as skilled as my brothers' hands. Why my father resented me for my lack of skill and hated to see me staring in wonder at the night sky, the distant mountains, an unusual rock, a bird, a plant, a bit of food. That my brothers ate like wolves, gulping down the food they had then searching around for more I didn't understand either, but knew enough that it had better be the last bite of food I needed for the day that I was contemplating.
Last edited by misterfweem on July 20th, 2010, 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 3:19 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by PegBrantley » July 13th, 2010, 3:24 pm

Genre: Romantic Suspense
246 words

Sometimes the dead shouldn’t stay buried.

Sometimes the dead need to be unearthed, exposed, examined, and prayed over.

And sometimes, mulchy, worm-filled graves are not meant to be their final resting places. Places where secrets remain hidden, held fast to rotted flesh and dry bones.

“Never. Not as long as I have anything to say about it.” Jamie Taylor ducked under an aspen branch. She’d been going since dawn, when Gretchen had alerted next to a mountain laurel and they’d found a small, fragile piece of stained cloth. Jamie marked it with a utility flag so the crime lab tech could photograph and bag the bit of evidence, and then she moved on with her dog, spirits high with the promise they’d find what they were looking for soon. Now, hours later, she was getting punchy and her certainty had flagged to a dull depression.

“Time for a break.” Jamie signaled to Gretchen with a tight pull on the lead. The bloodhound gave her a look that said, “Not yet,” but Jamie knew her dog would go until the hound could go no further.

“I need some water. And you’re getting some even if you don’t consider it a priority.”

Jamie hiked a few feet up and behind the ground they’d already covered, and settled onto a flat rock, her supply pack at her feet. She dug out the water for the two of them, and surveyed the field they’d been searching since early that morning.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 6:19 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by jonathan3d » July 13th, 2010, 6:23 pm

Title: Haunted Cowboy Robots
Genre: YA
Word Count: 249

Turns out, I’m prisoner number two.

My captor stuffs another dusty gag in my mouth and shoves me into a cell with enough force that I bang my sore shoulder into the wooden wall. I spin, muscles tense, ready to charge at him again, but he steps aside and says, “He’s all yours.”

A figure emerges from the shadows.

My Gosh—it’s the Sheriff.

Overcome with terror, my legs melt and I collapse to the floor. The star on his vest glimmers in the dim light, and even if my mouth wasn’t full of filthy rags, I’d have nothing to say.

My heart pounds as he grabs a bar on the cell door.

“Hangin’s at midnight,” the Sheriff says. “Both of yeh, side by side.”

The rusty hinges creak when he slams the door shut. He twists the big iron skeleton key and the lock slides into place. Then he flips the key into the air. It veers toward his neck and snaps in place, sticking like a refrigerator magnet.


“Doan be thinkin’ about escape,” he says in his monotone voice. He touches the brim of his hat in a sort of salute. “I’ll be back for y’all tonight.”

He glances across the hall, seems satisfied, and walks away.

My step-mom, Lynda, lies prone on the cot in the cell across from mine. Prisoner number one.

Her tears have dried, leaving streaks in the dust on her cheeks. She looks asleep, but no one could sleep through this.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 14th, 2010, 1:35 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Shanti » July 14th, 2010, 1:44 pm

Title: Maid of Sherwood
Genre: YA
Word count: 246

“Did you know Nottingham Castle is haunted?”

Marian barely refrained from rolling her eyes. She laughed instead, gathering her blonde hair into a knot at the base of her neck. “No, it’s not.”

Will Scarlett nodded. “I heard it from Celeste, who heard it from a friend of hers.”

“That doesn’t make it true.” Marian reached down, picked up a stick and twirled it. Does he honestly think I’m going to believe in ghosts?

“She says she saw ghosts,” Will maintained.

She turned to glance at him. “There was more than one?”


“How many more?” Her curiosity was piqued.

“She said over a score. They moan and cry at night.”

“Why are you telling me this?” She threw the stick into the English oak trees that lined the path through Sherwood Forest.

He shrugged. “I heard there are a few you can see, and they look like little boys. If they don’t like you, they play tricks on you.”

“What kind of tricks?” Marian pushed her way through the trees and into a small clearing. The newly grown grass had been trampled flat. Had the sheriff and his men braved the forest in their search for outlaws? It was rumored they refused to enter the lush woods.

Will shrugged. “I heard they played a trick on the Sheriff that had him screaming in fear.”

“You must have enjoyed hearing that.”

Will’s eyes hardened. “I did. I hope the fatherless son of a goat got everything he deserved.”

Matt Phillips
Posts: 16
Joined: July 14th, 2010, 2:02 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Matt Phillips » July 14th, 2010, 2:08 pm

Title: Beyond the Last Mountain
Genre: Historical Fiction
250 words

Josiah Carr shook his head as he approached Shimilikaw Creek, as if finding an old friend flailing in a drunken rage. Until now, the creek had always been a rare ally in the wilderness. It offered hunters an alternative to the overgrown, abandoned Indian path: They could paddle up the creek to reach the bountiful up-country woodlands or follow it to a ford. But on this first clear morning in a wet September, the creek was still gorging itself on two weeks' worth of rain. White water overtopped the banks, gushing against puddingstone boulders and sycamore trunks.

Josiah had never seen the creek so violent in the two years since settling here. With all the rain, he should've known this hunting trip with his sons was a long shot. He grimaced when he saw Eben and Will slump their shoulders.

But, Josiah remembered, life out here was about finding another way across, through, over. He waved for the boys to follow him toward the farm, which overlooked the creek’s confluence with the Mohawk River. Eben helped his father carry the canoe as Will shuffled behind, mumbling about returning to the drudgery of helping their mother string peas or pickle beets for the coming winter.

When the path forked, Josiah lowered his end of the canoe to the ground, and Eben did the same. "Aren't we goin' home, Papa?" Eben said.

"Might be able to go out on the river instead." The boys dashed down the steep trail to the right.
Last edited by Matt Phillips on September 17th, 2010, 5:56 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 14th, 2010, 3:02 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Writingmama » July 14th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Title: I'm a Boy in Seventh Grade, My Name is Drooley McFee, and You Think YOU'VE Got Problems?
Genre: Middle Grade/Coming of Age Boy Book
Words: 250

You’re probably wondering about my name. I know. It’s a little ridiculous, right? Drooley? That’s got my mom written all over it. She’s this ooey-gooey lovey-dovey kind of mom that brings out a scrapbook of every everything I ever did my whole entire life and loves to go over it every birthday. She always wells up in tears when she goes back to this one page she did for my first birthday. She has all these little cut out scrapbook shapes of little birthday cakes and candles and dots of hardened sparkle glue with blue and silver and orange squiggles all over my picture. There I am, seated in a beige highchair, a mop of ridiculous red curls on top of my head like some Chia pet or something. I’m grinning back at the camera, my entire face covered in wet, slobbery yellow cake crumbs mixed with white buttercream frosting shmeared everywhere. Mom always oohs and ahhs over the picture, points hysterically and smiles this wobbly smile like she’s holding back an hour’s worth of tears. Anyways, she’s the one that came up with the name. She said ever since I broke my first tooth as a baby, I used to drool buckets everywhere. She and my dad nicknamed me Drooley, and since my last name is McFee, it just sort of stuck. And just when you think being a seventh grade guy with the name Drooley isn’t bad enough, oh, just wait. It gets better. Muuuuuuuch better.
Last edited by Writingmama on July 20th, 2010, 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 23
Joined: July 14th, 2010, 5:39 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by gsfields2004 » July 14th, 2010, 6:01 pm

Title: The Oracle's Revenge
Genre: Thriller/Fantasy
Words: 240

Jarv Guerra awoke on Regina’s side of the bed to the sound of muffled cries coming from a squirming pile of blankets on the floor. Jumping down, he knelt beside her and tried to help.

“Regina, are you okay?”

A stream of Italian obscenities flew out the mouth of the woman he loved. Even when she wasn’t buried in blankets he had problems understanding her dialect, but he was pretty sure she had just called God a pig and swore against the holy sacraments.

An arm suddenly emerged from a fold in the blankets followed by her head. “Get away from me you…you bestia!” Then a second arm appeared and struck him on his shoulder.

“Hey,” he said blocking another blow. “Come on...quit it. I'm trying to help you.”

Bastardo. I do not want your help. You have done enough.” She wiggled the rest of the way out of her cocoon muttering more colourful phrases, but this time he didn’t hear any references to God, religion, or his questionable parentage. He hoped that meant she was calming down.

She stood up and Jarv leaned defensively backwards, but she didn't hit him. Instead, she cupped her elbow with her hand, pulled it as close to her face as she could manage, and examined it. After a few seconds, she pointed her elbow at him accusingly and said, “You see what you did? Now I am going to have a bruise.”
Last edited by gsfields2004 on September 4th, 2010, 10:27 am, edited 18 times in total.

Posts: 2
Joined: July 14th, 2010, 11:49 pm

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by elancross » July 15th, 2010, 12:13 am

Title: Grounders
Genre: YA Light Science Fiction

Drift wasn’t in the mood for mysteries. Or anything unexplainable. She definitely wasn’t in any mood for the too-perfect, shiny black stone half-visible through a thicket of grass at her feet.

Normally a break from her regular dead-dull life thrilled her, and in fact this particular mystery had secretly been haunting her dreams and popping up in her waking moments. But today, she had no time for it. Today, Master Henry was going out. A whole sunny, Master-free Saturday!

So why was this cussed stone wrecking everything? Again. Drift kicked a clump of dirt at her feet.

As usual, red light flickered through the grass, and as always, she reached for it without thinking. Then she remembered her mother’s words: Don’t touch nothing, mi amor, that does not fit into the natural world. Mama’s words rang with such passion that Drift’s hand never made it to the stone. Not when it had squealed at her on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, and then Friday. And not now.
Drift watched the stone for another minute, waiting. But of course, she was waiting for nothing. The stone would just flash and beep. That’s all it ever did now, since the first time, when it had done something else entirely. Something impossible. Something so absurd that Drift’s body had responded by bolting away at top speed. But now, just red light and beeps. That’s it.
Almost like the stone didn’t want to scare her away again.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 15th, 2010, 9:17 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by heirloomseries » July 15th, 2010, 9:19 am

TITLE: The Heirloom Pearls
GENRE: Women's Fiction
242 words
Kathy Nixon

“Help me end this,” he begged. His low voice drew Isabel McIntire from her prayer missal, and she raised the wick in the oil lamp. The light haloed the headboard and left her father’s wan face and wispy gray hair partly in shadow. His arm came forward and brushed her chair before landing on her skirts.
“Shhh,” she said, “it will soon be over, Poppa.” She stroked his hand and returned it to the silk coverlet.
“Now,” he said with more effort.
Isabel bit back her tears and shook her head.
“I would do it for you.” His words brought back a memory from long ago. Her father had one arm tight around her waist as under them, his new horse Spartacus bolted. She was riveted not by the danger but by her father’s gloved hand pulling the reins taunt and his knuckles threatening to rupture the seams of his riding glove. A few minutes later Spartacus fell, and they tumbled onto the dirt track.
Once her father took in the horse flailing with its broken leg, he brought out his pistol. Speaking soothing words, he knelt and stilled the horse. The tears in his eyes had startled her more than the sound of the gun.
Isabel nodded to her father and gripped the unused pillow by his head. Her mind was made up. She leaned forward. When she was almost to his face, the sound of his death rattle stopped her.

Posts: 4
Joined: July 15th, 2010, 11:30 am

Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by scribbler » July 15th, 2010, 11:35 am

Title: Untitled
Genre: Mainstream/Dystopian

Memories are funny things. Most people wish they had more of them, or at least wish they could keep more of them. They hold their hands spread wide like a net trying to catch them all, cursing each time one slips through their open fingers. They don’t realize the burden of the past. They say things like, “I remember the good ol’ days when bla de bla de bla” only they don’t actually remember a damn thing. Most of it’s just made up anyway. A fantasy they can cling to at night when the warm body beside them wants nothin’ to do with them.

When you can’t forget, it isn’t the birthdays or celebrations that go rolling through your mind like a bad montage from a made for TV movie. It’s the things you wish you could just bury. Throw some dirt overtop and pretend never existed in the first place.

Cohen McGinely wasn’t supposed to remember how to shoot. He wasn’t supposed to remember how to pull the trigger between heartbeats to guarantee the kill. How to make a blind to sit in for hour after hour, quiet like the dead, was another thing he was supposed to have forgotten. The smell of the three men tracking him, ten feet above, watching him through their rifle scopes, taking notes: he wasn’t supposed to remember how to hear them either. How to smell them. How to lead them astray. How to fool them into thinking he didn’t know they existed. All of it was supposed to have been washed from his memory two years ago when he’d left the Allied Nations SEALs team.
Last edited by scribbler on April 14th, 2011, 9:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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