Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by setsuji » July 23rd, 2010, 1:03 am

Title: [from] Selfish. defiant. Pursuit of Hope.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Word count: 250

As the hill leveled off to higher ground I finally allowed myself to turn. Below me, four campfires blazed, shapes of people lingering around them. I tried to see Mara down by the lake but it was too far gone, and black. I wrapped my arms tightly across my chest, fingers digging into my shoulders, it eased a feeling of splintering from the inside out.

The trees began to move, agile shadows sliding smoothly between them. I was hollowed with dread, my entire body, still splintering, produced a fine sheen of icy sweat. I watched. The shadows of the soldiers, came curling like wisps of smoke from the trees and to the campsite. At my distance, it was at once beautiful and utterly unbearable. Shadows against silhouettes and the resonating sound of the guns, the dancing lights that appeared like dying stars. My own screams echoed back to me, wild and unending.

When light came in bruising shades of orange and red the gunfire had long ceased. I made no clear sound any longer—only a sibilation, long and drawn out. I lay my forehead against the dirt and closed my eyes. It was not restful and I did not sleep. For a long time, I was aware of nothing but the rising oppression of the sun. I was thankful, in many ways, for the cool circle of metal that pressed against the skin of my neck and the shadow of the soldier whose footsteps I had not heard.
Last edited by setsuji on September 6th, 2010, 1:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

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

Post by WilliamMJones » July 23rd, 2010, 1:21 am

Title: I'm a Nobody
Genre: YA Fantasy
250 Words


I obeyed the voice in my head without question. The classroom door opened easily despite being locked. I closed it silently and turned to the dark room. Moments later the sound of footsteps came from the hall. They were fast and sharp. They grew closer, until they were just outside the room, and then they began to fade. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I had almost been caught trespassing.

It was nearing midnight, and the school’s security system was working, but I felt no urgency to leave. The cameras had not detected this person. “Someone else can do it too?” I asked.


I obeyed, throwing open the door and chasing the source of the footsteps through the dark halls.

I knew that hearing voices meant someone was crazy, and obeying the voices without question made them dangerous. But I wasn’t crazy or dangerous. The voices in my head were always right. I didn’t know what that made me.

If this person was like me, I would get an answer.

I followed the source of the footsteps through the school, past the main office and into a hall full of dull green lockers. I thought I knew where the person was going, though I couldn’t be sure. After two more turns and a walking through a short hall past a security camera, they were in front of a door. It looked like every other door in the school, with an oversized steel doorknob and peeling red paint.

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

Post by charlesforgues » July 23rd, 2010, 11:50 am

Title: Hollow Point
Genre: mystery/suspense
(248 words)

"Goodbye, Angel," I mumbled around the .44's cold barrel.

Angel's soft female voice came from across the room. "Are you sure you want to do this, John?"

"I'm sure."

I gazed into the dark corner beyond the opened-out and unmade futon, to the cage on the shelf high against the wall. The white rat's eyes shone red, and I wondered for an instant if Angel's eyes were actually glowing, or it was a product of my sleep-deprived brain.

I'd quit drinking five days ago in order to clear my mind of the effects of alcohol. I wanted to make certain what I was about to do was a rational decision. But I hadn't slept in as many nights, and part of me knew my thoughts were far from rational.

My thumb rested on the revolver's trigger, the weapon turned around in my hand. The bite of metal mixed with the light taste of gun oil gagged me. Images of Sylvia flashed through my mind. Sylvia slim and athletic. Sylvia large with child, the soft smile on her face as she slept beside me.

Then I thought of those I would leave behind. Chester. My mother. My sister and nephew in Seattle. Frank Nelson. And, of course, Angel.

But would I miss them? After what I had planned, I doubted that would even be possible.

And would any of them miss me?

Angel rustled in her cage. "You still have much to do, John. Your work with Father Albright...."

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

Post by Vanessa_Lillie » July 23rd, 2010, 1:30 pm

Title: The Lyneage: Ties that Bind
Genre: Mainstream
Word Count: (249)

You may think it sounds insane for a genetic researcher or any rational man to agree to live with three serial killers, but to be fair, Dr. Eli Spencer was only aware of one killer at the time.

He also hadn't been able to sleep or eat much since agreeing to the job one month ago. And he bought a gun. A big one.

Four hours after Eli landed in Atlanta, an old man at a Georgia roadside pawnshop sold him a .22 caliber handgun. He said that it was easy to use, bought one for his granddaughter for her sixteenth birthday, in fact. That was high enough praise for Eli.

Staring at the large cracked pieces of sidewalk leading to the decaying mansion of his strange new employer, Eli realized gun or not, even the house scared the hell out of him. And he lived in the Bronx, so that should say something.

As a researcher, he was rarely nervous before interviewing a new subject. Iron bars or a prison guard supplied the needed security. This would be the first time he’d studied a killer who wasn’t controlled by the law.

A crashing noise from inside sent Eli rushing toward the porch. A woman’s frustrated scream was followed by a barrage of more smashing.

They’ll start with us again. He'll come home if we do this,” she yelled.

Eli stumbled back hearing footsteps coming fast and getting louder. He wondered if the old man had loaded the gun.
Last edited by Vanessa_Lillie on August 5th, 2010, 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Sheffield » July 23rd, 2010, 2:54 pm

Title: The Boys from Abria
Genre: fantasy

   "Deandra," he said.  And woke up.
     The dream had been so vivid that it took him a second to realise he was awake, lying on the real, hard Erdd, and another to understand what the rumbling noise he was hearing meant.  Alleyn kept his eyes closed while he put his ear flat to the ground on which they lay. 
     "What?" his partner's voice said.  It was around dawn, the light flat and strange, the gentle breeze making the tall plains grasses around their little circle of camp wave and whisper, grey-green like the sea.
     "Horsemen.  Two - no, three.  Coming this way.  Fast."
     "You said Deandra," Damon said.  "Is it her?"
     "No, that was just a bad dream."  And then he realised what his partner had said, "And how in the name of half the moon and all the pretty stars am I supposed to tell if it's Deandra, from hoofbeats?"
     Damon smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling.  "Is it my fault if I think you can walk on water?"  His guns were in his hand.  "Cowboys?"
     "No; can't hear any cattle.  Just the horses."
     "Again? Why is it always us?" 
     Three men rode into the clear cut encampment, one moment only visible as dark shapes to the waist, floating on the sea of grass, then they broke into the clearing and were riders again, their horses flecked with the foam of hard travel.  They wore smart Abrian clothes, frock coats and fancy waistcoats, like professional gamblers, like townies.

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

Post by andreaism » July 23rd, 2010, 4:40 pm

Title: Plush
Genre: Literary Fiction
(241 words)

At seventeen David got his first job making minimum wage at Chuck E Cheese. His manager, Robbie, explained to him that they needed someone to wear the goddamn mouse costume and stand on the corner with a sign advertising their specials to lure people in. The idea of this was humiliating. Wearing a giant fucking rat custom was not going to get him laid. But he supposed having a car would, so he hoped this shit would balance out. He also hoped that since he was wearing a full costume that no one would know it was him anyway. Also, there was a part of him that was excited about the new job, mostly about having some spending cash and the coming weekend when his dad would take him out car shopping. He had a few ideas about what sort of car he wanted after weeks of trolling craigslist and Not providing a price range, his dad merely insisted that they buy the car from a valid dealer so they could get a warranty. David lost interest when his dad mumbled on about this shit, tuning him out; his dad said something about getting dicked over when he was younger when he bought a car from a repo lot. He drifted off wondering if his dad would take him to pick up his Wednesday pull list from Comic Castle. Two things his dad seemed to understand were hockey and comics.

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

Post by Tonia » July 24th, 2010, 10:03 pm

Title: (Withheld by author)
Genre: Futuristic murder mystery
Comment: Set in Australia in 2067

At five in the morning, Sydney sweltered with the outside temperature reaching twenty-eight degrees C already. If the temperature swelled to over forty the giant sky shields would be activated, but for now the November sun blazed redly from just above the cloudless eastern horizon.

In a small patch of forest the bodies had been hanging from the giant fig tree for two days and nights but already the tiny creeping, crawling and burrowing creatures of the bush had found a new temporary home.

A strong gust of wind was enough to set the bodies swaying and twisting in their macabre embrace, a strange dance that disturbed their new inhabitants not at all. Small animals and bugs foraging for their sustenance had lapped greedily at the juices that had slowly dripped and oozed and trickled their way down from the mutilated bodies. An engorged maggot dropped from an eye.

As the hideously entwined pair spun and swayed slowly there was, occasionally, a bright sparkle from the blackened fingers of what had once been a woman, and a glint of gold from the wrist of what had once been a man.

A hungry kookaburra thought he'd found some giant worms as he tugged at stray entrails. The tantalising smell of putrid flesh had attracted many more creatures of the bush and the discordant hum and incessant buzz of a thousand or more blowflies and other insects filled the air, but there was no one there to hear it.

Not yet.
Last edited by Tonia on July 25th, 2010, 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Easy reading is damn hard writing" - Nathaniel Hawthorne

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

Post by mil » July 25th, 2010, 6:08 pm

Title: none as yet
Genre: YA (dystopian fantasy)
Word count: 243

I was watching the storm from my bedroom window when Mother died. My father’s wordless cry echoed through our unlit house, above the wind and the thunder and the rattling glass, announcing the inevitable. Mother had cheated fate once already, nearly fourteen years ago; twice was just wishful thinking.

I turned my back on the lightning-scarred night and lit the candle on my bedside table. Father had told me to stay in my room, but I couldn’t sit in limbo waiting to hear the bad news I already knew. I crept down the stone staircase with candle in hand, my stomach churning in dread anticipation. I opened the parlour door and peered inside. The smell of blood and waste and lamp oil hung in the air. Mother lay naked on the bed in the centre of the room, her eyes closed. Sweat glistened on her skin. The baby – tiny, purple, stillborn – lay ceremonially at her breast. The familiar black rash covered its tiny arms and fragile back. My sobbing father knelt next to them, his head bowed. Alban the healer noticed me lurking in the shadows.

“She didn’t suffer, Freya. Please believe me,” he whispered, taking the candle from me. “It was a boy.”

My hands started shaking. I wanted to scream but nothing would come out. It was a boy. My brother.

“Father?” I said, edging towards the bed.

He looked at me with narrowed eyes, his mouth twisted into a cruel grimace.
Last edited by mil on July 27th, 2010, 7:10 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by Wavelet » July 25th, 2010, 11:11 pm

Title: A Unified Theory of Love
Genre: Literary Fiction
Comment: Two alternating narratives - one set in the 1940s, one set in in the autumn of 2004, both set (mostly) in SE Tennessee
Word Count: 250

They meet at a dance.

It is wartime, ten months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Elizabeth has reluctantly promised her brother, a law student at Harvard, to be his date. It is only the two of them now.

She presses a heart onto her lips, hides the pins in her chignon with pieces of her own hair. The only way that she can steady her hand to curl her lashes is to think of herself as a plant, a flower on a stalk.

The Autumn Dance is a college function, and she is a college student. Or almost. She attends botany classes – lectures, really – at Radcliffe College. Many of her classes are held at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, in a handful of rooms lit as if a lemon had been squeezed over them. Here, in sharp-cornered cases, is the Ware Collection: 4,000 stunningly life-like plants and flowers, all made of colored glass. Morning glories struggling up a trellis, pineapples and pine trees, apricots, cotton, and hemlocks, overblown roses, a scarlet runner bean. A card next to a barrel cactus bristling with hundreds of short glass hairs reads: "Also called compass cacti as these specimens often lean to the southwest as they grow." On one wall, a glass trunk so realistic it gives off the sweet metallic scent of bark. In the Rotten Fruit Series, a contaminated pomegranate reveals its animal-like innards. Elizabeth sucks in her breath when she passes the coral-colored globes, suspended from their fluted stems.
Last edited by Wavelet on July 29th, 2010, 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by Harv » July 26th, 2010, 8:49 am

Title: Red Scarf
Genre: YA Historical
(241 words)

The beginning of the end for my family was the knock at the door.
It was after midnight when it roused me from a fitful sleep. My parents had spent the night arguing, so my dreams had been filled with great terror and a sense of impending doom. I could still hear them now; moving about in the study, opening cupboards and trying hard not to be heard in the glacial Russian twilight.
When the second knock came, louder and more prolonged I got out of bed, tiptoed to the window and looked down into the courtyard. That’s when I saw the Black Maria, axle deep in the dirty grey snow, its side emblazoned with the mocking slogan – ‘Moscow’s finest cuts.’
I knew then that they’d come for my father.

“Sonia, wake Kolya and get dressed.”

My father stood in the doorway, ashen faced and wearing his finest grey suit. He held an envelope tightly in his hand.

“Pack some clothes, dress warm and take this.”

He gave me the envelope.

“Hide it carefully and don’t open it until you’re alone or with someone you trust.”

He paused.

“No. Show no-one, trust no-one.”

Then he kissed me and left the room.

Kolya was fast asleep, his little body hidden beneath the blankets. I listened to his breathing and tried to decide what I should tell him. Should I be honest and say father had been arrested?

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

Post by lexcade » July 26th, 2010, 3:43 pm

Title: Dirge of the Desert
Genre: Science Fiction
250 Words

My eyes fluttered open with the lack of focus that only comes from sleeping too long. I was shivering and exhausted.

Gotta find a blanket, I thought when the shivering worsened. Get up… My mind blanked. Get up… In that tiny space where a name should have popped into my head, silence lingered, accompanied by the haunting sensation that something was terribly wrong.

I couldn’t remember my name.

Beeping stole my attention for a moment. I tried to find the source, but I couldn’t move. My head remained fixed, eyes staring into a blur. What’s going on? My arms struggled against restraints. How did I get here? My legs kicked at air. Why can’t I remember? The beeping increased with my panic. Something poked me in the back, but that seemed to be the least of my worries.

At the risk of choking myself, I turned my head toward the beeping and gasped. A small group of people dressed in white stood clustered only a few feet from where I lay trapped. Some of them wrote on something; the movement of their hands caught my attention more than what they might have been writing. A brunette approached me, her soft eyes almost calming. “Hey there,” she whispered.

I tensed, struggling to focus. She seemed familiar, but I’d never seen her before. The air blowing from a vent swirled her hair. I wanted to touch it, make it move more. My eyes shot to a small tear rolling down her cheek.
"Art imitates nature as well as it can, as a pupil follows his master; thus it is sort of a grandchild of God." ~~Dante

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

Post by Cyber Writer » July 26th, 2010, 4:14 pm

Title: Cyber Writers and the Zebra of Life
Genre: MG Fantasy-Adventure
Word Count: 250

Mason Witt sat at the back of a hot, musty school bus. His seat was sticky and smelled of tuna sandwiches and old milk. Paper airplanes, pencil erasers, leftover lunch bits, and various small toys whizzed through the air in all directions. His daily bus rides had caused him to become quite good at dodging stray, flying objects. The regular bouncing, screaming and singing from the other kids always reminded Mason of the monkeys he had seen on a field trip to the zoo. Out of the window he saw the bright green, Queens Avenue street sign. "Almost there," he said to himself. He couldn't wait to get home. It was finally the day he could get back on his skateboard.
Mason's mother had grounded him for a week for skateboarding in their neighbor’s empty swimming pool without her permission. Being deprived from his board the entire time had driven him practically crazy. He loved the way the wind smacked against his face whenever he and his best friend Cole practiced together in old Mr. and Mrs. Johnson's pool. He closed his eyes and remembered gliding between the deep and shallow ends, high-fiving Cole as they crossed each other in the middle – and even suffering a few magnificent wipeouts.
"Hey, are you asleep?" Mason heard someone say. He opened his eyes and turned to his left. A bigger boy with giant, black glasses was staring him in the face.
"Oh, hey, Adam. No, I wasn't sleeping, just dreaming," said Mason.

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

Post by Priscilla58 » July 26th, 2010, 5:02 pm

It was a soft afternoon; the temperature of blood.. The temperature of blood. the phrase lingered in her mind. A person's normal temperature was 98.6, But for someone to compare it to the weather, on a day like today meant one of two things; they were speaking about a murderous rampage, a "dog-day afternoon", or that they knew somehow, remembering facts from a long past science class that Blood temperature is 38C or 100.4F.

And today is just that.100 degrees, in some areas.
Now, in Newport, Rhode Island, at a bus stop and alone, she felt the impending doom as the cars in the intersection screeched to a halt. Sinister events happened in her perimeter all the time.She heard the wind moan earlier that morning, 19 crows swooning throughtout the acre long yard . On the east porch, caawing, in the ominous sky outside her bedroom. She came running down with a towel and her brother, Francis, who hated me I never went upstairs to her room, after the last incident.I hated him for those taunts.Francis Jr.,seemed cut form a different cloth than all the rest of kids I knew. And there was no way of getting away from him, since his sister, Grace was my best friend, since the 2nd grade.

Francis, was a frightening deaf mute, burly, medium heightened, fifteen year-old He had three chins built into his square mug. His name" Pencil dic' came from his hobby of stabbing some of his victims’ backs during a sedate math class, for fun.
Mostly he did it with his thick, grubby fingers with over sharpened fingernails, sometimes he used highly sharpened No.2 lead pencils,. a Whoever sat in front of him in class, developed a reflexive shudder around the back and the nape of the neck, never being able to fully estimate, the onslaught of the next stab. He disliked being ignored, so he found ways to get attention. On the track or football fields, he would throw another kid down, straddle their arms so they couldn’t fight back, and hold their screeching faces with one hand while he stabbed them lightly but repeatedly with the small pencils.

She was almost five years younger and she had a lot of different feelings about him, all strong. He was cuter than she was, dark and dramatically adorable. She liked looking at him but she resented the attention he got. Before he was sixteen, their mother decided he was so beautiful that adults would be tempted to kidnap him, to keep him for their own. The ensuing watchfulness disgusted Grace and everyone in town . Nobody was ever scared she’d be kidnapped. But he adored her and that sparked her interest.

As she grew he began to teach her things. That crucial summer, when she’d just turned eleven, and they got a pool table from her fathers' dead friend, Walt .So they pitched a tent around it to hang out in the cold basement. They’d been playing a game with the old, battered globe from dead Uncle Frank‘s old place. Everything in their basement was from some dead relative. Their games, the summers growing hotter, the exclusiveness of one cold basement and a lot of dead peoples’ furniture was enough to make anyone have a plethora of friends, Out of curiosity alone of the siblings' strange mindset, friends lined up to beg entry.

How they played was with a special understanding because of Francis’ ways of not being able to communicate. So, one of them would write down , on a separate paper; a name printed on the globe—anything from a range of mountains to a city or river, an island or a nation. The namer would go on twirling the globe, pretending to be undecided long after picking the spot so the searcher couldn’t tell on which hemisphere or continent or ocean it lay. Then the other one had to find it. If the searcher couldn’t find the place, the namer would crow and sneer and get another turn at dictating the search.
Last edited by Priscilla58 on July 27th, 2010, 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by jcavanaugh » July 26th, 2010, 5:12 pm

Title: Final Option
Genre: Fantasy
Word count:248

You know that moment in movies, right before the building blows up, that the good guy looks at his sidekick and says, “Oh no.”? The people in the theater always laugh, because they would never find themselves caught in that situation. They always would have walked the perimeter or set a guard to watch the movement inside the building.

“You know what we should have done, Lenny?” Mick asked me, all nonchalant with his cigarette hanging from his lip, his 9mm loose in his hand. “We should have had someone watching the building. At least check the perimeter or something before we came charging in.”

I shot him a look, then went back to picking the lock on the shipping crate. It did not escape my notice that Mick was counting down from two minutes along with the timer that was attached to a nasty explosive staring us in the face.

“Lenora, maybe a little quicker?” Mick suggested, his lip twitching.

“Got it!” I yelled, throwing back the cover. I grabbed the burlap wrapped package and motioned to Mick to start running out of the post office.

“Thirteen,” he yelled, running past me. Completely unfair – running in heels was distinctly more difficult than the ugly boots he wore. I gritted my teeth and pushed myself harder.

“Ten,” I yelled, as I met and passed him. I kept the silent count in my head: nine, eight, almost at the door, six, five, get away from the cars, three, two…

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

Post by taylor.mathews » July 26th, 2010, 5:24 pm

248 words

John-Malte leaned against the Glass Wall bordering the graveyard and gripped the handle of his axe. The light chill of the wall soaked through the leather of his long-jacket and spread across his shoulders. He yawned and stroked his thumb against a knot in the well-worn wood, his eyes lingered on the fresh grave. Jannet-Kreis had as much chance of waking for a second life as not. For now, her grave remained undisturbed. Despite another enthusiastic yawn, Malte was more than alert. He scanned the edges of the trees, searching for a glimpse of gray skin.

Derreck-Paulsen, Malte’s most recent apprentice, huffed a pale cloud of impatience. “How much longer?”

The back of Malte’s head rolled against the cold glass until he faced Paulsen. “I don’t know.”

“Why not? You’re supposed to be the best Gravewatcher since before Gravewatchers existed. Shouldn’t you know these things?”

“Myene don’t exactly rise on schedule, kid. We covered that yesterday.”


The kid wouldn’t last a week.

Malte straightened his posture, spun his axe once against the palm of his hand, and then rescanned the moonlit trees. The Myene always sent three collectors: two to haul and one to fight. And they always waited for the Disturbance before making an appearance. Not that it mattered much — Malta had an exemplary record.


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