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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Joined: July 26th, 2010, 5:37 pm

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

Post by DWKnaggs » July 26th, 2010, 5:51 pm

Title: Kid Scratch
Genre: Gothic

I breathed in again. For six months I had wanted to live underwater. I had been alive for six years and one twelfth of my life had been spent on training. I sat in the sand pit kicking my feet to watch a short wall of sand to form before falling back to earth with a hissing slip.
Kick. One cat and dog, Kick. Two cat and dog, Kick.
You can't. You'll never hold your breath long enough.

Kick. Twenty cat and dog, Breathe. I'm practicing.
You can't do it.
I'm practicing.

It was one of those days in a memory where everything is bleached. Light colors pale the sky, and sand is cleaner than it should be. Now, at this age a seven year old girl seemed centuries older than me instead of months. Olive was older, I didn't like her. She was a girl and her name reminded me of the color green. She was also bossy.
You can't do it - I asked my Mum
No you didn't
She watched my foot kick the sand again.
I would ask my mum if she was home. I could do it for you.
Olive tilted her head to the side and opened her mouth a little to make listening for her parents car easier.
No thanks, I can do this myself. I stopped kicking and stood up.
Olive stood up and walked over positioning herself between me and my brothers bungalow, in a space that I didn't know existed. We stood side by side in a narrow strip of shade, the white sun lined our bare toes. Olive grabbed my hand with her sweaty fingers.
I'm going to help you.

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Joined: July 26th, 2010, 9:52 pm

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

Post by abkeuser » July 26th, 2010, 9:56 pm

Title: The Nine Lies of Calliope Druthers
Genre: SF

The final wasteland is the sort of place you want to know you can trust those around you with your life. That’s why Flynn kept his crew to a minimum. His brother, his dog, and his pilot were all he needed to do his job and remain sane. His pilot, however, needed a bit more.

“We haven’t seen port in two months now, Captain. I’m crawling out of my skin for a little socializin’.”

Joss scanned the display in front of her. “Omicron Tau Seven isn’t half a day from here. We could dock in a matter of hours if I bend some routing laws.”

“That space station is a death trap.” Flynn sat across from her, cleaning the chamber of his revolver. He wasn’t going to look at her – he could already see her lip pushed out in a pout in the reflection on the viewport.

“But you love death traps.” She sighed. He wouldn’t look at her. “Doesn’t Sal live there? Wouldn’t you like to go see your old friend?”

Setting the gun down, he leaned on the console and fixed her with a stubborn look. “The last time I saw Sal, he tried to turn me in for a bounty.”

“But there’s no warrant out for you right now–”

“That we know of.” He interrupted, absently running his finger along the scar that circled his neck.

“True.” Joss was going to argue her point until he gave in. “But beside that, Sal’s a respectable businessman now.

Posts: 29
Joined: July 26th, 2010, 11:19 pm

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

Post by johndavid » July 26th, 2010, 11:27 pm

Title: Psycho Ward
Genre: Commercial fiction

The boy was all alone now. Everyone was dead and he didn’t know a single person outside of the house. It wouldn’t matter if he had because he never learned to use a phone. So the boy did the only thing he knew how to do. He walked across the pool of his father’s blood and opened his toy box. He opened the lid and it fell hard against the wall. The boy looked back nervously at his father and then gathered all his worldly possessions in his arms.

He looked at his dead father one more time and then walked out of his room. He made his way to his sister’s room and sat down on the floor near her bed. The body of the tattooed man was slumped in the corner but he didn’t notice. His sister’s lifeless body was on the bed and the sheets were soaked in blood. As soon as he sat down he started playing with his toy truck.

Thirty minutes later, alerted by a neighbor that heard the shots, the local police broke down the front door and eventually made their way upstairs to the second door on the right. The first cop that entered the room saw the young child playing on the floor like nothing had happened. The young child looked up at the officer and said “my sister said she is going to play with me later” and then he returned to his toys. That was the last time the boy ever spoke. That was twenty two years ago.

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Posts: 24
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by bookwatcher » July 27th, 2010, 1:13 am

Title: Book of the Watchers
Genre: YA Horror

I threw off the blankets and crept to the door. The old carpet, worn thin, could not hold back the cold rising from the floor boards below it. An involuntary shiver ran up my spine. Whether from the cold or from the nightmarish feeling that surrounded me, I couldn’t be sure.

The floor creaked, but no one stirred. My family seemed oblivious to the drumbeat. I continued with small steps and approached my bedroom door.

A flickering light danced across my floor from the gap at the bottom of the door.

I froze.

Fire. I hesitated, waiting for the fear that usually overcame me so easily. When it didn't come, I continued toward the sound.

I checked the door for heat. It felt cool and there was no smoke. The door squealed as I opened it adding to the ambiance of the haunted nightmare I found myself in. I paused again. My heart pounded as I approached the danger awaiting me at the other end of the hallway.

The hallway from my room to the front of my home was short and narrow and as I walked, the familiar surroundings disappeared. Out of habit I headed to the fireplace. A large tumbleweed had replaced it and a huge bon-fire blazed where the kitchen table used to be. The heat kept my bare feet warm as I wiggled my toes in the dirt.
Last edited by bookwatcher on August 17th, 2010, 1:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

Porthmeor Beach
Posts: 1
Joined: July 27th, 2010, 6:25 am

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

Post by Porthmeor Beach » July 27th, 2010, 6:30 am


A white Transit van pulls into a long straight road by the town park, slows for the speed bumps, then indicates right. Pulls into a small car park in front of the two-story honeystone building that is Oakham Police Station.

For a minute, no-one gets out.

Rain falls on the van’s windscreen. Andy Webb sits in the driver’s seat, one hand still on the wheel, the other holding a phone to his right ear. An exhausted man in his late thirties, he’s staring fixedly ahead. He’s listening.

From the passenger seat, Jean Webb looks out at the grey morning. Across the road, towards the park bandstand, at the green swathes of grass falling away to the children’s swing and the play area. In the background, the huge church spire reaches to the sky. Leopard gargoyles strain high up on leashes, stone eyes blinded.

Her son, on the phone, is doing some kind of deal on a set of second hand radiators. Even now, in the car park of the bloody police station – even under these circumstances - he can’t let the job go. Although there’s no enthusiasm in his voice, even today he’s promising to drive up to Melton to pick up parts for plumbing.

Andy, aware of his mother’s disapproval, agrees to pay over the odds for the gear, and cuts the call. He throws the phone onto the van’s dashboard, it disappears into a mess of paperwork and empty takeaway wrappers. Closes his eyes, rubs them.

Maureen Anne
Posts: 3
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 3:10 am

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

Post by Maureen Anne » July 27th, 2010, 7:01 am

Title: Sanctuary
Genre: Women's Fiction

Weightless - that was how I felt - as if I could have floated away leaving nothing but my evacuated skin behind - the discarded membrane of a burst balloon - a nonsensical remnant of a long played out party. However, that particular day was more akin to a wake and, a poorly attended one at that, not even an obligatory corpse was present, though, I feared I was one in the making.
It was foolish, I knew, to wallow in the gloom created by another fracas between my boss, Dr. Austin J. Cardinal, Chairman of the Board of The Fountain of Youth and me, his Chief Executive Officer. Fancy title to be sure; in reality, my fiduciary duty consisted, for the most part, of me playing the role of enforcer to his dictator. I was award-winningly good at it too; I covered for his industrious conniving by presenting it as entrepreneurial genius. I dressed up his merciless manipulation as innate eccentricity. Worst of all, though it shames me to admit it, I, Philomena Carlisle, had, and without due diligence, prostrated myself at the altar of the good doctor’s egocentric theatricals.
For ten long years, we had played out that old Gothic tale of rebellion and repression:
‘I will go to the ball.’
‘You will not go to the ball.’
If it had not been I, playing the role of Cinderella - well, I would have jumped in and rescued the wretched little archetype.

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Joined: July 27th, 2010, 7:04 am

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

Post by dharmma123 » July 27th, 2010, 7:12 am

Genre: academic satire

Joyce had not been the first person in her family to go to college, but she had been the first person in her family to go to college to have sex.
Her older sister and her cousin, in a most unlucky conjunction of stars, one year behind and one year ahead of her, traversed her life in the dorm, classes and at mealtimes, and went home every weekend--and told.

Actually the tales they carried were tame—different boys with Joyce at supper in the cafeteria, a little matter of a faked medical excuse that got around, smoking (they thought cigarettes) on the roof of Adams Hall, and the company of a one Dr. Bryant Wilkinson, controversial philosophy instructor and serial husband between wives, an atheist, author HUME AND KANT FOR EVERYONE.

Of course, it didn’t matter because those two, Melba and Louise, became busy being engaged to boys back home and ended up roommates together across campus from her in a room full of stuffed animals, Vicks inhalers, and used bus tickets sticking out of their teacher training texts.

At that point in her life Joyce did not want to be a teacher—she wanted to be a novelist, but the novels she read bespoke such highly exotic settings—the Bronx, the lavish East Side, the Jewish West Side, converted brownstones, White Plains, holocaust Germany, St. Moritz, Swiss sanitariums, Boston boarding schools—and such tony vocabulary painting the real world that she despaired so much attempting a creative writing course.

Dorie LaRue

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Joined: July 27th, 2010, 12:16 pm

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

Post by alliboyer » July 27th, 2010, 12:24 pm

Title: Black as Snow
Genre: YA fiction
Word Count: 231

Running through the forest, the wind blowing my tangled hair out of my face, I realize I have no idea where I am going.
Does it matter? As long as I am away from them, I could care less if I end up in China. China would definitely be better than looking at my once adoring father and his new whore.
Nana says it’s wrong of me to judge my new step mother before I have the chance of knowing her. She says God has a purpose for everything and everyone. I say God made a mistake.
I could tell I would never get along with Melonie Sanburg, now Melonie White, from the moment I saw her. She was wearing a yellow, silk gown, ironed and pressed so that it wouldn’t show the slightest hint of a wrinkle. Her blonde hair was kept in place by what I imagined to be an astronomical amount of hairspray. She was too obsessed with keeping her image perfect, and sneered at everyone she saw with one hair out of place.
The occasion was my fifteenth birthday party. My father, Gary White, an extremely powerful and prestigious businessman, wanted his daughter to have the biggest party our tiny town had ever seen. He invited every man, women, and child in Spring Falls, along with some of his business associates, including the home wrecker Melonie Sanburg.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 27th, 2010, 9:14 am

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

Post by duluonzo » July 27th, 2010, 12:43 pm

Working Title: An Effortless Grace
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Word Count: 250

The climb out of town onto the hilly dirt roads inspired open windows. I let an arm dangle loosely out into the fresh summer sunshine and weaved and waved it up and down with the air flow like a child. All I could see was beautiful and lively healthy green trees and long green grass surrounding the road with perfect brown dirt ahead of me leading up out of the valley. I turned up the radio and the music seemed so close I could almost feel the strum of the mellow guitar in my breath. Something about summer days, lost in a moment of bliss and deeply in love, puts a man at ease.

Before long, I’d passed a large pond with ramshackle seasonal camps scattered around the edge of the water and already there were kids flying off a rope swing, jumping off the docks, and out in the middle, a fisherman in a red canoe, floating gently that morning. Past the pond a half mile or so, an old dairy farm stood weathering the storm of time, barely, and I shook my head slowly as I noticed the barn full of rotted planks, leaning toward an old oak stand as if trying to catch a final whispered joke from the trees. I took a right on Witham Road after the dilapidated barn and turned a corner I wish I’d never turned. Life changes in the blink of an eye and maybe I never really opened my eyes again.

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Joined: July 27th, 2010, 1:32 pm

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

Post by alabamabcfc » July 27th, 2010, 1:50 pm

From The Secret of Gabriel Adam
Genre: YA


Pastor Houston McPherson crept through the cornfield on his hands and knees, his boots dragging behind, heavy and caked in mud. At last he was close enough to feel the bonfire's heat in the air, but for a man of advanced years, crawling these final yards had been difficult. He stopped for a moment and caught his breath, leaning on his fire extinguisher as if it were a cane. Tar-riddled lungs struggled to keep up, not helped by an ever-present tightness in his chest. Elsewhere, currents of pain carried a familiar objection up his spine from a frustrated lower back. You’re too old, it said and he agreed. Stalking through the field bordered on ridiculous, perhaps even dangerous given his age, but there was no way in hell he’d let them get away again.

Not tonight, he thought.

In the front pocket of his shirt, one of the clear plastic corners of a Ziploc sandwich bag had inched out, exposing its weather-sealed contents. Inside, his 35mm pocket camera blinked its tiny green light, ready for use. Fresh batteries. New film. This time he came prepared.

This time, their parents will know.

Houston kept to the darkened rows of corn, out of reach from the bonfire’s glow shimmering between the swaying tassels and flag-shaped leaves.
Ahead, figures and shapes haunted the corn at the light’s edge.

Damned teenagers. He moved closer, but something didn’t feel right. Nor did it look right - the light was bluish-white instead of the orange hue typical of fire.

Posts: 12
Joined: June 27th, 2010, 4:14 pm

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

Post by Penang » July 27th, 2010, 9:02 pm

Title: Songbird
Genre: YA

I was six when Jace died. He took me to the park while babysitting me. He always did things like that. It didn't matter we only went there so he could make out with his girlfriend, Kayla. What mattered was he took me.

Mom and Dad never bothered. Dad was always too busy working or drinking, and Mom...well, Mom couldn't leave the house, or people might have questioned the bruises lining her jaw.

That last day at the park, I felt like a beautiful bird. I sat on the swing with Jace behind me pushing me higher until I soared through the air. I gripped the chains harder and let go at the highest point, gliding down to the ground. I landed on my feet, and with a laugh, I let myself crumble onto the grass before rolling over.

"Dani Blair Mays, I'm gonna get you!"

Before I could scamper away, he pounced on me, tickling me to death. I giggled uncontrollably, until finally he let me up. I hugged him around his waist. There wasn't anyone I loved more than Jace. He spun me in a wide circle and my legs flew out. When he stopped spinning, my feet dropped back to the ground. My knees gave way and I held onto him, laughing as I sagged against him.

"Hey squirt, Kayla's here. You've got thirty minutes." He gave me a shove towards the playground. I ran for the equipment and scurried up the rope ladder, climbing into the large red tunnel bridge.

Posts: 16
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 6:45 am

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

Post by Sea » July 27th, 2010, 10:45 pm

Title: Naughty Gnomes
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Word Count: 247

When a plate shatters, it makes a loud crashing noise, but when a heart breaks, there is only silence. Oh, and sometimes there’s piteous wailing, hysterical sobbing, and a series of embarrassing phone messages left on your ex’s answering machine, too. But when my heart broke (and I’m pretty sure I saw one fragment of it bounce across the floor and lodge itself beneath the fridge, so that bit’s gone forever), it was so silent you could hear the sound of my dog’s drool landing softly on the linoleum.

All the noisy stuff - the piteous wailing and so on - came later. And as for the plate? I’d like to say I smashed it over the bastard’s head, but in truth I accidentally knocked it off the sink as I was making my grand exit.

An entire month after my fiancé, Carl, left me for another woman, his pretty, boyish face was still looming before me. The single point of difference being, that where I’d once found its golden tones and soft contours angelic, it now put me in mind of an evil pixie.

Well, that and this time my view of his face was speckled by leaves. Probably because I was hiding in a hedge that overlooked Café De Ramez, instead of sitting beside him, staring into his eyes like a love-struck moron.

Ants and twigs were brazenly exploring my body as no man ever had, but my attention was devoted entirely to glaring at Carl.

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Joined: July 28th, 2010, 12:13 am

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

Post by elsbietka » July 28th, 2010, 2:03 am

Title: Shatter
Genre: General Fantasy
Word Count: 248

With a hissing sigh of released steam, the River Rat pulled into the bustling Davenford dockyards. The craft bumped against the pier caught in the passing current. Faela gripped the high rail of the steamboat and flakes of rust scraped against her palms. Her eyes snapped up from under the brim of a worn rancher's hat studying the wharf's layout along the river.

After giving a few docking orders to his crew, the captain approached her, but stopped short and lounged against the metal railing. “This is as far as we go, Faela. You’ll have to find other passage north."

Faela nodded. "My thanks, Aaron."

Aaron looked over Faela's head at the wherry in the slip behind them and down at the short woman. Her mud-spattered overcoat, clearly made for someone taller and broader, swept past her knees. It dwarfed her, giving the impression that she was harmless. The crooked hump along the bridge of her snub nose and the knife hilt poking above her belt, however, told a darker story. He tried to get a better look at her face, but she used her shorter stature to her advantage. Despite his obstructed view, one thing was clear. She had changed.

"You sure you want to be heading for the border?" Aaron folded his arms across his chest straining the knit of his thick gray sweater. "Nabos ain't no place for a lady.”

"Rest assured," Faela said, her lips tugging at the corners. "That's not a concern."
Last edited by elsbietka on August 2nd, 2010, 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 34
Joined: July 27th, 2010, 7:22 pm
Location: Corvallis, OR

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

Post by adamg73 » July 28th, 2010, 12:08 pm

Title: Sol of a Gladiator
Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 249

A baby’s cry.
Grall was sure that’s what he’d heard. In the depths of the coliseum a person became accustomed to various cries of pain or despair. Prisoners, men broken physically or mentally, called out in the night. Spoils, the women given to victorious fighters to do with whatever they saw fit, cried out often. The beasts, crazed by captivity and seclusion, howled and cackled. Even Grall, though the proud young guard would never admit it, sometimes fought back the tears that came in the dark. Over time, one could learn to block out the sound completely.
But the cry of a child, an infant, a sound that had no place in this world, could not be ignored.
Grall made his way slowly down the roughly carved stone hall, unenthusiastic in his search for the sounds origin. He knew what was expected of him when he found the child. His stomach clenched at the thought.
“I don’t need this.” he thought aloud, his voice barely a whisper. “I should be in bed.” In truth, only minutes before he had lain wide awake, willing dawn to come and give him a reason to abandon his tossing and turning. With the day came his duties, blessed menial tasks he could lose himself in, briefly forgetting his loss.
Grall had come to the stadium only a few months before. He had been a guard in the city until he refused to participate in a drill using live captives. His protests changed nothing.

Posts: 1
Joined: July 28th, 2010, 1:22 pm

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

Post by DakotaGS » July 28th, 2010, 1:27 pm

Title: Theo and Renee
Genre: MG Novel
(247 words)

I don’t oversleep, at least not in the summer. Not when I have important work to do. But when I open my eyes it’s too light and too warm. How did this happen? I grab my notebook and head outside. As I pass Mom’s room, I see she’s left for work. The dry, rocky hill casts a long shadow over our little house, but across the dirt driveway, The House glows in the yellow morning light. The thick logs, smooth and tan, look naked stripped of their protective bark. The perfect, round stones climb up the front like a pathway to the sky. Only tourists build log houses like this, and stay in them for just a few weeks a year, wearing them like costumes for their visit to the mountains. When I look at it, sitting empty, I see all that was lost, but I turn and look instead to the hill. Scientists can only focus on what we observe in the present.

The rocky hillside only has a few shrubs of syringa, the little white flowers beginning to dry out in the summer heat. But there’s plenty of hearty sagebrush. It stakes its claim on every slope around here. But I’m focusing on something else, a hole I’ve been observing for most of the summer. The rock just below a larger boulder hides the entrance to a home. It took me weeks of sitting still and watching to finally learn whose home it is.


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