Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
Posts: 1
Joined: April 14th, 2011, 8:38 pm

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

Post by pmas0518 » April 14th, 2011, 8:43 pm

Title: Entanglements
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

No one had ever lived after jumping from the Talmadge Bridge and in my fifteen years I, Kizzy Taylor, had never been particularly special or unique. So the chances I would be the first were probably slimmer than the anorexic cheerleading captain at my high school. The Savannah skyline, with its gold domed city hall, loomed in the distance, serene and beautiful. Leaning over the railing, I peered down to the water far, far below me and the whipping wind slammed my ponytail against my forehead.

A curious calm settled over me.

In the darkness of the unusually cold night, the black sheen of the water’s depths had the appearance of asphalt after a rain. It would probably feel like asphalt on impact, I thought. My knees buckled but I immediately straightened my shaking legs with a bit of defiance.

Dragging my gaze away from the river I deliberately stared at my feet. They weren’t as scary as the height. From the purple polish on my toes to the blister on my right heel, they were the same feet I’d slipped into clear plastic flip-flops this morning. The garishly happy sunflower appliqué of my shoes mocked me.

“Kizzy.” Adam’s tiny four-year-old fingers tugged at the denim of my pants. He held his favorite plastic pterodactyl toy in his other hand.

Glancing back at him, I pried his fingers away. “Get back,” I ordered, giving a little push behind me. Okay. Maybe my life was over, but I was going to save my little brother.

Posts: 1
Joined: April 15th, 2011, 1:56 pm

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

Post by Twolane » April 15th, 2011, 2:07 pm

Title: Golden Mexico
Genre: Fiction

I spent a month roaming mainland Mexico looking for airports and airplanes. I kept out of the major centers and wandered into the more out of the way places. I tried paying out good money for information. When that didn't work I rolled with the punches and used my gringo Spanish to explore local rumors. Then I started to get a little gun-shy about the trail I figured I was leaving, but what the hell, by then it was too late.

It all came together about a hundred miles east of the Sea of Cortez. I had discovered a former military airport with a couple of intact hangers. Two broken-down civilian aircraft were parked on one side of the tarmac.

I camped about a quarter-mile from the strip in a deep hollow obscured by desert scrub and began my vigil. During one of my late-evening excursions I located a small creek about a hundred yards back from the hollow. When the urge struck, I walked back and forth to relieve the boredom and to wash off the dust. During the day I'd siesta in the afternoon with the best of them. At night I chanced cooking over an open fire, but only in the dead of morning.

By the end of the week there was still no sign of anyone. I didn't think there would be. I figured this place was so out of the way that it could only be used for something illegal.

Right up my alley.

Posts: 1
Joined: April 16th, 2011, 6:08 pm

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

Post by johnlovell » April 16th, 2011, 6:11 pm

"The Acolyte," a crime thriller

“No TV,” the stone-faced boy blocking the oak double doors said. “No cameras.” To Moran he looked seventeen or eighteen, nearly a man. The boy glared down the granite steps of the church at the television news crews on the old brick sidewalk. Three cameramen, three on-air reporters. “It’s going to rain soon,” one of the cameramen said. “Hey, tough shit,” the boy said.

Slender, about five-ten, he was wearing a stiff white shirt with a polka-dot tie and a navy blue suit, the pants a little too short, Moran thought. The television people knew who he was. He flicked his hands at them and they stepped farther back, out of the path of a few approaching mourners.

Moran, maybe an inch or two shorter than the boy, in his late thirties, followed the mourners around a gray mound of lingering April snow and up the granite steps. “I don’t have a camera,” he said. “Just a notebook. I’m from the Portland Pilot. I’ll just sit in the back where I won’t disturb anyone. All right?”

The boy stared at him. “What’s your name?”

“Jake Moran,” the reporter told him, starting quickly around him through the open doors. “Thanks.”

Moran shivered, feeling the cold dampness inside the stone church, remembering to genuflect before edging into a worn mahogany pew. He had never covered a funeral mass before. He watched the rows of pews in front of him becoming full, writing a rough head count on a fresh page of his reporter’s notebook as the organist played a muted hymn, close to eighty people now.

Posts: 1
Joined: April 20th, 2011, 7:42 pm

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

Post by PamlSmith » April 20th, 2011, 7:56 pm

Working Title: The Art of Chaos
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Words Submitted: 243

I’m walking as fast as I can which isn’t easy when you’re carrying a Cello. I feel a bit off and it’s not just because I’m tired, I’m used to the late night gigs with the band. It’s the phone call from Moira that’s messing with my head. She called right when I was walking out the door and now I’m late and it’s wicked cold.

Wind stings my eyes and I blink to clear the tears. I round the corner into The Limestone District and my left foot plunges into an icy puddle. Could this day get any worse? I hoist the Cello up higher on my back and adjust the straps. It’s like carrying the world’s most awkward backpack, except that a backpack doesn’t whack you on the calves when you walk. I’m alone on the cobblestone street. The shrill beeping of a delivery truck somewhere close by breaks the silence.

This street was paved up until five years ago. The town wanted to give the area a SoHo feel that they thought would invite artists to set up shop. The son of a Town Councilor tendered low and got the contract. The street looked great the first year, but winters are harsh and the frost caused heaves. That’s what you get when you accept a cheap quote from an out-of-work plumber. I shake my foot and start walking again in small calf-saving steps towards my Aunt’s shop.

Posts: 9
Joined: April 20th, 2011, 2:43 pm

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

Post by ClaudeNougat » April 21st, 2011, 5:08 am

Genre: Historical/paranormal YA fantasy, book 1 of Trilogy entitled FEAR OF THE PAST


Ideas planted in us when we are children are the hardest to get rid of. They grow inside, as natural as trees, their foliage hiding the world around you. For me, it was the idea I was the last living Bellomo and that, somehow, it was important.
“Tony, you are a Bellomo,” my father shook his finger at me when I had fallen off my bike. “A Bellomo never cries! We fought the Arabs. We liberated Sicily nine hundred years ago. Don’t ever forget it!” I had a deep cut in my knee and it hurt like hell, but I stopped crying. I had no idea what historical battles he was talking about, but the awe in his voice when he pronounced the family name is still with me.
“Your great grand-parents gambled the family fortune away in Monte Carlo” my father said, his black eyes lighting up, as if this was some remarkable achievement. I didn’t know what gambling meant or where Monte Carlo was, but I didn’t dare ask. And he added, a dreamy look in his eyes: “They were Sicilian barons but lived like princes!” Being a baron was good, being a prince was better; I knew that from my fairy tales. Then my father would sigh. “With World War I, that life came to an end. The family palace was sold and became a museum. When you grow up, we’ll visit Sicily and the palace together…” I didn’t ask him what the family did that was so special. I just took it for granted. I was a child growing up in New York, Europe was so far away.
Then my father unexpectedly died when I was five and I learned nothing more. He got sick overnight and was taken to the city hospital then to some famous clinic out of town, and I stayed with my grandparents. I was used to older people: my father was the same age, and Grandpa reminded me of him. One day I overheard Grandma saying my mother was “devastated” and that’s when I knew he had died. Mum came home to our old Victorian house in Brooklyn Heights and I was put away in a school for the gifted. That was better than my old school where kids made fun of me, and I was left in peace with my computer for as long as I wanted – which was most of the time. Yes, I forgot to tell you, it’s so much a part of me that I don’t think of it as something remarkable: I am a born computer hacker and programming for me is as easy as breathing.

Posts: 11
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 7:32 pm

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

Post by Ce3 » April 21st, 2011, 5:36 pm

Title: Blood Money
genre: Fiction/thriller

If Jonathan Byrd loved anything, it was a challenge, but the task of removing a six dollar flashlight from its impenetrable ‘made-in-china’ plastic seal was creating more stress than usual. In fact, this normally peaceful man appeared on the verge of a nervous collapse, yet his sudden dour mood was not caused by over zealous packagers but rather from certain past choices, and one ‘choice’ in particular which has crossed his way again.
“All I want is a few simple do-overs”. Jonathan said to no one.
All he really wanted was a simple second chance to right a past wrong. Yet Jonathan knows life rarely works that way except in movies or on Oprah and in his case it’s probably impossible since a true confession would most likely lead to his certain death. There was no alternative but to keep moving, keep running from trouble, chasing a crazy dream, and secretly longing for some sort of redemption.
The nagging trouble is Jonathan is tired . . . tired of running, tired of looking over his shoulder, and tired of guessing what evil lurks in each new setting. He’s well aware that such is the ‘choice’ he once made and one he must co-exist with if he intends to keep on living. And staying alive is a strong motivator to keep Jonathan in motion, even if requires looking around every corner.

Posts: 4
Joined: January 28th, 2011, 9:54 am

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

Post by Inkfinger » May 6th, 2011, 3:12 pm

Billy launched himself away from the mirror and landed with a splat on the tiled bathroom floor. His breath came in ragged gasps and his toothbrush hung from his left nostril where it had been lodged in his panic.
Frantic shrieks came from outside in the hallway as his mum clip-clopped up the stairs in her high heels. “Billy! Billy, darling… are you alright?” She appeared in the doorway. “What happened?”
Billy goggled up at her and tried to speak, but the words spluttered wetly from his lips. “Th-the m-m-” He tried again. “The m-m-mirror! It s-spoke t-to m-me!”
"Oh, Billy-boofums, you’re still not well! What was I thinking, allowing you to go back to school already!” His mum leant over and put her hand on his brow.
His father appeared behind her. “What is it this time?” he raised one eyebrow. “And why on earth are you brushing your nostrils, William?”
“I w-wasn’t.” Billy pulled his toothbrush out and wiped the toothpaste off his nose.
“He’s still not well, John. Look at him; he must have had a fainting spell. Poor little Boofums! Get back into bed.”
Billy cringed. Why did his mum insist on calling him that vile name? He saw his dad roll his eyes behind her. But she was right about going back to bed. He was hallucinating and that was not good. Not good at all.
Billy licked his lips and threw a frightened glance up at the mirror.

Working Title: Shadowlands
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy Adventure
Last edited by Inkfinger on June 30th, 2011, 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 2
Joined: May 22nd, 2011, 11:49 am

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

Post by sladuke » May 22nd, 2011, 12:14 pm

Title: Hey, Shirley!
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Word count: 233 words

Winston was anxious to be out of eyesight of the students on bus 12-88 from Toad Suck Elementary. Just a few more steps and he’d be around the corner of Newton Avenue. He could feel the big gloopy mass on the back of his neck begin to slide towards his collar. He had to get the spit wad before it slipped under the collar of his Captain America t-shirt. Reaching back, he pulled the blob off and flicked it to the ground.

This trip home hadn’t been so bad. Sure, today Winston had three spit wads on the back of his head. But yesterday Marcus Devel had tripped him on the way onto the bus, given him a wedgie, took his shoe, tossed back and forth over Winston’s head, then shoved into his face and called him Shirley. Fortunately, Marcus became distracted on the way out of the parking lot and was content to just sit on Winston the rest of the way home, his sweaty backside pressing down on Winston’s back, making his legs go numb.

But, today Marcus had made a bet with Billy Ray Brubaker that he could get spitballs to stick to Winston’s head the entire drive from Main Street all the way to Mule Ranch Rd. He won Billy’s chocolate pudding for a whole week.

Winston of course had won three spitballs on the back of his head.

Posts: 14
Joined: June 13th, 2011, 11:09 am

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

Post by johnh27 » June 13th, 2011, 11:21 am

"Annie and Will" - Family Drama Novel


The dying woman hugged her son closer to her as the train rattled on.
“Are you felling better, Momma?” the boy asked.
“A little, Will.”
“Are we almost there, Momma?”
“Almost,” she replied wearily. This was the third day of their trip and she was exhausted. Exhausted, but determined to do what needed to be done for her boy. She’d succeeded in putting just about everything in place that would be needed to give Will a chance at a good life. One more day, she thought. Two at the most. Then she could rest, knowing that her son would be taken care of.
Ah, gentle, peaceful rest. And it would be a long one. That, she knew.
Forty-five minutes later, the conductor walked through the car announcing, “Poughkeepsie, last stop. Poughkeepsie, last stop.”
They had made it. Poughkeepsie. Her last stop.

Posts: 36
Joined: March 13th, 2010, 7:26 pm

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

Post by NickB » June 29th, 2011, 9:12 pm

Crime comedy--opening paragraphs

Leonard Gustafson was five years old when his mother died.
Immediately following the funeral, he strode from her graveside and without a word, climbed into his father’s black German sedan.
“Don’t piss Amara off,” his father said to him then. “Remember, you’re a guest here.”
Little Leonard scowled into the back of his father’s black leather seat, stuck out his arm and raised his middle finger.

Leonard managed to duck and weave through his teen years, but at the age of twenty was sucker-punched by the untimely death of the man he’d always stubbornly thought of as Amara’s husband.
He fell into an extended adolescence marked by many of the awful things that ignored people do in a plea for attention: Drugs. Promiscuity. Wild animal trafficking. This time, there was no one there to hear his cries for help. Except for his big brother. His big brother saved him. Saved him from himself.
Leonard had always wanted to return the favor.
He just never knew how.
Until now.

Posts: 1
Joined: August 27th, 2010, 12:37 pm

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

Post by jlhuspek » June 30th, 2011, 10:55 am

Darlings for Clementine
Women's (mainstream) lit

Chapter One – The End and A Beginning

"What a terrible epitaph: He shoveled snow and died."

Clementine Bartlett scanned the New York Times online obit section as she dipped her spoon into her strawberry-banana yogurt. Geoffrey Robert Evans, age 39. "What? Nothing else?" she mused as she licked the back of the utensil clean, unequivocally convinced a solid-gold pedigree with the overreaching boughs of an ancient redwood meant nada once death amputates a branch. Add to the man’s charm, wit, and stunning handsomeness a degree from Columbia – obviously a worthless piece of parchment if all it could get for you in a major news outlet obituary was five words. Clementine wondered if Maya had heard the news, and if she knew, what she thought. It would be so gauche and very un-BFF-like for her were to call and act as harbinger of an announcement so horrible.

The buzz of a Blackberry shook Clem from pondering her predicament. She glanced down and noticed her business partner calling. Speak of the Devil. She hoped for the best, but steeled herself for the worst before connecting with a smile. Cheery, yes. Morose, no.

"Maya Violante Cooper-nearly-Miller! Land sakes, lady, what are you doing up so early on a Sunday? Shouldn’t you and your nearly-baked groom be canoodling under the down right about now?" Clementine chirped, her voice a hair too strained to be considered spontaneous.

Silence on the line. A pause pregnant with sextuplets. A cluck of the tongue. Busted."So I take it you know?"

Maya Cooper was not only Clem’s best friend, she was her twin separated at birth. When one’s heart broke, the other puled in agony.Clem carefully placed her spoon on the kitchen table and cleared her throat. "Sugar-puss, how could I not? Bitsy Butterford emailed me and the rest of the planet the link. Hell on fire, didn’t you notice she even cc’d a copy to Chad?

Posts: 1
Joined: June 30th, 2011, 10:51 am

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

Post by Bacu999 » June 30th, 2011, 10:59 am

Title: Amilia's Island
Genre: YA fantasy
(250 words)

The year was eighteen fifteen; William was fourteen year, old, tall for his age skinny and pale with brown hair. He had a distinctive scar on his chin from where he and fallen out of a tree. He stood looking out at the ocean; the tropical sun beat down on the crystal blue ocean, seagulls hovered over the ship, occasionally diving into the ocean then soaring up with fishes in their beaks. He was at the bow of a ship watching its wooden frame cut through the choppy water. He looked up at the birds until they disappeared on the horizon. Sometimes he stood looking out at sea, other times he ran around the ship playing pirates. He pretended to attack defenseless ships plundering them for their cargo of gold. His father had told him stories about battles at sea. The exploding cannons, the men yelling as they attacked, the stifling smell of gun powder, the captain screaming orders. His father had been on many voyages since his mother died. William always wondered if he was trying to escape his children’s grief. He was jolted back to reality when the slaves began to sing as they worked. The captain’s men stood over them whipping anyone who stopped working.
His sister was sixteen years old and pouted a lot since their mother died. She was angry because they had left Virginia and the boy she had a crush on. William remembered the day they left watching them cuddle up to each other.

Posts: 1
Joined: June 30th, 2011, 11:56 am

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

Post by woodswrites » June 30th, 2011, 12:02 pm

Title: Alcove
Genre: Dark Fantasy
(226 words)

The opened window brought forth an icy cold breeze upon Gabrielle’s face. She welcomed the cure to the nauseated feeling that had consumed her at every waking hour of every day. With both hands resting on the bathroom sink, she held her head back, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. “Gabrielle,” she heard a voice whisper. She glanced at the door behind her. After seeing no one there, she shook it off thinking she had imagined it. “Gabrielle,” the voice whispered again, this time a tad louder. She gasped in fright when her body floated towards the window without any effort of her own; something had full control over her. Peering into the darkness, she witnessed the strangest thing- the grassy lawn that was once her backyard was now covered in black asphalt with only an old-fashioned lamp post positioned right in the middle of a patchy fog. A tall slender woman with dark brown hair dressed in all black emerged beckoning Gabrielle once more. Her demeanor was eerily calming and inviting. Who is that? Gabrielle thought to herself. The woman stood in the mist of hundreds of stiff, unclothed baby dolls. Their limbs were dangling from their bodies. Some were completely dismembered. Gabrielle gaped in horror. Hearing their cries turn into piercing wails intensified her fears. They weren’t baby dolls, they were real!

Posts: 2
Joined: June 30th, 2011, 12:20 pm

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

Post by vnrieker » June 30th, 2011, 12:32 pm

Title: Jean Bean and the Patchwork Mansion
Genre: YA
Word Count: 266

Jean Bean.
That was the name she was given at birth.
She was mousy, wafer-thin, and painfully shy, and as a result, in the habit of escaping into her imagination.
But her dad didn’t like her daydreaming.
“Get your damn, fool head out of the clouds, you nit!” He’d spit if he caught her looking wistful. Jean had gotten pretty good at hiding it, but still, sometimes, he’d know, and then she’d be sore for days afterward.
Her clothes were nearly all worn through, and her face was nearly always smudged with dust. She didn’t make friends at school, didn’t have any siblings, and her mother had left before Jean could really remember. So, during summer vacation, she was alone.
She wasn’t allowed to leave her dad’s small shack that sat by itself in a dusty prairie, and had to have all of the chores done before her dad returned in the evenings. Cleaning was especially difficult because the dust perpetually wafted in the air and fogged up the water, so it seemed like all she could do was stir the dust from one corner to another.
Most of the time, though, Jean was grateful for something to keep her hands busy while she daydreamed. As long as no one bothered her, she would be alright. She could pretend that she was a long-lost royal, and that someday, her real family would whisk her away to their castle.
She was so caught up in the fantasy that, while she worked the broom across the floor, she didn’t hear the car bouncing up the long dusty road.

Posts: 1
Joined: June 30th, 2011, 6:49 pm

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

Post by Memphis » June 30th, 2011, 6:55 pm

Title: Comes the White Horse
Genre: Fiction
Word Count: 242

The sound of a man’s voice calling, “Yo, Big Red,” interrupted Angel Travis’ work. Angel turned to look outside the back door of the gas station toward the sound of the man’s echoing voice. Down the hill, on the other side of the creek that ran behind the garage, an old Negro man plowed through the rich umber-colored earth. In one palsied hand he held the reins close up under his chin; the other hand steered the plow. The flap and clang of the strap and chain rhythmic in the warmth of the day. Angel watched the man stagger-step behind the mule between the rows as he called out to the mule in a language only the two of them understood.
Big Red, the mule, knew what to do. The old man knew what to do. But more than that, and more important to Angel, the man had something of his own – land. Angel felt the loamy soil pass through the man’s fingers, he could taste the bitter death in it as he watched that plow turn the rich dark brown earth. The earth that held the blood of his ancestors. And he wanted some of that same earth.
Angel had watched the man for years with a longing that he dared not voice to anyone except his wife, Ruby Lea. Watched the old man lead the mules, Big Red and Shortcake, and hitch them up to a wagon now and then.


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