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 Tisara » July 7th, 2011, 11:22 am

Title: Shift Into Remembrance
Genre: Literary Fiction
Words: 247

Pansy Ku and I are two teenagers on the run. She’s my new friend and really cool – maybe the coolest girl I’ve ever met. Her parents still live in Hong Kong, so an older sister raises her and lets her do whatever she wants. We’re feeling giddy tonight, but not because of the beer passing between us. Pansy’s boyfriend, Del, is driving fast along Stone Ridge Highway – pissed off that Nixon changed the speed limit — while The Mamas and Papas blast away on the radio, the volume cranked all the way up.

“Did Mama Cass really choke on a sandwich?” I ask. “Or was that just a scam?”

“You mean a myth?” says Pansy.

“I meant a myth.” I have to shout from the back of the car to be heard above the radio.

Pansy squints at me and shakes her finger. “You’re drunk.”

“No way! You’re the one who’s wasted. Take a good look at yourself.”

Suddenly the song is over and Del yells: “Change it!” Pansy and I scream at the same time that she reaches for the dial. We’re playing a new game tonight, just invented, so we don’t have a name for it yet. But here’s how we play: whenever a radio station shifts from songs to news, Pansy has only a second to flip to another station or imaginary nerve gas will seep into the car and kill us. We’re tired of hearing about Watergate, The Pentagon Papers, and crazy Martha Mitchell. Like I care — I used to, but not now. It just makes me yawn.

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

Post by Nikki » July 7th, 2011, 2:10 pm

Title: Kiss the Moon
Genre: Lit

It’s two a.m. on Sunday morning and Ben is asleep next to me or pretending to sleep when I open my inbox and find the forwarded message from my mother. Jon M. Chute Middle School Class of 1985 Reunion Picnic reads the subject line. There’s a hyperlink, a series of eight numbers, and my mother’s exuberant note: I RSVP’d you already! Aren’t you excited to see your old friends! Start thinking about what you’re wearing! Mom.

She is always trying to get me to come home to Las Vegas and trying to get me to widen my circle of friends beyond Ben and his drinking buddies. I tell her repeatedly that I have LaTisha. She tells me one girlfriend who lives in Portland is not enough. To that end Momma has ideas on how to improve my local circle of friends.

The profile debacle was the worst of these ideas. She used an old Halloween picture of me in a cheerleader outfit, from which she’d carefully cropped out Ben, for my profile picture and she mistakenly checked the single box under marital status. The influx of messages we received in to our joint email account was astounding, sordid and perverted.

The least imaginative of these emails described a sex act involving me, the man who sent the email, his wife, and a strap-on. The man and I would wear cheerleader outfits. His strap-on wearing wife would be decked out in full pads for the ‘big game.’
Last edited by Nikki on July 9th, 2011, 2:18 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by writerworking » July 7th, 2011, 2:54 pm

Word count: 276

Hidden in the shadow of a carved snow lion, its green mane waving and one gold paw batting at the sky, Lena Landalian watched the crowds beginning to gather in Kongali Square. The smell of roasting meat and cinnamon filled the air. Lena hesitated, wondering whether she should sneak into the King’s Palace, as she had planned, or roam through the square for a while and watch the preparations for the Longest Day festival.

Far at the western edge of the plaza, Grid workers sent logs spinning through the air to build bonfires at the cardinal points of a huge compass etched into the stone. The stacked logs were already taller than the tallest man Lena had ever seen. Before the sun set, Lena knew they would be taller still. She watched the flying logs, feeling her usual frustration that even though she had passed the first rounds of Andalian Grid Potential Tests, so far she couldn’t do much more with the Grid than turn on lights and water faucets. Not like some of the girls at her school, who showed off, building complex toys and creating sparkling columns of swirling colors. Lena couldn’t build a thing.

She looked around the lion’s shoulder to the west where the sun hovered above the snowy mountains. Every year on the Longest Day when the last sliver of sun vanished behind the mountains, a great shout would go up and the bonfires would burst into flame to celebrate the beginning of the summer, the three months between the long mountain winters. Even now in the highest inhabited parts of the City, piles of rotten snow lingered in shady spots.

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Location: Minnesota

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

Post by writerex » July 7th, 2011, 5:05 pm

232 words

Smoke rose from the carcass, the smell of burned, rancid meat making her nostrils flare. Still, she surveyed the kill dispassionately, waiting for that tiny, telltale twitch. It took a while, sometimes; even when she thought the spores were as thoroughly cooked as they could be, there would still be something left, something alive in their warped, rotted,fungal brains that always took too long to get the message.

And the message was always that she wanted them dead.

When the twitch came, as she knew it would, she blasted the thing again with a stream of fire from her thrower. Its skin was now blackened and cracked, fluid seeping out and onto the pavement. The breeze crumbled its stalk, the first place her flame had hit, into fine black dust. Coolly, she hooked the thrower’s nozzle onto the pack and stepped over it, suppressing the exhaustion that tried to smother her alertness.

She had been patrolling her sector since midnight, when Ben had woken her from a few precious hours of sleep to tell her that he’d seen a pack gathering at 5th and Memorial. It’d been a fresh kill that had drawn them, as it usually was – she’d never seen anything else that could get them together in one area so quickly. The dirty scraps of a little girl’s pink umbrella had said all too plainly what the victim had been.

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

Post by JimmieHammel » July 7th, 2011, 6:26 pm

Title: Out of the Shadows
Genre: Science Fiction
223 words

Bodies in glittering fabrics writhed in the darkness all around her. Lythian could feel the warmth of the crowd against her skin. The pulsating lights allowed her brief glimpses of the bacchanalian frenzy, each flash painting the room in a new hue. A sea of seemingly disconnected limbs all caressed, grasped, and swayed against one another. As though connected to the ceiling by marionette strings, they moved in time with a series of disjointed and distinctly unmusical beats issuing from speakers in the walls. As she pushed against the throng, Lythian could feel the sounds vibrating through her body. The rising pitch echoed her own eagerness to have the night’s mission accomplished.
A hand reached out to grasp her waist and draw her into the group ecstasy. She pulled away easily. Her quarry wasn’t pressed into the crush on the dance floor. He sat at the bar. His glasses, his baby blond curls, his vulnerability; he enticed the predator in her. He was tall, her prey, in his mid-thirties perhaps, and attractive. On a different night she might have chosen him to feed a different kind of hunger, but tonight she was thirsty.
The glasses intrigued her especially. She hadn’t seen someone wearing glasses for over 200 years. In a society obsessed with perfection, it was a glaring flaw. He probably hated them.

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

Post by Theatre_nerd » July 7th, 2011, 7:40 pm

Hidden Face
YA Fantasy

Suddenly, a hand ghosted onto my shoulder. My heart jumped to my throat, and I spun around, desperate and terrified to find out what was there. But the bathroom was empty. There was no one in the room at all. I blinked again, confusion crowding my mind. I could have sworn there was someone behind me, someone I could only see out of the corner of my eye. Then the panic set in, and a lump formed in my throat. If someone was hiding in the bathroom, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to stay out of my line of sight.
“Calm, Sybella,” the voice from earlier whispered. “We aren’t here to hurt you. We want to help you. We saw what Natasha did to you,” the voice tutted in its unidentifiable accent. “What a horrible thing to do! You never said anything, but she didn’t believe you. She never did trust you. She only befriended you because she pitied you, all alone and friendless.”
My temper boiled; I was never alone and friendless. “How would you know that?”
“We find it very… simplistic… to read the consciousnesses of humans.”
“Why do you say we? And why do you talk about people like you ar-aren’t human?”
“There’s that dangerous curiosity again. What’s the saying? Curiosity killed the cat?” The voice hardened on the last sentence and I shuddered; at first, I hadn’t believed that an imaginary voice could kill me. Now, I wasn't so sure.

It's 240 words, and I thought I'd add a note here; this isn't the beginning. Most of this is explained earlier on, but this was the best I could do within the 250-word constraint

Ellen Faith
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Location: Australia

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

Post by Ellen Faith » July 7th, 2011, 8:48 pm

Bittersweet Masquerade
YA Speculative Fiction
242 words

“If I’d known it was bring your daughter to work day, I’d have worn something inappropriate,” Morgan Vincent joked. She slid out of the hovering car and the door closed behind her.
Richard threw her an amused but otherwise unconcerned look over his shoulder as he continued walking towards Vincent International. She rolled her eyes as their driver sped off, blowing the edges of her black, high waisted skirt in the air. She jogged to keep up with her father.
“Good morning, Mr Vincent,” people greeted him as they arrived, the cool air hitting her face so hard it stung her eyes. At a second glance they would see Morgan and give her a smile, their voice pleasant and chirpy as they gave her the same greeting. “Good morning, Miss Vincent. Wonderful to have you both here.”
Morgan nodded with a tight smile as they walked further into the lobby.
A group of school children stared at her with their mouths agape before turning back to one of the pedestal when they were caught staring. On top of the pedestals sat cabinets, displaying their newest or most famous pieces of technology. The place was lit up with chandeliers and the lobby was filled with businessmen in suits sitting on leather sofas surrounding matching coffee tables scattered around the room. The lobby was a long and rectangular room with an entrance made of glass and the reception desk sat in centre opposite it.

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

Post by tessaloo » July 9th, 2011, 2:37 pm

The Voice (working title)
YA Fantasy
245 words

The girl stood on the ridge overlooking the little village below, still shrouded in morning shadows and mist. A crooked smile emerged on her swollen mouth. Far too many mornings had passed here since she had first heard The Voice. Far too many.

Khari shifted her weight and a deep, sudden pain pierced her to the bone. She let out a cry as her knee buckled and her left hand involuntarily shot to her thigh. Bracing herself against her staff, the girl sucked in a deep breath to control the pain. Standing rigid against the skyline, her eyes tightened with the vision that followed. Fire. Falling. The piercing pain of penetrating branches. Burning. It all came flooding back.

“Open your eyes” the Voice commanded. “And get down!”

In one swift combat maneuver she opened her eyes and dropped to the dewy ground. At least the training had not left her battle weary limbs. She lifted her eyes above the ridgeline.

Out of the shadows of the burning mist she beheld the one she had come to find. The limp was unmistakable. His dark gray cloak dragged in the damp dust, the mist clinging to him as he shifted and weaved his way in and out of the fog toward the path.

The murderer was headed for the school.

The girl allowed a stiff little smile to curl up the edge of her lip.

If revenge was indeed sweet, this breakfast would be most satisfying.
Writing upwards,

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

Post by MitchTacy » July 10th, 2011, 9:10 pm

Title: Being Released
Genre: Psychological Thriller
(223 words, excluding heading)

Part I:

There was a creak, a thump, a slam, and then silence. It was all I heard, but it was enough for me to know that someone was joining me.

Finally, somebody else was here. Whenever I get a new cellmate, it always fills me with some sort of obscure ecstasy that only lasts for a flicker of a second, and then it's back to being grumpy old Theo Pratt. A few questions came up in my mind during that flicker of a second, pretty much the same ones that come up whenever the creak, the thump, and the slam are heard. What was this guy's name? What did he do to get locked up here? I wish I could see him, although there was a next to nothing chance I would ever get the privilege.

In this institution (and that term is used most generously), there’s only you and one other person. Everyone else might as well be dead. Unfortunately, the only way you can even know that the other person even exists is through one small little pipe; one end is in your cell, the other in theirs. It’s not much, but you get to have some company. Depending on who you get, it isn’t always the best thing to have, but is necessary if you want to stay sane in this nuthouse.
Last edited by MitchTacy on July 14th, 2011, 6:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
My name is Mitch Tacy. I'm here to give you my life's work. Thanks for reading.

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

Post by jsschley » July 11th, 2011, 8:18 pm

Sonata for the Young Pianist
Contemporary YA
289 words

The envelope was flat. Eight and a half by eleven, or nine by eleven and a half, or whatever it was. Isaac’s friends had been getting letters like this all year. Harvard. Princeton. Stanford. UCLA. USC. They brought them to school, triumphant. One more brilliant, Ivy-league-bound feather in their high school’s cap.

But his wasn’t quite like theirs. For starters, this was the only flat envelope he was getting this year. Isaac didn’t plan on putting feathers in anybody’s cap except his own. He kept pointing out to the guidance counselors that he, in fact, would not be attending college in the fall, and their saying a hundred percent of their seniors went on to four-year colleges and universities was not, in fact, accurate.

Two, the return address on his envelope wasn’t from Harvard, or Princeton, or Stanford. The logo was stamped in the upper left-hand corner: ten keys, F through E, running up the side of an address in Chicago, Illinois. WORLD AMATUER YOUTH PIANO CHAMPIONSHIPS, it read.

And three, his envelope had already been sliced open.

“Oh, you have got to be joking,” he muttered. Then, pitching his voice so that it could be heard in the great room, he hollered, “Dad! Why did you open my mail?”

The paper rustled as he fished inside for the letter, striding toward the kitchen from the mudroom. He pulled out the letter. It was plain white, relatively sturdy, and the same logo with the ten keys appeared at the top.

Dear Mr. Tansen,

Based on our careful review of your recorded submission, we are pleased to invite you to the first qualifying round of the World Amateur Youth Piano Championships…

He let out a whoop, dropped his book bag with a thud, and skidded into the great room.

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

Post by darraghm » July 13th, 2011, 2:19 pm

Title: Oisín's Magic Book
Genre: 9-12 Fantasy
Word Count: 247

Ordinary books don’t move. Ordinary books are quite happy waiting to be picked up, even when they’ve been left somewhere uncomfortable. Even if they’re stuck at the bottom of a dark schoolbag or in a glass window where they can’t sneeze without people seeing. Nobody had told The Book of Magic this though, so it jumped into Oisín’s hands without so much as a flap of its pages.

Oisín caught his breath. It was true that Granny Keane’s books weren’t exactly ordinary. Some had yellow pages and more wrinkles than her. Some were as big as boulders. Some had peculiar titles and if he wasn’t being paid five euro to put them in boxes, Oisín definitely would have stopped to read The Terrible Sheep Vampires of Galway Town. But none of the other books had moved, Oisín was sure of that.

He looked at the dusty book in his hands. It was tiny, fitting snuggly in his palms like a bird that had found just the right size of nest. It looked too tattered to be opened, let alone jump. Oisín turned around. The breeze from Dublin Bay was drifting through the window. That was all it was: a regular old book had been picked up by the wind and happened to land in his hands. Oisín moved towards the pile of other books, about to add it to the top.

And then the book shifted in his hands slightly, like a cat turning into the sun.

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

Post by thewordsmith » July 14th, 2011, 3:15 pm

TITLE: Funeral Rights
GENRE: thriller

"I beg your pardon!"

Derek Wainright plowed through the entrance to the Federal Building and directly into one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. She was trim, slender, with long, silky straight brown hair, pale skin, and dark blue eyes that at the moment glared at him with icy contempt.

Himself a half inch shy of six feet, Derek noticed that, in her heels, she was just slightly taller and figured her to be about 5'9" or 5'10" in her bare feet. She stumbled when they collided. The manila envelope flipped out of her hand and he made a grab for it, dangerously close to the very low neckline of her blouse.

"Quite all right, sweetheart," he answered her outrage. "No harm done."

"Excuse me? I was not apologizing. And I am not your sweetheart!"

"Oh. Well, excuse the hell out of me, babe."

"Wha…? Are you naturally this crass or did you have to go to school and learn to be this way?"

"Yeah, right. You insult me and I'm crass. Look, sweetheart, I'd …"

"Are you even supposed to be in this building? Do you know where you're going?"

"I'd love to stay and exchange pleasantries. It's really been fun and all, but I've got places to see, things to go, people to do. You understand."

She snatched the envelope from his hand, spun around and stomped off toward the elevators.

"See ya ‘round," he called after her and lowering his voice slightly added, "bitch."

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

Post by Chantelle.S. » July 20th, 2011, 9:54 pm

Echoes of the Unseen
YA Apocalyptic Horror
250 words

The man seated at the narrow table didn’t look as one would imagine a long-suffering, mentally disturbed murderer would. He was handsome, with a pleasant and somewhat boyish face. His wild golden mane had begun to retract along his temples and forehead, and the delicate wrinkles around his mouth and brow had come with age. A shade of light stubble along his jaw line showed that he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. He had aged peculiarly well for a forty year old.

The security camera, located in the top corner of the nondescript, claustrophobic square room, depicted the patient clothed in jeans and a T-shirt. Another middle-aged man, dressed more business-like in tailored trousers, button-up collar shirt, and a plain tie, appeared on the greyscale screen. There was a clipboard in his hand, which he placed on the glossy black surface of the table before sinking into the chair across from his patient. He licked his lips and readjusted his spectacles over the bridge of his hawk-like nose. He took out a ballpoint pen from his shirt pocket, and his fingers accidentally grazed his silver name tag with Dr. Franz Engleton engraved with bold black letters. He leaned his elbow on the table, and with withered brown eyes he studied the man before him.

Joshua Johnston.

There were purple smudges beneath his eyes. He was fidgeting with a lose thread on his chair’s blue upholstery, wrapped up in his own quiet thoughts.
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

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Joined: July 21st, 2011, 5:24 am

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

Post by ChasingtheLight » July 21st, 2011, 5:29 am

Telling His Story
239 Words

“Looking back, I can remember the first stumble.”
Anna bent her head and began typing. Her fingers easily found the letters that spelled out the man’s memory of how he began dying. She watched the words come upon the white page without really reading them or hearing the story.
“I was walking through the newsroom and suddenly, just stumbled. You know, one of those bad stumbles; the kind that pitches you forward, like there was a huge crack in the sidewalk,” he continued. “But it was just carpet, with nothing to trip me. If the desk hadn’t been there, I would have fallen down. Even then, I thought it was strange. Are you listening?”
Anna looked up, noticing for the first time that her new boss’ eyes were blue. She had missed that detail when she interviewed for the job. She had been distracted by the man’s jerky movements and strange head bobs.
This job, the latest in a series needed to pay her tuition, had offered more money than working in the college library and seemed easy enough. Write the man’s story. Just put down what he dictated and get paid by hour. Do a little editing at night and still be able to get her studying done. ‘Eight months,’ she thought. ‘Eight months and I can graduate and get a real job and make real money.’
Real money always seemed to be the drumbeat in her head.

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Joined: July 26th, 2011, 4:21 pm

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

Post by Glacier » July 26th, 2011, 4:31 pm

Title: Lightning Strikes
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 250

I tiptoed up the spiral staircase through the darkness. My hands gripped the wrought iron banister. Please don’t let me get caught. Lightning sliced through the sky and lit up the stairs through the cathedral windows. I gasped. Anyone could see me as clear as day. I loved watching lightning dance, but tonight was different, it only complicated everything.

My plan, crazy. Breaking curfew, insane. This so wasn’t me. But the whispering stone, from the forbidden library, beckoned me back, again.

A crash below ricocheted off the stonewalls. But which of the corridors did the sound come from? A shadow flitted below and footsteps approached. Panic gripped me. I need to hide. Where? The stairs loomed above me, too high to make it. I dropped down. The stairs cut into my ribs through my worn gown.

I peeked through the railing and froze. The outline of thin watchman approached. He stopped. His head lifted, and he searched the stairs. He stared towards me. Would the railing hide me? Another burst of lightning exploded above the boarding school and thunder seemed to shake the stairs. A shiver ran down my spine.

Maybe I should give up and beg for mercy. Plead not to be thrown out onto the streets. I pushed the thought down. My muscles complained. Each second stretched on forever.

The watchman turned and hurried on. I released the breath I held, but waited. I dashed up the last stairs, and from the landing entered the stone passageway.


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