NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.
Chris Qualls
Posts: 2
Joined: February 18th, 2011, 2:01 pm

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

Post by Chris Qualls » October 18th, 2019, 6:19 pm

TITLE: Surfing On The Edge Of Creation
GENRE: Science Fiction
1st Page: 238 words.

The surfer, clad in a red metallic body mesh, guided his robotic surf board through the chum that rose with the big wave as it neared the beach. The lights on one side of the board flashed wildly as it altered its course, and the surfer crouched on the board. Suddenly from inside the wave a great white shark leapt for the surfer. In response, the surfer raised his left arm to avoid the shark while the board maneuvered under the wave’s crest to maximize the distance from the shark. A few of shark’s teeth contacted the material covering the surfer’s body and broke as they slid across his forearm, and in the same motion the surfer used his right hand to push up under the shark to create the appearance that he’d thrown it over his head. The surfer rode the wave into shore without further incidents, and the crowd cheered as he emerged from the surf.

Pulling back from the image on the beach club deck’s big screen in the twilight, the MC turned from the screen, looked out over the crowd, and said, “For that awesome show of keeping his cool as the king of predators missed him by inches, and for wowing us with some most excellent moves in avoiding becoming dinner, we give this year’s trophy to Athuhv Leander Chaska Clemens, the 2043 winner of the South African Open Extreme Shark Surfing Competition!”

Posts: 1
Joined: October 28th, 2019, 9:15 am

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

Post by Texnow » November 16th, 2019, 11:59 am

by M. C. Rogers
Title: For Luck and Safe Passage
Genre; Early Middle Grade
First 250 words

I’ve never before talked about the summer my cousin, Henry Jack, and I set out to find the Treasure of Og. I supposed no one would believe such a fantastic story. Besides, I thought it was over. Finished. Now I’m not so sure.
There have been signs. I think you should be prepared.
I want you to know what I remember about that long-ago time. When I am finished you must decide what to believe.

It was shaping up to be an ordinary day in little Ermaline, Texas. I was 9, almost 10, passing the time finishing a chalk drawing on the sidewalk in front of the Yum Yum Cafe. My father owned the Yum Yum. He was finishing up inside. The lunch crowd had gone and so had Bean, the old cook. He’d be back before supper, but Tuttie, the Yum Yum’s only waitress, had gotten married and wasn’t coming back. There was a brand-new Help Wanted sign in the window.
A large dust cloud whirled down Main Street. It hadn’t rained in a long time and dust clouds were a common sight. But this one was different. It fell apart in front of the Yum Yum dumping dried leaves, bits of paper and a little woman onto the curb.

Posts: 1
Joined: January 9th, 2020, 10:49 pm

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

Post by GFripley » January 9th, 2020, 10:55 pm

Title: The Langorian Queen
Genre: Fantasy

Craig ran as fast as he still could, crashing through low branches and spiny waist-high shrubs that sliced his arms, causing rivulets of blood to run down to his hands. They looked bad, but it was the gaping wound in his thigh that was starting to slow him down. He was losing a lot of blood, could hardly breathe, and his head was spinning. Behind him he could hear them crashing through the undergrowth. They were gaining on him, and he had dropped his sword some time ago, but it hadn’t been much use to him anyway; he hadn’t known how to use it properly, just well enough not to die five minutes ago.

He stumbled, falling into the knee-deep snow before forcing himself up once again. Then something hit him in the back throwing him forward and back down onto his knees. Craig looked down to see the point of a bloody spear sticking out of the right side of his chest and felt a weight pulling him backwards. He tried to comprehend what was happening, but he was hypnotised by the drops of his own blood that he watched slowly oozing down to the tip before dropping down on the sparkling white snow-covered ground. Each ragged breath was becoming more painful than the last.

When he raised his head, he could see through his blurring vision that he was in the centre of a circle of pale humanoid creatures. They looked ugly.

‘Why are you doing this?’ he sobbed as they gathered around him.

Posts: 5
Joined: January 10th, 2020, 2:25 pm

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

Post by ddub » January 10th, 2020, 3:00 pm

Title: The Song of Kate Elizabeth
Genre: Literary Fiction

I feel as though I’m walking in a completely different, flat outdoor space, breathing completely different air. This never gets old. Yet here, in this the calibration zone, or the “calzone,” as it’s starting to be called in the forums, which really bugs me, it is extremely foggy, as per usual. But it’s so very foggy this time that I can only see the ground that I step on, as well as my feet, of course, or my shoes, to be precise, and my trench coat, which is flapping around below like a slack sail. If I’m not mistaken, this is the very same blackish striped trench coat that I used to wear back in my 20s. Why am I even wearing this old thing? I suppose it’s fitting, as I might have worn something like this when I saw her last.

What I have to do now is concentrate, and take the specific number of steps in the proper order, to engage the runtime. Or else I’ll just end up right back at home where I started. Must remember to move with the breath. Consistency is key. Place the foot. Breathe. Step. Shift, breathe, and… step. I’m trying not to imagine what this might look like from the outside, as if I’m performing some sort of elaborate rain dance, or martial arts ritual; must focus on performing the steps.

Posts: 5
Joined: January 10th, 2020, 7:38 pm

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

Post by Marlo » January 10th, 2020, 7:55 pm

Historical Fiction/Marlo
San Francisco, California March 1900

I have accompanied my Aunt Netta to San Francisco this day against my better judgement. Determined to sign a new young writer for her “Overland Monthly” literary magazine, she’ll wheedle me into editing and reviewing his work then publish it under her own byline. I always capitulate. After all, when I was orphaned as a child, she took me in. She is my surrogate mother. I owe her.
I first regard this Jack London reflected in the mirrored vestibule of Young’s Café. He sports an ill-fitting white linen suit, rumpled, but clean. Slim, yet solid, he appears younger than his purported twenty-four years. London grinds out his cigarette on the checkered marble floor and steps forward. I cannot tolerate tobacco. Its smoke makes me nauseous. I steel myself to survive this lunch appointment.
“Mrs. Eames,” his voice a voice a surprising tenor. “This must be Miss Kittredge—your niece, Charmian.”
Netta Eames simpers and plays stubby fingers over gray waves held tight against her head by a fist of a bun. London doffs his newsboy cap, dousing forehead his with a cascade of chestnut curls and turns to me.
I nod and proffer my hand. He presses the top of my palm with his thumb and with long fingers tickles my palm, winking as he does. Does he meet every women this manner? In spite of his tease, I am intrigued.

Posts: 1
Joined: January 14th, 2020, 9:44 pm

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

Post by jakubzoltowski12 » January 14th, 2020, 9:48 pm

Title - The butcher

Once again he proved that the world has criminals, deep in the ass.

He turned his back and left in the shadow.

Come inside me, said knocking on the door, enter through the open door

The children are crying when the butcher is walking through the streets.

He screams, a little louder, louder, louder until we blow out the simple things and run away from the square reality — Apparently, he kills only at night.

The body stuck to the wall dead.

To die is a pleasure
he laughs again in his head
with the willingness of death in the eyes.

She sits chained to a chair closer than her imagination allows.

Breathes the remains of glitter,
She lacks oxygen and loses her words.

Black room, red ink, on a green wall.
Posts: 1
Joined: January 23rd, 2020, 5:51 pm

Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy

Post by » January 24th, 2020, 1:02 pm


Chapter 1

The Wayfarers Club

Ten minutes until the Great Leader spoke. The conquest all but done, except for the signatures. What madness would he next unleash?

Jonas Shaw reached the corner, his lungs burning from running. He glanced from his wristwatch to his directions on the scrap of paper. The cheese shop and the Matterhorn Ski Rentals over there. The store selling mountain gear facing them. For the moment he ignored his fear someone was following him along the cobbled street in Zurich’s old quarter. He concentrated on the squiggly handwritten instructions. Next straight ahead to the first cross street. Paperboys shouted the historic news about Hitler, customers clamored for the dailies as he dashed past to his destination. Arriving, he abruptly stopped, eyes wide in surprise. He had reached an unassuming one-story address, not a hotel as expected. A single door painted primly white. Narrow arched windows, the curtains drawn. Only the golden heraldic knocker with its lion head hinted at some vague, secretive importance.

He rechecked what his hotel waiter had scrawled on the scrap of menu, nodded to himself; he had the right number. He rapped the golden ring several times, while he smoothed down his hair and straightened his clip-on tie with his free hand.

After a moment the door eased open, and an elderly man with a pinkish complexion and white prickly brows peered through the crack and frowned. “May I help you, sir?”

Jonas introduced himself and ….


Posts: 1
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 1:01 pm

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

Post by wudeeplo » January 31st, 2020, 1:15 pm

Called the Bracelet of the Earth by the Indians who once dwelt near its shores, the Assonet River, reborn in the mountains with each clear drop of rain, brought life and death to the waiting world, which Michael Hood knew played no favorites. It ran in a tea-colored belt past the gypsy mound with its two graves, and through the hot summer meadows where the river mansions like the Hood’s Wind Tryst beckoned with shady porches and the quiet mysteries of high-ceilinged bedrooms.

In some places, docks with stone parapets and balustrades had been built along the banks where the boathouses were as ornate as the mansions. From there, the lovers, families, and the adventurous would row to a favorite shady spot and tie up to a tree to catch the last scrap of breeze that tickled the water.

Those who dared swam with a few tentative strokes, remembering the careless mistakes of the few who had misjudged the river and disappeared beneath the silent surface.

The fear of the river made the boaters quiet as they lay stretched out, arms tawny and robust. Wine, lemonade, and sandwiches filled wicker baskets. Once ashore some read, others napped, all thought of talk gone in the shimmery heat that pressed at them. The children, drunk on the enchanted summer air, played along the hot, sandy river banks until they sensed the uneasy stillness of the river crowded back into the waiting boats where they sat, hands trailing in the water.
Fish splashed in the river, and landing ducks rippled a garland of daisies welcoming a girl who plunged into the current.

Richard Lutman

Posts: 2
Joined: February 11th, 2020, 7:55 pm

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

Post by theakelley » February 12th, 2020, 4:16 pm

Title: The Sorgin's Apprentice *or* The Sleeper at the Crossroads
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Annwyn awoke to the discomfort of twigs and rocks pressing into her back through her jacket and pajama top. She opened her eyes. A web of blood-red manzanita branches confronted her, stark against a pale, post-dawn sky.

She sat up quickly, becoming aware of bare ankles cold above untied sneakers, bunched-up pajamas under her jeans. Her heart pounded. Looking around, she recognized where she was—at the top of the hill just across the meadow near their new house—with no memory of getting there.

But she recalled the dream, if that’s what it was. Half closing her eyes she reached back into the memory.

She had quickly realized two things, that she was asleep—how could she know this?—and then the more shocking fact: that there was a whirl of energy—in front of her? inside her? or nowhere in particular, just here— that seemed to contain all knowledge, timeless and eternal. Any question could be answered if she could only focus purely enough.

Amazement had threatened to crash her through into full waking, but she held herself fiercely still, enlisted every nerve to concentrate, to abide in this moment. She longed to somehow prove it was real, this experience that was overturning the rules of perception. She yearned to take this back with her into the light of day. So she groped blindly, for a question, a test, and grabbed the first that came: the future—what’s in my future?

In the darkness, images had emerged.

Posts: 4
Joined: August 21st, 2012, 1:16 pm

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

Post by seeleyjames » February 13th, 2020, 5:07 pm

Title: Death and Betrayal
Genre: Action-Adventure

The man they call Ra took a deep breath and tamped down his growing agitation without betraying his emotions. The general controlled a good deal of money. Ra could put up with the general’s emissary a while longer. Ra said, “We’re talking about an auction for the most advanced weapon system the world has ever seen. An auction your general could easily win. What concerns could he possibly have?”

The emissary inhaled to create a dramatic and smug pause.

Ra resisted the urge to glance over the sea toward Monaco’s harbor. He was dying to see if his darling’s tender was on its way back from town, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be distracted.

“The general does not believe you have what you claim.” The emissary said in his heavily accented English. He gestured with his arms wide, encompassing Ra’s superyacht. “I do not see it here on your little skiff.”

Behind his left shoulder, the emissary’s sycophantic lieutenant smirked.

The dig was childish. The Savannah was the biggest yacht in Monaco, a present to himself after making billions in commodities. An all-American yacht for his all-American success story. So American, in fact, it was too big to dock in the harbor. Sure, it was post-season, and the Numina would drop anchor due east of him in a matter of weeks. Until then, the Savannah reigned supreme. He felt like gutting the slimy emissary for his rudeness. Instead, he smoothed his Kiton sport coat and puffed up his thin frame.

Posts: 1
Joined: February 13th, 2020, 8:18 pm

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

Post by Quarterwit » February 13th, 2020, 8:22 pm

Man Down

“Man down! Man down!”
“God, not another. Is there nothing we can do Sergeant? That’s six highly trained, armed policemen he’s hit already. I can’t even see where he’s shooting from.”
The grey haired, hard looking sergeant, was ex-army and knew a thing or two about being shot at. He removed his cap, scratched his grizzled head and gingerly raised himself up to try to get a better view of what was happening. He quickly ducked back down again, shoulders tensed against any bullets that may be coming his way. He shook his head. He had no gun so there was nothing he could do anyway.
Shrugging, he said; “nothing at all Sir, we’re pinned down here ‘till someone can mount a diversion and allow us to move to a better position.
During all my years in the army and the police, I’ve never seen anything like it. In my opinion, he’s so well organised, so accurate, he may well be Special Forces, or ex Special Forces. He knows exactly what he’s doing; picking us off one by one. Like you say, we can’t even see where he is to get a shot back at him. He’s working to a plan although I’ve no idea what the plan is. It could be a hostage situation, or it could be part of a wider attack on civilization in general.”
He sat back against the hard, damp wall to relax after what was, for him, a long and complicated speech.

Posts: 1
Joined: February 14th, 2020, 10:25 am

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

Post by Shireena » February 14th, 2020, 10:26 am

Anna Bell in ToyLand - Chapter I: The Fall
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

It is a cold, dark windy night. Anna Bell lies next to a great oak tree sobbing.

She hears her drunken father’s words echoing over and over “you shit, shit, shit’.

She can still smell his alcohol breath as his fist struck her face. Her lips and cheek throb with pain, blood trickles down her mouth. Leaves swirl around her like chaotic birds

Her father’s words keep replaying over and over her like cruel daggers.

“you’re a shit”, you’re nothing, nothing.”

“No, NO”, she screams and, for a moment the images scatter.

The dark voices return saying, “you’re a slut, you’re a whore, you’re no good”.

Anna Bell runs hard, fast.

Finally, she comes to a fence with a no trespassing sign. The sign is crooked, the letters are faded forming the words, “Danger, No Entrance, No Trespassing”.

She climbs over the fence. Only a few rotted boards are left of the coal mine entrance.

As a child she watched her daddy go to work. Her eyes would fix on him as he disappeared into the tunnel. That was many years ago. It’s been years since the coal mine closed for good.

“I love you babe,” daddy said as he kissed his only child before entering the cold shaft elevator.

“I want to go too daddy, take me with you”, Anna Bell cries as she runs stretching her arms reaching for him.

Mom pulls her back kicking and screaming.

“Shuss — you know daddy has to go work. He’ll see us later when he comes home”.

Posts: 1
Joined: February 20th, 2020, 6:28 pm

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

Post by ValerieA » February 20th, 2020, 6:45 pm

Genre: YA Inspirational
First 250 Words

Chapter 1

“Do not doubt. Stand firm in your faith. Trust God to smash the obstacles in your path,” Pastor Steve’s voice boomed out of the car speaker.

I pictured the veins bulging in his neck, his hand pounding the pulpit. I slapped the steering wheel and shouted back, “I do trust God. It doesn’t matter what Ma says. I will go to The Ark.”

When his sermon ended, the cassette ejected from the tape player and the news came on. “More countries are joining the boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow...” I had to admire President Carter for standing up to the Soviet Union. I turned the news off and pulled into the driveway. My headlights shined on Gram’s Buick parked in Dad’s spot.

Although it was a warm night, a shiver ran down my spine. Gram didn’t drive at night. That’s when her lover, Smirnoff, visited. Light blared from every window on the first floor and flooded out the open front door. My heart hammered as I hurried up the steps.

Quiet roared through the house. I rushed down the hallway toward the den and stopped. The furniture was cockeyed like we’d been robbed. Please God, let everyone be alright.

I backed toward the front door and called out, “Anyone here?”

“Kate, I’m in the kitchen.” It was Gram’s hoarse voice.

She sat at the table caressing a glass of vodka. Her Youth Dew perfume competed with the stink of a full ashtray.

“What happened?” I said, afraid to touch anything.

Posts: 1
Joined: February 20th, 2020, 10:59 pm

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

Post by jcxw2590 » February 20th, 2020, 11:00 pm

It happened on a frigid, pitch-black night. The darkest night of the year, in fact.
Desert Rose heard the shuffling of feet and rumble of voices as shadows flitted past her tent. Her instincts told her to get out of bed and investigate, but the festivities of the previous evening had wiped her out and she didn’t want to disentangle herself from sleep just yet. She could still feel Bataar’s hand, warm around hers, as he danced with her around the bonfire. Next to her, Qara was belting out a folk song with the clanswomen –
The sound of a blade unsheathed made her jolt upright. Dread crawled under her skin. Desert Rose rubbed her eyes, collecting on her fingers the vestiges of kohl the older clanswomen had drawn on her eyes the night before.
She tiptoed over to her father, asleep in his bed across the tent, and shook him by the shoulders. “Papa, wake up,” she whispered in his ear.
He stirred. “What is it, Rose?”
“There are people outside. Armed.”
He was up in an instant, racing around the tent and throwing essentials into a calfskin bag as though he had prepared for this moment. “You need to run – now,” he said, shoving the bag into her hand. “Head east. Stay off open roads and lie low.”
“But why?”
He threw an ermine coat around her. “No time for questions, jig sarnai.”
Despite him calling her by her pet name, little rose, the ripple of fear under his voice unsettled her to the core. His hands shook as he hurried her along. Scarbrow’s hands never shook, not even when they were under attack by desert ghouls or raiders or when the clans battled among themselves. The chieftain of the Dugur tribe was unshakeable as a citadel.
Yet, tonight, he wasn’t.
Something rustled outside the tent. A bated silence followed.
“Get your knives,” he said.
Desert Rose reached for her double knives under her pillow and clutched the bag he handed her. “What’s going on? Who are we fighting?”
“You are not fighting, but keep your knives close. Go, now.” He gave her a firm push towards the back exit.
“What about you?”
“I’ll catch up with you at the Oasis Capital in a few days. Wait for me there.”

Posts: 1
Joined: March 12th, 2020, 7:30 pm

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

Post by barb » March 12th, 2020, 7:37 pm

Title: Faces of War
Genre: Historical

Writtle, Essex

Meg knew she should be at the church helping with the final preparations for the fête, but she couldn't resist the aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting from the kitchen, and the sounds of her boys chattering and the gentle murmur of the housekeeper, Mrs. Patrick. Meg dropped her hat and handbag on the entry hall table and slipped into the cheerful white-tiled kitchen. She poured tea into an old chipped mug, a souvenir of hospital days, and cut a thick slice of bread which she slathered with Mrs. Patrick's damson plum jam.

Her twins, six-year-old brown-eyed miniatures of their father, bounced in their chairs, talking over one another, ignoring Mrs. Patrick's pleas to be quiet so she could hear her program on the wireless. Meg's gaze wandered to the window where blue-checked muslin curtains rustled in the morning breeze. "I'm so glad to see the sun today—it would have been awful to hold Father's celebration in the rain. Did my husband say when he'd be back?"

Mrs. Patrick switched off the wireless. "The doctor's gone to his surgery. He said he'd see you at the church."

"Mum, can we have sixpence for the fête?" Bertie asked.

"There's to be games," Willie added.

"I promised your father I'd help him. I don't know that there will be time." The boys' faces crumpled, and she felt a twinge of guilt for teasing them. "Oh, don't pout. Of course we're going—this is Grandfather's big day."

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