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

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

Post by Rainbow Girl » November 10th, 2020, 2:26 pm

When the Watcher popped by for its food delivery routine, I was scared. Genuinely frightened. But like always, the Watcher’s painted smile gleamed with an impossible air of friendliness, and the silver, floating machination began rummaging through its bag with its metal claws to give us whatever dehydrated Meals we had earned. My mother’s expression mirrored mine, and Dusty anxiously buried his head into my arm.

Had we honestly earned enough food through all our combined Earnings? Could we feed the whole House? Me and the other adults in the family had been working overtime in the Glory Corps with our Community Service work, the Schoolboys and Schoolgirls were attending school every day, earning exceptional grades, and we had just managed to dodge flu season. But knowing our combined wages, on top of the taxes, bills, and medical compensation for Aunt Clarissa, we would be lucky to get one Meal.

Finally, the Watcher pulled out three Meal Packages, and handed them to my mother, who hugged them to her body. “That will be all, Jefferson family. Maybe if you deposit more of your money into the Megabanks, you would be able to feed your household and then some.” It said with a chuckle-or as close as a robot can come to a chuckle-before it hovered through our doorway, over the sand-colored ground, and to the Mendelsohn House.

Mother Joy felt on her knees and wept with happiness, holding the Packages in her hands, treasuring them, before standing back up and setting them down gently on our table. Father Dave hugged her as a smile bloomed on the lips of Grandmother Erica, which was a rare treat. Grandfather Arnold leaned back in his old chair, pulled out his paper, and began to read with a sigh. Sister Luna whispered something in my Cousin Alice’s ear, and she gasped, before singing with joy. Nephew Dusty hugged me harder than he had before, while Uncle Milo sat in his corner and began to draw.

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

Post by Juner » November 20th, 2020, 6:38 am

“Are ye a feen-yin or a proddy dog’?
“Are ye a feen-yin or a proddy dog?
The year was 1966, the place a greasy street on a run-down Glasgow council estate. To judge by his expression, the answer was critical to this congested looking, ferret-faced boy.
“Well? Whit are ye?”
I hesitated. For I neither understood the question, nor knew the answer.
Rolling his eyes at his open-mouthed pals, ferret-face sighed and tossed me a life ring:
“Whit school dae ye go tae?”
Ah. Now this I did know.
“Craigie Park”.
“A proddy dog then.”
This was clearly the right answer. Satisfied, the boys leapt onto their Choppers and sped off into the deeper recesses of the estate.
I didn’t know what I was. I only knew what I wasn’t, since no-one had thought to mention what I was. I wasn’t Feen-yin, I knew that much for sure. I had been told that we hated Catholics. Why? No-one had thought to mention that either. I suppose I might have worked out that I was a Proddy had I known that Proddy was the opposite of Feen-yin. But you can only work with what you’ve been given.
So here I was, just seven years old, confronted with the knotty concept of religious affiliation. Except it wasn’t. This was my introduction to tribal affiliation. A quite different thing altogether.

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

Post by coatimundi » November 20th, 2020, 4:16 pm

Title: Quar Corners
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Ana flinched, sensing the inaudible screech that always agitated the street dogs just before the synthesized chimes began. There were more than twenty boxes now, all mounted high on phone poles, and Silverton was small enough you could hear the announcements from anywhere. No need for Mayor Dave to address weary citizens from the decaying steps of the courthouse, the way things worked in the first two years of the quarantine. Last fall Ana's brother and his friends had killed a box down by the low-head dam. Three 12-year olds caught with stones in their pockets and slingshots in their hands. First offense, no detention but it went on their records. "Skeeter," she'd admonished. "You kill the camera first. Sneak up on it. Did you even look for it?"

When the familiar tones sounded Ana peered out the dirt-spattered window of her trailer at a gap in the trees, focusing on a streetside pole bathed in late-afternoon sunlight. Force of habit, watch the talking box. But something fluttered in her stomach; this was different. Usually the announcements came at noon and consisted of guidelines, reminders, administrivia. Toward sundown people were steeling themselves for the night. Feeding their dogs before chaining them in the yard.

Parley let himself in without knocking, letting the flimsy tin door slam closed behind him. Oblivious to the moment, Ana thought. And feeling entitled, as if he was still her boyfriend. She glanced at him, put a finger to her lips.

“Silvertonians!” proclaimed a reassuring voice.

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

Post by vnrieker » December 4th, 2020, 9:33 pm

Title: The Patchwork Mansion
Genre: Fantasy

Jane Bane was alone.
She lived with her father, but he was hard and cruel, and his cruelty made Jane feel more alone than if she had no contact with anyone at all.
When she wasn’t in school, she spent her time cleaning and cooking at home, which was a one-room worn-out shack. The shack was out in the middle of an empty, dusty field with very little vegetation and only insects and occasional field mice.
Deep down, Jane wanted a real family, a good family who loved each other, or at least a real friend, like the girls she saw at school who would play hand-clapping games or jump rope, and were always chatting and giggling together. The girls all wore pretty dresses and ribbons in their clean shiny hair. But the girls at school didn’t like Jane to play with them. Jane was too dirty and too shy and too weird. Jane didn’t deserve a real family or real friends.
So, instead, she imagined things. She imagined that she had secret special friends in bugs and mice that understood her, and she would have pretend conversations with someone imaginary who was just like her but better, someone who was fun and funny and kind, and who thought Jane was all those things, too.
But her father didn’t like her daydreaming.
“Get your fool head out of the clouds, you nit!” He spat one evening when her sweeping had slowed and then stopped.

Marlo
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Fishbelly White Mystery/Romance

Post by Marlo » December 13th, 2020, 2:50 am

August 1995
Stunning views of Idaho's Rocky Mountain foothills and the breadth Lake Coeur d’Alene softened Claudia’s morning memories of her size-four mother and sycophant brother. It was a warm summer afternoon in mid-August as she strolled the well-trod trail around Tubbs Hill, a city park--a fat hill of peninsula--that jutted from the resort town of Coeur d’Alene and out into the lake. She loved to stroll the easy walk that circled the hill. Lake breezes hummed through White pines. Water grazed ancient granite boulders with surges and splash. Nattering of chipmunks echoed the crunch of her shoes on the dirt path.

"The sheriff has money for a beach patrol?” she said aloud. Below the trail on the beach, Claudia spotted a shiny steel sheriff's launch pulled up on golden sand. Two people in uniforms worked their way back and forth over the beach area with rakes and plastic bags. A third examined trashcans. She continued around the hill towards town until yellow "crime scene" tape blocked the trail. On the water, two more boats with the county's crest bobbed in light chop.

A young deputy at the barrier announced, "Sorry, Ma'am. Sheriff's investigation. You'll have to go back." Claudia gritted her teeth at the "Ma'am." Down on the water, she saw a drag rope off the stern of one of the Sheriff's boats.

"Oh, god. Someone's drowned."

"Don't know, Ma'am.”

Claudia fixated on the water, mesmerized by the silvery metal boats of the Marine Patrol. A diver in full wet suit emerged to stand on barely submerged rocks. Waves from power boats and skiers made his balance precarious. He signaled to someone up on the trail, far inside the taped-off area in front of her.

Claudia followed the silent communication to a lanky man, his face shaded by a battered Stetson that barely hid graying teak-brown hair. He stood just off the trail; cowboy-booted foot planted on a granite boulder. She recognized his form before his face came into focus.

Frank Adams. The Sheriff was personally directing this operation. He signaled a thumbs-up to the diver and glanced up the trail.

She did not see his look of recognition. Overcome by a rush of blush, she turned away, forcing her attention to the action below. Frank Adams…She couldn’t believe it. He looked as if he were wearing the same plaid shirt and worn jeans he’d inhabited in high school.

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

Post by Jaydine » January 13th, 2021, 9:26 am

Title: Circles
Genre: Mystery

“Oh, hell, no!”
I whipped my head around to find the gravelly voiced speaker. He was a few inches shorter than I am, a fairly common occurrence. The plaid shirt, worn jeans, and cowboy hat screamed “rancher” to me. “Mr. Mitchell?” I asked.
“Crap.” He swiped the tan felt cowboy hat off his head. I tucked my bottom lip between my teeth and warned myself not to laugh. His face was tanned and weathered by the sun, but halfway up his forehead a white beach started and continued far onto the top of his head before merging with wispy waves of gray hair. He started whapping the poor hat against his thigh. “Please tell me you are not Dr. L.P. Dumayne.”
This wasn’t exactly the welcome I was expecting. I forced a smile. “Yes, I am, but my friends call me Lacey. I only use the ‘Doctor’ for academic purposes, and I only use L.P. for business purposes.” I pulled the strap of my leather purse more securely onto my shoulder and stuck out my hand for him to shake.
Instead, he shook his head, and his eyes drilled into mine like a hawk sighting prey. What was his problem? He continued abusing his hat, and then turned around to stare out the windows of the airport lobby as if asking for divine intervention. I could see a scraggly grey ponytail reaching to his shoulders – probably compensating for the lack of locks up top. He wasn’t all western rancher. Nope, he was a cranky retiring archaeologist. And I was an equally cranky, tired traveler. However, diplomacy was probably my best option.
“Mr. Mitchell?” I put a gentle hand on his arm and attempted my most soothing voice. “Is there a problem?”

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

Post by emishne » January 22nd, 2021, 8:05 am

Shanaz could expose the pharmacist’s biggest fear in less than a minute.

No one would notice, of course. Men, women, and children crowded the bazaar, purchasing steaming pita bread from shouting vendors and frowning at overpriced dates. Wedged between an airboat equipment store and a winery, the healery was nothing but a small reception window, and Shanaz an unnoticeable customer.

“One bottle of thyme elixir, please,” she said.

The pharmacist twirled his handlebar mustache and pushed the spiked goggles up his nose. He stood up and disappeared inside the dark shop. Shanaz craned her neck and glimpsed fist-size parcels hanging from the ceiling. Shelves upon shelves of vials covered the opposite wall. The man returned after a short while carrying a wooden plaque that bore two words: No Moabians. He placed it on the windowsill right by the sign that said No Dogs Allowed and slunk back into the shop.

Pocketing the insult, Shanaz rang the bronze bell glued to the mud-brick wall. “Come on! I really need it!” Her nostrils tickled from the strong onion odor as she leaned through the window.

The pharmacist’s basil turban slipped down over his nose. “What do you think you’re doing? Get out! Can't you read?”

“I’m sorry.” She raised her hands in surrender. “Look, I have money.” She put a hand into her pant pocket, whipped out a small leather bag, and pulled at the laces. The shekels shone silver in New Babylonia’s blistering October sun, and sweat trickled down her spine as she organized the money in front of him.

Marlo
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Fishbelly Whiteishbelly White Mystery/Romance

Post by Marlo » February 4th, 2021, 5:27 pm

August 1995
"Sports clothes don't become you at your weight," declared Betti as Claudia entered her mother’s kitchen. "That red tee shirt is too tight over your bust. It calls attention to your size." Betti turned from the sink. "And those…those denim culottes, ugh! They're hardly chic. Not to mention your shoes." Claudia looked at her worn walking shoes and golf socks. Those shoes had been around the world with her.
Betti reached for a dishtowel and began to dry her hands, mincing her steps about the white tile floor as she spoke. "Since you claim to be a 'professional' writer, shouldn't you try to look like one?" She tossed the towel on the counter. "Really, Claudia!"
Claudia had lived this scene many times. It didn't make it any less painful. She squinted at the slim figure prancing at the sink in an emerald green silk pantsuit with high-heeled emerald mules and contact lenses that matched. A multi-hued scarf held her bottle-auburn hair back from her surgically smooth face. Betti Holloway placed dried hands on her hips and surveyed her only daughter through impossibly long false eyelashes.
"You have such a pretty face."
Stifling a response, Claudia focused on the ceiling, only to be reminded that Betti had painted the beautiful fir beams a bright white. She snatched a beer out of the refrigerator and drank from the bottle.
"Claudia!" chided Betti. "Don't you think a woman of your age should show better manners? You are a Jewish widow, after all."

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

Post by mollyriggs_author » March 6th, 2021, 8:06 pm

Title: Blue Ink
Genre: New Adult, Literary Fiction

First 250 words:

Charlie sat at the kitchen table with a piece of red construction paper and a box of crayons. He picked each crayon from the box carefully and put it back in its designated spot before choosing a different one. He didn’t want to make a mess on the table—the single clean space in the otherwise cluttered apartment. He also wanted to return the box just as he had gotten it to his first-grade classroom on Monday.

He started by drawing his dad, the tallest of the four. He used the tan crayon to draw his big hands, the brown crayon for his thick, angry eyebrows, and also for his boots, set in a wide, intimidating stance. His mom’s hair required the same brown, and he drew it messy like when she just rolled out of bed. He drew her in her favorite pair of silky red pajamas and made sure to render her eyes wide and watery. His brother was next. Charlie gave him a distant half-smile in grey, with a smoldering cigarette hanging from his bottom lip. And then Charlie drew himself. He used a lot of the same colors as he had on his brother. He finished off with his eyes, using a light blue crayon. He began coloring in the sunny sky with the same blue. He couldn’t keep a grin from slipping onto his lips, proud of the four smiles he had drawn and the way they made his family look: happy.

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

Post by B L Taggart » March 19th, 2021, 1:27 am

Owning the Path (Women’s Fiction-Historical)

October 1944


The silence didn’t alert Kate Fanning to the trouble when she entered the house. Her parents ended their frequent arguments by not speaking, so she was used to quiet. It was the random noise—a slammed cupboard door, a pan banging on the stove, a spoon clattering in the sink. It had to be her mother. Her father was sitting in his favorite chair, scowling at the newspaper in his lap, and no one else would have made such a commotion with him in the house.

On her way to investigate, she couldn’t avoid passing him. He glanced at her, made a show of ruffling the paper, and returned to his reading. She paused in the doorway. Her mother sprinkled salt and pepper on a simmering pot, then thumped the shakers hard on the counter.

“Hi, Mother,” Kate said.”

Margaret sucked in her breath through closed teeth. “Goodness! I didn’t hear you come home,” she said.

“I’m sorry. What’s wrong?”

“Your dad’s insisting you pay rent. He thinks it’s time you contributed to the household expenses. I argued with him, but I wasted my effort. His bullheaded notions make me crazy!”

“Rent?” Kate said. “Why didn’t he say something before I paid tuition? He knew I was registering at Wagner. I have to give them most of my pay for a year. I can’t manage both.”

“He knows,” Margaret said. “He says it’s throwing money away for a girl to go to college. He says you’ll get married and quit school.”

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

Post by PhilThomas » March 22nd, 2021, 6:20 pm

A Renaissance Affaire - Short Story
Phil Thomas
First Page

Josh Capra followed the young woman closely as she approached the wine-tasting grove. He’d been on her trail for over ten minutes, keeping a safe distance and nosing through the crowded allies of the Renaissance Faire. He wasn’t a killer by nature, but after a tight intake of breath, he palmed the blood-flecked handle of the small four-inch butter knife in his pocket. Having stolen it no more than one hour earlier from the Nachos of Nottingham food stand, it had proved to be an easily concealable instrument of death.
The woman took a seat on a stool around the nest of bodies dressed as court jesters and voluptuous wenches. She asked for a sample of Knight’s Reward, an unusually dry, popular wine at the festival. This scenario wasn’t going to work. With so many potential witnesses, someone was sure to see him retrieve the blade and puncture her spine. She was a lost cause, but he couldn’t give up now.
The body count was rising, and he was just getting started.

***
When Josh awoke that morning, the last thing on his mind was murder. He had thoughts of sipping honey mead, devouring ham on a bone, attending the horse joust, and spending the day wandering the annual Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with his fiancée, Barbara, and his two friends.
It was something they did every year since working together at the Shake Shack. That was twelve years ago. Now in their thirties, they’d all transitioned to other careers, graduated from college, got on with their lives. But this was the one thing that brought them together every October, no matter what life told them. And this year was no different.

pathanford
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Joined: March 24th, 2021, 9:08 pm
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by pathanford » March 30th, 2021, 9:14 pm

Remembering Marla
suspense/thriller

A shadow, as black as asphalt, slipped between century-old buildings standing side-by-side like worn Legos—a hardware store, pawnshop, and pharmacy. Three quarters of a moon cast snake lines on the sidewalk from wires hanging off telephone poles. Past the buildings, he crept to the wall of the only Catholic church in town. Its steeple towered upward toward the heavens. Soft light projected through the belfry and leaked from windows of the facade.
Catty-corner from the intersection, the patio of a faded brick beer joint hung red and green lights from bygone Christmas inviting faux joy and nightly happy hour. A ramshackle pickup truck ripped through the night air. With the windows down and Brad Paisley blaring out a song, a young man downshifted and let the engine roar. It backfired twice while the truck slowed. An army of boys in the cab and bed laughed out loud as the truck turned into the parking lot. The headlights darkened and the engine silenced, leaving the noise of Tejano music blaring outside the building.
Hildebrandt Police Officer Marla Adams, alone in the police station, had the late shift. Cool night air flowed through open windows. In full uniform, she stood three feet from her 17 inch monitor on her desk. The red screen changed to green with a timer spinning in milliseconds. She drew her pistol from the holster and dry fired. The timer stopped at 867 milliseconds when the gun clicked. “C’mon, a little faster. I can get to eight-hundred.” She did it again, and again, and again.
Two gunshots outside jerked her back to reality. Grabbing the 9mm magazine and loading it in her pistol, she rushed outside recognizing Donnie Lucio’s dilapidated truck and the barely twenty-one-year old’s piling out. Sighing and stepping back inside, she’s heard his truck backfire a hundred times.

GabbyWritesYA
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Joined: April 13th, 2021, 10:54 am
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by GabbyWritesYA » April 13th, 2021, 11:01 am

Title: Summerfirth
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

First 250 words

“Elise. Stand still!” Margareta’s stubby, middle-aged fingers tightened the laces of my corset. “You’re going to be late to your own wedding.”

“Good.” I clutched the bedpost for support.

“Oh, tosh. I don’t want to hear such talk. I’ve known Arthur Hemsworth since he was a wee lad. He is a fine, respectable man, and quite wealthy, too. Why, you’ll be living in luxury.”

“I’ll be living with a man who hunts and murders harmless fae. The money he’s earned has their blood on it, and I want nothing to do with it. I’d rather live in squalor.”

“That’s a strong statement coming from a servant girl who is beaten frequently for refusing Master Gowdry’s demands.”

I shot the woman a paltry look. “At least I have my principles.”

“You are being selfish and unappreciative,” Margareta cinched the last bit of breath from my lungs. “You have a unique opportunity here and you are slapping it in the face.”

I faced her, hands on my hips. “I was bartered, Margareta. Arthur Hemsworth knows nothing about me. He certainly doesn’t love me. I’m merely a warm body to share his bed and care for his mute child.”

“You will be free of Master Gowdry. There’s not a girl here who wouldn’t trade places with you.”

“Then go find one of them and have her marry Arthur Hemsworth! Let one of them stare into that scarred face while he does things a lady ought not do.”

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

Post by MaryDuquette » April 29th, 2021, 6:07 pm

Title: And That Divine Eye
by Mary Duquette

July 15, 1967

Dear Violet,

This is what I remember:

1. The gray field.
2. The wind.
3. The rain.
4. The river.
5. Nothing at all.

Here’s the thing. The clincher. I may or may not remember any of it. Maybe it’s just a dream I had, a hazy wish, fingers crossed in the middle of the night, whispering words on a shooting star. A longing to be exceptional. Maybe I just pretend I remember. Okay, I was only a baby. It’s a long shot.

So, what I imagine happened is this: The wind pelted the earth with rain and marble-sized hail. It skittered across my face in a caress. The rain - first a sprinkle, then a torrent, then a drizzling spit, adhered to my skin in a glaze, the soak of it in my pores creating a union, breathing into me and making me the essence of it so that any kind of violent inclination would have been almost cannibalistic.

Of course, I was too young to contemplate such a thing, too soft to retain it. But the grass held me, and the wind rocked me, and I was saved. Not in any religiousy kind of way. God wasn’t involved in this one, at all. If there is a God. You could say I was reclaimed. Somebody standing over me, saw the whole thing. Or hearing my cries, wandered over afterwards.

CBwriter
Posts: 1
Joined: May 1st, 2021, 3:52 pm

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

Post by CBwriter » May 1st, 2021, 3:56 pm

Title: Come As You Are
Genre: Bookclub psychological thriller
(pls note British English!)

Marc took the narrow turning for Wigpool passing a warning sign for wild boar. The Forest of Dean was nothing like the well-behaved woodland that bordered his garden in Surrey. A damp, earthy smell invaded the car as he pictured a family of boar, all bristles and tusks, running through the undergrowth, gathering speed and then erupting in front of him to total his new 4x4.
He had wanted to bring his wife to the reunion, but Penny had been adamant: no partners. There was something unsettling about the prospect of spending the weekend with his ex-housemates without the comforting buffer of his spouse. He tried to remember the last time he’d slept alone and couldn’t. Night-time in the forest would bring the kind of blackness you could slice with a knife. No comforting car headlights or friendly glow of lights from neighbouring houses. He would have to keep his bedroom window open because of the heatwave which meant he would be kept awake by foxes, boar, and who knew what else, making noises indistinguishable from a murder in progress. Then a bat would fly in. Surrey bats wouldn’t do that, but he was certain anything was possible in this borderland between England and Wales.
He glanced at the sat nav. The car was a red arrow on an empty screen, the metalled track he was driving along apparently unknown to modern mapping systems. Hard to believe there was a “pretty cottage” with “an enormous lake” nearby.

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