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

Posted: November 10th, 2020, 2:26 pm
by Rainbow Girl
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.

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

Posted: November 20th, 2020, 6:38 am
by Juner
“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.

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

Posted: November 20th, 2020, 4:16 pm
by coatimundi
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.

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

Posted: December 4th, 2020, 9:33 pm
by vnrieker
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.

Fishbelly White Mystery/Romance

Posted: December 13th, 2020, 2:50 am
by Marlo
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.

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

Posted: January 13th, 2021, 9:26 am
by Jaydine
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?”

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

Posted: January 22nd, 2021, 8:05 am
by emishne
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.

Fishbelly Whiteishbelly White Mystery/Romance

Posted: February 4th, 2021, 5:27 pm
by Marlo
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."