NEW - 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: May 16th, 2017, 4:18 pm

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

Post by metalsatsuma12 » May 16th, 2017, 4:35 pm

Title: Pelligri and The Sunflower Master
Genre: Fantasy

First 250 words:

The cliff drew him like a lover. Pelligri whistled; the shrill echo knocked down the chasm causing rocks to crash below into hard stone. His ears rang and his face shone with a grin through wrapping fog. The chittering of night birds gusted back upwards toward him. It felt like home, as if the winds wrapped him in old songs. Warm and inviting him into its depth, desiring to enfold him forever. Part of him wanted to jump in and feel the embrace.

“You act as if you don’t fear the Shadowdeep.” He heard Alastor whisper words, misting the back of his neck.

He startled. Alastor’s stealth no longer shocked him into leaping out of his skin, but it still caught him off guard. Composing himself, he replied, “Afraid? I can’t see anything.”

Alastor released a snort in response, a heady sound as if made from a horse’s nostril. “Blind or not, have sense boy. You know what this place is, rotted darkness on the brightest day.”

“Not that I could tell,” Pelligri sighed. He knew the words were childish, not appropriate for his sixteen years, but with the dejection he felt, they poured out of his mouth like wasted wine.

“That’ll be changed soon and you know it!” Alastor snapped.

Pelligri swallowed. His master’s words stung and he remembered why they’d come. “You don’t have to do this, Master Alastor,” Pelligri pleaded, his voice weighed with guilt.

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Joined: May 16th, 2017, 4:34 pm

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

Post by HMCWrites » May 16th, 2017, 4:44 pm

Genre: Upper MG Thriller with Magical Realism

First 250:
Rosemary shouldered open the heavy steel door and escaped the dull school hallway, slipping into a lemon bright slice of daylight. Heat shimmered in waves above the crispy green-brown lawn, mingling with exhaust from a line of waiting yellow buses. Rose snatched an elastic off her wrist and twisted her thick hair up into a knot, exhaling as a slight breeze cooled her neck and back. She closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sky, letting the sun loosen the tight coils of sadness in her chest and smooth out the waxy hardness in her palms.

She scanned the throng of students as they jostled each other, streaming around her out of Loon Lake Middle School. A group of bottle-flippers clogged traffic at the foot of the pitted concrete stairs, earning themselves both complaints and compliments. A heap of coats and sweaters lay at the edge of the sidewalk, their owners throwing a football.
Rosemary couldn’t remember the name of the girl she was supposed to meet, but she recognized her blonde head bobbing down the sidewalk toward the bus line. She pushed through a clump of violin-carrying 8th graders and hollered.


The girl didn’t respond.

Rose freed herself from the crowd and jogged closer. “I’m here!”

Finally the girl turned around, saw Rose, and smiled. “Oh, hey! I was hoping you wouldn’t forget.”

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Joined: April 23rd, 2017, 4:49 pm
Location: Lisle, IL

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

Post by knowledgeable » May 19th, 2017, 5:55 pm

Title: The Musician
Genre: Literary Fiction
Aaron opened his eyes, but he could only see dark. Small spots of cold—snow—pelted his face. Pain shot though his ribs. He tried to suck in air, but his chest—something pushed on his chest. Huge. Heavy. Immovable.
Am I dying?
How long could I go without breathing before passing out or dying?
A deathly, otherworldly silence enveloped him like an isolation booth.
Where am I?
They had been on the bus, driving through the Berkshire Mountains. The five men were all talking about the gig they had just played in New York when Danny, the driver and their manager, let out a cry. The bus lurched and the next thing Aaron knew, he was tossed in the air, multiple items in the bus flying and hitting him.
He slipped between substance and shadow as recent and older events whirled and tumbled in his mind, just as he and some of the equipment had in the bus. Cele. If only he had known what to do when he realized she wanted an abortion. Maybe he could have gotten there in time to save the baby. If only he had known sooner. Hitching a ride with Danny to get out of Dalhart. bussing tables at the diner. London. Amsterdam.
* * *
On a warm August night in Nashville, 1963, Aaron Cronan arrived at Manchester’s bar. He, Cal, and Cele were the house band until July of that year when Aaron took work at a local studio.

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Joined: April 22nd, 2017, 5:07 pm

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

Post by CFrances » June 1st, 2017, 9:40 am

Title: Bertie, Brave and True
Middle Grades Contemporary

First 250 words

The trouble started when my cousin Humph sat down across from me at our lunch table and wolfed down the first of the three slices of pizza on his plate. “That all you’re eating?” he asked, nodding at my plate.
“I might go back for a cookie,” I said. “Since when do you eat more than a half a slice of pizza? And why do you care what I’m eating?” He and our other friends, Vinh and Nolan, exchanged looks and snickered. I noticed they all had extra food heaped on their plates.
“We’re bulking up,” said Vinh. “That’s what we weight lifters say when we’re trying to put on a few pounds.”
“We’re hardgainers,” said Nolan. He crammed a handful of French fries into his mouth. “All three of us.” He coughed out a fry.
“That means our genes makes it tougher for us to gain muscle mass,” Humph said.
“Oh, your genes are the trouble?” I said. “ And you three body builders figured that out on your second day of working out?”
No one answered me.
“Did you see that guy pyramiding?” Vinh asked.
“Man, that guy was shredded!” said Nolan. The other two agreed, shaking their heads and laughing.
I don’t lift weights. I had nothing more to add to this exchange, and who listens to a conversation when he has nothing to add to it? Nobody, that’s who. Now you see how the trouble started. Hump forced me to look elsewhere for entertainment.

Posts: 3
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 10:08 pm

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

Post by lana_lorett » June 2nd, 2017, 12:40 am

Title: In Work
Genre: YA Sci-fi

Planet Gali

Mila would hack into the academy’s artificial intelligence computer tonight. No second thoughts, though yes, there was some guilt.

She made her way towards the lab complex with a forced blank expression, periodically gazing at the campus grounds, as though admiring the lakes, waterfalls, and ever-changing shades of blues, purples, and reds. The surroundings she once dreamed of seeing five lunar cycles ago now seem irrelevant.

Deciphering the encrypted message someone had sent her on the day of her father’s death was the only thing that mattered now. There had been no clues as to who had sent the message or why, only a note indicating she needed to decrypt it and read it alone.

Simple request. Difficult solution.

The encryption algorithm used was beyond complicated. Only the academy’s AI computer possessed enough power to potentially crack it.

Mila held a deep breath, entered the astrophysics lab and surveyed the area. Empty, as planned, though not for long.

She logged into her computer and loaded her current school assignment, just as she would do on any other night. There could be no suspicion. At least as a new freshman, she’d only been tasked with the restoration of solar system maps, the ones corrupted by recent solar flares. Mundane work at best, though a perfect busy-like disguise for tonight.

Posts: 2
Joined: June 13th, 2017, 12:55 pm

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

Post by amsadeghi » June 13th, 2017, 1:12 pm

Title: The Antarian
Genre: Science Fiction
First 246 words

Saros’ sun burned sky. Light seared edges of buildings, and winked off air vehicles rising and lowering like mouth flies. Mearrin adjusted eyeshields against the glare and peered up into the thick sky, ignoring the press of bodies waiting in a long line.

There was a sound a deep space freighter made when it entered atmosphere that was like no other. A long hiss split the upper atmosphere followed by a deep drone that climbed three octaves and then lowered into a resonant hum. That sound was the closest thing to the Ever After, and Mearrin would give anything to die out there between stars, instead of here.

“Batch ya!” A brutal shove from behind, pushed her into a huge being. Mearrin whirled, the Nephta in her hands.

The shove came from a thick, hairy being with large double eyes, and a snubbed snout that dribbled snot aggravated by dust and heat. It stank of garbage. Normally, Madj were nonaggressive, but they’d been waiting in this work line for half adaynight.

The line brought color and movement to a long yard surrounded by low, battered warehouses. The front of the line began inside a large docking platform for local system transport, and the back ended beyond the open gates into the street. It was hot and dust was high due to air and off ground transports which lifted and settled nonstop in Saros’ spaceport district. Every being in this line was desperate for employment, including her.

Neil Larkins
Posts: 15
Joined: August 17th, 2010, 2:13 pm

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

Post by Neil Larkins » June 14th, 2017, 11:38 am

Author: Neil Larkins
Title: THE LAST TIME YOU FALL: Three Weeks When Love Meant Everything and Acceptance Meant More
Genre: YA, Double Memoir

Then it became obvious: Write this just as it happened and start here, the Freshman Mixer, the first social event of the Fall semester at the two-year liberal arts college I attended.

Friday, September 11, 1964

She hates my guts, that much is obvious. So what's stopped her from slapping my face? She hasn't because...Well, you'll see.
It's around nine p.m. I wheel my old car into the brightly-lit parking area, find a slot and take it. I'd been on campus earlier in the day to register and now am back, though not where someone else wants me to be tonight. I'm running away from that guy.
I cut the engine, take my keys, then step out and stand in the open door. I stare at my destination, the Kiva, a multi-use performing arts building styled after Native American Pueblo ceremonial lodges with the same name, only much larger. Its adobe-like beige stucco exterior has always made me think it belongs in New Mexico or Arizona, but here it is in Southeastern Colorado.
This is where The Players, the college theater group performs and until a few hours ago I'd been a Player. Now I'm about to go in as a "civilian."
I sigh, throw the car door shut and head towards the Kiva. I get there and pause at the bottom of the staircase leading to the main entry. I don't attend affairs like this. I'm not even a freshman. Okay, it's open to all students but the only reason I'm here now is to take my mind off my troubles and I've plenty. Believe me. I'd rather do something else, like take in a movie, but after paying tuition and then rent on new digs, I'm broke. This shindig is free, so...why not? And who knows but that a noisy crowd of people I don't know or care to meet will help shake off these blues.
Enough arguing with myself. I'm here and head up the concrete steps. Just as I open the heavy wooden door several people shoulder past on their way out. I take a quick look and don't know them. "Hi," says one girl but I don't return the greeting. Newbies, I think and step into the vestibule.
Ahead is another door like the first, the main access to where it's all happening tonight. A muffled jumble of music and crowd noise filters through. Seems like a lot of fun is going on. I grab the door handle. Wait, You can still turn around and leave, Neil, I tell myself. Leave? A few weeks ago I promised myself to go wherever I felt destiny was taking me, and this is it.
I push the door open.
Last edited by Neil Larkins on January 4th, 2021, 1:43 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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

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

Post by Ce3 » June 19th, 2017, 2:49 pm

working title: Choice and Consequence
Genre: Suspense, thriller

There may be more difficult places to find a parking spot in the city but Lucas Jackson could not imagine where. Because he woke up late, had a knock-down drag out with the lovely, sarcastic, and quite irrational Betsy on the front porch of his Long Island home, he was now running behind and sitting at a forever red light in downtown Lower Manhattan. Chewing his bottom lip and thumping his right hand on the steering wheel, a couple of airheads were arguing on sports radio of his near new Mercedes SUV while masses of humanity passed in front of him. He honked and waved his arms like all good New Yorker’s do and a couple of Wall Street types slapped their briefcases against his passenger side doors.
“Hey, what the hell,” he said as the men laughed and offered the one finger salute. “Go on,” Lucas added. “Go work in your tiny cubicle with no window. You losers!”
The word ‘losers’ altered his anger to dread, thinking of the secretive payload he was carrying. Now his brain felt like it was on speed, his thumping heart rate shaking his entire body. A glance at his watch stirred a flash of panic and he swerved into a Handicap spot ignoring the bellowing horns as he affixed the counterfeit disability placard to the mirror, climbed out, and flipped his Newport to the curb, before opening the back hatch where two supersize titanium roller suitcases sat. These giant secure bags cost his employer over two grand each and felt like they were filled with lead. He gave them a solid jerk and they dropped to the ground. He grabbed their handles and looked up to admire his destination, the 55th floor of the stunning new Freedom Tower at the exact moment everything in life changed. Again.

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Joined: July 19th, 2018, 12:59 pm

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

Post by DanaRoseBailey » July 19th, 2018, 1:02 pm

Short Story/Fiction
255 words (sorry, if I cut the last 5 it wouldn't make sense).

Working title: The Caravan
Corey didn’t want to leave, but, since his mother had already agreed, he was sure the General would leave him behind if he didn’t get in the ugly rusted out Hummer, so he did what he was told.
From the back seat, he watched as they passed the empty playground, the swings moving back and forth in the wind of the first morning light. For a moment he thought about Gill and Christy. They used to swing so high he thought any moment they’d swing in a full circle and end up wrapped around the pole. They had spoken up, but no one had listened. He hadn’t seen them in six years.
"We'll be safe soon," his mother said in her mousy voice. Everything about her was mousy from her size and coloring to her skittishness.
The General gave a dismissive laugh with his reply, "We're already safe." He went on about how great things would be once they arrived at the Grove, repeating the same tales he’d told them at the office and over dinner in Corey and his mother’s one room apartment. As he spoke in his loud commanding tone, his presence and voice filled the car, almost drowning out the sound of the gates closing.
“So see, there’s no need to worry,” The General said. But to Corey, the sound of the locks being put in place once the gate closed and the sight of the old city crumbling to ruins outside the wall told more truth than the General ever could.

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Joined: July 18th, 2019, 4:44 pm

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

Post by SusanneDunlap » July 18th, 2019, 4:52 pm

Here's my first page of QUEENS OF OIL AND WATER:

Elisabeth woke before the sun rose, pulled a dressing gown over her night shift, and lit a candle to take up the stairs to her new studio on the third floor of the Hotel du Loubert. For a few days, she’d been afraid her stepfather Le Sèvre would persuade her mother that renting an extra room just for this purpose would be a waste. And where do you think the money will come from, now that I’m retired? he’d said. But Elisabeth countered with every argument she could think of—no smell of oil or shavings of pigment in the parlor, and she would be able to paint more and earn more money. That final point sealed the bargain, and here she was.

Once the studio door closed behind her, she let the candlelight flicker over the brushes and pigments she’d arranged in cubbies by size and color the day before. Then, in one long, gentle breath, she blew out the candle the way her father had taught her, so she could watch as the flame bent and divided and passed through the colors he always asked her to name—yellow, ochre, carmine, ultramarine, violet, and the shades in between. When the flame extinguished to twining threads of smoke, she breathed in the acrid scent and sighed into the comforting twilight.

This was her world. She need never again be jolted out of concentration by Le Sèvre and her mother’s bickering, or have to move her easel to accommodate a new arrangement of furniture, or paint in an unheated corner of a room in the middle of winter.

Posts: 8
Joined: October 13th, 2010, 8:43 am

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

Post by robyn » July 18th, 2019, 7:58 pm

Title: Misbegotten
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction

First 250
Here I stand, society’s riffraff pregnant with the child of a big bug--wealthy important folks.
I urinated on the wheat and barley seeds every day for four days. The barley sprouted which means I’m having a boy.
I must confess the truth. I am bondservant to this honorable gentleman’s family. Our town will think I’m trapping him to take his money. Not true. You see, we are in love.
What am I supposed to do now?
No, really. Where do I turn?
My hands fluff my lavender dress. Today is my birthday celebration. I was born in February, but this past birthday, I had gone to my mother’s in Kentucky to help her with the birth of her little boy. I returned day before yesterday.
Sixteen years ago, I clawed my way into this world. You see, I am misbegotten born to a misbegotten mother in a family of misbegottens.
Now, this.
Another one.
I vowed not to have a baby out of wedlock. My shoulders drop.
No one even knows about our love. It is a secret I keep with the most handsome man I ever set my eyes on. And he doesn’t know I’m with child.
A knock at my door startles me.
I sweep my hands through my dark brown hair leaving it loose but adding a ribbon to keep the strands free from my eyes.
“Nee, are you ready?”
It is Abraham's sister, Nan. We are best friends. She’s speaking to me through the closed door.

Posts: 3
Joined: July 18th, 2019, 8:09 pm

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

Post by jcostello7 » July 18th, 2019, 8:16 pm

Thanks for offering this thread, Nathan!

Title: Woman of Words
Genre: Upmarket women's fiction

Not here, not now, not him. Tonight’s looming friendly dinner brought a bigger risk than small talk. Brandy Kellner’s fingers trembled for a cigarette, but it wasn’t worth inviting a lecture from Sophie, her health-nut neighbor and closest thing to a friend. They were walking the few blocks from their high-rise condo to the corner to meet Ryan, who was going to drive to dinner, but Brandy might as well have been teetering on a tightrope, awaiting a descent into the past’s pit.

Discarded Dunkin’ cups littered the sidewalk, washed in the lilac of twilight. Exhaust plumed from the line of cars crammed at a stop light. Brandy’s earlier appetite had disappeared. She’d spent the afternoon toying with her phone, writing out messages to Ryan and deleting them without sending.

She kept her voice low, as if he could hear. “How exactly do you know this Ryan guy, again?”

“Josh’s new roommate.” Sophie jerked her head, making her blonde curls tumble. “He knows of you, Ren. He’s a writer. He’s cool, I promise.” One hand rose to adjust a hoop earring the size of a half-dollar. Her minty gum snapped and retracted again inside her mouth.

The nickname still sounded out of place.

“Everyone knows of me.” It came out snappier than Brandy intended. What if he also knew her, without the tiny but powerful of adding that impersonal distance?

Posts: 1
Joined: July 19th, 2019, 6:07 am

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

Post by Debra » July 19th, 2019, 6:12 am

Title: Trading with Neptune
Genre: Conspiracy Thriller
First 250 words:

Charles George Wordsworth walked to the wall of windows and struck a pose, one guaranteed to showcase his personal dignity, his inherent sense of noblesse oblige.
Twenty-three floors below, the Charles River for which he’d been named, lay frozen, a lumbering serpent arrayed in silvery hue. Fifty-two years ago, while attending the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Charles had delighted in watching his river change its seasonal garb. But although he liked yellow daffodils and green grass and brown leaves as much as the next guy, his favorite season had always, decidedly, been winter.
Today, in mid-winter, the sun was bright, the clouds scruffy, and the sky a brilliant azure blue. A perfect foil for such a cheerless day, at least it was cheerless for him. Those poor souls pottering along in the streets below believed all was well with the world. That was an illusion that he had no choice but to help them maintain. Soon enough, the light shining in their eyes would darken and like dying stars, splutter out.
Picking up a silver framed vignette of Danielle, his recently deceased wife, he turned from the window and shook his head. According to a recent article in Forbes, he and she had formed the most prosperous partnership of the 20th century and that was going some considering that the competition had been the likes of JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. The article had given all the credit to Charles, his unparalleled business sense. But the truth was that Danielle had called the shots using astrology.

Posts: 2
Joined: July 27th, 2019, 7:37 pm

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

Post by Elsie » July 27th, 2019, 8:22 pm

Title: All the King's Names
Genre: YA fantasy

250 words:

Chapter 1: The Idea


The cry echoed down the narrow, dusty road, barely reaching the town walls. The gatekeeper, who had been winching the gates closed for the night, looked surprised and turned to Seeker for instructions. Seeker squinted into the evening gloom past the gates. When he saw who it was, his heart sank. “Hold the gates for them.”

The small town was quieting down at this time of day. A lonely song rose from the streets of the civilian section. The barracks were already silent. The loudest sound was the crash of ocean waves against the piers. Shadows covered the streets, and only the tallest roofs were still illuminated in yellow light.

As the band of travelers grew nearer, the old gatekeeper’s eyes widened. She shook her head. Seeker counted them, then counted again. He sucked in a breath through his teeth.

“Hey, are you ever gonna be done? Want a hand with the gates?” Brogan, Seeker’s second in command, had come up behind them. “I was thinking-” Then he saw the party and stopped.

The lead rider burst through the gates, charging straight past the small group by the gatehouse. Their horses' hoof beats changed from nearly muted on the dirt track to loud clangs on the cobblestones the instant they crossed into the town. Seeker winced. “Please slow down,” he hissed to the other riders, but they didn’t hear. They galloped into the town with all the subtlety of a pair of mating wyverns.

Posts: 1
Joined: August 1st, 2019, 4:32 pm

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

Post by CKELLY1313 » August 1st, 2019, 4:37 pm

YA contemporary fantasy
251 words

Harp notes vibrated from Roisin's O'Reilly's phone. Shaking off a wave of dizziness, she dug into her faded black jeans. "Hey, girlfriend." She swung a leg through an open first-floor window and landed on the grassy edge of Philadelphia Music Academy's ball field. "What's up?"

"Where are you? You know I'm soloing at rehearsal."

"Like you've only mentioned a gazillion times." A leaf blower roared in the background, half drowning Roisin's words.

"What's that?"


"Liar." Aizan added a curse word in her grandmother's Haitian creole.

Roisin laughed. "Don't let our grandmothers hear you talk like that." She drew a frown-face emoji with the worn heel of her black cowboy boot. Her voice tightened as she waved her phone with its broken screen. "Grand-mère is bringing Mom to a so-called spa in New York. They left this morning."

"Seriously? Don't move." Moments later a hand with gold nails shot out of the window and tugged a handful of Roisin's wavy auburn hair.

"Ow. Stop." She swatted Aizan's arm.

"Knew you'd be here." Aizan climbed through the window. "You can stay with me."

Roisin gave her a bright smile. "Thanks, but I'll be fine." (ital)I love the sound of my footsteps in an empty house.

"I'll ask Miss Sallie to make your fav creole mac 'n cheese." Leaning back through the window, Aizan swung out a battered violin case and pressed it into Roisin's hands. "Don't even think of skipping." She gingerly climbed back inside.

"Yes, Ma'am." Roisin snapped a salute.

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