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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AnnaM
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Joined: June 13th, 2010, 10:30 am
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by AnnaM » June 13th, 2010, 10:37 am

Title: Undaunted Hearts
Genre: Western Romance
Word Count:227


May, 1878
Wounded Colt, Montana

"Hands high, Ladies! Gents! On the floor!"

As Emily Anders entered the two-story bank building she heard the shouts, hit the boards, and wondered who would be knot-headed enough to rob people in such blistering heat.

Flattened on the cool floor, Emily wiped a hand across her forehead. Her eyes darted between the shadowy outlaws wearing long dusters to hide their weapons. The men's hats were pulled low, and bandanas reached up to their eyes.

This was trouble. Big trouble. The last thing Emily expected when Roy Easton, her guardian, sent her to deliver wanted posters was a meet-up with criminals at the bank.

Emily's blond curls swept the floor as she crab-crawled to cover under a heavy oak desk wedged into the bank lobby's far corner. She glanced at the words on the paper she gripped in her pale hands:

WANTED
Dead or Alive
Sam and Bando Crawley
For robbery, murder, and other treasonous acts
against the peace and dignity of the U.S.
Extremely Dangerous and Always Armed!
REWARD
$1,000 in Gold Coin
Will be paid by the U.S. Government

A hardscrabble bandit duo glared at her from the bottom of the page.

It took gumption to make trouble at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in Wounded Colt. She watched the rough men approach the two tellers and demand money.

RosieC
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Joined: June 13th, 2010, 2:34 pm
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by RosieC » June 13th, 2010, 2:37 pm

Title: The Monarchy's Lies
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
(250 words)


I was lucky my mom worked the afternoon shift. She was never home when the mail came. Every day I waited in the living room, my knee bouncing or fingers tapping. Sometimes I tried to distract myself from my own impatience, but it never worked. I’d cut myself enough times while cooking to try again.

The shuffle of feet moved up the walk, followed by the groan of the rusty hinge, the slipping paper. I jumped to my feet. Before the top of the mailbox could slam shut, my hand was on the doorknob. I watched through the peephole until the mailman disappeared before throwing open the door.

My jittery hand ripped the mail from the box. My breathing was shallow while I hunted through the stack, looking for my gem. The thick white envelope slid across my fingers, tucked in between a pre-approved credit card and a limited-time special offer on life insurance. I dropped the rest, missing the table, and bounded up the stairs and down the hallway to my room. My finger slid under the flap.

The doorbell rang.

I groaned, staring in desperation at the still-sealed envelope hanging off my finger. I considered not answering the door, but it could have been important. Being unable to open my letter—having to wait until the spirits knew when—ached like true physical pain. I ripped the envelope from my finger, flinging it at the bed. Taking a deep, steadying breath, I shuffled downstairs, frustrated by every step.
Last edited by RosieC on August 16th, 2010, 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ciara
Posts: 3
Joined: April 17th, 2010, 7:48 am
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Ciara » June 13th, 2010, 3:24 pm

My Sister's Suicide
YA

I’m pretty sure my sister had decided to be a pagan or a baptist or something before she offed herself. The priest probably thinks she’s burning in hell. Suicide is supposed to be a sin isn’t it? So it seems a bit hypocritical of us all to be sitting in the pews singing about her being in the arms of jesus. I don’t believe in hell anyway and neither did she. Clearly.

The church was cavernous and so cold; I didn’t remember it being so big when we were little even though we were smaller then. Everyone was wearing black but me; I wore my red cord dress. Mum gave me a look like I’d pissed all over the coffin or something. I was sure she was going to have a go but I think Dad had a talk with her. It’s a stupid tradition anyway. We haven’t even been to mass since dad started worshiping at the temple Golf, why are we going back now?

The pews were full, mostly kids from school, I don’t know who they all were. My friends came. I was looking around when they walked in together, clutching each other, holding hands and looking somber. I don’t know why but it annoyed me so I pretended I didn’t see them when they waved and smiled bravely at me. I focused on the casket instead, closed- obviously- no one needs to see how she ended up.

Bird
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Joined: June 13th, 2010, 4:00 pm
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Bird » June 13th, 2010, 4:08 pm

Bottler
YA
(249 words)

Aint many hangings in Varina anymore. I can only remember two before today--a murderer when I was six, and a horse thief three years ago, just after I turned thirteen. The horse thief probably would have been better off if he had stuck with living horses. The thing that got him hanged was going after the sheriff's Automaton horse.

I don't blame him for trying. The horse is beautiful, brass and copper pipes and a sculpted face plate. It gleams, and you can see it coming all the way down the street. It's the only A-horse in town, and trying to steal it was just plain dented.

Today, they were hanging a bottler. I don't have a problem with seeing a man swing, but hanging a man for ghost catching? Yes, it's illegal under both federal and territorial law--has been since 1866, almost as long as I have been alive. That don't change the fact that Sheriff Parnell's beautiful Automaton horse runs on spirit power, and it has been long enough since the ban that I have trouble believing that power is from a bottle that was grandfathered in. Ghost power lasts a long time, but fourteen years starts to strain anyone's credibility. It aint too hard to get new ghosts in old bottles, but turning around and hanging the bottler just seems like bad business. I went, though, and he dropped and I felt the rush as his ghost whooshed out of him and vanished into the air.

susaninvt
Posts: 6
Joined: February 12th, 2010, 12:55 pm
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by susaninvt » June 13th, 2010, 4:24 pm

Title: Hope
Genre: Romance (paranormal)

Kathryn knew she would have a bad day when she woke up to the rumble of the snowplow. Sure enough, his whine announced the Doberman's launch onto her bed. Amid the unpredictable impacts of his paws, Kathryn flailed beneath the blankets in an attempt to get away. Misjudging the size of her new bed, she spread her arms as she slid over the edge. She managed to grip the flannel sheet and execute an impressive flip onto the floor.

Thump!

"Damn it, Dargo! It's just a snowplow for Pete's sake!"

Jumping off the bed, Dargo crouched next to her. His quivering bulk against her side dissolved her anger.

"It's okay, boy. Nothing's going to hurt you." Bending her arm at an odd angle, she stroked his chest and sighed into the carpet. He pressed his cold nose onto her bare leg and she rolled sideways, driving her elbow into the leg of her nightstand.

"Ouch!"

Her cherry nightstand could withstand the tremor, but she couldn't say the same for the item upon it. Looking up, she saw the large display of her alarm clock read 5:14 as it tipped over the edge, hitting her in the forehead.

"God, I hate Mondays."


An hour later, Kathryn stomped her boots in the lobby of Cameron IT Consulting. Leaving a trail of snow, she squeaked along the floor toward the security desk. Chuckling, the guard covered his mouth and turned away.

"Steve, I don't even want to hear it." Kathryn frowned,

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

Post by MagsMunro » June 13th, 2010, 4:54 pm

Title: The Hidden BackerSee
Genre: Creative Nonfiction
Word Count: 250

Briskly pedaling through a series of winding country roads, Anna took a rare moment to relax and let the strong breeze push her toward the fortress town. Her face was tough, determined, and undeniably German. Trees dotted the Bavarian road and shifts in temperature as she biked through patches of sun and shade aggravated the migraine she was fighting; she rubbed her eyebrows in circular motions to ward off the pain. Looking over her shoulder to keep an eye on her prized eggs, she continued on her 30 mile commute home, her stiff black skirt whipping against the bike pedals.

Ignoring the distant sounds of sirens and the acrid air, her pace quickened when she saw the massive forest approaching on the bend to her right. Taking in a welcomed pocket of clean air, she came to a careful stop and leaned her bike against an ancient Fir tree. Crossing herself out of habit, she offered a quick prayer to protect this stretch of forest that was untouched by the ravages of war. The basket was secured with bounds of rope and she peered inside at her week’s pay, ten eggs from the Mueller farm. Picking one up with the utmost care, she pressed it against her face to check its temperature and whistled loudly to greet the brown and white woodlarks circling the tree nearest her.

Gathering her skirt and flipping the hem, Anna tucked it into her waistband to give her legs freedom to walk more freely.

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Quill
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Joined: March 17th, 2010, 9:20 pm
Location: Arizona
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by Quill » June 13th, 2010, 6:05 pm

Title: Barbara Reilly
Genre: YA (historical/fantasy)
Word Count: 249


Gatoweh—Autumn—1779 by the whiteman’s calendar, midday by the sun’s position, but twilight for the Iroquois people, dusk for a centuries-old way of life.

A village stood—fourteen log-built houses—beneath the crowns of giant oaks and elms—a village and its garden field, in the midst of ancient forest. Along the winding avenue, and in the homes, people hurried without rest. Women toted baskets sagging low with cook-pots, clothes, and called to children—shrill, full-throated calls. Old men stooped in doorways fixing bundles, fumbling with cord. Boys heaved bags and strapped them to the backs of horses. And in the field, where corn leaves waved among the climbing beans across a green squash sea, a hundred busy hands swam, reaping what small portion could be saved of a harvest meant to last through coming winter.

At stream’s edge Nawa bent to dip her bucket. She bent like a bough about to break. Through long hair hanging loose she saw her shadow in the water, and the color of her dress, blue broadcloth, mingling with the waves. She was daughter of Oyanri and proud Kowanea. They had given her a body strong and fair, in which happiness once dwelled. Once getting water was a simple task, following the path where sunlight played, bringing the herons stitch-designed upon her moccasins to water, which herons love. But that was many red-rimmed moons ago. Now the face that tilted down was feverish, etched with pain, and aged beyond its sixteen summers.

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

Post by T. Anne » June 13th, 2010, 7:10 pm

Title: ACHING HOURS
Genre: woman’s fiction
Word Count: 243

On Tuesday Clare went missing. We were closer than sisters and I miss her.

On Wednesday Gage was arrested for bilking millions from investors that entrusted him with their fortunes. Gage is my fiancé who I thought I loved but didn’t.

On Thursday my father shot himself because his millions disappeared overnight. I would have loved him without his millions, but my mother would not.

On Friday Clare’s body was found caught against the boulders in the cross-town levee.

On Saturday they seized my home, my car, and froze my bank accounts. I have twenty-four dollars in my wallet I get to keep.

On Sunday the Lord gave me a reprieve, but come Monday, I discovered someone stole the clothes I set out in the yard, and now I literally only have the shirt on my back. I spent the last two nights huddled in my neighbors garden finding respite amidst the oleander’s and the Hawthorne bushes.

On the bright side I still have a job at Roanoke elementary school, teaching eager third graders their multiplication tables and cursive. Showing up early, I partially bathe in the faculty restroom and compose myself just barely—my hair pulling up in wild feathers in the back—my skin an eerie shade of grey. Lost are my dart blue eyes, replaced with crimson tracks and outlines like bruises.

They let me go before seven thirty.

I am all alone, and I wish the world would end.

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

Post by Juniper » June 13th, 2010, 9:16 pm

Title: Trouble Comes
Genre: Contemporary Middle-Grade Fiction

Weeds.
Weeds.
Weeds.
Roadkill!
I craned my neck to see what had died, but it was gone. I flung off my seatbelt, ignoring Mama’s “Hey now!” and raced through our creaking Winnebago to peer out the back in hopes of catching a glimpse of what had died.
“Slow down!” I hollered, and Mama obliged, stomping on the brake, and sending me sprawling. I could hear a honk as the car that had been trying to pass us all morning swerved to avoid us and kept going, horn wailing all the way. Mama let the engine die, then twisted in her seat to give me her Behave look.
“What’d I say about running around in Born Free while we’re moving?”
“Don’t,” we said together.
“Sorry.” I scrambled to my feet and pressed my forehead against the rear window. Through the dust clouding the glass, I dimly made out a small brown shape about fifty yards behind us. I squinted as the wind from passing cars made a tail like a flattened bottlebrush flap against the road. I nodded and made my way back to my seat, where Mama sat with her arms folded across the steering wheel.
“Can we go now?” she asked as I strapped myself in.
“Can we go back to Nashville instead?” I countered.
“You know I hate going back,” Mama said, and I sighed, ‘cause it was true. In my eleven years on the road, we’d only ever gone forward.

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

Post by Helen Rina » June 13th, 2010, 9:41 pm

Title: Escape # 59
Genre: YA paranormal romance

The werewolves did not like games. Never played them. So, of course, to trick them into one was an undying aspiration of every human under sixteen at our school. On my hands and knees, I followed Jaq along the wall of the dining room, making sure to stay hidden behind the tables. The kids snickered into their plates, but played along by not looking at the werewolf perched on the table in the center. It was Dina today, the head of our werewolf personnel, the iciest of them all.

As I was copying Jaq’s war crawl, I wished Fox were here. He would know how to trick anyone. He didn’t feel like children’s games lately, but I knew he would play if I asked. I should have waited for him.

I scuttled into the sunny patch under a window and had to squint. Sunbeams were ricocheting off the glossy purple feathers that covered the floor. They were reflecting off the white tablecloth, hanging down the nearest table. One naughty ray was even bouncing off some silverware I couldn’t see from the floor. All in all, the sun light hung in front of me like a golden veil with purplish undertones. Which was the exact color combination of pancakes with grape jelly. The air smelled of them too because that’s what we were having for breakfast. My mouth watered.

I must have made a sound because Jaq looked over her shoulder and rounded her eyes in a silent warning. I nodded, promising not to gulp so loudly next time.

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

Post by Steppe » June 13th, 2010, 9:50 pm

Title: Nine Castles
Genre: Horror
250 Words

Paralyzing force bound Pierce Daniels to the black chair. It was always a different face and always the same gun; the only constant known to a man who walked a lonely razors edge between two nations forever at war.
Growling in the pit of the stomach sent gentle waves of euphoric relief trembling across his slow, silenced mind.
The first word would come soon after wondering what the first word might actually be. Seven-Three-Three-Seven.
He was known to both Gog and Magog as Mr. Magoo.
A cartoon character nickname for someone both sides felt they could play with as they chose and slap around with impunity. No wife and children and parents buried long ago lead both versions of the United States of America to under estimate the titanic level of resolve with which he played this most fatal of games.
His eye twitched and he tried to smile but his body wasn’t ready yet. Alerted by the target the shooter shuffled his feet. Pierce relished the return of his hearing. With that sense restored he fantasized about the sounds of waves and pieces of music he had heard and grown to love. Trying to rock forward from the chest he detected slight movement in the groin area. Clocking forward he knew only two minutes remained before he would speak. Now thinking clearly, he silenced his mind voluntarily, restoring his true instinct.
Sitting on a carpet, antique desk-map to his right; a boldly typed message awaiting decryption.

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

Post by Kids Book Junky » June 13th, 2010, 10:30 pm

Title: Hero and Villain
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure/Fantasy

"Once upon a time, in a land not so far away lived a strong, handsome, funny and slightly cocky man named Hero. Hero was everything a hero should be. Bold, rustic, dripping with… "

“Wait!” Hero protested. “Cocky? It’s a cool confidence I radiate…I can’t help that.”

“Hero, how many times do I have to tell you not to interrupt me?” Mason placed the tip of her pen on the blue lined paper. It craved her attention, sullen and unused, it waited patiently for her to fill it up and make it whole.

“Well, I won't...” Hero glanced in the oval mirror and adjusted his wind worn hat. “Once you quit making me out to be an arrogant schmuck.”

“Why does he get to be handsome AND funny?” Villain leaned his long, pale torso across Mason’s dresser turned desk. “You attempt to kill me off at the end of every story and Hero always wins. You could at least give me funny.”

“Villain, if you have to say you’re funny, it means you’re not funny.” Mason tossed her pen, flung open the screen door, and plopped down on the paint chipped step.

It’s no wonder she can’t finish one lousy paragraph.
Last edited by Kids Book Junky on June 13th, 2010, 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

J.M. Lava
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Joined: June 13th, 2010, 10:40 pm
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by J.M. Lava » June 13th, 2010, 10:52 pm

Title: Deep Calling
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 231


A sweeping wind came upon Melanie with fingers that were icy and sharp, and as it whistled about her cheek to kiss her skin with dew, a desire to leave shore seared her. The wind sighed into her ear. It travelled down her back and around her torso, up and through her hair, tousling it sensually, but it wasn’t the wind that captivated Melanie, it was the whispered name sent over it, from the sea.

Melanie lifted her gaze from her work and set it upon the ocean. Dancing artfully with light and shadow, folding, arcing and dipping, it beckoned... and it waited. Her blood raced to follow its rhythm.

“I’m taking the boat out,” she announced, gripping the hammer she had been using to reset loose shingles on her grandfather’s shed roof. It felt heavy now that she no longer wanted to wield it, and the knuckles about its handle turned white as the need for the Deep stirred her.

It was cold, for the sun hid behind a grey, weighted sky, and going out in such conditions meant she’d need rubber clothes and gloves, warm weatherproof boots, and though she was already damp and chilled, Melanie’s decision was final, she would follow the wind. She took a deep breath, and the air she took in was filled with salt and scales, and a freshness that charged her with energy.

MACS
Posts: 5
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 12:17 am
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by MACS » June 14th, 2010, 12:17 am

Word count 247
Women's Fiction

I’m so pissed! How could he be such a—such a— prick? I trusted him completely. Marc-Antoine split five days ago and my prepaid week at the youth hostel is almost up. I am so screwed! When he comes back I’m going to kill him. What if he never does? I feel my chest squeeze with fear and hurt. Oh, no. I can’t think that way. But I can’t, like, sit and wait for him either.
What a relief I’m in England. I’m glad I’m not in Portugal or Croatia or Godknowswhere. Then how would I find a job? Here they at least speak English, sort of. As it is, it’s not going very well.
After walking to the city centre from the hostel, I pass between the massive towers of Bootham Bar and stop, listening to my heart thump in my chest. Last time I walked here, just three days ago, Marc-Antoine was with me, spouting interesting historical facts from his architectural guidebook. At the top of High Petergate, a busker with a red goatee plays his sax under the bored stare of passing shoppers. The spires of the Minster pull my eyes to where the narrow lane bends out of sight, but I know this street, or ‘gate’ as they call them in this city, continues all the way to King’s Square.
I trudge onward, head down, thinking. I’m so not into the designer clothing or antiques in the windows of Petergate today.

ellentanguay
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Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:07 pm
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Re: Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by ellentanguay » June 14th, 2010, 9:11 am

The Soothsayer
Young Adult/Fantasy
Word count: 231

Albert’s hands trembled against the coarse paper as he began to recognize the face within his sketches. The blurred figure that haunted him for months glared back at him exposed, luring his fingertips to gently stroke along the silhouette of her pure face.

Under the solitary light that hung above his desk, he hunched over the drawing. Frantically, he shuffled through the pile of sketches that covered his desk. Her face continued to stare back at him. It was clear that his mind was not deceiving him. Every one was of Flora.

He anxiously looked at the clock that rested on his nightstand. Hours had passed since he started drawing out the barrage of visions that flooded his head months ago. With the night slipping quickly away, there was not enough time for him to continue drawing everything he needed to before he would have to leave for school.

A dark desperation crawled inside of him. The truth was that Flora was unreachable to a guy like him. This was high school and girls like her don’t waste their time talking to guys like him. Even if he tried to explain, she would never believe that her life was danger. Not because of some silly drawing. She would laugh in his face and he wouldn’t blame her. No one would believe that Albert could see the future.

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