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

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

Post by Lisa MP » September 21st, 2023, 8:20 pm

Title: The Siren Dialogues
Genre: Literary Fiction with Magical Realism

Libby angled her flashlight beam over Jasper’s tall, lean frame and the wagon load of decoys and gear bumping along the boardwalk behind him. The beam caught the eyes of one of the decoys, a mallard duck carved from wood, bringing it to life just as a warning gong echoed from a buoy and a ship in the distance issued a long, low response. The early morning hour was alive with sound and magnified over the body of the bay. Even her new duck boots made a satisfying slap against the wooden boards. She turned up the collar of her field coat and patted the pockets. Notebook on one side, gloves on the other. She’d need both to capture the day.

Normally she kept her work and personal lives separate: Elizabeth in the city and Libby on the island. But soon her new client, the famous photographer Tanner Bixby, would arrive at her weekend getaway. She would chronicle his stories for a new photography book and give context to his vision. Her boss was taking a chance on her and she planned to come through.

Jasper’s boat was the last one left in its slip, all the summer people gone back to the city. He switched on the running lights and the engine hummed to life. He grasped her by the wrist and her blood thrummed beneath his long fingers. The truth was, she was glad this trip would be different. Maybe it was time to shake things up.

JGS1985
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by JGS1985 » September 22nd, 2023, 9:42 pm

Title: Gloss
Genre: YA contemporary fantasy

That bell on the door of HawkCrest Church and Community Center? It’s not there to welcome people—it warns them away. I’ve never had to worry about it. Spelled from birth to hear nothing but the sweet chime of jingle bells, I enter at least once a week to poke at the potluck and hang out with my friends planning KnickKnack videos while our parents talk about business and babies. Boring stuff.

But today the bells tinkle half an hour late. Heather, Munira and I are the only ones in the lobby, bent over our phones. Not much can pry Heather away from her screen, but even she looks up.

There’s a woman and teenage girl in the doorway, surely mother and daughter though it isn’t looks that make them a match. The mother’s blond hair is pulled into a taut ponytail, true blond judging by her pale brows and lashes. Her daughter’s hair is brown, eyes hazel while the mother’s are blue. But both sets of eyes share a sharp, defensive hope, a crinkle around the edges, the squint of people looking long and hard for home. They’re unsettled. The bell has done its work.

I approach them while Munira slips inside the main community room to let our parents know we have visitors. Heather presses a command in her Draíocht app that says a spell outside the frequency range of human hearing. Very convenient when there are visitors around. She goes to the buffet table and slashes her finger through the pattern drawn in ground cinnamon. The hot dishes will start to cool on their own.

melissam0202
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by melissam0202 » September 29th, 2023, 7:16 pm

Title: The Secret of the Haunted Castle
Genre: Middle grade, Fantasy/Adventure

First 250 words:

“Whoa,” I whispered to Buster. “What is that?” He didn’t answer me. He couldn’t. He was too busy peeing on a fire hydrant. Oh, sorry. Buster’s my dog. And I’m Joe. I’m 10, and everything I’m about to tell you actually happened. Pinky swear.

I’d taken Buster for his morning walk, and I was ready to go home. I was hungry. And cold. We’d stopped right behind our town’s oldest—and creepiest, house. It had been abandoned for as long as anybody could remember…and for good reason. Who would want to live there? The house was made of old, dirty bricks. It was three stories tall and looked like a castle, with pointy tower rooms on every corner. But it was crumbling in places, and the dark windows looked like eyes. Dead eyes.

I really didn’t want to dilly dally. Being near that house creeped me out. Especially in the dark.

“Buster, come on! Let’s go!” I stamped my foot. He always took forever, trying to find just the right place to pee. While he looked, I decided to kill time by trying to balance on the curb. I made a game of it—if I could walk the edge of the curb without falling off, I’d get an ‘A’ on my vocabulary test. If I fell off, well, I guessed I wouldn’t get an ‘A’.

Just then, as I tried to balance and earn an ‘A’ on my quiz, something moved at the corner of my eye. I looked up at the creepy house’s windows and fell right off the curb. Well, looked like I’d be studying before the quiz. But more importantly, what was that? Stepping back up on the sidewalk, I pushed my brown hair out of my eyes and stared up at the window.
Last edited by melissam0202 on October 31st, 2023, 6:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.

LRMB
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Joined: October 5th, 2023, 10:43 am
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by LRMB » October 5th, 2023, 11:07 am

Title: Jack Tyler and the Legend of Demas
Genre: MG Magical Realism

Jack Tyler stood with his classmates out in front of C. Tales Elementary on the last day of fifth grade itching to board the bus home. Summer vacation on Thames Island was a day away, and if he could just take his mind off what was worrying him, he could think about being happy.

But Jack couldn’t stop thinking about the small, private island in Long Island Sound, an hour and twenty-minute boat ride from where he and his parents lived in Oar Harbor. Besides the lighthouse and the lightkeeper’s house, there was only one other house—on an island that everyone in town said was haunted by a ghost named Demas.

Jack didn’t know what to believe. Hadn’t his parents told him a gazillion times the stories were rumors? Maybe they only told him that so he wouldn’t be afraid. But he was afraid, and if he was going on vacation tomorrow, he’d have to face his fears.

“Remember your summer reading list, students!” Vice Principal Sternly stood front and center under the portico of the two-story brick school building alongside Principal Barrow. Six feet if she was an inch, she towered over the principal and watched the students with her piercing, all-seeing blue eyes.

“Now don’t fret, Margaret. They’ll get their reading done,” Principal Barrow said out of the corner of his mouth. The principal wore bow ties with his suits and was as short and wide as Vice Principal Sternly was tall and skinny.

SweetPea
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Joined: October 8th, 2023, 2:12 am
Location: Honolulu
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by SweetPea » October 8th, 2023, 8:29 pm

Title: A BOY WITHOUT
Genre: MEMOIR / Adults

Chapter 1: RUNAWAYS (Summer 1970)

Greyhound Bus Terminal – Park Square, Boston

The moment our Greyhound bus pulled up to the terminal gate in Boston, Finkel blurted, “Oh Paul, did you know we're wards of the state? A few passengers in front of us cocked their heads for better listening.
“No, what does that mean?” as I appeared stupefied. “Hey, what part of town is this?” I anxiously asked.
“We just got into Park Square,” snapped Finkel.
“What time is it? Finkel.”
“What am I, your timekeeper? We gotta find a grown-up real fast. Somebody’s gotta agree to be our guardian cuz we’re minors. You’re only sixteen, right?”
“Yeah.” What's he leading up to?
“Me, too. The state pays them good to take care of us. If we don't get one real soon, Hayden Inn's (a boys' institution we lived at south of downtown Boston) honchos will have the state police search for us. Then, we might be in BIG trouble,” stressed Finkel. His yellow, crooked teeth looked like they were about to fall out of his mouth. It’s got to be those cups of sugar he dumps into his cereal bowls. You can barely see the cereal flakes.
“Gee, I didn't know all that, Finkel. You mean running away won't cut us loose from that horrible reform school in Dorchester?”
As we whisked through the bus terminal, packed with travelers, the red exit sign was ahead. Along the way, Finkel kept looking stealthily behind us.
“Finkel,” I queried, “did you leave something on the bus?”

SweetPea
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Joined: October 8th, 2023, 2:12 am
Location: Honolulu
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by SweetPea » October 10th, 2023, 7:55 pm

Title: A BOY WITHOUT
Genre: MEMOIR / Adults

Chapter 1: RUNAWAYS (Summer 1970)

Greyhound Bus Terminal – Park Square, Boston
The moment our Greyhound bus pulled up to the terminal gate in Boston, Finkel blurted, “Oh Paul, did you know we’re wards of the state? A few passengers in front of us cocked their heads for better listening.
“No, what does that mean?” as I appeared stupefied. “Hey, what part of town is this?” I anxiously asked.
“We just got into Park Square,” snapped Finkel.
“What time is it? Finkel.”
“What am I, your timekeeper? We gotta find a grown-up real fast. Somebody’s gotta agree to be our guardian cuz we’re minors. You’re only sixteen, right?”
“Yeah.” What’s he leading up to?
“Me, too. The state pays them good to take care of us. If we don't get one real soon, Hayden Inn’s (a boys’ institution in Dorchester, south of downtown Boston, where we lived) honchos will have the state police search for us. Then, we might be in BIG trouble,” stressed Finkel. His yellow, crooked teeth looked like they were about to fall out of his mouth. It’s got to be those cups of sugar he dumps into his cereal bowls. You can barely see the cereal flakes.
“Gee, I didn't know all that, Finkel. You mean running away won’t cut us loose from that horrible reform school?”
As we whisked through the bus terminal, packed with travelers, the red exit sign was ahead. Along the way, Finkel kept looking stealthily behind us.
“Finkel,” I queried, “did you leave something on the bus?”

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

Post by Leeinbex » October 16th, 2023, 2:46 pm

Title: THe Wizard’s Dog
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

“Any suggestions?” Haddo asked, his fat feet standing in the broken glass. The three of us stood across the street from the Cobra-Hounds, a new gang in Reading, PA. They’d busted up his family’s bodega behind us, the yellow and blue wood sign still splintered.

“Maybe three 7th-graders against a gang of…” I counted the black leather jackets coming to destroy the Bodega To Go —again. “… of thirteen isn’t such a good idea. Not only are they bigger, but they’ve got sticks and knives.” My mind replayed the video of the attack from a night ago—food spread over the floor, bottles and smashed shelves. I remembered Papi’s body crumpled on the checkered vinyl floor.

Now they were coming after us.

“I have my Papi’s magic stick,” smiled Haddo. I looked at his short, stocky hands holding the three foot paddle with carved scribbles. Yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed in magic, but that was before the wizard. “It will smash evil.” I wasn’t sure about his magic, but we started crossing the street anyway.

“I got my baseball bat,” said Loot, the tallest of us, looking more like 17 than 13, “it’s all I had time to grab.” He swung it wildly. “You, Miguel?”

“I’ve got these scissors, compinches,.” They both stopped, staring at me. “What? My sister was home. She wouldn’t let me take the butcher knife. Besides, these are really sharp,” I waved them in the air as they rolled their eyes at me.

nancynew22
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by nancynew22 » October 27th, 2023, 7:50 pm

Title: A Resourceful Murder, Chapter 1 "Boom"
Genre: Sci Fi, Mystery/Thriller

FIrst 250 words:

When they kissed, a bomb went off.

“Did you feel that?” Luke said.

“Yeah,” said Samantha, “nice kiss.”

“No. I meant the tremor.”

“Oh, that. There was a little something extra.”

“Sam, let’s check out the feed.”

Luke turned on the living room wall media screen and warnings popped up everywhere. The chyron crawl on the bottom read DOWNTOWN PHOENIX HIT BY BOMB BLAST NEAR STATE CAPITAL BUILDING. POLICE INVESTIGATING.

Sam’s phone pinged, then Luke’s. They raced off to work.


The room buzzed with energy as Samantha walked into the headquarters of Southwest Media Corporation where she was a senior investigative reporter. Wall screens flashed the latest headlines and photos of the still-smoking wreckage. Sam slid into her seat and placed her palm on the touchpad. The wall display woke up and flashed TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2070, along with alerts and reminders.

“Good morning, Samantha, how are you today?” a friendly, slightly artificial male voice said.

“I’m good, Eddie. What’s new on the bomb blast?”

“The building housed the headquarters of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the body that regulates all the corporations and utilities in the state. There was one fatality, a security guard, identity unknown. There are rumors that the bomb was set off there to send a message to the Commissioners not to pass the stricter regulations they are considering for the state’s largest utilities: The FreshWater Corporation which brings desalinated water from the Super Desalination Plant in San Diego and Shá Energy Corporation, the largest solar energy enterprise in the United States.”

DAKalata
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Joined: October 28th, 2023, 8:45 pm
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by DAKalata » October 28th, 2023, 8:56 pm

Middle Grade Novel (First page) The Land of Beithir Chapter 1 - The Legend

Magic is all around us. All we need to do is believe.

Summer has finally come to the land of Beithir, a land where great kings have reigned for hundreds and hundreds of years. While they rule from the capital city of Dracon in the south, it has been said their power resides in the north, along the Atmos River, and they alone understand its source.

It is there, in the north, where our story begins. For this is the tale of a boy of ten who is visiting his grandparents for the summer. This year is different in ways unlike his previous nine.

We find our young boy huddled on a stone bench near the burning flames of the crackling fire lighting up the darkness, just out of reach of the shooting embers. His name is Fin. Snuggled beside him are his grandparents Alasdair and Caitlin.

Our trio sits between Alasdair’s ancestral home and the Astra Forest. The home is a rambling stone, plaster, and wood structure topped off with a dark thatched roof. There are numerous chimneys popping up here and there that exhale the remnants of the forest as they battle the chill. It is here the Griffin family has called home for centuries, a legacy handed down from father to son.

For those of you wondering, Beithir is an island somewhere near the top of the world. It is a land that feels as if it never moved in time, as if it is still at the very dawn of time. Nowhere does this ring truer than where our story begins. You see, Beithir’s northern territory is vast and untamed. This brutal terrain is softened by the spectacular Astra Forest which spreads its lofty canopy and diverse creatures as it meanders throughout this arctic region. These majestic woods stand tall against a backdrop of endless glaciers flowing from towering mountain ranges which seem to touch the very moon and stars. Many of these jagged peaks are extinct volcanoes full of ancient caves concealed within countless nooks and crannies. Beithir’s southern landscape is docile in comparison.
Last edited by DAKalata on January 15th, 2024, 10:00 am, edited 10 times in total.

Mart
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Joined: October 29th, 2023, 4:28 am
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Fantasy

Post by Mart » October 29th, 2023, 4:44 am

Crossing his lithe legs under his body, he sat down, but an angry wasp headed straight for his face. Before it could sting him, he swatted it to the dirt, then rumpled his dark brown hair to make sure there wasn’t another sitting somewhere.
“I’d rather seen dead than walk around with a red sting on my face––not on my eighth birthday.”
To his side, a thin trail of smoke rose from the heart of the estate, Bronbeck Manor’s kitchen. It was always busy in the morning, busier today because of his party this afternoon. When he sneaked past the kitchen earlier, he heard the usual ruckus. Joseph dishing out chores, and Marion complains about the heat in front of the steaming pots, shouting for more wood for the oven. He could picture her wiping her red face with an apron point and Potboy irritating everyone with his loud, out-of-tune singing, polishing the heap of silver.
A red-tailed hawk circled the manor and caught Egorh’s attention. He tracked it as it skimmed over the pine trees, then swooped along the narrow cobblestone path to the family graveyard. It settled on the small church with white-washed walls and lead windows. The headstones of his mother and sister stood there on a gentle slope. A slight frown appeared on his forehead. He never knew them––he wished he did. His father avoids speaking about them. Every time he wanted to know something, his answered was ––Let the dead rest in peace. He gave up.

chefsunshine
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Adult Fantasy

Post by chefsunshine » November 14th, 2023, 10:05 pm

Seasonal produce, my ass. I bit through luscious orange flesh, sweetly acidic juice dripping from my chin. An indecent moan escaped. These fuzzy beauties should have the financially untroubled brunch crowd licking contraband nectar from their Versace plates. How this farmstand sold ripe peaches a month before anyone else suggested juicy agri-intrigue. “You know, bribing crop wardens to ignore sun-gathering spells is frowned upon.”

“Bite me, chef.” The burly grocer shoved a basket into my arms, the protective straw full of pink and orange bottoms. “You and your horrible boss love to show off my treasures.”

“Damn straight.” I tucked an extra twenty into his hand along with a twine-tied bundle. “I brought you a treat.” He smelled the paper-wrapped loaf, a rare smile cracking his face. “Almond, poppy, and apricot from the samples you gave me.” After seven batches, I’d finally nailed the right balance of sticky, crispy edges, chewy fruit bits, and soft almond crumb.

“All set for the big day?” the grocer asked, setting the loaf aside and gently tucking pints of fragrant strawberries and honeycomb into the linen sack hanging from my shoulder.

I nodded. “This will be the brunch of brunches, my friend, revealing my egg-mastery to Manhattan’s elite.”

“Fame and glory, eh?”

The basket dug into my bandaged wrist, shooting pain up my arm. I shifted again, propping it on one leg. “Nah, a restaurant deal and cookbook contract will suffice.”

“And your boss’ll just let you go, huh?”

Kate
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New Start Back to Square One

Post by Kate » November 17th, 2023, 4:46 pm

Con’s face is tight as he shoves today’s copy of the Winnipeg Free Press towards me. We were up late last night celebrating my first success, preventing John Lennon’s murder, and there’s a dull ache behind my eyes. Wrenching the paper out of his hands, I study the front page. Under a large photo of John, holding up my letter, is the startling headline, FBI Search for Accomplice.

I plop onto the stool by the breakfast counter, my corn flakes getting soggy, and scan the article. It outlines the events of last night as reported on the radio. Mark David Chapman has been arrested for attempted murder after firing several bullets at John’s retreating back. Interviewed after the shooting, John explained he was wearing a bullet proof vest. Skeptical after receiving a warning letter eleven days earlier, he had shown the typed missive to Yoko, who convinced him to purchase and wear the armour that evening. He handed over the document to police officers, who contacted the FBI.

Ignoring the whistling kettle, which Con attends to, I read on. The agency is looking into the origins of the letter to determine how the writer knew Mark Chapman and his plans to kill John. Authorities are asking Sarah Connor to come forward to explain how, if she wasn’t involved, she knew of the attack.

I look up into Con’s waiting face. “I’m sure they can’t connect me to the note … unless Kristy didn’t implicitly follow my provisions about mailing it.”

DaisyD
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Joined: September 15th, 2023, 6:21 pm
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by DaisyD » November 18th, 2023, 7:26 pm

Title: MCGUIRES TO THE MOON
Genre: Middle Grade Action/Adventure

All eyes are on me right now, and I have to look cool. I leap into the air and try not to wince as the ball hits my hands with the sting of a thousand bees. I smack it away, blocking the final penalty kick and sealing the tournament win for my seventh-grade soccer team.

Wow. I kind of can’t believe I just did that. I usually screw up everything.

I punch the air in rapid fire and hike my knees up from side to side. The crowd jumps to their feet and cheers me on as I ramp up my little boxing cowboy victory dance. I’ve been working on it in my room when nobody’s looking.

“Ben! Ben! Ben!” My friends and two little brothers jump up and shout from the stands. But mid-hip swing, I look up and spot a growing brown cloud heading toward the soccer field. It looks to be about a mile out, which means everyone at the game has five minutes to scram, at best. I freeze on the spot and feel the color draining from my face. My younger brothers recognize my sudden shift to panic mode and turn to see what I’ve just laid eyes on.

“Dust storm!” the referee yells at the top of his lungs. It’s a biggie. Everyone in the stands starts freaking out. Moms grab babies, dads dash to fire up minivans, and the ref falls to his knees and starts crying. So much for crushing it at the game. We’re all about to get crushed for real if we don’t high-tail it outta there.

Time to put on a brave face and act like I’ve got this.

RLTurnbull
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Joined: November 19th, 2023, 4:50 pm
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Re: NEW - Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog

Post by RLTurnbull » November 19th, 2023, 5:01 pm

Chapter 1: Skaiyu Falls - 2014

Sheets of rain were blowing crosswise across the Skaiyu River bridge. The windshield wipers were on full speed and even with the headlights on I had trouble seeing the road through the darkening gloom. I was almost home. I imagined the smell of the smoke from our wood-burning stove and the aroma of the roast chicken dinner my wife was preparing. I was looking forward to getting out of this storm and into our warm and cozy cabin at the base of Bald Mountain. The rain, ricocheted off the roof of the car like a machine gun, but what followed was beyond belief. The thunderous roar was deafening. Terrified, I spun the car around in the middle of the bridge and sped away from the mountain of mud, rocks, trees and debris that were hurtling toward me, burying the town under twenty feet of mud. My wife and three children were at home and in the path of the collapsing mountain. The wall of mud and boulders dammed the river, forcing it out of its banks. The river swollen from a week of steady, intense rain was already at flood stage, and now it poured over the landscape as it surged down the mountain, wiping out my escape route. I turned north onto a gravel road hoping I could get to higher ground out of the path of the river and mud. When I was safe, I slowed down and tried to call for help. No signal.

My family had just moved to the small community of Skaiyu Falls at the foot of Bald Mountain. I had a paper map in the car to help us become familiar with the lay of the land. I frantically searched the map, looking for a route to the nearby town of White Rock. I was on USFS Road 63 which eventually merged with USFS Road 47 which led to the main highway to White Rock. I estimated it would take about half an hour if the roads weren’t blocked with downed trees. When I reached White Rock, emergency personnel were already mobilizing. There were dozens of emergency vehicles, all with lights flashing.

I stopped at the White Rock Police Station to tell them what I had witnessed. Hundreds of people were buried alive under tons of mud and debris and it would require an immediate response with heavy equipment to try to rescue those who may still be alive. The duty officer asked about the route I had taken. I assured him it was safe up to the Skaiyu River Bridge, but that the bridge was most likely demolished in the landslide and the emergency crews would have to approach Skaiyu Falls from higher ground. The duty officer communicated that to the Incident Commander who huddled with local and county officials to plan the immediate response.

I could only hope that by some miracle, my house may have been pushed off its foundation and floated along on the top of the mudflow, rather than being buried under it. I needed to find a way back to Skaiyu Falls. I joined a crew with bulldozers and dump trucks and we set off through the dark. We used logging roads to head up the mountain to the northwest corner of what used to be Skaiyu Falls. The person in charge was afraid the mountain was still unstable and that we would be in the path if it were to give way. Despite the risk, we unloaded the D-9 dozers with their huge buckets and followed them on foot as they slowly and cautiously moved to the edge of the main scarp. There were about twenty of us on foot, equipped with headlamps and shovels. We heard a child screaming and found a toddler buried up to his waist. As I neared him, I, too,

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

Post by OwenHamilton » December 8th, 2023, 10:34 am

Title: Diamond Tribe
Science Fiction / Cyberpunk

First 250 words:

Be invisible. Be a ghost.
Standing in the limbo between worlds, Kaz’s hands and feet itched with adrenaline and exhaustion.
The wide, low-ceilinged immigration hall of the airport was carpeted in a tight repeating brown pattern. It was riddled with scuffed and worn patches, giving it the look of broken computer code, which his tired mind kept trying in vain to compile. He gave up and stared instead at one of the two huge OLED monitors that hung from opposite walls on either side of the waiting area, bolted into smash-proof clear plexi. The monitors displayed a cycling message in various languages of rules and warnings paired - rather disconcertingly, Kaz thought - with a slideshow of stock image families smiling upwards at nothing in particular while holding brightly colored luggage.
Just ahead of him in the queue was a young family of three, not unlike those in the photos on the monitors; mother, father, and one son, maybe about eight years old. Though none of them wore plastic smiles, they were kitted with a set of matching brightly colored, hard-shelled suitcases. Father with light brown skin and a wide striped polo shirt over unmarked jeans, mother with a wide shouldered linen blouse of bright fuchsia that made her pale Scandinavian skin seem even whiter, and the boy with his shaggy light brown hair hanging over his face, absorbed in a hand terminal, playing some colorfully hypnotic game. A quaint nuclear family unit moving like a molecule across a membrane, their very structure radiating trustworthiness and banality.

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