NEW - 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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Joined: December 15th, 2023, 8:19 pm

First page- Curative Measures

Post by AMShaw » December 15th, 2023, 8:53 pm

February 1977
Was it lightning or thunder that swept this agony so swiftly through his head? Or gravity? Gravity had sucked a storm-splintered branch from a living tree through the air, pulling it to the ground, hadn’t it? And with tragic speed. No, lightning alone pumped pain into him. Thinking of its deadly aim, Peter shut his eyes against the chapel in his sight and pushed back his memory. He could never ask “why” long enough, or insistently enough, to procure an answer from whichever deity might provide one. He opened his dark eyes slowly as his ears deciphered the words of the presiding minister standing before him.
“Although Ryan left us so prematurely and unexpectedly, we will not forget the time he spent with us.”
Peter grinded his teeth with antagonism and shifted in his seat. Of course, Ryan would not be forgotten. He, for one, would never forget. Peter fought the swelling grief that gripped him as he gazed at the short casket in front of the room. Lightning suddenly
blinded his inner eye; thunder deafened him to any other sound. He saw Ryan run beneath the tree as lightning struck, saw him collapse, and watched as the blistered limb crashed down to pin him against the soggy ground.
Peter frantically searched the minister’s face, then the chapel, in a futile attempt to pull his thoughts to something else. He moved forward to rest his forearms across his knees. His heart beat as if trying to obtain a rapid conclusion. He had not known he
could feel like this.

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Joined: August 21st, 2020, 6:02 am

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

Post by NeilH » December 21st, 2023, 10:10 pm

The Fabled Falcon - A thriller.
Fletch had bored many students in his time. Although to his certain knowledge, this was the first time that he, Darrius Spencer Fletcher, Ph.D., Professor of Byzantine and Medieval Art, had actually bored a student to death.
The young man was in the front row, sitting upright in his seat, staring unblinking into space.
The seats of the lecture hall ran up in tiers from the small teaching platform, like a mini amphitheater. It was a good turnout, almost a full house, but no one seemed to have noticed the young man’s demise.
At first, he thought he was sleeping. A not unusual occurrence in Fletch's classroom. He took a step toward him. The young man's eyes were wide open, staring not into this world.
Recognition squeezed at Fletch's gut.
He wasn’t one of his students. In fact, from his knowledge, he wasn’t even supposed to be in the country, and certainly not in his classroom.
He stepped down from the platform and approached him slowly, continuing his monologue on the importance of the Italian schools of painting on Renaissance art, careful not to panic the rest of the class. He reached out and placed his fingers on the young man’s neck. There was no pulse.
This was not the first time he had done this, neither was it the first time he had seen a dead man. Though the previous times had been under very different circumstances.
The girl sitting next to the dead man gave Fletch a startled look.
He tried to give her a reassuring smile.
“Do you have a phone?”
The girl nodded.
“Would you call an ambulance?”
She looked to her side. The reality suddenly hit home. She began to scream.
It all got crazy after that.

Posts: 2
Joined: December 10th, 2023, 8:31 am

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

Post by VFarhat » December 22nd, 2023, 7:35 pm

Commercial fiction 85k

Dura Europos, Syria
“What the …” Mariam yanked out her earbuds and peered over the edge of the dig’s trench. Golden waves of afternoon heat danced with the dust, blowing in from the Syrian desert. “Abu Ali, shou sar?” what’s happening, she shouted.

He didn’t respond. The faint popping sounds increased in frequency and volume. A tingle crept up the back of her neck. Gunfire? Her trowel hit the dirt as she scrambled out of the trench. The hot afternoon wind carried frightened shouts from the village beyond the hillside.

She stood motionless. In the month since arriving, she hadn’t heard any artillery. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she squinted toward the ancient olive tree, where Abu Ali usually sat in the shade, chewing a stalk of dry grass, waiting for the occasional tourist. He wasn’t there. She spun to look in all directions. “Abu Ali!?”

No response.

She repeated the call.

Still nothing.

Her mouth went dry. The old caretaker never wandered far from her side.

The dust-filled air and bright sunshine obscured a shape, too broad to be his. A man in desert camouflage came into focus, wielding a rifle and charging toward her.

Her throat closed around a scream and her body froze.

He shouted as he rushed forward, “Inbit’hee!” Get down.

She didn’t think. She twisted around, searching for cover.

Before she could take a single step, he grabbed her around the waist, lifting her off her feet. His grip under her ribs was ungentle and alien. He carried her one-handed back into the trench and slammed her down, pushing her back against the sidewall, leaving her breathless.

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Joined: December 30th, 2023, 4:11 pm

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

Post by Leslieannhoward » December 30th, 2023, 4:31 pm

Title: Crossing the Lines
YA Magical Realism

This is not how things were supposed to go down.

Linda breathes heavily in my ear as we crouch in the shadows behind the bakery. I can feel her trembling, but in spite of the frigid air, sweat pours down my forehead and back. There is still occasional gunfire in the distance, but for now, we are safe. Something, I don’t know what, told me to grab her hand and just start running. I am grateful for the darkness. Earlier this morning, we took out the street lights, just in case. I thought it was a little over the top to think that we would need a place to hide or regroup after dark, but I went along with it. Now, I am glad I did. Stuart, our leader, is dead. Others have been killed as well; eliminated they call it. And some were taken into custody. I have no idea what will happen to them, all I know for sure is that there is no way in hell that I am giving up without a fight.

From out of the shadows steps a hooded figure. Some raise their weapons, but it is useless. We have used up our ammunition, and he knows it.
“I come in peace.” he says, raising his hands. The man’s face is hidden from view, but his voice is vaguely familiar.
“Your only chance of survival at this point is to enter the forest and stay there. ….
Last edited by Leslieannhoward on January 20th, 2024, 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: January 1st, 2024, 5:57 pm

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

Post by rbripley » January 1st, 2024, 6:04 pm

Title: Off Season
Genre: Mystery/Sleuth/LGBTQ+


“Relax MacGregor. This shit happens to all guys.” Cheri rolled off me while telling me this.

“I wasn’t aware you’re qualified to provide a medical opinion,” I said.

“Fine,” she said getting up, pushing my shoulders so I was lying on my back. She straddled me again, the slick sheen of sweat on her skin catching the moonlight streaming through the window. “But what you brought me here for don’t seem like it’s goin’ to happen.” She rolled off and lay down next to me.

Perhaps it was the half bottle of cheap scotch I’d drunk earlier that night that created the performance issue. That was the last thought I had before I nodded off into a deep sleep, my head against her shoulder. Which is where I was when she woke me three hours later, nudging me.

“MacGregor,” she said. “Your phone. It’s ringing.”

“Huh,” I said.

“I said your phone’s ringin', bitch. For ten minutes. Someone wants you bad.”

I faded in slowly, still swimming through the scotch, trying to get my bearings. Cheri was holding my phone right in front of me. I guessed it was Sarita calling. My third ex-wife now lived in Europe with her new Continental husband and phoned me regularly to see how I was doing. She could never remember the time difference. Which was better than my first two ex-wives. They never called at all.

I took the phone from her and looked at the caller ID. It was a private number. I jabbed the green answer button.

Tilly G
Posts: 3
Joined: January 2nd, 2024, 6:54 pm

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

Post by Tilly G » January 2nd, 2024, 7:18 pm

Title: Hot Greek Summer
Genre: Women's Romantic Fiction

Chapter 1

Despite the sunblock and my floppy straw hat, the afternoon sun baked my forehead, nose and cheeks until I felt like the cooked Christmas goose. What the crap was wrong with me? Anyone else would be thrilled with two weeks in sunny paradise, and I felt as if I’d made a mistake coming here.

Bea adjusted her chair beside mine to take full advantage of the sun’s angle. “I can’t believe we’re on the beach. In Crete.”

I grunted.

“By the way, I sent Harvey a message. WhatsApp is so handy and he can be our emergency contact.”

I squinted at Bea whose head swiveled like she was playing the Linda Blair role in The Exorcist. Afraid she’d miss something?

“Emergency?” I said, noting a well-built gentleman in blue trunks strolling into the water. Middle-aged, broad shoulders, light tan. I closed my eyes. “What’s Harvey going to do in an emergency from eight thousand miles away?” Tomorrow we’d hit the ruins I’d read about in my guide book.

“Cute, isn’t he?” Bea’s voice cut into my reverie. “That guy you’re staring at.”

You know how your best friend gets on your nerves like no one else? Bea’s enthusiasm irritated me, from her over-the-top eagerness at getting our passports stamped in Athens to our perfectly adorable hotel room, to her chattiness with the taxi driver on the way to the beach.

“Harvey likes to be in the loop,” Bea said as if I didn’t know. “He wants photos.”

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Joined: January 19th, 2024, 4:12 pm

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

Post by Thejcluiz » January 19th, 2024, 5:16 pm

Title: Eternal as it Lasts
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Chapter I - Ava
Fourteen days

Perhaps selling her soul to the devil had not been a good idea after all.

Ava pressed herself to the corners of the bar as she watched Red Hair squeeze his way out. Even now, with three drinks burning at the base of her throat to stifle her panic, it was hard to ignore the masses of sweaty bodies wherever she looked. The people gathered in small and large groups, laughing, clapping and drinking. None of them noticed her. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Their apathy shouldn’t have made her hesitate. But it did, and she forced herself to remember how to breathe while she shoved her way after Red Hair.

She caught him taking a turn on a street corner to the left and hurried after him, peeking past a wall to check on him and their surroundings. Like inside the bar, people crowded the streets, drinks and cigars in hand, feeding the air with the stench of alcohol, puke and tobacco. She dove into a dim alleyway to her right, pulled her hood over her dark brown hair, and clumsily climbed up a rusty, damp pipe. She scratched her palm as she clambered onto the tilted clay rooftop tiles, two stories up. The pain was minimal, a sting she paid no attention to while rising to a crouch and speeding to the side of the roof which faced the street.

She picked up her pace and leapt to the next roof, some six feet away.

Posts: 1
Joined: January 19th, 2024, 7:45 pm


Post by Victoriareiby » January 19th, 2024, 7:54 pm

Title: The Weipa Crocodile
Genre: Australian Crime Fiction

Word count: 252 words

Even under the cloak of darkness, the mind can never be idle in the Australian bush. There exists an omnipresent vitality capable of stirring the senses of even the most hardened man. A soft rustling plays upon the ear as the leaves of giant eucalyptus trees release their fragrance on the night breezes. Scent and memory intertwine, evoking recollections from long ago. The subtle perfume of honeyed nectar, infused with a hint of citrus zest, brings forth images of vibrant yellow wattle brushes in full spring bloom. The waratahs, crimson torches, their fiery hue unmistakable.
Nocturnal creatures awaken, their cries a ceaseless symphony. The high-pitched chattering of sugar gliders, the resonant “oom-oom-oom” calls of tawny frogmouths, the grunts and hisses of possums and the hearty laughter of a lone kookaburra. Only the mind’s eye has to remain unshuttered in the depths of the night to conjure the surroundings.
Bruce Hudson’s mental eyes were wide open, and recollections danced like ethereal fireflies, casting their glow upon his canvas of consciousness. A solitary figure in a small clearing, he was barely visible beneath the expanse of the ink-black sky above. His senses were attuned to this nocturnal ballet, finely honed through years of immersion in this untamed realm. His every breath revealed the secrets of the bush, the whispers of the land, and the stories written in the fragrant script of nature. He could sense the approach of rain, a subtle shift in the air’s temperament, a moist promise carried on a gentle breeze.

Posts: 3
Joined: January 19th, 2024, 9:33 pm

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

Post by CEA » January 19th, 2024, 10:01 pm

THE WIDOW DETECTIVE, a police procedural / mystery

Sergeant Ruta Petrauskas sat down to pull on her boots, not the fashionable high-heeled boots she used to wear when she was thirty, but warm, non-skid, flat-soled footwear appropriate for snow and ice and a lady of fifty-five. She had stowed the boots under her desk in the morning and walked around in her comfortable slippers. The other day, she overheard two young officers saying she was a “sweet old lady.” Needing to contest that description, she poked her head out of the office and replied, “I’m not sweet.” Both officers were properly embarrassed and slouched off.
She pressed her fingers on the desk as if it could be compelled to give an answer. Just now the officer said a young man’s body had been found in the parking garage at the state university. No blood, so his body had been dumped there from someplace else. What was the world coming to? This was her second death of the month, and it wasn’t even the full moon. Well, she knew that moon stuff was a myth. Perhaps this was a bar fight that was taken to an extreme. Perhaps a lovers’ quarrel or a collection of a debt, revenge for an insult, and most likely accompanied by overindulgence in alcohol or drugs. The expressions of evil were myriad but the motives were trivial, cliched, and predictable. She sat up tall and straightened her shoulders.
If the young man’s body had been moved from someplace else, it was a more difficult puzzle. She would solve it though. Someone--a mother, a father, a spouse--would want this murder to be solved. She looked around the office.

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Joined: April 30th, 2021, 7:28 pm

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

Post by Zena » January 19th, 2024, 10:32 pm

COMMITTED - Adult Historical Fiction
(First 250 words)

Despite the chill morning, the carriage with its sealed-shut windows sweltered like a furnace, its roof hard-battered by the sun. Anna wiped her sweaty palms on her trouser legs. Felt the familiar small book in her pocket. She leaned forward to get some air to her back, only slightly, as the wide leather restraint around her waist that bound her to the seat afforded little leeway. She pushed her ankles against their straps. No give. The unforgiving straps held her legs tight. From the opposite seat, the man glanced at her, said nothing, wiped his brow on a dirty kerchief, went back to staring out the window, his loose body joggling as the carriage rumbled over the rutted road. In his brown woollen suit, he reeked like a sheepcote. Just doing his job. Doing what he was told.

In the hot carriage, Anna was sweaty, but fear slithered icily all over her skin. She pushed, hard, against the ankle straps and strained against the waist strap, pushing forward so the edge of the leather dug into her flesh. “Now, now, Miss Dickinson,” the man said, “Do behave yourself.” But she couldn’t stop. Of all physical discomforts, she hated worst of all any kind of confinement, and she couldn’t quell the panic that rose and rose in her throat threatening to overthrow her self-control. And this was just the beginning and it would be so very much worse when she got there, where they might put her in a little cell...

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Joined: January 27th, 2024, 10:14 pm

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

Post by cleauthor » January 27th, 2024, 10:39 pm

Title: Kili Kisomio: The Secret
Genre: multicultural dystopian, middle school and up

A Fallen Paradise

Sunset sparkled in the rippling waves of the ocean as they crashed upon the shores of a lush tropical island. Blossoms gently shrank from the approaching darkness, retracting their petals and leaving nothing behind but a lightly colored bud. While the entire island lay amidst the darkening trees and undergrowth, an old man strutted down a sun-scorched path, his sandaled feet stirring up puffs of yellow dust as he went. He knew he was supposed to be cheerful. It was a holiday, after all. But as he strode toward the festivities, his old heart felt heavy. So much had changed.

Milivea, once unknown to the outside world, lay like a verdant gem upon the ocean. With the sunset glittering in the waves as they crashed upon its white sandy shores, the lush bamboo forests carpeting the slopes of its towering volcano, and its natural resources unlike any other place on Earth, the island was a prize to be coveted. And coveted it had been.

Today was Independence Day. Today celebrated the end of the war. No one, however, seemed to remember the Eden that had prevailed before. That bothered him. Perhaps it was because dreams still haunted him like monsters in the night—or perhaps because he had never gotten to return home to the utopia he remembered. Or perhaps…he really was just becoming one of those grumpy old men he had vowed never to be. “Ungrateful youth. Back in my day…” yeah, one of those.

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Joined: February 9th, 2024, 3:11 pm

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

Post by MrMurph » February 9th, 2024, 3:16 pm

YA Paranormal

Seattle seemed to shrink in the distance as the ferry made its way across Puget Sound. Black waves roiled like liquid onyx in its wake while city lights reflecting on the water shimmered across the dark surface. The clouds above the cityscape glowed an ashen greenish gray. Ahead of the boat lay mainly darkness, their island home still invisible.
Caitlyn Ward and her father, Erik, had opted to remain in their car on the parking deck, both of them too tired to “go up top.” Now Caitlyn pressed her feet hard against the floorboards, trying to prevent the muscles in her thighs from knotting. The drive from the clinic in eastern Washington had taken several hours, and they hadn’t left the small confines of her father’s Mustang since crossing the mountains – not even at the ferry terminal. Mute, absorbed in his thoughts, her father grasped the steering wheel and stared out through the windshield as if he were still driving. The radio played an endless stream of NPR talking head blather, and at times those voices had seemed Caitlyn’s only real company on her long return home.
It would be forty minutes before the two passengers arrived at Belle Island, and the air conditioning did little to dispel the humidity inside the car. Caitlyn considered going up to the cafeteria for some fresh air, a cup of hot chocolate, and a hamburger. But what if someone she knew saw her? She flipped down the windshield visor and examined her appearance in the mirror. Her hair lay damp and listless across her shoulders. She wore no make-up, and following a nearly sleepless night, dark circles ringed her eyes. The long ride would have left her smelling like a wet dog. She couldn’t chance being seen in this gross scruffy state. Caitlyn would make her entry back into the social order as if she’d never left, refreshed and confident, the terrible events of the past few months behind her. A bright new beginning awaited.

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Joined: March 3rd, 2024, 9:19 am

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

Post by KuanYu » March 3rd, 2024, 9:39 am

Up Market

Her dreams about them always involved sex or religion. The ogre and the harpy, as the girls called them, Father Adolphus Scapelini and Sister Amélie, were a sinister pair. They had been haunting Juliette Lagarde since she was a schoolgirl of fifteen, stealing into her dreams to torment and scorn her, hungry vermin constantly gnawing on her dignity and pride.

Sometimes, she would awaken suddenly, her heart pounding like a fist on a door, desperate to escape the visitation, needing to escape. At other times, she would emerge slowly, like a bubble wobbling sedately to the surface of a pond from the muck below, summoned to the wakeful world by mundane intervention – the sound of a bird singing, a child’s cry, or rain spattering against the window glass. This time, it was the faint smell of coffee, vaguely acrid, and the cloying scent of potpourri.

Inhaling, Juliette opened her eyes, uncertain where she was. Above her, a narrow streak of orange and gold sunlight cut across the ceiling. The coarse sheets and lumpy bed were evocative of her dorm room at school, but that was years ago; she was no longer that anxious young woman grappling with her sexuality. Nor was this her apartment in Paris, her private domain and sanctuary. No, she was in Cahors in the guest room of her friend Anne Marie Arnaud.

Though she was wide awake now, the dream lingered. This one had been more creepy than most. And surprisingly vivid. The inquisitors had forced her to stand barefoot in a field of tall grass, the blades lashing her ankles in the wind....

Posts: 1
Joined: April 13th, 2023, 8:31 pm

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

Post by nemacocy » March 3rd, 2024, 7:52 pm

deleted because I've rewritten my first page but can't find a way to delete this post.
Last edited by nemacocy on May 23rd, 2024, 10:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

g.e. sevenau
Posts: 1
Joined: May 26th, 2023, 12:41 am

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

Post by g.e. sevenau » March 28th, 2024, 12:13 am

Title: Light Catcher
Genre: Mainstream Fiction

Not long after Josh Dupree moved into Country Club Park was when I got saved, but it wasn't the Jesus kind of saving. You might think an eleven-year-old boy who lived in a place called Country Club Park wouldn't need saving to begin with, but I did, and that's the short of it. The long of it was, where we lived wasn't exactly a day at the country club for anyone, and for people like me and Josh, that guy who got tacked to a cross wouldn't have done us much good anyway.

I's out playing marbles with old George Bangee the day I met Josh. Old George was about to be a freshman at Lindhurst and a couple grades ahead of us, but I swear he was a thirty-year-old undercover delinquent. The gray hairs that sprouted like weeds from his overgrown buzz cut were the first to give it away. Besides that, he constantly looked tired, like a grown-up after a long day's work, with his flabby stomach stretching out tee-shirts that never quite fit. Old George was pretty scrubby like that. But the most annoying thing about him was the dumb scowl he always wore, like he was just itching to beat a guy up.

He had already pulled out his knocker when Josh wandered out of his house. A knocker was a big deal as far as marbles went and he thought he was pretty big shit because of it.

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