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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Page of Julia

I'm submitting the first 250 words of my book, Julia, to this contest(cut from Brenda Drake's blog, http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/)

I've really enjoyed this proces. Thanks, Brenda!

Name: Shelley L. Houston
Title: Julia
Genre: Suspense/Relational Drama

Looking up from her cell phone, she saw racing toward her the highway guard rail and cavernous cliff beyond. Dropping the phone, Julia clinched the steering wheel with both hands and simultaneously stomped the brake as she wrenched the wheel to the left. The boxy Scion careened around the curve of the mountain pass and then righted in the lane, rocking slightly from side to side.

“Schnikies!” Julia's veins coursed with adrenalin. I wanted to get there before dark, but arriving in one piece is good, too. She laughed at herself and rotated the tension from her shoulders.

Glancing in the rear view mirror she checked to see if anyone had seen her. No one. Good. But she did see the sun hanging low over a sawtooth ridge of evergreens silhouetted against a blood orange sky. Wow. Literally awesome. She inserted Beethoven’s Fifth in the CD player to match the mood.

After Julia drove another five minutes, she caught a great view of Mt. Washington on her right. The mountain’s single tower jutted from massive rock shoulders. Only a few dirty patches remained of last year's snow. Summer had demanded its due.

Summers can do that. Her mind flashed to last year's tragic June when her mother’s obituary listed Julia as “sole survivor.” The phrase still echoed in her brain like a call from the bottom of a well. Would her own obituary report she had no survivors?

“That was then. This is now.” She chanted this as if reciting a mantra.


  1. Ok remember this is just my opinion. It is well written technically - but...
    she's a terrible driver.
    Is cold about her Mom - summers can do that - leave snow or kill your mother. That was my other life - now I am moving.....in the new location will she not have a dead mother?
    I don't care that she knew which dog it was - both should be growling at her for messing with a cell phone on a road in the mountians. She is blond...and I hope she's the bad guy- pull a bit of pity for her - make her be crying suddenly alone in the car for her dead mom - then sway on the road and I don't hate her at once.
    Cell phone foolish driver with dogs - makes her bland.
    You write very tight. You don't have distracting word habits - but you must know who she is and not think a stupid act will gain sympathy or pull the reader in when she's is not bothered by any of the big stuff - I hope that is helpful and Take me with a grain of salt...then throw it at me - grin - mine is up too!

  2. OK. Fair enough. But did you ever think that there is reason for her to WANT to leave her past life behind? (including the memory of her dead mom :^)What you don't know is this is a murder mystery set in a relational drama. Julia evolves tremendously through her move and contact with the serial killer--so she's got to have room to grow! However, maybe readers won't be that patient with her and want to read her story. Could be. Thanks for taking time to comment. I appreciate it.

  3. I've rewritten the 250 words after receiving helpful comments from three people. Thanks!


  4. You have awesome detail and descriptions, but it reads like a list to me.

    "Glancing in the rearview mirror..."
    "She also noticed...."
    "She breathed deeply."
    "Next, she glimpsed Mt. Washington to her right".

    And, of course, this is completely subjective, I feel like that takes away from your MC voice.

  5. You know, you are right! I have changed this first page of the book so much that I have lost my story. Thanks for the word.

  6. I'm afraid I'm totally confused. There are at least three different starts to this story all repeating like a looping video, but with differing details. I'd like to make a comment or two, but I have no idea which part is being offered for critique. I suspect you're in the midst of editing the page so maybe I will try checking back tomorrow.

  7. Hi,Carol, Sorry for the technical difficulties! I appreciate your stopping by. Maybe next time it will work.

    Thanks, Shelley

  8. I read this yesterday and didn't get a chance to comment. But I love the changes you've made. They cleared up a lot of the comments I had. :) Here are a few more things...

    1st paragraph: It might be better if to get her name in the first sentence, just because we don’t know who “she” is when we start reading. Also, I was unsure about the verb “clinched”…that typically seems to be associated with settling something, so maybe try clenched instead (although when I look it up on Google, it seems that people use it interchangeably, so maybe I’m just full of it :)).

    After Julia drove another five minutes, she caught a great view of Mt. Washington on her right. The mountain’s single tower jutted from massive rock shoulders. [Combine sentences: To her right, Mt. Washington’s single tower jutted from massive rock shoulders.]

    I like that you changed that last sentence. Before I’d been thinking she’d been reincarnated or something and was living a new life. :) As a reader, I think I’d be interested to see how and why she’s trying to put away that part of her life. It seems a weird way to deal with it, to just move on to a new part in life and try to forget. But at the same time, I think it could ring true.

    I’m wondering though if your story can start somewhere else. I obviously have no idea where this is going, but I think it’s hard to really grab a reader when beginning with a girl driving. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of facts about her, but I don’t feel a real connection to her yet. Is there an important reason why we need to see her driving to the new place? Could it start when she’s already there with something with a little more action or internal struggle? Just some thoughts. Your writing is good though, by the way. :) Great detail.

  9. Karen,

    How embarassing! No, clinched and clenched are NOT the same! :-)

    Thanks for reading this and for catching my boo-boo.

    And yes, the drive into town is essential to the book--you might want to read it!

    Thanks again.


  10. I'm back, and those technical difficulties do seem to have been solved. :)

    I like the voice... I certainly get a clear picture of Julia's haphazard approach to driving, with her eyes flitting from one view to another as she continues to speed along despite one near accident. What I don't get is any hint of a plot, or why Julia's on this joy ride -- nothing to hook me -- but I realize 250 words don't provide much time for setting up the story. Still, the voice is there, and that's what the contest is all about, so best of luck to you.

  11. Shelley,

    Hey there! I'm so glad you are particpating in this contest and getting such thorough critiques.

    No comment because I've said it all in our writer's group :)

    Christi Corbett