Monday, September 30, 2019


Hey, if you know the drill, then you're prepared to have some fun today...

If you don't, here's the skinny:

Once in a while we have an Open Critique Day. It's a day for you to share a blurb of your story with us and we will descend en masse and tear it to shreds.

It's what we do.

But we'll do it NICELY, so you have to look beyond the "nice" and get to the nitty gritty of the advice, then pick what you want to use... and scrap the rest.

At least temporarily scrap it, you may find yourself coming right back to that bit of advice in a month or six months on 2021...

And a light bulb clicks on and you say OH MY STARS!!!! (or an equivalent thereof) and all of a sudden you remember that criticism and/or advice and you realize this...


Is what that author meant about organic roots or root canals or dangling modifiers or gerunds (listen, I don't know what half this stuff is, either, it's why I don't read craft books... I just write. And I read. And I copy smart people. Then I write some more.)

But that light bulb moment is huge.

So leave your opening or smidge or tagline below, whatever you'd like us to look at. Keep it to about a page... no whole chapters, please, darlings.

And let's chat how we polish, preen and persevere!


NOTE: The Seekers formed a group fifteen years ago, a group of fifteen authors who devoted themselves to writing and praying each other into publication.


  1. March 2, 1815
    I hate England.
    Madame Amelia Dumont stood outside the front door of Norton Manor soaked to her chemise. She lifted her sodden arm to the door knocker for the second time, only to fall forward as the door pulled inward. A young man in livery reached forward to stop her descent, but Amelia righted herself quick enough to avoid landing in his arms.
    He is much too young to be answering the door.
    Amelia dismissed her superficial judgement as quick as it crossed her mind. She was in no position to judge appropriateness for an occupation.
    “Sorry miss. The servants’ entrance is in the back of the house.”
    The door began to shut, and Amelia braced her arm to stop it from slamming closed.
    “I am here to see Lord Ellsworth.” She had to shout to be heard over the pounding rain, but the door halted its progress.
    The footman’s eyes widened, then roamed every rain-soaked curve of her body. His smirk held enough criticism to push the anxiety of the morning into anger. He spoke before Amelia could slap the condescending smile from his face. “I see. Let me check if Lord Ellsworth is at home.”
    Then the door shut in her face.
    The rain intensified and the sound from under the portico was deafening. The small overhang protected her from the new siege but did not block the wind that cut through her cloak and assaulted her exposed face and neck.
    There are worst places to be than in the middle of an unexpected downpour in England. I just cannot think of any right now.
    She experienced rain in France as well, but it lacked the general gloom of English rainstorms.
    Amelia shivered and tried to focus on anything besides how cold and wet she felt. She looked out past the curtain of rain to the worn sandstone face of Norton Manor. It was still so majestic despite its location among the soggy and oppressive English hills of her childhood.
    Caught within memories and deafened by the rain, Amelia did not notice the front door open again until the familiar face of Mr. Jennings stepped in her line of sight.
    Recognition filled his eyes and his characteristically warm smile took the edge off her frustration with the boy from moments before. He looked down at her dress and what was left of her bonnet.
    It was amazing how one man’s perusal of her body could vary so drastically from that of another. Mr. Jennings gently took her by the arm and ushered her over the threshold and into the elegant foyer of Norton Manor.
    Every inch was familiar and foreign at the same time.

    1. Not too long at all, Jenny. I LOVED this!! I feel as if I know your character well from this opening (I assume it's an opening of the story). A nice hint that she belongs here despite her circumstances. And I loved her humor! A really likable character. Makes me want to read more! Great work!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thanks Missy. It means a lot coming from a published author and Seekerville Blogger. It is the opening of the novel and it is encouraging to know you also found humor in it.

    4. Jocelyn, excellent cute meet! Nice glimpse of his troubles before the meet.
      One thing that struck me was you called her a petite woman. I'm thinking a petite woman would have probably been noticeably a woman, and he was surprised she was one. So maybe make her tall.
      You write 'lease' one time when you meant 'leash'.
      Not sure it matters because you don't want to overload the beginning with details but you could work in one or two words about what exactly he does.
      But this morning he couldn’t get his mind off the recent downturn---in the banking industry. In the real estate market in Bayshore, Oregon.
      In the fashion industry...whatever...and stick in a town maybe. Just to set us in the world.
      Derek Kelvinton had never much cared about running the family real estate business in Bayshore, California.

    5. This is for Jenny. I can't find a 'reply' box set for her post.

      I would absolutely keep reading.
      I'm trying to think of a useful critique but this is very solid.
      Wanting to read on is always my main desire in these critiques. If that is there, then not much else matters.

    6. Thank you! Fun reading everyone's posts.

    7. Jenny!

      Oh, this was a delightful read... and like Mary and Missy, I'd keep reading. Absolutely. But I'm meaner than they are, so here are a couple of minor things... I see nothing major here.

      We've got the kid perusing every curve of her body, but she's wearing a cloak... Not many curves show under a cloak, so I'd fix that. Ditch the cloak, or describe it as lightweight, something to blend the two images and make them work.

      Then the line where Mr. Jennings opens the door needs work... She's deafened by rain, but the phrase "stepped in her line of sight" is awkward, isn't it? You might want to try a slight restructure to build for the reader...

      "... until a familiar face stepped into her line of sight.
      Mr. Jennings.
      Recognition filled the butler's eyes (something to designate to the reader who he is)...

      And that's all I see to think about. Stellar opening, and English rain is nothing to toy with, is it??? :)

      Thank you so much for doing this today. I know it takes a smack of courage!!!!

    8. Jocelyn! I'm so glad you came over to play!!! Welcome to the chopping block, darling!

      Insert evil laugh...

      Okay, this needs work. Do not be offended, but we need to sharpen this in my opinion, and I would start off by putting a gripper first.

      Dad's free-wheeling spending was about to plunge Mico Electronics into bankruptcy and Derek had no idea how to stop it.

      If you start with something like that, you immediately show the reader that Derek cares, that he's working for the family business (whatever it is) and that they're in crisis because facing bankruptcy is serious stuff, right?

      Serious stuff needs a serious "feel" from the author. Think of how he'd really feel, the frustration, the anger. Maybe make the run to clear his mind???

      And Mary was right when she noted the woman thing. (I thought it was Missy at first, she's gentler, so then when I saw it was MARY being nice and gentle, I might have laughed... so we'll play good cop/bad cop!!!)

      He needs to notice she's a woman. Like instantly. They wear different running clothes, right? And I would never let the dog knock her down.

      Instant lawsuit! Imagine a Doberman charging at someone...

      She'd hear him yelling, wouldn't she? If he and the dog were that close? And she'd turn... wouldn't she? And he notices how beautiful she is.

      She should sock him in the jaw. Seriously. Then scramble up and tell him what an absolute moron he is for not being able to control his brute of a dog in a public area. If you put yourself in her shoes, can you imagine how incensed you'd be?

      So he can notice she was attractive, and might be more so if she wasn't railing at him and threatening a major lawsuit, which would only put another nail in the family's financial coffin...

      EEK! So think the scene through in your head. How would you feel if someone's loose dog, a Doberman, besides, tackled you on a morning run?

      That's the emotion and timing you need to bring into the story. Be firm in your words and envision the action/reaction of each sequence... And then keep them in character every step of the way. That's critical for good story-telling.

      Don't take this badly, sweet girl... but I do you no favors if I'm not honest.

    9. THANK YOU! Not offended, but much appreciated.

  2. By the way, we've had people who submitted to these critiques email us later and ask us to remove their excerpt when they submitted it to a publisher. That's fine to do that! We don't mind at all.

  3. "She looked out past the curtain of rain to the worn sandstone face of Norton Manor." I loved this opening as well! You can see her standing there and feel her frustration. I just picked this one sentence out because it may be left over from a previous draft. You have her facing the main door to the Manor for the majority of the scene, and then going through it with Mr. Jennings. This sentence has her turning in the rain to look *out* past the rain to the "worn sandstone face of Norton Manor" and I had to read it over twice because it sounds like she's suddenly turned around. You probably mean that she's just turned to the side and is looking at the building but in my mind I saw her turning around suddenly and then just as suddenly, she's looking back at the door. It's totally nit-picky and ignore me if you want because other readers may not take it that way at all.

    You've raised great questions for your opening: what's she doing there? How'd she get there? Where's she been since she was last at Norton Manor? I definitely want to read more!

    1. Thanks! I appreciate the feedback on the directions she was facing. It is hard to keep track of where they are and what they are doing sometimes. Such a quick fix though. This is the first time I have openly shared my writing like this and it is nice to hear you want to read more.

    2. Ruth, I wouldn’t say you are “meaner” exactly, just a bit more willing to go for the jugular. I’m still breathing and really appreciated all your suggestions. I have been stumbling over that “line of sight” line for weeks. It’s been driving me nuts! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. To an unpublished writer it’s like Christmas.

  4. I'm posting the opening scene to my contemporary romance novella work in progress.

    If Addison Masters had been suspended over a volcano by a string, she would have felt less precariously balanced than she did at that very moment. Tottering her upper and lower body over the rim of the trash dumpster with her arms outstretched, she reached for the last ceiling fan blades someone has so carelessly tossed out. Four identical ones lay scattered on the sandy ground around her. Ceiling Fan blades made the cutest flowers. A little paint. A couple screws. And voila, a yard decoration without compare. Unfortunately, this last one was further back in the dumpster than she’d hoped, and the precious commodity lay just beyond the tips of her fingers. She shifted her hips and kicked out her legs, then scooted forward lifting her toes as she left the stability of the crates she’d stacked as a step stool. Suspended between heaven and well…garbage, she stretched like a cat waking from a nap until her fingers curled around the blunt edge of the fan blade. Yes. I’ve got it.
    “Hello. Excuse me.”
    Startled by the undeniably male voice, Addison lost her balance, tumbling headfirst into the squishy abyss below. You’ve got to be kidding me. Fortunately, this wasn’t her first time in a dumpster. She ignored the unknown substances oozing into her overalls and clutched her prize, making sure not to lose it as she righted herself. Even though, her sneakers sunk into the rank quicksand, she grabbed hold of the rim of the dumpster and tugged, hauling herself up to have a look.
    A mysterious man stood on the other side with his arms crossed over his chest. She’d never seen him before, and she knew everyone on the Island. He looked to be in his late twenties/early thirties and wore a crisp white shirt, navy blazer, slacks, and dress shoes. His parted hair was black and slick, and his skin was coffee colored. His eyes, dark as a new moon, settled on her with a frown. His appearance was neat as a pin, and if that watch on his wrist was any indication, wealthy to boot. Despite his frown, he was cute. Addie silently scolded the butterflies that ticked her stomach.
    She dropped the fan blade onto the ground, causing the man to jump back as droplets splattered from the wood. “Oops. Sorry.” She scaled the dumpster, then rolled over the top, and dropped to the ground below, landing on her rear. With an embarrassed chuckle and a warm face, she jumped to her feet. “Can I help you?”

    1. Gina this is a great opening. I love it.
      That she's in such an embarrassing spot and just handles it so well. A very cool character.
      You made falling in a dumpster nicely disgusting and have her just accept that.

      I might delete the line, "You've got to be kidding me."
      And just start a new paragraph because, "Fortunately, this wasn't her first time in a dumpster." is such a strong line it needs to be emphasized and the 'you've got to be kidding me...' sort of lessens it's impact. Now a whole lot but maybe a little.

      Again, I'd read on. That's the key right? To have an opening that lures the reader on!

    2. Thank you, Mary. I'm so glad you love it! Thanks for the note about the "you've got to be kidding me." It was supposed to be in italics for an internal thought. I appreciate the advice about making the paragraph stronger by starting with the next line. I'm so glad that this makes you want to continue reading, which is definitely the goal!

    3. Gina, thanks for playing today!!!

      This is a fun, fun opening... I'm agreeing with Mary, and I'd suggest sharpening just a few things...

      "Yes. I've got it." to "Got it."

      (to do italics or bold in blogger, you do this before the line

      and then this after the line

      Same with bolding, only you change the i to b....

      I'd lose the "even though" and have her feet simply sink... (ugh, right???) Great imagery here!

      I'd lose mysterious. Maybe unfamiliar?

      Unless this is suspense or cozy mystery?

      I'd get rid of the tickling butterflies because I think she'd be more regretting that he was smokin' hot and she was covered in last night's cole slaw dressing.... or something like that. :)

      And I have a real thing against chuckles... I'd suggest having her fight the surge of embarrassment and keep a cool-as-a-cucumber facade then say "May I help you?"

      Now I hope I didn't offend the chuckle-lovers out there!!! :)

      And now I have to see if fan blade lawn ornaments are in my future!!! We could make them for the pumpkin farm!!!

  5. Before she could reach the kitchen, the doorbell rang. Since she was close, she decided to see who it was. The door opened and her body tensed. Her throat went dry. She swallowed before speaking, “Oliver.”
    “Hello, Samantha. Why are you answering the door? That’s the servant's job.”
    “I was closer. Why are you here?”
    “Is that any way to greet your future husband?” His expression hardened.
    Samantha lowered her head. “I’m sorry.”
    “Well, are you going to invite me in?” He pursed his lips, waiting for her to respond.
    Against her better judgement, she moved to allow him through. What she wanted to do was tell him to go away. But it didn’t work the other times she said it, so why would it now.
    “I came over to tell you I’m taking you out for dinner tonight.”
    “I can’t. I have plans already.” Samantha kept her head down.
    “What plans? With who?” Oliver asked folding his arms.
    “I’m having dinner with David and his family.”
    “Oh, then I’ll just join you.” He lowered his hands as if the matter was settled.
    “You can’t!” She raised her head.
    “Why not?” He snapped.
    Samantha's mind scrambled to find a reason. Any reason. “Because. . . because it would be rude to show up with an uninvited guest.” It was a lame excuse but Oliver would care to much about what other people thought of him. His ego was too big for that.
    He thought for a moment. “I guess you’re right. Tomorrow then.”
    “I have my ladies committee meeting tomorrow night.”
    Oliver closed his eyes for a moment and released a heavy sigh.
    “Maybe we could try Thursday night?” She tried to keep him calm. Besides, she hoped to be gone before then.
    “Fine. I’ll be here sharply at seven. Be ready to go. I don’t want to have to wait like the last time. We nearly lost our reservation because of you.”
    “I understand.”
    With a nod, the matter was settled. He straightened his jacket and took his leave.

    1. This is when the antagonist is first introduced to the reader.

    2. Oooh, abusive tyrant control freak and she hoped she'd be gone by then.
      This is three in a row posts that I just love and ALL SO DIFFERENT!
      At first she comes off as submissive and weak but you weave in perfectly her plans. He intensions of getting away. Excellent.
      You have a typo...I'm having trouble coming up with ANY critiques otherwise I wouldn't mention it. But ...Oliver would care too much...not to much.

      That's it. :D Otherwise perfect.

    3. Thank you, Mary! I don't know how many times I've read this scene and never caught it. That's why it always helps to have another pair of eyes.

  6. Not the very beginning, but an excerpt from my novel, North Pole City and the Sunlit Witching Hour:

    The hike to the Narwhalian Bight would be more challenging than to the ice floe where seals were in the thick of their pupping season, but nothing Nessa hadn’t gotten used to over the years. She was more concerned with the possibility that the narwhals wouldn’t be out. They were less predictable than the seals.

    When she was near enough to the hills that hid the Bight, she stood directly in front of them, reached toward chunk of ice, and gripped it with a black gloved hand. Kicking a boot into a snowy patch until she had made step for herself, she hurled her body weight upward and continued to grab, kick, and step, until she was on the other side. Once on the ground again, a series of snow dunes stood between her and the bays. She moved toward a pathway between the middle two, when she heard a tinkling of bells. Rounding the dune on her right, holding her balance against it and walking carefully on the surface that was icier than the one on the other side of the hills, the source of the sound came into view.

    On the icy banks of the bight, sat a small white sleigh, ornamented with ivy and bells, harnessing a reindeer. The animal sniffed and shifted as she approached, then leaned into her as she stroked the side of its face and between its antlers. “What are you doing out here, big guy?”

    Muffled voices caught her attention. Soft, as if someone was sharing a secret. The backside of the dunes impeded her view of the entire bay, so she moved around them, but stayed near to the wallish sides. Steam floated just above the surface, and the whole of the bay rocked forward and back in gentle waves, like the water itself was breathing. When she could go no further without being openly visible, Nessa steadied herself with a gloved hand and leaned forward.

    Sitting on the bank, knees to chest, was a figure in a red cloak. In the water, a majestic horn rose out of the steamy waters. Both were very still. Nessa caught her breath, then began walking quietly toward the spot where she climbed down the hill.

    “Stop.” The sound of Santa’s voice came as no surprise. Nessa turned to face him. He was uncomfortable, apprehensive. Then, she remembered her face mask was down, and that he wouldn’t recognize her from anyone else who lived in North Pole City. “Geoffrey,” she sang. “It’s been too long. How are you?”

    Her fingers reached for the zipper that held the mask in place, but he recognized her voice. “Oh, Nessa. What are you doing out here?”

    “Just animal watching. Are the narwhals out?”

    “It was only Bohn. But he’s gone, now. Nessa, you know it isn’t safe to leave the city alone.”

    “Worried I might die, Santa?” She chuckled.

    “I would like to see you back safely regardless.” He walked around the sleigh and climbed in. “There’s room for two. Up you go.”

    She gripped the side of the sleigh with both hands once she was in. “We’re going around the hills, aren’t we?”

    “Leo can get us there safely,” he said reassuringly. After Geoffrey had secured his own face mask and tugged on his gloves, he tapped the reins and spoke to the reindeer softly to encourage him to trot. The trot became a gallop, which turned into a sprint. The sleigh zipped over the ice, smooth and white. Nessa was reminded of why she preferred to travel by walking. After a few moments of silent breakneck speed, she asked about Gloria, the North Pole City chef. The city was a-buzz about Gloria feeling overworked and underappreciated-- and on the verge of quitting. It would be no easy feat to replace her. But when Nessa turned in Geoffrey’s direction, his eyes were transfixed to the sky. Nessa followed his gaze.

    An object was plummeting toward the earth.

    They stayed breathless as it descended, still being jostled by the speeding sleigh. The object made no sound, only disappeared in mere seconds. They rode in stunned silence, eyes fixated forward, while Leo dashed over the ice fields. The sight of the glowing mass trailed by a streak of red lingered behind their eyes.

  7. OH MY GOSH! this was just one surprise after the other.
    I am finding all these posts delightful.
    I suppose I'd get it if I saw the cover but the Santa thing just came out of the blue. I love this. Is it going to be published anywhere? Quick! Before Christmas.

  8. PS I love narwhals and...are narwhals real? I've even seen museums displays about them and I'm STILL NOT SURE THEY'RE REAL.
    And if you can have can have narwhals and I still don't know.

    1. Yes, narwhals are real. :-) The novel isn't finished, but my hope is to have it complete and published by Christmas 2020. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Mary!

    2. I love this. Part fantasy, maybe??? And part real? And just oodles of fun. But is Geoffrey the hero? If he is, we should see a spark of attraction or a reason to NOT be attracted, right?

      I love the way she got there. My kind of girl. And why isn't it safe to go beyond the city limits????


      Polar bear attacks? Grizzlies? Bad guys? Evil elves????


  9. Here's part of the first chapter of one I'm editing. The premise is that Christiana and Jordan end up falling in love by writing letters to each other. This is setting up how they get started.

    Her foot kicked a box as she rolled off the bed. Maybe after a year she shouldn’t have anything left unpacked, especially with her lack of a life outside work and home, but several cardboard cubes remained stacked here and there around her apartment. What was in this one anyway? She rubbed her sore toes as she sat down to dig through and remember why it remained at the end of her bed.
    An old journal stared back at her as she lifted the flap. She didn’t even want to know what was written on those pages. She set it aside and dug through other memorabilia and papers saved for who knows what reason. Some of these could probably be thrown away. She was about to get up and go get a garbage bag when she spotted the pretty flowered case in the bottom of the box. She lifted it out and pushed back the hinged lid. Black and white photos. An old army medal. A few pressed flowers. A Bible, worn down so much that she was almost afraid to lift it out. And Gran’s old letters.
    She carefully unfolded one, not wishing to tear the fragile pages.
    “My dearest Maggie, I can’t believe our sweet girl came while I was stuck over here without you. I know you told her to wait, but it sounds like she’s as headstrong as her mama.”
    Grandpa’s square handwriting filled the page, talking about how much he had missed Gran, what it was like in Korea, how he wished he were there to meet the baby … Christiana’s aunt. Chris ran her fingers over the ink. These pieces of paper had covered distances she couldn’t even imagine, keeping her grandparents close while they were so far from each other. What would it be like to love someone so much that even a letter would be enough? What would it be like to have a relationship with anyone where you could just write your words down and send them to that person and know that you would get something in return?
    Chris had dabbled at being a pen pal in elementary school. But she hadn’t been very good at it. She always forgot to write back until weeks after the letter had come. By that point, she had forgotten any questions that had been asked and just sent mundane things like what the cafeteria served for lunch or the latest field trip. Soon, the other person quit writing back. Chris couldn’t blame them.
    But writing letters would be so much more personal than what she got through social media. Not that it would be hard to find something deeper than the internet. At least in writing down words on paper, a person would have to think a little harder before posting the message. And it wouldn’t simply be sharing things someone else had posted before, like the recipes and memes. She leaned back and pursed her lips. Would anyone out there even be interested in something like that? Were there still people who were willing to buy stamps and envelopes and send letters back and forth?
    Ironically, she pulled her computer over and opened her social media account again. She placed the cursor over the spot where she could post something and then paused. This was ridiculous, right? To announce she wanted a pen pal? Worst case scenario, no one would respond, right? She clicked and started typing.
    “Thinking of going old-school. Found some letters that my Grandpa wrote my Gran. Made me think about the possibility of wanting a pen pal. Would anyone be interested?”

  10. I like the way you set this up, Amy because letter writing, well, it would hardly occur to anyone. And you explain it so it makes a wonderful kind of sense.
    Very nice glimpse of her grandma and grandpa. My dad was in Korea and we had some old letters he sent to my mom, this brought all that back in such a lovely way.

    1. Thanks Mary. Before this, I have her get aggravated at her social media feed because there's nothing with any depth. I wanted her to have the motivation or it would never work. After this, her sneaky best friend offers up her cousin in Louisiana to be the pen pal, not letting on that it's a guy instead of a girl. ;-)

  11. Today she called herself Jezebel.
    Someone once said she changed her name as often as her hair colour. Vixen, Mystery, Salome, Delilah...
    She blended into the crowd. Forgettable; an ordinary suburbanite with mousey-brown hair.
    Her vantage point outside the shopping centre gave Jezebel a good view of the street in both directions. Right on schedule, a group of children came from the train station. She stubbed out her cigarette as she stepped away from the other social outcasts.
    When the children reached the open doorways across the street, Jezebel held her breath. The two-storey mechanics workshop stretched halfway along the city block. She knew that black building could transform into an impenetrable fortress. Shadowy figures, visible through the gaping portals, called to the children as they passed. There were six wide openings, and the children were in no hurry.
    A massive figure stepped onto the footpath: Romano, the owner of the business. He spoke with the children. Jezebel lit another cigarette. Last year, she had kidnapped his fiancée. Of those involved, only she escaped his retribution.
    Jezebel shook off those memories and refocused on her quarry. Often the boy she pursued entered the building, but today the bulky teenager barely paused. The group continued on their way.
    Jezebel took another puff, as she approached the nearer set of traffic lights. A pedestrian voiced his disapproval. She sneered, blowing smoke at him. Smoking was a misdemeanour. If the lights changed in her favour, what followed would be more significant.
    Jezebel tapped her feet on the pavement. She needed to be ahead of the children before they reached the intersection. Ahh! The traffic-light-gods were aiding her. The cars stopped across all four lanes, and the green walk signal flashed. Her modest heels made a satisfying noise as she stepped off the curb.
    Unbidden, she heard the voice of Samson Davidson, her husband, chastising her for praising dead gods, when there was ‘One True God’ willing to care for her. She spat on the road. When he learned of her actions today, Samson would disown her. Good riddance! She needed neither him nor his God.

    1. Boy, Chrissy, you sucked me right into the story! I was thinking we were meeting the villain, but I suspect maybe this woman will be redeemed. :) I'm now afraid for this boy she's following!

      Nice excerpt!

    2. Thanks for your feedback, Missy. I think this is my fourth opportunity to participate in Seekerville's Open Critique. Right up until the second last chapter this protagonist would not play fair. This excerpt is from the opening chapter, and then in chapter 2 we jump back to the beginning of the story and find out what brought this boy to her attention. The kidnapping mentioned, and some of the other key characters, were the subject of the first book in the series "White Rose of Promise)

    3. Well, this is ten shades of fun, Chrissy... and poor Samson, loving a woman of danger and deceit... but you can feel her anger, her disillusionment, and I love that she doesn't get caught up in how she wasn't flagged by Romano... she simply states it.

      And gets back to work.

      Strong writing here.

    4. Hi Ruth. Thanks for the feedback. My reader team have been pushing me to keep writing and telling everyone that my stories are improving. It makes me feel more confident to have you say that I have made a good start )i(

  12. I hope I'm not too late ... this is set on the Ohio River in the 1850s. This is close to the beginning and might end up being the opening. Lydia has to settle an inheritance.

    "...On the [court house] veranda near the hitch rack stood a disreputable lot of men in travel stained suits, trousers tucked into the tops of muddy tall boots. Several had stovepipe hats in hands full of papers and oddments. They were surrounded a blue cloud of cigar smoke. The stone pavement was splotched with chewing tobacco.
    One of them spewed a fine stream of tobacco juice at a jade-eyed horse fly on the porch railing. “Got him.”
    Lydia hesitated and her stomach churned.
    One of the other men elbowed him. “Right in front of that lady.”
    The tobacco chewer half bowed and took off his hat. “I beg your pardon, ma'am.”
    She nodded then gave him the bonnet – turned her head so the wide black brim hid her face.
    The man who had objected was right in front of her. She looked up. He was tall with a weather-beaten young-old face. He wore a battered blue cloth cap with some gold trim – tarnished – and a dark blue waistcoat and trousers with a wrinkled white shirt. The fit of his waist coat showed off his wide shoulders and narrow waist. A dark blue coat trimmed with brass buttons was over his arm. He must be some kind of boat man. The stump of a cigar defied gravity at the corner of his mouth. “Are you lost, miss?” His voice was deep with a smoky edge to it, almost too deep for someone his age.
    With a sigh she raised her chin a fraction of an inch. He had the bluest eyes. “If this is Falls County Courthouse, then I am not, neighbor.”

    If I'm not too late, thanks for looking!

    1. Oops, I commented in the wrong place. Ann, please see my feedback below...

  13. You're not too late, Ann! I really love your description. So rich! I could really picture these men. I did laugh out loud at the man who was so proud that he "got him." :)

    I don't know what you have now for your opening, but I think this could be a good opening if you just add some thoughts so that we know what Lydia is doing at the courthouse. Just a few thoughts to make the reader care about her goal.

    Nice work!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. You guys have confirmed I should start the story somewhere about there ...

  14. I liked it, Ann. I really like the word Oddments.
    Very vivid. Great use of the five senses.
    In the 2nd to last paragraph you buried that one short line of dialogue. Give it a new paragraph to make it stand out.

    1. Hello, Ann!!!!

      I love historicals. Just LOVE THEM.... Sigh....

      I would change up your opening here. Shorten it. Spice it up.

      A group of disreputables stood between Lydia and her goal of reaching the courthouse door.

      (then go into the descriptions. Very vivid!)

      And I'd kind of like the hero to come off stronger in his rebuke to the spitting man.

      He can be faded and jaded, etc., but I'd like to see that strength in his voice and gaze. As if no matter how tough things had gotten, he knew how to treat a lady and expected as much from those around him. Or else.

    2. Thanks for your thoughts. Good points! I thought I should try to open here.

  15. Back-cover blurb:
    A fiddling co-ed from the city. A small-town musician turned GI. A country newly at war.
    Olivia Leigh Bowen has clear, defined goals. Entertain the troops with her family’s Western swing band. Write more songs. Finish college. Protect her damaged, vulnerable heart.
    Until a talented soldier interrupts her family’s performance one sultry summer night …
    Country musician Jackson Frazier had big dreams, too, until Pearl Harbor put them on hold. Now he’s honor-bound to serve his country as an Army signalman.
    Until he accepts an unexpected dare, and meets the cautious girl whose music he can’t resist …
    Swept up in a whirlwind romance full of love and heartbreak, Leigh and Jack spend the war wondering if their faith and trust in God is strong enough to see them through to a happily-ever-after, or if they’ve made the biggest mistake of their lives.

    1. Janice, the fiddling threw me (I thought you meant fiddling around, like goofing off.) So maybe say A fiddle-playing co-ed. :)

      Sounds like a great story! Is there something keeping them apart besides the war and her protecting her heart? If so, you may want to add that in somewhere.

      Nice work!

    2. Jance, I will be waiting for this one to come out! It sounds like a hum-dinger.

    3. Thank you so much, Ann! I appreciate the kind input from you and Missy.
      Yes, I've been told the ending is something to savor. Which made me happy. This has been quite a journey.

  16. Also commented on your response hitting reply, but how's this: " ... wary girl whose music reveals far more ..."?

    1. Janice, I actually like your original wording better because it also reveals the difference in their backgrounds (city and small town)...

      A fiddle-playing co-ed from the city. A small-town musician turned GI. A country newly at war.

    2. Oh, I will definitely leave that first line, because tagline for next story is: A stubborn Italian partisan. A shy American messenger. A world newly at peace.
      Will change the next to last para to "music reveals far more." (Which is true of the character.) Thank you so much for the encouragement!

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