Friday, November 30, 2012

(4) Psychological Suspense: Price of Refuge

TITLE: Price of Refuge
GENRE: Psychological Suspense

When a pregnant mother of two believes she is being stalked by a ghost from her past, she needs to prove to everyone – including herself – that the danger isn’t all in her head, or risk losing her mind, her children, and her life.

It seemed crazy, nearly drowning myself in order to stop feeling like I was going to die, but water was the only thing that stopped the panic. I waited until my lungs burned, then lifted my head, took a deep gulp of air, and sank back down into my warm cocoon. I stayed under as long as I could, the contour of the tub cradling my body, keeping me bubble-wrapped and buffered from the distorted sounds of the outside world - the bickering of the kids, the inane chatter from the television.

Spencer yelling.

I sat up, coughing and spitting and sucking oxygen through my veil of sopping hair.


I peeled wet curls from my eyelids as I tried to analyze my husband’s tone. I’m not good at much, but in this one area I’m an expert. Water sloshed over the side of the tub as I strained forward to listen. It was probably just the usual morning chaos of getting the kids ready. No need to assume anything terrible had happened. Spencer wouldn’t let them stick forks in the toaster or turn on the stove.

“Kelsey!” Louder now, and with a hint of panic – an emotion with which I was all too familiar.

It was time to get out. I braced myself with both arms and heaved my beached-whale body onto the edge of the bathtub, bumping the vanity and knocking over various tubes and jars of creams and perfume. Only my bottle of Escape stayed upright, mocking me, and I pushed that one over too.


  1. I really like your first line. It's strong, and it sets an interesting tone.

    I think you lose a little talking about the kids sticking forks in the toaster or turning on the stove - I think you can say that in a more broad/general way with better effect. "Spencer was a good dad. He'd have things under control." Or something like that.

    And...having been pregnant once myself...that beached-whale lumbering feeling? Yeah. I get that. :)

  2. Very interesting concept. Almost as if she is in her own "womb" - under the water in the bath tub.

    Your reader can immediately identify with what it's like to be underwater and how sounds "sound" different when you are. Also I can identify with wanting to shut out the outside noise.

    I also really like the last paragraph - when the bottle of Escape perfume doesn't fall over and she pushes it over. Depending on what her mood is, you could have her show more emotion by perhaps knocking it over hard or sweeeping right off the counter. Just a thought. I'd definitely read on!

  3. Loved the first paragraph, and the last, with her knocking over the bottle of Escape. I'm not clear yet on what the conflict will be - is her husband abusive? I wasn't sure what to make of the "ghost from her past" in the logline. Anyway, I would read on!

  4. This one seems really intelligent to me, and well-written. Bravo!
    I can also identify with the whale-like feeling.

  5. I like the concept of this, and I think a psychological suspense novel with a female protagonist could have wide appeal.

    The writing is strong, too, and I want to know more about why she’s familiar with panic. It’s unclear, though, whether this is a serious suicide attempt or whether she just wants to block out everything by slipping under water. If there is real panic here, too, I think it could be amped up.

  6. For some reason, the unattributed "Kelsey!" line really threw me. I'm assuming that's her name and her husband is calling her, but it took me three readings to get that. The fact that she came up so suddenly before the yell didn't help. That made it seem like her action (coughing and whatnot) was an action beat for indicating the following dialogue line was hers.

    Is there a reason to leave off any kind of attribution to the dialogue? It doesn't have to be a tag. It could be a vocal hint that would contrast with the later one. We really want to avoid that type of confusion on the first page if we can.

    I hope this helps!

  7. This is interesting, but I'm not clear what the conflict will be, whether it will be the husband or something else entirely. A hint of that on the first page would make for a stronger hook.

    I wonder if the line, "I peeled wet curls from my eyelids as I tried to analyze my husband’s tone," could be tweaked so that the tone is evident from the dialogue just before. The line threw me a little unnatural for an inner monologue, but that's a quick fix.

    My favorite part is the first paragraph--excellent description!

  8. I loved this opening. I loved the voice. I love the situation. Even though I'm not sure what the conflict is, I'm concerned about the heroine just because she's under the water. Come up and breathe already, lol. And I really liked the part about her husband not letting the kids stick forks in the toaster. It felt real to me, who has 2 small children and worries whether my husband will allow my kids to stick silverware in the toaster. Good job. I'd keep reading.

  9. This interests me. I want to know what's going on, so would read further. Your MC is very relatable.
    Nice touch with "Escape", "forks in the toaster", and the title.

    I agree about the missing attribution. Maybe you could just move the first "Kelsey" up to the 'Spencer yelling' line.

    Good luck in the auction!