Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #10

TITLE: She Eagles
GENRE: Adult Fiction


Cate was eight weeks pregnant and four weeks terrified. Even though she hadn’t gained any weight, only fears, her body had changed and her clothes felt snug. Simply unhooking her bra had it leaping off her body like a frog, and the only sure-fire way to fill her lungs with air was to unbutton her jeans. “Phew,” she whispered, rubbing the patch of skin-dents left around her waist after sliding, no pushing, the jeans downward and leaving them, accordion-like, on the floor.

The circle of sweat beads left from her watch made her skin itch and so did the spaghetti-strap nightgown that she wished was a size large and not a medium. For the second time that night she looked up at the ceiling fan; the thick air was being stubborn, refusing to mingle with the swirling blades.

Definitely hot enough for the air conditioner, but Cate was being stubborn too. The idea of closing all the windows in her three-story townhouse made the muggy air a bit more bearable. If Frank were home, though, the windows would be closed and the fan would be on low. Cooler air always seemed more cooperative. But her husband, the Executive Chef at the White House, wasn’t home. Instead, he was at work, planning the following weeks’ meals for Barbara and President Bush and their children.

Normally Cate would be thrilled that the DC weathermen were calling September of 1990 the hottest one on record because normally she loved the ease of wearing sundresses, sleeveless blouses, tank tops and cotton jersey pull-overs. But her normal-self was gone so enjoying or even caring about the weather seemed ridiculous.

Her new-normal was trapped in a web of fear spun by two different spiders, and both were hunting her. She had foolishly forgotten the spider from her past so when it roared its ugly head, it was too late to escape. The other spider, the more menacing one, had just been discovered and it had the slyness to destroy her and her unborn baby.

After brushing and flossing her teeth and moisturizing her skin, Cate was finally in bed, sitting up and trying to put together a to-do list. The opening of her Georgetown Bakery, Back to the Bakery, next year, and her weekend getaway with Renee and Julie in six days should have been enough to make her list a mile-long; yet Cate no longer cared about either of them.

“Forget it.” She said, slapping the blank pad on the night stand and pulling the lamp’s chain. Then after punching, her pillows more than necessary, she rolled onto her side and grabbed Frank’s down-filled substitute.

Her body wanted sleep but her mind was in control, harboring thoughts from a time when she believed growing up motherless was her burden to bear and worrying about her mother’s killer seemed pointless. Then, without warning, her thoughts jumped two decades to the discovery of a breast cancer gene mutation. Her mother’s killer was alive and stalking.


  1. I love the first sentence. You've caught me immediately. But I think there are some ways to improve the flow and structure of the entire passage.

    One thing that I notice is that almost all of your sentences are really long. It's a good idea to break up the sentence structure to make it easier for the reader. Anywhere you have compound sentences, you may want to consider making it into two instead of one.

    This sentence made me pause: "The idea of closing all the windows in her three-story townhouse made the muggy air a bit more bearable." In my experience, thinking about closing the windows on a muggy day makes me feel like I'm suffocating if I'm not turning on the A/C. Maybe that's not what you meant, but it gives me pause.

    There are also places where you might be able to cut words, like "she wished was a size large and not a medium" could just be "she wished were a size larger." Do we need to know that she's got a circle of sweat beads left by her watch? Or is it enough that her skin itched with beads of sweat? I feel like there's too much time spent describing things when what I want as a reader is to get to the story.

    In the final paragraph, I feel like there's too much telling and not enough showing. Show us what she's thinking; paint a picture of the events. Maybe that's what's coming up next- if so, then you may want to get to it sooner.

    I would also recommend having someone copy-edit the whole thing. There are some missing commas, misplaced hyphens, passive voice and other mistakes.

  2. This has me captivated because your MC is obviously worried about her unborn baby and her husband's not there. I love detailed descriptions, but I also know many do not, so you might want to cut a few of them out as Laura suggested.

    My biggest quibble is how much information you give in just 500 words. It's too much too soon. Would your character really be thinking about the presidential family and the year? I also wonder if you should tell us that she's worried about breast cancer this soon into the novel. It might be a good place. I don't know. All I know is that I felt some letdown when I realized so soon what had her worried.

  3. Jennifer Owen-Davies- I really enjoyed reading this and would definitely read on. I have a question in this passage I was a bit confused, " Her new-normal was trapped in a web of fear spun by two different spiders, and both were hunting her. She had foolishly forgotten the spider from her past so when it roared its ugly head, it was too late to escape. The other spider, the more menacing one, had just been discovered and it had the slyness to destroy her and her unborn baby." What or rather who are the two spiders hunting her? One is breast cancer, but is there something else going on? I am intrigued? Also, have to say I loved your voice throughout.

  4. I liked the first paragraph but was bounced out by "three-story townhouse." Then followed by the exposition of her husband's job, then the confusing web of fear and spiders and wait! is her mother's killer real or no, it's breast cancer? And I was un-hooked.

  5. Love the opening as a grabber, but 8 weeks isn't far enough into a pregnancy to make her that much heftier unless something's wrong or she's having twins or quads. I think you have the makings of a good story here, but I concur that we get too much too early for story-pacing. Maybe you edited it specifically for the 500 word limit? But I am intrigued by where you're going.

  6. Strong writing. Nice unusual descriptions and details in the beginning. Skin-dents, her bra leaping off her body. But then you introduced unconnected elements. Spiders, etc. Especially the last paragraph sounded as if you had to squeeze in a conflict. And we don't learn any more about the pregnancy which was the introduction.

  7. There's a lot here to like; the opening line is great, though with the subsequent descriptions of her weight and sweat, she seemed more like 4 months pregnant, not two. I like the phrasing about fear spun by spiders, but the following lines are quite cryptic. Maybe the throw the reader a bone and name what these fears are so that we have a hint where this story is going. Adding specifics here will show us what the story problem is, or hint of it. Right now, given the genre is simply "fiction" I have no real idea what to expect here. It has hints of a thriller or a mystery, but maybe women's fiction or literary.

  8. The first two paragraphs were great. Great, great, great. Very hook-y. After that I had to work to keep my attention on it--there's a lot of passive scene setting. You've given us a lot of information, and that's good, but it would work better if it's done in an active way. I don't get a sense of conflict here--just dissatisfaction. I haven't connected with the character yet, so I'm not ready to ride that wagon for this long.

    My guess is that the key to this opening is the final paragraph, because that's the first thing that connects us to that AWESOME opening line about being 8 weeks pregnant and 4 weeks terrified. This para phrased with a lot of ambiguity, enough that I'm not sure I'm totally clear what you're communicating. If I'm right, and this is about her being pregnant and fearing that she has breast cancer at the same time, I think you should have her actively engaged with something tangible: a report, a letter, a phone call--something. The background details could be dropped in instead of expounded upon: the bakery, her husband's job, the date, etc.

    Does that help?

  9. Nice opening line, but much of this is scattered, going from one idea to another. It seems the main issues here are that she is pregnant, she may, or does have, a gene that makes her a candidate for breast cancer, and some other thing, which you haven't yet mentioned.

    All the rest is extraneous stuff. The fact that she flossed and put on body lotion doesn't matter, nor do the dents in her body and whether the AC is on or not, not unless you want to show her as superficial, and you don't seem to be going there because she seems to be worried about her unborn baby.

    It seems like you're trying to work in every bit of info you think the reader needs before the story actually begins (that her husband is a chef at the white house, that she wants to open her own bakery.) All this stuff can come later. Perhaps focus on the main issues, the things that will drive the story forward -- the baby, the breast cancer, and whatever that other unnamed thing is.