Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #2 - SIMPLE ACTS OF GRACE 9:10 AM EST

TITLE: Simple Acts of Grace
GENRE: Adult Historical Fiction

When a nurse uncovers horrific abuse at a Nazi baby factory, she saves the children by joining forces with an unlikely ally — an SS officer working covertly for the resistance.

~ Katherine ~

I’ve always lived in the shadow of my mother’s secrets.

Those secrets brought me here, to her bedroom closet. They’re why I’m standing, alone and shaking, with an old wood box pressed to my chest.

The call from Englewood Hospital came yesterday afternoon. We think your mother’s had a heart attack. She’s stable now. We’re running tests. The nurse’s voice — its calm, measured cadence — was more terrifying than her words. I made the fifty-minute drive to the hospital in a reckless thirty and spent last night in the ICU, grappling with my greatest fear: I’m neither old nor wise enough to make peace with the idea of losing my mother. She’s the only person in the world who knows all of me, who remembers me from my beginning.

When Mother woke at dawn and ordered the nurse to fetch her a decent cup of coffee, my shoulders shook with laughter and sweet relief. “I’m not at death’s door quite yet, Katchen,” she scolded in her commanding German accent, using a pet name I haven’t heard since I was twelve. My eyes filled, and she took my hand, clutching it with a bony strength that belied the dark smudges under her eyes. “Ach, you’re always so emotional.”

Struggling to sit up in her hospital bed, Mother gave me a thin smile. “No one lives forever.” She rooted around in her purse, found the gold locket that usually dangles from her neck. “Go to the house, to my bedroom closet, and find my keepsake chest,” she said, pressing the key she extracted from the locket into my hand. “It’s time to remember who we are, ja?”


  1. I am so intrigued! I'm wondering if Katherine is adopted or is the birth daughter of her mother and the SS officer. I'm wondering if the two stories (mother and daughter) will overlap in the novel (present and past?). Strong narrator's voice and the dialogue flows naturally. The only thing missing from the logline is Katherine's place in the story. Not sure it's necessary, but I did wonder about it.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! Yes, it's a back-and-forth story...goes from 2008 to 1936-39. Two voices to tell the story.

  2. I love the logline. I'm already interested in how this will unfold. Both characters in the first scene feel real and I'm liking them already. And I agree with the above comment that the dialogue flows naturally. I wondered a little about where we are in time exactly in the opening scene. Also, where are we geographically? Europe or US? I love that we already see three 'good guys' (Katherine, mother and SS officer) in a plot involving such evil. I get the feeling at the start that this will ultimately be an uplifting story. I'd love to read more! Good luck!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! Yep, it's a past/present and US/Europe story. I'll have to make that clearer. :-)

  3. The pitch SOLD me (and I don't read much historical fiction let alone adult fiction :) ) The big thing that threw me (and again, not super knowledgeable on the historical side of things) was that Katherine was driving. At first I pictured this was Germany WWII era. Now, I'm not so sure? So yeah, time period and perhaps setting probably need a simple clarification. Outside of that you have created an intriguing premise and a character who is devoted to her mother and I want to root for. Nicely done!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I probably should have put date at the top of the chapter. It's a past-present story, told in two voices (Katherine, and her mother, who was the WWII nurse). Will have to make that clear when I pitch to agents and editors in future!

  4. I agree with the comments above. Definitely a date and location to assist the reader.
    I love the premise, actually anything to do with WWII, and the first line is great.
    What I think needs tightening:
    - Have Katherine speak. Even though we're inside her head, she seems simply a prop if we don't have dialogue. Have her interacting with her mother in these first scenes a little more. For example, instead of "my shoulders shook with laughter and sweet relief." I'd have her say something here instead."
    - The “No one lives forever.” seems a bit clunky. Perhaps if something more was added, it would sound more natural.
    - “Go to the house, to my bedroom closet, and find my keepsake chest,” - You can trim "house, and bedroom closet" and have the mom only mention the keepsake chest.
    I would definitely read on. All the best

  5. I got the time and place immediately. Liked the rapport between grandmother and Katherine. I've read a lot of WWII stories, but never heard of the Nazi baby factory mentioned in the tagline. Maybe use Nazi experiments? I'd look forward to reading more.

  6. I like this, though I was confused until I read Robin's commnet. ;) I would read on.

  7. The first line is great and the second is also very good. Together, you've hooked me to keep reading. One nit in the second line that bothered me was that the secrets (plural) cast only one shadow. It would feel better to me if the secrets cast multiple shadows or if there was only one secret.

    I think you've got a nice bit of mystery in the setup that would entice continued reading, along with solid writing chops. It feels like we'll be in good hands for this ride.

  8. The logline pulled me right in. The page felt slow. It starts with her in the closet with the box, and she's shaking, and we know there has to be something big in that box, and I'm waiting for her to open it, and then . . . I'm suddenly in a flashback. Suspense and tension gone.

    What happens in the flasback? Mom tells her about the key (which she already has) before she dies. Do we really need to see that at this moment?

    My thought is to just continue on with the opening, and your page hook can be what she finds in the box. If you feel the scene with mom is really necessary here, perhaps just start in the hospital, and let the page hook be mom giving her the key, or telling her where to find it, and leaving the MC with some cryptic message. Then have her go to the closet later.

    Each scene can create tension and suspense, but together, I think they lessen the overall impact the page could have.

  9. Try this
    The nurse’s calm, measured cadence was more terrifying than her words.

    Instead of
    The nurse’s voice — its calm, measured cadence — was more terrifying than her words.

    Read it aloud - the shorter sentence and lack of em dashes is stronger here.

    Third paragraph: I'd cut "grappling with my greatest fear" - the colon after it doesn't work, and I think all the rest of this speaks for itself. It's stronger if you don't spell things out.

    Fourth paragraph: I'd drop the 'sweet' and 'bony' adjectives - they also break the flow and border on overwriting. I also don't think you need 'scolded' and 'commanding' in the same sentence: one would do.

    But - very good; very intriguing. (Assuming that you already read your work aloud to tighten/strengthen if; if not, do!) I think you have something very promising here, both in your sample and your concept.

  10. Both the first and last lines of the scene are awesome. And I love the little bits of German thrown into the dialogue. Great descriptions, but it might be easier to read if some of the long sentences were broken up into shorter ones? Also I stumbled a bit switching tenses. I'm hooked though!

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