Friday, November 28, 2014

(1) Historical Fiction: DONOVAN

GENRE: Historical Fiction

When empathic Irish immigrant Adam Donovan kills a bank robber in the Arizona Territory, he never imagines he’ll fall in love with the outlaw’s sister. Now, if they are to have any chance of happiness together, Adam must ferret out the secrets of her tragic past and tame her nightmares before they drive her into madness.

Jesse Travers stood in the doorway of the ramshackle cabin, breathing deeply to settle her nerves. The old man inside by the fire was querulous today. He can’t help it. Any more than he can help being old. Or crippled. But God help us if this day doesn’t end soon.

The clearing where the cabin stood was too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently. Only the occasional glimpse of buckskin in the sycamores showed there was life outside the battered log walls of the cabin.

The old man always said that animals knew where there was danger and ran away. So maybe it‘s nothing--maybe it’s just too hot for April. Maybe that’s what makes me feel so sick.

Then into the utter silence came a faint clip-clop, clip-clop.

No one should be coming. No one ever came. The hoofbeats closed in. She tasted the sharp metal of fear. She grabbed an old Henry rifle and moved onto the sagging porch, into the shadow of its roof.

Round the edge of the cottonwood grove, the horse came into sight. Its rider had dark hair, dark clothes, a dark gun sitting low on his left hip. There isn’t anyone in the Territory who doesn’t know who he is. And where he comes from. Squaring her shoulders and raising the rifle, she took a single step into the light.

“Donovan.” It was more accusation than query.


  1. I like the build-up to meeting Donovan, especially your last line. I am curious why it is more accusation than question. That question will keep me reading.

    There are two instances where I think you can make the opening stronger. The first is the word choice you use to describe the silence. (No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered). The words convey your message, but they could be more surprising.

    The second area is in reference to Jesse tasting the sharp metal of fear. While I understand her isolation makes any visitor unusual, it seemed a little too strong a reaction at this point (And please note, I may be TOTALLY off-base. 250 words is hard to really know what's going on), but I think I'd rather see Jesse uneasy, but not fearful.

    Good luck!

  2. I thought the description and tension in this opening were wonderful. You conveyed so much about Jesse's life in the opening lines, with a few words about the ramshackle cabin and the querulous old man. The way you portrayed the deep silence outside the cabin set my nerves on edge.

    I agree with the poster above me that it seemed odd for Jesse to feel such strong fear before she knows who is approaching the cabin, but perhaps her reaction is explained later. In any case, that's a minor quibble in an otherwise enticing opening.

    I want to read more.

  3. I like this. The only part that confuses me is the bit about the old man. I can conjecture, but that tripped me up and sort of distracted me from the setting and tone.

    The second suggestion I have is one that agrees with those above: I think the nervousness/fear precedes the need for it. Was she expecting him, then? Even before she heard him? Because it seems like she's expecting something bad.

    Good writing...and best of luck!

  4. The voice is nice in this and reflects a historical tone. I'd work a bit on the opening to convey the reason behind Jesse's nerves because telling us her nerves had to be settled without showing us why is just confusing. It's a response to an unknown stimulus. And why bring up the old man? His part in this scene appears irrelevant and therefore unnecessary.

    Jesse's fear at hearing someone coming is unprecedented and therefore ambiguous, which is why we need to know what has her nerves on edge to help us sympathize with her and make sense of the tension you attempt to set up.

    I was thrown off by the italics. The scene is already in Jesse's point of view, unless you're going for omniscience, and therefore italics to indicate her thoughts are unnecessary. If we're in her POV, who else's thoughts could they belong to? And if this is not supposed to be her POV, why not?

    Good luck!

  5. In the logline, you mention that Adam is the main character, though the story seems to set up Jesse as being the MC. If Donovan is the MC, I didn't understand why you would open with Jesse's POV. I also wondered about the old man and why Jesse wouldn't refer to him as grandfather or his name.
    You've done a good job of establishing the setting and I'd read on to find out what happens next.

  6. My opinion was too many italics and I found them distracting, and also I found she stood in the doorway deeply breathing for too long. For about 3/4 of the page it sounds like that is all she is doing?

    However I do like the introduction of Donovan...he is intriguing!

  7. I liked the detail about the old man. It shows Jesse's compassion, and also that her patience is wearing thin.

    I thought the paragraph where Donovan rides into sight would be stronger without "There isn't anyone in the Territory who doesn't know who he is. And where he comes from."

    Loved the last line. This alone makes me want to learn more about him.

    Good luck!

  8. I like the setup of a romance in your log line! There are a few things I would alter:

    If the outlaw's sister is Jesse, I would add that name to your log line since she has the opening POV. I would spend less time describing the woods and the cabin and more time describing Jesse and Donovan. I would also remove the line 'there isn't anyone in the territory who doesn't know who he is.' I like how you put Jesse and Donovan at odds immediately. Good luck!

  9. Love this so far. You establish the setting, create a sense of place and time, and introduce conflict and foreboding. Very strong, and I would definitely keep reading. Good luck!

  10. I immediately want to know more about the protagonist and Donavon. I like how we are brought into her world. I'm not much for Old West but I'd read this because of the excellent tight writing.