Friday, November 28, 2014

(20) Post-Apocalypse Romance: THE BEAUTIFUL EARTH

TITLE: The Beautiful Earth
GENRE: Post-Apocalypse Romance

Lily Monroe is carrying what may be the world’s last unborn child after a plague leaves survivors nearly sterile. Cash Walker can lead her to a safe haven on a Louisiana plantation, but Lily wants more than a guide. Now she faces both a gang intent on stealing her child and the dangers of falling in love with Cash, a man tortured by his past and determined to survive the only way he knows how: alone.

Lily could have sworn she’d seen a light. Impossible, of course, because there were no lights. Not anymore.

Lily propped the shotgun on the windowsill, the barrel glistening in the moonlight as Sasha’s deep-throated growl rumbled like distant thunder. She slid one hand under the Dane’s collar and the other down the gun, resting her finger against the trigger as she scanned the yard. Raccoons and coyotes had been marauding since the power grid failed, but last night, two bears tussled over the garbage can. Smoky Mountain black bears might be docile compared to Grizzlies, but they were still powerful enough to be dangerous. Even with a dog and a gun, Lily opted for keeping a low profile.

She slung an arm around Sasha’s neck, partly to keep the dog quiet, partly to remind herself she wasn’t alone. The muffled sound of Garrett’s snoring drifted down the hall, but outside, the darkness was primordial: no blaze of street lamps, no passing headlights, no city glow on the horizon. Nothing broke through the night but the light of a slivered moon and the twinkling of a million stars.

The houses along the street stood as silent as the death each hid within its walls. Old Mrs. Goodard next door, the honeymooners two cabins down, the frat boys on summer break. Gone, all of them, and the little city in the valley below as quiet tonight as it had been for the last three weeks, since the world collapsed around them.


  1. I really like the way we learn about the world of this novel as the narrative unfolds. There's no useless exposition here. We end the first paragraph knowing something bad has happened to society. By the end of the second and third paragraphs, we have started to understand the dangers inherent in this new world. And by the end of the fourth paragraphs, we have a sense of the extreme scope of that disaster.

    Likewise, I appreciate the way we learn about Lily. We see what kind of person she is, rather than being told. Really nicely done.

  2. Excellent! Such interesting writing. I want to read more. My only small suggestion is that I want to know who is snoring. Rather than making me curious, it irritated me not to know. Adding just a couple of words would fix that. But it is only a small thing. Well done!

  3. I agree with the previous comment about Garrett snoring. Because the summary indicates romance between Lily and Cash, various distracting and somewhat irritating questions are raised by the thought that Garrett may be her husband or lover, the father of her unborn baby. If that is indeed the case, then the same questions would be raised, but if it is not then they would be avoided. But reading this small portion of the book definitely makes me want to read the whole thing.

  4. Love, love, love this premise! Intrigued from the start. The opening sentence is great, the world-building perfect. I really liked everything about this. The only thing that threw me off was Garret. I also think because of the premise and the first paragraph, I pictured her being completely alone in this scene. So the mention of Garret, who we don't know if it's a husband, boyfriend or brother, was a bit distracting. Aside from that, everything about this was great! Good luck.

    1. I disagree with the comments about Garret's presence. This is simply the first page of the novel. We don't need (and shouldn't want) all the information upfront. The writing here is strong because it unfolds in a logical way. There's are few things worse in fiction writing than data dumps and unnecessary exposition. As readers we trust we will find out about Garret shortly. If we don't learn anything more about Garret after the first chapter, then that's a problem. We are essentially in this character's head. The narrative is being filtered through her awareness. Even a few expository adjectives would ruin that reality.

  5. I agree with other commenters that you've given us a clear picture of the disaster in prose that shows without telling and unfolds naturally paragraph by paragraph. I especially love what you're doing with light, i.e., the lack of it in various forms that we normally take for granted. Along with the synopsis, we fully understand the scope of the devastation and what is at stake here.

    This may be weird and utterly idiosyncratic, but details from the fourth paragraph are sticking with me in the reading, and in a rather unpleasant way. Consider this: " silent as the death each hid within its walls. Old Mrs. Goodard next door...frat boys on summer break." I love the phrase, "as silent as the death," which is evocative. However, my subsequent thought is how does Lily know these people are dead in their houses? (Perhaps you're writing in an omniscient POV. I couldn't tell for sure from the excerpt.) My second thought, given the phrase "...for the last three weeks...," is Ohmigod, the smell must be horrific! I'm not sure what this comment signifies or that it should result in any changes here, but it's a strong reaction I can't shake. I thought you should know, for what it's worth. Good luck!

  6. I loved the language in these opening pages: shows a writer who really cares for details and yet can be sparing and ultra efficient with words. I especially liked how you described something by what it is not, or by what it doesn't have.

    My only concern is that the premise is awfully close to that popular movie, Children of Men. This may not matter, but it did come to mind, at least in the way the pitch was presented. I am sure that yours is original and different, but it might be a good idea to perhaps insert more in the pitch that would highlight those differences.

    Excellent writing. Good luck to you.

  7. I was lucky enough to be a critique partner for this manuscript. Be assured, this manuscript is very different than Children of Men.

  8. Intriguing start. I love the language with light and darkness. I also like a heroine who knows how to handle a gun. Definitely want to read more.

  9. Well done, I want to know more!

  10. I like the premise, I like the opening, and I think your atmosphere is excellent. Only one suggestion, the line "Even with a dog and a gun" might be a little smoother if it finished "opted to keep..." instead of "opted for keeping."

    Good job and best of luck!

  11. I like the first paragraph a lot. It set the mood and told me a lot about the condition of the world.

    I got a little tripped up on some of the details--if she has a hand under Sasha's collar and she's holding the gun in the other, how did she fling her arm around Sasha's neck? And were the houses along the street part of the little city in the valley below, or was this another place, somehow separated, a rural community perhaps?

    This line also took me out of the story: "The houses along the street stood as silent as the death each hid within its walls." Part of this was my misreading it because I thought it was the houses (subject) that were hidden with the walls (you can see why I was confused). But even after I realized what the sentence actually said, I wasn't sure all those people that came next were dead. I thought it was possible they had gone, because of the line that says, Gone, all of them.

    Still, I think there's promise for this to be an intriguing love story. I've read another series with this "plague makes women infertile" premise, and it was interesting.

  12. I also enjoyed reading this opening. The language is melodic and the word-pictures are crisp and clear.

    But two inconsistencies caught my attention: how can one be "nearly sterile"? Did you mean that nearly all survivors are sterile? Secondly, why would Lily have to remind herself she's not alone if someone's snoring down the hall? This inherent contradiction is all that keeps me from giving this an A+.

    Beat of luck!

  13. This hits the sweet spot for me. I'm a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic read, and the imagery here is just lovely.

    I wasn't tripped up by the presence of Garrett and the lack of explanation about who he is; in fact, the question of his identity made me want to keep reading to find out. I already assume, from your logline, that Cash isn't the father of Lily's baby, so the presence of another man (whether that's a husband, boyfriend, or just another family member) doesn't pull me out of the scene in the slightest.

    I did question the use of the term "nearly sterile" in the logline, but honestly, the logline fell by the wayside once I started reading the scene.

    I would definitely read more of this. Best of luck to you in the auction!

  14. Interesting premise, there is a lot of ways you can go with post apocalyptic stories.

    I think there is too much telling, and not enough showing. Maybe some (inner) dialogue could help?

  15. This is a very intriguing first page and a well-written one.

    I think your logline saps the energy from what should be high stakes when it says "what may be the world's last unborn child" and "nearly sterile." You need to commit to your premise: it is the last unborn child and survivors are sterile.

    My first thought was how similar the storyline is to The Children of Men, but in that book the world had been sterile for something like 25 years, and the last generation were treated like royalty. So this one is different. It will be interesting to read a scenario about a recent apocalypse rather that one that's spent a couple of decades recovering.

    Great details and strong writing.

    Good luck!

  16. The one thing that stands out for me? I actually feel darkness and fear as other characters. I love that. Well done. I want to read more.

  17. The post-apocalyptic genre always grabs my attention, but it's good writing that keeps it. This one had me wanting more. Like other comments before, I like the "houses along the street stood as silent as the death each hid within its walls." I'm curious to hear how this one pans out.

  18. Post-Apoc already pregnant romance is intriguing. I had an issue thinking there were two dogs in the first chapter. That tripped me up so I had to read it twice. I like this. Surprised you did not get a bid. You don't see this type of romance every day.