Tsar Bomb First Page (Fall First Page Blog Hop)

November 12, 2014 Writing Comments (9) 1313

This is a bit unusual for me, folks, but Michelle Hauck is hosting a critique blog hop at her site. It’s a neat idea (thanks, Michelle!) and I’ve decided to participate–so here’s the first page of the book I’m pitching, Tsar Bomb, an adult paranormal thriller.

If you’ve happened here from somewhere other than the blog hop, please feel free to post your review in the comments!

Preston reached for his toes and tried to ignore the pain in his back. He stood and pulled his right foot up toward his bottom, squeezing his white running shoe in one hand. The bulge of his belly peeked out beneath his tee-shirt, and Preston looked to make sure he was alone. He stretched the other leg, shook them both, and then bounced on his feet.

The day was going to be a scorcher, just like yesterday and the day before. The morning air still smelled like rain, though the sun had burned away the clouds and now pressed his skin like a hot iron. The street was a fresh asphalt ribbon. Preston lurched forward into a run.

His back flared immediately. Ignore it, he thought. The doctors said you can do this. His stomach was next to complain, and it was more persuasive, sending up a warning shot of morning coffee and stale beer. He’d run through hangovers. Once upon a time, he’d run through anything. But that was before.

He told himself to stop thinking, that it hadn’t been that long ago. A stitch settled in his left side like a dagger. His calves were tight as fists. He hadn’t made it three blocks yet.

Then again, how could anyone tell? There weren’t actual blocks in Florida, just street and trees and grassand the canal, of course. Preston wondered if there were alligators that morning, and whether an alligator would eat a jogger.

9 Responses to :
Tsar Bomb First Page (Fall First Page Blog Hop)

  1. Andie says:

    I really enjoyed this entry! The pacing is right and I’d read on to find out why he’s in pain. I was also immediately drawn into the story with the vivid imagery. The last part about the alligator eating joggers felt a bit disconnected for me in terms of voice, but it’s still so early in the story to know for sure.

    Great work!

  2. nikolavukoja says:

    I agree that the imagery is good and I could see your street and your MC’s back pain. Given I’ve never been the the US, I know you did a good job creating an image as I had nothing to compare it to yet saw it clearly.

    I liked the alligator comment. For me, that was my favourite part, and here’s why. Although the imagery was (is) great, its not compelling (for me at least), its about some guy thinking about back-pain and going for a jog. As this is a thriller I kind of want to feel the first tingle of a potential threat. Also, the first 200-odd words, again while written well, are all back-story and give me no real voice where as the alligator comment is present, active and has voice (at least for me).

    I’m not suggesting deleting the first bit but perhaps moving it further on and maybe starting with something like:

    “There weren’t actual blocks in Florida, just street and trees and grass—and the canal, of course. Preston wondered if there were alligators that morning, and whether an alligator would eat a jogger…”
    and then, in that same voice, maybe mention his back pain and/or make a joke (if he’s on medication for example) about the alligator that ate him would be stoned on (whatever Preston is taking) — or some other comment that shows Preston’s personality and helps us connect with him.

    And from there, start to introduce the first specks of danger, or of the thriller or of the threat. The rest that you’ve got can come later, once your captured your reader they are much more forgiving and in fact WANT to know some back-story, but you have to hook them first 🙂

  3. Michelle says:

    I agree with the first comment that the last paragraph might be a better first paragraph. And it would immediately tell us he’s jogging. The problem with the first paragraph as it stands is that it’s a bit detailed and directional, and I just was him to get running already. We don’t need the anticipation of him getting his shoes on, etc. Maybe trim that down to 1-2 short sentences before “he lurched into a run.”

    The rest of it sounds great. I like the paragraph where his back pain flares up and he talks about the hangover. It makes me want to know why this is different and where the pain’s coming from — but in a curious way, not frustrated because I don’t know on the first page. I am curious about where the paranormal aspect comes into play. Does it have anything to do with his back pain or is this something that develops later?

    Not my normal genre to read, but I’d definitely read on to see what happens. 🙂

  4. sherryhoward says:

    The sentence that grabbed my attention: But that was before. I would read on from this first page, but…. There’s always a but. You write so beautifully, with lots of great descriptive sentences here, but I’m wondering, like some of the others, if more impatient readers might want more in 250. We’ve met our protagonist, know there was a before, learned he was out of shape with a bad back, lives in Florida, and could have a drinking problem. That’s a huge amount to fit into 250. So maybe losing just one or two descriptive sentences and adding one or two hints at the paranormal angle could work to your advantage. This isn’t my genre, so I’m just speaking as a reader. All in all, I think you have great writing skills!

  5. Chelle Pike says:

    I agree with other comments that the last paragraph feels the strongest to me. The description here is really good and it gives me ideas about who the mc is, but I’m not getting pulled in because I get no sense of what comes next.

    I think the thing that’s missing here is tension and wonder if you could start further along in the narrative and then weave some of the beginning description into the story once were hooked.

    Also, as far as genre elements, I know this is just the first 250, but I wanted a hint or two that there is something otherworldly going on. With the hint you give about there being a before, I’m wondering what happened before and think maybe instead of making it an aside comment, you could fill the reader in on some important detail.

    Just suggestions, of course. Hope it helps.

  6. emilygmoorewriter says:

    I agree with some of the other commenters: your descriptions are beautiful but don’t pull me into the story. I was confused as to why his belly showing would make him look to see if he was alone. And why would he want to be alone? Why would he be alone?

    The mentions of pain did pull me in. I wondered how he’d been injured and wanted him to get better, or to accomplish his running goal.

    The last paragraph really upped the voice, and made me smile.

    I also wanted a less subtle hint or two about the paranormal part of this thriller. It isn’t my normal reading genre, but if this was cleaned up and focused a bit more, I think I’d read on.

    Hope this helps!

  7. pinguicha says:

    For one, I did get the part about him looking to make sure he was alone when the belly peeked from under the shirt, because I used to to the same at the gym (even at home, fucking reflexes) to make sure no one was spying on my bit of flab. I think it’s a great detail to show embarrassment at said fatty parts.

    Nitpicking-wise, I’d say “His stomach complained next” instead of “His stomach was next to complain”, to make the sentence more active. But overall, I like it. I can see that Preston was fit once (or semi-fit, at leas) and that he’s trying to get back to it despite the pain, and the descriptions show that well.

    So it is compelling to me, because I got those impressions, and it’s a situation a lot of people can relate to.

  8. mjtierney1 says:

    The last paragraph adds a touch of humor (I chuckled thinking about similar neighborhoods I’ve driven through.) and bit of excitement with the potential danger of the alligator. (Also, would or could eat? Slightly different meanings…) But I like the order as written as I got caught up following his thought process as he got ready, then set out on his run. I could see myself thinking the same thoughts.

    But I kind of agree with those that wonder about the lack of mention of any paranormality (if that’s a word…). Maybe it comes up soon after word #250. In that case, I think that’s fine. I don’t read the paranormal genre, but I’m patient enough to keep reading a bit further to find out what’s his deal.

  9. Your descriptions are great, especially the bit about him pulling his leg up. I’m terrible at describing body movements and am always impressed when I see others do it well. I typically don’t read adult paranormal, and I kinda like that the first 250 are so ordinary, but the paranormal better be in the first chapter otherwise I wouldn’t read it. At the same time, this might be too normal. I like the flashes of the back story–how he could do this before, how he’s a little hungover, how he’s conscious of his stomach peeking out. The bit about the alligators is a nice touch and is a nice way to give me a setting without being over bearing about it. I don’t like the part about calling the road or whatever he’s running on being an asphalt ribbon. I feel like I’ve read that a hundred times before. I am intrigued to know about his before and what hurt his back. Did it require surgery? Definitely required doctors involved as those are mentioned. I’m not super hooked by the first sentence, but I’m also a bit of an inpatient reader. 🙂

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