Calling All Critiques: Entry #14

This is the final day of 500 word excerpts for Calling All Critiques! Thank you to all who participated – we hope you found the critiques you received useful. Next week we’ll have book covers in need of critiques, so stay tuned!

Don’t forget to enter our raffle to win a $10 Amazon gift card, an eCopy of It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller, and an eCopy of Guarding Angel by S. L. Saboviec. This is your last chance!

And now, on to the final critique.


Author: Robert L. Slater
Genre: YA/Adult Science Fiction

A Deserted Lands novel*.*

LIZZIE SLUNK BETWEEN THE CIRCLES of lights on the snow-scattered streets. The night’s cold bit at her through the layers of clothing she’d added after escaping. Her second day of freedom—slept away in an uncollected house—faded into the past. Happy Belated-f___ing Birthday, Lizzie. Now someone followed her. Or maybe paranoia lied to her again.

Her pace quickened, the baby in her belly kept her core warm, but her fear sent her running. She jogged down the center of the street away from the drifting snow that would give her path away.

Like her feared pursuer, the houses watched her; like hollow ghouls they represented the human deaths, the costs of the pandemic. Her heart twisted at the thought of her own dead. Mama, keep me safe. Jayce, help Mama not be too lonely. Lizzie wished she could hear their voices, see their pictures and videos. But that cell phone had died in the burning car. Stupid. Months later she still kicked herself for her forgetfulness and lack of focus.

A car engine hummed down a nearby street. She slid behind a wooden fence and found a knothole she could use to spy on the car. Good thing she’d hidden—one of The City’s finest. He looked like a cop, not just someone who had become one since the Quieting. That might make him better at his job.

He couldn’t be looking for her. No one should even know she was gone until she didn’t show up for Monday morning chores, cleaning up after breakfast in the cafeteria. Somebody might notice she didn’t show up for breakfast, but breakfast wasn’t mandatory for the preggers. They’d assume she’d prioritized sleep or felt nauseous. She should have had another day. She needed that day. Dammit. The cop stopped at the next intersection and turned a circle inside it, then another and stopped. Was he bored?

The patrol car sat idling. The door opened. Lizzie scanned behind herself, she needed to move. She slipped against the house and worked her way around, eyes peeled and ears open to anything. The car door closed. The engine revved and moved away from her. At the edge of the street, she waited behind another parked car until it turned onto a side street. Then she raced across.

This mission wasn’t what she’d imagined. It should have been easy. The night curfew meant no one on the streets. That was the mistake. No one except her. She needed to get out of the central district and into the suburbs. The viaduct cut across her path. She lowered herself down its incline on her butt. Ice covered the bottom, but she’d be more hidden. Unless, of course, someone had seen her go down and then there was no escape.

She slid along the ice for several blocks, but it slowed her down. She crawled out to streets blown clean of snow. Anger fueled her feet on the bare pavement, she ran, ignoring the mild stitch in her side and the uncomfortable bounce from the extra fat her body was piling up.


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7 Responses to Calling All Critiques: Entry #14

  1. This is a great 500 words! It really pulls me in right away. A pregnant fugitive in the wintertime in some sort of post-disaster world. I like it.

    You may want to put Lizzie’s thoughts in italics to differentiate them from the rest of the text. I had to think for a second about the two sentences that were actually her thinking, which slowed me down. If you don’t want to do italics, you could do single quotation marks.

    I find myself wanting to know more about the whole situation, but especially the police who became such after the Quieting happened. I tend to pick out smaller details that I look forward to seeing the explanation for, and this is one of them. The whole story is very engrossing so far, and I could see myself really getting lost in it. Besides some minor proofreading issues, the way you carefully integrate the past with the current future – as in not hitting us over the head with “this is a different world in these major ways” – is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loved and use as an example of the perfect way to cause suspense. Great job!

  2. raisingdaisy says:

    I really like this piece. It’s a great start for a book – the tension and questions it gives rise to make me want to read more to find out how the Quieting came about, what her “mission” is, and so much more. In fact, the only disappointment I felt was that it ended at 500 words. There are a lot of different types and tones of YA, and I’d classify this one as “intelligent YA”. Very well written.

    My one suggestion would be that it needs some proofreading for minor things like punctuation and italicizing Lizzie’s thoughts so they don’t get confused with the narration. I don’t normally read YA, but I’d definitely be interested in reading this book.

  3. Reblogged this on CHRISTIE STRATOS and commented:

    This is the last 500-word critique, so come on out and participate! Just a a few minutes of your time and a comment to help an indie author improve his Science Fiction work. Thanks in advance!

  4. MM Jaye says:

    That piece was engrossing, indeed. The desolation of a pregnant young girl on the run in difficult weather conditions was palpable. Her resourcefulness makes her instantly likable and admirable. Apart from the italicized parts mentioned above, I did not find anything out of line. Well done!

  5. April says:

    I really enjoyed this piece; it pulls the reader right in! The descriptive language is wonderful and really illustrates Lizzie’s desperation, both internally and from the world around her. I did find that some of the descriptions didn’t fit together though, for example: “Her pace quickened, the baby in her belly kept her core warm, but her fear sent her running.” I completely understand what the intention is there, but those two descriptions seem to not completely fit together. Also, Lizzie’s thoughts are a bit unclear within the paragraphs, I would definitely italicize them. Great work!!!

  6. lvaliquette says:

    Yes, agree with previous comments. This reads well — raises questions that keeps you reading, with action and tension that pulls you along.

  7. Thanks for all the feedback folks. I’m reading all the others and will pay these critiques forward! If you like this, it is the followup to my debut novel, ALL IS SILENCE, which features Lizzie as the pandemic is wiping out most of the planet’s population. Links to purchase print and ebooks are here:

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