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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: SOULLESS

First Impressions: SOULLESS

SoullessOur second submission for First Impressions comes from Crystal Collier, author of Moonless. This is the first page of SOULLESS, MAIDEN OF TIME #2, a YA historical paranormal.

Chapter 1: Predators and Prey

      Alexia’s eyes snapped open, heart thundering.

     Well, she wasn’t dead. Yet.

     Caught somewhere between annoyed and relieved, she settled on grateful—that she’d recovered enough to dream again, even if her nightmares always came true. She could still feel phantom fingers pressed at the back of her skull, crushing her face into the pillow until she ceased to breathe.

     She shuddered.

     Lace curtains scattered shadow creatures across the wood floor, twisting in a late summer breeze from the unlatched balcony door. Specters clawed at the pastel walls, up a bureau, and over a wardrobe of fashionable clothes for seventeen-seventy. Costumes. Façades. Pretensions.

     She sat up in the bed she’d used all eighteen years of her life, the down mattress soft but no longer able to resurrect the comforts it used to inspire. Like her nanny soothing away her fears. Or Father reading to her.

     Father, who slumbered at the other end of the too-empty estate.

     Father, whom she had never expected to see again.

     Father who had begged her to abandon her true heritage.

     In this very bed, she’d witnessed death after death through her night terrors. Alexia had hoped the dreams would cease for good now that she’d discovered the true extent of her gift, the ability to slow or freeze time. But wishing was futile. She’d nearly killed herself by overextending the night their enemies attacked, like using a muscle until it was destroyed, but she must be making progress in her recovery if the dreams had resumed.

     And now she was going to die.

 I love the description of the scattered shadows created by the lace curtains as creatures and specters. The vilification of those dancing shadows in an otherwise pleasantly described room creates a wonderful contrast of light and dark. I would prefer to see the date in numerals, but you’ll have to stick to whatever format you used in Book 1. (And I’m probably wrong on that anyway. Copyeditors always want to change all the numbers in my books to words: dates, times, addresses, etc. I don’t always win on keeping them numerals.)

I think there are a decent number of reminders of what came before mixed in with what’s happening to Alexia now. I get that she is recovering from the events in the climax of the last book and that dreams of death are returning to her. It’s an unpleasant gift she’s always had, which temporarily went away while she was weak, but which has returned with her strength. Thus her mixed reaction to it. I notice fear doesn’t seem to be one of the emotions, which is interesting. Dreams of death don’t scare her anymore?

But I’m confused by the final line on the page. Did she dream of her own death this time? In which case, fear and dread ought to be the dominant emotions in this scene. Not gratitude, annoyance, or relief.

Obviously, I don’t know where you’re going with this, but my first impression is that she dreamed of her own death – and her dreams always come true – but she’s not very upset, which leaves me confused about the conflict/tension. Readers, what do you think?

Crystal, thanks for sharing your first page with us! Please check out Marcy’s critique on this same page at Mainewords. You can find Crystal at her blog, and her book Moonless here!

 We did not have a third submission for June, so I’ll see you next week on Monday!

13 Responses to First Impressions: SOULLESS

  1. Elise Fallson says:

    I remember reading this first page a while back, I liked it then and I like it now. I think Crystal does a great job hooking the reader and the questions you raise, makes me want to turn the page to find out more. I have to say, Dianne, I’m really liking your first impressions feature and I’m looking forward to reading more. 🙂

  2. Southpaw says:

    I liked it. For me, there was a sadness about it. She dreamed of her death, then remembered how things use to be good and bad, and now she knows stuff but it’s not gonna help.

  3. Julie Dao says:

    This is such a great, atmospheric opening. And I love that there’s a hook right in the second sentence, making me wonder why she would be dead, and why she thinks she might be. I also love the repetition of “Father.” There’s a poetry to it. Nice!

  4. Well check out your new threads! Liking the new site, Dianne! I still need to pick up Crystal’s book. 🙂

  5. I thought the piece had great voice. I could really hear the character.

  6. Dianne! Thank you so much for having me today. You are rocktastic and your critique is fabuloso.

  7. I really enjoyed it. The descriptions are amazing. Lol! No ‘could be better’ comments from me 😉

  8. Steven Symes says:

    I commented on Marcy’s blog as well, but I can see how you could be confused about the dream of her own death. It’s a good start to the book, but working out that detail and a few others would tighten it up just enough.

  9. Tonja says:

    I agree with what you said. And I would lose this line: “Caught somewhere between annoyed and relieved, she settled on grateful—that.” I think the sentence is stronger if it starts with the next word after “that.”

    I was confused by the character’s emotional state too – maybe better if you don’t say what her state is and let them guess based on the other things going on.

  10. Beautiful writing! And I agree with Dianne. I think the only thing that stopped me was the emotional state. I needed to see her reaction to seeing her own death. Especially if her dreams always come true! (Which by the way adds great tension!) I think that would trump the “at least I’m dreaming again” thing. Because wow, what an awful way to get her powers back (and of course makes an awesome storyline)!

    Best of luck with this!

  11. It definitely grabs you from the start!

  12. Wow, this is really an excellent start. I, too, especially appreciate the description of the shadowy images created by the lacy curtains blowing in the breeze. Nice!

    I think the third paragraph might be more powerful if the first sentence were eliminated altogether. Then after the remaining sentence, there could be something about her other nightmares coming true.

    Good stuff! I’d definitely keep reading.