dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Our third and final First Impression for the month of October is a YA Urban Fantasy called KNIGHTS OF AVALON by Melissa Barlow.

A fencing champion destined for the Olympics, a martial arts prodigy, an organizer for Habitat for Humanity. Someone was murdering the brightest, most brilliant teens in New Jersey. Now in the middle of the night, the persistent ringing of my cell phone broke me out of my sleep.

I scrambled to get my bearings in the darkness. I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much. Through bleary eyes, I could see the alarm clock shining 3:11 back at me. I froze, shaking off the last remnants of sleep. Why would someone be calling at 3am? I peered at the phone, trying to place the number. Then I took a deep breath and picked up. “Hello?”

“Hi, Justine. I’m sorry to be calling so late.” I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line, it was my best friend’s Mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this. “Gwen’s not with you, is she?”

My mouth dropped, the question a punch to the gut. Three in the morning on a school night. A murderer on the loose, cutting down the best kids in the state. And Gwen? She was the most incredible person I had ever met. She had an inner light, a compassion that shone like a beacon, and now she was missing.

“No,” I said, my mind racing with possibilities, each one more horrible than the last. “Why would she be?” I was jumping to conclusions, I told myself, even as my pulse pounded. I had to hear Mrs. Martinez out, let her explain what was going on. But Gwen was a straight A student. She was going to be a heart surgeon and work for Doctors Without Borders one day. There had always been something different about her. She was like the other victims. Special.
Okay, wow. This is an opening that grabs your attention!

I like Justine’s voice. It’s got a sharp, clean feel to it, and I can connect with it. Now, I have no problem with your character using sentence fragments to emphasize her points – I do it all the time. But if you’re going to open the story with a sentence fragment, I suggest restructuring the first paragraph so that readers know it’s done on purpose. How about a list?

A fencing champion destined for the Olympics.
A martial arts prodigy.
An organizer for Habitat for Humanity.


Someone was murdering the brightest, most brilliant teens in New Jersey. Now in the middle of the night, the persistent ringing of my cell phone broke me out of my sleep.

The only other comment I have is that you have two comma splices:

I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much.

I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line, it was my best friend’s Mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this.

For the first one, you could use a semi-colon in place of the comma. But on the second one, I think it would look better if you just used a period and started a new sentence after the word “line.”

Other than that, I have no suggestions! I would definitely turn the page to learn more. I’m kind of disappointed the sample ended here!

Be sure to head over to Mainewords to read Marcy’s critique of this passage, and pop over to say hello to Melissa at her blog, Surviving Writing a Book.