Welcome, May! (Summer vacation is coming — I can feel it on the horizon … yippee!)

Today, I’m bringing you a First Impression from Alicia Willette-Cook – a steampunk novel titled THE KEY COLLECTIVE.

 She found the key under his bed.  Not that she was looking.  She didn’t even know the guy. Why would she be looking under his bed, for crying out loud.  Assignations are odd like that.  One minute you’re locked in the most intimate of embraces, the next you’re crawling around on his floor, ass in the air, looking for your sock.  Instead you find this key. It was just a key.  Nothing special about it.  But when her fingers touched it she automatically grasped it, glanced over her shoulder and hid it in her fist like a child sneaking away with stolen candy.
           Twenty minutes, money exchanged, and an awkward hug/cheek kiss good-bye she was finally able to get a good look at her stolen treasure. She leaned against a battered guard rail under a flickering florescent light in the building’s basement parking garage, and slowly unfurled her tightly clasped fist.
           The weird pinkish yellow light seemed to be absorbed by the thick brass key cupped in her hand, giving it an odd greenish color.  It was about three inches long, fairly freshly cut, or rather, not used much. She felt the raw edges scrape over her callused fingertips as she twisted it around and around.  There weren’t any distinguishing markings on it but she couldn’t seem to put it away, turning it over and over in her chilled fingers. Anoria raked her long, tangled hair out of her eyes and hunched her shoulders deeper into her threadbare navy pea coat.  Idly, her fingers twisted the key around again, rubbing it between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand. What was that groove in the head? She brought the key closer to her eyes, moving directly under the unsteady light.
           In the pocket of her coat her cell buzzed. Startled, she jumped and almost dropped the key on the damp pavement.  “Goddamn it!” She muttered halfheartedly, “What the hell can you possibly want at this time of night, Braedon?” She shoved the key deep in her pocket and wrenched the phone out, flipping it open. Text message.  Sender Blocked.  “What the hell…?”  Curious, she hit the open key.  Two words blipped onto the screen.

Look Up.  
Well this was an interesting beginning! At first I thought this was a one night stand, but then payment is casually mentioned, making the situation very different. Ahem. Interesting indeed. I definitely want to know more about Anoria!
I think my biggest overall comment is that a lot of words could be trimmed. Personally, I am a big over-writer.  I flood my first drafts with multiple adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases – not to mention entire sentences and paragraphs that don’t need to be there. Then I spend the next 3-4 drafts taking them out.
This narration would be more effective with less words, I think. For example, when Anoria stops to examine the key in the garage, I suggest focusing more on the key and less on her gestures and description of her hair and clothing. Whenever you use more than one adjective, consider if you really need all of them. Does it have to be a threadbare navy pea coat? Could threadbare or navy be dropped? Although you want the reader to visualize the scene, you want to hook them with the action more.
I liked this sentence in the first paragraph: One minute you’re locked in the most intimate of embraces, the next you’re crawling around on his floor, ass in the air, looking for your sock.  But I would be careful about slipping into second person. It could be re-written as: One minute she was locked in the most intimate of embraces, the next she was crawling around on his floor, ass in the air, looking for her sock.
Overall, I was intrigued by this first page – the situation, the voice, the character – and definitely the text message!  Who wouldn’t turn the page after that?
Thanks for sharing, Alicia! You can read Marcy Hatch’s critique of this same page at Mainewords, and be sure to say hello to Alicia at her blog Saffron Wine.

Photo by Patrick Callaghan