Thursday, April 26, 2012


                                          The First Five Pages Critique- Part II
Becky Martinez and Sue Viders

Last week Sue Viders did Part I of Kimberly Packard's critique and this week Becky Martinez does Part II of the critique.

Becky Martinez is an award-winning former broadcast journalist and published author. Her newest romantic suspense novella, Shadows from the Past, a modern gothic, will soon be released by The Wild Rose Press. Her suspense, Deadly Messages was also published by TWRO and was an Aspen Gold finalist. 

She was also one of the co-authors of Ten Steps to Creating Memorable Characters, a workbook for writers. For the past six years she has been teaching writing classes, both online and in person. She lives in Littleton, Co. 

Chapter 1
            The acid shot up from David Stephen’s stomach so quickly he barely had time to pull his government issued (not necessary here and slows things down) truck off the road and sprint across the hot asphalt.  As he heaved the last bits of tequila mixed with coffee and eggs, he reminded himself not to reach out for the spindly ocotillo beside him.  He made that mistake the first time he found himself hungover in the desert.and delete and add He’d pulled thorns out of his palm for days.  The coarse hair of his beard scraped against the back of his palm as he swiped away any remnants. 
            When the wave of nausea passed, David took a moment to walk the desert floor. (this makes it sound like he is getting back into the truck right here and you show him doing it in the next paragraph where it works better)  Not that he really looked for drug runners, he wanted to look like he had a legitimate reason for the sudden stop and sprint from his truck in case another Border Patrol agent saw him. 
            “Shit,” he cursed as he walked back to his truck.  It wasn’t mid-morning yet and the heat rose from the ground in watery waves.  David knew better than to blast his truck’s air conditioning.  Being acclimated to the heat would prevent that all-too-familiar floaty, light-headed feeling the next time he stepped outside.  But he didn’t care and zipped the switch on his console to high.  He took a swig of warm Gatorade. Tthe syrupy liquid curdled in his stomach forcing David to swallow the rising acid. 
            (new paragraph) “I can’t do this anymore.  It’s not worth it.” He hoped saying those words aloud changed what he was thinking.  It really is worth it, he thought as he put his truck into drive (not necessary if you use italics on his thoughts)It’s worth it to spend a few precious hours blissfully unaware that the last year happened.  It’s worth the hangovers to not see her face when I go to sleep.  It’s worth the blinding headaches to forget what I did to Shiloh. But it's also the only way he can  But it was also the only way he could  (watch tenses here -- present tense if he is directly thinking which is italiczed but once you go back out of his thoughts, you need to go to back to past tense) remember the smell of her hair, the way her smile lit up her whole face and the feel of her body next to his.  Drinking was the only way he could both forget Shiloh and remember Mandy. 
            David pulled back onto the highway without checking behind him.  No one ever came down this stretch of road in far south Texas.  Unaware tourists crashing through a herd of javelina at night, not other drivers, caused most car accidents.  As he continued south, he tried to see his surroundings as the thousands of tourists did who flocked to the national park.  The pancake-flat ground swelled to a towering rock formation only to deflate back to the stark earth and then rise again to a mountain, like ocean waves coming to shore. 
            He pulled onto an unmarked dirt road and parked in a makeshift lot on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande.  The hazy layer cake of the Sierra de Carmen mountain range blocked his view too far into Mexico.  Movement on the riverbank caught his eye and he began to make his way down a rocky footpath. 
            “Hola, Fernando,” David called out to a man on horseback who led a small herd of cattle down to the river for a drink.  Como esta?” 
            “Good morning, Dah-veed,” the man answered in heavily accented English.  He walked guided  his horse to the opposite bank and reached down to shake David’s hand.  The horse wanted to come out of the water, but Fernando held him steady, keeping him from crossing into Texas.  “I’m good, friend, how are you?”
            David nodded his answer.  “Not bad.  Going to be another hot one today.”  The late summer heat wave dotted his shirt with perspiration before the sun barely made it over the mountains in the east. 
            Fernando laughed.  “My friend, it’s going to be a hot one for many more months.”
            “How are things?  Quiet?”  Since joining the U.S. Border Patrol nearly a year ago he threw himself into his job often working six or seven days straight.  Most of the violence was along the border to the west or further to the east, but David knew it was only a matter of time before it spilled into his little corner of the state.  His job was to protect the U.S. citizens from the Mexican drug lords, but he also felt a responsibility to his Mexican neighbors, those trying to get by in the harsh environment, both political and natural. (as a Border Patrol agent, wouldn’t he also be watching for illegal immigrants trying to cross into the US?)
            “Yes, quiet,” Fernando glanced behind him.  David wondered if the man consciously made that gesture or if it was from years of having to look over his shoulder for the drug lords. 
            David nodded, torn between relief and disappointment.  When he took the job, he requested to be stationed in El Paso, just north of the epicenter of much of the conflict between the U.S. Border Patrol and the drug cartels and where he thought he would find Mandy.  But, despite his years as a police officer, a degree in criminal justice, and a glowing, if not overdone, recommendation from the Phoenix Police Chief, he was assigned to Brewster County, his supervisor citing his lack of experience in border relations and the fact that an old football injury rendered him incapable of running without a heavy knee brace.  If I was in El Paso, I would have a better chance of finding Mandy or getting shotOr, both
            “You haven’t asked about the girl,” Fernando said, shaking David from his thoughts.  “Did you find her?”
            “No, not yet,” his jaw tightened as if he sucked on a post-tequila shot lime.
            “You give up on her?  Because, we have many pretty senoritas in my village.”
            David smiled at the thought of Fernando setting up a blind date for him.  “How’s Carlos?”
            Fernando’s eyes lit up at the sound of his son’s name.  “He’s good.  This week he announced he is going to become un doctór when he grows up.”
            A whirring engine overhead interrupted their conversation.  Both men looked up at the cloudless blue sky, but knew they wouldn’t be able to see the drone above them.  Fernando backed up the horse and a whistle indicated to the dogs to get the cattle back to the Mexican shore.  The man had nothing to worry about since he was with a Border Patrol agent, but David knew his friend took every precaution to keep himself out of trouble. 
            “I must move on, my friend,” Fernando said and turned his horse around in the water. 
            “You call me if you need anything, you hear,” David shouted to the man’s back. 
            Fernando answered with a wave. 

This gets off to a good start. We get a picture of our hero and a foreshadowing of his problem. I think though that as a border agent he would be watching for illegal agents or if he is only looking for drug dealers you might still at least mention the illegal problem because it is so well known that it makes the reader wonder why you don’t . )
If this critique is of value to you, please leave a comment for Becky.


George said...

Becky--thank you for cluing me into to being a closer reader and a better commenter.

Laine said...

As someone who critiques on a regular basis, this shows exactly how to do it. Thanks for a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Becky, I really appreciate you taking time to review and critique my work! This is so valuable as I begin the task of editing and re-writing.

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