‘Show Me the Voice’ Blogfest

I could use some help here.
Brenda Drake has a “Show Me Your Voice” Blogfest happening right now. It’s an opportunity to get critiques from fellow bloggers of the opening 250 words of a finished novel, and then submit them for judging. Twenty finalists will be chosen to be judged by agent Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Literary Agency. And there are prizes! Check out Brenda’s blog for all the details.
Here are the basic guidelines from Brenda’s website:
Everyone posts their entries to their own blog now. We get critiques from our followers and the other participants, and when we’ve polished those first 250 words we send them to Brenda at brenleedrake@gmail.com. Or if we don’t need the critiques we can send off our entry now.
All entries submitted before the cut off time will be considered. The first round will be judged by a chosen panel of our peers (agented and unagented). The best 20 entries will be picked and posted on Brenda’s blog by March 24. The 20 entries picked will be judged by Natalie. The winners will be announced on or before Monday, March 28.
It sounds like a fantastic opportunity, so I’m risking hyperventilation and putting my 250 words out here on display. If I convince myself to hit the ‘Publish’ button the excerpt will appear below, waiting for any helpful feedback you’re willing to give between now and Monday evening. You don’t have to be kind. I can take it. 🙂


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Title: Refuge North

Genre: Faith-based Romantic Suspense


The back gate hung open. In the snow between it and the side door of the garage where the dogs slept there were fresh tracks – footprints alongside a strip of tire treads.

“What the–?“

Darcy followed me toward the gate, hesitating and whining at the garage door where the other three dogs waited to be let out for their early morning romp. As the geriatric member of my Doberman Pinscher clan, Darcy was privileged to sleep in my bedroom but the garage doubled as a makeshift kennel for the others. I detoured to close the gate and found the discarded padlock, its dull brass barely visible beneath grey ridges of snow.

I wondered why the dogs hadn’t barked at an intruder, why they were so quiet now. My breathing stuttered to shallow gasps. I remembered last night’s barking… ignoring it because I figured the dogs were complaining about a prowling coyote.

No morning greeting welcomed me as I shoved open the garage door, just silence. When I hit the light switch the glare illuminated the chain-link pens and the three dogs splayed out on the concrete, their gaping jaws frozen in death.

My mind switched into neutral and my body refused to react. No one understood how much these dogs meant to me. They are – were – the only things I ever loved that offered unconditional love in return. I wanted to go into the pens and check out each dog, discover this was a mistake, but my body refused to respond.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Photo from Photostock



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

25 thoughts on “‘Show Me the Voice’ Blogfest

  1. Great job! I laughed, full-on belly laugh at this description: “As the geriatric member of my Doberman Pinscher clan, Darcy was privileged to sleep in my bedroom . . .”

  2. Oh wow, powerful opening. It’s a slow build, but considering you deliver a hell of a payoff in the first 250 words with the discovery of the dogs’ deaths, I think it works. I honestly wouldn’t change anything. Great job and good luck!

  3. Whoa, this made me terribly sad (which means you are doing your job!) very dramatic and powerful. I didn’t catch what genre this was, I’d be curious to know… So sad for your mc. Well done!

  4. I couldn’t find anything to change on this opening other than not killing the dogs. But then you wouldn’t have the story you have so I’ll just console myself that no real dogs were hurt in the creation of your story.

    And of course I’d read on. Good hook.

  5. Sorry to leave everyone in suspense over the genre. Apparently I lost it and the title in the copying and pasting. It’s faith-based romantic suspense… heavier on the suspense aspect.

    I’m a dog lover from way back so starting the story like this was difficult for me, but the rest of the story hinges on this setup. I’m appreciating all your feedback, so thanks for commenting.

  6. Carol, this is a very powerful opening and I want to read more right away!

    Great job, very strong voice and no suggestions (although I took all of yours) but one … keep writing this story 🙂

    The suspense part was obvious … I love romantic suspense because it was N.Roberts trademark years ago and she introduced me to romance novels.

  7. I know so many suggest a throat-grabbing first line. But I agree with Kalen. I like the slow build because of the pay off at the end of your 250 words. It works. One tiny suggestion: I know why you wrote “They are–were…”, but it caused me to stumble for a moment because it interrrupted the flow of the scene you put me in. I was there in the snow with the character, but felt taken out for a brief moment at the deliberate switch in verb tense. But that’s just me.
    Wonderful voice and writing. Good luck with the contest.

  8. Oh wow – right away I was worried that something was wrong with the dogs. As a dog lover, I’m horrified and want to know who could commit such an atrocity. My only suggestion is I don’t know that you want to state so abruptly how much the dogs mean to her. Maybe you could show that emotion in her reaction or use the opportunity to introduce the reason why she has all the dogs.

    That’s a small thing though. It’s a great opening, and I agree with the others that the slow build works!

  9. Oh, man. I would keep reading for sure! All I’d change is that you need to exhibit a little more feeling on that last pp. Did you slump to the floor, did your face and palms go cold, did you scream, faint, throw up? I know you went numb, but there must have been some thoughts and actions added to that. Show me how shocked and appalled you were. This is a horrible moment–help me live it with you!

    Apart from that–great writing. I hope you win a prize!!!!


  10. I’m surprised but gratified by how positive your reactions are. Thank you all for taking time to read and respond, and for the various suggestions. I’m glad to hear them.
    Jen, does it help that the next sentence is, There was no feeling in my fist when I finally stumbled forward and drove it into the wire fencing. “Dammit!”? The 250 words restriction eliminated that.

    1. Good setup and suspense in this opening!

      That additional sentence helped me. (The one that got cut because of the 250 word limitation.) I was thinking along the same lines as Jen and Julie about that paragraph, feeling like I was being “told” what she felt. Personally, I thought the last paragraph might be strengthened if the 2nd and 3rd sentences were removed. That gives you room to add the “dammit!” sentence (Are you going to get away with that in the CBA?! I hope so!) and lessens the possibility of “telling” too much about how much the dogs mean to her.

      One more thing about the last paragraph. “my body refused to react” and “my body refused to respond” are used pretty close together. Deliberate repetition of “my body refused”? I’m not entirely certain that’s totally effective, though that may be me being nitpicky. (I was called nit-picky on my writing review website!)

      Great descriptions:
      the discarded padlock, its dull brass barely visible beneath grey ridges of snow. (good way of working in the setting and conveying the mood at the same time: discarded, dull, grey ridges…great word choices, and I also glimpsed an insight into the narrator’s character. She might feel rather discarded and invisible herself, perhaps?)
      the three dogs splayed out on the concrete, their gaping jaws frozen in death (gruesome and effective)
      As the geriatric member of my Doberman Pinscher clan (love this description of Darcy, especially as I get the sense of how special she is to the narrator)

      Overall, this is really good. Good luck in the contest! I entered, too, though I didn’t bother putting it on my blog. Maybe I should’ve…

  11. Oh no! So creepy, and sad 😦 I felt the tension in this, well done! The one place where I stumbled was on the line “My breathing stuttered to shallow gasps.” <– it just felt a little overwritten. "I gasped." might be better, to keep up the tension in that moment when the MC is realizing that there could have been an intruder, because they did hear barking…

  12. Definitely a gripping opening–I agree that her stating her feelings so baldly might be better shown. Interior dialogue maybe, something more that lets us discover how much they mean to her?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and good luck with the contest!

  13. Oh. My.

    I read faster and faster hoping the dogs were okay. So, of course I’m sad, but more importantly I’m mad and want the m.c. to find the murderer!

    Great set-up!

  14. This is such a striking scene to open with — sure pulls me into the story right away! You’ve got some really great feedback already, but I’ll just add one thing. In the paragraph that begins “I wondered why…”, maybe consider tweaking it to eliminate the “I wondered” and “I remembered”. We know this is the MC’s point of view, so the paragraph might pack more punch without them. (Eg. Why hadn’t the dogs barked?…) Just a thought….

    Good luck! 🙂

  15. Thanks for all the great suggestions! You’re wonderful critters! 🙂 I’ve made several changes and e-mailed it to Brenda, so now it’s wait and wonder time. Despite several proofreadings I still found one misplaced word after I’d sent it off. ::sigh:: I hate it when that happens.

  16. I like the suspense. I was worried for you at the garage door, thinking someone could still be in there. Guess I knew the dogs were dead, though since they weren’t barking, Darcy was whining, and so on. But that doesn’t take away from the story or tension. The second sentence confused me. Couldn’t picture the space readily. Could you just refer to the side of the garage somehow? Can’t wait to see how this goes! Isn’t this fun?

  17. Charity, I’m afraid you’d have to read the whole novel to find out, and to unsnarl several other problems Wes encounters, but I guess keeping you reading is the whole idea, isn’t it?

    Shelley, I’m glad I had you worried, but sorry I confused you with that sentence. I’ll have another look at it, but am not sure how much description I want to add at that point. It’s a fenced back yard with a garage, and a side door which is now lacking its padlock. Any suggestions that will make it clearer without delaying Wes’s approach too much?

  18. Great opening with the demise of the dogs, although I feel that more suspense can be obtained from here.

    “…why the dogs hadn’t barked at an intruder, why they were so quiet now?”

    This would be a much tighter opening line, because it’d segue with the fresh tracks/ footprints.

  19. I’m not part of the blog tour but this looks great. 🙂 I came back from March Madness. I was going to say the same thing as the previous commenter. Start with the dog’s hadn’t barked! It would immediately draw the uh oh and compel the reader to continue.

    I also noticed that you used “to” where you meant “too”. 3rd paragraph, “…I ventured too close to the gate….”

    Good job hitting “publish”.

  20. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Lee Eeleen and Jess. At one point I considered starting with the dogs not barking, but felt maybe, without any other lead-in, the average reader wouldn’t get the significance. Often it’s barking dogs that suggest an intruder rather than silent ones. I’ll have to think about that.

    Jess, I’m a bit confused by your second comment. In the 3rd paragraph all I see is “I detoured to close the gate.” Perhaps you had something else in mind, but I’ll make sure to scrutinize it again. Thanks again.

  21. Thats so true about the barking dogs (think of the Terminator movies, where barking dogs act as a warning throughout all 4 movies…) although no harm to adding an unexpected twist on the normal.. You’re welcome, anytime.

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