Here's the first 400 words from Secrets in the Shadows, by T.L. Haddix.
As dawn reached its fingers out over the Midwest, the sun creating pink trails that stretched toward the rivers and fields, the woman’s sleep was disturbed by haunting images of quiet violence. The dream started innocuously enough, as she was walking through a sunlit meadow, the warm summer breezes gently teasing her hair away from her face. As she turned her face toward the sky, eyes closed against the glare of the sun, a sudden chill coursed across her skin, and a shadow fell across her face. Opening her eyes, she was startled to see that ugly black clouds had covered the sky from horizon to horizon, roiling, churning things, filled with a malevolence she could sense in her core.
I like the author’s writing style. The descriptions are poetic, and yet I don’t feel like they’re overwritten. The thing that I would warn against is beginning with a dream. I know I’ve already covered that. If you didn’t read my other post about it, here’s the recap. Starting with a dream is done a lot. And I mean a lot. This is the fourth book in my Hook Victorine that has started with a dream. So, just be aware it’s done quite a bit. I won’t mention it again, I’ll go on and let you know if I’m hooked based on the premise of the story.
I also feel distanced from the character, in this narrated point of view. I’d rather be in her point of view, know her name, and feel what she feels. This is something else I see a lot, and I personally dislike it. However, this is just my opinion, so you might find others who really like that distanced point of view in the beginning.
Turning, she ran toward the house, the place that had always been a safe haven. As she reached the worn steps, she stopped, hesitating and confused. A growing sense of unease was moving through her, telling her to not open the door, to not go in the house. Unable to stop her body, she watched as she raised her hand and opened the door, stepping over the threshold and into the gloomy darkness.
I would suggest a little bit of tweaking here. “A growing sense of unease was moving through her,” I would change to “A growing sense of unease moved through her.” I am curious as to why she’s feeling this unease. I’ll read on to see what happens.
Suddenly, as dreams often do, she was in another place, but still aware of the growing storm outside the windows, as well as of the fear that was growing inside her body.
Just a nit pick here, but earlier she had a growing sense of unease, and how the storm is growing and the fear is growing. I might suggest a rewording, it just jumped out at me. As far as the story goes, I like the sense of fear, and I’m wondering what is going to happen next.
It was night, and the lightning was flashing, but all she could hear was her heartbeat and the sound of her own breathing.
Another nit pick. Instead of saying “It was night,” I would show that it’s night by describing the dark. Also, the lightning was flashing is passive, I would make it more active. Here’s what I would do to tweak it: “The lightning flashed across the pitch black sky, but all she heard was her heartbeat and the sound of her own breathing.”
Her pulse was racing, pounding in her ears, and her breath was sawing in and out of her lungs as though she had run for miles.
Her pulse raced, pounding in her ears. I’ll stop taking out the passive ‘was’ phrases, I’m starting to annoy myself. I’m picking at nits. I’ll keep reading and let you know if I’m hooked.
As she looked around her, she discovered that she was standing in her own room, now faded and gray, the surfaces covered in dust. Staring at the bed, she realized there was someone in it, cowering under the covers. She could see the bedspread shaking with tremors, and she knew that whoever the person was in the bed, they were terrified. A dim light slowly grew across the bed, light from the hall that was quickly extinguished as whoever had entered her room closed the door rapidly behind them.
I don’t think I like someone coming in the bedroom at night. I think this might be a predator of some sort. It gives me a very creepy feeling. If this is what the author is going for, they’re doing a great job.
As her breathing and pulse quieted down, she was finally able to hear the sounds outside her body, and as she listened, heavy boot steps made their way across the room from the door.
Yep, I don’t like the guy with the boots. Okay, here’s my assessment. I would keep reading to see if they creepy guy was going to kill the person shaking in their bed. If this turns out to be a story about the molestation of a child, I wouldn’t continue to read. That’s just my personal preference though. I don’t like to read about horrible things happening to children. But on the upswing, I do think the author has done a good job with creating a creepy mood for this book.
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