First Page Feedback – Murder Most Unusual

Ooh, a great title and compelling opening! 🙂 Thanks, Michelle Somers (@msomerswriter), for an exciting start to the day!

They make it look so easy in books. Murder the victim, move the body.

Stacey Holland adjusted her grip. Puffing the hair from her eyes, she squinted through the vast darkness. She could have been curled up on the couch right now, a good book in  one hand and hot triple chocolate and marshmallows in the other. Instead, she was freezing her buns off in the cold, making a name for herself.

Cold plastic dug into her palm. Damn, she hated when her mother was right. Fame wasn’t won from back row seats. You had to get out there and get dirty.

She scrunched her nose and felt the crack of dry mud on her skin. Yep, if nothing else, she ticked that box ten times over.

A cow mooed in one of the far paddocks and the chill night air sliced through her  wet clothes. Sweat covered her skin, a trickle running down her collarbone to fall between  her breasts.

She tightened her grasp, took a deep breath and heaved. Digging her heels into the rainsoaked grass, she leaned back, using all her weight. Every last kilo that normally made her despair, but now gave her leverage.


The ground slammed hard against her butt. If she’d lost those extra five kilos, the fall would’ve hurt a helluva lot more. As it was, the jar pierced at her coccyx and then juddered up her spine.

Mud soaked through her jeans.


She dropped her head into her hands. She wasn’t a ‘why me?’ kinda girl, but now was as  good a time as any to start.

On paper it would have moved by now.

Reality’s a killer. Her lips twitched.

So, why am I here, butt-deep in mud? The response was instantaneous. Because I love it.

Cold shivered through her body. She didn’t care. Her heart lightened, her lips curving upward. She shook herself off, slithered and squelched her way to her feet. Rubbing her still protesting backside with one hand, her other held the now dislocated arm of the body before her.

Her nose scrunched as she tugged at a loose blonde curl. Then she dropped to her haunches and stuck the ball back into its socket. The click echoed through the dark, not that it mattered.

It wasn’t as if she were doing anything wrong. Much.

All was fair in the name of love and research.


He drew on his cigarette, squinting through his night vision binoculars as the parody unfolded.

Not long now.

A light flickered. He tensed. The distant yellow bobbed slowly toward the barbed-wire boundary, then disappeared. A car door slammed. An engine growled, dulling to a  murmur as a double wide beam danced across the ankle-length grass.

He pressed back against the gnarly tree trunk. Ten minutes of darkness ensured she wouldn’t return.

Stacey Holland. Author extraordinaire. His nostrils flared. She thought she knew death. Pain, even. She didn’t know shit. But she’d learn soon enough. He was one hell of a teacher.

First Page Feedback from Patience Bloom

The opening to this entry is quite enticing with what we think is the heroine moving a dead body. I love the description of the atmosphere, her efforts, and overall frustration. I would only suggest expanding this opening a bit more, combining some of the paragraphs so that we’re more deeply hooked into the story. Maybe we could have more of her point of view, what she’s thinking about all of this, maybe additional information about her. This seems mainly like a teaser and not a full-fledged opening with a dynamic character. I love how it ends with the guy watching her (though isn’t smoking a bit passé?), but there might be a smoother way to do this. I would see this as a short paragraph after a longer opening. Overall, the energy of this entry is fabulous and I want to keep reading. Nicely done.


Too, remember the first page space is valuable–she scrunches her nose twice. Is this going to be a tic throughout the story? Or is there a way to use something else? And check with house style on points like blond/blonde. For Harlequin, for instance, blonde is a noun, and blond is an adjective. So “The blonde checked her daughter’s blond hair” would be correct for us! And is “parody” the right word for what you want to say? It could be–we don’t know the villain!–but it doesn’t seem that she’s playing this for laughs…

Thank you for sharing!

33 replies on “First Page Feedback – Murder Most Unusual”

Oooh – hooked with this one! What was it? A mannequin she was moving? I’d be really interested to read more of this. “An engine growled, dulling to a murmur as a double wide beam danced across the ankle-length grass.” I like your descriptive style, too. Overall, loved this!

Interesting start to a novel – love it. Very intriguing.

As for the blonde/blond thing – that’s news to me. I always thought that blonde=female, blond=male. You live and learn, eh?

The blond/blonde is tricky–and can vary from company to company, which is why house style has to be considered.

The “e” when considering the original French did denote male/female, but over the past few years/decades it’s moved farther (further? that one I always mix up!) from its roots. Particularly in the US!

So while it wouldn’t be wrong to use it as male/female, if a copy-editor for a publishing house is going over your work, it might be switched to conform with house style.

After seeing the results, authors and editors get used to the particulars of house style and just roll with it!


Thanks for the explanation.
I have to admit, I hesitate each time I write the word ‘blond(e)’ before I choose which version to use.
Looks like I’ll need to research before I submit, to cater the spelling to each individual publishing house.

Oh, don’t worry about catering to the publisher that much for things on house style sheets. At least here the authors aren’t sent them, so there is no expectation of following them. The usage isn’t wrong, just not what the publisher prefers for consistency. Write it as you prefer–but just be aware that a copyeditor might tweak or adjust as needed! 🙂 And after a while you might find yourself adjusting a bit… 🙂

I liked it and I’d read on, although I do agree with the editor feedback. One thing that jumped out at me though was the “the jar pierced her coccyx” line. It gave me a very different image than what was intended. I think of jarring and piercing as vastly different sensations (and I don’t want piercing anywhere near a butt :))

I’m glad you liked it, JewelCourt.
Lol about jarring and piercing! Will need to take a closer look at that 🙂
Thanks for the feedback.

Thank you for your feedback, Patience.

I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I go back and do edits. I didn’t pick up she’d scrunched her nose twice! Will need to fix that 🙂

I’m glad you enjoyed the opening. I have to admit I’m loving writing this story 🙂


Hi Michelle,
I found it to be a very gripping opening. It certainly makes me want to read more.



Very intriguing, Michelle. Love the bit where she shoves the ball back in its socket and the click reverberates in the dark. I skin slipped and was there. Great atmosphere. I’d like to read on.

Thanks Dorothy.
Glad it chilled. Was exactly the feeling I was going for 🙂

Loved the opening of this story and want to know more.

Well written and very enjoyable start to what sounds like a fantastic story.

So interesting reading your feedback.

Good luck,

Thanks Margaret.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
I agree, was great to get the feedback. I tend to write in a bubble for much of the beginning of my books, so it was great to get outside insights into the beginning of my story 🙂

I love a good intrigue. Blonde/blond just thought was a different way of spelling the same way depending on your country. Nice to know. Didn’t even know about the male/female thing. Okay. Great beginnings. 😉

Michelle, this is a fabulous start to another great story.
Good to see the positive feedback from others.
I can’t wait to read more of your spine-tingling book.

Thank you, Elvina!
I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Looking forward to a time you can read the entire story 🙂

Love this opening! It was very descriptive and pulled me right in. The humor was a nice touch and not overdone. Just a thought, but cigarette smoke is pretty strong and I think the heroine would noticed the smell. Unless, of course, she really is dragging a decomposing dead body. Then I guess she’d be smelling something else entirely!

Either way, I would definitely keep reading this one. Great job!

Hi Heather
I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt.
Thanks for the feedback about the smoke. I’ve had a few comments about that, so looks like I will have to revisit 🙂

Hi Rita
I’m so glad you were hooked.
That means I’ve done my job 🙂
It’s good to hear that you loved Stacey. She’s a character dear to my heart.

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