Book Jacket


rank 70
word count 79575
date submitted 16.02.2012
date updated 05.04.2014
genres: Fiction, Romance
classification: moderate

No Risk, No Reward

Madison Alexander

Twenty-five year old park ranger, Ellie Bradshaw, had no way of knowing a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger would turn her world inside-out.


Ellie hasn’t had the best life. If losing both of her parents at the age of eighteen in a car accident weren’t enough, her long-time boyfriend flies home to Arizona for the holidays - only to never return to her.

When Ellie encounters Nick Smith by the side of the road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nick’s unwavering refusal to provide ID presents a challenge and raises red flags for Ellie. Alarmed he could be a criminal lying low in the rugged backcountry, she makes it her mission to uncover the handsome stranger’s identity.

Will she ever be able to overcome her fears and make a life with Nick? And will Nick want a life with Ellie when he finds out the secret she hides?

rate the book

to rate this book please Register or Login



abandonment, change, dogs, hiking, isolation, loss, love, mountains, mysterious, national park, nature, park ranger, primitive camping, redemption, ri...

on 63 watchlists



To leave comments on this or any book please Register or Login

subscribe to comments for this book
Sue Hart wrote 18 days ago

I've read all twenty chapters and you have left me hanging. Where's the rest of it? I've truly enjoyed what you've given us to read.

Have to tell you, what a kick I got out of the line: 'My heart sank as I stepped back to find the chest and loud aroma belonged to none other than Wade Turner.' I'd never heard of an overpowering smell called loud and I laughed out loud.

It's clean and very well written. But it's going to kill me not knowing what happens.

Sue Hart wrote 20 days ago

This is an RCG review for 'No Risk No Reward', by Madison Alexander.
I have read the first twelve chapters.
Pitch: I like the way you gave the pitch mystery. You set the place, the action, the characters and the background for the story with a hint as to what the mystery would circle.
Ellie Bradshaw: Self assured, tenderhearted, responsible, great sister, good at her job, suspicious for good reason.
Alias: Nick Smith: Gruff, secretive, gorgeous, self sufficient, depressed, and worried about something (adding mystique to him)
Plot: Ellie is filled with suspicion, makes it her business to find out who Nick Smith is. When she does, she investigates further. Her attraction to him isn't exactly comfortable for her. He's allusive through the first chapters and then begins to trust her enough to start opening up. At this point it the attraction is there, but the mystery around them is still strong.
Style/Voice: The book is professionally written and I found no mistakes through what I've read. I like the chapter lengths that are similar and lead the reader smoothly to the next chapter with a strong page turner. It's smooth storyline, steps from one build to another leading the reader through without hesitating to ask questions or wish something were added. (Big 6 stars for that.)

Dialogue had beautiful creative narratives to guide the reader to see and hear what was being discussed. It was believable, natural, and directed towards the plot.

Show/Don't tell - was done well through the voice and characters. Dialog told the 5 W's. The 5 senses were displayed by: you could taste and smell the bacon she had cooked, see his appetite for it by the food he ate; view the grandeur of the scenery as they climbed the mountain and looked out; you heard the horn honk, and felt the nervous tension with the thought of bears getting into the food. Their personal thoughts were seldom given keeping the suspense high as intended. (Well done.)

I have enjoyed the read. It's truly a great book that's written with a storytellers hand. Thanks for sharing it, Madison.

kellbell0220 wrote 24 days ago

I just joined RCG, so apologize for the number of posts.
1. Pitch: I mentioned this below. I think the Pitch does not match the quality of your book. I think one thing you could play up in both the book and the pitch would be Ellie's fear of taking risks. Let me know if you want to talk pitch, I've read everything you have posted so far.
For the short pitch I might change it to "Ellie Bradshaw had no idea that a chance encounter."
Long pitch: I would extrapolate on Ellie hasn't had the best life. All of the people she loves leave her behind, or something like that. Regarding Oscar I think the clincher is that he leaves and never contacts her again. No explanation, nothing. You could also mention here: one day they're talking about moving in together and then next thing she knows, he is gone from the face of the planet. You could add something here about his son, I was a little unclear in the book when she became aware he had a son (before or after he left for AZ?)
The questions at the end of the chapter could be a little more specific. Maybe describe Ellie's fears...what fears is she overcoming? Loss is a big theme in my MS as the character has a hard time letting people in because she is so sick of losing people. The last question, if Ellie's secret is going the direction I suspect, Will Nick want a life with Ellie even if she can't give him everything he dreams of? Your secret is especially emotionally wrenching and I don't know that simply referring to it as a secret conveys that.

2. Characterization: I especially love Nick/Ryan's character. There is emotional complexity and struggle and you can see it. I was impressed by how clearly you draw his character even though very little of the book happens from his perspective. I like it that way. I think you could be slightly more descriptive on Ellie's personal struggles. I like the inadequacy she feels next to his famous girlfriends, I like how you describe her loneliness, I think you could hit us over the head a little more with the fact that she is scared of loss. That would connect back to her fears that Ryan wants to move semi-permanently.

3. Plot: I think it is really well paced and the twists and turns are perfect. I don't read as much contemporary romance because I really love the angst and confusion of Jane Austen-esque romances and I you nailed that for me. I read all of the chapters you posted in one night and LOVED it. To me, it seems like there are a few too many rivals for Ellie and too many ex boyfriends: Wade, the high school boyfriend, his brother, Oscar, and then Ryan. Wade makes sense to me later on, so I would probably leave him in, and Oscar becomes relevant, but the high school boyfriend and his brother feel like too much clutter. In chapters 9-10 there are a lot of random characters thrown in there to show how popular and well known Ellie is in town. To me, this was the only part of the book where I felt pulled outside of our main characters. I think minimizing the involvement of these minor characters would make the book go more slowly.

4. Setting: beautifully described and very believable.

5. Style voice: I like it in the first person, with some, but not too much, insight into Ryan's head.

6. Dialogue: I think it flows very well and like how you spread the backstory gradually through out (This is a personal weakness for me so I always respect when other people do it well). Living in the South, I found all of the gettin', thinking', etc a little distracting. Although people do kind of talk that way!

7. Spelling, punctuation: Perfect

8. Show don't tell: I thought you did an excellent job here.

9. Thoughts: I really, really loved your book. It drew me in and I felt like the conflict was genuine and came from the emotional tension between the characters. I'm downloading flash player so I can back your book (still working out the technical difficulties here!)

kellbell0220 wrote 25 days ago

I think overall it is a good creates tension and drama. The tension comes from the emotional baggage of the two characters, which is exactly as a romance should be.

I do think some of the phrasing could be stronger. I agree that in that first paragraph the sentences about her parents dying and her boyfriend breaking up with her should be separated. "only to never return to her" sounds clunky. "Flies home to Arizona for the Holidays and decides to stay there permanently"?

I think the questions at the end are a good hook, but they could be made a little more specific. What fears is she overcoming? I like that the second question tries to add from Nick's point of view, but I wonder if it could be made a little more specific?

kellbell0220 wrote 25 days ago

I think overall it is a good creates tension and drama. The tension comes from the emotional baggage of the two characters, which is exactly as a romance should be.

I do think some of the phrasing could be stronger. I agree that in that first paragraph the sentences about her parents dying and her boyfriend breaking up with her should be separated. "only to never return to her" sounds clunky. "Flies home to Arizona for the Holidays and decides to stay there permanently"?

I think the questions at the end are a good hook, but they could be made a little more specific. What fears is she overcoming? I like that the second question tries to add from Nick's point of view, but I wonder if it could be made a little more specific?

JonD wrote 33 days ago

Sorry but to me the pitch is just not right. Why repeat Park ranger Ellie Bradshaw twice. replace the second one with 'She hadn't? or lose the first sentence and add..'the mysterious stranger bit' to the second.
Boyfriend flies home TO Arizona...never to return...where? Arizona? or where he came from?
But I like the Q's.
Maybe it's just me? but it stopped me reading more for now. Jon

jc_intz wrote 68 days ago

RCG Review chapter 1 and 2

Hi Madison,

I’ve really enjoyed this and am very curious on what the next few chapters has to offer! There was simply no time for me to continue reading tonight, but if anything I have said is helpful, then I’d be happy to continue. I write as I read so feel free to skip anything you think sounds too confusing or not agree with, you know your work the best!

Pitch – very good pitch and it makes me want to continue reading. Maybe remove the repetitive “Park ranger Ellie Bradshaw” the second time and just use Ellie as it is already mentioned in the short pitch?

Characterization – done very well and I can feel the tension between them, it’s like I’m next to them, hiding behind a tree maybe...

Plot – starts straight away, no back story that is taking up space, very good and as the friend comes along, the mysterious stranger is analysed further from another person’s point of view, which adds extra to what she is already thinking.

Setting – it feels like you have great knowledge of where Ellie lives and work and it gives great quality to your work.

Style/Voice – Although I have only read the first two chapters, it feels very professional , like I am reading already published work, and this is definitely something that I could read with a cup of tea as company until I fall asleep

Dialogue – Extremely good, the first and second conversation between Ellie and Nick is very good, very good tension building.

Spelling/Punctuation – Excellent

Show, Don’t Tell
Chapter one: The paragraph of when we are told their parents died in a car accident left me a little shocked. Either it was a lot of info at the same time or it was unexpected. Maybe weave it into conversation? Or add something about how the MC feels about it as it sounds a bit factual now, a little bit too much telling and not showing maybe? Not sure, but something there left me feeling unsettled in an otherwise very well written chapter.

Chapter one
“Yeah I get that a lot” I handed...” comma missing
“...that wouldn’t have been very always be polite...” maybe rephrase so polite isn’t in the sentence twice?
If she was over eighteen when their parents died, and we don’t know how old the brother is, then is she still the guardian? Is he still living in the house? Or maybe that will come later?
“...staring into the inky blackness of my back yard...” beautiful!
Chapter two
Incredibly minor and feel free to ignore; “I heard nothing but rainwater dripping onto leaves.” Beautiful.
“ sounds other than the tapping of raindrops on leaves.” Not repetitive but very similar to previous sentence, maybe skip or rephrase a little?
Love the way how she ‘convinces’ herself of the reason for opening the tent.
The colour ‘gray’ is mentioned three times, I did this too and then someone pointed it out to me, not sure if you want to change slightly or keep it?
Love how she goes over what she could have said instead, sooo every woman does that!
“If I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I was attracted...” “...for me to admit...that I was attracted...” not exactly the same, but very similar, in two sentences after each other, maybe rephrase?

High stars from me and I truly believe that this piece of work will be published soonish if the remaining chapters are as good as the first ones!

‘In Too Deep’

sallymasters wrote 74 days ago

I couldn't stop reading this and consequently have eye strain and a tired head after reading past midnight! I found the characters and setting appealing. Some parts of the storyline weren't that believable (would he really go and camp and risk hypothermia when that close to home? Would she really keep on hiking those trails to check on a guy she thinks is a criminal rather than focus on a job she is passionate about? Would there really be that many handsome many men throwing themselves at her?)but I was utterly willing to suspend disbelief. This was because I wanted to see how it turned out and I liked Ellie so much and was intrigued by nick.
The only things that bugged me were the way she seemed too quickly to accept nick was Ryan,wouldn't she slip up and call him nick sometimes? I also felt the Oscar storyline and the dark secret could have been alluded to a lot first I pictured her as this lonely orphan spinster then it turned out she had been serious with Oscar not that long ago.
I am very critical about writing style, but this was great. The only minor thing here that made me cringe was all the stomach flipping action going on. Maybe come up with another reaction to his gorgeousness (which was very well put across).
I really hope you finish this as I think it was a great page turner. Thanks for a sleep deprived night!

Shiloh Yazdani wrote 87 days ago

A nice job. You have a talent at writing by introducing characters that quickly are developed and interesting. It is an interesting storyline, mysterious man turns out to be disillusioned rich Hollywood type who is influenced by a normal park ranger. I hope all goes well.
"Courage Through Faith"

Elizabeth Kathleen wrote 88 days ago

I've enjoyed reading some of the chapters from your book. You've made it more interesting than just a boy meets girl story. I enjoyed the fact she's a forest ranger and took the responsibility for her younger brother when only 18. It seems the superficial actor is drawn to her for her down-to-earth realness. I liked your story.
God bless!!!
Elizabeth Kathleen
"If Children are Cheaper by the Dozen, Can I Get a Discount on Six?"
"The Sticks and Stones of Hannah Jones"

Lew's Shadow wrote 176 days ago

Bear should have a make and model when he is introduced. Lot of people love dogs and want to know things like that.
As a 63-year old, I was mildly offended by the suggestion that a 64-year old in excellent health had no business hiking four miles.
Other than that, seems to be flowing along nicely.

Chris 1 wrote 195 days ago

A fine relationship builds from the start, almost, with Ellie and the mysterious Nick. You make it all the more interesting in the way he is under suspicion from her due to his circumstances - apparently stranded out in the wilds of the national park, not equipped, not experienced, appearing to be 'laying low'. She suspects him of some form of possible criminality yet she is i initially curious about him, then attracted to him, and finally almost obsessed by him.

I think this aspect of her personality will have to be, in some way explained - why does she feel drawn towards him, or men like him, so powerfully? Has she put herself in danger etc? Very good 'story building'. BACKED

ItzJannat wrote 201 days ago

This was nice. A good start. Made me really curious about Mr.Smith.

ItzJannat wrote 201 days ago

This was nice. A good start. Made me really curious about Mr.Smith.

Caitlyn McRae wrote 236 days ago

No Risk, No Reward RCG Review

This has been a pleasure to read and I’m giving it 5 stars. I am only at chapter 8 so far, but the consistency of quality work suggests that the rest will fall nothing short. I can only hope that between full time work and Uni I have the opportunity to finish this story because I am now emotionally invested in the characters!

1) Pitch – The pitch doesn’t suggest much more than what I expect to read in the first two chapters. There is a lot of unused space… Dare you give some more away? Entice me in? What other elements does your story contain that I would want to read about?

2) Characterization – The characters are flawless. The use of one POV is extremely well done. The two main characters are well developed and the use of secondary characters to build and develop the main characters is very impressive.
The originality of these characters bespeaks a depth of understanding of people and emotions that is very admirable.

3) Plot – Goes straight into the story, which is great. Gripping from the start. The introduction of Brooke is really well timed to give the main character someone to talk to about the situation. This conversation really increases the tension because we all know she is going to go see him again, no matter how dangerous her friend thinks it is!

4) Setting – Well researched, not only for the region, but the realness of the situations and colloquialisms used by characters. Knowledge of treatment of hypothermia was great too!

5) Style/Voice – The voice is established very early on and is consistent throughout. As the reader, I feel very safe and secure reading. The strength of the writing style and consistency of the voice developed a trust in the author to tell this story. It is a rare thing to come across and suggests that this book is a league above most on this site and highly publishable.

6) Dialogue – Beautiful! Original and unique to the characters. I find myself salivating knowing there is more dialogue ahead. The interaction between the characters is real and intriguing and causes me to care about them. The tension is so often displayed between Ellie and Nick/Ryan through the dialogue and it is a pleasure to read.

7) Spelling/Punctuation – This is obviously well edited. I picked up on a few things, but my grammar and punctuation leave a little to be desired… And I’m from Australia, so it’s a different set of standards.

“his hands were strong; his hands calloused” not sure about the use of a semicolon here.

I love the term Spidey sense. Not sure it should be a capital though?

Long sleeve compression shirts that fit (perhaps should be fitted?)

8) Show, Don’t Tell – Used well, but I have to say that the descriptions add so much to this story because it is first person with one POV. This is really well balanced and adapted to style of writing.

9) Thoughts/opinions/suggestions - Great descriptions in the opening paragraphs. I was a taken aback by the descriptions of both of their heights. This broke my pace and if anyone else has noticed it, it may be worth changing. This is a great opportunity to compare the two of them by saying something like ‘he towered over me, no mean feat considering I was almost six foot myself’. This is the only place in the story where something has broken my pace.

The humour and human interactions throughout are beautifully thought out and executed.

Caitlyn McRae
Author of Protectress: An Elemental Warrior Novel

Caitlyn McRae wrote 236 days ago

No Risk, No Reward RCG Review

This has been a pleasure to read and I’m giving it 5 stars. I am only at chapter 8 so far, but the consistency of quality work suggests that the rest will fall nothing short. I can only hope that between full time work and Uni I have the opportunity to finish this story because I am now emotionally invested in the characters!

1) Pitch – The pitch doesn’t suggest much more than what I expect to read in the first two chapters. There is a lot of unused space… Dare you give some more away? Entice me in? What other elements does your story contain that I would want to read about?

2) Characterization – The characters are flawless. The use of one POV is extremely well done. The two main characters are well developed and the use of secondary characters to build and develop the main characters is very impressive.
The originality of these characters bespeaks a depth of understanding of people and emotions that is very admirable.

3) Plot – Goes straight into the story, which is great. Gripping from the start. The introduction of Brooke is really well timed to give the main character someone to talk to about the situation. This conversation really increases the tension because we all know she is going to go see him again, no matter how dangerous her friend thinks it is!

4) Setting – Well researched, not only for the region, but the realness of the situations and colloquialisms used by characters. Knowledge of treatment of hypothermia was great too!

5) Style/Voice – The voice is established very early on and is consistent throughout. As the reader, I feel very safe and secure reading. The strength of the writing style and consistency of the voice developed a trust in the author to tell this story. It is a rare thing to come across and suggests that this book is a league above most on this site and highly publishable.

6) Dialogue – Beautiful! Original and unique to the characters. I find myself salivating knowing there is more dialogue ahead. The interaction between the characters is real and intriguing and causes me to care about them. The tension is so often displayed between Ellie and Nick/Ryan through the dialogue and it is a pleasure to read.

7) Spelling/Punctuation – This is obviously well edited. I picked up on a few things, but my grammar and punctuation leave a little to be desired… And I’m from Australia, so it’s a different set of standards.

“his hands were strong; his hands calloused” not sure about the use of a semicolon here.

I love the term Spidey sense. Not sure it should be a capital though?

Long sleeve compression shirts that fit (perhaps should be fitted?)

8) Show, Don’t Tell – Used well, but I have to say that the descriptions add so much to this story because it is first person with one POV. This is really well balanced and adapted to style of writing.

9) Thoughts/opinions/suggestions - Great descriptions in the opening paragraphs. I was a taken aback by the descriptions of both of their heights. This broke my pace and if anyone else has noticed it, it may be worth changing. This is a great opportunity to compare the two of them by saying something like ‘he towered over me, no mean feat considering I was almost six foot myself’. This is the only place in the story where something has broken my pace.

The humour and human interactions throughout are beautifully thought out and executed.

Caitlyn McRae
Author of Protectress: An Elemental Warrior Novel

VioletHeyes wrote 239 days ago

No Risk, No Reward - RCG Review

This is one of my favorite books on Authonomy so far! It kept me reading all night and I had to mentally slap myself and go to sleep. I Haven't finished it yet but I'm sure it won't take me long, since the book has such great suspense.

I liked it. You gave enough information to create interest without giving away too many details. The questions were a nice touch. It actually sold me before joining the RCG and I had the book on my WL.


Ellie – I loved her. She was easy to connect to and very believable. You did a great work on her life story and feelings. It was clear and to the point.

Nick – From the first time they meet, we can feel Ellie's attraction to Nick. And justifiably so! He's Dark, hot, and moody! Our modern Mr. Darcy – aloof, untrusting and very mysterious. Can't wait to find out what is that dark secret he's hiding from Ellie!

Brooke – She's fun and quirky – adds a touch of humor to the story.

Wade Turner – I'm assuming he's our villain. I hate him already. From the first introductions we can see that he makes Ellie uncomfortable.

Not a single, tiny hole in the plot. Everything lines up perfectly. In each chapter we get enough information to chew on and at the end – some questions that keep up the suspense.
Are you or were you a ranger? You gave an authentic feeling to her job with bits of explanations and demonstrations.

You describe the scenery very clearly. Each scene has each own setting. Enough details to give a clear picture and draw the reader into the story.

I'm a big fan of the romance genre, and usually I prefer books with more than one POV because it can become a bit boring reading a full novel from one POV. But – you completely sold me on Ellie's POV. You have enough romance and suspense to make me read more and more and more until 4 AM in the morning.

The interactions between Ellie and Nick are sweet and interesting. The dialogues are natural, believable and always contributes to moving the plot forward .

See a few minor suggestions below. Beyond those, I couldn't detect any errors.

Show, Don’t Tell:

Chapter 1 – The beginning was great! I enjoyed the interactions between them and could already see the attraction building. But from the part she went to buy wine the pace slowly descended and it read like an info dump. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need to tell those details and it was still interesting to read, but maybe you can shorten it a bit or integrate some parts into a conversation.

From chapter two the pace picked up and from chapter three I was completely hooked.


Chapter 1:
- "Brooke insisted, pulled her legs up underneath her…" - Suggest – Pulling her legs up…
- "…there's an APB out for him…" - Suggest – APB on him

Chapter 2:
- "But I found a tough time…" - Suggest – But I found it hard to. Or – But I had a hard\tough time.
- "And Nick lying inside…" - Suggest – But if Nick was lying inside… now that would be a good reason.
- "…the underwear my mama wrote my name in…" - Suggest – my name on
- "…his smile produced inside me…" - Suggest – his smile induced inspired\incited

Interesting and full of suspense! Backing the book and will come back to read more. :)

S.T Grace

carolinecutting wrote 239 days ago

I've only read the first chapter of your work but already I love your character development! As an opener the first piece is brilliant, sometimes you just want to get stuck right in straight away and you've certainly done that. I've added you to my watchlist and I'll be coming back to give you a more in depth comment when I get more time. High stars so far, well done.

Caroline- First

lizzcorn wrote 240 days ago

I just finished chapter 20. Darn it!!! Hope you post more soon so I know her big secret and how he reacts.

lizzcorn wrote 241 days ago

RCG review
I think you have agreat story and great characters. I am just starting chapter 4 and look forward to reading more.

Pitch: Pitch is good. I feel like I have enough information, but not too much that the book is spoiled. I like the questions. It makes you think.

Characterization: Nick Smith seems nervous. Something is troubling him. Makes me wonder why he won’t talk about where he is from. Maybe he is hiding something? He is kind of a jerk too. He is finally coming around. Yay!!
Ellie seems happy and normal. She doesn’t take any crap from the campers, which is good. I would have been frustrated too and a little worried he needed to get away, but refused to say who he really is. She is very caring and puts her own life in danger to check on a stranger. Not something everyone does.

Setting: Setting is good. I love the mountains and camp often so I love the mountain setting. Her house seems quaint and comfy. Sounds like somewhere I would like to live. In the country with a front porch.

Style/Voice Your style and voice is good. You do not change tenses often (Which is something I have a hard time keeping track of lol)

Dialogue: “he took my hand in his huge one.” Maybe revise this sentence. It doesn’t seem to flow. “My hands were dwarfed as we shook.”
When she is talking about her ex coming back, you say the word “Back” a lot. Maybe chose the word home since she has this attachment to him and his mother lives there.
“I got Pam to” maybe consider rewording. “I had Pam weave in red highlights…”
“Brooke insisted, Pulled her legs..” Maybe change pulled to “pulling my legs…”
“I put my hat on my head and my gloves on my hands” if someone was really saying this, they would say “I put my hat and gloves on”
I am a little confused. One day you said it is warm enough to drink wine on the front porch, but the next day it is freezing and the month will have freezing weather. Maybe she needs a blanket when she is drinking wine.
“Always, but always, ended up with..” Just my opinion, but I think you can get rid of “but always” I think the reader understand that he always kisses her in her fantasies.
“the slimmest chance the he wasn’t was what kept…” very confusing sentence I don’t think you meant to write “wasn’t”
“After Jake…” need to add a comma after Jake
Nick had been calling home for the past three weeks my nerves were calmer…” You need a comma after weeks
Ha! “Kiss a bears butt.” I lol’d

Julie Stock wrote 243 days ago

RCG Review

OK, first of all, I need you to know that I reread the first few chapters today after a while since I first read them, and it was such a good story that I then spent the rest of the day reading the rest! I am of course, very upset that I don't know what happens at the end but I absolutely loved your story. Ahem, so now for the proper review.

Short pitch - great!
Long pitch - I would either stop after the word 'identity' or change the last paragraph to something more generic. I don't think there's anything to suggest in the first part that they will get together so don't give it all away too soon.

Characterisation: I loved your main characters. I don't think there is much you could do to improve on them at all. I thought the next level of characters were also well described, Richie, Brooke, Dan and Irma etc. I thought Oscar was a good character too but I'll come back to him later. I liked the array of other characters, although I found Wade a bit overdone.

Plot - I loved the story. It is very like my own but I learnt so much from reading yours. The only part of the plot that seemed odd to me was Oscar's explanation about why he had gone away. It seemed too far-fetched to me. I think you can change this to another excuse without needing to change any of his other scenes.

Setting - fabulous! You really brought it to life for me, living in rural Bedfordshire in the UK. It seems authentic as well, judging from your other comments.

Style/Voice - You have a very endearing style. I warmed to Ellie straight away and empathised with her completely as a character. Your writing is very easy to read and I would buy this book without any hesitation, if it were published.

Dialogue - your dialogue is very natural and I learnt a lot for my own writing.

Spelling/Punctuation - the only spelling issue I could see was 'lead' for 'led' and there were just a few minor punctuation issues that would be picked up with a final edit.

Show, Don't Tell - The only piece of advice I have here is that chapter 2 is heavy on the 'Tell'. Otherwise, it is a good blend of mostly 'show' and a bit of 'tell'. Perhaps you could drip feed chapter 2 in to the story as a whole. In fact, I'm sure you already do.

I loved it, Madison and can't wait to finish it, I mean, I am hanging by a thread here!!! Well done!

Julie Stock.
From Here to Nashville.

Gary Bullock wrote 244 days ago

I love your book. Being a Tennessean, an actor, and familiar with your setting helped, but your writing is lovely, realistic, and I give it full stars. I want to read more! How shall I do that? as soon as I have room on my bookshelf, your book will be there.
Gary Bullock - Elsewhen

J Greene wrote 265 days ago

A ranger as a main character? I like it. A girl ranger? I like it more. The character of Nick was realistic and intriguing, though I liked the second encounter between E and N more, just because there was a bit more description between the dialogue.. Well written and thoroughly edited.

Olivia Boothe wrote 265 days ago

RCG review

P. Both were great and sounded well thought out and professional. The long pitch certainly did its job when it hooked me the first day I signed on to authonomy. At that time I only read the first chapter and knew then I would be coming back.

S. This was also well thought out. Seems you knew this back country really well or you really did your homework. Perhaps you are a hiker? Or know some rangers? Anyway, this backdrop was very believable and itself felt like a character. Your descriptions were spot on of a small town community where everyone knows your name and your business. The details made me feel like I was right there. Very vivid. (I think this is why you needed all those non-essential characters, to show the feel of a small town community)

C.P. Great idea for a love story. From the get go I was intrigued by Nick and certainly wanted to know more about who he really was and what the heck he was doing out in the country when clearly it appeared he had no idea what he was doing. He certainly gives off that criminal vibe and my spidey sense went up as well. At that point in the story where she feels he is eyeing her gunthe story could have gone a whole different direction I thought. Perhaps a suspense thriller type of thingI preferred the love story instead.

The pace of the story was patient, as it probably would be in the real world. Most of the times we read romance, we are plunged right into a whirlwind type of romance, but yours followed a very logistic type of relationship. Two people really getting to know one another and starting that fire really small and slowly building it up.

I bought right into it, eating up every chapter one by one. In other stories Ive read (not necessarily on authonomy) I would find myself skimming through the back stories or other non-critical points where the character walks around their day to day routines, talking to people, showering, eating, bla bla bla. But not here. I was interested in all the little aspects of Ellies life. Particularly I really enjoyed Bear. I love dogs, Ive always had a dog, and I think dogs add such a warm element to stories, both written and on the silver screen. Great job on making Bear such an enjoyable character in your story. Plus there just is something about a guy and a dog. That bond is just so endearing.

Everyone in this small town was interesting and I loved how they all had a little back story of their own that added to the richness and believability of your narrative. Everyone was distinct and had their own voice. Jimbo and Wade cracked me up. They were stereotypes, yet very much their own person. Oscar added a whole new dimension to things, and was the needed catalyst to get the story moving forward. He added tension and a bit of turmoil for Ellie. Plus I really enjoyed Nicks protective side. A little jealousy is not bad either.

Nicks real identity wasnt that much of a shocker for me. But thats not a bad thing. We followed these characters for a really long time before his identity is revealed and by then, the clues were all in place. Must say, had I known his identity sooner, you might have lost me as the concept of a man like him falling for a small town girl like Ellie was a little far fetched. Then again, that was the whole point of his inner turmoil. The build up to that reveal is what makes this story so unique. I believe a part of him fell in love with her because he realized that she really fell for who he really was inside and not for whom the world saw him as.

Although, if she really had seen his work, I found it hard to believe she didnt really recognize him. Even with beard and all. Kind of like Lois not knowing Clark was Superman. But thats not a real issue. Just my issue.

Critiquing this story was very difficult because at times I forgot that I wasnt just reading for pleasure. Since I could read it from my nook, it didnt feel like I was reading a non-published work. Your writing is spotless. It feels like youve been writing all your life. You follow the writing rules perfectly both the technical parts as well as the creative parts. Info dumps didnt feel like info dumps because you did them in pieces and well weaved into the narrative. Your use of language and phrases fit with the story. You didnt try to get fancy with words and the dialogue was natural and well constructed. I never had confusion on who was talking and you didnt break up the narrative with added descriptions of who said what and how they said it. Not all knew writers can do that. I think dialogue is one of the hardest things to master.

Looks like youve spent some time polishing your story. Grammar and punctuation errors appear to have been corrected already.

From the beginning you are able to engage the reader. Your style of writing is very natural and liquid. Its easy to read and the story never felt forced. Wanting the big reveal (both reveals) kept me reading to the very end of chapter 20. My words, spoken out loud in my bedroom as I finished reading chapter 20 were, Are you freaking kidding me? And Ill tell you why. You build the sexual tension between these two very well. Pardon then vulgarity but it was somewhat of a c*ck tease. I kept thinking, okay here is where it happensokaymaybe nowthennada. This happened too many times. But I craved it so I kept reading. Normally readers dont have to wait until chapter 20 to get to a juicy sex scene but I got it. You wanted it to be really special. You wanted these two to make love and not just have sexI was okay with that until I got to the end of chapter 20 and I felt like you left me hanging and that was not fair. After 20 chapters the reader needed a bit of a reward and gotnothing.

Where is chapter 21?!!!! I seriously want to know, because I want to keep reading. Not to mention that Ellie was about to drop a bomb that could potentially be the moment where the boy loses girl( or girl loses boy in this instance) happens! Im telling you, I would have been reading till the wee hours of the morning if there had been more.

Anyway, great job with this one. If this book were at the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I would have bought it and tucked it away with all my other sweet indulging love stories.

Suggestions: I think your story is so vivid and the setting so beautiful that I almost feel like your cover does it no justice. Id love to see a colorful backdrop of the mountains or something that allures to the magic of that landscape.

Olivia Booth
Chronicles of a Dancing Heart

Ildrinn wrote 279 days ago

Hi, Just read chapter one and am definitely intrigued as to who Nick really is and why he's in disguise. The story flows nicely and makes for very easy reading. I like what I've seen of Ellie so far and will definitely come back to read more. Your first chapter is very long, and contains an awful lot of information. I do wonder if it might be better to break it up into two? Just a thought but not really that important. Nice start. :-)
Storm Rising

toshy wrote 282 days ago

Hi Madison
I'm not a writer or a critic I just love to read. I really enjoyed reading your book and just got caught up in the whole story. I thought it was wonderful. Just have one that really the way it's going to end??

Shaun Holt wrote 284 days ago

Full RCG review “No Risk, No Reward”.

PITCH – I’m not a great fan of pitches, but it sums up the book well enough. It delivers on all the points. The mystery of who Nick Smith is compels the reader to keep turning the pages.

PLOT – I thought the central plot (Plot A, if you’ll grant me the term), Nick Smith and his real identity, was done very well. Sometimes the characters seemed to lose believability, and it seemed like the author was trying to force a plot together when the pieces just didn’t fit, but after reading the book and learning of Nick Smith’s real identity, I realized how those pieces did come together. The parts that seemed unreal suddenly became much more believable when you found out the truth. And the author caught me by surprise concerning Nick’s true identity, and that was good. Once that part of Nick is divulged, Ellie’s own backstory, and her previous relationships, also becomes a bigger issue (Plot B), as a previous boyfriend enters the picture again. I liked the tension this added, but I felt somewhat unattached to it. I could get Ellie’s being hurt from those previous relationships, but somehow this plotline didn’t move me as much. It seemed more chaotic, with an over-abundance of character names and backstories, and I often found myself skimming these parts. It was the core plot, Plot A, that I think was done the best, and that’s where my interest was, with Nick and Ellie.

CHARACTERS – Ellie is a park ranger. I think she is described well, there are physical descriptions of her scattered throughout the book so you don’t forget what she looks like, and the author does a fine job at showing Ellie’s thoughts, her fears, and her suspicions toward Nick. On the negative side, I think her early attempts to have contact with Nick came across as more desperate attempts to try to see him for any reason. She came across as unprofessional, clingy, and reckless. It seems she often goes far out of her way to see him, then, when there are serious concerns at the park, such as a fire and a missing child, Ellie seems to shrug these off as mere inconveniences, hindering her time with Nick. I think the author could be served well by making her attraction to Nick be more subtle, or disclosed more when she first sees him, and occasionally at other times when she sees him at his campsite. From reading the book, I know it’s essential to the plot that Ellie shows Nick kindness even when she knew he was lying. I loved a comment about Ellie, about how she “brings warmth to people”. I think the author needs to find a way to keep that in place, while also making sure she has very valid reasons for making those trips to see Nick. I think Ellie’s character could also be more consistent if she shows great concern for the missing child, either by being the one to find her, or by thinking Nick had something to do with it. But aside from all that, Ellie is a good character, I like how she sees people, and when Nick’s real identity is revealed, I have high hopes that she can find a way to be with him and be happy.

Nick is done very well, both before and after the revelation of his identity. He is often described well physically, and I think the author does a fine job in giving us pieces of Nick’s views without ever truly going into his head. In other words, we only find out about Nick as Ellie does, and that is done well.

I’m torn in deciding who the next most important character would be, but I’m leaning toward Bear, Ellie’s dog. I also like Ellie’s best friend Brooke, and I thought Ellie’s co-workers were described well, although some of them served as antagonists. A big problem for me is what I think is an over-abundance of characters. Characters are often mentioned, almost in passing, and they either re-appear in later chapters, or seem to have only been used to fill a space in that scene. What this ended up doing for me was to skip over names and characters who didn’t seem to have any use in the plot. Since the author does characters well enough, from Ellie and Nick to Bear and Brooke, and even Wade, I wondered why the other characters seemed to be so unattached to the plot. I’d suggest cutting down some of these minor characters, perhaps eliminating some altogether. There was also a scene early in the book where Ellie seems to give a history of all the boyfriends she’s had, and that scene seemed out of place and added to part of my confusion. I’d suggest introducing these characters only as they become relevant to the story. All this said, your core characters, Ellie, Nick, even Bear, were all described well.

SETTING – The author does a fair job at laying out the setting. Ellie’s house was described in detail, however it was all done in one chunk, while she was going up the driveway. I think it could be introduced more gradually, as Ellie enters each room. Or describe the exterior first, and only describe the interior when Ellie actually goes inside. The park is also a central setting, especially in the first half of the book, but I think even a little more details could enhance the story, particularly adding more descriptions of the natural beauty of the park. This should be done gradually as well, so its not just one large chunk of describing the setting. There’s many places the author can space out adding detail. Other than that, random locations are described pretty well, from the visitor’s center to the local restaurant, to the vet’s office and so on. But all in all there were enough details about the setting to give me an idea where I was; although I don’t specifically recall the exact park name or her hometown being mentioned. I like to know whether the book takes place in a real town, or whether it is fictionalized.

DIALOGUE – The dialogue is done well, neither too much nor too little. The author tends to unnecessarily attribute dialogue, so that can be worked on. I get a pretty good sense of the character’s voice in the dialogue, and the author does well at conveying what emotion or tone the characters have when they speak.

SPELLING AND GRAMMAR – I didn’t notice many typos. The author tends to use the phrase, “My stomach flipped” over and over, but was able to come up with other colorful and beautiful descriptive words as well.

STYLE & VOICE – I think the author does a fine job here. There weren’t any moments I recall where it seems the author is injecting her own narration into the story; it all seemed to stay from Elilie’s perspective. I pick up on some of the author’s favorite words and phrases, and, also, some of Ellie and Nick’s favorite words and phrases. This helps a story sound believable, characters seem consistent with their thinking and their beliefs and needs/wants. There’s also a good mix of some antagonist characters who have their own desires and such, which helps to add conflict.

SHOW, DON’T TELL – Except for the above-mentioned “boyfriend history” in the earlier chapter, and describing the entire house while Ellie is still in the driveway, most of the book seems to be described well, from Ellie’s perspective. No major concerns here.

SUGGESTIONS – To sum everything up, I like the Plot A, Nick and Ellie, I like the central characters, the suspicion of who Nick really is and the revelation of his true identity, I like the mixture of mystery and conflict, including the conflict over Oscar, Wade’s advances, and so on. The book has physical descriptions scattered throughout the book, so the author is continually painting a picture for us to help us imagine ourselves there with the characters. On the negative side, it seemed there was an over-abundance of needless characters, I had trouble distinguishing minor characters from important ones, and I’d often wonder who these characters were and what they had to do with the story, so that before long new character names would go in one ear and out the other. I’d say that is probably my biggest problem with the story, because it makes me want to just skim to any scenes with Ellie and Nick (which, in another way, is a sort of compliment that I like those scenes so much). The author over-uses the phrase “My stomach flipped”, but there weren’t all that many other distracting phrases. I noticed some repetition, but none of them got quite as distracting as the stomach flipping, so that’s why it’s the only phrase I’m pointing out. There were some things in my earlier crits that I pointed out, which didn’t apply anymore as soon as I read on and saw what happened, so this is kinda a book where you can’t just read one chapter and pretend like you know what’s going on. The writer has many themes going on at the same time, sort of plot-built-upon-plot, and that is done very well. Its just the Plot B stuff that didn’t hold my attention at all.

All in all, I think it’s a good story, the main plot is very well written, I love the description throughout the book, I like the core characters, their actions seems a lot more believable as you read on and realize all the little things the author has hidden throughout the book, I like the dialogue and the setting. Hopefully other readers have more patience or memory than I do, and understand the Plot B stuff more. If I’m the only one who seemed to have an issue with that, then the author can happily ignore the bulk of my criticisms. If other readers point out their difficulty understanding everything that’s going on and who all those characters are, though, I think it might suggest a re-write is necessary. But re-write is a dirty word to me, and I hope I’m the only one who has struggled with that. Other than that, I wish the author the best, and hope she lands a spot on the desk soon, and her stomach flips when she gets that much-anticipated Harper Collins review.

All the best,

--- Shaun Holt ---
Waiting for the Rain

Shaun Holt wrote 284 days ago

-- Chapter 17 --

Ryan seems more unlikeable in this chapter. Seems jealous and untrusting toward Ellie…. But then again, you did say he’s flawed with good intentions.

-- Chapter 18 --

“My stomach somersaulted.” LOL at least its different.

-- Chapter 19 --

Uh oh. So that’s why Oscar is important to the plot. (Don’t want to give spoilers).

And I officially dislike him. “A year ago he wasn’t….” Knock his lights out, Ryan!!!

-- Chapter 20 --

Hmmm not much to say. Is that the end or is there more?

Shaun Holt wrote 285 days ago

-- Chapter 13 --

I like the first few paragraphs. They’re good ways of helping the reader to get inside the character’s mind, to know their thoughts.

“While he got the beers.” I’d delete just that part. The rest of the paragraph is fine and works well without it.

Again, change some of the Ryan’s to he’s. I like his disclosure to her, and that helps me have empathy toward him, and explains his divorce.

…lurched in my chest. --- Good description, but there’s a slight typo after that. You have a little apostrophe-type thingy after ‘chest’.

“That’s what you do, Ellie. You give people warmth.” I love that line!

“My stomach flipped as I sat back.” How about, “My stomach felt the size of a pea as I sat back…” Or something else. A diamond, a marble, etc.

“set the half-empty bottle on the cocktail table.” Do cocktail tables really exist? Or do you mean coffee table?

I like “paramour.”

“I told you who I’ve been, you’ve seen who I am now.” Great line!!

“flawed man with good intentions.” Another great line. Quit being a better writer than I am! Its making me feel bad about myself!

“What in the world did he want with a small-town park ranger?” Delete that sentence. She asks the exact same question in the next sentence.

What’s stilettos? I guess I’m not a respectable male. Lol!

Thoughts – A very good chapter with the characters, Ryan especially laying himself bare. That really helps create empathy with a character, knowing they’re vulnerable and prone to getting their heart broken or getting hurt.

-- Chapter 14 --

“That’s it, I’m wearing my sweats.” LOL!

“he asked and my stomach flipped.” How about, “he asked, and I felt something in my body tingling.” Again you can cut down on attributing dialogue. Try to only attribute dialogue when there’s an action tied to it. i.e. “I replied, feeling something in my body tingling.” If its just he said, I replied, he answered, etc., then I’d try to cut down on attributing it altogether.

“I know why. I mean, look at you.” LOL!

“I touched Ryan Black’s bicep.” I like that line.

-- Chapter 15 --

I officially hate Jimbo and Wade.

Grrrr!!! I was going to quit there, but you had to go and leave a cliffhanger end to the chapter. So…

-- Chapter 16 --

“operation being the same name as a famous movie.” Lol is that a “Fast & Furious” reference? Hey! I got a new name for the U.S. federal budget! “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

I don’t like this chapter. First half is good, leading up to Oscar’s explanation of why he left, but I got bored with after the “famous movie” line. Again, I think part of it is the abundance of characters, and its hard keeping track of them all and knowing what role they have in the plot. Its hard for me to know if you’re just trying to add color and population to a scene, or if they will be important to the plot. i.e. you describe Oscar’s work with the DEA. Is a drug cartel going to kidnap Ellie to try to find Oscar? Or are you just adding backstory?

“dress pants…” I’d add a sentence like, “He looked just as he did in the movies.” Up to you.

“She forgets my name all the time.” LOL!

I love that Ryan comes out of the closet (so to speak). This is good because I was worried about Brooke spilling the secret. Its kinda out now, and he doesn't seem to mind. So that's a relief.

Four chapters left and I’ve read everything you’ve posted! Unless you post more (I see the book is listed as “incomplete”, I can give you a full RCG review, either tonight or tomorrow! Yay!

---- Shaun Holt ----
Waiting for the Rain: A Romance Without Umbrellas.

Shaun Holt wrote 285 days ago

-- Chapter 9 (Continued) --

I like “syrupy sweet and nauseatingly fake.” Did you steal that from somewhere?

I kinda like the very subtle insult of Ryan calling her Mrs. Sumner.

“cheeks flamed with heat.” That’s a great way of describing her blushing without saying something so generic as, “I blushed.”

Hey what do you know? “My stomach fluttered.” Advice, if you have Microsoft Word or another document, click the find or search bar, type in “stomach” and try to cut down on them! I do the same thing, typing in “would not” and change as many of them as I can to “wouldn’t”, and picking other various words I think I over-use, and cutting them down. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a certain favorite phrase, again, I love using “materialized”, but too often and it sounds like you just don’t know any other descriptive words. And I know that can’t be tue because of the syrupy sweet and nauseatingly fake and cheeks flaming with heat lines. Find some equally beautiful phrases to describe her nervousness, excitedness, etc., because it seems like stomach turning/flipping is your go-to phrase. But again, just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having favorite phrases!!! Here, just to be fair I’ll look up how many times I use materialize(d) in “Waiting”…. …. 13. Page 8, 30, 58, 61, 74, 84, 84 again (I need to delete one of those), 110, 145, 148 (probably need to delete one of those as well), 192, 200, 204 (probably need to delete two of those). So…. Yeah. I’ll probably cut it down to about 8-9 now. Even then its still kinda high, but if they’re only ever 25 pages or so, I don’t think its THAT bad.

Oh, and since Ryan specifically points out your protagonist being “popular”, and that being a nice change for him for once, you can nevermind me pointing it out in my last crit. You’ve covered your tracks, if that makes sense. It’s a DELIBERATE thing on your part, so I give you more wiggle-room to do it. I only try to comment when, as a reader or a writer, I think something needs improved. But when there’s something that is specifically your own voice as a writer (such as using favorite phrases!), I generally try not to suggest changes. Does that make sense? Like with you asking about me using materialize, and whether the object truly just appeared out of nowhere. Of course that’s not what happened. But I like that word, so I’m not going to change it. Maybe I’ve over-used it, but its part of my voice as a writer to have it. So that’s why I kinda wanna tiptoe around the stomach flipping. I think you’re over-using it, especially in the last three chapters, but I don’t have a problem with you using that phrase several times in the book. Just try to space it out some. If I used “materialized” seven times in one chapter, I’d give myself an aneurysm.

Sorry…. I really sound like a jerk when I post crits. I’m not a jerk, honest!!! Why else would I spend a couple hours posting these crits? And I’m a slow reader. I don’t know how everyone else here seems able to read three chapters in such a short time. That takes me a couple hours to read it and a couple hours to write crits.

……… Anyway, I’m sorry, I’m jabbering on. You don’t care about that. You want feedback on your book. I’m sorry. I’ll get back on track…

“Let’s go,” Ryan said…. Change to “he said.”

THE END……. Lol just playing.

Thoughts – I’m liking the story more. I re-read the pitch trying to figure out what the rest of the book is about, and there’s a line about abandonment fears. That’s really the only clue to the ten remaining chapters you’ve posted. So… hmmm… Does he leave her? Does one of her many exes come back into the picture? GASP!!!!!! I know what happens!!!!! … But I won’t say it, because I don’t want to spoil it. We’ll see if I’m right though! Lol sorry I’m hyper tonight. I’m getting a new CD tomorrow I’ve been looking forward to all week; I think that has me overly excited.

-- Chapter 10 --

Halfway point through the chapters you’ve posted. Woohoo! Its all downhill from here! …….. I’ve really got to settle down! Sorry. I apologize.

Again, why is he driving? Does this go back to a plot point I missed? Its her car, its her date, its her hometown… why’s he driving?

“my belly feel squishy inside.” THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! +20 points for non-stomach-flopping!

“The trees lining…” Can you specify what type of trees these are? It’d help establish setting and add color.

The problem, to me, of having so many characters is I lose track of them, and often think, “Now I’ve heard of Oscar, but who is that?” The only ones I know for sure, Richie is her brother, Anita and Wade her co-workers, and then I remember her boss and his wife, and her best friend is Brooke. But everyone else seems more like… I don’t know… I think its hard to know whether these are important characters to the plot, or if they’re minor characters to just fill spaces and add a sense of population. i.e. in a few scenes in “Waiting” I mention a few characters by name, but they never appear in the rest of the book. That’s more just to add population (if you’d grant me the term). I think characters can also have minor or brief roles… But its kinda hard to mention a character in chapter two, then see them again in chapter ten. I forget who that is, because by now I assumed they were just minor characters. Does that make sense? And when I bring back a character that has only been mentioned in passing, I give a reference to WHO that character is. “Jessica from Yearbook class…”, “Sarah Spence from the cooking institute….”, “Josh McCoy, the bald guy from Culinary Arts class,” etc. I don’t think there’s a problem with having minor characters to fill scenes, i.e. the bartender in the last chapter, but you seem to bring these minor characters in and out of your story. So I kinda feel distant from them. I don’t know who Oscar is. I don’t really care who he is, because he hasn’t really been important in the story. I think this also goes back to one of your first chapters, where you gave a huge backstory of all your protagonist’s relationships. Because you introduced so many characters in such a short time, I don’t remember who they are. And since they didn’t actually make appearances then, I can’t attach a name to a face. So I think this is an issue that might need some work. But again, I don’t want to firmly say “cut this scene”, because you might be setting up something in a later chapter. But as it is, it seems like there’s an over-load of characters, I don’t know who they are or what role they have in the book. So… Something to think about. Again, sorry for the long paragraph. At least it has something to do with your book, and isn’t just a random thought I have about a random issue that has nothing to do with your book. I could spend the next two pages talking about why Herbert Hoover is under-rated if I wanted to. But again, I’m off subject.

Lol I like the “Sir, we have wheelchairs” line and Ryan’s reaction.

“can’t get him to lift a finger.” LOL!!!!

“I met Cara, Dana and Brandon.” …………… Who?

“my belly feel squishy.” Uh oh. Second use of that in the chapter. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled now for “squishy”.

I’m such a jerk. I’m sorry. 

-- Chapter 11 --

“almost nine,” Ryan replied. Change to ‘he replied’.

“pill?” he asked. Delete ‘he asked’. No need to attribute dialogue.

You can cut down on attributing a LOT of the dialogue in this chapter. It’ll be obvious from context who is speaking.

Three paragraphs consecutively begin with ‘I’. I gave him a salute, I finished every morsel, I woke up. There’s fourteen I’s in those three paragraphs. Just letting you know. I’m sure I use I’s far too much in “Waiting” as well.

Oh! I think I remember Oscar! Was he the one she’d dated for a year, until learning he had a son!? I remember that! See, I wasn’t just skimming!

Why’s he call her Lee? Lol I have a bad memory I guess.

“I stopped, not trusting myself…” I like that paragraph. Good mix of description.

“You can and you will.” …. Was that line also in “Music of Souls”? Did you guys steal it from Twilight or something? Cuz I think you’ve both used it.

Ehhhh against my better judgment I’ll do one more chapter. I’m eager to finish reading books now that I’m on a roll. And after this one I only have eight chapters left.

-- Chapter 12 --

I like her taking her dish into the kitchen to hide her disappointment. Good characterization.

“I’m sorry.” “Yeah me too.” No need to attribute dialogue there.

“like a bad penny.” Cliché. Can you use another metaphor, perhaps one related to forestry? Like… I don’t know. A bear to campground food. Or salmon to its spawning grounds. Or a bear to its cubs? I dunno.

“underneath a framed Bob Dylan poster.” Good way to describe setting.

“my cheeks burned like fire.” Repetitive from an earlier chapter, but I like it. I hadn’t heard that phrase much, so I don’t mind hearing it again.

“Only four days had passed…” Really? Feels like more than that.

Owwww this chapter bummed me out. Like…. How do I say? …. Bad news for your protagonist and Ryan. Time apart. Me sad. I would kinda like him to eventually say what he likes so much about her. He can essentially get his pick of the litter, so why her? I hope at some point he explains that.

Story is moving well. I like their relationship. I like how the story is going.

Shaun "the Jerk" Holt
Waiting for the Rain

Shaun Holt wrote 286 days ago

Soldiering on.

-- Chapter 7 --

I like the characterization of Wade being equally comfortable on the back of a horse or a Harley Davidson.

“in case Wade tried…” Change to “he tried”.

You have her stomach doing lots of flipping and cartwheels in this chapter.

“Nick asked on a smile.” That’s the second time in a short time you’ve used that expression. I’d change it a bit.

“My stomach turned over with the realization…” Hey there’s another one! She has a really active stomach.

I really like the Internet search; that’s a good, modern way to reveal a character’s backstory and biography. Clever.

Thoughts on chapter seven – Alright, I like Ryan’s revelation. It seems believable, the clues and such dispersed throughout the book seem to be consistent in that regard. And I like the Internet search. Still so many chapters though. Makes me wonder what else can happen?

-- Chapter 8 --

“It’s natural gas.” I like that line.

“and then touched a match to it.” Delete ‘and’, and maybe put a comma after ‘charcoals’, because the sentence has a run-on feel with three and’s.

“my stomach fluttered.” She has a real active stomach.

“jabbering non-stop.” Maybe add a sentence, something like, “Maybe that’s why he kissed me – to try to shut me up.”

The part about swapping cellphone numbers is a little tedious. How about simply, “We swapped cellphone numbers.”

Thoughts on chapter eight – I’m liking the story a lot more now. So just guessing from this, it’d be bad if you made her TOO suspicious of him in the earlier chapters, and THEN had her falling for him once she finds out his true identity, because then she’d seem more like a gold-digger. So I’m thinking you could try to write it so, sub-textually, she’s attracted to him and all that, but she keeps telling herself that her only interest in him is public safety, his own safety, etc. Not getting eaten by a bear, or BY Bear (LOL!), not dying of hypothermia, etc. Maybe you were close to doing that in the other chapters, but in chapter six she just seemed to lose all possible professionalism. But seeing his real identity, and knowing why he was lying before, and she knowing he was lying, all the pieces do fit together. So you don’t need to re-write it as much as I feared you might. I think you should just be careful to make sure that she tells herself she’s only going out of her way because she doesn’t want a dead guy in a bear’s stomach, or, she doesn’t want an escaped convict hiding out in her woods. You know what I mean? And I think you need to increase her concern for the missing child and the fire in chapter six, because both of those are very serious concerns for a park ranger, but she seemed to look at them more like obstacles to her meeting Nick. That’s why I said she appeared too clingy. If there’s a missing child, and a huge, muscular guy without enough blankets, the missing child is definitely the priority. I think that’d also make her more empathetic to be on the search to find the child. Maybe you could even make HER be the one to find the child. I dunno. But anyway, I think you do still need to include her attraction to Nick, but try to do it in a more subtle way… OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!! The child goes missing. Maybe she suspects Nick kidnapped her! So THAT is why she goes to Nick’s campsite (not to give him blankets, which is stupid!), and follows him to Ryan’s house. When Nick finds her, she thinks he’s going to kidnap her as well. Her boss shows up, she tells him that she was trespassing because she suspected Nick might’ve taken the girl, and her boss explains that they found the girl an hour before in the other campground. Maybe she could’ve turned off her radio because she didn’t want a message coming through when she was following Nick? And she has a flashlight, but doesn’t want to use it to give off her position, etc. So that way, she is making a mistake wrongly accusing him, but we can understand her making that mistake, and we can understand her trespassing and ‘stalking’ Nick, because she knows he’s been lying to her, and there’s a missing girl. And when she follows him to the house, she’s SURE all her suspicions were correct. I think that would make the chapter far better, and make her actions far more believable. Hope that helps! Sorry for the long paragraph.

-- Chapter 9 --

Lol the bit about Brooke trying to get info on the car is tedious, but I think its part of her character. Kinda just hyper-active, over-imaginative, etc. My guess is it took a little planning to write that to keep it all logical, even though its sort of chaotic dialogue…. If that makes sense. i.e. a couple times in “Waiting” I have scenes where there’s two or three different conversations going on at the same time, and it takes a minute to plan out, you know, character A says to character B, character C says to character A, character B replies to character A, character D says to character C, character B says to character D. … Takes a little planning to make it make sense.

Is all the stuff about the pregnancy and whose baby is it relevant to the plot? I’d rather have a sentence like, “I was able to divert her attention to other local gossip, but it wasn’t long before she returned to the subject of the SUV in my driveway.”

You should include a line about her realizing that her best friend was probably the worst person to tell, since she’s quite the talker. She’s not really a good person to keep a secret, it seems.

I really wish you’d cut down on all the nervous butterflies and stomach flipping. I understand writer’s have their own favorite phrases and such (I like the word ‘materialize’), but several times in a chapter gets very repetitive. In this chapter, in the previous chapter, in the one before that.

Change a lot of the Ryan’s to he’s, especially if he’s the only guy in the scene and the only male being talked about. We’ll know who “he” refers to.

Why is Ryan driving HER Jeep? First, its her car. Second, its her turn for the date. SHE should be taking him.

“My stomach flipped when he reached for my hand….” Hey what do you know? :P

“so handsome it made my stomach flip.” Alright, now I’m seriously considering counting all the times her stomach flips in the book. On my knees, I’m begging you to cut down on them!

“I wasn’t dressed up at all…” I like working in her outfit as you did there. Usually I’d just say, “I dressed in ……” Its good that you actually find a relevant way for her to describe what she’s wearing.

I think it’s a bit of an overload with her meeting all these other characters. That said, I’m not sure which ones, if any, you should delete. Its just that she goes from Brooke to Anita to Dustin to Chad. You know what I mean? I get that the place is popular and whatever, but it just seems a little too much.

“What can I getcha?” he asked. “Two Budweiser’s,” I told him. “Bottle or draft,” he asked. “Bottle,” I replied. ----- I’d delete the attribution of dialogue here. Because “What can I getcha?” is obviously the bartender speaking. Two Budweiser’s is obviously her answer. And so on. He asked, I told him, he asked, I replied is all needless.
Combine this into one sentence. “He reached under the bar… popped off the lids.... across the counter to me.”

“Ellie Bradshaw?” I heard a female voice….. Oh God! Another person! … For all of this, I’m not sure how much you WANT to have in there as the author, to sort of tease us that they’re on their second date but she keeps meeting people, or whether you’re just going overboard with characters. If its your intention to deliberately keep her away from Ryan, fine. If you’re just trying to prolong the story or add to the wordcount, I’d rather it be spending time with Ryan. But again… if it is your intention to have your protagonist continually being taken away and unable to be with her date, fine.

I would love to go on, I’m liking the story again, and I’m curious who this new voice is and how the date turns out, and all that good stuff, but I have to go eat dinner, so I’ll pick up on this later.

--- Shaun Holt ---
Waiting for the Rain: A Romance Without Teenage Sex

Shaun Holt wrote 286 days ago

I've been thinking a bit about chapter six, and the problem I think is chiefly that your protagonist's actions seem unbelievable. I wish I could recollect all her reasons for going to see Nick, but I can't.... But these often seem like she's going FAR out of her way to see him. That kind of gives the impression that she doesn't have anything better to do, that she's neglecting the rest of her work, or that she's just obsessed with him; almost stalking him. I can understand you're trying to show that she's suspicious of him, I got that, but since you also show that she is attracted to him, it comes off less as her being suspicious, and more as her stalking him.

I think you CAN make a character do basically anything, SO LONG AS IT IS CONSISTENT WITH THEIR VALUES. For instance, you could have a protagonist who has never committed a crime, always been a good girl, wouldn't harm a fly, but you could have her rob someone at gunpoint --- so long as we know she's doing it because she HAS to feed her children. We KNOW she is doing something completely wrong in her eyes, but we understand WHY she is doing it because we know she cares for her children and that love for her kids could make her do anything, even commit a crime, to make sure they have food to eat.

With your protagonist, I don't really see those values, which would make her actions believable. For instance when she takes Nick home, I understand she doesn't want to leave him to die, but in chapter six you talk about a missing child in the park - and your protagonist just sort of treats it like an inconvenience. If she was really consistent in wanting to help people and keep them safe, the missing child would be a MAJOR concern for her. She's be willing to drop anything to find that child. That'd make her decision to bring Nick home more consistent with her values. But instead, it seems she takes Nick home because she LIKES him, while the missing child is more of an inconvenience, darn child goes missing and that keeps her from going to give Nick blankets. Know what I mean?

I could go on but I have to run into town. I just hoped this would make it more clear what I don't like about chapter six. You could have your protagonist following Nick as she does, but you HAVE to make it believable and consistent with her character. I would really love to go on, but I have to go.

Shaun Holt wrote 286 days ago

-- Chapter 5 --

“hypothermia, could I?” Delete ‘I said’. It’s obvious she’s the one saying it.

“Nick listened politely.” Change to ‘he listened politely.”

“next few weeks?” I asked --- Delete ‘I asked’. It’ll be obvious from contest who’s speaking.

“His lips… His breath… His beard…” I’d revise that into one sentence. Otherwise it seems too choppy.

-- Chapter 6 --

I didn’t see anything in particular to comment on. But I’m quickly losing empathy for your protagonist. She just doesn’t seem that likeable. Because of her continual obsession with Nick, it just appears less 'romantic' and more 'reckless'. She doesn't come across as devoted or loyal, but as unprofessional, clingy, and, basically, weak. To be clear, I think its more a fault in your character than your actual writing, except perhaps for her not being a very likeable character. You might be doing that intentionally, to try to have some character growth or to reveal some plot point, but I think its hard to have an unlikeable character, particularly for a protagonist. The reader should be concerned for the protagonist, rooting for them and here it just seems unbelievable what she does. But I’ll try to read more later. Sorry I can't also provide a more detailed or positive crit. I'd like to finish the book and give an RCG review of the whole thing. But in this chapter especially, your protagonist just seems unlikeable, her behavior unprofessional and clingy, her obsession with Nick is reckless. So... I dunno. I'd like to finish reading the book and give a more thorough crit of the overall book, especially once I see how your character evolves and changes.

---- Shaun Holt ----
Waiting for the Rain

daveduck wrote 287 days ago

I have only read the first 3 chapters but you weave a good tale. I look forward to reading more.

KMac23 wrote 290 days ago

I finished reading your remaining chapters and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the story. You were able to keep me hooked to the very last uploaded chapter. You left quite a few elements of mystery in the story and included many different characters and issues left unresolved.

I thought Ryan seemed very sweet and caring throughout the story. Ellie had reason to distrust him and not wish to allow her feelings to get hurt after losing so many people in her life. I had no clue he was the movie actor who lived in the home, even after he was seen at ‘his house’. You were able to keep that hidden from me.

I felt a little bad for Oscar for losing out, when it really wasn’t his fault, but that he was only protecting Ellie, but she had moved on, so it was understandable she couldn’t go back.

Only one thing bothered me a little, was that Ryan had cheated before. I know your story cruxes on the fact that people make mistakes and can change, and I think they can. I routed for Ryan throughout the story. But man, that would be difficult for me to trust a guy who lived the Hollywood lifestyle, ran with women models and had cheated before. I couldn’t help thinking that she’ll be left watching him like a hawk the rest of her life.

It was great when Ryan finally walked into the party as himself. It gave the story a bit of a Cinderella effect. You had a great hook at the end of your uploaded chapters. You left me wondering about the secret. I think this was good, enough to stop me from getting anything else done around here today. You got highest stars from me.

Gate of the Devil

Here were a couple typos I saw. They were few and far between.
Ch. 10
“I’ll be fine, Ryan(,)” I reasoned.
Ch. 13
My breath caught and my heart lurched in my chest. (typo in this sentence)

KMac23 wrote 290 days ago

Your long and short pitches were very well written. Although there seemed to be a few minor issues with the first few pages, the rest really was smooth sailing. I loved the subtle humor in it and the way you are able to keep the romantic tension going. I read through chapter six and will have to come back to read more, as you have me wondering what Nick’s real story is behind what he is telling Ellie, and why he told Dan things he didn’t tell her.

You have a terrific plot here and all the elements for a great romance. Both your characters are believable and act in realistic ways. Most women wouldn’t go it alone to talk to a suspicious man, but you found ways to make this feasible, with Ellie being a park ranger and having raised her brother independent from her parents and the emergency situations warranting it.

I think the fact that both Ellie and Nick lost parents give them a great connection. There is something tender and real in their relationship. I look forward to reading more and wish you the best with this.

Gate of the Devil

Ch. 1
He seemed strong and rugged. (I would change this sentence to, ‘He seemed the strong and rugged type.’) I think it needs something added to it.
You mention his beard a couple times in the first couple paragraphs.
Also hands, is repeated. Instead, He took my hand in his huge one. His (grip) was strong; his palms calloused.
He left me with a lift of his bearded chin. I get a picture of him walking away with that chin never lowering.

Shaun Holt wrote 294 days ago

RCG review.

-- Chapter 3 --

Just very quickly browsing the chapter, I see lots of “I’s”. I’d try to cut down on them a bit; the best way is to combine sentences or re-write them. i.e. instead of “I awoke Sunday morning to the sound of Bear barking” could be changed to something as simple as, “Bear’s barking woke me. Guessing that meant someone was outside, I threw on my robe and went to investigate.”

“I’d interrogate him later.” I like that line.

“I wrinkled my nose in confusion.” I like that line too. It’s a pretty & unique description.

“said softly into my HAIR.” I think that’s a weird way to say it. You don’t say something into someone’s hair, you say it into their ear. Maybe, “said, his lips softly on my hair.” I dunno.

You say Richie a lot, when you could say “he”.

“I knew the decision was ultimately up to me.” I’m not positive about that. People CAN refuse medical care. I’ve seen it. Ambulance shows up, person says they don’t help, by law the paramedics cannot intervene. To do such would be akin to kidnapping. So…. I’d change that. Nick can refuse help, so the decision is ultimately up to HIM…. Although on second thought hypothermia but be somewhat different because he might not be in a conscious-enough state to refuse help.

I think it is okay for her to not leave him alone though. He can’t make her leave; and she doesn’t want a corpse in her park. No problems there.

And I think she should focus more on heating his chest & back. His arms will take care of themselves. If you have warm blood rushing to a cold heart (chest), it could cause heart failure due to that shock. You need to warm the chest first and foremost, then hands and feet. Heating his chest saves his life. Heating his limbs saves a finger or a toe, or maybe a foot. That’s less important. He can live without a toe.

“I ended with a self-satisfied smile.” Then… “I let myself out, a victorious smile on my face.” That seems a bit repetitive. I’d probably remove the second one.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHAPTER -- Sweet chapter. *Smiles*.

I think it’s good to finally meet Richie (I’m 95% sure that’s the first time we meet him). Because you referred to him in the other chapters and I kept wondering who he was. I think you do well to establish the relationship between Ellie and Richie.

-- Chapter 4 --

“let Bear out into the dark morning to do his business.” You use the same expression in chapter three. So why not just cut “to do his business”? You go on to say she makes the coffee while she waits for Bear to empty his bladder, so the whole “to do his business” line is repetitive from the earlier chapter(s) and unnecessary due to the “empty his bladder” line.

“I hardly breathed” I like that line and that moment.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHAPTER – I was wondering if he was still going to be there after she went to shower. In terms of characterization, its good that he’s finally beginning to open up a bit to her, culminating in the end of the chapter. I think it’ll be hard for readers to want to put the book down there before finding out what happens next. Well done.

Shaun Holt
Waiting for the Rain

Fragmented wrote 295 days ago

Hey Madison!

Eventually...finally, back for more (previous reading had an error on Chapter Two and I couldn't read on). Sorry it took so long, but I see you are doing VERY well indeed, well done!

Ok here goes..CHAPTER TWO
Pah. Ive got nothing to say, you leave me speechless. I take up my time commenting on peoples books by picking up typos and mistakes and you HAVE NONE. And I don't know how to tell you how much I love this.

why is the guy warm one minute, and cold the next? Did his mother really just die? Whats going on? I wish I had more time and my eyes didn't go so fuzzy at the computer, cos I really really want to read this. Don't suppose theres any chance you'd send it to me so I could read it on my kindle? (flutters eyes, and offers chocolate).


Shaun Holt wrote 303 days ago

Hey, Madison, here’s the rest of the feedback on chapter two.

“Out of sight, however, didn’t equal out of mind.” That sentence sounds a little dull. How about something more like, “Even though he was out of my sight, he wasn’t out of my mind.” And the next sentence could also be spiced up to something like, “Every night, in the dark and quiet solitude of my bedsheets, I would think of him.”

Then “thought of things I should’ve said…” I’d end the sentence there. “instead of what I had said” kind of dulls it. Ending with “thought of things I should’ve said” is a bit stronger ending to the sentence in my opinion. Then maybe end the paragraph, “Although in real life I came across as authoritative and bossy, in my fantasies I was alluring and witty.” Those are all just my suggestions, you can take them or ignore them as you wish.

“My hands were shaking and I was nervous.” The last part there is very telly; we know from her shaking hands that she’s nervous/excited/anxious, whatever. How about, “My hands were shaking and my heartbeat was erratic.”

I like the attitude from Nick in saying there’s not much she could do if he had been eaten by a bear.

I like how the chapter ends, it makes me wonder how they could get together, and whether she will keep trying to woo him. But I dislike the very end, because you have another over-used expression. “With my tail between my legs.” How about, “As I left, I felt the shame Bear must’ve felt whenever I yelled at him. I retreated hastily with my tail between my legs.” At least that way there’s a REASON to use that cliché; you’d be kind of using it in a new way… . I’m not sure if that makes sense. I don’t so much see, “oh, tail between her legs, I’ve seen that a million times.” I see, “oh, just as Bear runs off after being scowled, so too is Ellie.” And on the subtext, she’s telling us that she feels like a dog.

Hope those ideas help.

Shaun Holt
Waiting for the Rain

Shaun Holt wrote 305 days ago

Hey, Madison, I've got to skedaddle to bed, so all I can give is a review on half of chapter two. I'll try to finish the rest tomorrow.

RCG review on chapter two.

Characterization ---I’d save the paragraph talking about Jimbo until you actually meet him. The reference to her not wanting to go with Jimbo is fine, because I imagine I’ll meet him later, but I don’t think you should have that paragraph (“Just like any employer…”) until Jimbo actually appears.

Plot ---I’m not sure if I’d call it a plot hole or not, but you describe Dan as being happily-married, then go on to talk about how he always wanted a girl, and when he and his wife were unable to produce one, “that had been it for Dan’s dream.” So… the whole bit seems more on the “tell” side of things (as opposed to showing). How about getting rid of the paragraph “Dan admitted…” and ending the previous paragraph with a sentence going something like, “Although they hoped to have a daughter, Dan was content to treat me as one.” Just a thought.

Setting --- “… as I leaned against the counter.” You haven’t described the setting at all yet to this point. I figured they were just outside talking in the parking lot. So I’d suggesting adding a few sentences setting out the scene. Maybe add a couple sentences about her work uniform.

Style/voice ---More outdated phrases. “chock-full of brown puddles.” 25-year-olds don’t really say chock-full.

Dialogue --- I like the line about his mother writing his name on his underwear.

I think the writing especially flows well after he says no one would miss him, culminating in him saying divorced, no kids.

Spelling/punctuation --- Second paragraph has two “rolled”s. “When Wednesday morning rolled around… when I rolled into work.”

“I decided not to tell Dan…” That paragraph has many HAD’s in it. Had a couple days off, had come to the conclusion, had really done, had jumped at me, had been supersensitive, had overreacted.

“The very same store where I regularly shopped.” I’d cut “very”, because it doesn’t seem surprising to me that there’d be a receipt from the same store. My guess is there aren’t too many stores to chose from when you’re close to a national park.

“He had paid with plastic.” I understand what you’re trying to say, but taken literally it sounds pretty outrageous. What? He paid the store clerk with plastic bags? Again, 25-year olds don’t say, “he paid with plastic.” He paid with debit or credit card.

Shaun Holt
Waiting for the Rain

Fragmented wrote 314 days ago

Hey Madison!

Return read as promised!
Chapter One
Perfect. Totally perfect. No typos, no errors, smoothly written, intriguing, everything. read to the end and have to open up Chapter Two immediately, because I want to know who this guy is and what he's hiding/running from.

Chapter Two
Argh! The NOTHING MAN chapter is no there for me to read - it says "Sorry, an error occurred while loading the chapter text'. I refreshed my browser page twice and it still says the same thing.

How annoying. Can you check it out and let me know so I can read on?

The Bloodline

Shaun Holt wrote 314 days ago

I'm reading some of the other comments here, and noticing a lot of people liked your pitch, particularly your short pitch. That was the one I thought needed re-written.

Hmmm........ In this case I'd say, "Go with the crowd". I didn't really like it; most people do though.... So I'd say keep it.

Shaun Holt wrote 314 days ago

RCG review.

Madison, your first chapter is far too long for me to read & review three chapters (since I’m trying to time it so I finish the review just as I finish my steaming-hot cheese-stuffed pepperoni pizza!), so here is some feedback just on chapter one.

Just to let you know, this is a very long review (as you can see), and because I’m commenting on so many things, you might get the impression that I don’t like the book, which isn’t true. I like what I read and think you have the makings of a good story, but I just found issues with a lot of things. I wouldn’t bother posting any of this if I didn’t like it the book. So… hopefully you don’t take offense to any of my suggestions. At the end of the day they are just suggestions and you can ignore them if you want. Also, they are somewhat out of order since I’m trying to stick to the guidelines about pitch, characterization, etc. I usually like to read & comment as I go…. But instead I’ve tried to fit my comments into the proper categories.

1) Pitch --- The short pitch (sad to say) seems very bland and gives no clue about the plot, except your main character’s name and that their world is turned inside out (which is just about true for any novel’s protagonist). Have you ever seen Star Wars? It’d be kinda like saying, “Luke Skywalker was an average farm-hand, until his life is turned inside out.” That just doesn’t do the film justice. It doesn’t tell you anything about the galaxy-wide journey and battle against the empire he’s about to wage. So…. I’d re-do the short pitch. The long pitch…. Lol call me crazy but when I read that her long-time boyfriend had an infant son, I asked myself, “Does she know she’s the mother!?” lol I’m an idiot sometimes. The long pitch is decent. I don’t usually pay much attention to pitches though because you could write a bad pitch and a great book, or a great pitch and a bad book. And for myself, I think writers should care more about writing a good book than a good pitch. Any cheap salesman can give you a good pitch; but what really cares is whether they follow through with a good product.

2) Characterization --- I like the way you introduce the protagonist as being 25 years old, by the person commenting that she doesn’t look that old. It’s a clever way of introducing her age rather than for her simply to say, “I am twenty-five.”

I like the way you are developing your protagonist and Nick, those characters are well-done, and I like the bit about the guy at the liquor store (although I don’t know yet if he’s going to be a character who appears in the rest of the book), yet I think you mention Richie without letting us know who that is. Maybe I missed it.

I like the part about Del, and the end of Del. Made me smile. I also like your characterization of Jake. I know the type.

My biggest problem with the part about sharing your protagonist’s boyfriend history is twofold. First, the chapter is quickly becoming longwinded – details about the house, details about all her previous boyfriends…. Gets kinda boring. Also, it makes her seem either something like a harlot, or overly hung up with relationships. Twenty-five is a little bit too old to be recounting every boyfriend she’s ever had. It seems a bit immature is all and makes me somewhat dislike her, which isn’t good. Maybe that’s just me though.

Also a bit of a logical flaw is your protagonist claims she is very shy and clams up around hot guys, but that is the exact opposite of how I saw her react to Nick, trying to get him to talk about where he was from, walking two miles to give him the papers when she really shouldn’t have, telling him to keep doing pushups because we know she liked watching him, etc. I understand you’re trying to show that until now the protagonist has been having guy problems and hasn’t had the best experiences in the past, and that she’s awed by Nick, but nothing she’s done appears to me to be shy or to clam up. So I don’t know. I just can’t believe she’s shy and clams up when she’s so desperately gone out of her way to communicate with Nick. Although I do know WHY you are having her show interest in Nick. I don’t question that. My issue is with the shy & clam up part when I know that’s not what she’s doing with him. Its kinda like having a character say she doesn’t like to sing publicly in chapter two, when in chapter one I saw her singing a rousing encore to 10,000 fans in chapter one.

Somewhere in this review I talk about how you should move details about the house and such to places where they’d fit in better. Well here’s a good example of how you could do that. After describing the house, you talk a bit about her dog, Bear. After going into her boyfriend history, and getting out of her Jeep, Bear runs up to her. THAT would be a good spot to talk about Bear. i.e. move all the stuff about Bear to that scene where he actually shows up – don’t have her tell us about Bear while she’s simply driving up to the house. Show, don’t tell. So she’s driving home, gets out of the car, then Bear comes. THEN talk about Bear, how she got him, why she named him that, etc. That’d be more like showing and less like telling.

3) Plot --- I’m not sure yet about the plot, having just read the first paragraph… but…

I love the quick escalation & tension when he refuses to show any ID. In particular, since your protagonist has kind of had the hots for him, and now she’s protectively guarding her gun and watching out for footsteps behind her, etc., that all is a well-done bit of tension & makes me wonder what’ll happen to these characters before the novel is done. So I can definitively say this is where you catch my attention as a reader.

4) Setting --- I may’ve missed it, but I’m not sure where the book is actually set. I see the pitch says Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but I don’t remember seeing that in chapter one. Did I just miss it, or is it revealed in another chapter? Aside from that, I think you have all the foundations for a good setting. The park, the wilderness, her house, etc.

5) Style/Voice --- Throughout the book I’m noticing you use a bunch of seemingly outdated phrases. “Skedaddled”, etc. I could list the rest… But all of it doesn’t sound like something a 25-year-old would say.

… Just came up on another one, so I thought I’d include it. “he [Bear] took off to do his business”. To do his business sounds old and cliché. And its more like telling rather than showing. So I’d consider revising it to something like, “before he left, his nose to the ground searching for a perfect spot.” Something along those lines.

Another one, “Openings were few and far between.” Outdated phrases/clichés.

And another one “so they had stayed put.”

And, “listened with rapt attention.”

“Did you do something different to your hair?” Not very observant if she can’t notice red highlights. How about simply saying, “You’ve changed your hair.”

Another thing I notice is all your paragraphs from driving up the gravel road to her house till meeting Brooke are all roughly the same length. That could almost automatically make readers zone out because they get used to reading four sentences, paragraph, four sentences, paragraph, four sentences, paragraph. So even if what you have IS good, the PACING is bad. In a novel, as awkward as it sounds, you don’t really want constant pacing. You want to slow down, speed up, take a hairpin turn, grind to a halt, etc. This is often easily changed by making two or three paragraphs one longer 7-sentence paragraph, making the next paragraph a one-sentence paragraph, then a three or four sentence paragraph, etc.

6) Dialogue --- “But your problem here is your setup.” I’d get rid of that one sentence. The rest is fine.

7) Spelling/Punctuation --- Haven’t spotted any typos, which is good. Only suggestion I’d make is when Brooke is talking about the prospect of getting a job, it should end with an exclamation mark. “And that means I have a shot at it.” Change to “shot at it!”

8) Show, Don’t Tell --- I think you make Nick a bit TOO secretive in the beginning, too obviously hiding something. Hesitation to say last name, Spidey-senses tingling, rather be anywhere else, hesitated to say where he’s from, shifted uneasily… I’d probably get rid of the “rather be anywhere else”, hesitation to say where he’s from, and that he shifted “uneasily”. You could still say he shifted his weight, because sub-textually that’s a sign of nervousness… But for your character to recognize that shift AS uneasily is more of telling, not showing.

Same thing with the next part after he’s done pushups and “I got the distinct impression he wished that had been the way things had gone down.”

I do like the description and history of your protagonist’s house, and thought it was well done, but it did seem a fraction on the “telling” side rather than showing. If at all possible, I’d cut down on some of the details there, and move them to a spot where you could use them later… i.e. rather than just saying the bedroom was her favorite room in the house, wait till she is actually IN the bedroom to talk about how the bedroom was her favorite room. You don’t have to use that exact example, but something like that would improve the story a bit and be a little less telling & more showing. I say this in particular because I don’t even know where your protagonist is as you tell this stuff about the deck, the bedroom, Richie’s room, etc. For all I know she is still outside in the driveway. So I would only try to reveal these details as SHE experiences them, if that makes sense.

… Ah ha! You’ve fully described her house AND her entire history with dating, then this sentence, “I looked up at the porch as I drove UP THE DRIVEWAY.” What’d I say about her still being outside in the driveway? … The bad part here is you’ve told all about her house and her previous boyfriends, the whole while she’s been pulling into the driveway. So I think that whole section could be re-written somehow. That’d be a lot of work, but it just seems out of place.

9) Thoughts/opinions/suggestions --- “Copyright 2011”. You don’t need to have that. Having an official (or unofficial) copyright doesn’t make all that much difference because you ARE the writer. You have rights to the book as soon as you write it.

“He seemed strong and rugged.” You could delete that sentence because you’ve already established that he’s strong (hadn’t missed a gym appointment in years) and rugged (hadn’t bothered to shave in a long time).

“I smiled up at him.” You repeat that a couple times in a short span. I’d take one out or change it a bit.

“remained standing where he was like he was waiting for something.” Very small suggestion, but maybe change “like” to “as if”. Your choice.

“I helped him move his food bag…” Ten feet up? … I’d just go straight from her instructions about where to put the bag, straight to the line about going hungry if he competes with a bear. She’s already gone far out of her to give him the paper to sign, it’s a little hard to believe she’d climb 10-ft up a tree to help him hang his food bag.

Remember what I said about the details about the house, and the bit about Richie’s room and wondering who’s Richie? I like all the details there, and I think they are important details, but I think a good chunk of that section needs to be moved to elsewhere in the story, or re-write that section to make it more engaging. As it is, I think that scene, describing the house, is your most problematic thing right now needing work. But again, I think everything you have there IS good; it just seems out of place. If you don’t know quite what I mean I can try to explain it further.

I think this qualifies as my longest, most thorough review of one chapter in my history here at authonomy.


Shaun Holt
Waiting for the Rain

HappyTheory20 wrote 356 days ago

The descriptions,emotions and sensations are wonderful. This is a book that anyone could easily imagine themselves into. Amazing writing.

ChristineL wrote 363 days ago

RCG Review:

Very good pitch. It provides enough description of what the book will be about without giving away too much. The two questions posed in the end make me want to read more.

The two main characters are well-fleshed out. Ellie Bradshaw is a sympathetic, capable and independent park ranger who comes across the mysterious, brooding yet attractive Nick Smith, and sparks fly. As Ellie shows concern over Nick for being such a novice camper, checks over him a few times and finally saves him from hypothermia, Nick warms up to her. The author has done a good job in revealing Ellie's conflicting feelings for Nick. On one hand, she suspects he is a shady character, and yet, she can't help but be drawn to him. Nick himself shows glimpses of gentleness which soften his gruff exterior.

Plot and Pacing:
Chapter 1 -3 : mainly to build characters and their back stories (especially Ellie) and the slow start of the romantic entanglement between Ellie and Nick. By the end of chapter 3, my feeling is that this is going to build into a heartfelt love story.

Mountainous and forest setting and Ellie's house are well described. The texture and temperature are well illustrated. Good job.

Style and Voice:
The author has chosen first person, past tense (Ellie as POV). Ellie comes across as a level-headed and compassionate person. The author has done a good job in telling the story in a compelling voice, letting the readers into Ellie's thoughts and feelings. Little details she gives with regards to her surroundings and people are very interesting.

Snappy dialogues between Ellie and Nick give a reader a sense that they are flirting even when they don't mean to.

Show, not tell:
There is a mix of show and tell in this novel and I think it is okay. Sometimes you need both. Perhaps Ellie's back story in chapter one can be parceled out a little more instead of it being spelled out in one place but it's not a major concern.

Some miscellaneous notes:
Chapter 2 - This sentence can be revised I think:
The fact that there was even the slimmest chance that he wasn't was what kept my foot on the gas pedal ... He wasn't what? He wasn't what I thought he was?

And here in Chapter 3:
(Richie said) “Who said anything's wrong?”
“I do.” I think “I did” is better.

Bookworm110 wrote 363 days ago

You've woven a great story. The characters are descriptive, very believable . I love the tension between Ellie and Nick through chapter 8. You also further enhanced Dan's and Ellie's relationship as a supervisor and defacto parent when he punished her for trespassing. I'm putting you on my watchlist, and looking forward to the end.

The Final Beginning

Carol Repton wrote 363 days ago

Wow! You write really well, Madison. I was drawn into the story, and the first three chapters flowed beautifully. Great characterisation, very convincing - I was rooting for Ellie, as her feelings were described so minutely in her interior monologues and I really warmed to her tough though sympathetic character. There was a moving scene between Ellie and her younger brother Richie and also between Ellie and her kindly boss Dan. I like the flirtatious though guarded tone of the conversations between Ellie and Nick the first few times they meet each other. This built up to a satisfying and unexpected scene in chapter 3 where she saves him from hypothermia. There's a wonderful ending to chapter 3 where Nick's coldness finally melts, and he thanks Ellie and hugs her.
I also like your descriptions of nature, eg "raindrops tapping against the leaves", and the rugged, wild setting in the countryside. The descriptions of Ellie's dog Bear are realistic too.
Good slow build-up at the beginning. Nice flashback in chapter 1 giving backstory about parents' death. I like Ellie's dialogue with Brooke, full of jokes and black humour. I like the banter between Ellie and Nick - with her obviously attracted to him but trying to hide it, and his coldness, betraying his character with a very occasional smile in these first few chapters.
I can find very little to fault in this - well done! This is the kind of book I like to read - I can imagine buying it in a bookshop.
Just a few minor points:-
chapter 2 - I found Ellie's comment to Nick "I'm sorry if your massive chest got injured by my little ol' nose" slightly over-familiar at that early stage in their getting to know each other.
typo - in par beginning "All that fixated contemplation ... to visit Nick" (not "to Nick a visit")
chapter 3 - typo in par beginning "She wanted me to go home... (insert "to" before "continue")
One last point - I was taught to indent paragraphs, except for the first paragraph of each chapter.
Good luck! I will be back to read more.

'Worst Case Scenario'

Tracie Podger wrote 363 days ago

RCG Review

Pitch - SP is catchy and the LP ends with a question, enticing the reader to find out the answer.

Characterisation - I took to Ellie straight away, she comes across as charming and believable, there is a softness to her and she has a caring nature. Ryan/Nick, well what can I say, sounds like a real hunk. You actually show us two personalities within Ryan, there is the Nick that Ellie meets to start with, the mysterious, possible criminal who doesn't want her attention but "thaws" to her and there is Ryan, the softer, romantic side that wants her.

Plot/Pacing - A mysterious stranger, unwilling to verify who he is found camping by Ellie, our park ranger. He doesn't want her help yet she finds herself drawn to him. The pacing is perfect, the build up of their relationship spot on bearing in mind the type of people they are.

Setting - A National Park that is described so well, I could see it, feel it. Exceptionally well done.

Style - There is a natural flow to this story, it was easy to feel the same things, to understand the thoughts.

Dialogue - For me there is a real balance between the "story" and the "talking", if that makes sense. Equally, where there were periods of silence between the characters, it felt right too.

Show/Tell - The "showing" was very well done, for sure. Your descriptive writing is what drew me in, it was so well done, one could imagine being there.

Overall - It's a lovely story, albeit a little frustrating to get to the nitty gritty and have the brother interrupt! It's intersting to read Ryan's story, the dilemma he is going through and I am desperate to know what Ellie has to tell him and the effect, if any, on their relationship. I hope you post a few more chapters and soon, in the meantime, high stars and I will keep it on my WL.

Carlabear wrote 364 days ago

RCG Review on No Risk, No Reward

Pitch: I liked the short pitch and I don’t have a problem with the long pitch either. From a personal point of view, it was the second paragraph of the long pitch that really hooked me into your story.

Ellie: I like Ellie. You get a real sense that she is a strong, decent person and you instantly warm to her and care about her because of her back story. I like that she is kind but can also give back a little too. I loved the part where she sticks it to Nick about his mother writing his name in his underwear. Great line.

Nick: I like the way you describe Nick as strong and rugged. I have to admit, at first I didn’t find the “dense, unruly beard” description particularly attractive but then I visualised Eddie Vedder’s beard and it was instantly all fine by me! Ha ha. I like the way you say “didn’t look like it was a look that he was trying to pull off, but more that he hadn’t bothered to shave in a long time.” This actually made him more attractive to me and gave a deeper insight into this man. I really like the way you develop his personality and it felt natural when you changed to calling him Ryan later on. I liked him as mean and moody Nick and I like him as sexy and caring Ryan.

Bear: Cool name for a dog and I love your descriptions of him. I love him.

Brooke: I don’t think we get to know her super well but she functions well as Ellie’s sassy and funny best friend.

Amanda: You do a good job of making the reader hate her.

Oscar: Oscar sounds quite yummy actually but I’m never actually scared she will leave Ryan for him. I don’t believe his story that he couldn’t phone her. What’s the term you use? Chickenshit. Yeah.

Your descriptions of the children are really lovely.

Plot: Nice developing love story. You create great tension throughout, ranging from her suspicions about Nick at the beginning, to their constant interruptions when they’re getting it on, your reintroduction of Oscar and now with Ellie’s secret. I think I know what it is. I’m still wondering about Bear and whether someone took him further away on purpose so he would get lost? Maybe Wade, to get back at Ellie for rejecting him?

Settings: I love the forest setting and your descriptions of it are lovely. I can really imagine being there. “no sounds other than the tapping of raindrops on leaves” = lovely image. At times I felt you included a little too much detail in your descriptions, with people’s clothes occasionally and with some of the house descriptions. I get that it roots you in the moment, and it is nice to have, but there were times I skipped over them to get to the juicier bits. Check that you don’t have big chunks of descriptive texts. I do like your descriptions of people; especially the children and Bear.

Style/Voice Loved your voice and you have a really nice turn of phrase. Ellie’s first person narrative worked really well and you could hear her speaking, just like in the dialogue.

Dialogue I loved the dialogue throughout. I could hear the characters speaking in my head and it felt very natural. I even loved Wade’s dialogue, despite the fact he’s a dick.

I noticed a few little things as I went through, but overall I felt it was really clean.
- In Chapter 2 (Nothing Man – good title, by the way. Are you a Pearl Jam fan?) “No cache of guns or money spilling out so I started close it up” – I think it’s missing a to.
- A little later in the chapter 2 “all that fixated contemplation was probably what prompted me to get in my jeep and drive up the mountain to Nick a visit” – I think pay is missing from this sentence.
Chapter 9.
When Ellie meets Anita, Anita says “Wade paced around the entire time …” you use the word yesterday in this sentence and the one after. Suggest removing it from the one after.
In paragraph starting We left Amanda … there is a sentence that says “The down side was that was it was …” You’re all was’d out here, girl. Delete that extra was! ;o)
I was going to question “chicken fried chicken” but I’m guessing that’s an American thing?
Chapter 16 Oscar speaking: “but I really figured you hang up on me” – think this should be you’d hang up on me
Please check the line “Without Dan knowing what I knew, it would be hard for him to be cordial to Oscar” because I think there might be an extra return after “Without” as “Dan knowing” is an extra space down and looking like a new paragraph.
Ryan says “Nah, I’m just getting’ my second wind.” He smiled, but even it looked weary. The “even it looked weary” jarred. Should that even be there? It may just be an Americanism that I’m not used to. In the UK we might say “but even that looked weary,” or “even his smile looked weary” or just “He smiled, but it looked weary.” So I just thought I’d check that it’s not a typo or something.
Chapter 19- “How was your weekend?”I thought - space missing between inverted comma and I.
Another missing space further down, after Oscar says “Lee, I really did want you to meet Louis, but there’s another reason I wanted to see you. There’s something else I never told you.”He (between inverted comma and He)
“You worked for an organization that specializes in cloak-and-dagger shit, Oscar, do don’t try …” delete extra do here.

Things I loved:
Chapter 2:
I love the description of her bumping into Nick’s chest in chapter 2! I really feel for Ellie later in the chapter when he doesn’t look happy to see her and when he says “I’m nothing you need” my stomach swooped with sadness for her.
Chapter 3:
I love how you describe the loneliness creeping up on Ellie the moment Richie leaves. Really nice paragraph without being overly sentimental.
Great storyline to get Ellie saving him from hypothermia – undressing him and all that skin to skin contact. Mmm. Even though it isn’t sexual it’s still a nice moment.
Aw and nice moment at the end when he hugs her and says thank you.
Chapter 4: Woop! Nice description of the kiss!
Chapter 9: “The three of us paused to watch him take a long swallow as though we’d never seen a man drink beer before.” Fab line and a great image (reminded me of the Diet Coke break adverts)
Chapter 15: “Her blue eyes were heavily lined, and not just with make up.”
You create a great tree analogy when Ellie tells Ryan how she feels in the car. And later there’s a wonderfully poignant metaphor for fading memories when you talk about Oscar’s number moving further down the list in her phone’s memory until it’s gone.
“Why is your arm so fat” – ha ha, love it! Classic kid question

So yeah, I loved it and I hope I get to see it in print some time. I'd love to read to the end.

Carla x
Way off Track

Jo Heslop wrote 365 days ago

RCG Review

I think the short pitch is spot on, I wouldn't change it. In fact it was your pitch, along with your cover that made this the first book I chose to read when I first signed up to the site - even before I joined the group. Now I have read the twenty chapters, I think maybe you give a bit too much away in the longer pitch?

I warmed to Ellie straight away, she has a strong head on her shoulders. I imagined a girl next door when reading and I think Ryan describes her as such at some point in the book. She has experienced loss and abandonment which you elaborate well on. So you can see why she is weary of Nick in the first instant and also further down the line with Ryan when he keeps saying things are semi-permanent.

The air of mystery around Nick makes him very appealing to a reader, you are eager to find out more. Like Ellie I too was suspicious of him and his behaviour. At first I disliked his character as he seemed rude and abrupt, but as the banter starts to play out between him and Ellie I grew to like him. When he poured his heart out in chapter thirteen, I fell in love with him.
I loved the damned if I do, damned if I don’t moment in chapter five.

Ryan’s relationship with Bear is sweet, you know a guy has a good heart when he has a bond like that with a four legged friend. I especially loved the part when the vet mentioned he treated him like the president. My suspicious mind thought there was going to be more to his accident than there was. The bad vibe with Wade after the party I thought he had something to do with it.

Richie is great, most people have a cheeky brother like him. His comment to everyone when he met Ryan made me laugh out loud.

As a reader I don’t like Oscar, even after he has explained things to Ellie. I was begging her in my mind not to consider him again. Then there is Wade, well he just needs locking up lol

I think I can guess what Ellie’s secret is towards the last few chapters, but I could be wrong 
I was a bit surprised it was left that late in the book to become so apparent, maybe you could add more hints earlier on in the book. Maybe you have and I completely didn’t pick up on it?

The like the small town setting and how you link it to Ryan’s background is great. Your descriptions on locations are good, the reader is able to picture it in their minds easily.

I was so engrossed in the book I didn't notice any errors in spelling etc. There is an errant quotation mark in chapter eight (part 3) at the end of the paragraph where she says I don’t have any plans for tomorrow. I wasn't keen on how many times you mentioned the convention centre at the beginning of chapter fifteen. I thought it was written too many times in one paragraph.

Would definitely recommend it for any fellow romance readers out there looking for a well written and enjoyable read. Glad I checked it out, get more up soon!

Jo Heslop