First Page Contest

So I planned to continue posting about queries today, but I want to talk about the contest Literary Agent Nathan Bransford is now running.

He’s asked people to post not more than the first 500 words of a novel, work in progress, or prompt based passage. He and Holly Burns will pick their favorites. There are prizes for the winners.

As of now, the entries stand at just over 400. You have until today (Wednesday) at 5:00pm Pacific Time to enter. You can read the full details about Nathan’s contest here.

Contest Drama?

Now some might say (and I would agree) that a blog, almost by definition, is a public forum. Unless the blog is by invitation, everyone can see the posts and comments.

A few very gracious (some might say crazy!) bloggers offered to critique every entry! You can read Nathan’s own discussion of it here. Some people complained about not wanting feedback from anyone but Nathan.

My take – I posted my entry to a public blog knowing full well I might get skewered. I would like to extend thanks to anyone who decides to critique my entry, whether you did or didn’t like it.

No need to tell me “you suck”, my inner editor already does a great job at that, but constructive criticism is always welcome.

Let me make it clear – I think you are WONDERFUL for providing feedback!

To that end, I’m reposting my entry here to make it easy for anyone to comment on it. You can also check out the current version of my pitch for Rhinoceros Summer to give you a better idea of the scope of the story.

Update: JJ from OxyJen was kind enough to provide feedback on my entry. I’m #119 in the post.

Update: Chro from Journey of the Scribe was kind enough to provide feedback on my entry. I’m #9 in the post.

Chapter 1

The two men knew it was dangerous, driving into the crater in full daylight, a hunter’s gun and camera resting on the backseat.

Barry sat in the passenger seat, mopping his forehead with a red handkerchief. “Hey, maybe we should wait till it gets dark.”

Paul didn’t say anything at first. His sweaty hands gripped the steering wheel as the Landcruiser snaked its way down. He kept the speed slow. One wrong move and they’d plummet over the edge of the switchback, a three thousand foot drop.

The volcano’s sides had collapsed to shape the crater millions of years ago, but he liked to think this bowl of tropical vegetation and wild animals was his personal African snow globe—he would shake it till he found what he was looking for.

He threw a quick look at the trembling cameraman. “How you gonna get video in the dark? Don’t fuck out on me now.”

They reached the crater floor and continued past the soda lake ringed with pink flamingoes and tourists, then through the lion and tourist infested grasslands. Not until they approached the edge of a wooded thicket did Paul find what he was looking for.

Rhino spoor.

The men left the tourist road miles behind. Biting flies landed on their bare arms and face, and buzzed in their ears. They marched through thick swamp grass, let mud soak their legs, allowed flies to bite them, wiped sweat from their foreheads, made sure to keep their equipment clean. Both men knew getting caught would destroy their careers. Getting caught meant jail.

They saw the six gray bulks feeding on swamp grass near a small grove of acacias. The bark from the trees seemed to glow in the slanting sunlight. Paul broke a three hour silence. “I’m gonna make one of these big shits charge us.”

Barry seemed about to faint from heat, fear, exhaustion. Paul wished he had brought someone else instead of this coward.

They crept into thicker bush, moving near a rhino sleeping separate from the group.

Paul gripped his rifle, careful to not let the sweat of his hands make the gun slippery. “You keep ready.”


Paul yelled. “Hiyaa fucker!”

The rhino’s ears perked up.

Paul stood his ground. Less than a thousand left in the whole world. It was enough to make a man weep for the glory coming his way. This was going to fix everything.

They heard the chuff-chuff of the rhino’s angry breath as it swung around.

Paul almost lost his grip on the barrel. “That’s a fucking square-lip!”

The rhino charged from twenty yards. Paul fired, plugging the animal with a huge tranq dart near the spine. But the rhino kept flying through the air, its head lowered, its horn ready to put a softball-sized hole in a man so his intestines had nowhere to go but the ankle-deep dirt.

The man with the gun got out of the way.