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HOOKED OR NOT HOOKEDCan You Hook A Reader? Will You Be Hooked?


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#41 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:59 AM

Okay, I'm going to join the fray and tip the scales to younger juvie lit so WTE doesn't feel so lonely. Also, like Pete, I believe that if I don't have my readers hooked by the first paragraph, I need to start over. Kids have short attention spans and lots of distractions. I can't afford to bore them before they get started. So, I'm tweaking my submission a bit. I'm going to throw the first paragraphs of four different manuscrips your way.

ABIGAIL BINDLE AND THE SLAM BOOK SCAM (MG)


IN WHICH I VISIT THE PRINCIPAL


I saw it as soon as I walked into homeroom. It sat on my desk, a regular blue notebook with a battered cover and squashed metal binding. Something stirred in my stomach. Something with lots of wiggly legs that scrambled to get out. I wanted to vomit.


THE MIXED UP MANUSCRIPTS OF MARTIN NIGGLE (Chapter Book)


The hall smelled like old people and Swiss cheese, as if both had been left in the sun too long and were now spoiled. Cecilia Bloom wrinkled her nose and cursed her older sister for getting sick. The last thing she wanted to do on the last day of summer was clean up after the Niggles.

And yet, here she was, breaking the only rule she had ever known. Never leave Bloom property.


THE EYES ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD (short story turning MG)


Mom said she had eyes on the back of her head, but I didn’t believe her. Not until I grew my own.


POSTCARDS FROM READING CAMP (MG)


Think about the stupidest kid you know. That’s right. Now picture him with short blonde hair and grayish eyes with a few dimples thrown in. That’s me. Kyle Sanlusky. I’m five feet two inches tall. Not chubby. Not skinny. I play soccer and have a mean pitching arm.

I'm also the stupidest kid in the world.

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#42 WritesToEscapeReality

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 10:11 AM

Okay, I'm going to join the fray and tip the scales to younger juvie lit so WTE doesn't feel so lonely. Also, like Pete, I believe that if I don't have my readers hooked by the first paragraph, I need to start over. Kids have short attention spans and lots of distractions. I can't afford to bore them before they get started. So, I'm tweaking my submission a bit. I'm going to throw the first paragraphs of four different manuscrips your way.

ABIGAIL BINDLE AND THE SLAM BOOK SCAM (MG)


IN WHICH I VISIT THE PRINCIPAL


I saw it as soon as I walked into homeroom. It sat on my desk, a regular blue notebook with a battered cover and squashed metal binding. Something stirred in my stomach. Something with lots of wiggly legs that scrambled to get out. I wanted to vomit.


THE MIXED UP MANUSCRIPTS OF MARTIN NIGGLE (Chapter Book)


The hall smelled like old people and Swiss cheese, as if both had been left in the sun too long and were now spoiled. Cecilia Bloom wrinkled her nose and cursed her older sister for getting sick. The last thing she wanted to do on the last day of summer was clean up after the Niggles.

And yet, here she was, breaking the only rule she had ever known. Never leave Bloom property.


THE EYES ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD (short story turning MG)


Mom said she had eyes on the back of her head, but I didn’t believe her. Not until I grew my own.


POSTCARDS FROM READING CAMP (MG)


Think about the stupidest kid you know. That’s right. Now picture him with short blonde hair and grayish eyes with a few dimples thrown in. That’s me. Kyle Sanlusky. I’m five feet two inches tall. Not chubby. Not skinny. I play soccer and have a mean pitching arm.

I'm also the stupidest kid in the world.


Yay Cat! Thank you for bringing out the young stuff. I know RS writes for MG, but I think his is for older MG and mine younger lol

These are all great starts.
I'm Angela. I'm a mom, wife, nurse, chauffeur and aspiring writer. I hope to add published to the list one day.

#43 WritesToEscapeReality

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 10:14 AM

Yay Cat! Thanks for bringing out the young stuff :) I know RS writes MG too, but his seems to be older MG and mine is definitely younger.

So I went back to a previous version of my MS and did some tweaking. Does this get the feel of the MC across? Does it hook?


Ms. Corn hands out our graded book reports. I see a big red F on the top and a note that says “you can’t write a book report if you didn’t read the whole book”. I groan. When she passes out our progress reports, I want to run away.

Mom will kill me if she sees the D I got on my progress report. She used to be an English teacher and she takes this stuff really seriously. My best bet is to show Dad. He’s a lawyer and will listen to my side. If I plead my case just right, I might get off pretty easy.

I normally ride the bus, but Mom’s picking me up from school today. My little brother, Nick, has a doctor’s appointment. I stuff the progress report in my back pocket, in case Mom goes through my backpack. When she pulls up, I see what Nick is wearing, and I want to hide me, too.
I'm Angela. I'm a mom, wife, nurse, chauffeur and aspiring writer. I hope to add published to the list one day.

#44 JayMG

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 11:57 AM

Ooh, fresh blood. :) I'm loving reading through all these. Thanks everyone for your opinions - I've been wondering whether to tinker with the opening for a while... I think I'm going to slice out Peter's section and move it to the top of chapter 2, where his POV really takes off. And possibly also add something about Alex's death onto the very beginning, before the section I posted above. You know, just to completely screw with my head/confidence/query-ready sample pages. <groan>

Ok, here are my thoughts on the rest of you AQCers:

@WritesToEscapeReality - SEMI-HOOKED. I think your second version is more engaging, and the reference to Nick has me more intrigued than the pen pal stuff. I'm not sure what it needs, but I'm still finding it a little flat - is there a more interesting point to drop the reader in at? Is there a revelation at the Dr's office? You can backtrack to the book report later if you need to.

@Pete - HOOKED. I don't generally read crime, but I love the voice of this. I guess he's exaggerating but "a hole the size of a thanksgiving turkey"? What did he get shot with - a tank?! But pedantry aside, definitely HOOKED.

@Stephanie - 2nd version: HOOKED. Hells yeah. By the third line. :D

@r louis scott - SEMI-HOOKED. I think your first paragraph is intriguing, but I'd like to see that followed up with more of a hint about his pursuers rather than the logistics of his travels.

@JoeyF - NOT HOOKED. Sorry. Nothing wrong with the writing, but I think if you're going to open with dialogue/a phone call, then you have to make it really snappy - look at @RSMellete's opening for example. There's slick banter, intrigue and some tasty dangling carrots to make the reader want to continue. I'd rather see you open with the moment when the MC's life "goes basically, to hell in a handbag"...

@RC Lewis - HOOKED. By this line: Wouldn’t want to botch the pretty girl’s face, right? Idiot. When the reader goes: "oooooh it's a girl fighting!" ;)

@SC_Author - NOT HOOKED. Sorry. I think you need to do a bit of editing. Hearing the father's internal thoughts is fine, but I think it's a bit overdone. And I couldn't place the age of the kid - at first he seems young, around 5 or 6. Then some of his dialogue makes me think he's older, then younger again. It occurred to me that if the dad is so unsure about the kid reading it, perhaps it would make more sense for him to 'accidentally' leave it somewhere where the kid could find it - knowing that he wouldn't be able to resist reading it. The mention of them being underwater is definitely something that grabs the reader's interest, but you could add way more of this to set the scene and set up a real atmosphere. From reading your query, I'm guessing this is kind of a prologue, as your MC is the protag in the book. If you're going to use this technique, you have to make it REALLY solid, otherwise it may just come off as a gimmick.

@Cat - Abigail: HOOKED, Martin Niggle: HOOKED, Eyes: HOOKED (though I always thought it was "eyes IN the back of your head"), Postcards: HOOKED. Awesomesauce.

Right. Off to look at mine now...

#45 RSMellette

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 01:30 PM

@Cat

ABIGAIL BINDLE AND THE SLAM BOOK SCAM (MG)-- HOOKED, you had me at the chapter title, and kept me through the graph.

THE MIXED UP MANUSCRIPTS OF MARTIN NIGGLE (Chapter Book) -- HOOKED on the first line ... and the title.

THE EYES ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD (short story turning MG) -- HOOKED. I want to know how she grew her own eyes.

POSTCARDS FROM READING CAMP (MG) -- HOOKED. Okay, this is getting to be a love fest. Kick your agent in the ass. You need to be rich and famous already.

#46 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 04:30 PM

Okay, this is getting to be a love fest. Kick your agent in the ass. You need to be rich and famous already.


I'm trying! But you know how freakin' hard it is to sell juvie lit that isn't YA. Nab Billy's wand and weave some magic for the two of us, because you know I love-fest on your writing too!

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#47 anticipa

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 05:32 PM

This topic is so fun!!

RSMellette - LET ME BUY YOUR BOOK.

Cat - HOOKED, HOOKED, HOOKED, and HOOKED! Not surprising. :P For the first one, I'd suggest changing the comma after "desk" to a colon, because the first time through, I wanted to read it as some unidentified noun sitting on top of the notebook. (Because of course, no one's expecting an icky feeling from a beat-up old notebook.) On the fourth, I'd advise tweaking this sentence a little: "Now picture him with short blonde hair and grayish eyes with, and throw in a few dimples thrown in." Just a suggestion, since I definitely pictured dimpled eyes for a second, which was sort of terrifying.

WTE - Not quite there for me. But I understand the terror over a mother seeing bad grades! So I'm invested in the situation, but not necessarily the character. I think things are moving a little too quickly, to be honest - there's some time lapse in-between her receiving the progress report and her mother pulling up, and it's a teensy bit disorienting. I'd also nit this: "I stuff hide (to make a clearer parallel to the later 'hide') the progress report in my back pocket, in case Mom goes through my backpack. When she pulls up, I see what Nick is wearing, and I want to hide me, too."

RLS - Not my genre, admittedly, but I'll say that the third paragraph lost some steam for me. I know backstory is a no-no and all that, but I think your opening is a little too light on the background and too heavy on the present action and description. What he's doing doesn't appeal to me as much if I don't know more about this crazy ordeal he's been through - and what he's seeing definitely doesn't feel important enough to occupy this much space on your first page. Purely my opinion, of course, but I'd love to see more of the character you've got in paragraphs 1 and 2 rather than further description of the lay of the land, etc.

Joey: I suggest you start at "Is two-fifty still our offer?" and tweak everything afterward to work in the backstory you've exposed earlier (in a car, going to the airport. all easy stuff). Imo, this line of dialogue is where the action really starts - that's where I started getting hooked. A lot of the things you're telling us earlier - and they are straight-up told, in some spots, which isn't good for hooking - are clearly displayed after the "is two-fifty" part. (They were moving fast, almost too fast, in the search for the right candidate for national sales director. I feel like you're talking directly to me! Very unsettling.) But I'm definitely interested in the situation combined with the uber-cool title! Awesome character names, too.

SC - my suggestion is to start at "The son took the journal in his hands, feeling the torn black covers. He giggled. “Dad, this doesn’t look like a bedtime story.”" That, and everything after it, interests me far more than anything before. Felt like too much inner debate for the father, to me - wasted words on the reader. I don't know the dad, the son, or their story, so to read all the "should I? Should I not?" is just frustrating, rather than intriguing. Also, is this a frame narrative? I'm not sure I know why you don't just start with Alphi - does the kid reading this become relevant later in the story, or is he just added in for the beginning? As of yet, not hooked so much as puzzled.

RC, you know how I feel about this first page. And holy crap, another fantastic title from RC. *shakes head* Lady, you're a wizard.

JayMG - I know you mentioned you're working on yours - can't wait to see a revision! You always have such great advice for people, and your original version intrigued me.

Pete - Yes. Yes. Yes. I don't even read crime fiction. HOOKED.

Steph - Interesting, this new version! I'd specify a few things - the face in the puddle, is that hers? And the "I wonder"s feel a little too tell-y to me, and the 'speed up, slow down' line doesn't click for me. Other than that, I like the lead-in.



Here are a couple of mine -


LA OTREDAD

Chapter One


The last time I climbed a fence this high, the world was a different place. Back then, la Guerra Civil – the Mexican Civil War – was still young. Back then, the Splits of America were fifty united states, and their capital was a thriving city, not a smoldering bombsite. Back then, we lived on a farm near Acapulco, and Mamá and Papá worried about silly things like me sneaking into a nearby village to see my best friend, who had a tall chain link fence around his house.

We can’t afford to worry about things like that anymore. I am not thirteen years old, and the biggest risk about climbing this chain link fence is not falling off and skinning my elbow. If they see my brother and me clambering over this barrier, they’ll shred us with bullets.

The fence has taken agonizing minutes to climb. Shrouded in darkness, outlined with moonlight, Davio and I finally slip over the top. I would wonder why the fence doesn’t have barbed wire, but enough barbed wire stretched over the last three fences to compensate. Border Patrol probably didn’t think anyone would dig this far.

We drop the last six feet, hitting the sand in silence. On the other side of the fence, Mamá and Papá stop keeping watch and start climbing.

I turn around, stare through the starlit semi-darkness. Did we cross at the right spot?

Then floodlights slam on. They bleach my brother’s skin the color of sand. His expression turns to horror, and my own face twists instantly to mirror his.

We stand in a pool of daylight in the middle of the night, pinned in place by the white bulbs. Frozen between countries. Frozen between worlds.


--------------------

MIRROR IMAGE

1


When I come home, the lights in the kitchen are dim, seeming to cast more shadow than light. I’m glad. Sometimes, when it’s bright, I catch sight of myself in the mirror above the sink, and the picture never fails to horrify me.

“Amira?” my older brother calls from the linkroom.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t come through here, okay? Leanna’s streaming with me.”

The unspoken words: and I don’t want her to see you.

I bite my lip. “Where’s Mom?”

Jansen sticks his head into the kitchen, electrodes still taped to his forehead, his eyes directed as far from me as possible.

“Mom’s out,” he says.

My throat tightens. She didn’t come home for my last day? “I … oh.”

“She wants you to go to your room and activate your feed and stay there until they come for you.”



--------------

MARKED

Chapter One
In Which Abject Humiliation Becomes the Least of My Worries


I ran into Cal Marquez just as he was fleeing the bathroom. He had this look on his face like some serious shit was going down in there, and not the literal kind, either.

Marq jumped and cringed away when my shoulder knocked into his chest, which was borderline bizarre, given that the lacrosse captain stood a good six inches taller than me. He glared at me, grabbed me by the upper arms, and moved me out of his way.

“Uh,” I said, with my usual flair and eloquence. “Sorry. About running into you. In front of the bathroom.”

Oh, God. Had that really come out of my mouth? Mentally, I whacked myself in the forehead. The last round of lacrosse tryouts started in ten minutes. God knew the lacrosse guys were as much a social group as a sports team – if Marq linked the name ‘Landon Spencer’ to That Awkward Sophomore In Front Of The Bathroom, I was cut for sure.

But, thank Jesus, Marq seemed to be in too much of a hurry to dwell on my awkwardness. In fact, the way he practically ran down the hall made me nervous to walk into the bathroom and take a piss.

But I did anyway, and everything went totally fine. Sure, the stained green walls looked sort of suspicious, but that was a normal thing for Quincy Adams High.

I started toward the sink.

A noise like gunfire rang against the tiled floor and plaster ceiling, and I just about had a heart attack.

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#48 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 06:50 PM

AAAANNNTTT!!!

You know I'm hooked, hooked and more hooked. I love your writing and you never, ever lack voice.

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#49 S Jenan

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 07:24 PM

Okay, here we go:

@RSM - HOOKED at 'Bose-Einstein condensate', SUNK (the good kind) at 'Is my friend'

@Stephanie - HOOKED - I didn't mind the confusion of everything being thrown at me. Liked the joking character.

@JayMG - SEMI-HOOKED - Mostly because not my genre. As others, I read twice to follow the tense change, but if the style continues that way, I think it could work.

@Writes - NOT HOOKED - I'd start with 'What's up, Tony?' and then work in the nervousness that Mom might enter. The Dad seems to easy going to really make the extra credit imperative. A few tweaks and a little more torturing your protag and I think this will tip to HOOKED.

@Pete - HOOKED

@Stephenie #2 - HOOKED, second line

@rlouis - NOT HOOKED - although the elements are here, I'm watching this character instead of feeling him. The first graf could be expanded to a scene where the action happens, instead of being just summarized. Then you would hook me.

@joey - SEMI-HOOKED - if it started at 'Is two-fifty...', I would have been hooked.

@rclewis - HOOKED (with caveat) - it all works for me except for 'Another three minutes confirmed it.' I liked the immediacy of the seventeen seconds, and the 'minutes' bogged me down.

@sc - NOT HOOKED - The dad is overdoing the should he/shouldn't he dilemma. Maybe you could find a way to show his reticence through action instead of internal dialogue.

@cat - HOOKED x4, although #1 less so than the others.

@ant - HOOKED, NOT HOOKED, HOOKED. #2 just because I can't figure it out. #1 is superb.

WIP - Black Sea. It's not about the Black Sea.

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#50 S Jenan

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 07:29 PM

Here's my entry, 89 words:



Dead bodies didn’t look so damned heavy when people dragged them on TV.

As the corpse shifted in the canvas, he struggled to prevent the laundry cart from toppling. He wobbled the frame a few more degrees. Slowly, slowly... It rounded the apex of its balance, then lurched away. His feet skidded along the carpet until the cart’s top rim thudded against the floor.

He froze. His panting stabbed the dark.

Outside in the hallway, footsteps approached. He drew in deep and trickled out the breath.

Was it her?

WIP - Black Sea. It's not about the Black Sea.

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#51 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 07:34 PM

Love your first line, S Jenan. That totally hooked me.

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#52 anticipa

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 07:36 PM

Jenan, that is STELLAR. Yes it is. What a hell of a first line!

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#53 TansyRagwort

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:42 PM

Ack! I can't keep up with all of this reading. But I'll try. To stall you all...I think I can hook you in 250 words.

THE IMPENDING DEMISE OF THE GIRL WITH BROWN EYES


At twelve years and not old enough for a title, the Boy kept his focus on the moss-covered cobblestones at his feet, but he stopped his daily walk through the cemetery at a sight even he could not dismiss.
"You shouldn’t do that.” He narrowed his eyes and glared with indignation.
"Do what?" The target of his fury, a girl no older than he, swung her legs back and forth. She had brown eyes, but as for her other features, he had not taken the time to notice them. He found something else far more interesting.
"What you’re doing, sitting on that headstone there."
"And why shouldn’t I?" Her question seemed genuine, but the Boy could not fathom how she could not see the issue with her actions.
"Because. Someone died there."
The Brown-Eyed Girl brushed an orange leaf from the headstone. "No they didn’t. Not one of these people died here. They all died at home in their beds, or abroad in the world, or wherever it suited the world best to have them die."
The Boy paused in surprise at her response, but could not deny she was right. "Well, I’m sure that person doesn’t want you sitting on his headstone.”
"Oh, I’m quite certain she doesn’t mind."
The Boy jolted. Who did she think she was? He puffed up his chest. "And how can you be so certain?"
She ran her fingers through her hair and shook it loose. "Because,” she said, “this headstone is mine.”

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#54 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:49 PM

HOOKED, Tansy.

So is my 10 year old.

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#55 Pete Morin

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:03 PM

I read Anticipa's three openings and just feel like hanging it up.
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#56 Cat Woods

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    As A.T.O'Connor: short stories in THE FALL and SUMMER'S EDGE. Fall 2013 YA novel WHISPERING MINDS.

Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:07 PM

No kidding. And she's got a half-life on me. Imagine what she'll be doing when she hits our age.

Cat Woods
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#57 RC Lewis

RC Lewis

    OCD for the Good of Mankind

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:10 PM

I read Anticipa's three openings and just feel like hanging it up.

I'm so glad it's not just me feeling that way. :blush:
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Stitching Snow
October 2014
Hyperion

#58 mygirlldd

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:34 PM

RS - HOOKEd! Love the dialogue. But I could use more description with the dialogue.

Steph- (first post): first line definitly got my attention. But I was a bit confused and had to back track in what I read a couple times. I was still HOOKEd though. I liked the second post better than the first. It works more for me.

Jay MG- HOOKEd. The beans part made me smile. Where it says "No, I didn't" I had to go back and re-read because i got a little confused there. You may want to throw in a "wait" or something to show the change of thought IMO. I also liked the switch between dad and son, but i wasn't sure how much time passed between the switch.

Writes- I wasn't really hooked but maybe it's because I'm a YA writer and I don't know the tricks of the trade for MS. I just felt like it was a slow begining that reminds me of other stories that start with a kid getting a bad grade and debating wether or not to tell the parents. I felt like the hook was when he signed up for the pen pal and the other stuff before is just there. But again, I may be totally off for im not ur genre

Pete- HOOKED, not going to repeat a lot of what others already said so just know i was hooked :biggrin:

r louis- HOOKED but small thing: when you say "it" in the begining, I was slightly confused what "it" was. You had awesome descriptions. I felt like I was watching a movie, seeing everything in high definition.

Joey F- HOOKED but I got somewhat lost in the dialogue as to who was talking when but thats just me.

RC- HOOKED x3 the voice is amazing. I would certainly continue reading!

SC- you already know my thoughts on yours :wink:

*may or may not post mine later

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#59 Stephanie Diaz

Stephanie Diaz

    The Girl Who Waited

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:45 PM

Dead bodies didn’t look so damned heavy when people dragged them on TV.


@S Jenan Hooked right here. :P

@RC Lewis Hooked. You've got great voice.

@Joey Semi-hooked. It leaves me a little unsure where it's headed, but the hook could work for some. Might just be me.

@Cat Hooked. Hooked. Hooked. Hooked.

@SC Semi-hooked. I'm curious about the alphas, so I think I'd read on a bit further to see what happens.

@Ant Hooked.

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July 22, 2014


#60 mygirlldd

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:45 PM

Oh Tansy forgot yours! I've read it before but I still think the same as I did: HOOKED. I love the line where the boy puffs up his chest. I got an awesome image there

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