An excellent opening, this one. Not quite perfect, a few details to iron out, but again, I gather from the author that this is a first draft. I doubt that I’m telling this writer anything that they probably wouldn’t catch themselves on subsequent revisions. If the standard of submissions to the site is this high, I’m not going to have much to say!
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Synopsis: Escaping death once left her in a coma and a fear of all she once loved. Now Death’s hot on her tail, her boyfriend’s determined to help her ski again, and a stranger claims to be her protector. Can Katherine piece together the missing details before it’s too late?
Text: A blank canvas waiting for the painter’s touch. That’s what my view reminded me of. An empty void, like my life. I folded my arms in a childish sulk, hoping to cling to the slightest bit of warmth I could find.
“Come on, Kathy. Who doesn’t like snow?” Riley said, placing his hand on my thigh.
“Me. That’s who. I don’t like snow, and you know it.”
His hand squeezed gently as he smirked. “But think of all the fun we can have keeping warm.”
I watched him wiggle his eyebrows and a slow smile crept across my face. “There is that, I suppose, but don’t think I’m forgiving you that easily for tricking me into coming here.”
“That’s my girl. I promise you Kathy, by the time the weekend’s over you’re gonna love the snow.”
“I wouldn’t go that far, but I am dying to see how you get back into my good books.”
Riley glanced over at me quickly before turning back to the road. “It’s more than your good books I plan on getting into.”
Swatting him on the arm, I laughed, and for the first time in over an hour I felt at ease. Don’t get me wrong. I loved nothing more than being swept up in Riley’s surprise weekend adventures. Sex, laughter, and always fun, but this time… I shook my head. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to think of the snow and the horrors that came with it.
“How much further?” I asked, trying to keep the light conversation going. Anything to keep my mind off the white stillness outside my window.
“Not much further now.”
I reached for the heating controls. My third time to increase the temperature in the last twenty minutes. No matter how high I turned it, I still felt cold. It felt like ice in my bones.
The radio buzzed and my heart raced. “What’s happening?” I said in a voice I hadn’t heard in years.
“It’s alright, just a little interference. We are in snow country now, Kathy. A little radio silence is to be expected.”
Typical Riley, he didn’t take anything seriously. Snow country indeed. If he really knew about snow country, he’d be panicked too. I rubbed my arms, trying to get some heat into them.
“You really that cold?” Riley asked.
“Yes, I’m really that cold. You think I’m rubbing my arms, trying to get the blood flowing for the fun of it.”
“Jeezzze, someone really did forget their happy pills this morning. What’s gotten into you Kat?”
“I’m cold, I’m tired, and you know I hate the snow. Why you even considered this, I have no idea.”
I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. I was so angry with Riley right now, and all I wanted to do was go home.
“Hey, don’t be like that. It’ll be fun, you’ll see.”
He sounded sincere. He probably was. I never did tell him why I hated the snow. Never told anyone, besides the doctors. They all thought I was mad, a psychotic episode they’d said. They were wrong. I know what happened to me. It wasn’t a dream. I know it wasn’t.
“Almost there now,” Riley said, breaking the silence. “You see the smoke rising in the distance? That’s home for the next three days.”
I followed his eyes and watched as wisps of smoke rose above the treeline.
“It’s a log cabin, all by itself. We’re going to become self-sufficient for the weekend, just you and me.”
He was enjoying this. I could tell by the stupid grin on his face. “It better have running water, and a bath,” I said. “Otherwise, I’m going home.”
Riley just laughed. “Yes, Kath, we have running water and a bath. We also have a hot tub.” Riley wiggled his eyebrows again. “Remember the hot tub in Rio?”
I smiled. How could I not. The hot tub in Rio. My first time in one and wow was it good. The heated water, the bubbles rising around me, and Riley.
“That’s my girl,” he said, placing his hand on my knee. “Think of what fun we can have this time. We’ve learned a few tricks since then.”
I laughed. We sure had. Rio was the first time Riley and I had sex. I’d wanted to wait, make sure things would last before I did anything that I’d regret. Rio was perfect and the hot tub was amazing.
“You still thinking about Rio?”
“Maybe we can do Rio all over again tonight?”
“Maybe,” I smiled.
The log cabin came into view a few minutes later and I couldn’t help but gasp. It was amazing, larger than I anticipated too. Steps up onto a small porch with a swing seat and table and chairs. I suppose in Summer this would be perfect for relaxing in the evening. We certainly wouldn’t have any use for it now.
“You wait in the car and I’ll go open up,” Riley said, switching off the ignition.
I watched as he made his way up to the cabin. Most of the driveway had been cleared of snow, but there was still a good twenty metres that we had to walk. Obviously, whoever had been clearing the snow got tired or something. I looked down at the sandals on my feet. Usually when Riley calls to say be ready in an hour we’re going away for the weekend, it means a luxury hotel, or a sun getaway. I wore what I usually do. No wonder I was freezing. My light dress and sandals said sand not snow. It was a good job Riley had thought ahead and brought a big coat for me. Bright, illuminous orange. It still wasn’t enough to keep out the cold though and the thought of putting my feet into the snow was killing me.
“Right, come on, let’s get you inside,” Riley said, pulling open my door.
Editor’s opinion. Very good. Another submission with a very high technical standard of writing. If you didn’t find and fix them yourself, a thorough proofread would catch things like the capitalisation of ‘summer’, ‘illuminous’ when I think you meant just ‘luminous’, missing full stop after ‘hmmm’, missing question marks after ‘… for the fun of it’ (unless that is actually a statement) and ‘How could I not’, and some rogue commas, both misplaced and absent.
The first two sentences clearly relate to each other, the second explaining the first ‘fragment’, and rather than a full stop, I’d consider either a spaced en-dash, or a colon (probably more grammatically correct) . You use this construction a lot, and the next sentence, An empty void, like my life, is a similar example. While it’s okay as a construction, it comes across as quite studied, and I wouldn’t overuse it. ‘smiled’ isn’t a dialogue tag, so properly,“Maybe.” I smiled. You could just say trying to keep the conversation light, and I’ve usually seen the exclamation spelled “Jeez”. I never did tell him why I hated the snow sounds like the last line of the story. I think you mean I had never told him…
More in-depth critique points: I’m guessing from the log cabin reference and the dialogue, (you’re gonna, What’s gotten into you, It better have) that the scene is somewhere in the US, and you’re using USEng dialogue punctuation (double quotes), but you’ve specified British English language. It feels as if you’re coming down between two stools and not fully committed to either. I’ve read many a review on Amazon that criticises what the reviewer says is ‘poor grammar and spelling’, but is actually an author using British English but writing a story set in the US. It’s your prerogative to use either, of course, but I’d make sure you were committed to one form or another. If you use American dialogue constructs like It better have, but then use English words like boot (of the car) instead of trunk, you’re going to confuse people and irritate those picky reviewers.
There were two copyediting points I’d make. One is that it seems a bit thoughtless for Riley to drag Kathy (or Kath, or Kat – he refers to her as all three variations) up into the mountains wearing just a sun-dress and sandals. Clearly for the plot’s sake she can’t know where she’s going, but perhaps you could make reference to the fact that he’s packed more for her than just a luminous orange coat. Or perhaps he is that inconsiderate, which is something we need to know, and in which case she has every right to be a bit pissed off. How much of her aversion to snow does he know about? She seems to think he knows quite a bit, but he comes across, from his dialogue, as being totally oblivious. It’s important because for us to judge his character we need to know whether he is totally inconsiderate, or empathetic and trying to act in her best interests. I’d imagine that would colour our perception of both him and their relationship quite heavily.
Secondly, Kathy seems to be a bit shallow. She flits between being upset (I folded my arms in a childish sulk), happy (Swatting him on the arm, I laughed), and close to tears (I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. I was so angry) within a few paragraphs. As a reader, we’re just getting immersed in Kathy’s character. We’re already intrigued by this aversion to snow, and the references to the psychotic episode, but we need to know that she is actually quite stable, and is a reliable narrator. Unless you’re going the full Bukowski (think Fight Club), which from your author notes you’re not, we need to trust her point of view. Her changes of mood within a few paragraphs undermine that trust a little.
But congratulations. This is an excellent opening, fast and snappy dialogue, plenty of hooks intriguing us about Kathy and what her problem with snow is. There’s nothing really here that I would say should deter you from submitting this to an agent as is, and indeed it’s only the few proofreading and copyediting errors that suggest to me that this isn’t quite ready for publishing in its current state. This was as marginal a case for a “gold star” as I think it’s possibly able to be without getting one, but I’m purposefully setting the bar very high.
Thanks for posting.