Critique Circle (an on-line critiquing system) had a ‘Hook’ weekend, where people post up to a thousand words anonymously and people critique them anonymously by reading until they lost interest, then telling the author why.
I submitted the beginning of Sticky Note Empire. Glad that I critiqued a couple before looking at my own since it’s darn easy to click and be done after only a paragraph or two. It depends on how much I’m acting like a real editor. I learned a lot about openings by reading and clicking when I lost interest as well as how to make my entry better by people’s comments. Over twenty people read at least part of mine, with half a dozen making it to the end. It was also useful to look at the critiques that everyone else wrote on ones that I critiqued.
Critique Circle does this once a month and I’m looking forward to the next one. May buff to a high gloss what I submit since people were very picky. I think instead of looking at it like a swamped editor, though, we should be examining them like a busy editor who recently let a best-seller slip through.
Here’s the opening (revised with feedback gained from this exercise) to Sticky Note Empire–a mainstream novel about corporate America.
Sticky Note Empire
by: Katherine Lato
To inject humor into the battle about doing laundry, Riva approached her husband sitting at the computer. She cleared her throat. “To save time, we could put the clothes we’re wearing into the washing machine and then go upstairs.”
Derrick stopped typing in mid-sentence to swivel his chair toward her. “Naked? You want us to walk naked through the house?” His deep eyes twinkled with laughter as he stood. “What will the children think? Oh, right, the nest is empty.”
Riva’s voice came out husky as she said, “The children wouldn’t know, but the neighbors might get an eyeful.”
“You’ve never worried about what the neighbors think.” He scanned her still-clothed body with care, approval apparent in the gleam in his eyes. He caressed her arm, lingering on the tender spot near her elbow before reaching under her striped shirt. His breath tingled the hairs at the side of her neck. “I admire that, as well as a few other things about you.”
Riva leaned into his chest, “I thought you wanted to work.”
“It can wait until tomorrow.” He kissed her neck, then stepped back. “But your boss called the house phone while you were talking to your sister. He asked if you’d read your email.”
Riva reached up to place her hands on his shoulders. She rubbed his tense muscles. “I told him I wasn’t joining the teleconference with India tonight. I swear, that man thinks we should work twenty-four hours a day. Ever since his wife left him, he’s become even more obsessed with work.” She found a knot of tension and increased the pressure of her fingertips, moving in closer to reach it better.
“That feels good,” Derrick said. “Do you want to check your email before we go to bed?”
“Was his message about the First Response Inquiry Location?” Riva’s fingers stopped massaging. “Did he use the word FRIL?”
“I don’t think so. Are you really using the name frill for a serious project?”
“Marketing will change it before we release it. Which won’t happen for months since other than the requirements, there’s been no progress on it.”
“After you spent two weeks locked in a room and missed prime biking weather?” His voice rose in mock indignation.
“Did my boss mention location system or first responders?” Every day they wasted meant first responders putting their lives on the line. It was too late to save her sister’s partner, but her work could save others.
Derrick stepped back. “I know you can’t tell me details. Your boss said something about cricket, so maybe he was talking about the call to India. Cricket is popular in India.”
Riva rammed her fist into the palm of her hand. “I wish they’d get those nondisclosure documents signed so we could start work.”
“It’s frustrating to wait, but I’m glad you weren’t too busy this summer.”
Riva bent her head to the right, hoping he’d take the hint. She felt his lips at the back of her neck and shivered. “Want to go upstairs?”
“Great idea.” He patted her butt. “First, let’s leave our clothes in the laundry room.”
“I was kidding.”
“I’m not.” He tugged her down the hall toward the first floor laundry room and turned on the bright fluorescent light. His shirt joined the half load inside the washing machine, revealing a strong chest with gray hair. She flipped the light off before removing her own shirt.
“Spoil sport.” He stepped closer.
The moonlight spilling into the room displayed more than enough of her fifty-four-year-old body. They were too old for such nonsense, but she felt far from old as Derrick helped remove her blue jeans and the remainder of her clothing.
Instead of caressing her, he turned away. “We need to start the machine.” The citrus smell of laundry detergent filled the small room.
“You’re thinking about laundry now?”
His deep chuckle was interrupted by the gurgle of the water pouring into the washing machine. “It’s in my self-interest to ensure this becomes a regular part of our routine.”
“I’m not getting naked downstairs in winter.”
His breath was on the back of her neck again. She turned to face him, only to discover he’d stepped back. It took several seconds for his whispered, “Race you upstairs,” to resolve into a challenge.
“Wait–” He was already out of the room. Riva wasn’t about to run through the house like a child. That’s what her brain said, but her feet raced to catch him. She felt young again, back before the children were born. Since the twins had left for college, the opportunities to be alone were wonderful. Almost as wonderful as his delight in seeing her naked after thirty years of marriage.
As she rounded the corner in the front hall, he grabbed her. She shrieked in surprise, then moaned as his hands fondled her on the stairs. It took several minutes before they made it to their bedroom.
* * *