Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 24, 2012

Free Fall Friday (February) – Editorial Consultant Maya Rock

Maya Rock is our Guest Critiquer for February.  She shares her five years of experience working with authors at Writer’s House and her experience as a published author with the three three First Page below.  Maya Rock is available for editorial work–you can read more about her services at

Here is the picture prompt used for February was illustrated by Courtney Autumn Martin ( or Illustrator Saturday

THE GREEN MIST by Donna Taylor

“That’s it,” Ben said, gasping for air. “We’re goners. There’s no way out!” He and Kamma stopped short of the precipice of a  cliff precipice. Looking back, they could see the expansive undulating motion of the expansive silhouette silhouette undulating. A tsunami of barbarians was bearing bore down on them. ; Only their  Their weapons flashed in the moonlight. “Kamma, why would you lead us here?” he said. “You said it was our only escape!”

Kamma gripped his wrist. “I told you I came from a special place.” She was unshaken. “Trust me—and don’t pull away. As long as I hold you, the fingers of the Green Mist will cradle us like babies and carry us to safety. Let go—and its fingers are fire.”

“What are you talk—?” Ben slowly swallowed his words when Kamma’s pupils glowed brighter and brighter, into a blinding white. She looked at the enemy, their figures now discernible, then lifted her head to the moon and closed her eyes. Beneath the circle of grass surrounding them, the dirt The dirt beneath their feet became porous like a mesh screen; through it came a gust of warm wind filled with a brilliant green mist. It whipped Kamma’s long, black hair from her shoulders, then encircled them like a cyclone. It stirred the ring of lush grass and tugged at their clothes. Her voice became visceral and shrill.

“The moon is full, the moon is high; down is home, down we fly!”

Suddenly, the The earth trembled. The army halted, trying to brace themselves from falling into one another or onto their drawn swords and spears. Under the grass where the two friends stood, a circle of the ground splintered, snapped and moaned. Then, with a thunderous crack, like a ceramic plate hammered at its center, the earth land shattered and crumbled, giving way beneath their feet.

“Don’t let go!” Kamma yelled, as their bodies became airborne. Ben twisted, trying to break free, grasping aimlessly at anything to break their fall. Kamma’s grip was stronger than his futile efforts as they soared downward through a tunnel of stone, leaving the moon—and their pursuers—behind.


ON ANY GIVEN DAY by Veronica Taylor

The clouds are gathering. Dark. Angry. Puffed like my panicky cat, Ariel’s back (THIS SEEMS A BIT AWKWARD AND A MOOD-CHANGER—IT IS SORT OF A FUNNY COMPARISON, AND THE TONE SHIFT FROM THE DARK ANGRY CLOUDS TO THIS IS TOO ABRUPT.  IT ALSO SOUNDS LIKE NEEDLESS EXPOSITION—WOULD SHE REALLY BE THINKING OF HER CAT AT THIS MOMENT). Troubled by the livid winds that churn around us. Far below, Zebulon’s arctic surface races toward us at three hundred miles an hour. Tears dissolve this horrific sight, as howling winds whip dark tresses  (SEEMS UNLIKELY THE FIRST PERSON NARRATOR WOULD THINK OF HER HAIR AS “DARK TRESSES”—PERHAPS JUST EVEN “MY” DARK TRESSES WOULD MAKE THIS SEEM MORE NATURAL) into my eyes. Blindly, I reach out, grasping William’s slight, jittery arm (I FELT LIKE THIS PHRASE COULD BE DELETED—IT DILUTED THE IMPACT OF THE ORIGINAL ACTION/IMAGE, WHICH ALREADY INDICATES FEAR). We spiral on helplessly, lost creatures in a skies merciless gale, with a screaming battle above, and frozen impact and death, mere seconds, away. Our eyes are squeezed shut when a low hum and pop snaps my eyes open again. The frozen planet is no longer underneath. We’re still falling, but into what looks like a well, with stone rocks of diverse sizes, and a passage, more narrow, the farther down we go  (THIS SOUNDS A LITTLE TOO PLACID—BRING US INTO HER SENSES__WHAT DOES FALLING FEEL LIKE?). William gasps, looking relieved (I FEEL LIKE GASPING IMPLIES HE’S MORE SCARED, NOT RELIEVED), his innocent mind, fuzzy from near death (I WOULD COME UP WITH A DIFFERENT WAY TO SAY THIS RATHER THAN SAY DEATH TWICE), seems incapable of realizing we’ve traded one certain death for another. I quickly look away, no need of taking away what little joy he might have left, if I don’t have to. Yellow flames, fed by oxygen, shoot up, dissipate and nibble at our shoes again.

Williams eyes flutter, and panic consumes me. I had not considered his asthma and the fact he might need his inhaler again. “William!” I scream. Nothing. I pat his pockets frantically, searching for his inhaler.

It is not in the top pockets. I find the inhaler in his back pant pocket. I shake it, pat his cheek.

“William, do you need your inhaler?” (IS SHE DOING THIS AS THEY’RE PLUMMETING—UNCLEAR) Nothing. I feel lightheaded too, now. I pull him close, hug

him, offer reassurance, like our mother did to us long ago, before our planet was attacked.. Before our planet was attacked. (I THINK THAT IS TOO MUCH EXPOSITION—THOUGH I COULD SEE IT WOULD BE MORE TEMPTING TO PUT IT ALL IN FOR THIS ONE PAGE PROMPT)Before the people from the second Earth came to take over our planet and everything that we had always

thought of as ours. It is now I see that this wasn’t so. It would seem that there was a lot we had taken for granted. But time had run out, I would not be able to correct my foolish notions on life. Just before my eyes close for good, or so I thought, I saw what looked like a new dimension (I FEEL LIKE THE CONCEPT OF “NEW DIMENSION” SOUNDS TOO ADVANCED FOR SOMEONE OF HER AGE_-MAYBE JUST SAY FACE). Someone  (ONE WONDERS WHY SHE WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE HER MOTHER RIGHT AWAY?..WHY ‘SOMEONE’?) was smiling, looking at us with undying love. That was impossible. Mommy had vanished (JUST NEED A WORD THAT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE DISAPPEAR) with the second sun’s appearance. But still, I reached for her hand.



No Title – Eileen Balesteri

“Heed this warning, my child—if you leave our kingdom, you may never return.” The words of Heliana’s father and ruler of the Deep-Sand Empire echoed in her mind.  She forced them out, and pushed on, gripping the lifeless arms of her aunt and younger cousin, Dali.

Heliana knew her father had the anti-venom Clariana and Dali needed to survive the sea snake attack.  But, would he help them after all this time?  Scenarios of every plea she could fathom went through her head as she came upon the stone passage leading down toward the Empire’s gate.

The water tasted different, yet familiar here.  The salty clouds cleared as the three descended deeper, deeper.  The sweet scent of sea lilies and warm glow from the eel guards at the gate (GOOD IMAGE)  rushed through Heliana’s senses, awakening memories of a happier time.  (MAYBE ELABORATE MORE ON WHAT THE HAPPY TIME WAS-A SENTENCE OR TWO ABOUT HER CHILDHOOD)

Even now, she wondered if she’d made the right decision by joining Aunt Clariana, above the Water’s Rim in the aftermath of her beloved mother’s death.   Her mother’s illness was no fault of the King’s, but his stubborn stand against letting anyone go Above to seek a cure for his Queen, was enough reason for a mourning sister to lay responsibility upon him.

Aunt Clariana had blamed the King for the loss of her twin sister, and in her despair, denounced her allegiance to the Deep-Sand Empire, vowing never to return.  (MAYBE A SENTENCE HERE THAT SHOWS US HELIANA’S REACTION TO THIS—PERHAPS SHE RAN UP TO HER AUNT AT THE MOMENT OF THE DENOUNCING) 

Heliana had been younger then–Too young to accept such a loss.  To survive her pain, she chose to follow her Aunt Clariana, the mirror image of her mother, to the land Above the Rim (I FEEL LIKE IT IS ALREADY A LITTLE CONUSING TO HAVE WATER’S RIM, ABOVE THE RIM AND ABOVE ALL REFERRING TO THE SAME THING).  

It wasn’t her aunt’s choice to return now, but Heliana had to make a decision–and quickly.  She was old enough to understand the repercussions of not making the right choice for the sake of an angry grudge (MAYBE SAY WHAT SOME OF THOSE REPERCUSSIONS WERE—I.E. THAT SHE REALLY MISSED HER FATHER).  Pride had no place in her decision.  She would not lose little Dali or let him suffer the loss of a parent (THIS IS A LITTLE CONFUSING TOO BECAUSE THEY COULD BOTH DIE AND THIS MAKES IT SOUND LIKE IT WILL BE ONE OR THE OTHER).

As the gate drew nearer, Heliana wondered if the King would forgive a young child’s desperate reach to keep her lost mother alive through the familiar face of her now, dying aunt. (THIS IS AWKWARD_-IS SHE THE YOUNG CHILD?  SOUNDS A LITTLE TOO SELF-AWARE) She would soon find out…

Intriguing world—at times Heliana sounded like she had the perspective of a much older person, so I would just be aware of that as you write.  Thanks for letting me read your work!

Thank you Maya for sharing your thoughts and thank you to everyone who submitted a first page for February.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Maya, thank you SO much for going over my story, The Realm of the Green Mist. I agree with every change you made to tighten up the prose. If I had done it myself the first time around, I wouldn’t have had to keep playing with the words that would keep pushing my lines onto the second page! lol

    I sincerely enjoyed writing it. Every time we do this, I long to hear what story the “Free Fall Friday” illustrations really DO represent.

    Thanks, Kathy! 🙂


  2. Now that I read the other two pages, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed them and am always amazed at how varied our imaginations can be!


  3. No problem, Donna Marie. I also enjoyed reading all the pages and agree it is fascinating to see all the different stories that arise from the same picture.


  4. Seeing a professional editor at work is very helpful. I now can go back to my own writing and read for clarity, delete unnecessary exposition, etc. Thank you!


  5. Wow! Thank you, Maya, for your spot-on perspective of my (untitled–oops!) first page. I see exactly what you mean!

    I’m always so nervous to put my work out there, yet I’m thrilled when I get this kind of valuable feedback that can improve my writing…(it’s SO worth the butterlies in my stomach!) and I’m very grateful!

    I also enjoyed reading the other first pages and agree that it’s fascinating how many great stories can be pulled out of one, gorgeous illustration!

    ~Eileen Balesteri


    • Glad I could help, Eileen. I know what you mean about the nerves, too!


  6. Oh, and Thank You Kathy!! I hope you’re feeling better! 🙂



  7. I just got the profession edit back for my second book “The Orples Make A Tree Home”. With a little tweaking, my editors really made a good manuscript really flow. I was so impressed with the changes they made, and of course, grateful for catching a few punctuation mistakes I’d overlooked. I would not dream of publishing without the benefit of using an editor first.


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