Week 1 Finalist

AUTHOR: Candi Wall
CATEGORY: Historical Romance

San Antonio, Texas. 1867

“Ma’am, I’m not sure I heard you right.”

The woman’s smile crinkled the edges of her coffee brown eyes. “Oh, I’m certain you did.” She patted his arm. “I assumed you’d react a bit surprised, but you see, I don’t have much of a choice. When my daughter gets something in that head of hers, well, there’s just no stopping her.”

Gavin McClain shook his head, blinked several times, then glanced down into the empty whiskey glass he held. How much had he drunk? Must have been more than he could recall since the strange woman next to him was doling out the strangest request.

He slid his glass across the hard used bar top and signaled the bartender for another. When the amber liquor rimmed the glass again he turned back to her. Maybe she wasn’t right in the head. That would explain a lot.

“Let me see if I have this correct.” He took a long drink of the watered down whiskey. “You want me, or rather you’ll pay me, to rob your daughter?”

She nodded emphatically and it sent the feathers decorating her atrocious bonnet to motion. “I’m well aware of how odd a request this is. However to ensure my daughter’s safe return, I fear I must resort to – unusual methods. She has a mind of her own you see. And I need her to have an experience so horrid she will choose to come back willingly.”

“A switchin’ sounds like a good method, you ask me.”

For a fraction of a second, she seemed to consider the idea. Then the arch of her thin brows drew close. “No, that wouldn’t do. Punishment would only make matters worse. We shall stick to the original plan.”

“What’s this we? You got a turd in yer’ pocket?”

She went on as if he hadn’t spoken, though her nose crinkled a bit at his vulgarity. “I don’t want you to hurt her. Just scare the bloomers right off her. Maybe shoot your gun in the air a few times, maybe rough her up a bit. Though I warn you, I will not tolerate you taking any liberties with her during your employ.”

“Liberties?” he choked. She’d managed to reduce him to a man of few words.

She pinned him with a hard stare. “She’s innocent and shall be returned in the same state.”

“How innocent can she be?” Gavin swallowed the last of his whiskey and pushed up from the barstool. “If she has to be reined in slow like a prize stallion hankerin’ for a bit o’ freedom, she’s been riding without your knowledge Ma’am.”

A slow pinch tightened her lips. “Not only is your statement preposterous, it is rude.”

“My apologies.” Long hashed not to lose his temper with a lady, God rest mama, he grit his teeth. This one was settling her dainty little boots on his last nerve.

“I should think so,” she snorted, with a smug little nod.

“Ma’am,” he chuckled, losing the fight to be a gentleman, “I apologize for not bein’ able to help you. Not for what I said.”

Her hand fell light on his arm. “You only have to scare her enough to send her back home to us. It won’t be difficult and I assure you I can make it worth your time.”

Though he didn’t think it was possible, those eyes widened more, swimming with unshed tears. Damn, he hated tears. He needed to get the hell out of there before he suckered for the ultimate feminine weapon. “I’ve got my own problems.”

While she sputtered more reasons he should reconsider, he turned and walked out of the saloon. He had no intention of listening to any more nonsense. He’d heard some hair-brained schemes, but this one topped even his brothers. And with seven McClain boys and one spitfire sister under his Pa’s belt, there’d been plenty for comparison.

Beyond the woman’s ridiculous request, he hadn’t been lying when he’d told her he had his own problems. If he didn’t find an investor soon, the horse ranch he’d always dreamed of would be nothing more than that. In less than three weeks George Cutlin’s land and ranch house would go up for auction. Gavin planned to be the buyer.

He rifled through his pocket for the bullet size gold nugget he kept close at all times. Holding it up to the moonlight, he sighed. Damn, Jonah. Leaving nothing more than a chunk of gold and a mountain of debt to his family. He’d wasted every scrap of money, right down to the little bit they’d saved to start the ranch. And for what? A few gold nuggets and an early grave.

Gavin had no intention of following in his older brother’s steps.

The doors to the saloon creaked open and he stuffed the memento of his brother’s failure back in his pocket. Every nerve tingled in anticipation. A smart man didn’t walk the streets of San Antonio unless he was prepared.

“Sir, I can’t imagine what you must think right now.” The woman walked over and stood in front of him, her eyes wide.

Oh, for the love of… “Look, lady. My answer is no. Go ask any one of the men inside. I’m sure they’d be happy to help.”

“You should know I’m desperate. I’ll pay any price.”

Pulling a cigar from his pocket, he chewed at the end. “Any?”

Her eyes lit with hope. “Money is not a hindrance.”

Damn, but those were probably the sweetest words he’d ever heard. Extending a hand, he smiled. “Looks like you’ve just bought yourself a bandit.”


I liked the way this opened right in the midst of the action. From the first line, I was wondering what Gavin didn’t think he heard right, then I was wondering what was in the daughter’s head, and then when Gavin incredulously repeats the mother’s request to rob the daughter, I’m incredulous too. I was not expecting that twist, so it was a nice surprise — and an original premise.

I love the humor, too. Like, when Gavin suggests a “switchin” and the mother considers it for a second, before sticking to her solution, which seems quite logical to her.  And I like the hero’s sense of humor, too. Yeah, the premise is a little over the top, but I was entertained enough to suspend disbelief and trust that the author would give me a good reason for why the mother was going to such drastic lengths to bring her daughter back around.

Though Gavin capitulates a little too quickly at the end — I think there should be a little more dialogue between them, considering the fact that he’s already said “no” and he could have asked the price while inside — this wouldn’t stop me from reading on to see what happens next. Through the mother’s words and actions, I think Gavin’s going to get more than he bargained for when he robs the daughter. And I’m betting on a few laugh outloud moments.

Great job, Candi!

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67 responses

13 01 2010
Candi Wall

How exciting!

Thank you for the kind comments, Rachelle.

13 01 2010

I really enjoyed this — and I would love to read more. It sounds like a fun situation, and I can’t wait to see the heroine when she arrives on the scene!

My ONLY complaint. . .I didn’t like the “turd in the pocket” line. LOL I guess I don’t want my heroes saying that word, so it made me pull back a little.

It’s a great setting (not enough Western historicals anymore!), and I think you’ve done a wonderful job with it.

Good luck. I hope I can find it in the bookstore on my next trip! 🙂

13 01 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Donna,

Thank you for the encouraging comments!

I have to laugh at your complaint! While writing it, I actually sat back and hashed over whether or not to use it. Gavin has a rough style, pretty crass when needed, but was it overboard was the question I asked myself. So I gathered a few writer pals I could get a hold of quick, gave them a run down of who he was, and asked if he could pull off the comment.

I received 2 – ‘No way, Ick’s’ and 4 – ‘Give it a whirl’s’ LOL.

I love that you picked up on that comment!

Thanks so much – and an interesting topic. How far can your characters go?


13 01 2010
Leigh Michaels

Candi, I really enjoyed reading the opening of your story! I’m a pushover for a hero with a sense of humor, good manners (especially when the manners are at war with a rough-edged nature), and a goal I can believe in — and Gavin scores well on all points. I really like the fact that not being able to afford the ranch isn’t his fault — and now he’s having to scramble to gain his dreams.

Since this is a historical, I would suggest keeping a careful eye out for modern expressions. You do very well through most of the piece, and I especially like the line about the prize stallion “riding without your knowledge”. But “his last nerve” sounds a lot more 2000 than 1867.

I’d like to find out pretty quickly exactly how much Mama’s prepared to pay for this stunt and whether it’s enough to solve Gavin’s financial crisis… and even whether it’s the daughter or Mama herself who ends up being his love interest… but I’d definitely keep reading!

13 01 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Leigh,

Your comments are very appreciated.

I admit that keeping my characters from slipping into modern times is something I struggle with. Especially when it comes to dialog. Thank goodness I have three great writing partners who are more than willing to point out that my cowboys are sounding like business men in a nightclub. Ack!

And I LOVE the fact that you’d keep reading.


13 01 2010

Congrats Candi!!! Good job.


13 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, April!

13 01 2010
Cynthia Justlin

Congrats, Candi! I enjoyed your unique opening!

13 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, Cynthia!

13 01 2010
Susan Battah

Hi Candi,

That was definitely an interesting opening. I’m curious
to see where this goes. I also agree with the ‘turd’ comment
previously it was a little disgusting for me from a hero but
it works. He’s very likable, rough edges and all. Good luck
with the contest. I haven’t read a western in a while and
you’ve got a great opening.

Susan Battah

13 01 2010
Candi Wall


I’ll have to take the average thoughts on ‘the turd’ and leave or delete from there. Funny how the tiniest detail can stick out so glaringly. I know I’ve found things like this in my friends writing that just stuck out huge.

My hubby was in hysterics when I made him read the opening and the comments. He said it sounded like a typical guy statement – one I’d kill him for saying – so it wasn’t fair that the hero could use that line if he couldn’t. LOL.

But what really cracked him up was the fact that my opening’s conversation had a lot to do with the word ‘turd’! Men!

Thanks for the encouragment.

13 01 2010

Candi – I loved this! In fact I’m wanting to read more now. 🙂 When he said turd it did make me stop, but not enough to not keep reading.

Major congrats on the final!!!

13 01 2010
Candi Wall

Hey Vicki! Thank you.

Guess it’s getting pretty obvious that the ‘trud’s’ gonna have to go. LOL.

I’ve never had to type that before. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

Thanks again!

13 01 2010
Rachelle Chase

Okay, I will admit the “turd” did stand out. 🙂 But it worked for the hero’s personality to me. And, considering the mother did come to him with a somewhat insulting proposition, I let it go.


13 01 2010
Candi Wall


I think this word is becoming like one of those extremely great words, that when used in a manuscript is so good that if used again – it jerks the reader out of the story.

Too much reaction to it, and NOT in the way a writer wants. I’ll have to pow-wow with Gavin and see what other clever lines he can come up with.

Thanks for weighing in again!

14 01 2010

Congrats Candi,
I loved the story. I hope many doors will open for you from this.
Well Done!

14 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thanks, Tamara!

I’m hoping too. I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Sometimes, hearing others say they enjoyed your work is the best reward there is.


14 01 2010
Jennifer L Hart

I liked the turd…no, wait, that didn’t come out right.;-) What I mean is, it’s different, it makes him stand out as being not the typical hero. He’s a drunk with a dream that doesn’t mince words.

You have a great gift for painting the scene and I was pulled right into this one!

14 01 2010
Candi Wall

LOL! Jennifer, you are too funny.

Glad you liked it though!

Thanks for the support!

14 01 2010

Congratulations on being a finalist. Great beginning to the story. I can’t wait to read the book.

14 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, Pamela!

14 01 2010


Loved the opening of this story. I would continue reading it in a heartbeat. AS far as I’m concerned you can never go wrong with an unwilling hero and a stubborn heroine. They’re my favorites 🙂

Congrats on being a finalist!

14 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thanks Danica!

Poor Gavin gets much more than he bargained for!

This was probably one of the most fun-to-write novels I’ve ever done. He really came alive for me easily.

Thanks for your support!

15 01 2010
T. Sue VerSteeg

Congrats, Candi! Great opener. It definitely makes me want more 🙂

16 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, T. Sue!

16 01 2010

Awesome Candi!! I LOVED it. Wow.
The turd thing, okay, I wrinkled my nose and didn’t quite get what he meant, but I think it should stay because it’s gross and it fits him and the mom calls him on it.
Congrats on being a finalist!

16 01 2010
Candi Wall

Thanks Jessica.

It’s just an old, kinda gross saying!

Not sure whether it will stay or not. Maybe by the time I finish edits, I’ll have a different feel for Gavin’s character.

Thanks for stopping by.

17 01 2010
C.D. Yates

Funny–all this debate over a turd. 😉 Did you ever imagine you’d be thinking about such a thing?

I like the line. I think it shows a lot about Gavin’s character. He’s rough around the edges and he’s not afraid to speak his mind, especially about a crazy request from a mother who wants to hire him to frighten her daughter. And it’s just such a guy thing to say, IMHO. He’s a man’s man.

17 01 2010
Candi Wall


I’m glad you found the statement in character. It’s very encouraging to me, that I may have given him an ounce of flesh in such a short space, hopefully not unfavorable flesh.

Thanks for your thoughts!

17 01 2010

i’m not into western romance, but as a writer i wanted to learn from another writer, anyway, my point is i really enjoyed your entry, i found your writing very tight and clean (but the “turd” part not so much, sorry!), it was entertaining with humorous parts, and you created an interesting picture that captured my imagination. my favorite part was when gavin’s thoughts were brought back to his bother and his dream of owning the ranch and it’s land, something about it made me want to give this character a hug.
again, not a western romance reader but i would like to read more of your story! great work!

17 01 2010
Candi Wall


I’m like you. I love reading through entries and the discussions that follow to learn. I picked up my first paranormal romance just after joining a critique group and was surprised that I enjoyed it. If the first few pages or the jacket copy can catch my attention, I’ll give anything a shot.

Thank you very much!

17 01 2010
Rachelle Chase

Sarah, you bring up a good point. That good writing can make us pick up a book we never considered reading. I have encountered this in my personal reading and every year with the contest entries (i.e. I rarely read paranormals, westerns, etc. and yet the entry captured my attention and made me want to read more).

In my personal reading, I remember that happening with The Lovely Bones. I thought I’d never enjoy that subject matter, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Ditto for Precious.

Has that happened to you, Sarah? And, anyone else?

17 01 2010

that has happened to me many times. i devoured Jon Krakuer’s “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air” and after noticing many friend’s referencing the “Twilight” series by Stephanie Meyer’s I gave in and read them all in a month! haha, but i mostly blame that on my pregnancy 🙂
it’s a wonderful surprize, though, when you read something you thought you wouldn’t like and then find that you actually do like it. it’s a challenge that has been met and has made you stronger, more open as a writer and as someone who will be forever learning….
but on the other hand, what a drag it is when you pick up something you’d think you’d love and it’s terrible, that’s happened more often than i’d like to admit (of course, i’m not talking about Tolstoy). 🙂

19 01 2010
Jeannie Lin

The hero’s gruff manners are what really won me over here. A man’s man who swears and shoots guns, but tries his hardest to be polite to the ladies — I can’t wait to see what happens when he meets this feisty daughter! And great job of giving us a glimpse of her daughter’s character even before she makes her appearance.

26 01 2010

Thanks Jeannie!

The daughter, well actually she’s not really the daughter but that’s for the book to tell – is a really fun character to write. She’s spunky, but in a level-headed, save the snark for when it’s needed kind of gal who rubs Gavin all wrong.

22 01 2010

Great start, Candi. I was really pulled into the story. The turd stopped me, but I thought, he’s using it for the shock value, he wants the woman to leave him alone. For me, as a reader, I’d let it go, but if he does it again… he loses points.

26 01 2010

LOL. All this turd!

I’m glad you felt it worked. Gavin tends to be abrasive but he saves it for when it’s called for. No more turd comments, but he does throw a couple crass remarks that really rile others.

22 01 2010

Own the turd. It’s a part of your voice, and it’s a part of Gavin. It gives Gavin depth and helps to show us who he is. Maybe he is a little crude. That sentence illustrates his crudeness perfectly. That turd is a part of the tapestry of the novel. The novel wouldn’t be the same without it.

Work it girl!

26 01 2010

‘Own the turd’ Once again, this is something I never thought I’d read or write. LOL.

I’m truly hoping that comment will be well met as part of who Gavin is. There is something to be said for one small statement telling a lot about a character.

Not sure if it will stay, but I appreciate the backing!

1 02 2010


I’m late on my comments, but I’m finally here. This was really captivating for me. I loved it from the start. Yes, the “turd” remark stopped me for a moment, but it fits your character and, I thought, makes him real. I love stories that are set in the West. That’s usually the setting for my stories.

I also thought it was interesting that, in your introduction, you show both the characters with a problem to solve. Usually we get just one problem, but they are both in a situation of “I need to do something to solve my problem.”

Thanks for such a great beginning to what I have no doubt will be a super story. I thought it was obvious why you were picked as a finalist.

1 02 2010
Candi Wall


Thank you so much for the kind comment. I love the west and the historical romance inherent there.

A comment like this from someone who loves and writes the same is wonderful!

9 02 2010

Oh, wow. The daughter’s not really the daughter, so it sounds like a double cross is in the making. And Gavin is not going to be happy that he’s being lied to. It sounds like a great plot twist along with the interesting and unusual characters.

Hi, Candi, Sorry to be so late with my response, but I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this opening. You left me eager to read on to get to the fun of some serious fireworks when the h/h are forced to interact. Good job. I’d buy your book.

As to the turd comment, it made me pause at first, but then it sounded like a comment this character would make. And much more appropriate than the s word.


11 02 2010
Candi Wall


Thank you for such kind comments. i’m very pleased that Gavin gained as much interest as he has. I really enjoyed writing his story and the fireworks between them came pretty easy.

This actually started as a novelette and after a kind recommendation from an editor that the plot was strong enough to expand the wordcount, I started the process of editing/writing it into a full-length. Gavin and Abigail really came alive on their own then.

So glad you stopped in and btw – I’ve decided the turd has to stay!

12 02 2010
Valorie Dorr

Candi I love your opening and can’t wait to read more. I think “turd” fits. It’s a Western. Gavin spoke his mind. Glad you plan to keep it in.

14 02 2010
Candi Wall

Thanks Val!

It’s very nerve-wracking to have one word have such impact, but in the long-run, I like it more and more. Especially as I edit and I see more of his rough edges now that I’m really looking for them to make sure he fits his mold al the way through despite any arc. LOL.

Thanks for stopping by!

24 02 2010

Candi, I really enjoyed this. Your dialogue, especially, snaps right along and paints the characters vividly for me. I didn’t have a problem with the turd comment at all – it made sense for the setting and time period, and I interpreted it as an intentional barb to get her to leave him alone. The premise intrigued me and it was well-executed. I do agree that the exchange at the end when he finally accepts could stand a bit more propping-up. Really great though! I only have one minor nit-pick: you might want to check your useage of pinch, cinch, and crinkle – seems like the heroine was doing a lot of those. 🙂


25 02 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Gwen,

Thanks for picking up on the mothers twitching! Yikes. I once had a hero who after first edits I realized must have had spams in his neck muscles. He was nodding ALL the time. LOL.

I appreciate the kind comments and love to know if things stand out for readers.

26 02 2010

Mother, right – that’s what I meant (not heroine). And I know what you mean – one of my characters used to be a compulsive throat-clearer. 😉

3 03 2010

Geat job so far Candi! I can’t wait to read more. I did not get put off by the infamous “turd” statement. I laughed. May this start a lot of doors openign to you. Best of luck to you.

3 03 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, Susan!

I’m glad to know you found it humorous. That was trulyhow it was meant to sound. For now, it stays. LOL.

Thanks for the encouragement!

6 03 2010

Loved the premise and did a great job setting it up. I love historicals, espeically w/humor. I would buy the book.
You’ve got my vote.

6 03 2010
Candi Wall

Thank you, Connie!

Honestly didn’t plan for humor when I started out, Gavinjust grew that way!

I appreciate your vote.

9 03 2010
Christine Witthohn, Agent

I liked this.
With a few little tweaks… this could HONK 🙂

The hero’s characterization made me want to keep reading, but I thought he capitulated a little too quickly – be consistent!

If Mama’s a desperate woman, she will find herself doing things she might not normally do (motivation). For example: maybe grab a man’s arm and beg; pull out a wad of cash/gold and shove it in his face (which would make him feel responsible for this foolish woman’s safety – not all men would be honorable, like him); promise things she can’t deliver, etc..

The hero’s reaction to the Mama’s actions will speak volumes about what type of a man he really is. Use this to your advantage!

Modern language and phrases: I think the comments from your readers tells you, this is a problem. My confession – I cringed when I read the “turd” exchange.

My suggestions: be consistent with your characterization, motivations, and time period language.

14 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Christine,

Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts. I think from all the feedback I’ve gathered, the turd comment can stay with some tweaking. I really like it – and the impact it has – in building his character.

Using his reaction to the mother to my advantage is what I’d hoped to do. I confess to cutting a few lines and internal thoughts here to make the piece fall within the limits of the contest. Hopefully adding these short little action/reaction pieces back intothe story will cast Gavin in a more favorable light. Enough that he’ll be forgiven his crass manners.

Modern language – all I can say here is thank goodness for my writing partners. I’ve learned to spot more of my mistakes, but they really flag them for me when I overlook something.

Thank you so much for the encouragement and great input!

11 03 2010
Laura Bradford

I am generally a fan of western historicals, so this was nice to read. I will admit on my first review, I was really getting tripped up by a couple of Gavin’s more crude comments–the turd exchange and the comment about her riding without her mother’s knowledge. Not that a hero can’t have a rough side, but here, the comments kind of shoved me out of the story rather than pulling me in. I wasn’t at all sure that I liked the hero in this first glimpse of him. This kind of thing is totally subjective of course, but for me, I would have been able to tolerate some crude comments from the hero better if I’d already liked him. But since that turd comment is essentially one of the first things we hear from him, initially, I am not sure if it makes him seem more like the rough, tough, sexy hero or the crude, rude henchman-type. I found the narrative smoother on my second read through…perhaps because I was prepared for him a bit more. By the end of the sample, I am prepared to go on the ride that is this story…you do present a different facet of Gavin when you illustrate that he is trying to save his family and that he needs money to do so but I would be lying if I said that my very first impression of the hero was positive. Despite me being pretty harsh about the subject of my initial impressions of Gavin, I do like the plot hook and the set up. I think you have created a scenario that promises to be great fun.

14 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Laura,

I really appreciate the amount of time you’ve taken to comment on my entry.

It’s pretty clear, not just from your comments, but from others as well, that I need to revamp and clean up Gavin’s likability factor here. You said it perfect, “I found the narrative smoother on my second read through…perhaps because I was prepared for him a bit more.”

No author wants their readers to have to read through a second time to ‘get’ a character, so I know I have to bump up his smoother side before the hard side can be tolerated easier. Gavin has plenty of rough, tough edges to iron out during his char arc, so fixing this first portion won’t be difficult!

I’m glad that despite his manners you were still able to find the story interesting.

Thank you very much for your input.

12 03 2010
Theresa Stevens

There’s a real spark in this piece, which is undeniably well written. Let me suggest, though, that part of the problem with the turd comment has to do with narrative flow. (For the record, as long as you’re tallying votes, I’m agin’ it as it stands. But for it if it’s fixed.)

In the beginning, he’s shocked. They’re both being carefully courteous, given the nature of their conversation. But he is shocked, and she is the one who shocked him.

Why does he then try to flip that dynamic around? The turd comment is shocking. It’s vulgar.Iit may be in character, which is fine (and works well, I think). But it’s one thing for him to say it and another for him to think it. The fact that he verbalizes this crass comment dramatically shifts the narrative flow here. Now he’s the shocking one, and she’s the shocked one. Which means that readers have to keep up with the change, but we’re not really given a tool to help us understand why he wants to create this reversal. Is it a defense mechanism? Or is he so shocked that he forgets himself and uses vulgar language in front of a lady? We don’t know because the narrative focus is on the lady.

More than that, though, is that it diffuses my ability to get on board with him. If he was just politely standing up to a pushy dame, and if he was privately thinking these rude things but struggling to maintain his manners, and if ultimately she pushed him too far and he burst out with what he’d been thinking, then we would have a sense of internal struggle and raising stakes and sympathy for his outburst. Do you follow me?

That said, this is very well written. It crackles with energy, and I can really get a good sense of all the characters from this little snippet. You have good control over mechanics, and if this were on submission to me, I would definitely keep reading.

14 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Theresa,

Wonderful suggestions!

Until you stated it as such, I didn’t realize how much this exchange changed the dynamics of what the reader is focusing on. It really does thrust him into an unsavory light without giving the reader some time and knowledge of who he is. This comment can be forgiven, and found as the humorous blast it was meant to be if I give the reader more of his ‘having been pushed to his limit’ thought/action beforehand.

Thank you very much for taking the time to walk through the idea for me.

And of course, for your kind comments.

13 03 2010
Elizbeth Pomada

Hello, Candi. I found BOUGHT intriguing. but felt the beginning was more so than the last page or two. And I didn’t totally believe the premise (a mother wanting her daughter punished?)–even though that’s the premise in the rape scene in THE FANTASTICKS). I also found it a tiny bit old-fashioned in approach–and not because it was set in l867. I also felt the word choices need attention. For example, paragraph 7, “sent the feathers….to motion” should be IN motion. Para l6, the Long hashed not to lose. What is hashed?
para.20: the use of “suckered for” as a verb is questionable. Remember, every word counts.
Single spacing and no para.indents also make the read more difficult.
Keep at it!
We need a good new western romance!

14 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my work.

I will have to consider my word choices much mre carefully, especially when it comes to how the ‘mother’ explains her request. I didn’t plan for her to come off as wanting to punish her daughter. Just scare her, so she’d return home. This will be something I look very closely at, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

As for the para indents and single spacing, I’m hoping this is just a formatting issue. In my normal ms there are both indents and double spaced lines.

Thank you again for your thoughts!

16 03 2010
Esi Sogah

Hi Candi–I thought this had a really fun opening that put the reader right into the action. You also did a good job creating atmosphere without getting too bogged down in details and hitting the reader over the head with it. I did find myself wanting more explanation as to the mother’s motivation–it’s a fairly dangerous situation she’s putting her daughter in, and I was left wondering why she’s so trusting of Gavin…or why she’s so desperate it doesn’t matter if he’s trustworthy.

Happy writing!

16 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Esi,

Thank you for such encouraging comments.

I cut the short prologue for this piece because it gave away too much of the plot twist. The ‘mother’ hiring Gavin isn’t actually the mother at all, and so Gavin is not only thrown into a mess, he’s angry at being double-crossed. I’m not sure how I could keep the reader from getting frustrated by not having the mother’s motivations and still keep the plot twist secure until a later time (which starts to unravel very quickly).

I’ll definitely take a hard look at this and see if I can’t tweak it.

Thanks so much!

16 03 2010
Brenda Chin

Hi Candi,

I really like the scenario you’ve come up with, although, like many others, I felt the hero got unnecessarily crude on occasion. And like Rachelle, I felt the hero capitulates too easily – you go from him not considering it at all, to four background paragraphs where we learnhe needs the money, to being game. It all happens too quickly, and makes it difficult to get a handle on what his character actually is like.

That being said, you’ve got a cool setup and great dialogue. I wish you the best of luck in finding a publisher.

22 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Brenda,

Thank you for taking the time to look at my entry.

With all tis great feedback, it’s pretty easy to see where and what I need to fix. I’m glad you enjoyed the setup and dialog.

It’s amazing how we as writers can overlook small details that others will find. I can’t wait to submit this once I’ve ironed out all the bugs.

Thanks again!

17 03 2010
Deb Werksman

Definitely dig the opening line. The pacing is quite good, and you’re very strong with dialog. The hero is very likable and promises to be quite strong. I’m not sure how I feel about the mother. It’s not clear to me whether she’s a sympathetic character or not–she seems a little ridiculous at moments. Is that what you intend? Western historical very, very difficult to sell, alas. This promises to be a lot of fun.

22 03 2010
Candi Wall

Hi Deb,

Thank you for your comments.

There was a prologue originally that showed a bit more about the ‘mother’ who isn’t actually the mother. This is really te only time we ‘see’ the mother until close to the end. I did actually intend for her to seem a bit – odd, but maybe I can find a way to do that without putting a reader off. It’s important to the story that Gavin and readers beleive she’s the real mother for now. However it doesn’t take long for Gavin to figure out that he’s been pulled into a mess he didn’t bargain for.

I’ve heard that western is a difficult sell as well. Sigh. Loving what you write has it’s flaws.

Thanks again!

24 03 2010
Vicki Bendau


I happen to love western Americana. And, I also happened to love the ‘turd’ comment. It made me laugh out loud. But, clearly not everyone agreed with my opinion. Good for you for having the guts to keep it in there. Like you, I am writing historicals with an unusual time period and setting. It makes it tough but I think your writing is top notch. Keep it up and I hope you make this book a winner.


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