First-Page Critiques: Open to Submissions!


We’re pleased to announce we’re once again accepting submissions for first-page critiques. This is a feedback opportunity in which authors submit their first pages and a Carina Press editor writes a critique, then posts it publicly on our blog.

This critique sweepstakes is a chance for you to receive honest and constructive feedback from a Carina Press editor. Feedback that we promise won’t be mean—we’re not looking to be witty or harsh, we’re just looking to give insight into the editorial thought process while giving you what solid feedback we can at the same time. Send us your first page, and we’ll randomly select submissions to critique on our blog. If you’ve never had your work critiqued before (or even if you have), don’t worry! Our goal is to help you, not only by pointing out what might not be working, but also by letting you know what you’ve gotten right and how to bring that out and really make it shine. In other words, we’re friendly!

Please read the official rules for full legal details on the sweepstakes, then follow the instructions below.

  • Submit the first 400 to 800 words of your manuscript (for most manuscripts, this will be around 1 ½ to 3 pages) to us here before 11:59PM EDT on September 18, 2019.
  • We’ll randomly select a number of first pages from the submissions.
  • Carina Press editors will review and post the selected submissions, with our editorial feedback, on the Carina Press blog.
  • You choose—do you want the comment section on the blog open or closed? Leaving the comment section open means others can comment and offer feedback, but perhaps you only want the feedback from the editor. In that case, everyone reading will benefit from seeing how our editorial minds work, but cannot comment on the blog post itself.

Please keep in mind:

  • We can only accept one entry per person.
  • Authors cannot have been published by Carina Press/Harlequin before.
  • Pages must be from unpublished work and you must be the rightful owner of the work.
  • The entry must be romance of one of the following sub-genres: contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, historical, science fiction, fantasy. However, it can be of any heat level and feature same-sex/multiple pairings.
  • By submitting your work to this contest, you give permission for the material to appear on our website along with the editorial feedback.
  • The first pages to be critiqued will be selected at random, and once the selections have been made, we’ll be deleting all other submissions.

Any further questions can be directed to

4 thoughts on “First-Page Critiques: Open to Submissions!”

  1. Tammy Hayes says:

    To Begin Again
    By: Tammy Hayes

    “Hush, shh,” followed by giggling and then a higher-pitched, “mom’s home,”
    Tina heard her daughter’s whispering through the bedroom door. Smiling to herself she walked silently to her bedroom at the opposite end of the home, across from her grandson’s bedroom. Stopping first and peeking in the door she saw that Michael was sleeping peacefully, obviously the reason her daughter and son-in-law had made a quick trip to their bedroom.
    “How’s Grammy’s baby boy?” she whispered so that the baby monitor would pick up her voice and let the kids know all was clear. “You let me know when you wake up.”
    After changing from her work clothes Tina stepped through the five dogs laying around her desk then logged onto the internet for a quick browse of current home listings for rent, not apartments because three of those dogs would be moving with her. She had been quietly looking for a few months now, since just after the wedding. She knew that Nikki and Rajore would insist that she stay, after all, it was her house, the home her recently deceased husband had provided for her for over twenty years. Every room, every wall, nook, and cranny held memories; some good and some better but all bittersweet seven months after Dale’s death from heart failure.
    She knew they also just loved her, almost as much as she loved them and they would miss her. They had fought so hard since their first meeting just weeks after Nikki had found out she was pregnant by a man that didn’t want to be a father again, her daughter had later found out that he already had four by different women. At the time Dale had passed away Nikki and Rajore had been separated, not sure that they would ever be a couple again. Tina had panicked when Nikki had needed an emergency c-section and had called Rajore. He had come to the hospital to be with Nikki before he went to court the next week then after he came out of jail he rarely left her side, never going far or for very long not even through the fighting. He was determined to win Nikki back and convince her that she could trust him. Tina felt they needed to be able to build and strengthen their family without her hanging around and maybe she just needed to start over herself, forty-one didn’t seem old enough to just give up.
    Entering in a new search parameter she begins searching for rent houses in the area where she now works after having transferred to Wagoner a month before, an hour-long commute each morning and evening. The Collinsville and Owasso area was ridiculously high on rent, too high for a single woman working in a grocery store office, when she was offered the promotion to the store headquarters she had jumped at the chance and now that she knew she not only could do her new job but that she loved it almost as much as the substantial pay raise it was time to look at locating closer to the store headquarters.
    It didn’t take long to rule out apartments in Wagoner just like Owasso. A small pet accommodation was easy but not one for three large part Labrador dogs. She had to find a rental house with a fenced-in yard but again she ran into wall after wall. Limits on the number or must stay outside or must weigh under thirty pounds. With a sigh of relief Tina heard Michael begin to whimper, logging off the computer she went to collect her baby boy, leaving him would be the worst part of moving.
    “How’s Grammy’s Micha, Micha, Michael?” she asked in a sing-song voice as she lifted the eight-month old out of his crib and watched his face break into a grin.
    “Da da da da” he chanted the only syllable he seemed to know, as Tina moved to the changing table to quickly gave him a dry bottom.
    “Sorry, mom,” Nikki said as she walked into the room followed by Rajore who stopped in the doorway.
    “Hi mama,” he said, flashing a crooked smile, his auburn hair a wild halo around his head.
    “Da da,” Michael started to chant.
    Tina smiles and shakes her head as she hands Nikki the baby so she can feed him. She has had a hard time from the first with breastfeeding, her milk supply just never truly came in well so Michael will still need at least another six ounces from a bottle which Rajore will then give him.
    “Don’t you say that there’s no reason to be sorry. Goodness, you’ve barely been married three months, you better still be sneaking off at any opportunity.”

  2. Alicia Highmere watched from the ferry rail as the shadowed bulk of the mansion grew closer. With every passing second, the throbbing diesel engine drew her closer to her childhood home, Highmere House. In the gathering twilight, she caught meagre glimpses of the sandstone three-story monstrosity. The slate roof, darkened to black by the misty rain, was partially visible beyond the obstructing trees.
    Past images of her life in the house surfaced. Some were not pleasant and those, she pushed aside.
    The ten-acre property had grown even more wild and uncontrolled over the past weeks. Logically, something should be done about the over-growth, but her mother never allowed it. Was it Olivia Frost-Highmere’s intention to obliterate their old home from current memory? The thought wasn’t a shock if it were true.
    Alicia wasn’t exactly sure how she felt about going home, possibly for the last time. There would always be a thread that tied her to the old place, no matter what happened in the next few days.
    “Alicia, are you cold?” Bryce’s words pierced the steady noise of the boat engine and the churning water. He woke her out of the light trance she’d fallen into while staring across the open expanse of Samsun Narrows. The body of water which separated Salt Spring Island from Vancouver Island.
    She blinked, and only then did Alicia feel the slice of the November wind against her cheeks. She turned to face her driver. “Yes, a bit,” she said and opened stiff fingers to let go of the metal railing.
    His dark brown eyes held hers as Bryce’s tall figure stood by the driver’s side door of the silver-grey Bentley. The car was beaded with wet, but its interior would be warm. So too, was his gaze.
    It didn’t matter her hands were encased in soft leather gloves. The cold was generated from within, not by the elements.
    As always, in this typical Pacific Northwest weather, Bryce wore a sensible black trench coat. And yet his head was bare, which allowed the moisture to frost Bryce’s short-cropped, tight black curls.
    The design and colour of his coat made his broad shoulders appear, well, broader, and thus made Alicia feel safe. There was something about the man’s bearing which inspired confidence and security, literally. She was glad he would be with her through the difficult days to come.
    “We’ll be disembarking in about ten minutes, it might be best to return to the car now.” To prod her further, he opened the rear passenger door.
    “Thank you,” Alicia gave Bryce a small smile. She stepped away from the railing and climbed stiffly into the car. As she passed by him, she noted black stubble coated the dark skin of his firm jaw, and found it not unattractive. Bryce wouldn’t have found time to shave. It had been a long day of travelling for both of them.
    Alicia firmly shifted her focus away from the handsome man who was also her bodyguard. She kept the ‘mother hen’ remark she was tempted to use, to herself. He was only trying to look after her, and do his job. Do not make this personal she reminded herself as she settled into the back seat.
    Bryce Graham had been in his position for, she frowned, mere weeks. Had he really been with her so short a time? It felt like he’d always been there, he fit into her life so easily.
    With her door firmly closed, he opened his, and slid behind the wheel. Their eyes met briefly in the rearview mirror. She knew he was checking her position, ensuring he could see her while he drove.
    Bryce’s specialized security training was showing again, but she wouldn’t tease the man about this either. She was glad he took his job so seriously and now was not the right time to joke…about anything.
    Last month, an incident with a would-be mugger in the parking garage at her water-front condo, reinforced her reliance on the man. Even though he assured her that event was unrelated to the other incident, the foiled robbery had still been disturbing for her. She couldn’t help thinking of the moment she was struck by the SUV. She still couldn’t remember how she had ended up in front of the truck’s bumper.
    Alicia considered her accident, it was the trigger which spurred her to hire a bodyguard in the first place. He was the silver lining.
    Bryce referred to the episode as the ‘incident’ because, although there were no more threatening letters, the emails hadn’t stopped.
    At least she no longer had to deal with any of the messages since she hired Bryce. As head of security, he handled all things such as that. With his investigation, she trusted he would soon put an end to all the threats. In the meantime, Bryce’s steady presence made her breathe easier.

  3. Jamie Nare says:

    “You bastard! You lied to me.”
    Sage knew this would happen. It always did. Someone would come in looking for a quick way to find the love of their lives only to learn that fast wasn’t always best. The stunning red head who slammed into the store vibrated as she stood before him. He had tried to warn her she might not like the outcome.
    Sage held his hands up and shook his head, “No, as I explained last month when you first came in that what I see isn’t exact. Precognition is not a precise science. The future is always in flux.”
    Her lip curled and her eyes narrowed as she looked up at him. “Don’t try to confuse me with your inane babble. You said you could see the future and who I would marry.”
    “Yes, yes I did. And what I told you is what I saw.” He nodded. He would never, even if he lived to be one thousand, understand why people couldn’t just let life happen. But then he would be out of a job, so there’s that.
    “But he’s…” Her face crumbled. Tears trickled down her cheeks.
    Sage patted her shoulder. He was not good at offering comfort. “It will be okay.”
    The soft padding of slippered feet gave him a much needed escape. For once he was thankful his mother had decided today was a good day to descend upon his business. She glared at him before punching him in the arm. She wrapped her arm around the red head’s shoulders and led her to the back offering whispered words of comfort and soothing tea.
    Not long after his mom had taken charge of the understandably upset young woman, the store was invaded. People were everywhere filling reusable bags with everything from candles to incense to essential oils. For once he was glad he’d gotten an early start to the day. He’d restocked as much as he could, but he knew if didn’t figure out a way to get all of the stock out of his backroom and onto the shelves it was going to be a nightmare.
    Voices called out asking about items and Sage did the best he could to answer from his trapped position behind the register. At some point he realized his mom had come out and had taken over answering questions. She’d also taken the opportunity to offer her own fortune telling services. As soon as the clock struck noon, the store was empty and quiet. Sage sagged against the counter.
    “How long has it been like this?”
    Sage shrugged, “Most of the month. I don’t know what in Dante’s hell is going but it’s been good for business.”
    His mom nodded. The silver streaks highlighting her dark brown curls looked as if they’d been professionally done. Even with the beginnings of fine lines at the corners of her eyes from smiling, she looked younger than him. Most people couldn’t believe she was in her late fifties. She always laughed and said she had a simulacrum tucked away aging for her.
    The bell above the door jingled and Gretchen, his part time employee, sailed inside. She stopped and looked around. “Another busy morning?”
    “You have no idea.”
    Gretchen continued through the store towards the back to put her things away. She lightly touched hands with his mom as she passed her. Sage could almost see a change in Gretchen’s energy when she did that. “At least Selene was here to help.”
    “Yes, and now she’s heading home.” Selene moved closer to Sage, “I’m going to gather your aunts and sisters and see if we can figure out what’s going on. Be careful.” She touched his cheek before pulling her phone out of her pocket and walking out the door.
    If anyone could figure out what was up, it was the women in his family. They were a scary bunch when on a mission, and he knew that’s how they would see this. The only problem was that they would also descend upon his shop in the coming days. He loved them all, but they drove him batty on good days.
    “Hey, Sage, if you want, I can stay late this evening to help you get stock up.” Gretchen walked out of the backroom carrying a box.
    “I would love your help. Thank you.” Sage smiled. “I’m going to run down to Bookmark’d. You want anything? Coffee? Cheesecake?”
    Gretchen rolled her eyes. “A large iced Americano and a salted caramel mini cheesecake, but you don’t have to butter me up. I already volunteered to help.”
    Sage laughed. “Oh, I know. But I need to get out of here before the afternoon horde hits. Plus I think we’re both going to need the caffeine.”

  4. Lori Urick says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! I was drawn in immediately! I’m “just” a fellow fedgling writer, so my opinion may not hold a lot of weight, but I wanted to say good on you!

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