Welcome to another MC speed date.  This time it's with Rachelle Pudelek's character Allura, from DARK WATERS.

So, please read the first chapter below and offer a comment or your thoughts on this MC's voice.  We're looking for honest comments here, any tips that will help Rachelle live happily ever after as a published author.  And definitely let us know your final verdict.  Would ya date this MC?  Or at least read chapter 2? 

Oh, yeah, and if you'd like to join the party with your MC, please email me (or you can email Tammy ) and let us know.  The next speed date will be on Wednesday, August 29th.  Thanks for playing!

Chapter 1

My nails dug into the bark as I clung to the side of the pine tree, and swung myself up to a higher branch. “I’m thinking the forest is a lost cause tonight, sisters.” I lifted my nose and took another whiff. Just to double check. “There’s nothing to hunt here.”
Arlana crouched on the solid branch of a mature, towering evergreen and shook her head. “Allura, why do you keep picking the thinnest limbs?” she called out, ignoring my food comment.
“What’s the fun in catapulting from the thick ones?” I positioned my body to leap from the narrow limb covered in pine needles to a thread of a twig ten feet higher, on a nearby tree.
“Um, I’d say not falling on your ass when the tiny, weak branch breaks!” My sister, Celine, laughed.  
I pulled my body low, my thighs clenched like powerful coils preparing to release their bursts of energy. There was no need to stay still, to concentrate on the movement of the wind through the trees, or to remind myself of the correct footing for such a jump. Our ancestors were some of the most feared women in folklore. Huntresses of the night. So, I pretty much had a knack for all things hunting related—jumping through trees, included.  
I aimed a quick smile at Arlana and launched myself from the tree. The night air greeted me with a gush, wrapping itself in my black hair as water droplets pelted my face. My hands, outstretched in front of me, parted the needles and pine cones before my feet found their place on the spindly branch.
Thanks to our ability to see in the darkest of places, I spotted Arlana roll her eyes. Having superb vision over long distances helped too.   
“Can we eat now?” Celine leapt to a tree closer to me, and my sisters, Arlana and Cara, followed.
“Yes. Please. I’m famished,” Cara whined.
“I could go for anything right now, so what are you guys in the mood for?” Arlana studied the forest floor from her perch, already scouting out our meal as though the frigid night hadn’t kept all animal life hidden in their warm burrows.
“Not land animals. They’re so gamey.” Cara pushed her blond curls behind her ear and shifted her weight on the sturdy, low branch she stood upon. Despite her distance from me, the sound of her empty stomach grumbled in my ears.
“The water’s that way.” I pointed toward the view I had been enjoying, as though my sisters hadn’t already sensed the Pacific Ocean nearby. The Puget Sound looked like an ongoing sheet of onyx glass. 
“Yes.” Cara’s fingers worked at pulling her shirt over her head as she sprinted through the heavy green laden trees, from branch to branch.
The rest of us followed, keeping pace, but in our own unique strides, at our own height preferences. In an instant, the four of us shot out from the tree line where the edge of the cliff plummeted into nothing but ocean and rocks. We soared off the side of the cliff, over the sharp rocks and crashing waves. Each of us tucked our faces down, and pushed our hands above our heads, creating arrows of our bodies to cut through the glass ocean top.
“Finally,” Cara exhaled, her body barely beneath the water’s surface. She grabbed the first fish she could reach and sunk her teeth into its scales. Cara kept hold of her appetizer as she swam alongside my sisters and me. One fish wouldn’t do. We needed lots.
Cara’s jeans floated in the water near Celine’s head and Arlana gave a disapproving sigh. “Seriously, we need to plan our meals out before we leave the house. This last minute shedding of clothes is going to eventually leave our dressers empty.”
“Yeah.” Celine grabbed the floating jeans. “If we aren’t hunting in the woods, we need to remember to bring our backpacks.”
Cara, cheeks full of fish, nodded as we rounded the edge of a star-fish covered boulder.  
We swam through the water in much the same way we’d soared though the trees, prowling for sustenance, on the hunt. Most animals, land and sea, knew of our existence—knew we were dangerous and to be avoided. Which, in my opinion, made hunting that much sweeter.
We tucked into a narrow, shallow underwater cave and waited, or bodies swaying to the natural movements of the water, until a school of unsuspecting fish swam by the cave opening. Without warning, four sets of arms thrust from the cavern. Each of us embracing a hearty amount of wriggling fish, we exited the shroud of the alcove and enjoyed our meal. Cara, of course, seemed to enjoy it most.
“After this, we need to get home.” Arlana titled her head toward the sky. “Night will be over in a few hours and we still need to get some sleep; tomorrow’s school.”
I licked my fingers and nodded.
Cara leaned toward her meal, examining the remains, searching for any morsel left on the bones. Her head jerked up and her eyes searched the area around us. “Did you just hear that?”
I craned my neck to study our surroundings. “I heard it too, like something…like a smacking noise or something.”
Cara dropped the fish skeleton she’d been clutching, morsel or no morsel, and followed the sound she’d heard. I caught up just in time to see her put her hand over her mouth and gasp. Celine and Arlana stopped short behind us.
“This is not good,” Cara whispered, her hand still covering her lips. 
A young woman, who appeared to be unconscious, descended through the dark water. Her knee length dress billowed out around her waist and her light brown hair wisped in free-flowing strands above her head. One single thread of red ribbon leaked from her nose in the most beautiful of ways.  
“We need to turn around and go home right now,” Arlana demanded.
“She’s out of it. She doesn’t even know we’re here.” My gaze stayed locked on the female who looked to be in her early twenties, as she descended into the depths.
“And she could wake up at any moment. Then what would you do?” Arlana turned her body from my view as if she were preparing to race off toward home.
“Taunting danger is one thing, but don’t be stupid about it.” Celine shook her head and swam to Arlana.
Celine was right. Breaking the rules was an act beyond stupid, and although the list of “do not’s” when it came to humans, screamed in my head, something stronger, an unbreakable pull of curiosity, glued me in place.
Cara freed her hand from covering her mouth and rested it on my right arm. “Come on. Let’s go.” Her fingers trailed down my arm and wove themselves between my own fingers. She started swimming away, gently pulling my arm with her.
Still, I didn’t budge.
“Go on, I’ll be right behind you.” My fingers freed from Cara’s as my sisters jetted off toward home, and away from the almost-dead human woman I was now fascinated with.
I meant what I had said. I just wanted to do one thing, touch the human, and I’d be right behind them. Just touching her wouldn’t hurt anybody. My aunts say human’s skin is not as soft as ours, but more pliable and squishy, and easier to tear, not that I had planned on tearing her, or even hurting her. 
I swam to the woman and reached out to stroke her bare arm as she drifted downward. Her hair, flowing freely, tangled around my fingers like wild vines. I shimmied my hand to pull it free making her body jostle a little bit, catching the glints of light strewn through the water by the moon.  A golden charm attached to her necklace sparkled for a spit second and I eyed the fancy cursive words on the heart-shaped pendant. “DAUGHTER”, it read. 
I dropped the small piece of jewelry as though it had been infused with poison. A tear welled in my eye as I watched the pendant ease its way back toward the woman’s skin. 
I was a daughter once.
Thoughts of my own mother filled my mind and made my heart heavy like it had turned to lead. This woman was a daughter. She had a mother—a mother who would miss her. Who would be heartbroken without her. I knew that heartbreak all too well.  
I forced my eyes away from the pendant. I had felt her pliable skin, now I needed to head home. I needed to do the right thing. Follow the rules. Plus, there was nothing I could do for this female. Except maybe drag her body onto the shore. I shook my head at the thought. A naked teenage girl running around the beach in the middle of a frigid fall night towing a probably dead body would raise a few eyebrows. Not that there would be any people on the beach at this time of the night.
I stared off into the darkness, rationalizing leaving the woman to her demise, when a quiet thump reverberated through the water. I peered down to where the noise came from—the woman’s chest. She was still alive, and from the strength of her heartbeat, she was nearer to life than death. If I could prevent the severance of a mother-daughter relationship, I had no choice but to try. I pushed all logic from my mind—every possible and probable consequence of what I was about to do—and looped my arm around her waist.
I turned to swim toward the shore. No one would see me unload the body onto the dark beach, especially if I picked a place near the cliffs. Though not near the cliffs I resided on. I headed south and began to pick up speed with my passenger in tow when something slammed into the center of my spine. A shriek exploded from my mouth as the throbbing pain ripped through my back muscles and sent the woman and I off course. Before I could adjust my unconscious passenger within my grip, what felt like a fist struck at my back again with a firm and forceful blow. My chest heaved forward and smacked into the woman’s face, leaving a sharp twinge of pain pulsing through my forehead.
As her body careened backwards and out of my grasp, a thick spurt of blood gushed from her nose until the liquid crimson clouded the water around us. I started to reach for her again, to remove us from the red billows wafting about, but I froze in place. 


  1. Nice! I love the suspense. I have several questions here to push me forward. That's what we're aiming for. I've also learned a few important things about Allura. She's compassionate, an orphan (maybe), she follows the rules mostly, she's curious. Lots of good information here.

    You've got a lot of description here about the area, but nothing really about the sisters. What do they look like? Just something small to help me tell them apart. You've also got some telling going on and your action sentences could be a little more succinct.

    e.g. The rest of us followed. How about: We followed.

    Instead of: As her body careened backwards and out of my grasp.
    How about: Her body careened backwards, out of my grasp. A spurt of blood gushed from her nose. The liquid crimson clouded the water around us. I reached for her. Another crack to my side. I froze.

    This to me gives your sentences more action. Sometimes short and pithy do the job just fine. I could not begin to preach however. I do the same thing all the time. Your character is great but you could define her better physically in just a few short words. I can't get a visual of her. Thanks for participating!

  2. I love this. There are so many questions that I can't wait to have answered! You show a lot of personality in the actions of your mc. Love the voice of the character: confident, a little cocky, daring, curious and compassionate even when she's not supposed to be. The conflict that your mc will face is shown right away with the girl in the party dress. And we can all relate to breaking rules, can't we?

    I agree with the comments above about the shorter sentences in action scenes giving them more punch. I also heard this many times in a recent writing conference. It's something I also plan to look at for my ms.

    Keep up the good work in bringing these mysterious female creatures to life!

    1. Thanks Rayna! I've changed the sentences since the comment. Reads better now. :)

  3. You have a lot of punctuation errors which have increasingly become a barrier to me. Your first sentence:
    "My nails dug into the bark as I clung to the side of the pine tree, and swung myself up to a higher branch."
    The comma is incorrect. That's a dependent clause following the "and," it does not receive a comma. Most of your dialogue is punctuated incorrectly, also.
    The MC thinking comments about how she looks and bout her ancestors seems out of place to me. People just don't think those kinds of things about themselves.
    I didn't make it all the way through this, unfortunately.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I most certainly did take that comma out. I'm not sure what you mean about the dialog being punctuated incorrectly. Can you elaborate?

    2. If I get a chance, I'll come back and a proof pass and show you what I'm talking about. I'm in the middle of an editing job I have to get finished, though, so it may be a couple of days before I have time for something like that.

    3. No, that's okay. I have critique partners for that type of editing help. I was just asking if you could quickly let me know what I had done wrong with the dialog punctuation. Ex: no comma, etc.

    4. Yeah, I know what you meant, but I don't think one example will give you a lot of help. However, in a sentence like this
      “Um, I’d say not falling on your ass when the tiny, weak branch breaks!” My sister, Celine, laughed.
      where the narration is tied to the dialogue, you should have:
      "...branch breaks!" my sister, Celine, laughed.
      I know it doesn't seem like a big thing, and one time isn't, but, when you consistently break the dialogue tags off from the dialogue, it disrupts the flow of the reading.

      Also, as I was thinking about what you have here, I realized this:
      Thanks to our ability to see in the darkest of places, I spotted Arlana roll her eyes. Having superb vision over long distances helped too.

      When you write something like that, you may as well say "Allura can see in the dark and has 20/40 vision." You're telling us about her "powers," not showing them to us. It would be much more effective to describe how dark it is and, then, tell us what she's seeing. The reader can, at that point, figure out that she can see in the dark rather than just being told. It's much more effective at drawing in the audience.

  4. Aw, she’s a nice girl – er – creature/thing/tree-climbing-mermaidy-type-person. I like that she’s trying to help, even though it puts her in danger. Makes me like her right away. My fave line is: ‘I was a daughter once.’
    Typo at about paragraph 20: ‘or bodies’ should be ‘our bodies’.
    It feels like this could be tighter, like you could cut some of the extra stuff and just get into the water sooner. Because that’s where the action really starts.
    And, hell yes, even tho I’m hetero, I’d definitely book-read-date Allura.

    1. :)
      An earlier version started in the water. Problem? When agents had me send that first chapter with the query, they responded that it was good, but they already had a mermaid title. Or mermaid titles weren't selling. So, I decided to start it in the woods to show they weren't mermaids. YES, hahaha. Caught that typo too...after I sent it off to you of-course. ;)