A few quick critiques to start the morning- more bracing than caffeine. As always, my opinions are my own, and while I love to generate ideas and offer suggestions, the critiqued should feel free to ignore them. ;-)
13. Brigid, Wicked Sensibility - I love urban fantasy! Although I didn't get to find out what was fantastical in this one. Still, it's a well-written first page. I noticed a slight tendency to overwriting- examples are "Rebecca flung herself into the car in a vain attempt to escape the nighttime November cold." and "He hesitated, and she was sure he was going to refuse or take some action borne of desperation." The phrasing doesn't seem quite natural, and interrupts the flow of the story. Overall, though, I think this is a good first page: action right away, believable reaction by the main character, you've raised story questions I want to know the answer to (what is he hiding from? why is he bleeding? etc). Actually, on second thought, I might move the action a little closer to the beginning- do we really need to know it's cold and November and Maryland right away? Could you work that in when he's getting out of the car- that might be more natural than the detailed description of his clothes (would she really be paying so much attention to clothes in that situation?), his open door lets in the cold November air, or something? And then just start with "There was a man in her car."
Okay, I'm getting too long with these again. It's just so much fun...
14. Christy, Viva! - I think I would start with "The numbers on the bedside clock", and work in the bit about loud music later when you say the music gets turned up. If I hadn't been reading this with a view to critiquing it, I think you would have lost me in that first paragraph, because I didn't know why I should care that the music is giving someone a headache... But once I know she's a prostitute who doesn't seem to want to be one, it gets interesting. That's your hook, and what will make me want to keep reading. (This entry was short, so that's probably why the critique is short. And here I thought I was getting better!)
15. A. Genova, For Sparta - Oh, wierd. a friend's WIP has a villain by the name of Melaina, which is not exactly a common name. I'm guessing she's not the villain in your story, let me adjust my thinking. Okay. The writing is good. You work description into action nicely- I especially like the part when she runs up the hill. But I wound up a little confused. I think this is possibly because I have no idea what the story is about at this point, and if I were an agent I would have already read your query and know a little more about what was going on. The first three paragraphs seem to be a childish game of hide-and-seek, although I didn't realize she was a child until she "flung her small body" behind the tree. But then the "Melaina, you can't hide from me forever" line sounded more sinister than I expected. Still, she was *grinning* as she hid from him... but then she's chanting in her head for him not to find her. I like the revelation of character in the scorpion encounter- she's not going to let her fears make her do something she doesn't want to, even if she *is* a child. I think I want to know more about what's at stake- is it really a simple game of hide-and-seek? Is the scorpion really harmless, or is she in danger? If it is just hide-and-seek, then I'm not sure this is the right place to start, because there's no conflict, just a fond memory or a child having a fun time with a...brother or father or friend. I want to know that too- who's looking for her?
16. Jessica, Repose - Love this. You have a fabulous way with words, they seem to flow almost.. magically. So I'm going to focus on the problems- I didn't realize at first that Mairead had just entered the cellar, I spent the first few paragraphs wondering if her mother had locked her in or something. Also, I thought she was much younger, and the soldier's fingers on her thigh gave me quite a start- I thought it was going to be an abuse story. These things are easily cleared up- make her close the door before she leaned against it, maybe say "her mother hadn't told her stories like that for years" instead of just a long time, which can mean something different to a young child. Now, why doesn't she know the soldier's name? That bothered me a lot, it didn't immediately seem to fit with the character. She seems like a rebellious young girl, sneaking off to meet a lover while her mother is away- not knowing the name of who she's going to sleep with puts it on another level entirely. That's pretty trashy, and might make her a little too unlikeable? I'll finish up with more praise- strong voiced character, you pulled us right into the story, it's easy to see that there's conflict between the girl and her mother. I'd definitely keep reading.