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First Page: A New Sky : Page 1

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The academic and the free spirit!

A near-genius, sheltered astrophysicist meets a charismatic film director making his first movie, while convalescing in Goa, India. A flirtatious friendship develops as Maya helps Christopher scout for locations. A movie-mad driver takes them around the beaches and nightspots of Goa chattering nineteen to the dozen. They discover a shared love of the sky, books and photography. Christopher helps Maya out of her shell by teasing her constantly. Everything is perfect till the crazy film crew arrives with the demanding cast and Jimmy becomes absorbed in his movie and his leading lady.

Was the time spent with Maya merely a mild flirtation, or is there some real feeling there? Can Maya ever see a future with someone who doesn’t even have a master’s degree? Can she accept herself as a person led by her heart as well as her intellect?

Share in an unlikely couple’s touching journey towards joy.

‘This is ridiculous,’ she muttered half-aloud, trying to relax in an amazingly uncomfortable deck chair by the sapphire swimming-pool, ‘Why, even though there are only strangers around; can’t I just open this robe and have a go at the water in my swimsuit? This is the 21st century for goodness sakes! I’m hopeless, absolutely hopeless.’
Maya Devine was Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Cambridge University and had come down to a resort in Goa, India, to convalesce from a protracted attack of viral flu, which had left her weak and unable to concentrate. Her three sisters and the Dean, who had shared a marvelous rapport with each other ever since she had been the star graduate and post graduate student there, had got together to bundle her off into the unknown, alone.
Brilliant beyond measure, a near genius – a geek as she typified herself only half jokingly – they all thought her mind was too precious to wander off as it had been doing lately; she needed a change. In one mad rush they bought her tickets, got her a current passport, a visa, hotel reservations and bundled her off to the airport, chorusing their goodbyes in slightly apprehensive tones, keeping their fingers tightly crossed. The very personification of the absent-minded professor, they were scared about her, now that she was actually setting off by herself.
Out there in her deck chair, Maya was trying to be daring. Feeling very adventurous, she poked her leg out from under her robe, while all around, bikini clad girls swayed proudly by, kids played splashing games, shrieking and giggling and men discreetly ogled the girls. Through the slit of her robe, a long column of tiny ankle and smooth, shapely leg barely peeked out. She surveyed the sight dejectedly for a moment, shook her head and got up to leave.
As she reached the last row of deck chairs on the side of the pool nearest to the hotel building – a sparkling white, glass, chrome, and pillared 20-storied building in a huge compound – something impelled her to look down. A man, with a straight line of sight to the chair she had been sitting on, met her eyes. His healthy, tanned skin, dark brown hair, strong jaw and eyes hidden by aviator style sunglasses contrasted oddly with the patterned Donald Duck swimming trunks he was wearing. He seemed to be laughing. Turning away quickly, she couldn’t think why, he hadn’t even been smiling.
She wondered about this inexplicable observation, as she sat on her bed in her hotel room, finally taking her robe off. It was the eyes, she decided, hazel flecked with honey gold and sparkling with amusement. At me, I’m sure, she thought wryly, who wouldn’t be? As she mused on, another fancy struck her; that it wasn’t simply amusement; it was more personal somehow, as if he had recognized her… Had seen her, and laughed in joy.
‘Bah!’ she said aloud, ‘Things like that just don’t happen.’ And picked up the phone to call room service and order a tall cool drink, with lots of watermelon juice in it – dismissing the whole thing from her mind.

***

He had been watching her half the afternoon, with amusement quirking his face. He was bored with the endless streams of bikinis and boldly patterned sundresses flashing past, which are overabundant in California anyway, and apart from a heavily pregnant Indian woman; she was the only one wearing a robe. And, he was sure, a staid, as-covered-up-as-possible, one-piece swimsuit underneath (which she was, actually); this created a visual diversion in the unending vista of semi-nude bodies. Not that a robe was interesting in itself, but when you see a tall, slim, perfectly proportioned girl with jet-black straight hair floating nearly unnoticed to her waist and soft grey eyes lined with long lines of soot, and a soft coral mouth; one does not expect her to be clutching her robe to herself as if her life depended upon it. Even if she is wearing no make-up at all.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Ankaret Wells
    May 05, 2013 @ 06:27:27

    Firstly, kudos to you for putting this out there! I really liked the idea of an astrophysicist heroine and the promise of an unusual setting in Goa.

    There were a couple of things that confused me, though. In the blurb, it seems like the hero’s name is Christopher and then you mention Jimmy, and I wasn’t sure who Jimmy was. Also, I don’t see how the hero can meet her eyes and she can notice his eyes if his eyes are hidden by aviator sunglasses.

    Best of luck with this!

  2. Lia
    May 05, 2013 @ 07:01:04

    Maya Devine was Assistant Professor… … The very personification of the absent-minded professor, they were scared about her, now that she was actually setting off by herself.

    To me, those first two alinea’s don’t belong here. It’s a lot of telling, IMHO. The reader doesn’t have to know what Maya does for a living and why she’s there on the first page, it might be better of revealed by her telling the hero.

    Question with regard to the blurb: Who is Jimmy? Is this a typo or is this a completely different person from the hero and heroine altogether.

    I do think it has potential, but hope it’s not going to end up being a love-triangle between Maya, Christopher/Jimmy and the leading lady.

  3. hapax
    May 05, 2013 @ 10:28:52

    Congratulations on your courage putting this out there. You create a vivid opening scene with lots of color and light and detail. I am intrigued by a romance set in Goa, and I hope you do a lot with the area.

    I must confess that I really dislike gorgeous, brilliant, absent-minded Professors as both heros and heroines in romance just as much as gorgeous, brilliant, playboy gazillionaire CEOs, unless the author shows an understanding of what said Professors actually do all day (and no, it’s not usually teaching a class or grading papers or standing around being smart).

    To start with, I assume that “Cambridge University” is in the United States, not the venerable institution of the University of Cambridge in England, because “Assistant Professor” isn’t an academic rank in the UK and a scholar would be affiliated with a particular college, not the University as a whole.

    However, it is excessively unlikely (and a very bad idea) for a US academic to have been a grad student, post-grad, *and* in a tenure-track position all at the same university, especially in a (relatively) small field like astrophysics.

    I’m afraid I wasn’t able to suspend belief enough to keep reading carefully after that. But if there is no good reason for a supposed “near-genius” woman to be unaware of her exceptional beauty (and how is she in such looks after such a severe illness, anyways? Is this like the magical “consumption” that make tragic heroines cough beautifully then drop dead?) except that “book-smarts make women dumb”, then I would have soon lost all patience with her anyhow.

  4. Marianne McA
    May 05, 2013 @ 10:30:28

    I liked the blurb.

    The actual page, for me, wasn’t quite there. For one thing, it’d be nice if there was more sense of place: I’ve never been to Goa, and it’d be great to read myself there. (I enjoy both Mary Stewart and Susanna Kearsley because they make their locations come alive.)
    And I worry about the heroine: not just really clever, but near genius and beautiful without being self-confident. I think I’m wary about that character, because it’s a combination of characteristics that I’ve read before and I can’t think of an instance where the character has come alive for me. If she’s going to be an Assistant Professor at Cambridge, I want to be intimidated by her intellect, and I want her to be thinking about whatever a genius might think about in a quiet moment by the pool. If you could show me the thought processes of a really brilliant woman, I’d probably buy the book for that alone.

  5. Caro
    May 05, 2013 @ 10:38:44

    I found Mia hard to believe as a contemporary heroine. She really is so shy she can’t take her robe off to swim? Really? I guess I could buy it if she thinks she’s fat, or if she has some horrible scar – but just because she’s shy?

    I also think she’s quite a waif – and not in an endearing way. She let’s her relatives decide she’s off the rails and bundle her off to India? Just like that? Leave your job, honey, and go to another continent because we think that’s best for you. And she just says – okay. Hm.

    Your writing has promise, but you could use some basic classes in punctuation…

    “Why, even though there are only strangers around; can’t I just open this robe and have a go at the water in my swimsuit?”

    This is an incorrect use of a semi-colon and it stopped me cold because I couldn’t make sense of the sentence. There are some other mistakes that take me out of the story so I’m thinking this isn’t an isolated problem. A good class would cure these issues.

    You also could brush up on POV. Do people really look down at themselves and say:

    Through the slit of her robe, a long column of tiny ankle and smooth, shapely leg barely peeked out.

    If anything, I look down at my ankles and legs and wish they were a bit thinner, or tanner or something negative. And the fact that Mia has such low self esteem in other areas of your writing, but then thinks this, doesn’t ring true.

    In one mad rush they bought her tickets, got her a current passport, a visa, hotel reservations and bundled her off to the airport, chorusing their goodbyes in slightly apprehensive tones, keeping their fingers tightly crossed. The very personification of the absent-minded professor, they were scared about her, now that she was actually setting off by herself.

    Would this be going on in Mia’s head? Would she know that her friends had their fingers crossed? Would she know they were scared about her? Unless there’s a conversation with them before she gets on the plane, I don’ think so.

    He had been watching her half the afternoon, with amusement quirking his face.

    Would he see the amusement quirking his face? Unless he looked in the mirror, I don’t think so.

    So bottom line, there’s talent here, but more study and work is needed before I’d send to an agent or self-publish.

  6. SAO
    May 05, 2013 @ 12:32:30

    I disliked the blurb because there were too many people (Chris, driver, Jimmy) and I was sometimes confused as to whom pronouns referred.

    I thought there were a number of issues with the page.

    1) There’s no sense of place. I was recently in Sri Lanka and the scenery, climate, foods, people were not like either Cambridge, GB or Cambridge, MA. It’s exotic, and I expect Goa is, too. The “sapphire” swimming pool stuck out because most swimming pools are bright blue, so it’s an adjective that’s doing nothing to say what’s unique about this pool.

    2) The page is full of run-on sentences. “Her three sisters and the Dean, who had shared a marvelous rapport with each other ever since she had been the star graduate and post graduate student there, had got together to bundle her off into the unknown, alone” is one example.

    It’s not just the run-ons, it the unnecessary info. It’s utterly irrelevant to your story how Maya got to Goa, not to mention that her sisters and dean had a rapport or for how long. Nor does it matter if they chorused good-byes or not.

    3) There are a lot of unrealistic details. The sisters and dean got Maya a current passport? They picked Goa to send a forgetful academic who needs other people to do simple things like arrange a vacation? She talks to herself at a crowded pool? She spends so much time imagining details about a stranger?

    But the most important issue for me is that she comes off as helpless. There’s no sign of her great intellect (you tell us about this, not show us). And a woman who can’t wear show her (presumably modest) bathing suit in a public place has not insignificant psychological problems.

    I think this would work a lot better if she’s studying some suitably intimidating book and Chris comes to chat her up, expecting she’s reading Jilly Cooper or 50 Shades and discovers she’s reading some guy’s math-heavy treatise on measuring infra-red light waves from deep space.

  7. Lucy Woodhull
    May 05, 2013 @ 12:42:26

    I must admit, I wouldn’t have picked up this book after a blurb in which the heroine thinks anyone without a master’s is so below her she can’t even imagine dating them. Eye roll. She screams Mary Sue — perfectly gorgeous, but golly gosh, she’s so shy about it! And then the hero, of course, dogs all the endless bikini-clad girls in favor of the virginal genius who is afraid of being so gorgeous. The first pages are all back story in which Maya recounts her own story to herself for no reason, and then she can see, from across the pool, the flecks in his eyes underneath aviator glasses. That’s simply poorly thought out.

    I know I’m picking on you, author, but it might serve you to take a step back and insert a bit of reality into these category shells of characters. I don’t have a master’s, but I’m a clever lady, and I long-ago learned that telling everyone how clever I am is not a way to make friends — not in real life, and not in a plot. Let her brains come out in her personality and dialogue. If she’s gorgeous, yes, it is the 21st century, and the woman owns a mirror — she knows. I’m so over perfect heroines who somehow have mysteriously missed this obvious fact for twenty years. *Shakes fist at Twilight.*

    Since she’s about to meet the hero, perhaps this backstory can be revealed in their initial, getting-to-know-you conversation, and it wouldn’t read as dull. I’m not saying modern heroines cannot be shy or virginal, but being smug about it is a turnoff. I know lots of brilliant ladies with masters who have dating troubles and none of them are shells of ideas of women. Figure out the real behind the shy woman, and I think you’ll have a good story, especially in what sounds like an amazing setting. Good luck!

  8. theo
    May 05, 2013 @ 14:48:36

    @Lucy Woodhull: I’m with Lucy here but for a bit different reason as to the masters degree. I have a sister-in-law who is the same. Looks down on anyone without a masters. Especially me. After 35 years, you’d think she’d have gotten over it, but she hasn’t. And that tells me a lot about your Hn, whether I’m right or not would remain to be seen, but I don’t want to read about my SIL. I have to deal with her on an almost daily basis. Also, there are too many inconsistencies in this to continue.

    Your H goes from past to present tense in his musings which for me was a bit jarring. Also, how can he tell she’s perfectly proportioned if she’s covered in a robe? Soot lined eyes? I took that to mean she was wearing at least medium eye liner and then he remarks that she has no makeup on. If it’s her eyelashes, say so. Sometimes straightforward is the best.

    Your Hn came across not as sheltered, but almost repressed if she couldn’t even let her ankle show from under her robe. So if she’s that closed, your blurb about a flirtatious friendship doesn’t ring true. That sheltered or repressed, she wouldn’t be any good at flirtation. She wouldn’t be very good at people skills in general which also means unless her friends wanted to see her in trouble, the last thing they would do is pack her off somewhere.

    I also had a problem with the movie mentions and the chattering nineteen to the dozen. Movie = 20th century, nineteen to the dozen = historical, in my mind anyway which could be just me, but I don’t know anyone who uses that phrase in real life anymore.

    This reads like the blurb for one story and characters for another. I wouldn’t be able to get past the first page in this case.

    I applaud you for putting it out there. It’s very hard to do, but you have a lot of good comments from people here so study them in the context of what you’ve written and try again.

  9. Jane Lovering
    May 05, 2013 @ 15:01:05

    Agree with everything everyone has said, author, your heroine is a bit too ‘perfect’ to be easily related to, and this first page is a whole heap of ‘telling’ not ‘showing’. There are some interesting touches though, and I think, with some work and some more study of the art of writing, you can produce something really good.
    Oh, and just one more thing. ‘Viral Flu’? As a Masters degree holder, the heroine should know that all flu is viral….

  10. BookBanterCom
    May 06, 2013 @ 15:19:27

    1. Some sentences are too long, it’s quite exhausting to read them, especially with the semicolons becoming more of a distraction. Read them aloud and you will understand.

    2. No need to put India after Goa. Goa itself can stand on it’s own.

    3. Like others have said, don’t tell but show. We will learn more about your heroine through her dialogues, deeds and actions. Of how she blends with other characters to complete the narrative.

    4. ” and order a tall cool drink, with lots of watermelon juice in it” saying she ordered a watermelon juice with lots of ice cubes will suffice.

    Thank you for sharing your first page work, and I hope you have learned from our comments.

  11. Daisy
    May 12, 2013 @ 17:16:15

    The Cambridge thing put me off. If you mean the University of Cambridge (or just ‘Cambridge’, not ‘Cambridge University’), then as said above she can’t be an ‘Assistant Professor’, since that doesn’t exist. She couldn’t be a professor at all, since even superstars don’t get that until about age 50, and she seems fairly young. She could be a Lecturer in Astrophysics, or a Fellow of a particular college.
    It seemed weird that her sisters would be best buds with the Dean of her college. And it would be difficult to get someone else a passport at all, let alone in a ‘mad rush’. (It’s also a bit implausible that a big-deal academic wouldn’t have one, for going to conferences).
    ‘Even if she is wearing no make-up at all’: do women generally wear make-up to sit by pools? Is that a likely thing for a man who’s ogling her to think?
    I didn’t like the line in the blurb about her not being sure she can date someone without a master’s, it makes her sound snobby. The film crew stuff sounds interesting, though. Maybe you could start with her somehow wandering onto his film set and work in the backstory later?

  12. Maura
    May 26, 2013 @ 20:58:08

    I dated an astrophysicist for a while, who’s now a professor. Astrophysics requires a lot of travel, because there are few research telescopes, and many are located for various reasons in tropical locations such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Australia. It’s highly unlikely an astrophysicist wouldn’t have a valid passport, and highly unlikely she wouldn’t already be well-traveled.

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