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First Page: Unnamed Paranormal

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Crackle, crackle-Hannah squeezed her eyelids tight and covered her ears to shut out the static inside her head. Sometimes it worked. Tonight, the white noise intensified. The sheer strength of this spirit manifestation overwhelmed her. Nausea rolled high in her stomach.

Turning to her side, she gulped air and waited for her pulse to slow. The static grew softer. She braced herself for the ghost to speak. Last week it’d been a distraught parent who’d died without telling his son he loved him. Four days before that an executed criminal sought forgiveness for his horrendous acts against society.

If she didn’t get a reprieve from the haunting spirits, she’d end up in a padded cell.

Her breathing calmed when the noise quieted. "Mama, where are you?" A chill slid down Hannah’s arms. A little girl’s tremulous voice. "Please mama, papa needs you."

Hannah opened herself to the strong force invading her body. Soon she’d no longer have control over her mind. She directed all her energy solely on the child. A hazy image materialized beside her bed. About five years old, the girl wore a long calico dress from the pioneer era. Despite her exhaustion, excitement, accompanied by a raw fear, .surged through Hannah. A sense of déjà vu grasped her by the throat. Did she know this child?

She explored every minute detail of the little girl. Dark blonde hair. A worried look in the nut brown eyes.

A rush of adrenaline zapped her. "How can I help you, Rachel?"

Sweet Jesus. How had she known the little girl’s name?

"Please, come home with me. Papa needs you. We can’t find my mama."

A snake like shiver crawled up Hannah’s spine. "Where did your mama go?"

"You know. The Indians took her."


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Leslee
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 04:16:58

    I liked this, I would read on! I got burnt out on time travel years ago but if it is unique like this one sounds like, I would buy it. Keep going!!!

  2. Jill Myles
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 04:58:08

    It’s well written, but the setup is confusing for me. We’re told “Oh noes, the spirit possession is coming upon me again” like this is a common thing. The heroine knows the signs and anticipates it…

    …and yet everything that happens after that fact surprises her, which has me scratching my head a little.

  3. KristieJ
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 05:25:44

    I really liked it – I was disappointed it was such a short one today :)

  4. Karmyn
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 05:35:21

    Very interesting premise with lots of promise. It would be great to read a paranormal that isn’t about vampires or various werecritters. A good pyschic romance involving ghosts would be most welcome.

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 06:08:47

    Nice to see a story that starts where the action is, and with an interesting idea. Time travel, ghost story? I’m not big on time travel, but this one looks good.
    I did keep thinking “Very ‘Ghost Whisperer'” but with a show like that so prevalent it’s inevitable. I would imagine that the blurb and cover art would show the differences, and I’d definitely read more.
    I want you to push it just a little bit more. You could squeeze a little more emotion in this, make it more visceral, and then it would have more of a hook.

  6. Leah
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 06:34:38

    I’ve never seen Medium, or Ghost Whisperer, but it always bugs me when mediums show up on shows like “A Haunting,” so I also thought, “oh, no.” But I like the fact that this particular manifestation is different and even surprises her. It’s much more intriguing. I really want to know what comes next. And I like ghost stories in general. The writing seems fine to me. I’d buy it.

    Great job and good luck!


    PS Could DA perhaps do an article at some point that tells us what books featured here are under contract, or actually on the market. I get the feeling with some of these entries that the books will definitely make it. And if I say I would buy I book, I mean it. Thanks!

  7. Anion
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 06:35:27

    I’m confused. I didn’t see any time travel; I assumed the heroine was just seeing the ghost of a pioneer child. Did I miss something?

    I like ghost stories a lot, and this one looks good. I think the writing could be more visceral and immediate; I’m being told that the MC feels sick and has static in her head but I’m not really feeling it with her, if you know what I mean. It doesn’t feel like enough time is being spent putting me in her head. She “open[s] herself up to the strong force invading her body,” but…how does that feel? You tell me she does it, but I don’t get any sense what that’s actually like. You tell me she’ll soon not have control over her body, but there’s no sense of what that’s actually like. Is she struggling to hold on? Does the force invade her slowly, or all in a rush? Is it cold, seeping through her skin and into her brain, slowing her thoughts? Or is it hot like boiling water poured into her, destroying her own memories and the essence of herself and turning her into little more than a vessel? Is it a threat? Does it feel good to give up and let something else take over? Do you see what I mean?

    This is too tell-y.

  8. Barbara Sheridan
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 07:13:43

    I think you could omit the “crackle crackle” bit.

    Overall it’s well written and caught my interest. I got a reincarnation/possible time travel vibe–both excellent things as ar as I’m concerned. ^_^

    I’m with Leah above. There have been a few (this one included) that I’d love to read more of. If you find out that they get pubbed, please let us know.

  9. JoB
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 07:22:31

    This is very good. Very good indeed.

    May I offer two comments in re word choice?

    First. In a few places you use $2 words, where a two-bit word would work just fine.

    spirit manifestation … haunting

    In this case you would drop down to the haunting spirits ref below and replace that one with ‘wandering’ or ‘pleading’ or ‘jitterbugging’ or ‘bright-green-with-pink-stripes’ or something that contains info.
    Right now you’re wasting that lovely word ‘haunting’ in the one place where it does not add any info but is instead, obvious and uninformative.

    his horrendous acts against society … his crimes, his murder of Genevieve Marlowe

    A sense of déjà vu … déjà vu

    My other comment is — you’re carrying a few non-essential modifiers. Your language is admirably simple. The down-side of such simplicity is that modifiers may tend toward cliche.

    Here are your non-essential modifiers. Can some nouns be stripped of the adjective? Can a more descriptive noun be substituted?

    The sheer strength
    rolled high in
    the strong force
    a raw fear
    every minute detail
    little girl

    Overall, this is just fine. Shows a good sense of drama. Good story.

  10. Maili
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 07:30:42

    I liked it, but I agree with everything @Anion said above.

    I also can’t see where the time travel element comes from. Probably because it’s not clear if she’s still in her own room or at where the little girl is. Or because of this line “Hannah opened herself to the strong force invading her body.” Might need to clarify this.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I thought the white sound was a confused mass of hisses, not a crackle? Like hard rain or shower drizzling?

    Good piece, though. I’d read more.

  11. she reads
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 08:09:32

    It is indeed interesting and – as it should – I am already asking questions and wondering about the next step and more about our story. While I’m a bit confused (she talks to ghosts? ghosts enter and take control of her body?) there is enough detail to keep me looking and understanding enough to hope for more answers soon.

    That said, I don’t usually like or read ghost or time travel (if this lady is going to travel back in some way?) so I probably wouldn’t pick it up.

  12. Heather
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 08:16:40

    I think you can ditch the crackle, crackle bit too. We all know what static sounds like, and that’s enough. The crackle sound is a little too comic book for me, and took away from the magnificent tone you’ve set at the beginning of this.

    I would also delete this piece: If she didn't get a reprieve from the haunting spirits, she'd end up in a padded cell.

    It’s a little melodramatic and very tell, in my opinion. If this stuff is driving her crazy, I’d rather see that through her actions than have you tell us up front.

    But over all it’s very cool.

    Because I’m bored by all things American History (I blame tyrannical High School teachers for instilling this bias in me), the pioneer girl thing turned me off. But that’s totally just my thing and has no bearing on your story. It might work better for me if I had a better sense of place with your MC. Like if she lived or was sleeping somewhere connected to that piece of history.

    I don’t know. It would probably still knee-jerk me back to that H.S. History place of doom. ahahahahaa sadness.

    Good luck with this!!

  13. DS
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 08:22:52

    I think the “Crackle-crackle” could be left off. I have a white noise machine and it doesn’t really crackle. Maybe if the sound was described as more like a radio tuner trying to find a channel.

    And if the viewpoint character turns out to be a reincarnation of Rachel’s mother I would be very disappointed.

  14. theo
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 08:51:56

    I agree with Anion and JoB in their comments. I had a few nitpicky things with this that are probably just me. But…

    The ‘crackle’ did nothing for me, though I realize it’s very hard to describe static. I think just starting at the ‘Hanna squeezed’ is better. And what does the static do inside her head? Make it feel like it would explode? Implode? You give me very little on that and almost skip over it.

    Hanna turned to her side. Is she in bed? Hiding under the covers? I would be, trying to shut everything out. Even if I knew I couldn’t, I’d have the covers over my head, be praying to whoever to make it stop, that I didn’t want to go through one more time of this, I’d had enough.

    There are a few other minor things along those lines. So I have no sense of the ‘chill that slid down her arms’ or the ‘snake like shiver crawling up her spine’. The story could be much fuller if we’re allowed the overall sensory stimulus from the character rather than having you, the narrator “tell us” very little which doesn’t really draw me as the reader into the moment.

    That said, the premise is interesting and with something to involve me in the story, I’d read on.

    Kudos for putting it out there.

  15. joanne
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 09:17:12

    Oh I wish this one had been longer, I am really interested in what happens next.

    I do agree about the crackle, crackle… my mind went straight to “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble” (I don’t have to give a source for that, do I?!)

    Just taking care of the few things that the author’s are pointing out to you and it’s a wonderful start. Thanks so much and good luck!

    And Leah’s suggestion about what happens to the first pages and their authors is one that I would love to know about.

  16. gwen hayes
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 09:58:56

    I’d keep reading.

  17. LauraB
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 12:15:36

    The first 2 paragraphs were a bit awkward for me. Definitely ditch the “crackle, crackle”; however, once the ghost started to manifest, it was great.

  18. LindaR (likari)
    Apr 04, 2009 @ 14:48:00

    Another vote for ditching the crackle crackle.

    I’m intrigued by the story — and I wouldn’t mind if the MC turned out to be the reincarnation of Rachel’s mother — as long as it’s a good story.

    I agree there is some cliched writing, but that can be tightened up. I would leave out the reference to pioneers. The mention of the calico dress sets a mood, and the definite time period can be brought in later by showing instead of telling.

    I’m not sure you understand what white noise is — or else I don’t. I think you should reconsider what you’re trying to say with that sentence.

    I personally hate constructions like “squeezed . . . tight” — I think it’s the redundancy.

    This bit:

    Hannah opened herself to the strong force invading her body. Soon she'd no longer have control over her mind.

    knocked me out of the story. She opened herself up to a force in which the end result is that she would lose her mind???

    Anyway, I think you have a good story going, and you will benefit by having a critique partner read this, someone with the distance to know what is technically not making sense.

    Good luck!

  19. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 05, 2009 @ 19:10:22

    I like the idea, but I’m not in love with the execution yet.

    (And I’m not in love with “the Indians took her” unless that turns out not to be accurate–the abduction of white women by Native American Indian groups is so overrepresented in literature that I don’t think anyone needs to add to it, so if I were an editor reading this I’d flip ahead to make sure this wasn’t yet another lazy use of the trope. Even though it did occur on occasion, it was very much rarer than the almost-never-depicted-in-literature inverse–the abduction of Native American Indian women and children by white settlers.)

    There are two books I would suggest that offer some clearer and more comprehensible descriptions of a medium’s experience of spirit possession; either or both might help you tighten those descriptions. Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel, is a novel with a spirit medium as one of its two protagonists, and I think Mantel captures her voice very well. Lisa Williams’s Life Among the Dead is a well-written memoir by a professional spirit medium, and I think her descriptions of her own experiences are among the most evocative I’ve ever read. (Note: I don’t believe in spirit communication myself, but I think that’s irrelevant to drawing on the language that people who do believe in it use to describe their own experiences.)

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