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First Page: Breath and Blood

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***

The air outside the club was just turning frosty, crisp and cool, heady with the scent of late fall. It was a pleasant shock to Lyr as he stepped out, letting it wash over him. Lyr took a moment to enjoy the stillness as the club door closed behind him, the heavy bass muffled to the point of inaudibility.

“Hey, fag!”

Lyr’s eyes shot open and he glared at the passing limo. Three jocks — from their t-shirts, Lyr assumed they were from the local college; they were all stamped with ‘Property of’ — were hanging out of the sunroof, swearing at him as they drove by. He kept glaring as they hooted and hollered, the limo speeding away and around the corner before he subsided, sighing.

A breath of air across Lyr’s ear was the only warning he had before someone spoke beside him. “Ignore them.”

“Jesus, Tash!” Lyr swore, jumping and whirling. “Would you stop doing that?”

“Stop doing what?” Tash shrugged, but Lyr could catch the edge of a grin dancing in his eyes. “It’s not my fault you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

Lyr leaned back against the wall of the club, rolling his eyes at his best friend. “Well, it’s hardly my fault that your super secret vampire power is apparently ninja cat stealth.”

Tash grinned outright at that, baring his fangs at Lyr. “Apparently you missed the super vampire sarcasm. That barely tickled.” He flopped beside Lyr, laughing. “Anyway, seriously, ignore those guys. You’re three times as old as they are and look better than they will when they’re thirty.”

“Yeah, well, being stuck at twenty-two will do that,” Lyr pointed out. He sighed. “At least I’m legal.”

Tash leered at Lyr. “Ooh, do remind me,” he said, prompting another eyeroll from Lyr. “Anyway, what’s got you brooding out here? I swear, as much as you do that, you could have your own syndicated vampire detective show.”

Lyr frowned. “What, and add to the already existing multitude? And anyway, I’m not brooding,” he insisted. “I’m… contemplating.”

“Contemplating your complete and utter lack of a social life?” Tash suggested helpfully. “Generally, we call that brooding. C’mon! You’re hot, you’re sexy, you’re eternally youthful. Hell, you’re a psivamp! You don’t even need to feed on blood like I do, all you need’s the pleasure you’d get out of getting someone off, so you don’t even have anything to feel guilty about. First’s sake, just go pick up some cute little twink who’ll take you home and call you daddy!”

Lyr blinked and turned his head to look at Tash. “Uh. Don’t take this the wrong way, okay?”

“What?”

“There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Tash grinned even wider and nodded. “Yup!”

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

22 Comments

  1. Naomi
    May 14, 2011 @ 04:16:33

    Probably not one for me overall; I’m pretty picky about vampire books nowadays as so many are so similar. If I have one big comment, it’s that your dialogue is very “as you know, Bob.”

    “Well, it’s hardly my fault that your super secret vampire power is apparently ninja cat stealth.”

    This is a good example. Do people honestly talk like this to each other, or is this just for the audience’s benefit? To me it feels clunky and awkward, a way to shoehorn in that we’re dealing with vampires with superpowers when you could probably find a way to show the reader – a glimpse of fang when Tash smiles, maybe, or Lyr noticing the scent of blood coming from the college boys.

  2. galwiththehoe
    May 14, 2011 @ 04:29:37

    I’d read on. =)

    In my mind it’s just the right mixture of “aww, I like the main character” (the reaction to the jocks) and having an idea of what kind of book it is (tone and subject matter) and on the other hand not knowing anything about what happens next but wanting to find out.

    Good luck.

  3. Tory Michaels
    May 14, 2011 @ 05:44:03

    I don’t normally comment but I’m not sure I’d read on b/c of the above, and also…the overuse of both characters’ names. It leaped out at me w/i 2 paragraphs. Once the name(s) are established, substitute he more often and it would flow a lot better (IMHO at least).

  4. SH
    May 14, 2011 @ 06:14:07

    Ditto to what was said above. The only time you should use a character’s name is if the reader would otherwise not know who you’re talking about.
    Here, their names are literally in almost every sentence!

  5. Maddie
    May 14, 2011 @ 07:14:24

    My first issue with this is the vampires. If you really want to write ANOTHER vampire book, cool. But I’ve read so many in the last few years that I can’t stomach another one. The market is saturated and really needs to move on.
    Besides that….
    Your writing is decent, could be tightened up in a few places but overall was OK. However, I found it a bit juvenile. The way they spoke, the things they spoke about, even the eye-rolling bit. Not what I would expect from someone who is apparently around sixty years old. It’s far too modern for someone your grandmother’s age.
    That being said, I think being a psivamp sounds kinda cool. Just be aware that ‘Psi’ might not mean what you think it does. It actually refers to the use of the mind to create paranormal phenomena. And it doesn’t sound like your vamp has to feed on telekinetic mutants or telepathic witches, so…IDK, it just bothered me that you used ‘Psi’.
    Now I’m blathering on a bit. Sorry. Continuing…
    Your dialog here seems written chiefly to let the reader in on the fact that they are vampires, that Lyr is special. There are better ways of doing that. Honestly, with vampire novels being so popular, just the title gave me the clue that this was about bloodsuckers. Don’t let us know Lyr is special by having his friend talk him up. Go in deeper, maybe have him feed, show us how it happens?
    I don’t like the name Lyr. To me, it sounds Fae, or Elvish, or something fantastical. Not a name of someone who was probably born in the 50s and changed into a vampire at 22.
    I think your story has promise. Probably not for me, but you could get a lot of readers for something like this.
    I personally feel that this whole page exists only to let us know it’s a vampire story. And its poorly revealed. Start with something going on. It doesn’t have to be blood and guts action, but SOMETHING needs to be happening. Your MC needs a motive. He needs a goal. Maybe he is heading somewhere, meeting with someone, running from someone, looking for something, IDK, some action, some doing! Because right now, this is just a page of pointless and forgettable dialog which does nothing to move your story forward or create any sort of tension for the reader.

  6. Jaclyn
    May 14, 2011 @ 07:58:20

    This psivamp thing intrigues me. A vamp that doesn’t have to suck blood. Huh. That’s different, if the overall story were compelling I’d think about reading it.

    From this excerpt I presume that Lyr is troubled and Tash is a goof-ball, or at least playful. The dialogue is playful, perhaps too much so, but it didn’t turn me off the story. I just hope there’s more seriousness later on. What I can’t tell from this excerpt is what genre of book this will be. Obviously it’ about vamps, but is it a thriller, a plain-old romance, erotic romance, etc.? I’m ask because which direction the story takes will effect how I feel about the tone of the dialogue that’s presented here.

    I hope some of this made sense. Still haven’t had coffee this morning.

    Good luck!

  7. FiaQ
    May 14, 2011 @ 08:40:17

    Constant mentions of their names sent my attention down a route where it shouldn’t go. Such as, Lyr is similar to Lir (sea) that led me to think of lye, so lir + lye = the foam of death. And Tash? Common short cut for ‘moustache’ in this country. “Nice tash you got there!” Each time their names are mentioned, I think of the deadly foam and a moustache.

    I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t read on. Reasons: a) their names, b) it’s a vampire story, c) too many instances of ‘what-readers-need-to-know-asap’ (ages, what they are, etc), and d) I’m not a fan of psychic vampires (once a popular trend in horror and sf genres). I do like your voice, though. I’d read if you offer a different story.

  8. whome
    May 14, 2011 @ 10:05:23

    It needs some heavy editing. The action-reaction structure is incorrect.

    Example in the first paragraph.

    First we are told about the fall air. Then Lyr exits the door. As is a bad word here. This should be an action/reaction sequence.

    He stepped out of the door. Then what does he notice? The air. The sound. Whatever else is around. This tells us more about how the character is going to react in a tight situation. BTW: Tash would already have to be outside in order to sneak up on Lyr because once the door was opened the bass would give him away and since the door is behind Lyr…

    Okay, so someone yells hey fag and he opens his eyes. When exactly did he close them to begin with?

    Third paragraph. Mixed verb tenses and run on sentences.

    I’d tighten this. Read it to yourself outloud or have the computer read it to you. The awful monotone will make you laugh, however, it is exceptionally good at pointing out what doesn’t flow.

    Then do some research on action/reaction sequences. Here’s a blog entry from Morgan Hawke This particular one is on a sex scene. (the entry is pg-13) She also has one on a fight scene but I don’t have time to search for it.

    ***ETA: Comment edit feature is whacked.

  9. Jennifer M (OR)
    May 14, 2011 @ 10:20:52

    I think this has a lot of promise but I wouldn’t read on because of the problems already mentioned above. 1). The constant use of the characters names. 2). The unnatural dialogue that’s purpose seems to be nothing more than to give reader information. 3). The repeated eye rolling bothered me and seemed too young.

    Good luck with this.

  10. Terri
    May 14, 2011 @ 10:36:20

    I was a bit confused at one point. You had Lyr leaning against the building. Tash said something about “that barely tickled” then Tash “flopped” down next to Lyr. I had to reread this three times because I thought I’d missed something. What tickled? When Lyr leaned against the building, was he sitting down? I know this probably seems trivial, but it really took me out of the story.

    Also, I agree with Naomi. Too much “Hey my Tash, my best friend with super vampire ninja hearing…”

    Also, these characters were almost indistinguishable to me. You didn’t describe Tash at all, and his voice sounds pretty much like Lyr’s. Without all the name mentioning, I really wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart.

    All that said, I think you have a very interesting idea for a story. I think with a little tweaking and rewriting this can be great. Good luck with it and thanks for sharing it with us.

  11. Heather
    May 14, 2011 @ 10:50:04

    I wouldn’t read on, I’m sorry. Vamps aren’t my fav, I prefer shifters or magic users. The over use of Lyr’s name had my attention wandering. My other problem will seem very mean but your dialog seems juvenile , very young. I’m sure that could be easily fixed. I don’t know how, when I wrote fanfic my dialog sucked. I’m sorry I’m being so bitchy, good luck to you.

  12. theo
    May 14, 2011 @ 14:53:03

    What I’m reading in the excerpt is two juvenile vampires who are really over 60, one’s a broody juvenile and one’s a clown and the only way they can tell each other apart is by the constant use of their names.

    That’s my first impression of this page. There just isn’t any reason for me to keep going.

    Clean up the name tags. Maybe tell me why Lyr is broody. A girl? His life? Does he want to be human again? See the sun one more time? Nothing gives me any empathy or interest.

    It also needs some heavy cleaning.

    A breath of air across his ear was his only warning before someone spoke beside him.

    “Ignore them.”

    “Jesus,” he swore, whirling on his best friend. “Would you stop doing that?”

    “Stop doing what?” Tash shrugged, but the edge of a grin touched his eyes. “It’s not my fault you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

    Lyr angled his back against the wall of the club and rolled his eyes. “Then don’t use your stealth ability on me next time.”

    Tash grinned, the tips of his fangs peeking beneath his upper lip. “Apparently you missed the sarcasm.” He flopped next to his friend. “Anyway, just ignore those kids. You’re three times as old and when they’re thirty, you’ll still look better.”

    “Good think I’m stuck at age twenty-two then, isn’t it?”

    Q&D but, I think it’s fairly obvious who’s talking and yet, first names are only used three times. When you use something over and over, whether it’s first names or the same phrase or word, your reader loses the story and starts to count. From there, it’s usually a downhill slide. No matter how good the story is, how wonderful the author’s voice, the reader will never really come back. Instead, they’ll start to find other things wrong with the writing until what could be a great story is lost in the minutia that could have easily been cleaned up.

  13. DS
    May 14, 2011 @ 17:26:23

    One thing I thought was that 3 jocks that must be from the “local college” because their t-shirts said “property of” sounded coy. Make up a college name and go with it. I assume that this is not the last we are going to see of the jocks.

    I’m also burned out on vampires. The last one I enjoyed reading was Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot which is UF. And I can’t remember the one I finished before that. I’ve read and discarded a lot of samples though, both UF and PNR.

  14. reader
    May 14, 2011 @ 18:11:56

    Dear Author,

    This piece lost me at the first paragraph, which is a shame since I may be one of the few readers left who still enjoy vampire stories. While the action was somewhat intriguing, the prose betrayed such off-putting hallmarks of a newbie writer as (1) overuse of adjectives (2)overuse of character names (3)unnecessary words & unnecessarily complicated sentence construction.

    I’ve taken the liberty of editing the first paragraph to trim adjectives, use pronouns where appropriate, and streamline sentence structure. I hope it’s helpful.

    The air outside the club was just turning frosty, crisp and cool, [crisp and] heady with the scent of late fall. It was a pleasant shock to Lyr as he stepped out, [and] letting it wash over him. Lyr [He] took a moment to enjoy the stillness as the club door closed behind him…

    You might also want to delete words that are not necessary to describe the action. Example: A breath of air across Lyr’s ear was the only warning he had before someone spoke beside him. What else would a breath be besides air? Try this, A breath across Lyr’s ear was the only warning that someone was beside him.

    In the next sentence, “Jesus, Tash!” is Lyr swearing. We don’t need to be told he swore, you’ve just shown it. The subsequent description of Lyr “jumping and whirling” made me envision him as a manic acrobat. I believe the passage would read more smoothly as follows: “Jesus, Tash!” Lyr [whirled to face his old friend]. “Would you stop doing that?”

    “Stop doing what?” Tash shrugged, but Lyr could catch [caught] the edge of a grin dancing in his eyes.

    Author, I hope these suggestions were helpful. It takes a lot of courage to set fingers to keyboard and tell a story, and even more courage to submit the beloved product of your hard work and imagination to the scrutiny and possible criticism of others. I wish you all the best in your career.

  15. Maura
    May 14, 2011 @ 18:40:40

    I’m also a little tired of “jock” being our instant shorthand for insensitive homophobes. Are we going to be seeing these guys again? If so, could they be characterized a little more in their brief appearance here? “Athlete” shouldn’t be automatically equaling “asshole” in a contemporary setting.

  16. Loreen
    May 15, 2011 @ 07:42:01

    I think this is promising. However, I am a little tired of books about supernatural creatures/vampires in which they speak in a kind of flippant, cutesy, slangy way. I hope this book doesn’t veer off in that direction because I think that trend has been fully played out. (Too much of Ward’s influence?) If these vampires have been around for so long, you think they would have picked up a few things, like a decent sized vocabulary, for example. It drives me crazy when all-powerful 500 year old vampires talk like teen-aged valley girls.
    That being said, I guess a lot of people do like the slangy, humorous tone because those books continue to sell. This does seem to fall in line with a lot of other books that have come out recently, except that I assume this is an M/M romance. Is that correct? I don’t know anything about that market, so perhaps this will be a welcome addition.

    I like the rapport between the two friends (but I agree with those who say to change the names – one of them needs at least 2 syllables). Assuming that the romance is not going to be between Lyr and Tash, I think that this is a fairly static, uninteresting place to start. What is the conflict? Right now we just have two bored gay friends hanging out in front of a night-club. I think you should think about the heart of your conflict and then try to put Lyr right in the middle of it. So Lyr needs to give blow-jobs in order to live and it seems like he is now dissatisfied with random sex with strangers. What is the obstacle keeping him from getting together with whoever will be his partner?
    Best of luck with the project – I hope you see it through.

  17. SAO
    May 15, 2011 @ 09:29:06

    I might have been interested in the book, but was completely turned off by all the telling, to wit:

    “Well, it’s hardly my fault that your super secret vampire power is apparently ninja cat stealth.”

    “You’re three times as old as they are and look better than they will when they’re thirty.”

    These are facts the two chars know perfectly well and sticking them in their mouths makes them seem very unreal. This is all telling the reader background, disguised as (As-you-know,Bob) dialogue.

    You need to show us this stuff, in action.

    The bit with the local louts didn’t ring true either. Why would Lyr care about what they think of his clothes/persona? And if he does care, why doesn’t he dress more ‘straight’?

    The names aren’t a problem for me. My first impression of Tash is short for Natasha, but I can deal, if you make me like the characters.

  18. leela
    May 15, 2011 @ 12:01:36

    As a jock, I’d have to echo the others who are sick and tired of jock = asshole. Or even athletic = bigoted asshole. (No, “redneck” is not a suitable replacement, thanks.) You could just call them collegiate assholes, “judging from the ballcaps and sweatshirts” or something.

    As for the rest… I want more questions, and a lot fewer statements of telling each other what they already know. Exposition in dialogue is still exposition, and this first page is awfully heavy on it. Cut like 80% of it and throw me into the conflict head-first — the exposition about who’s a vamp, super-secret ninja powers, and all the rest: that can come later. Those are answers, and I still haven’t seen any questions.

  19. Lori
    May 15, 2011 @ 13:11:32

    Late to the page but wanted to say that I love this kind of style: flip and breezy. I immediately felt at ease and wanted to keep reading.

    It does need some tightening and the previous comments I think are spot on with the names and info. But the tone is enjoyable and I hope you keep working on this and get it out there.

  20. Tasha
    May 15, 2011 @ 18:48:49

    I hate to say this, but I would stop reading. There is nothing here that is new or different, and I agree with everyone else who wonders why two men in their sixties are behaving like high school kids.

  21. Deb
    May 15, 2011 @ 18:52:23

    Hi,

    Do vampires feel things like the weather?
    Page nor characters really engaged me. It seemed more of a let me fill you in versus telling the tale.
    The non-blood sucking did catch my attention, so might read to see if that interesting aspect panned out.
    You may want to consider starting the story with the non-blood sucking aspect and fill in as you go with the other stuff.
    Good luck.

  22. Valerie
    May 16, 2011 @ 12:34:45

    I like your voice, but I wouldn’t continue reading for the reasons mentioned above. Info-dumpy dialogue is info-dumpy, and the character names got an eye roll.

    And since I’m the girl with problematic character name connections, let me just say re: “I don’t like the name Lyr. To me, it sounds Fae, or Elvish, or something fantastical. Not a name of someone who was probably born in the 50s and changed into a vampire at 22.” I read Lyr and instantly thought of Prince Lir from The Last Unicorn. It wasn’t a problem for me in this context, but the improbability of a man less than a hundred years old being named something so fantastical (to my mind) was off-putting. Hopefully you’ll explain that later (perhaps its a name he took after un-death to be more vampy?)

    While the PSi-vamp thing was interesting (though not new, as others have pointed out), I felt like all the explanation of the no pain and blood, only vicarious pleasure by giving pleasure thing felt like a cop out. “Our hero is a vampire, but he doesn’t have to hurt anyone!! And getting off our (possibly) twink hero is all he needs to survive!!” If you’re going to write vampires, why not deal with the knotty moral issue of their need to kill to survive?

    As I said, I do like your voice, and I suspect with some rewrites this could be a pretty juicy read. I for one am not so burnt out on vampire stories that a fun, funny, well-written one can’t turn my head. And I think your story has the potential to be all of those things, with a little more work. Good luck!

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