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First Page: Contemporary Paranormal Erotic

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***

Kira Talbot fought the rising tide of nausea. It funneled dark fingers into her vision, shrinking her sight into jagged, unfocused spots. A cool sweat crawled down her neck and around her shoulders. Groaning, she dropped her forehead on her desk.

Dog. Everything smells like singed, wet dog.

Her stomach lurched.

"You aren’t looking well, Kira. Working late doesn’t agree with you." Mr. Lovatt, her boss, stood in his doorway. She didn’t question how s he knew without looking. Or how she knew he wore a smirk.

Girding herself for the internal sloshing of her brain, she nonetheless lifted her head. She’d never been anything short of professional. She would not start today. Lovatt looked down his nose at her. His lips shrank back in the semblance of a secret smile.

"I’m almost done with the reports, then I’ll lock up. I just need water."

"Unlikely."

His eyes sharpened on her. Kira struggled to keep him in focus. The sound of her pulse filled her ears, over-laid with another, similar sound. Two pulses? Not possible. Just her throbbing head playing tricks on her.

Mr. Lovatt came into sharp zoom. Every pour became visible, each individual coal lash spiked forward over black eyes that reflected salacity for-‘her? Her head twinged and wet dog assaulted her nostrils. Wet, aroused, dog. She might vomit yet.

"It’s probably the flu."

"No," he said softly. "You need food."

Kira clutched her stomach and shook her head.

"Meat," he insisted.

Sizzling hamburgers and greasy fries, pepperoni pizza, crisp bacon. Oh, God. She swatted her hand out, hoping to catch the waste receptacle. Lovatt’s footsteps pounded away, echoing in her head as though each step had been taken by an elephant and not the sly steps of her boss.

She hauled the receptacle to her lap, pressing her forehead on the inner rim. Her moans echoed off utility plastic, wafting the stale air of old sandwiches and dog. Always the damn-fucking dog.

Mr. Lovatt’s steps thumped toward her. The closer he came, the more irratic her pulse grew. She could not make herself sit upright as her body shivered through another wave of drilling nausea.

Her skin felt his proximity near her like part of herself had returned. She couldn’t make sense of it. Mr. Lovatt barely noticed her on a personal level until a couple of weeks ago when he’d asked her to feed his dog over the weekend.

Damn thing bit her before she got through the front door. Nasty teeth and a hairless muzzle from the ugliest dog alive were the only things she’d seen. Mange, probably. She’d slammed the door20and left.

"Here."

Mr. Lovatt’s voice raised goose-bumps on her arms. Her reaction confused her. He wasn’t particularly attractive. Mostly creepy. But she couldn’t shake the unnatural desire to absorb him through her pores, through whatever got him closest. She craved it.

Something sifted the air by her ear, moist and dully flapping against dust particles, as though it could make sound. In her state, did make sound. Rumbles, like hunger-become-living tumbled up her throat, dragging her from the shadowed depths of her trash bin and stupid logic one second to the teeth-sinking sex of succulent meat the next.

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

24 Comments

  1. Sinister Twist
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 05:27:52

    There’s something about this page that seems a bit off putting, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’m curious enough to want to know what happens next, though.

    I think that maybe a little more definition would be nice- I get the impression that Kira can smell people & that the scent of her boss is the aroused wet dog, but it’s not really clearly put & that makes me a little confused.

  2. KatS
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 06:30:30

    This makes me feel nauseated so it’s off-putting to me, too. Too much description about how sick she feels and not about why she feels so sick. I don’t think I’d keep on reading.

  3. Leila
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 06:36:08

    My take, plot-wise, is that Kira is about to turn into a werewolf (or something similar) for the first time, and she doesn’t know it. Oh, and that her boss’ “dog” was actually her boss in were-form.

    While I have some issues with the prose, the plot caught me. It made me wonder if it would eventually turn into a revenge story, what with the sketchiness of her boss deliberately turning her (assuming i’m correct) without her knowledge or consent.

  4. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 07:22:00

    A little too over descriptive for me.

    dark fingers

    jagged, unfocused spots

    cool sweat

    singed, wet dog

    internal sloshing of her brain

    secret smile

    Kind of excessive. Maybe too much telling, not enough showing…I dunno. I’m curious enough that I’d probably read a little bit more, but I don’t know how much more.

  5. Heather
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 08:17:41

    I think the problem people are having with it being off puting is the flow of sentences and also the use of too many descriptives. Instead of saying it smelled of singed, wet dog…I think just wet dog would be sufficient as everyone knows the stench of a wet dog. Also, the last paragraph didn’t make much sense to me. It’s probably just me but “teeth sinking sex” lost me at first. Your readers shouldn’t have to read something five times to understand it.

    But I think the plot is interesting…well from the first page at least. I for one would like to know if it was indeed an intentional biting from Mr. Lovette or if was another were-being locked in his house and why the fixation on Kira? So the story is good. You just need to work on the flow..IMO

  6. jmc
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 08:18:45

    My plot assessment is the same as @Leila’s above. And like a couple other commenters, I feel more put-off by the passage than intrigued, although I’m not entirely sure why. Probably would put it down and move on to another book based on this opening.

  7. joanne
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 08:35:36

    I’m a lover of all things shifter but I wouldn’t keep reading. It’s not the description of her illness (although, yes, over written) but that I don’t ‘get’ either her or Lovatt. Is he the bad guy or just an observer? Does she think he’s awful or does she want to have sex with him?

    If neither one of the characters pulls me into the story on the first page, makes me concerned or interested in them, then I’ll pass to the next book on the shelf.

    I think there’s good writing on this first page, it just needs more character focus for me. I need to care about your main protagonist before I can care if she’s sick. I’m sorry, that probably doesn’t help.

    Thank you so much for putting your work up and much good luck!

  8. Scarletti
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 09:47:05

    Short answer is no, I wouldn’t buy it.
    Long answer follows.
    I do find the descriptors excessive, but also just wrong.
    How can you have a semblance of a secret smile?
    Was the dog burned, is that where the singed smell comes in?
    Internal sloshing of her brain? Can it slosh externally without traumatic impact?Wet dog assaulted her nostrils? Was there a wet dog making a physical assault?
    Aroused dog has a smell? I have seen many a humping dog, but I don’t remember ever sensing a different smell.
    Why are greasy fries included in a listing of meat?
    Steps thumped toward her sounds has if he is clumsy and heavy on his feet, and I don’t think that is the image you are going for.

    There are some misspellings, pours for pores in one place, yet correct in another.
    Then irratic instead of erratic. I Googled irratic to see if it was an English spelling, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
    There is also a 20 plopped in there somewhere. I see other things that could be a formatting issue from one program to another, but misspellings wouldn’t be a result of that.

    These are the kind of things that take me out of a story. I will admit I kept reading just to see what other examples there would be. That was the only reason I continued. I would not buy just to see how many I could come up with in an entire book.

  9. Abbie
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 10:03:54

    Maybe I’m nit-picky, but I probably wouldn’t keep reading. I noticed the misspellings also. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I know sometimes things slip past spell check, but more than one on the first page? I would stop there just because of that.

  10. Seressia Glass
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 10:16:21

    A couple of things:

    She didn't question how s he knew without looking. Or how she knew he wore a smirk.

    This doesn’t seem to gel with his actions later, when he seems to be helping her. Given his help later, is he really smirking here?

    His lips shrank back in the semblance of a secret smile.

    To me, a secret smile is a smile you have when no one’s looking, something you catch someone doing. Again, given Lovatt’s actions, perhaps you mean a knowing smile?

    Every pour became visible, each individual coal lash spiked forward over black eyes that reflected salacity for-‘her?

    I think you mean pore here, and–bad writer me–had to look up salacity. You might want to change that. Also, Lovatt has gone from smirking to condescending to leering in half a page.

    Lovatt's footsteps pounded away, echoing in her head as though each step had been taken by an elephant and not the sly steps of her boss.

    The way you have this sentence constructed, makes it seem as if your boss’s steps are stepping. As in remove the first comparative phrase “an elephant,” you are left with “each step had been taken by the sly steps of her boss.”

    She hauled the receptacle to her lap, pressing her forehead on the inner rim. Her moans echoed off utility plastic, wafting the stale air of old sandwiches and dog. Always the damn-fucking dog.

    So her head is inside the trashcan? I just want to make sure I understand that. Because I’m thinking of one of those ubiquitous black or gray square trashcans in offices around the country, and pressing her forehead against the inner lip would be a feat. Also “wafting” usually has a qualifier like through, over, across, etc.

    In the following paragraph I think you mean erratic. And when you talk about the dog biting her, it was further in the past so you need “had bit her” instead of “bit her”.

    Something sifted the air by her ear, moist and dully flapping against dust particles, as though it could make sound.

    I’m not sure what the “it” in this sentence is referring to–the air, the dust particles, or the something?

    All in all, decent writing, but the descriptions and word choice for said descriptions come off as heavy-handed, which can be distancing most readers. With a bit of tightening and reworking of some of the sentence structure this can work.

    Good luck!

  11. Polly
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 11:00:23

    The “teeth-sinking sex of succulent meat” is just wrong. I’m not even sure what exactly what you’re trying to say, but I read it and think “eww.”

    This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but I really hate it when people can’t even be around other people without being aroused. I get that it’s an erotic, but I mean, she’s feeling sick enough that her head’s on the desk, and he’s watching her and feeling aroused–that’s just icky.

    Also, who calls their boss “Mr.” anymore? Wouldn’t he just be John (or whatever) Lovatt, her boss?

    I think you can sharpen the descriptions of how sick she feels, and add something about when she started feeling sick. If I were suddenly feeling crazy sick, I’d probably be trying to figure out when the sick feeling started (or maybe I’m just weird).

    And ditto what some others have said about the adjective choices. How does one walk slyly, for example?

  12. foolserrant
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 12:50:40

    I actually have very few issues with this page, and would keep reading. Sure, there is some cleaning up to be done, but I think I could keep reading. Not sure I’d buy it, but if I found it in the library…

  13. Marianne McA
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 14:23:44

    I know the word ‘salacious’ but didn’t recognise the word ‘salacity’. (And having looked it up: ‘The state or quality of being salacious’ or ‘The trait of behaving in an obscene manner’ – I’m not much the wiser – can’t picture what it would be like to see that reflected in someone’s eyes.) Perhaps there’d be a more straightforward word?

    Honestly, I couldn’t read past the wet, aroused dog smell. But I’m not your target audience – don’t really read paranormal or erotic – so that doesn’t say anything at all. Good luck.

  14. theo
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 15:22:25

    I love paranormal, I write paranormal, but in all honesty, after two read-throughs with this one, I’m still SO lost! Between the over-descriptive telling and the ‘sly one minute, leering the next’ changes in the-villain? I’m not even sure what he is. And frankly, if I were that sick, boss or no, I’d simply have told him to go away so he didn’t get upchucked on.

    A couple of other commenters said it much better than I am right now, but…no. If I have to work that hard on the first page to figure out what’s going on, I have to pass.

    Good luck to you.

    ps: I came back to say that I figured out the biggest problem with this. Every time a new paragraph started, the whole thing became, at least for me, even more disjointed because of the inconsistencies of the plodding as opposed to the stealth of the boss, the wet dog/teeth sinking sex…just too confused for me.

  15. DS
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 17:47:58

    Totally lost also. I’m sitting here surrounded by five large dozing dogs and I have no idea what a singed, aroused, wet dog would smell like.

  16. A
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 18:44:22

    Not good. Not bad. Not ready.

    The typos and mispellings are abyssmal. So many on a single page makes me shudder to think what the complete manuscript might look like. This is easily solved by a $10 investment in Strunk’s The Elements of Style. Editing and proofreading skills are an author’s asset.

    When you submit work in this condition (poorly prepared) your readers (editors, publishers, and reading audience) catch on to the idea that you don’t care enough about your work to offer the best quality presentation you can.

    The storytelling itself…I think you’re trying to do too much here and so end up not doing anything particularly well. I read the page, took a break to muse on it, read it again, and read a third time. Here are my impressions:

    The opener’s not drawing me in at all. All it tells me is the heroine’s name and that she’s nauseated to the point of illness, and that she smells wet dog. Kira herself isn’t presented well; I don’t have any sense of who she is, what kind of person she is, or if her story’s worth reading. I get that she works overtime and isn’t crazy about her boss.

    The back story about her pet-sitting the dog and being bitten could be better incorporated via a brief mention in dialogue. Example:

    “Lovatt, I swear your dog gave me rabies! I’m never pet-sitting for you again!” The livid bruises, a toothy souvenir from *Dog name* after she fed him throbbed in her forearm.

    Right now there isn’t enough action, drama, or emotion in this scene for me to want to read more. I’m a huge paranormal fiction fan, but this does not “grab” me. It doesn’t even tap my shoulder.

  17. DM
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 19:03:52

    Mr. Lovatt came into sharp zoom.

    He might come into sharp focus, but he cannot come into sharp zoom. And then we have head scratchers like “funneled…fingers,” and redundancies like “proximity near her.” This is elementary stuff–the basics of good prose composition–and without it storytelling cannot take place.

  18. Julia Sullivan
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 20:09:22

    Everyone else has already pointed out the mechanical issues, which certainly need cleanup, so I’ll desist on that front.

    I want to strongly discourage you from beginning a work of erotica with a lengthy scene about vomiting and nausea. It’s a turnoff.

  19. Debra
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 20:38:24

    It’s a little over done as everybody else said. But, I would read this book. I want to know what’s going on.

  20. unknown
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 22:32:29

    I quit at the misspelling of pore. For me, this is an example of trying far too hard and falling far too short. Nothing – and I do mean nothing – pulls me out of a story faster than spelling errors.

  21. Venus Vaughn
    Dec 20, 2009 @ 01:24:23

    What Julia Sullivan said.

    I do not open an erotica book wanting or expecting to read about someone feeling sick. I’d put that book down and pick up a different one that starts with some sex or lust or sexual frustration.

    Other than that my biggest recommendation is to spend more time reading books you really enjoy (or books that others really enjoy) and absorb how those authors use words and how they put language together. “Spare and precise” says a lot more than “wordy and inexact.”

  22. Pai
    Dec 21, 2009 @ 03:27:19

    The entire situation sounds so unpleasant and skeevy, that it’s very unappealing. The excerpt didn’t make me want to keep reading.

  23. AC
    Dec 21, 2009 @ 06:18:19

    Try this exercise: start writing a story without adjectives — this way you have no other option but to focus on action. Once your characters start DOING, you’ll find your story dynamic and fast paced.

  24. Suzanne
    Dec 24, 2009 @ 08:03:30

    Can’t say this appealed to me. Way over-described and beginning a story with what I assume is the heroine wanting to upchuck makes me slightly nauseated. To be honest, I couldn’t see where this story was heading. Is Lovatt a werewolf? If so, why would he request she feed his dog? Had me confused. Is he a shapeshifter? Is he a bad guy or the hero? Hard to tell.

    And the obvious typos pulled me even further from the story. Believe it or not, I once read a book–yes, a published book from Silhouette–that had the following: Her nerves were taught with fear. Taught–not taut. And it occurred more than once. Not good proofreading or editing.

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