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First Page: Falling Into You / Contemporary

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Tonight was the night. Mindy could feel it, the winds of change flitting in from some elusive place, prickling her skin with a familiar itch. It was just as it had always been: subtle, intoxicating, and unmistakable.

Tonight was the night she was going to leave Saõ Benedita.

Mindy shrugged into her backpack and gripped the strap tightly, taking in a deep breath as she stepped out onto the balcony that extended off her suite. She leaned over the stone railing and looked down at the ground five stories below.

You can do this, she told herself, shutting her eyes when vertigo set in. You have to do this.

As if sensing her hesitation, a breeze wafted in, renewing her resolve. It was now or never. If she didn’t leave tonight, she wouldn’t leave. Ever. Tomas and the ruffians he called bodyguards would see to it.

And then she’d be stuck in this contemporary white cube forever.

She wasn’t about to let that happen. Especially now.

Her mind quieted, leaving her body on autopilot as she threw one purple boot-clad leg over the railing. The stone was cold beneath her, making her regret the teal fishnets she’d chosen for her getaway outfit. But it was too late for a costume change. Everything she owned had been stuffed into her backpack. No way would she risk getting caught by one of Tomas’s security brutes just to spare a cold hiney.

She lifted her other leg over the railing and steadied herself. So far, so good. All she had to do now as lower herself, slow and steady, down the side of the building. One foot and then the other, using the notches etched in the stone as a makeshift ladder. In no time at all, she would be on the ground again. And then she could run.

And keep running until she was sure he would never find her.

But where would she go? She hadn’t thought about that. The only thoughts consuming her had been the ones regarding her escape. It had taken weeks to plan, to arrange all the variables so that she was afforded this narrow window of opportunity. A window of opportunity that was nearly shattered by an impromptu visit by one of Tomas’s business associates.

A shiver passed through her, nearly causing her to lose her footing. She tightened her grip on the white stone as terror gnawed at her insides. It wasn’t the height that scared her so much as the falling. The falling and landing. The falling and landing and getting caught and locked back up in this prison Tomas called home.

She leaned forward and rested her forehead against the cold face of the building, and slowly began counting to ten. She would allow herself that, but no more. After that she would start climbing down again, scared or not, and she wouldn’t stop until she reached the bottom.

She had only gotten as far as four when a loud crack sounded from somewhere above her. Frantic, her eyes darted up to the balcony, where Hector, her warden–er, bodyguard–was standing. Their eyes met, and his round face tinged purple as he bellowed for the rest of the security team to lock down the premises.

There was no time. No time to think about what she was doing or how frightened she was or how raw her fingers were against the rough stone as she moved double-time down the face of the building.

She picked up the pace, fear lurching into panic at the prospect of being imprisoned once again, this time forever. She could see the bottom now, coming into focus below her. She was going to make it. She was so close.

Her foot slipped and she fell, landing with an oomph on top of something soft and warm.

And clothed in virgin wool.

She looked down at the man on top of whom she’d landed, and grimaced. “Are you OK?”

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

18 Comments

  1. wikkidsexycool
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 08:31:05

    Really good writing, I like how you built up the tension and the twist at the end was exciting. I’m jumping ahead here, but I’m thinking the guy she lands on is the male lead/hero of the story, and her new love interest.

    Here’s my only problem, because if “Mindy” is a heroine being held by a controlling, macho Hispanic male (and his minions) and she’s rescued, not by another hispanic male who doesn’t fall into that cultural caricature, but perhaps a handsome, to die for non-hispanic, I think you know where I’m heading with this. Your writing is so good, I’d hate for it to default into a trope. While it may not bother some other reader, it’s a huge turn off for me. And no, this is more than being the PC police. For all I know Mindy could be Hispanic also, and its your story so you have every right to create the characters of your choice. But sometimes tropes can be hard to spot if you’re the author, because many of them are so popular. This opening was good, so don’t forget your readers are diverse. I wish you all the best with this.

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  2. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 09:30:09

    It’s quite well written, you’ve started at the beginning of the story, and you’ve built up the tension nicely.
    There are, however, a few things that need a bit of tweaking, IMO.
    We have a stupid heroine on our hands. Escaping in fishnets? Really? Those things catch on everything and they’d be ripped to shreds by the time she’d finished climbing down five storey. Why such impractical gear? If there’s a reason, say so. And if she’s planned her getaway so carefully, why hasn’t she planned where she’s going? She should have a ticket in her pocket, boat, plane or train, or car keys, and a wodge of cash so she can buy her way out of the danger area. Running won’t do it.
    I could believe her escaping in a panic, maybe after a beating, but her planning is so inept, I don’t really want to read any more. If there is a reason, then say so.
    “Purple clad leg” breaks the tension. Is she really going to worry about the colour of her boots?
    Also, if Tomas is such a big bad, why doesn’t he have grounds that his bodyguards can patrol, and dogs to help them? You can’t protect a house or keep someone in without that buffer area.
    She lands on virgin wool? How does she know it’s virgin? What does it matter? And if Tomas has people wandering around his house in the middle of the night, maybe he’s inept too. Which kind of decreases the danger. If she lands on top of him, she’s not going to be grimacing and asking if he’s okay, she’s going to be running. Because it might be Tomas’s bodyguards (unless they’re allergic to virgin wool).
    If the house is a cube, five storeys makes for a huge cube.
    I agree with wikkedsexycool about the tired Hispanic trope.

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  3. Lia
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 09:55:48

    In short, I really like your writing. The fishnet-thing made me batter my eyelashes as well, but perhaps there is a good explanation for that.

    I don’t really like Mindy as a heroine’s name, but maybe that’s just me. Not to offend anyone named Mindy, but I think it’s more of a nickname than a proper name. And Mork instantly springs to mind (yes, I am that old!)

    I think you’re doing an excellent job of diving straight in and building up the tension. Definitely makes me want to read more.

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  4. Patricia
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 10:38:52

    I agree completely with Lynne and wikkidsexycool’s comments, especially concerning the use of ethnic stereotypes.

    In addition, I think there’s a lot that could be cut down to emphasize the urgency of the scene. The whole first and second paragraphs can go. Start with your character looking down at the wall she has to climb rather than ruminating on how the “winds of change” feel.

    The paragraph that starts with “She leaned forward…,” cut everything after that first sentence. There is too much internal talk for a frantic escape. Snap right into Hector discovering her instead.

    Similarly, cut everything after “There was no time” in that paragraph. There really is no time, so keep moving.

    Get rid of every reference to the color and fabric composition of clothing. It doesn’t matter now. Mindy could still wish she’d worn something warmer, though, as its immediately relevant.

    When she falls, I would expect her reaction to be one of stunned shock and panic, both at falling and at landing on someone whose intentions are unknown. Stopping to check if he’s okay does not seem to fit the urgency of the scene.

    Despite all my critiques, I actually think this piece has quite a lot of promise. Tightening it up will make it even better. Good luck.

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  5. Sylvie
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 11:17:19

    I love everything except the last two lines. Virgin wool? And she asks if he’s okay? I could see ‘sorry’ slipping out, but not concern – unless of course she’s overly solicitous. I don’t know. Anyway, I really like it and would read it even though I don’t necessarily enjoy romantic suspense. I know it’s billed as a contemporary, but it reads as suspense.

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  6. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 11:22:09

    I actually like the way the clothing descriptions help me visualize the scene, but I agree that fishnets are a poor choice for escape wear. Also, “boot-clad leg” sounds off to me. Don’t boots cover feet? Are these high boots?

    If I were lowering myself five stories, I’d have a rope anchored to the railing. I don’t understand how she looks down and doesn’t see a man standing directly beneath her.

    I wouldn’t shy away from Hispanic villains, but it’s definitely something to be aware of if the portrayals are stereotypes and/or the bad guys are the only diverse characters. I’m assuming that is not the case.

    Good luck with this. :)

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  7. Avery Shy
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 11:57:45

    I’d definitely keep reading. I love where you started at. Love the tension. Love the writing.

    That being said:

    - You could probably delete the first paragraph.

    - “Tonight, she would leave Saõ Benedita” is stronger than “Tonight was the night she was going to leave Saõ Benedita.” Get rid of that weak ‘was’.

    - The whole purple boots and teal leggings thing caught my eye. On one hand, I think it’s a quirky outfit, and I like that. On the other hand, it’s terribly impractical.
    Unless you’re talking about hiking boots, women’s fashion boots are the last thing you want to be climbing in. The bottom is hard, often inflexible. There’s usually little to no tread, making it easy to slip. If there’s a heel, it forces the foot to stay curved.
    If a woman hasn’t done much climbing, I can easily see her wearing these, but after the first step or two, she’s going to realize her mistake, at which point there’s nothing left to do but take the boots off, throw them down, and continue barefoot.

    - Big problem: you mention how scared she is, how she doesn’t want to slip, and how she’s terrified of getting caught way too many times. Pick over the last handful of paragraphs and delete everything you can.

    - Big problem: the last three or four sentences don’t sound right to me. She’s spent all this time panicking about falling, but when she does fall, you don’t show her being afraid. Instead, she takes the time to ask her if landing pad is alright.

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  8. Victoria Martin
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 13:12:05

    Excellent beginning! Love the way you show the heroine is a free spirit through her clothing choices and I don’t think one page is enough for anyone to freak out over ethnicity. If this caught my eye in a bookstore, I’d be adding it to my purchases.

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  9. Lucy Woodhull
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 13:21:27

    Fun writing! I agree with a lot of the previous about being careful of an “evil Hispanics” vibe. The first thing I thought regarding the title was 1) that sounds familiar and 2) she BETTER not fall on the hero. Sigh. That’s the second place I would put the book down — I just can’t take cutesy literalness. Also, “Falling into You” is a Celine Dion CD and you will never, ever get good search engine ranking with that title. There’s another romance with the title, too.

    The first place I would put the book down is at the mention of shoes. It’s a rule I have — if the heroine’s adorable shoes are mentioned in the first few pages, I won’t read on. It seems like sexy shoes are a short hand nowadays for “Look at me! I’m such a quirky heroine!” It’s lazy and overdone characterization. I’m not saying that heroines can’t ever have fab shoes (we should all have them, yes), but I find that when it’s mentioned RIGHT AWAY that the shoes are often a substitute for actual personality and jokes. LOL I have impractical shoes. LOL they cost too much. LOL they come in fun colors. Blerg – I blame Sex and the City. Now, if you make a twist on the trope, then I’m with you.

    The fishnets thing made me roll my eyes, too. Even if the escape was impromptu, I cannot imagine a stupider garment to scale a rock wall in. She’d be a bloody mess at the bottom. And how exactly is she climbing down a sheer rock wall, anyhow? Using little notches in the stone? Is her hobby wall-climbing? Hrmmmm… Just give the poor lady a rope, if she planned the thing. I’m afraid of heights and the rope would be plenty scary enough.

    I enjoy your writing, and I think it’s good enough that you can break out of these easy to fall on (pun intended, ugh) tropes.

    Good luck!

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  10. hapax
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 13:41:03

    Like everyone else, I really liked this on the whole; it doesn’t seem to be in any of the genres I usually read, but I’m still caught and want to know how Mindy’s escape goes.

    Like most everybody else, I was puzzled by the purple boots and teal fishnets; I really hope there’s a good explanation for the outfit, because I think it could be a good character-building moment.

    “Virgin wool”? My goodness, she has awesome fabric-evaluation powers! I’d change that to “something solid and warm”, or something like that. (Being the sort who apologized to furniture when I bump into it, I rather like the instinctive “Are you all right?”)

    One last nitpick: “hiney”? Really? I haven’t used that since elementary school. It makes your heroine sound awfully childish for her situation. Maybe “ass” would be out of character, but surely in dire circumstances she could manage a “butt”?

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  11. Pharmer
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 15:29:23

    Agree with Lynne.

    The writing flows well enough to read. That’s good.

    But IMO the heroine is TSTL. I want her to be caught, given a boot up the backside and locked up again.

    I could forgive the teal fishnets and purple boots (and lack of sheet rope) to climb down five stories, given she only had a small window of opportunity to escape – until I read she had regretted choosing them for her ‘getaway outfit’. Now it’s too late for a ‘costume change?’ Does she think she’s on a stage?
    She spends weeks planning this window of opportunity (all the variables – so she has got a brain) but hasn’t given a thought to where she would go once she escaped. Really?
    Now the security team is on alert to lock down the premises. Panicked at the prospect of being imprisoned again, ‘this time forever’, she then stops to ask the man she landed on if he’s okay, after noting he is clothed in virgin wool.
    Sorry. This is not a woman I can root for.

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  12. Metal Queen
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 17:03:48

    I like it. I’d keep reading.

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  13. Suz Glo
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 17:52:52

    It’s a great beginning to what sounds like it could be a very interesting story. And I agree with the comments that have been shared already so I will not repeat them — except for one thing. The part that jumped out at me (made me LOL, honestly) was the virgin wool thing. It totally took me out of the story because I had to consider how she could possibly know.

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  14. Hell Cat
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 19:34:32

    I’ll agree with everyone who says Mindy seems TSTL. I like her quirky choices in clothes. I just don’t think it’s the time for the descriptions. Generic the get away outfit somehow. Maybe she could wear flats to climb down the wall since she’s got a pack on her back. Change out the shoes for something practical if she doesn’t have hiking boots handy.

    I do like the name, though. It makes her someone not supermodely that’s on the run. Something average about her so it makes me curious why Tomas locked her away. Cut the over-exposition. You don’t need a lot of it because the tension is there once Hector appears. Leave in the fear, the scared, but don’t overdo and make it all inner monologue.

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  15. Avery Shy
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 23:37:21

    Was reading some of the other comments and noticed the title. I’m with Lucy on this. There’s a solid chance the title would have kept me from picking up, or continuing to read, this book.

    Then again, this isn’t my genre, and I’m not the target demographic. :P

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  16. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 07:09:37

    How about this being a spur of the moment decision, or the only chance she’s ever going to get to escape? Make this a pivotal moment, such as Tomas deciding to move her to a more secure location, or giving her to one of his friends who lives deep upcountry? She’s finally decided for sure that it’s death or escape, and right now she doesn’t care which one. She’s got the backpack ready and hidden, but she won’t have another chance, so she’s got to grab it. That explains the stupid clothes and the lack of a proper escape plan.

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  17. Inez Kelley
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 17:21:05

    I read TEAL FISHNET and assume she was going to try and blend in on the streets below with hookers. (See,I was hoping she wasn’t TSTL). Then she fell on virgin wool and paused to ask if he was okay. Now I’m not sure she isn’t kind of TSTL.

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  18. SAO
    Oct 22, 2012 @ 06:10:26

    I’m late to the party, but this didn’t do much for me. It’s full of irrelevant detail taking away from the urgency of the situation.

    The very first sentence does this. “Tonight was the night. Mindy could feel it, the winds of change flitting in. . . It was just as it had always been.” Are there winds of change or is it the same as it has always been?

    More importantly is the picture you draw. Your winds “flit” in, implying aimlessly, erratically. Yet this aimless wind is what makes Mindy’s decision to leave. You confirm this with, “a breeze wafted in, renewing her resolve.” The picture we get is of someone who is at the mercy of a flitting breeze, rather than someone who has made a decision to act. If the wind hadn’t wafted in, would Mindy have chickened out?

    Next, fashion is clearly Mindy’s first priority. If she doesn’t risk her life on a dubious escape she’d be “stuck in this contemporary white cube forever.” Making it sound like the style of the prison was at least as important as the fact that it’s a virtual prison.

    She’s planned her getaway costume of teal fishnets and purple boots, but not what she’ll do when she gets to the ground.

    The first thing she notices about the guy who catches her is the quality of his tailoring. And I note, he’s wearing wool and she’s wearing fishnets.

    Where have you left us? Mindy is freezing in her fishnets and clueless about what to do next.
    Frankly, my first emotion is to feel sorry for the guy with impeccable taste in suiting material who is almost certainly going to get stuck rescuing Mindy and her next crisis.

    Was this supposed to be funny? If so, you’ve clearly lost your audience.

    If not, you have to pare out the irrelevant detail and give us a tightly written scene. If you want to focus on detail, do it on the feel of the stone beneath her fingers, not her choice of stockings.

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