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First Page: Hearts on the Run

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“Jenny. He’s here.”

Amanda’s stage whisper was loud enough for the entire diner to hear. Jenny knew who Amanda was talking about, and without turning around, she knew exactly what he’d be doing. He’d be swinging one long, lean, jean-covered leg over the counter stool, the same motion she’d seen him use as he climbed on his bike, the day he’d ridden the big old Harley to the diner. Then he’d grab a menu—even though he always ordered the same thing: coffee, black—and run a hand through all that messy black hair, hunch his shoulders as he glanced down at the greasy plastic in his hands, pretending to read what Betty’s Lunch Box had to offer the hungry customer.

But the best part came next. A shiver of anticipation ran through her and she briefly closed her eyes.

The best part was when she’d stop in front of him, pad and pen ready, and he’d look up at her.

The first time it happened, she’d felt like she had when she was a little kid, and she’d gone ass-end over the handlebars of her Schwinn, landing on the pavement, hard. It had taken a small eternity to draw that first painful breath, and she’d sincerely believed she was lying dead in front of old Mrs. Perkins’ house, and her mom was going to kill her for tearing her new jeans. The first time she’d looked into his blue eyes—Caribbean vacation post-card ocean blue—she’d been unable to breathe, much less ask him what he wanted to eat.

She knew now to breathe in before he looked up, just in case the whole Schwinn experience replayed itself.

“Ready to order?”

He’d been coming in since Monday and she’d said the same thing exactly five times. Mentally, she kicked herself; was it so hard to think of something, anything, other than that?

He looked up at her, and the eyes did their magic.

“Coffee, please. Black.” He looked up, smiled at her. Trying to appear competent, she nodded, and made the effort to write something on her pad. The word might have been coffee.

He reached to put the menu back, but it slipped out of the metal holder on the counter. She reached for the menu, and so did he, and his fingers brushed against hers.

Images flashed through her mind: teeth, claws, black fur. She took a step back and the menu hit the floor with a slap. She looked at it lying on the scuffed linoleum, as it was responsible for what she saw, before she turned and stumbled away. Her knees were weak, her breathing all messed up again.

He was like her. He was a shifter.

“You okay?” Amanda’s hand on her elbow startled her, and she turned and blinked at her friend.

“Um, yeah. Lost my footing. I’m fine.”

She made it to the coffee pot, grabbing a cup with a trembling hand. Either she was slipping, or he had been able, somehow, to cloak what he was for the past five days. She knew damn well he had no clue she was a shifter. It was the first thing she’d been taught, to mask everything about her that might give away what she was. With humans, keeping that little secret was a piece of cake. But with other shifters, it was a different story.

Then why, suddenly, could she see what he was? Had he dropped his guard, accidentally, or on purpose? Gotten lazy, made a slip?

Or did he think he was the only shifter around? That was arrogant attitude, if you asked her.

She frowned at the coffee pot she still held. The guy was more questions than answers. She poured his coffee, slopping a little into the saucer.

“Here you go.” She set the coffee in front of him and hesitated, wavering between walking away, and the overwhelming urge to ask him who the hell he was, and why he was sitting at her station.

But before she had the chance to decide, all hell broke loose.

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

19 Comments

  1. Ainslie Paton
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 04:13:11

    Oh now that’s just fun. Sucked me right in. Well done.

    ReplyReply

  2. Upstart1
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 04:44:10

    Great work,would definitely read on

    ReplyReply

  3. Kate Sherwood
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 06:00:26

    I like the setup and the characters, thus far. But there’s some sloppy bits that could probably be cleaned up.

    Like, in that second paragraph – how had she seen him climb ON his bike? Surely he would have done that at his previous location, and at the diner he’d be climbing OFF his bike? Which would be a different sort of movement, really. And as someone who’s worked in a diner, I can say that it was a VERY rare occasion that I had time to stand around and be looking out the window in case some hot guy happened to ride his bike up to park right in front of the restaurant. Maybe she could have followed him to the door when he left and watched him climb on his bike then? I don’t know, but it definitely distracted me as I read.

    And then, while I love the fun, vivid language, I think you get a little carried away in parts. Like:

    The first time it happened, she’d felt like she had when she was a little kid, and she’d gone ass-end over the handlebars of her Schwinn, landing on the pavement, hard. It had taken a small eternity to draw that first painful breath, and she’d sincerely believed she was lying dead in front of old Mrs. Perkins’ house, and her mom was going to kill her for tearing her new jeans.

    has you going from flashing back to the first time she saw Hot Guy to the time she fell of her bike, and for me it wasn’t always clear which when you were. Even something small like taking the comma out from between “kid” and “and” might help, making it clear that she wasn’t in the diner feeling like a little kid AND somehow falling off her bike. Does that make sense? And as much as I like the details of the childhood flashback, I’m not sure they really add that much meaning, and they definitely contribute to the confusion.

    He looks up twice when he orders his coffee. (First glance maybe only got breasts-high?)

    And I like the idea behind “She looked at it lying on the scuffed linoleum, as it was responsible for what she saw” but I’d change “saw” to “had seen” and I’d do something about the unclear antecedent for “it”.

    “That was arrogant attitude” sounded weird to me. Either “That was arrogant” or “That was an arrogant attitude” might be clearer. (I prefer the former).

    So, would I read on? Hell, yeah, you left it at the cliffhanger! And I like the characters, as long as the heroine doesn’t turn out to be TSTL (getting THAT nervous about interacting with a repeat customer, no matter how gorgeous he is, is a bit flaky).

    But I’d be more confident that I’d continue to enjoy the story if the sloppy bits were tightened up.

    ReplyReply

  4. Kaetrin
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 06:25:27

    I liked it. Really curious to know what happens next.

    ReplyReply

  5. SAO
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 06:53:20

    I liked it. It could use some tightening. I had the impression she was standing in the back of the cafe not looking at the guy, then suddenly she’s taking his order. But a hint in in the line where she knew to breathe in.

    The page was good, and I’d have turned it. The cliffhanger was a bit obvious, but plenty of action early on is good, so I’d probably have no complaints if you hadn’t left me so rudely dangling.

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  6. cleo
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 07:11:10

    I’m intrigued. The second half pulled me in – starting with her figuring out he’s a shifter. The beginning confused me. I wasn’t sure why she was nervous about waiting on this guy – just because he was hot and new or something else? I was kind of expecting him to be a rock star or something. I was also confused by the passage about staring at the menu on the linoleum. It took me awhile to figure out that it was the menu’s fault she touched him and then dropped the menu.

    I think you have something here, but the writing needs to be tightened.

    ReplyReply

  7. Anon E. Mouse
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 08:29:10

    Hi all, Author here,

    For reference, this is a paranormal romance.

    ReplyReply

  8. Anon E. Mouse
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 09:21:51

    Thank you for the comments so far. I really appreciate the detailed feedback. I’m aware of a few of my shortfalls (actually, quite a few of them) and having those, and new ones, pointed out helps me understand how a reader sees my writing. As with most writers. I’m usually a little too close to the subject to be objective.

    (And I leave out words and it drives me absolutely crazy that I do…*makes note to proofread more thoroughly*)

    The heroine isn’t (I hope) TSTL…she holds her own for the rest of her story. The ditsy aspect on the first page could be eliminated and her attraction to the man clarified, which should make her stronger. I don’t see her that way, but reading that comment puts her in a new light.

    ReplyReply

  9. wikkidsexycool
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 09:37:50

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for sharing your work. Ha ha! I’ve got a scene in one of my paranormal books similar to this, so I hope I don’t appear too biased when I say I really enjoyed this. It’s a great way to introduce the lead characters on the first page, and I hope when all hell breaks loose that your female shifter gets in on the action, if there’s butt kicking to be done. I knew this was a Paranormal romance once you mentioned the flash of images invading her mind when they touched, but its good to follow up with the statement that he was like her, a shifter.

    I’d read on, partly to find out what sort of shifter the book is dealing with (I’m partial to Werewolves, but bears and big cats are fine). I hope you’ll post a short blurb on the premise, as your title makes me think the two leads end up going on the run.

    ReplyReply

  10. Anon E. Mouse
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 09:58:48

    Claire is on the run. She’d left Adrian, heir to the pack, at the altar. Now she’s hiding out under an alias, working at a diner to make ends meet. When she meets Ram, the drop-dead handsome biker who’s been frequenting the diner, she’s immediately drawn to him, only to discover he’s a shifter.

    When Adrian tracks her down, it’s Ram who saves her. And they begin a life on the run: Claire from Adrian and his manipulative father, Victor, the Alpha of her pack, who is determined to bring her back into the fold, by force if necessary. And Ram from his past: the brutal murder of his father, and a sense of never belonging anywhere, or to anyone.

    On the run they discover a connection that goes deeper than just being shifters. Family secrets that bind them together also threaten to tear their relationship apart, secrets that no amount of running can put behind them.

    (I hate writing blurbs and premises…)

    ReplyReply

  11. Kristi
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 11:35:44

    I loved it! A few bits here and there already mentioned but it sucked me right in!

    ReplyReply

  12. Lucy Woodhull
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 12:12:45

    I loved this! And maybe there’s a quibble about a word here and there, but I love your vivid, interesting turn of phrase, and I wouldn’t change it. Shifters ain’t my thing, but I would totally read on just for the quality of the page and the like ability of the heroine. This page proves that a paranormal or action romance doesn’t have to start with somej generic fight or chase scene. (That might be coming next, but I loved the quiet opening. It means that we know who is involved, and, therefore, we give a damn. I’m already rooting for her!)

    Author, I’d recommend printing out your MS and reading it aloud to yourself as a final way of proofing (if you don’t already). That’s the best way to catch even the tiniest of mistakes. Of course, nobody is perfect. In my last book, my best friend caught a mistake in the live version that every single editor and I missed.

    Good luck!

    ReplyReply

  13. Lucy Woodhull
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 12:13:48

    @Lucy Woodhull: Ugh, please forgive typos and autocorrect. I’m mobile. Did I I really just give advice about proofing? ;)

    ReplyReply

  14. Anon E. Mouse
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 12:17:29

    @Lucy Woodhull: You are forgiven for typos :) And thank you for the comments and advice.

    ReplyReply

  15. Michele Mills
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 12:20:57

    Loved this. Everyone else did a great job of telling you how to tighten. I’d definitely keep reading.
    Ps-I love your voice.

    ReplyReply

  16. Alicia Elliott
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 13:24:58

    Hi Author!

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. First off, I want to thank you or sharing. Bravo to Dear Author for continuing First Page as well–it’s a tremendously helpful service for writers, and the feedback on this site is always spot-on.

    So, Author, congrats…I didn’t skim! Without a doubt, I’d turn the page. You had me at “big old Harley” and sealed the deal with “He was like me. He was a shifter.” Nice combo. Personal preferences aside, you definitely have something here. I do agree with my fellow commenters that this needs some cleaning up, so here are my two-cents:

    Tighten, tighten, tighten. What the hell does that mean on a practical sense? Let me give you an example:

    “But the best part came next. A shiver of anticipation ran through her and she briefly closed her eyes.

    The best part was when she’d stop in front of him, pad and pen ready, and he’d look up at her.”

    Check this out:

    “But the best part came next. A shiver of anticipation ran through her, and she briefly closed her eyes as she stopped in front of him, pad and pen ready.

    He looked up.”

    So, we cut seven words. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you struggle with word count like I do, it makes a big difference in the long run. More importantly, cutting unnecessary wording makes your writing smoother. You already used “the best part” once. Don’t use it again in the next sentence; it looses impact. You do this again with “The first time…” in your flashback paragraph–which didn’t bother at all, btw, but again, clean it up. You don’t need “and her mom was going to kill her for tearing her new jeans.” No need to bring mom into it. Too many unnecessary details pull the reader out of the immediate action–not where we want to be.

    “The first time it happened, she’d felt like she had when she was a little kid, and she’d gone ass-end over the handlebars of her Schwinn, landing on the pavement, hard.”

    Sometimes we can’t help using passive voice, but we can definitely make it a little more palpable. Try something like:

    “The first time it happened, she was seven years-old again, going ass-end over the handlebars of her Schwinn and landing on the pavement. Hard.”

    See? Less wordy too.

    Lastly, your commas are hit and miss. This may bug me more than other readers, but agents and editors definitely notice. You only have a few paragraphs to make an impression. Make those paragraphs shine! It’s been mentioned many times on this site–and to writers who have only a tenuous grasp on grammar–but it bears repeating: if you aren’t familiar with Strunk & White, check it out. Your readers will love you for it, and copy-editing won’t be such a bitch. One caveat: as writers, we CAN break some rules. Run-ons can work. Sentence fragments can provide impact. You must nail it though, and punctuation is a big part of this. For the most part, you seem to have a firm grasp, but I did stumble over a few sentences. This might sound nit-picky, but I have high hopes for you. I’d love to be reading an official review of this on Dear Author soon!

    Hope I don’t sound like an idiot here, this being my first post and all…

    Good luck to you, Author!

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  17. Alicia Elliott
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 13:28:15

    Um…I meant ‘palatable’ instead of ‘palpable.’

    Also, forgot to mention that I love the title.

    Again, best of luck!

    ReplyReply

  18. Anon E. Mouse
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 21:08:45

    @wikkidsexycool: I think my girl needs to do a little more ass-kicking during the story. There are parts where I fall into the habit of having the guy save the girl. That can be fixed.

    @Alicia Elliott: Suggestions taken and much appreciated. Tightening is not my forte; I tend to add rather than subtract. I will endeavor to remove words during edits, rather than add more, unless absolutely necessary.

    Thanks to all who took the time to read my page and offer comments and suggestions. I truly appreciate everyone’s input. Every chance to get feedback is a chance to grow and learn. And we can never get enough of that :)

    Thanks, Jane, for First Page.

    ReplyReply

  19. Suz_Glo
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 07:54:58

    Great job! I enjoyed this excerpt and am now frustrated that I can’t immediately read the rest. Please let us know when the book is ready.

    ReplyReply

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