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First Page: Heirs of the Collective, Unnamed women’s fiction with...

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“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
Philippians 3:13

Chapter One

ALFONSO MEDINA LEANED against the hood of a black Range Rover, oblivious to the whooshing roar of departing planes. Twenty additional, unoccupied Rovers stretched down from his. All sat on the tarmac at a large commercial airstrip.

He rotated a 7” half-sphere from side-to-side in his left hand. Hundreds of specks sparkled in the noon sun inside the pulsating golden substance within the vessel. He moved his right hand up the curve of, seemingly, delicate blue glass; finally curling one finger at a time over it. His hand remained for only a second before he opened the large leather pouch that sat on the hood. Returning the vessel to the pouch, he strapped it in next to three identical half-spheres and cinched the bag closed. He studied the copper skin of his weathered hand for a moment.

Are you wondering how you will change? His half-brother, Nacon’s, communication interrupted his thoughts. He joined Alfonso resting against the hood.

Alfonso pulled the pouch off the hood onto his right shoulder. A waste of time.

Both watched assigned members of their Collective move large, vertical cases efficiently between their recently deplaned Boeing 787 and thirteen idling vans, all approximately twenty feet directly across from the Range Rovers. Similar activity happened at airports in states north, south, east and further west.

Alfonso tuned into the workers. None of them engaged in communication, telepathical or otherwise, underscoring the value of their cargo. Many of the cases they loaded contained vessels similar to the filled ones in his pouch. All vessels occupied prior to the trip here—Denver, Colorado, USA—from the Yucatán. An uneventful trip that continued as such. Even though the members had worked non-stop for the last half-hour, no one paid any attention to them. The large sum that Korah, Nacon’s father, paid to the airport manager hadn’t hurt.

The members completed their tasks and got into the vans, except for the drivers. All thirteen stood next to open driver’s door with a curt nod toward Alfonso and Nacon before getting in and driving away. Alfonso watched the procession begin their long drive to a large, secluded parcel of land in the mountains. Land none of them had visited; secured, and built up, by an advance group. He cinched the pouch’s shoulder strap tighter.

Nacon communicated again. They would be just as safe at the ranch.

Alfonson glanced at this brother. Perhaps.

It is your fear that what happened to Fara will happen again. She—

You need not concern yourself with the presence or absence of my fear.

An accident beyond anyone’s control. Concern wrapped around a contemptuous center.

He didn’t even look at Nacon. Instead he stood and walked toward the plane. Korah has the information we need.

They walked through the plane to a lounge area. Korah, seated at a table, waved them toward seats across from him. His once creased tobacco hued skin was now a smooth tanned pine shade. Both boys sat. Korah pushed a portfolio folder across to them. Alfonso picked it up and leafed through the dossiers it contained. Korah addressed Alfonso.

Son of Josheet, complete all transitions by tonight. The Three, if not the entire Council, must be in place before the other planes return with the units. He turned to Nacon. Your brother directs. He returned his gaze to Alfonso. Defined angles had replaced the broad flatness of his face. The Council expects much of you, Son of Josheet. He picked up another folder. Send in the others.

Alfsono heard the challenge, but remained silent.

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

17 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 06:27:39

    I really like a lot of this. It’s an interesting set up, and some of the language is really vital and interesting.

    That said – you’re throwing a LOT of details at us, and I found it a bit overwhelming. There’s an intellectual hook (what are the spheres, etc.), but nothing emotionally intriguing. Rather than women’s fic with a supernatural flavour, it feels more like the proportions are reversed.

    Assuming that you want to keep all the details, and don’t want to change the genre feel, I think you should work to tighten up the writing. When I’m already feeling a bit bogged down, I don’t have any attention to spare on re-reading unclear bits. For example:

    The second paragraph… a lot of description, and you’re going at it a bit indirectly. “He rotated a 7″ half-sphere from side-to-side in his left hand.” Okay, right off – can you rotate something from side-to-side? The two motions seem sort of contradictory to me; I think I’d chose one. And if it’s a 7″ object (I’m assuming diameter?) then I don’t think there’s much space left in a single hand for side-to-side movement. If this is all an indirect way of saying that the characters aren’t human and have huge hands, I think I’d like things a little more direct. The next couple sentences are a bit dodgy, too. “Hundreds of specks sparkled in the noon sun inside the pulsating golden substance within the vessel. He moved his right hand up the curve of, seemingly, delicate blue glass; finally curling one finger at a time over it.” I think there are too many ‘inside’ ideas in the first sentence. specks, sun, substance, vessel. It’s a lot. And then I’m not sure about the ‘seemingly’. I get that one element, at least, is not what it seems, but is it not actually delicate, not actually blue, or not actually glass? And if the ‘glass’ is ‘blue’, how do we know that the liquid inside is golden? It’s too much, and my brain doesn’t want to have to work that hard to sort it out, not in the second paragraph of a story that hasn’t hooked me emotionally.

    A few other things (don’t worry, with less detail!) –

    Overall, there’s some over-writing, for my taste. I’d like to see things simplified.

    And I’m not really buying that this is an operation that would be carried out at a commercial airport without anyone noticing – 20 matching Rovers aren’t all that subtle.

    Possible POV shift with the reference to activity happening at other airports.

    Not sure of character age – Alfonso has weathered skin on his hand, but you refer to him as a boy…? But apparently something’s shifting about Korah, too, although I’m not clear that whatever the changes are involve him looking younger… I was pretty confused about all this, and again, without an emotional hook, confusion tends to inspire me to drop the book, rather than to read on.

    As I said, I think there’s a really intriguing premise here, and I like SOME of the language. It’s just a bit too much for me.

  2. Loreen
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 07:58:30

    Is “women’s fiction with a paranormal layer” an actual genre? For the purpose of marketing, I think you are going to have to call this a paranormal romance.

    This isn’t bad, but you can make the writing a lot tighter. Try eliminating some of the details and get to the heart of the matter. For example, the opening paragraph focuses more on the planes and the cars than the character and it seems rather passive and static to me. “ALFONSO MEDINA LEANED against the hood of a black Range Rover, oblivious to the whooshing roar of departing planes.” : this isn’t a very active, intriguing image. The guy is just standing there, doing nothing. “Twenty additional, unoccupied Rovers stretched down from his. All sat on the tarmac at a large commercial airstrip.” : Okay, but I am not very interested in the parking lot or where the drivers went. Also, you can convey all this information in one sentence.
    I would recommend jumping right in with the mysterious glass thingie. Something like, “ALFONSO MEDINA LEANED against the hood of a black Range Rover on the tarmac at the large commercial airstrip, slowly rotating a 7” half-sphere from side-to-side in his left hand. A line of 20 identical cars stretched behind him…”
    It isn’t perfect, but you get the idea. Jump right in with the conflict.
    Make the reader intrigued by the sphere and what it does.

    Also, maybe throw in just a little description of what these two brothers look like. I am a little confused about their ages. At one point, you refer to Alphonso’s skin as “weathered” and I am wondering if he is older or just suntanned and rugged. Later, you refer to the two brothers as “boys.” Are these grown men or teen-agers. I am a little overwhelmed with the details of the settlement, the father, the cargo, the mind-reading, the mysterious Fara and I don’t yet know enough about Alphonso to care. If he is your hero, hold back just a little on the backstory and introduce him as a character. Maybe just stick to the mysterious orb, the relationship with the half-brother, and the hint that he might “change,” whatever that means.
    It does seem like an interesting premise and if you can control the flow of information, I would read on.

  3. joanne
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 08:00:21

    It reads more like Sci-Fi than women’s fiction, at least to me. At the very least the when of the story – the year – is probably more important in drawing the reader in than the place.

    It doesn’t seem that the verse from the Bible referencing church unity is necessarily the way to start this chapter.

    There was nothing about your lead character (?) Alfonso that made me want to know more. He had no thoughts about the appearance of his hand? No feelings about what was going on around him?

    I might have been more interested in reading on if it had started with more about the age reversal and less about the power of adjectives.

    Thank you for putting your work here and much good luck.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 08:37:21

    This is well written in terms of style, but it doesn’t go deep enough.
    Details are nice. although there are far too many of them and I had to force myself to read them all. The sphere was enough for me. Nice to know that Land Rover is still going after all these years and its financial troubles, though!
    I’d use some of this page to deepen character. You haven’t yet given the reader a reason to care about Alfonso one way or another. He’s a blank, we’re only given the view from outside.
    To give an example – how does he feel about the sphere? Is he scared of it, does he think it’s pretty, is he triumphant?
    I get that we’re a bit Borg here, but you do have to give the reader a reason to turn the page.

  5. sk
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 10:05:22

    You lost me. No, “lost” is passive. The avalanche of wordy, shallow description in this opening page actively pushed me away and smothered any interest I might have had in the characters and plot. If I were reading this first page in a bookstore, I would put the book down and move on to more immediately engaging material. The events and characters described have potential, but they are mired in description that dumps information on your reader before she has a chance to care about your characters. You have talent, writer, but now is the time to exercise your skill. Take the good advice offered above and edit, edit, edit.

  6. evie byrne
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 10:14:32

    There’s something about the tone or style of this which intrigues me, yet, as the others have said, it gets bogged down in details, and somewhat confusing description. I too couldn’t quite follow the sphere (specks of what? how can gold look gold inside blue glass–wouldn’t it look greenish?) I wasn’t at all sure what was going on with the cases (but willing to wait to find out), completely mystified that Korah’s skin had changed from tobacco to pine (is that good?), and surprised to find the brothers referred to as boys when I’d thought them grown men.

    This level of wtf-ing in the first page will ordinarily turn me off a book, but as I said, there’s something working there, too. I would have turned the page, despite my grumbling. I would have given it about 3 pages to start making sense. Still, I’d advise clean up, simplification and clarification.

    BTW, this totally sounds like sci fi to me.

  7. Random Lurker
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 10:17:48

    Despite the fact that there’s some good writing here, I would stop reading because the story hasn’t grabbed me.

    As others have said, I have no read on Alfonso. I spent most of the excerpt wondering whether he was the hero, and whether I was supposed to feel invested in him. I’m still not sure.

    One thing I learned the hard way is that it’s extremely hard to grab a reader with “Everything goes as planned.” When you give your main character an immediate obstacle, the backstory reveal, stakes, characterization and relationships all fall into place SO much more easily.

    Also, if a book’s labeled “women’s fiction”, I expect to meet a female main character on the first page. Would this fit the “Urban Fantasy” label, maybe?

    Good luck!

  8. Sharon
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 10:35:19

    I agree with the reviewers above. We get way too bogged down in details before we have a connection to the character or an emotional stake in what’s happening. I’m simultaneously overwhelmed with information and confused by the lack of it. Are these people human? If so, why names like Korah and Nacon? If not, what are they? etc.

    You’ve got a complex setup here with a lot of information to impart to your readers, and that makes it extremely difficult to craft a beginning that gives the readers the information they need to understand what’s happening while still hooking them emotionally. It may take many tries to get the balance right, but it’s worth it!

    Choose just a few pieces of information to focus on and either cut the rest or introduce them a bit later. Right now we have an airstrip, Range Rovers, a mysterious half-sphere, a leather pouch, his weathered hand, an impending change, a half-brother with a strange name, telepathy, the Collective, vertical cases, vans, similar activity around the country, the Yucatan, Korah, a secure compound in the mountains, the ranch, Fara and her mysterious accident, Korah’s mysterious information, physical transformation, dossiers, Alfonso’s status as the Son of Josheet, the Three, the Council, the hierarchy of power among Korah, Nacon and Alfonso . . . whoa.

    The hard part, of course, is deciding which information we need and which can wait. I’d say focus on introducing the characters, including who/what they are and what their abilities are, where they are, the vessels and what they contain, and Alfonso’s impending change and how he feels about it. Hold off on the rest of the information about the bigger organization until we’ve had a chance to become emotionally involved.

    Actually, I think a better place to start might be the moments before Alfonso makes his transition or whatever is about to happen. It’s a moment full of dramatic potential that still introduces us to the paranormal aspects of the story in a more intimate way. We can become attached to the character as we experience his emotions facing this change.

    Like others, I also question your genre description. This definitely reads as sci-fi so far. If I were looking for women’s fiction, I’d be turned off by something that’s focused so heavily on paranormal details.

    All that said, I’m intrigued by your story world. You may have something great here once we get past all the information!

  9. B
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 12:01:22

    Ditto. I’m intrigued by the world, but needed more emotional connection, less details (held sphere in hands is enough – 7″ is overkill).

    Italicized dialogue made it feel passive. If they’re telepathic, just say so, and then use quotation marks to show proper dialog.

    If they’re human, too many odd names. If not, the uncommon but recognizable “Alfonso” is the one that doesn’t fit. And if any of these guys don’t make it to chapter 2, don’t even give him a name for me to learn.

    Why the biblical quote? Son of Josheet (also an awkward name) implies some other religion or belief system.

    Keep at it.

  10. Tasha
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 14:44:24

    OK, I’m putting on my flame gear, but I think it needs to be said: The MC’s name is spelled three different ways. Yes, I know they’re typos. But it’s the main character’s name and should be spelled consistently.

    Also, I realize “Heirs of the Collective” isn’t the title (thus the “unnamed” above), but that combined with the lack of a female character in this excerpt make me think “women’s fiction” isn’t the right genre for this. It reads more like an sff book or possibly a thriller, depending what goes on later and whether the backstory has a mystical/spiritual bent (seems to incorporate both biblical and Mayan sources, judging by the character names) or something more otherwordly.

    I personally as a reader don’t want anything more to do with Mayan mythology at the moment, but that’s just me :-)

  11. Rachel
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 16:32:19

    I liked this. The writing is good, and I feel like the story could be interesting if I had a little more of it. But I do feel like the details are a little much, and in places it was a little vague for me. I had to read the section with the spheres twice to get a clear picture of them in my head. I thought maybe you were waiting for later to reveal what the spheres might be, but trying to get a fix on the image mentally without really knowing what it is was kind of awkward for me. I would like to see way more of the hero, and I think if we were more in his head it would be easier to get our feet in the ground in this world you’re creating. All in all though, I don’t think it’s anything that can’t be fixed, and you should keep going.

  12. theo
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 16:51:37

    There’s nothing here for me that makes me want to continue.

    A vial? Is it good stuff? Or poisonous?

    He’ll change. Why? Because of the liquid in the vial? Because of the mission? Because of where they’re going?

    The workers had worked for the last half hour straight. Doing what? Putting vials in bags? Unloading a plane?

    You have a line of Range Rovers. So what? Are they caravaning to wherever they’re going? Did the plane bring in one driver for each vehicle?

    For me, this is a huge info dump of secondary unnecessary details that could be worked in throughout the meat of the story. Like, why are they there. What is the problem? Right now, I’m not even sure who the protagonist is. I’m guessing it’s Alfonso, but I just don’t know.

    There’s a tremendous amount of information that just tells me nothing.

    Good writing can suffer from bad information. Tighten, cut and give me a reason to care about what’s going on here, any reason, and I’ll read on. Right now, no.

  13. Heirs author
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 17:24:06

    Hello everyone and thank you for your insights and time.
    I dont’ see it as SF because there will be no world building or anything happening off Earth and page 3 (after transformation), we are solidly in modern earth circa “now.”

    I have struggled with this beginning and take to heart all the comments on the reader issues it raises. The struggle being as many point out: how much now.

    I want to show the transformation prior to getting into his “human” life so reader will understand the Collective’s differences.
    They exist as energy and utilize humans as hosts; and have existed on Earth for thousands of years. Strife within their Mayan Collective (not their original one) made current move necessary.

    I’m happy at least that it held some interest, so I’m off to, as someone said, edit, edit, edit.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Deb

  14. Heirs author
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 17:26:11

    @Anonymous: No worries, I like your detail.
    I appreciate your thoroughness

  15. Loreen
    Jun 05, 2011 @ 03:40:23

    Hi Deb – good luck with revisions. This is definitely not women’s fiction – I’d call it paranormal if you have Mayan spirits taking over the bodies of human hosts. Is there a romance here? I hope so because it will make this a lot more marketable. I know it seems like harping on the details, but defining your genre within pre-existing standards will be very important if you want to find an agent. An agent cannot easily sell “women’s fiction with paranormal layers” to an editor, especially if nothing about the opening conveys the genre of women’s fiction, but she can sell SciFi, Horror, or Paranormal Romance. Even if you feel your book defies genres, you are better off picking one if you want to sell.

  16. Heirs author
    Jun 05, 2011 @ 11:46:09

    @Loreen:
    Loreen,

    Def a romance; attraction begins on pg 6 and becomes the focus from there. She becomes the reason for a shake-up in the Collective and some balancing acts, decisions on loyalty for he, some other members of the Collective; as well as for herself. Not the least is her loyalty to humans.
    I originally labled it Paranormal romance, but didn’t quite seem to fit.
    I avoid “sci-fi” in title because it suggests elements that don’t exist.

    I will take all the well wishes into my energy field as I attempt to get their story told in the right way!

  17. SAO
    Jun 05, 2011 @ 13:57:20

    I didn’t know what was going on. I was drowning in details about range rovers, spheres, and family trees, but at the end, I completely lacked basic information about:
    The hero. What’s his character, looks, goals?
    The plot, What are they trying to do?
    No sign of the heroine at all.

    In short, you threw a ton of information at me and told me absolutely nothing. My eyes glazed over and I struggled to get to the end of the page.

    Put in a goal and conflict. That will show us the hero’s thoughts. If he’s some kind of non-human unnaturally emotionless Vulcan before the beginning of the book, start in the heroine’s POV.

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