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First Page: It Takes Two – Romantic Adventure/Paranormal

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Chapter One
“Come unto these yellow sands, . . .”

The stars spun madly, as if the galaxy had become a blender switched to frappe. For a brief, fractured moment Sharon wondered if it was the end of the world or just her sanity.

She hit the warm Caribbean Sea back first, hard, knocking the wind out of her. She lay for that brief moment, painfully suspended on the surface, unable to comprehend what had happened. Then the sea embraced her.

And tried to drown her.

Floundering, coughing, sputtering, thinking words that no proper lady would ever allow to pass her lips, she broke the surface of the calm Caribbean, gasping for air. Her thousand-dollar Luna evening gown quickly became several yards of waterlogged virgin tourmaline silk. The dress slipped off quite easily and sank listlessly into the briny depths.

Wiping the salty Caribbean sea from her stinging eyes, she searched for the Cruise ship, Celtic Myst. Minutes before she had been relaxing in a deck chair, watching the stars from the fan tail, waiting for her head to clear from too much champagne.

A scattering of twinkling white, red and green lights shown from the Celtic Myst. Moving away.

“Drat,” she said, watching the lights disappear. A cold knot tightened around her throat, tears blurred her sight.

‘The ocean’s already wet enough, dear.’ Aunt Miranda’s voice whispered in the salty silence.

“You’re right. No sense in getting all worked up just because I’m stuck in the middle of the ocean.” She

swallowed her fear and looked around.

The moon, in its last quarter, was high in the star studded sky. She pulled the few remaining pins from her hair and rolled to her back. “Need to conserve energy,” she mumbled, absent-mindedly.

She looked at her pale body as she floated, the oceans natural phosphorescence aiding the stars glimmering twinkle. Just how many 25 year-old virgins were floating in the Caribbean, clad only in Victoria’s Secret scanty’s? Before she knew it, a sailor would be along— he would be tall, his muscular body tan from life at sea, his hair would be dark with a bit of unruly curl to it. his eyes would be deep blue and when he spoke, the merest trace of an accent, would send the shivers ricocheting around her insides.

Smiling, she opened her eyes, her fantasy chasing the panic away. ‘Where I am? Why Was I thrown off? I paid full price for this trip, it’s not like I was a stowaway.’

“I must speak to my travel agent about this.”

This trip had been her first chance at rest and sunshine for over a year. Well, tomorrow she would get plenty of sun, if she made it through the night.

###

The sun hammered heat and light past her closed eyes into a brain that felt deep-fried. Shading her eyes, she looked around, praying for the sight of something, anything. She closed her eyes.

Water slapped her face. Choking, she opened her eyes. ‘Clouds. Monstrously Big, black clouds. Where did they come from?’’

Rain struck. Life-giving fresh water. Tons of it.

Daylight vanished as the black, wet curtain engulfed her. She was swept upwards on the crest of a wave as lightening ripped through the blackness. Again and again, lightening exploded.

She saw an outline that was neither sea nor sky nor boat.

An island.

With each thunderous blast of light, the island was closer. She could make out the dark silhouette’s of trees.

And rocks. Tall rocks. Cliffs.

Sharon watched, mesmerized as the waves shattered into white, phosphorescent explosions of unbelievable beauty against the cliffs. Cliffs that grew closer with each heartbeat.

Carried on the crest of a twenty-foot wave, she was hurtling into them with the force and acceleration of a freight train bound for hell.

She had neither the strength nor time to scream.

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

14 Comments

  1. SAO
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 05:03:52

    I’m all for romantic adventure and there’s a certain appeal to your voice. What you need to fix:

    1) The first line was deeply confusing. When Sharon hit the sea, I assumed from the golden sands of the beach. I didn’t know who said it to whom. I still don’t know.

    2) You have some nice imagery and you have far too many adjectives and adverbs, many of which are actively working against you. The gown sank listlessly. Did she watch it sink? Or was she busy keeping her head above water? Is she listless? I’m still trying to get a read on what she is doing, something else in the water being listless is influencing me.

    She mumbles absent-mindedly. So, what needing to conserve energy is a stray, absent-minded thought drifting through her head that has nothing to do with the present reality? It builds on listless. She’s drifting absent-minded and listless is the impression I got. They are killing any impression that she’s in the middle of the ocean, and in danger of drowning.

    3) She’s daydreaming about a hunk, watching mesmerized as a rock that she might be smashed against appears. She’s passive in the middle of a tense scene. Every now and then, you tell us she’s nearly drowning and could be smashed, but most of the time, she’s listless, absent-minded, daydreaming, wondering how many other 25yos are floating around. She could be in a 2 foot deep swimming pool and thinking the same things.

    4) So when she wakes up in the morning (did she ever sleep? Can people sleep and float in the ocean) and a wave engulfs her, it feels totally unconnected to the picture I got of floating aimlessly on gentle waves.

    Rewrite this and make it real. If you’re stranded in the open sea, out of sight of land, what do you do? Would you be adjusting your hairdo or would you be screaming until your throat hurt hoping someone on that boat heard you? Once it’s out of sight, would you be dreaming of hunks and thinking about how you look in your undies or would you be trying desperately to figure out the geography and the best direction in which to swim so you get help or land soonest?

    When you see the island, what do you do? Swim for it!!!! And you notice the damn current. If you’re in the middle of the ocean with growing waves, you don’t really notice the rain. You’re drenched.

    Come on, I’d bet you’ve been to the ocean. You know what it’s like. Dredge up those memories and make us feel it too.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 06:16:54

    It’s an interesting set up, but I think the execution needs work.

    There’s concrete issues – SAO has noted some, and I’ll add that if someone falls from the deck of a cruise ship and lands in the water hard enough to get the breath knocked out of her, she’s not going to be painfully suspended on the surface for long enough to have any thoughts or to be unable to comprehend anything.

    But mostly I think I was caught by the tone. Based on your quote from The Tempest (I had to look it up), I guess you’re going for a sort of light-hearted comedy? That’s the only explanation I’ve got for all the musings, and the “drat” and the general lack of any sort of real feelings from the heroine, I’m not sure this works as the opening of a comedy, but that’s a much better option than if you’re trying to write it as a dramatic scene.

    Because as a drama, there really isn’t any. This is really a good example not of telling instead of showing, but of telling fighting with showing. You TELL us that she’s fighting fear and swallowing panic, but you show us a picture of her floating placidly, thinking about hot men and describing her clothes and otherwise doing everything BUT being afraid. I don’t really get a sense of urgency from the first part, so then when the second part comes (being dashed against the cliffs) and it seems like you’re trying to build that fear, it doesn’t work, because I’m just waiting for the heroine to say something silly and doze her way out of danger.

    And watch your apostrophes. You’re using them to make words plural sometimes.

    I’d like to read an update of The Tempest, so if that’s your plan, I’m intrigued. But I think you need to commit a bit more fully to whatever your goals are for the piece – comedy, drama, or whatever. Try to really FEEL what the character’s feeling, and convey that in your writing.

  3. Marianne McA
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 08:09:06

    I wouldn’t have spotted the Tempest reference either (despite Miranda) but if this is revisiting that setting I’d be more inclined to give the page a pass.

    On first reading it just seems too silly – that she’s relatively unbothered by her imminent death, that she can go to sleep on the ocean – but magic! would allow me to read past that.

    So my suggestion would be that if magic! is the reason for all the improbabilities, you signal that more strongly early on, for all the readers who don’t have Kate to tell them this is Tempest-inspired.

    Minor nitpicks: the simile ‘as if the galaxy had become a blender switched to frappe’ didn’t work for me, because I’ve no mental picture to put with it. I conjured something up, but that took me away from the text. (This could be just me – so I’m not saying change it, I’m just noting it didn’t work for me.)
    The ‘proper lady’ comment struck me as odd – if a regency heroine thought that, I’d understand, but do women today really aspire to be proper ladies, or believe that a lady never swears even under these circumstances?
    And, lastly, I don’t care about your heroine yet. That’s okay, because I’m interested enough in her situation to keep reading for now (on the understanding that magic! explains the peculiar stuff) but – I was going to write if she didn’t become less clueless in the next couple of pages I’d put the book back on the shelf, but truthfully, I could live with amusingly clueless, if that’s the way she’s written – but I would need to warm to her soon.

    I’m crossing my fingers that it is a spin-off on the Tempest, ‘cos that would be fun. Good luck.

  4. theo
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 08:34:49

    I have to agree with the others. Her lackadaisical attitude toward her predicament made it hard to get past. It stuck in the back of my mind as I read the rest of the page. There’s no paranormal element introduced that would explain why she almost doesn’t care that she’s near drowning.

    Your opening didn’t sit well with me either and this is why. If the stars are spinning, so is she because they don’t spin, we do. So, if she was pushed off/jumped off/fell over by accident and the stars were spinning, she’d look like a top as she hit the water. If that were the case, she wouldn’t be suspended. She’d be, and I’m guessing here because having almost drowned as a child, I don’t even ever get my face wet, but physics dictate she’d be at least 12 – 15 feet under the minute she hit. So, if she’s able to float and for long periods, introduce your paranormal now. If that’s not the reason she floats so well, this doesn’t then ring true for me at all and without an explanation of why she isn’t too upset with her current state of affairs, then I can’t trust you as an author. If something paranormal has nothing to do with her ability, you need to read survivor stories from the USS Indianapolis. That will give you a much better idea of what happens when you’re stranded in the water for any length of time.

    I think you have a lot of work to do on this. The anachronistic inconsistencies bothered me, the lack of emotion about what’s going on with her bothered me…I think I could like this and as it is, I might try to look past those things that have been mentioned, at least for a page or two, but if the next several are like this one, I’d have to put it back.

  5. JenM
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 10:26:22

    My primary impression is that this needs a lot of work and that the story you are trying to tell is not coming through at all. First of all, I kept looking for a hint of how it’s possible for her to be floating so effortlessly that she has time to muse about cute hunks and fall asleep for a long stretch of time. Why isn’t she desperately treading water, completely exhausted from the effort of keeping herself afloat?

    Continuing on, when her Aunt’s voice whispered in her head, I thought that this was going to lead to a brief hint of the paranormal that would explain her ability to float in the ocean, but instead you passed right by that opportunity to explain and continued to confuse me with her lack of panic, even going so far as to indicate that her primary emotion at that point was just annoyance that she’d been thrown off the boat even though she’d paid full price for the trip. The rest of the selection continued to confuse me and by the end of it, I had no interest in figuring out what was happening. I would suggest that that you give your readers some hint right away of your heroine’s paranormal abilities.

    The “galaxy becoming a blender switch to frappe” line didn’t work for me, and neither did the very first line about the yellow sands. I’m not familiar enough with The Tempest to recognize that, and I’d venture to guess that only a small minority of your readers would be, so it’s probably not the best way to open. If the reader doesn’t know where it’s from, it just seems out of place. I also couldn’t figure out how the sodden material of her gown could have slipped off her so easily, and why it needed to be described as waterlogged “virgin” tourmaline silk. You then referred to your heroine as a 25 YO virgin. At this point in the story, that’s a superfluous bit, and using the word virgin in two such disparate ways was very noticeable to me.

    In general, it seems like there are too many descriptions and too many emotions in this excerpt and they all seem inappropriate for the situation that she is in.

  6. Carol McKenzie
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 10:27:59

    I’ll second the above comments. I think the thing that stands out for me though is the lack of magic, or paranormal, if that’s what’s keeping your girl afloat. If you’re going for paranormal, then show us. If it’s not something paranormal at work in your opening, then I’m lost, because not much of that rings true.

    I am in particular agreement with SAO over the listless, daydreamy quality of the heroine. Again, if it’s due to some paranormal element, make it so.

    And if you’re writing an updated Tempest, don’t count on your readers knowing that, simply because of the quote. Not everyone has read the Tempest, so allusions to the work will probably go unnoticed by some, or many.

    Learn a bit about grammar, as far as apostrophes and capital letters. You’re misusing both with relative frequency, and you’re misusing and missing apostrophes at a rate that borders on frustrating for me, as a reader. Quite possibly it would frustrate an agent or publisher as well, and that’s the last thing you want. A good proofread, by you, or someone with good grammar skills, can clean those up quickly.

    Thanks for sharing your work. If you have a blurb, I’d be interested in reading more about your story.

  7. QC
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 12:01:55

    I had a different take on this. Since she’s relatively calm, I thought perhaps she has reason not to be as concerned as a mere mortal might be in the same predicament–special powers or something. I really liked this and would read on.

  8. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 13:50:47

    @QC:

    I almost had that response too, QC – that the heroine was just going to magic herself out of it so she wasn’t really that worried. But I don’t think it fits with “A cold knot tightened around her throat, tears blurred her sight,” or “she swallowed her fear” or “her fantasy chasing the panic away”.

    Author, if the heroine is supernaturally immune to all these hazards, I’d get rid of the parts where you tell us she’s afraid, because why would she be? And if she’s NOT immune, I think you need to make her act more consistently afraid, instead of telling us she is and then showing her daydreaming about hunky pirates.

  9. Lana Baker
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 21:23:37

    Honestly, I was so busy being annoyed by the incomplete sentences everywhere that I didn’t particularly care about the story. The apostrophes in plural words was excessive.

    I have no idea what time period this is, why she’s wearing an evening gown on a ship, or why she doesn’t care that she’s drowning, or care more that the ship is disappearing into the distance without her on it. If it’s modern times, how did she fall overboard without anyone noticing?

    At first I thought this was some sort of time travel, then she watched the ship’s lights disappear and blew that theory.

    How’s she talking so much while treading water? Even a little bit of ocean wave would keep surprising her by washing over her face, keeping her fighting for her breath too much to talk to herself.

    Bottom line? Your heroine doesn’t care, so neither do I. Sorry.

  10. Shaya
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 15:40:01

    If the abundance of incomplete senetences didn’t drive me away, the fact that she’s about to drown but fantasizes about a man would. Remove the heroine and you have an interesting start. With the heroine, I would deem her TSTL and toss the book back on the shelf.

    Also, the weather term is “lightning” not “lightening.”

  11. Miranda Graham
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 21:11:32

    Oh, thank you so much. Your comments are concise, insightful, appreciated and so kind. They have provided me with the insight needed to revise this draft into a story (hopefully).

    I hate to admit this, but I have never read my writing from a readers point of view. The overuse and un-clarity are so obvious—
    I will also learn how to format for/in HTML.

    This is a romantic comedy re-working of the Tempest. My original prologue clarified some things, but it sucked even worse than what I submitted.

    Chapter One
    “Come unto these yellow sands, . . .”
    These were tag lines to mirror what happens in the chapter; they (two women) arrive on the island. I do need to clue the reader into this or remove them.

    There is lots of magic in the story, hmm—what I need to do is show from the beginning, that the two young women are being pulled to the island and hint at why–which is shown at about page 30 right now.

    This story tells of two young women diverted from their everyday lives to find adventure, true love and happiness.
    Oh, and save the world.

    Thanks again
    Miranda

  12. Miranda Graham
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 21:20:52

    sentences

  13. theo
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 04:27:21

    Though many agents will ask for the first thirty to fifty pages, or the first two or three chapters, they won’t have the patience to wait until page thirty for anything to do with your plot to show up. Keep that in mind as you introduce things. If you wait till page thirty, your MS will end up on the reject pile unless it’s first thirty pages are brilliant. Though we all like to believe ours are, that’s usually not the case.

  14. theo
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 04:28:38

    Its – bloody auto-correct

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