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First Page: m/m contemporary erotic romance

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***

"Tell me you’re kidding." Drew Stevens dropped his forehead onto his crossed arms on the counter, exhausted and in no mood for this.

The pretty blonde’s eyes were sympathetic. "I’m sorry, sir. I can look again-"

Drew shook his head, raking his fingers through his chin-length blond hair. "No. Unless by some miracle you think you’ve made a horrible mistake?" Hope lingered in his voice, but it died at the pitying shake of the girl’s head. He exhaled heavily, pushing away from the front desk and glanced around the hotel lobby.

Unbelievable. He could get reservations at any five star restaurant in L.A., but the Silver Nugget in Nowhere, Arizona couldn’t find him a room. He was going to kill his editor. When he got his hands on Harry Mather’s scrawny ass, Drew was going to rip him a new asshole.

With a tight smile at the desk clerk, Drew snatched up his suitcases and stalked towards the front doors. He pushed his way through awkwardly, out onto the wooden sidewalk. Now what? He didn’t know. He supposed back to Tucson, hopefully there weren’t any conventions in town and he could get a decent room.

He turned and began dragging his bags towards the side of the hotel and the parking lot in back. Of all things, the place didn’t even have valet. Without warning, both of his bags lifted off the ground and out of his hands. Panic hit him and he spun, intending to chase after the mugger, only to came face to face – well, face to chest with a smirking cowboy.

A very big smirking cowboy. Drew’s eyes lifted slowly, taking in broad shoulders and the heavy dark brown hair that brushed them, a strong jaw, firm lips curled in a slightly mocking smile, topped with midnight blue eyes and a low, black cowboy hat. Drew would be lying if he said he wasn’t immediately attracted. Lucky for Drew, he was a-okay with lying, especially to himself.

Confusion filled him when it became apparent the hulking redneck wasn’t taking off with his bags, simply standing there smirking at him. It put Drew on an even sharper edge and he shook his hair out of his eyes, glaring up at the other man.

"Let me guess. Bellhop?"

The cowboy snorted in laughter and Drew endeavored to not notice the way a dimple flashed in the man’s cheek.

"Nope. Your reservation got messed up? Got a room for ya. C’mon."

Drew blinked, for a moment too stunned and confused to react. By the time he shook himself out of it, the cowboy was already loading his bags into the back of a massive silver pickup truck. Drew scowled and hurried forward. "What are you talking about? Who are you?"

***

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29 Comments

  1. Mary Winter
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 04:36:05

    I’m not a big fan of starting novels off with dialogue. To me, it’s more like disembodied voices on a stage. Set the scene for me. Just a line or two and it would be easy to do in this case. There are some minor structural stuff… some things like “… in no mood for this.” at the end of the first paragraph when we don’t even know what “this” is.

    But I like. I’m intrigued. I’m sympathetic with Drew. And I’m a sucker for cowboys. *grins*

    I’d certainly want to read more…

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. jmc
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 04:50:40

    After reading about the wooden sidewalk, I had to double check — is this a contemporary or a historical? Are there wooden sidewalks still in use? Except maybe as boardwalks at the ocean?

    I want to learn more about Drew and why he’s in Nowhere, AZ, but I’m a little creeped out by the stranger grabbing his bags and walking off with them without any sort of intro or discussion.

  3. Sarah
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 04:55:45

    Sometimes less is more, I’d avoid over describing things. Instead of the pitying shake of the girls head, just a shake will do. Allow your reader to be a part of the story and show rather than tell. The lure of reading is that your get to put a bit of your own self and your own judgements into the story and that is why it’s such a personal thing to do.

    Sounds like an interesting idea and as above, cowboys are cool. :)

  4. Emmy
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 05:16:52

    Cowboys…nom nom nom.

    I like the voice, and would definitely keep reading.

  5. Jessica
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 07:02:20

    These comments are from a mere romance reader.

    I don’t think I would keep reading, although the setup is interesting.

    firm lips curled in a slightly mocking smile,

    I am pretty sure I have read smiles and lips described this way a few too many times.

    Confusion filled him when it became apparent the hulking redneck wasn't taking off with his bags, simply standing there smirking at him.

    Shouldn’t there be a “but” before “simply”?

    It doesn’t quite work for me as it stands.

  6. joanne
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 07:22:12

    I liked it, a lot.

    But:
    Smirking heroes make me want to rip their faces off.

    And as (see above) so many of us looooove our cowboy stories, there’s a need to be careful how hokey that character sounds. In a contemporary romance he doesn’t need to sound like he just came to town by wagon train.

    I’d certainly keep reading.
    I wish you much success and thank you!

  7. Barbara Sheridan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 07:44:37

    “Tell me you're kidding.” Drew Stevens dropped his forehead onto his crossed arms on the counter, exhausted and in no mood for this.

    The pretty blonde's eyes were sympathetic. “I'm sorry, sir. I can look again…”

    Drew shook his head, raking his fingers through his chin-length blond hair.

    This pulled me out before I had a chance to get into the story. If the guy has his head on his arms, he’s bent over the reception counter and won’t see the clerk’s face and it’s awkward picturing him hunched over that way running his fingers in his hair or shaking his head.

    I’d definitely tighten this section up and consider pushing

    Unbelievable. He could get reservations at any five star restaurant in L.A., but the Silver Nugget in Nowhere, Arizona couldn't find him a room.

    to the beginning then have the dialogue.

  8. Treva Harte
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 08:11:34

    I don’t mind starting with dialogue at all but I think you could skip the “exhausted and in no mood for this” in the first line:
    “Tell me you're kidding.” Drew Stevens dropped his forehead onto his crossed arms on the counter, exhausted and in no mood for this.

    It should be clear from the attitude and words. And yeah, how does he see the clerk’s eyes?

    I liked the story up until I saw the guy toting away his bags and thought — he’s not going to follow him, is he? OMG! Danger!

    But overall–hey, cowboys! Cool!

  9. JC
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 09:10:57

    The rip the person a new asshole comment really threw me off. My impression is Drew is rather civilized (what? No bellhop?) so the violence implicit in this statement threw me.

  10. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 09:35:32

    Wow, a well-written piece at last! There are a few word reps, a couple of technical things, but really, nothing much.
    A word of caution. If you’re not already an established m/m author, this beginning might be seen as a bit cliche. There are a lot of cowboys in m/m, and that description is standard cowboy.
    If you are an established author, your readers will read on. I would definitely. You have a confidence in your writing that tells me you know what you’re doing. Am I right? (If I am, I have a shortlist of about three people this could be, but I’m not a huge m/m reader, so I could be wrong)
    I want to know why he’s even considering following the huge stranger toting his bags. Either some kind of ID from the stranger, or some proof that Drew can look after himself, even against somebody this size.

    Drew shook his head, raking his fingers through his chin-length blond hair.

    A bit of an infodump. He wouldn’t think that.

    When he got his hands on Harry Mather's scrawny ass, Drew was going to rip him a new asshole.

    Repetition of the word “ass” – you could just kill “scrawny ass” and make it “Harry Mather”.

    Lucky for Drew, he was a-okay with lying, especially to himself.

    Love this line!

    Confusion filled him when it became apparent the hulking redneck wasn't taking off with his bags, simply standing there smirking at him.

    Too many smirks

  11. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 09:55:13

    I like it. I’m not really into cowboys or m/m, but I find the writing capable and the voice confident. I like how the hero notices the receptionist is pretty and treats her with respect. I enjoy characters with good attitudes, and this seems very upbeat.

    Now what? He didn't know. He supposed back to Tucson, hopefully there weren't any conventions in town and he could get a decent room.

    You could drop the “He didn’t know.” The second part “He supposed HE COULD GO back to Tuscon”? This kind of error might cause an agent/editor to stop reading. Also, I think the sentence is incorrect. Comma splice?

  12. California girl
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 10:06:57

    It hooked me hard enough to pull me out of Google reader, which is saying something.

    Sure, the cowboys and “no room at the inn” setup have been done and done–but that’s because they work. Perhaps there’s a titch too much smirking and scowling and hair raking. But in this page, you’ve given me a promising setup and convinced me that you know how to let a story unfold–dropping in just the right amounts of setting, physical description, backstory, hints of future conflict (the lying to himself line), and physical attraction without interrupting the flow of the action. I’d definitely read more.

    Good luck with it!

  13. Barbara Sheridan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 10:07:07

    Just wanted to add I’m with Lynne all the way on this line:

    Lucky for Drew, he was a-okay with lying, especially to himself.

    It’s a wonderful bit of background info and is something that makes me want to know more about this character.

  14. Louise van Hine
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:05:13

    Sure it’s been done and done, but it is also, unfortunately…predictable. Pretty writer with long blond hair gets in a bit of a jam on the road, bowled over and gets an instant hard-on for stereotype huge cowboy. Prediction – in 300 words the cowboy will have Drew on his knees at his run-down hacienda five miles out of town, and Drew can’t find his cellphone to call Harry and goes “delightfully missing” for the next 5 chapters of doing everything in the Joy of Gay Sex – and of course, sans protection. M/M is a young genre, but there are some stock storylines that really need originalizing once you get past the “instant attraction” at paragraph six. A deeper problem that happens even with the best stories is the masculinization of the big dark manly stranger, and the feminization of, in this case, the protagonist. Gay relationships, even the fleeting kind, don’t automatically fall into big guy top/little guy bottom the way most men are taller and heavier than most women. Most men are between 5’9 and 6’2, not enough for such a huge size difference between random strangers.

    And for those who haven’t been to Arizona, there are some tourist towns and historic towns where they have rebuilt the wooden sidewalks. Many of them are movie sets. Tombstone has wooden sidewalks on its main drag, and so does Old Tucson – but you won’t find hotels at em. The writer might need to specify a little better why this particular Nowhere has wooden sidewalks because it would be purposeful, as in a tourist location, not a “Nowhere.” Old ghost towns are just that – crumbling heaps of clapboard with rattlesnakes slithering around them.

  15. Barbara Sheridan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:18:00

    Louise van Hine wrote:

    A deeper problem that happens even with the best stories is the masculinization of the big dark manly stranger, and the feminization of, in this case, the protagonist.

    I think I’d normally agree with this but when it comes to m/m, if it’s something that’s heavily influenced by Yaoi then some “predictable” things might be more accepted, even wanted. At least when I’m in reader mode.

  16. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:37:05

    I think this is very good overall, so I’m going to give you some detailed edits:

    The last name thing is awkward to me. I have a pet peeve about the protag being introduced by first and last name in the first paragraph, and so do lots of editors. It’s so often done unnecessarily, and there’s absolutely no need for it here: the hotel clerk could easily call him “Mr. Stevens” and you could finesse it entirely.

    I also don’t need the “his editor” and “Harry Mather” in the first page: better “When he got his hands on his editor, he’d rip that guy a new asshole” and let the editor’s name come up later.

    “Midnight blue” eyes sounds cheesy.

    Fix the run-on sentences. That’s amateur hour.

    “Hulking redneck” is the opposite of attractive.

  17. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:38:17

    Louise Van Hine wrote:

    A deeper problem that happens even with the best stories is the masculinization of the big dark manly stranger, and the feminization of, in this case, the protagonist.

    I’m not seeing this here: Drew seems like a stereotypically masculine LA guy, with his impatience and his “rip him a new asshole” stuff.

  18. Val Kovalin
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:51:06

    This sounds fun! The writing is very smooth and draws me right in. I’m not getting much of an impression of the cowboy so far, but then he just showed up.
    Drew is an interesting character that I’d be willing to follow through a novel.

    I like the line about him being fine with lying to himself, and when he calls the cowboy a bellhop!

    Good luck with this, and keep me in mind as a reviewer when you publish it.

  19. The OP
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 11:51:31

    Mental note to cut down the smirking and to make sure and clarify Drew lifting his head off the desk! Can do, thank you for the suggestions!

    You have a confidence in your writing that tells me you know what you're doing. Am I right? (If I am, I have a shortlist of about three people this could be, but I'm not a huge m/m reader, so I could be wrong)

    I’m so tempted to ask what the shortlist is so I can be flattered to be compared to probably my fave M/M authors. I doubt I’m on it, as I’m fairly new on the scene, but thank you so much for the compliments! (and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mean it when I said tell me the shortlist!)

    Tombstone has wooden sidewalks on its main drag, and so does Old Tucson – but you won't find hotels at em.

    It is set in Tombstone (for the most part), and actually, the hotel mentioned, the Silver Nugget, is in fact on Tombstone’s main drag, Allen St., and is an actual bed and breakfast hotel, with a saloon and everything. I may have to rework that to make it sound less like a Holiday Inn and more like a cozy small town theme hotel, lol. Thank you!

    Prediction – in 300 words the cowboy will have Drew on his knees at his run-down hacienda five miles out of town, and Drew can't find his cellphone to call Harry and goes “delightfully missing” for the next 5 chapters of doing everything in the Joy of Gay Sex – and of course, sans protection.

    I am so glad to say that’s an inaccurate prediction, though I certainly do understand the cynicism. I’m trying very hard to put some twists on the cliches, unfortunately they’re not apparent in the first page. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

    You guys have given me some wonderful insights and I hope they keep coming, I want this book to shine and the more buffers the better! Thank you!

  20. Barbara Sheridan
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 12:08:12

    For the OP–

    Ever since I read it this a.m. I’m totally dying to find out what’s all behind the Lucky for Drew, he was a-okay with lying, especially to himself. line.

    ^_^

  21. The OP
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 12:13:56

    For the OP-

    Ever since I read it this a.m. I'm totally dying to find out what's all behind the Lucky for Drew, he was a-okay with lying, especially to himself. line.

    ^_^

    Mental note to poke Barbara Sheridan when (she says with great hope) this story gets published. :-D

  22. Louise van Hine
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 12:19:20

    @Julia Sullivan:

    I should have been more specific that it was a general criticism. The enormous height difference and the long hair are some clues that this story may be heading toward that stereotype. That having been said – it is a fantasy element that a lot of women, particularly, like to read.

    @The OP – ah hah! It is Tombstone… then I’m not sure Drew could look at it as “Nowhere, AZ” since it is one of the biggest Arizona tourist destinations in existence. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, despite living a stone’s throw from there, so yeah, a little fleshing out of the more B&B-style of the hotel would be a bit more realistic. You’ve clearly been there more recently than I!

  23. Louise van Hine
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 13:04:46

    @The OP – if you defied the 300-word prediction then no qualms here, I meant to say that! In that case I’d love to read the rest!

  24. Anon76
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 13:13:35

    I think I’m in agreement with Louise Van Hine in her earlier comments.

    What struck me the most was, as written, a female could have been the lead character by only substituting a few words. And I’ve read some really rocking m/m stories, and they never had that type of “feel” to them.

    Only my 2 cents.

  25. Louise van Hine
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 13:28:18

    @Anon76: one of the most common (and perhaps rightfully so) criticisms that gets leveled at M/M stories is the masculine/feminine portrayal of the pairing, and it is largely a throwback to the slash fanfiction roots of many M/M authors. Sure – it’s important to distinguish between the guys, but it shouldn’t be done in a sloppy way, or by making one of them “a girl” or a damsel in distress. So authors in this genre have to work hard, I think, to overcome it.

    I was looking at a M/M story a couple of nights ago that suffered from a subtler form of the same problem – where one of the couple became a shrieking, terrified damsel, and the “man” of the couple was literally hand-holding him and playing with his hair to rouse him from a sulk, then retreating to a typical male brooding silence about what to do about the wifey and “her” moods. It happens so often that it’s cliche. I was reading a “list of M/M romance tropes” and this is one of them. Another one is “Mr. Thick and Mr. Long”, referring to the genitalia, of course.

  26. LindaR
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 14:08:41

    The comments here are great, as usual. I would just add a couple of nitpicky edits

    With a tight smile at the desk clerk, Drew snatched up his suitcases and stalked towards the front doors.

    I’d change this to:

    With a tight smile, Drew snatched up his suitcases and stalked toward the front doors.

    Mentioning the clerk takes the reader’s “eyes” off Drew, and I don’t think you want that here.

    Toward/towards — “towards” indicates a lower class than it seems you mean for Drew — and if he is a writer, then he should certainly know the difference.

    But overall, this looks great.

  27. Beau
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 15:40:57

    This is the first time I’ve made it through the entire first page in quite a while. I’d definitely be willing to read more.

    Oh, and I have no problem beginning with dialog.

  28. JulieLeto
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 15:57:53

    I never read m/m fiction. Never. But this really caught my attention. Great pacing and voice. Congrats to the author!

  29. Lizzy
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 20:19:44

    I’m with the folks who have said this is one of the first (or few) first page Saturday submissions that I’ve been able to read through in awhile without wincing. Yes, there are some things I’d do differently here (and it’s all the things that have already been suggested), but this author seems to have a natural style and voice — which is so much of what successful writing is — that some of the clunkiness was easy for me to overlook.

    Can’t speak to the m/m criticism, because I have only read a few.

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