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First Page: M/M Contemporary

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It started raining just as Cody Walker parked his Jeep Wrangler behind someone’s shiny new BMW. Thank God, he had put the top up before he’d left his apartment. It wasn’t raining hard, just an annoying drizzle that made the July night even muggier. The afternoon high today had reached the 99-degree mark. Gotta love this Houston weather. Fortunately, the walk to the front door was short. He tucked the birthday present he was carrying under one arm and reached out to ring the doorbell with his other.

"Cody! So glad you could make it!"

"Aw, you know I wouldn’t miss your birthday party, Karen," replied Cody, handing her the package. "I hope you like it," he added a little shyly, following her into the crowded living room.

"I’m sure it’s fabulous," she said with a wink.

He shook his head, grinning. "Not all gay men use that word, you know."

She laughed at that. "Especially not you, right, Mr. Cowboy?"

"My Mama would have a stroke if she heard me talking like some of the guys around here." Of course, she’d also have a stroke if she knew I was gay. As would everyone else in his hometown. Just becoming a nurse had been enough to provoke a certain amount of alarm.

He spent the next half hour or so milling around, talking with the other guests. Everyone here seemed to be in the medical field. Talking shop got old, but at least it was common ground with these folks, since he didn’t have a spouse or kids to converse about. Or even a boyfriend.

Sex was easy to find in this city. Love, he hadn’t been able to find yet. His last relationship had been a disaster. It had started out great. Then he found out that Brett was married-

He made his way into the kitchen to refill his mug at the beer keg. Ice cold Bud – hit the spot.

"How can you drink that poor excuse for beer?"

Cody jerked his head up at the voice then nearly dropped his mug on the floor.

Butt up against the counter, a glass of red wine in one hand, was a vision out of Cody’s fantasies. Tall. Muscular without bulk. Thick light brown hair cut short. And the most intense green eyes Cody had ever seen. He was so fixated on the man’s appearance it took a while for Cody to register the fact he had an accent of some kind.

"Uh, well sir, I guess it’s just what I’m used to drinking." He cringed. What a dumbass answer.

"I think you are a victim of aggressive marketing," replied the man with conviction.

Cody couldn’t help but nod his head in agreement. Hell, at this point he’d agree with just about anything that came out of this man’s mouth. He gathered up his courage and took a few steps forward, hand extended.

"Cody Walker."

"Markus Poletti." They shook hands briefly.

"So, I’m guessing you’re not from around here," said Cody in a friendly tone.

"That is correct."

Markus had an accent unlike any Cody had ever heard before, almost lilting. He took a gamble. "Germany?"

"No. I am from Bern, Switzerland."

"Ah," replied Cody, nodding his head and mentally reviewing everything he knew about Switzerland. Watches. Banks. Chocolate. Yep, that’s about it. "How’d you end up in Houston?"

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. joanne
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 05:47:10

    I would give this another page or two before deciding whether to keep reading but for me there’s too much unnecessary ‘stuff’ in the opening paragraphs (shiny BMW; birthday gift/birthday party) – and what strikes me as some very awkward dialogue at the door with his hostess.

    Are you sure you want the main adult protagonist worried about what his mom thinks?

    German accent that is ‘lilting’? Dunno but I don’t think so and that description jerked me out of their meeting.

    Thank you, it reads like it could be a fun story and I alread like Cody.
    Much good luck with your writing!

  2. KatS
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 05:52:20

    This is … OK. It’s a bit too much like every other contemporary romance I’ve read.

    I do agree with the comment above – I’ve never heard a lilting German accent. Irish or Scottish, yes but German has more of a gutteral sound to me.

  3. cs
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 06:51:13

    Truthfully wouldn’t continue reading this, nothing jumps out at you the tad stereotypical comments between Karen was…well annoying, and then the usual he’s so good looking I can’t seem to think is enough to make me put it down. I agree it just reads like every other contemporary story (and that’s my favourite genre as is M/M). Sorry.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 06:56:25

    This had me groaning in the first few paragraphs. It’s a Harlequin with a male heroine. S/he’s even a nurse (and I’m a big fan of a well-written HMB btw). It has all the cliches and then some, but I know a few publishers who would snap this up.
    A few details:

    Jeep Wrangler behind someone's shiny new BMW.

    Hero alert. And I don’t know what a Jeep Wrangler looks like, or what it’s significance is, so I have in my mind one of those green army things.

    Then follows a list – closes the door, gets through the drizzle to the front door – is he worried about his hairdo spoiliing?

    “Aw, you know I wouldn't miss your birthday party, Karen,” replied Cody, handing her the package. “I hope you like it,” he added a little shyly, following her into the crowded living room.

    Very girly.

    “I'm sure it's fabulous,” she said with a wink.

    He shook his head, grinning. “Not all gay men use that word, you know.”

    She laughed at that. “Especially not you, right, Mr. Cowboy?”

    I can’t tell you how much I hate that bit. “As you know, I’m gay” conversation. And the cliche? Ouch. So the hero’s a cowboy, right?

    “My Mama would have a stroke if she heard me talking like some of the guys around here.” Of course, she'd also have a stroke if she knew I was gay.

    Sweet. He loves his mama. And he calls her mama.

    As would everyone else in his hometown. Just becoming a nurse had been enough to provoke a certain amount of alarm.

    Why? Because all nurses are gay? Doesn’t make sense.

    Follows a boring bit of narrative that can go. Musing about his last boyfriend being married. A bit of a giveaway that a heroine has been switched to hero here. So was she a beard?

    He made his way into the kitchen to refill his mug at the beer keg. Ice cold Bud – hit the spot.

    So butch. I have my hand on my hip now and my wrist nicely loose. I’m sorry, but inserting the occasional male cliche doesn’t make up for the other stuff up to this point.

    Thick light brown hair cut short. And the most intense green eyes Cody had ever seen.

    This is a cliche description and it doesn’t tell me why THIS man wants THAT man. It’s too general, too romance-book-hero to actually mean anything.

    “I think you are a victim of aggressive marketing,” replied the man with conviction.

    What does conviction look like? Taste like? Sound like?

    “Markus Poletti.” They shook hands briefly.

    “So, I'm guessing you're not from around here,” said Cody in a friendly tone.

    “That is correct.”

    Markus had an accent unlike any Cody had ever heard before, almost lilting. He took a gamble. “Germany?”

    “No. I am from Bern, Switzerland.”

    A few things here. Poletti is an unusual name for a German Swiss. It might suit an Italian Swiss (There are German speaking, Italian speaking and French speaking Swiss although in practice most of them speak English). German isn’t a lilting language. Foreigners don’t abandon contractions. Europeans don’t state the country of their origin. I’m from Manchester, not Manchester, England. He would be from Berne. He can follow up with Switzerland if the man looks puzzled.

    Okay, a few things to do with this. Either make Cody act like a man, or revert him back to woman. Forgive me if you didn’t do that, it just reads like it. Get rid of the cliches. Tidy up the speech tags, so they either mean something or they’re not there. Use body language, actions, but not meaningless qualifiers.

    Cut the first part, leave it until they meet. And can they have some other kind of meeting? Something a little less-boring? I’m assuming there’ll be some kind of medical emergency at the party, meaning our hero will swing into action – both of them, probably, since Markus is probably a high-ranking surgeon.

    Deepen it, make it individual, make it you.

    And I’m sorry if it sounds a bit harsh, but I believe that specific crits and points help much more than generalisations. If this doesn’t suit you, ignore it. After all, as I said in the beginning, you can get this published, if that’s what you want. There’s a voracious market for m/m right now.

  5. DS
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 07:48:22

    Lost me on the first paragraph– Jeep Wangler, BMW, temperature in Houston that day– didn’t need to know that. Also, I don’t live in Texas, but everyone I know who owns a Jeep Wrangler is either female or 17 years old.

    OT: My dad owned a WW II surplus army jeep– now that was a jeep with personality. We also owned a 63 Willys.

    Gotta agree that this is a stereotypical romance with a gay guy. There may be a market for it given the fascination with slash; however, I would try to shake it up some. Put the nurse in a medical setting and give us some interesting inside medical information rather than a birthday party.

  6. Anne Douglas
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 07:58:46

    Assuming this is USA (the Wrangler, the Bud, etc) set I’d possibly disagree with you here Lynne

    “Europeans don't state the country of their origin. I'm from Manchester, not Manchester, England. He would be from Berne. He can follow up with Switzerland if the man looks puzzled.”

    I’ve very rarely found myself/met any foreign nationals here in the US who state what city they are from, it’s always what country. Since half the people who ask think NZ is by the UK somewhere, if I told them I was from Auckland, they’d look blankly at me or assume I meant Oakland, CA. If it was European set, I’d agree with you though.

  7. Chris
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 08:12:39

    Why the heck does every romance I read (m/m or not) have a guy with striking green eyes in it?! The percentage of green eyes in romance characters has to be about 2517% higher than in the population at large.

  8. Fae Sutherland
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 08:31:02

    I agree with most all of the points already made. I’d suggest a much more snappy beginning. It’s all very dull. The dialogue is wilting and forced, the descriptions are uninspired and I really have no idea why I ought to care about this guy.

    Being a M/M author myself, it sucks to have to say it, but I would not read on. I probably would have stopped after the first couple of paragraphs, actually. I don’t need action in the first page, or anything overly exciting, but I do need to get an immediate vibe on your MC and I don’t have that here. So far all I know is he drives a Jeep, is gay, and worries about what his mama thinks.

    There are lots of ways to make an opening like this work, but if you’re not going to start with action, you need to really make your character leap off the page and go “Hey! You want to know more about me! Keep reading and I’ll tell you!” Cody doesn’t do that. He’s just kind of…meh.

    I’d recommend spending a lot more time getting to know your character, his quirks and background and history and everything interesting about him and then rewrite this and let all that flow into the scene on its own.

    Good luck, I hope you stick with it because it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just…not good.

  9. Kirsten
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 08:41:48

    “I'm sure it's fabulous,” she said with a wink.

    He shook his head, grinning. “Not all gay men use that word, you know.”

    She laughed at that. “Especially not you, right, Mr. Cowboy?”

    Lynne Connolly: I can't tell you how much I hate that bit. “As you know, I'm gay” conversation. And the cliche? Ouch. So the hero's a cowboy, right?

    I usually don’t weigh in on these things, preferring to leave them to the experts, like Ms. Connolly, but this in particular bothered me because it seemed to show how “tolerant” the friend was through her ease with, awareness of, license to use, gay stereotypes. It would be like Robin, who is white and my best friend, greeting me at the door with ebonics (I am African American) as shorthand for the reader of what we have meant to each other in over 20 years of friendship. Unless the friend is a mere prop, or vehicle to get the two men together, there must be a better way to reveal her love for and support of the male lead.

  10. Alisa
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 08:55:26

    Well, I’d probably eventually pick this back up and finish it but it would be set aside until I’d run out of reads that caught my interest more. It’s not bad, nothing particularly stand out–reads like your run-of-the-mill harlequin only m/m.

    Why jump to Germany? If he’d never heard the accent before especially with Poletti? Markus is kind of generic, Marcus/Markus/Marcos/Marco/Mark is one of those names that crosses a lot of borders without *too* much variation beyond the accent (compared to say–John, Juan, Johan, Jan, Gianni, Sean) So if you’re playing the guess the name/accent to make smalltalk angle–it would make more sense to guess Poletti as Italian than going for German off of Markus because that’s such a…generic non-differentiated name. Spelled with the “k” in Markus it definitely looks German, or at least Eastern Block orginating but you’re not going to be able to hear the dif between a C or a K in saying the name. He’s not wearing a name tag or anything that would clue Cody into it being a K and “looking” like a German name.

    I have an Uncle that was born in Germany, didn’t come to the States until he was nearly thirty (married on of my dad’s sisters). His accent–is anything but lilting. It’s actually kind of chopped, leaning toward harsher sharper hard consonants breaking up the cadence of his speech. (and this is after being in the states 50 years with decades to blunt some of the accent just a bit)

    The Mr. Cowboy is headtilty. Other than his name being Cody (which doesn’t even count all that much other than it’s a more likely heard in the US than anywhere name and a “Cowboy” or at least “Wild West” auto assumption. I’ve known several Cody’s, none of them are anywhere near cowboys, heck only one even vaguely counts as a ‘farm boy’ and he grew up to work in an office so…) where’s the cowboy? Smalltown Texas honestly doesn’t=cowboy. Farm boy is likely. Just plain small town grew up in town boy too. And if this is in Houston? A cowboy is a cowboy, they’d not assume so easily small town TX (or OK, KS, Western NE CO, WY, MT)= cowboy no matter there’s plenty of cowboy/cowboy types in those areas or even “city cowboy”. Cody the Cowboy is kinda as tired as Hank the aging ranch foreman or maybe Hank the border collie. And Paint the trusty horse or Devil the horse no one can ride. Is Cody a cowboy or was calling him Mr. Cowboy teasing because he’s so very much not? Going to the city to be a nurse? Really doesn’t say “Cowboy” to me.

    I can see this being published easily enough when it’s finished and cleaned up as is. I’d probably pick it back up to finish eventually, but there’s nothing to start off to grab my attention to make me want to read straight through off the bat, likely wouldn’t buy in print with the chance to flip through the first few pages to get a feel. (which most m/m I’m able to get is ebook and a couple pages preview is not an option most of the time)

  11. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 09:01:20

    this in particular bothered me because it seemed to show how “tolerant” the friend was through her ease with, awareness of, license to use, gay stereotypes.

    I think it’s nice, but it’s not needed. Or it can be glossed over. She asked him to her birthday party, so that’s taken for granted. Or add a kick to the conversation, not just the wink (not a literal kick, lol!)

    Because – I don’t care. I don’t know his friend, she doesn’t sound interesting or exciting enough for me to want to get to know her. Maybe you need to make it more specific to them. So I guess I’m agreeing with Kirsten here!

    Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished “Hot Pursuit” by Brockmann and got to know the adorable Robin and Jules all over again. Jules in particular is a really well-rounded person – he’s a man who happens to be gay, he doesn’t let his sexuality dictate his career, or the way he acts and sometimes he uses it. He calls people “sweetie” even in his FBI job, partly to let them know he’s gay, partly because he knows it annoys them. So maybe the comparison is a bit unfair.

    I waded in here because I could see what needed to be done, and nobody else was giving a specific crit. I actually think this would be more interesting if the hero had some other problem that was less explored, say he has one leg, or he’s severely dyslexic. Or both, come to that. Something different.

  12. joanne
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 10:25:50

    @Lynne Connolly: How specific are we suppose to be?

    I’m sure as a published author your comments are probably more helpful when you do the line by line critique but I thought as readers all we needed to say is what we liked and/or what bothered us about the entry. I don’t want to waste my time or that of the authors who submit.

  13. JoB
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 10:31:13

    The ‘some enchanted evening’ moment is fine in its own way,
    but the reader might be more intrigued if the early pages contained hints of the coming story conflict …

    I saw this hot guy.

    … he’s just perfect, but he’s far too rich and sophisticated for a country boy like me. We have nothing in common.

    … he’s just perfect, but I saw him last week stealing drugs from the pharmacy storeroom.

    … he’s just perfect, but he denied my aged mother a loan at the bank.

    … he’s just perfect, but I was hurt three months ago and I’m not ready for anyone new.

    … some people might think he’s just perfect, but he looks like a poseur to me.

    … he’s just perfect, but he isn’t casting a shadow in the mirror.

    The story elements and action of this page — park car, walk into random party, exchange backstory disguised as conversation, see ‘a stranger across a crowded room’ — are not promising.

    But mostly, what is lacking here is the introduction to the conflict.

    My suggestion would be to reshape this scene to introduce the coming conflict. That will just naturally give you more interesting story elements.

  14. Maili
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 10:36:14


    Europeans don't state the country of their origin. I'm from Manchester, not Manchester, England. He would be from Berne. He can follow up with Switzerland if the man looks puzzled.

    They might do when travelling. I do, anyway.

    I learnt that there’s no point in stating a lesser known city when travelling abroad. I usually say either UK or England (some view Britain as “England” including Wales and Scotland; ow ow ow!). It usually works when it’s done backwards. Such as this:

    “London?” (they almost always asked this.)
    “No. Birmingham. It’s another city, in the middle of England.”

    “Have you met the Queen of England?” (:D It’s surprisingly a popular question.)

    or when I feel adventurous:

    “I’m from Scotland.”
    “Where’s that?”
    “Above England.”
    “Oooh! An island?”
    “No, but sometimes it felt like that way. :D”

    Yeah, I think some seasoned travellers learnt to keep it simple or do it backwards (country and then if asked, city).

    Cody’s question – “How'd you end up in Houston?” – makes the childish brat in me want to reply, “I flew over on a magic carpet. How about asking me why I’m in Houston instead?”

    I agree with Lynne that it came off as a Harlequin romance. But then again – I have to say – I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

    While I haven’t read many m/m romances (it’s a sub-genre I’m still not familiar with, but read some to see what it’s about, which is what I usually do with other unfamiliar sub-genres), there are two types so far: those with heavy “Yaoi” influence (so easy to spot) and traditional m/f romance. Yours seems to fall under the latter.

    Those* I read so far used – regardless of influence and type – the traditional m/f set-up. You know, a tall Alpha-like hero with a shorter, slender and feminine-like hero. It can be very disconcerting sometimes, but I’m learning to accept it as part of the m/m romance sub-genre. (*I finished about eight(?) m/m romances so far.)

    Some of them contained the ‘As you know, Frank…’ dialogue with “so-WHAT-if-you-are-gay?!-we’re-best-friends!” friends, which irritated the hell out of me, as your party girl friend Karen did here. Let me explain why.

    “I'm sure it's fabulous,” she said with a wink.

    He shook his head, grinning. “Not all gay men use that word, you know.”

    She laughed at that. “Especially not you, right, Mr. Cowboy?”

    She came off as a friendly person who didn’t know Cody well. As if she was trying to wrap her head round the fact Cody was gay. Hence those wink-and-elbow comments. I don’t know if it was supposed to be unusual in m/m rom, but almost all I read so far have had this kind of exchange.

    And I hated it. I hear this kind of conversations in real life, not just with gay people, but also – what’s the usual term in the US? – people of colour, people with disabilities and other minorities. When some people I know, however long we knew each other, persist with this type of conversation, I have to be really patient. It’s as if those people are thrilled of knowing a “secret” no one else knows, or part of an exclusive circle. What really gets me is the kind that has a constant S/HE IS GAY! thought flashing in neon inside their head.

    Would they think this when with a “normal” friend? No. It’s irritating, so because of this, I’m not exactly impressed with people like Karen. I think you might need to find another way to reveal a piece of information about Cody.

    Anyroad, I didn’t see anything seriously wrong with your first page as I (mistakenly, it seems) assumed it was how a m/m romance was supposed to be.

  15. Diana
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 10:42:57

    Lynne Connolly: Why? Because all nurses are gay? Doesn't make sense.

    I believe the author was referring to the fact that there’s a bit of a stigma, especially in America, about men who become nurses. Nursing is still “women’s work” to some and it is a profession that is overwhelmingly occupied by females in the U.S., although that is starting to change somewhat.

    I don’t know about the rest of the page, but I can co-sign that him being a nurse would be cause for jokes, pseudo-alarm, what-have-you. I don’t condone it, obviously, but I know the stigma/discrimination is there (see “Meet the Parents” or google “female male ratio nursing”).

  16. JoB
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 10:51:51

    This opening might be more intriguing if it contained hints of the conflict that will power the story.

    Cody parked his jeep, glad that he could still see well enough to drive. That wouldn’t last.

    He remembered, where he’d seen Markus before . . . on the TV news, standing next to Gibelli, the Mafia kingpin. Markus was the one they called a lieutenant.

    Switzerland, Cody thought. Watches and chocolate.” He glanced at the polished steel teakettle on the stove. And the Swiss don’t show up in mirror surfaces, apparently.

    What I’m saying is . . .
    If we organize a scene around ‘introducing the characters,’ we may come up with dreary, predictable action and dialog.

    If we organize a scene with the idea that we’re introducing the conflict of the story, it’s inherently more interesting. As a happy byproduct, the action is generally more lively.

  17. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 11:17:58

    I’m not an expert, just a little further down the road than I used to be!
    And I think this page is a great resource just because it shows the reaction of general readers, who don’t usually get to see works in progress. The initial reaction of someone who only reads, doesn’t write, is essential, and because of that I like to put my stuff out to them before I hand it in, instead of just other writers. You often get so much more.

    Maili, you’re right. In the US, I do tend to say “I’m from the UK” so maybe he should say, “I’m from Switzerland. Berne actually. Do you know it?”

    Switzerland, Cody thought. Watches and chocolate.” He glanced at the polished steel teakettle on the stove. And the Swiss don't show up in mirror surfaces, apparently.

    That one (I’d jump up and down if I didn’t have a cat on my lap). I want that one, just because I love the turn of phrase. And a good vampire romance.

    There’s still a stigma about male nurses in the US? I thought it sounded a bit old-fashioned, but there you go. As in “You’re a man, you’re a nurse, you must be gay”? Wow.

  18. brooksse
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 12:10:06

    Europeans don't state the country of their origin. I'm from Manchester, not Manchester, England. He would be from Berne.

    Actually, that could depend on how long he’d been in Houston. I live in the Houston area and would expect the country to be included when it’s someplace outside the States. So if Markus has been in Houston any length of time, he might include the country. Especially when the person asking is not European.

    Markus had an accent unlike any Cody had ever heard before, almost lilting.

    There are a lot of people in Houston who come from different places around the world. Plus the Texas Medical Center in Houston is one of the best in the country. Also the largest. So I would find it a little hard to believe someone working in the medical profession in Houston would think that Markus’ accent was “unlike any … ever heard before.”
    ETA: Unless Cody himself is new to Houston

  19. Katie
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 14:27:13

    chiming in on the city, country debate. When is Europe i would tell people I am from Edinburgh, in the States I would say Scotland because i have met very few Americans that have heard of Edinburgh.
    But none of that is a deal breaker for me. What pulled be out of the story was the voice. It was very feminine. I don’t mean this in a pejorative sense, but if I am reading about a man or in this case two men I would like a more masculine timbre.

  20. Castiron
    Sep 06, 2009 @ 09:36:54

    I don’t mind the pace (assuming this is a novel and not a shorter work), but it’d work better for me with more specific detail.

    What area of nursing does Cody work in? There’s a big difference between Cody the psychiatric nurse and Cody the pediatric nurse, Cody the nurse in the ER and Cody the nurse at a public clinic and Cody the nurse at an endocrinologist’s private practice. (Not only do the different possiblities say different things about Cody’s personality; they also say different things about Cody’s schedule [night shifts? rotating shifts?], which will be relevant as the story progresses.)

    How does he know Karen? Is she a coworker, a doctor, a pharmaceutical company’s representative, someone he knew from university, a former roommate? And is she going to play any further role in the story beyond having her party be where the leads meet? (If she only appears this one time, you could just as well have Cody and Markus meet at a bar in Montrose [assuming Montrose carries the same connotation as a place with high concentration of gay bars that it did fifteen years ago], or at a Houston Symphony concert, or at the zoo, or the Cockrell [heh!] Butterfly Center, or someplace else that says “Houston” besides the muggy summer weather [accurate, but a trait shared with plenty of southeastern U.S. cities]).

    Where’s Cody from? “Cowboy” would work for me if Cody is from west or south Texas (or from another state known for ranching), but not if he’s from a small town in east Texas, unless it’s an ironic nickname.

    The text suggests that Cody doesn’t know anyone else at the party, but I don’t get any sense to how he reacts to this, or at least what little sense I do get makes him annoying; right now he comes across as too absorbed in his own lack of relationship to be interested in getting to know anyone (until, of course, he sees a hot butt). No, you don’t want to give long conversations and delay Cody and Markus’s meeting even longer, but does Cody strike up conversations easily, or is he too shy or too awkward? Are there other people from his workplace or in his specialty there? “Talking shop” is generic, and would mean something different if Cody was talking to a nurse in his field, a nurse in another field, a doctor in his field, a pharmacist, an ambulance driver, etc. (Assuming they’re talking shop; it’s just as likely that they’d say, “So, how do you know Karen?” or gripe about the traffic or ask whether he’s found a decent place for lunch.)

    Nursing is a interesting and wide-ranging profession with many different specialties. Houston is a fascinating and underrated city with lousy weather, rapidly changing architecture, and an incredible cultural life. Cody (and Markus) can be just as interesting, just as unique; the little details can make a lot of difference.

  21. Srsly...
    Sep 06, 2009 @ 17:45:10

    I think this has potential, and I think most of the above comments don’t matter much because they are personal opinions not based on the fundmentals of writing fiction (no offense guys on the comment thread…opinions are important, too). But the writer worked hard. So maybe a constructive review of the actual writing might help.

    When it comes to dialogue, I don’t like to see things like “he cringed.” “He said,” is all you need. If you need to show (not tell) how he’s feeling, do it after “he said.” …he said. Then he cringed and looked down at his shoes. You do this in many places in the above excerpt. Play with it a little and see what I mean. There is a very intersting blog post about this on Nathan Bransford’s blog. I truly think you should read this. Once you learn this, you’re writing will be tighter and neater.

    And, I think if a good deal of this was re-written as narrative instead of dialogue it would work much better. I only like to see dialogue when it either moves the story forward in some way, or has a specific reason to be used. Dialogue for the sake of dialogue slows the book down.

    Good luck.

  22. blabla
    Sep 07, 2009 @ 08:30:48

    LOL! Why do I get the feeling that the hot guy with the hot green eyes owns the BMW??? Anyway, you need to be more specific in that flesh it out in the first few paragraphs of yours about WHO is saying what…
    Also, why would being a nurse equate to being gay??? There are a hell of a guy nurses out there who aren’t gay, didn’t you know?

  23. Ciar Cullen
    Sep 07, 2009 @ 09:10:46

    Okay, so as usual, the odd woman out. I liked it. Sure, it smacks of the new gay HQN line, but so what?

    I was also a little bored with some details, Jeep Wrangler or whatever, but the point of it is obvious. Maybe “banged up clunker” or something. Whatever.

    People with all sorts of last names live in different countries. I live in the US, work at a college with a lot of international students, and they generally name their country if you ask where they are from. I don’t think the author is stereotyping with the nurse thing–I think some of the comments here are, though. Geesh.

    I thought this brought the characters together quickly and only hope the American character gets a little stronger.

    I thought is was a smooth nice job and would keep reading.

  24. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 07, 2009 @ 13:03:18

    There's still a stigma about male nurses in the US? I thought it sounded a bit old-fashioned, but there you go. As in “You're a man, you're a nurse, you must be gay”?

    A lot of male nurses in the US are gay. Probably not the majority, but my anecdata suggests it’s considerably more than the 10% demographics might predict. And if someone grew up in an isolated rural US community, “male nurse” would read as “gay” as much as “male hairdresser” or “male fashion designer” or “male antiques dealer” would. (I say this based on my childhood in an isolated rural US community in Massachusetts; I would think that the mindset in isolated rural Texas would be similar.)

    I also agree that there’s too much infodump for a first page. I like Cody; he seems like he’s real in your mind, so make it more personal. Let the reader get to know him rather than telegraphing all the backstory: IT’S HOUSTON! HE’S A NURSE! HE DOESN’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE WELL! HE’S LONELY FOR A BOYFRIEND! HE’S BROKE AND DRIVING A CRAPPY CAR! HIS COWORKERS CALL HIM ‘COWBOY’!

    Re-imagine this with a closer focus on Cody, like he was your friend and he was telling you about this party. It’s a very realistic and easy-to-relate to scene–we’ve all gone to a party given by folks we like but don’t know well, hoping to meet our Prince Charming.

    Last point: in the last three months, I’ve met dozens of international doctors, nurses, and medical students working in the US (my elderly dad has been in a series of hospitals and rehab facilities). Every one of them has given their country first and then their city: “I’m from Ghana, from the city of Accra.” “I grew up in Italy, in Milan.” “My medical school was St. Andrew’s, in Scotland. It’s near Edinburgh.” So I agree with the people who think Markus would say “I’m from Switzerland. Berne, actually.”

  25. cs
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 06:14:02

    @ Srsly… yes because you’re the only one who gave honest and great comments on this first page. Looking above your so mighty and high comment, I can see numerous people giving some great comments about the writing. But then again, it’s great that you said our opinions are important too. Thanks for that, God knows how we’d all function without your approval there.

    Oh and just because someone works hard, doesn’t mean it’s good either. FYI.

  26. Reaterwood
    May 06, 2010 @ 13:21:51

    Спасибо за инфо, не всё, но кое-где мне помогло.

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