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First Page: One Woman’s War

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“Damn it.” Kerri hit the button to call the elevator to take her down from this personal hell. Continuing to mutter under her breath, she glanced back at the door she’d just slammed behind her, leaving her former lover angry but safe from her past.

“What was I thinking? I know better than to get that close to a human.”

She stomped onto the elevator. The two people there drew back into their respective corners. Kerri just shook her head. Giving away feelings showed weakness. Never give away anything other than anger. That came easy and it came free.

She knew she’d been hard on Mick, but she couldn’t afford to let anyone love her. Not with her family ties—it was a sure recipe for his death. The one time she’d forgotten that rule had resulted in a headstone – a permanent reminder every time she thought she might love again. Not to mention her exile status.

She’d carried a photo of that headstone for years. Exiting the elevator on the parking level, she swung into her old brown Jeep Wrangler and threw her bag in the back. Her cell phone slid out of the bag and across the backseat. The blinking light indicated a message. Grabbing the electronic leash, she hit the buttons to retrieve the message.

“Perfect.” Hitting a button to delete the message she flipped the phone shut then tossed it into the holder. Reaching forward, Kerri cranked up the radio. She hit the highway five miles over the posted limit with her foot jamming down the accelerator. Time to go to work.

Cars fell out of her way as she wove her way down the interstate. Ray Charles remembered “Georgia On My Mind” on her stereo. This wasn’t Georgia by a long shot, but then again, home was in her distant past. Denver came in a poor second to Olympus but at least it had mountains.

Kerri grimaced. Her mother and sisters didn’t live in Georgia exactly, but that’s where her resume said she was from. No one would ever believe that her family lived in caves on Mount Olympus. Once she’d thought that the best place to be—until her mother had let the old fart throw her out.

Of course her mother had argued like a lawyer that Kerri had brought Zeus’s wrath down on her own head. Her sisters had wheedled information about where she’d been and they’d gone straight to Mom. Kerri had raged against her family but in the end knew she could only blame herself for her exile and Charlie’s death. At least Zeus had relented enough to let her visit once a year after a ten year ‘no contact’ ban. Of course her mother and sisters had skirted around that stupid proclamation by mirror visits, but she’d missed the physical contact with her siblings.

She sighed. Her knack for pissing off powerful people was not a track record she was proud of.
I’d apologize again, Zeusy, if I thought it would get me anywhere. You just want me to go back to work for you and I’ll be gods damned if I let you make me a soldier in your war on mankind. I’ve grown fond of the mortals.

Shit. Her sisters didn’t seem to have any problems with Zeus’s agenda. Then again when you had sisters whose names meant Quick Painful Death, Mist of Death, Disease and Hateful, what did you expect? In a way it was almost a relief to be the one whose name meant destruction. She shook off the old pain of missing her sibs. No time for this. Her monthly check-in wasn’t for another week so she’d have to suck it up for now.

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. Susan Reader
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 08:40:15

    I already have a strong idea of what is going on, which is good.

    But…there’s an awful lot of play-by-play description here. Sometimes it’s also jarringly repetitive: “hit the button” to retrieve message immediately followed by “hit the button” to delete the message.

    And… “down” from hell? My brain keeps tripping over that one!

  2. Arwen
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 11:32:53

    I found the Georgia/Denver/Olympus part a bit confusing.

  3. reader
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 12:30:15

    I seldom read either paranormals or contemporaries, so I don’t know how fresh this is, but it felt fresher than the paranormal plot summaries I’ve read lately. I think you’ve set up some solid conflict, not just external but internal, and you’ve done a nice job of characterization. I like the “likes mortals but can’t love mortals” aspect.

    I don’t know a lot about Greek mythology, either, but enough to follow where this may be going and to understand the relationship elements you’ve laid out. As far as the description, I think all the “hits” express her anger and frustration nicely, but in the line where she’s hitting to delete and then hitting the highway, that doesn’t work as well. Too many to express different things. So maybe cut one of those hits.

    I’m assuming Kerri is a diminutive or a modernization? So she’s been among mortals for over ten years now and she’s still alone and fuming? That’s some serious anger and suffering. I’d like to feel it burning a little deeper. Here, it feels a little flip in places and maybe petulant; as if she’s 17 or 18 instead of however old she is. If she’s immortal, I guess ten years is a drop in the bucket for her. Still, as much as I like the dark humor, I want to feel more of her grief and loneliness too. I’d imagine her feeling that way after so many years.

    I’d also put a comma after “angry” in the “angry but safe.” It feels as though it needs a pause.

  4. Lori
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 12:39:01

    This was all telling and all back story with nothing happening except a petulant heroine.

    I love Greek mythology but nothing about this hooked me. She stomped, she cursed, she punched buttons and she was angry. She sounded like my 11 year old when she doesn’t get her way.

    Sorry but this to me needs a serious rewrite. More depth, less wah, wah, wah. And calling Zeus Zeusy truly was an 11 year old moment.

    Sorry to be harsh author. Your idea is good, your heroine just sounds like a tantrumming brat.

  5. Anon1
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 12:52:53

    Way too much noise and abuse of the progressive form:

    Hitting a button to delete the message she flipped the phone shut then tossed it into the holder.

    The “hitting” would mean that she does it exactly at the same time as flipping it shut. Since that’s not possible, I’m thrown immediately out of the text and my disbelief doesn’t stay suspended. Heroine seems immature, pouty and childish (12 years old?), so I’m catapulted out before I’ve finished the first page.

    Greek mythology sounds interesting, though.

  6. Lucy Woodhull
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 13:28:58

    The first line is ruined by not coming “up” from her personal hell. Fix that, and it’s a great opening line. This is not my cuppa, because I’ve grown tired of heroes and heroines who are too dangerous to love, never want to feel emotions, etc. Of course, she will love again, ‘cuz this is a romance, so it’s rather moot. But even so, the all-backstory page, all-petulant heroine, and repetition would cause me to put this back down, I’m afraid.

    Repetitive stuff like this: “indicated a message. Grabbing the electronic leash, she hit the buttons to retrieve the message. “Perfect.” Hitting a button to delete the message” Yes, we get it — there’s a message. But you don’t follow through on what it is, so who cares? If you’re not adept at just reading and seeing where you’re being repetitive (and it’s hard, I know — we all have blind spots to our own writing), you might consider something like AutoCrit (Google it). I’m not their shill, I promise :) but damn if I don’t use that software and it catches the tiny stuff even I missed after reading a MS four hundred times.

    There is no actual story in this segment. I mean — she’s gonna command Mick to not love her? If the people she’s involved with all die, what does it matter if they love her or not? Is she being hunted by Zeus all the time or something? The Greek myth thing intrigues me, but she doesn’t seem goddessey at all. (Or semi-goddessey, or whatever.) I feel like if you’re gonna do thousands-year-old immortal being, you need to add something fresh. And she kinda sounds like every uber-tough, angry paranormal heroine who is Too Dangerous to Love (TM).

    Figure out where your story starts, and go from there. Figure out where your heroine is vulnerable, and begin there. Real vulnerability can make a character likeable and relatable in a way that grrr-armor-warrior-woman/man alone might not. Is there a conflict between her goddess side and the side who digs mortals? That’s a great place to start with what makes her as an individual tick. There’s solid writing here, but more depth and a bit more polish will make it sing. Good luck!

  7. meoskop
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 14:44:37

    What everyone else said. I think you can fix everything here by considering your second (and to my mind unneeded) sentence.

    Continuing to mutter under her breath, she glanced back at the door she’d just slammed behind her, leaving her former lover angry but safe from her past.

    You’ve got five things happening here and all of them are past tense. There’s no time for the reader to catch up, because they are being told everything and shown very little. I agree she feels immature, perhaps because we have no emotional investment in her. It’s too soon in our relationship for us to share or identify with her frustration, we can only witness it. Is the first impression of her the one you want the reader to carry? Is this her defining trait?

  8. Jane Lovering
    Sep 09, 2012 @ 05:22:06

    I’d start at that second to last paragraph. ‘She sighed. Pissing off powerful people..’ etc, and then kick the story off there, drip-feeding some of the backstory in through with events as they happen. It reads a little bit ‘the story so far’ to me, as it stands. And there’s a lot of names being dropped in for the reader to remember, for a first page. But, saying that, I’m interested in the story, in Kerri and her journey, just fix a few things, make her a little more mature, so that I can relate to her better rather than wanting to slap her, and this could be something I’d want to read!

  9. Bren
    Sep 09, 2012 @ 11:19:56

    Nothing happens here. The lady storms off after an argument, gets in her car and speeds away. That’s it. My opinion is that you’ve started the story in the wrong place.

  10. Nemo
    Sep 09, 2012 @ 16:45:29

    I think starting with her arguing with her former lover would be a more exciting and characterizing place to start. Everything the others said is right on the nose, it’s info-dumping and bad characterization.

  11. Loreen
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 11:56:19

    Back it up. Start with the confrontation with her lover or before. Why does she go to see him if she doesn’t want to? Who is this guy, anyway? What is her character’s motivation? Is she going to go to work for Zeus? Or hide from him? Maybe back all the way up to when she gets the message from Zeus or her family…does this have anything to do with the reason she goes to see her lover?
    Right now, she is just an angry girl stomping around and that is not appealing in a heroine. At least show us why she is angry.
    This is too much back-story before we care about the characters.

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