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First Page: Paranormal Humorous Romance: Surviving America’s Sweetheart

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Meet America’s Sweetheart

I’d been dreaming of this moment for ages. While other girls planned their wedding to boy band singers or movie stars, I rehearsed my rose ceremony with my stuffed animals.

“Will you, Mr. Binky Boo, accept this rose?”

My teddy never answered but I could see the relief in his eyes and excitement in his plush paws as I dropped the satin flower in his lap. Of course, he wanted the rose. They always wanted the rose.

Nobody ever said no to America’s Sweetheart. It was a dream that could happen for one special woman, the chance of a lifetime to be wooed by twenty five handsome men and at the end, be engaged to one’s true love.

It was perfection.

As all things that seemed perfect, someone had to come along and screw it up but I wasn’t going to think about that. I was standing on the steps of a beautiful house in paradise (that being Hawaii and not actual Heaven), my bachelors were due to arrive any minute and Tino Thomas was next to me getting his make-up touched up.

“Don’t forget,” Tino was instructing the crew, “my left side is my best side so keep the lights dimmer when I turn right. And Riley, honey, smile. Nobody wants a sweetheart looking serious.”

“Got it.” I smiled widely to show I did indeed, have it. The swipe of Vaseline the make-up lady had put on my teeth for shine and slide was moderately disgusting. But it made my smile better and this Sweetheart was going to be the best they ever had.

My attire was couture. I felt like a princess wearing it. A gorgeous gown, shoes I would have killed for (and they gave them to me!), actual diamonds winking around my throat and wrist (borrowed but still amazing) and I knew I looked like a million bucks. My stiletto was strapped to the back of my thigh and the slit in the dress allowed easy access. They didn’t allow guns until the actual one-on-one dates but knives were encouraged for the group portions.

“Okay,” Tino said as people scattered, “the first car is coming. Keep the smile going. Don’t kill anyone on the steps despite their appearance. You survive this and you might really find true love.”

And if not, you’ll have a wonderful televised burial.

“Are you ready, Riley?”

I smiled. “I’m ready.”

“Let’s make some television history.”

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. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 05:36:47

    Hi Author and thanks for sharing.

    I’m confused, but I think in a pleasant way. I’m not sure if she’s still dreaming or if we’ve slipped into reality. If it is reality, it’s a very interesting one. I want to get deeper into this world, which is the whole point of a good first page.

    I’m reminded of a Tales From the Crypt episode where the winner is crowned Miss Autopsy at the end…I think it’s called Beauty Rest. I like that episode very much, and I like this as well. Nothing is quite as it seems.

    The writing is very smooth, only a few missing hyphens that tripped me up and then only because I was looking for things like that. The only other word that tripped me was stiletto used so soon after the image of shoes. I immediately saw a shoe strapped to her leg.

    This might be the sentence upon which this whole thing turns, and I’m just not getting the point quite as sharply as I should. :)

    Nonetheless, yes, I’d read on. It’s odd, it’s quirky, it’s got humor. I see somehow envision Mr. Thomas wearing football pads though. Is that what you wanted me to see?

    I’m curious to know what the paranormal activity is and how the romance ties it, which, obviously, is another reason to read on.

    Good work, Author!

  2. Jinni
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 06:02:15

    I don’t read paranormal. But you hooked me with her carrying a weapon. I’d read on.

  3. Kate Sherwood
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 06:45:03

    I was bored until the weapon. Now… moderately intrigued.

    Humorous Paranormal isn’t really my thing, so quite possibly someone with more enthusiasm for the sub-genre will be more enthusiastic about the excerpt.

    I can’t really think of any constructive criticism. (I just thought I should comment to make that clear, rather than not commenting and leaving you wondering whether people had even read it).

  4. cleo
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 08:06:21

    I’m intrigued. I’d keep reading.

    Like Carol McKenzie, I also initially thought the stiletto was a shoe, not a weapon.

  5. Mary
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 08:14:10

    I wasn’t interested at all until the weapon, and now I’m kinda curious to see where it goes, but I think that the idea is really hot or miss.
    But, you did interest me, so good job!

  6. QC
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 08:48:40

    I was interested before the weapon. I’d read on.

  7. Alicia Elliott
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 09:37:48

    Hi Author,

    Thanks for sharing. The stiletto thing threw me too, and I agree it’s the placement so close to the shoe description.

    The opening paragraphs with Mr. Binky Boo were a little off for me too. Nothing wrong technically, but I need to be immediately grounded in the setting. If it were me, I’d start with Riley on the steps of the mansion and have her flashback as she awaited her bachelors. Just a sentence would do it for me. As is, I pictured your heroine spinning around her bedroom, daydreaming.

    The gun jarred me–perhaps because I didn’t get the stiletto bit at first–but as I read on, began smiling. I kind of like that “Wait…what?!?!” shock value that makes me scan back over the previous sentences for clues I should have picked up on.

    Lastly, commas. You need them in all of your compound sentences. This is a biggie that will immediately indicate to an agent your level of writing experience.

    Overall, I think you have solid first page here, and I’d definitely read on. Best of luck, Author!

  8. sao
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 10:30:48

    Binky boo made her seem like a immature and naive child. I’d replace it with Tino making her up and talking about America’s sweetheart.

  9. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 11:12:47

    In thinking about this, I’d cut the first three paragraphs and start with “Nobody ever said no…”

    Unless the teddy bear makes an appearance later, it’s backstory that, while cute, isn’t relevant. You can have her tell someone, if you really think it’s necessary, about playing pretend with Mr. Binky Boo.

    Otherwise, I think it dilutes your first page a little bit.

  10. Meljean
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 13:42:25

    I love this, but I agree with some comments above — the Binky Boo is confusing. I’d start with “Nobody ever said no to America’s Sweetheart.” If you want to add the Binky Boo, keep it after we’re clear exactly WHAT America’s Sweetheart is, because it is a cute little touch.

    Overall, though, this is smoothly written, and I love the idea of a fight-to-the-death (paranormal) reality television show. Good luck!

  11. Marianne McA
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 15:12:20

    I thought “As (with) all things that seemed perfect, someone had to come along and screw it up but I wasn’t going to think about that” was a bit of a clunky sentence, and if she’s not going to think about it here, I’m more annoyed that she’s bothering to mention it than intrigued about who the mystery person is.

    Apart from that, humour is especially subjective, so this is only my take.

    I didn’t find the aside “(that being Hawaii and not actual Heaven)” funny, so it just slowed down the sentence for me.

    I would have found the instruction: “Don’t kill anyone on the steps” properly funny, if you had stopped there and hadn’t added “despite their appearance. You survive this and you might really find true love.”

    I can see you want to tell the reader that this might be fatal for Riley, but the continuation killed the joke for me. (The humour – for me – lies in the incongruity between his concern for production values and his lack of concern for human life. But his concern for Riley runs counter to that, undercuts the humour…)

    It’s almost there, but I wouldn’t buy a humorous book (in any genre) unless it surprised a laugh out of me, and this doesn’t quite do that. Humour is really subjective though, and others will have a different take.

    Good luck.

  12. Lucy Woodhull
    Aug 16, 2014 @ 19:01:07

    Yay, a murderous rom com! I LOOOOOOVE your premise, and I would read the shit outta this. Of course, I’m a rom com author, so I’m 1000% your audience.

    Some quibbles, because that’s the deal.

    Yes, stiletto is confusing. Made me wonder why a shoe was strapped to her thigh. Change it to knife–clarity is your friend when you’re turning the tables.

    Second, I agree with Marianne. “…despite their appearance” is a bad end to the sentence. Make a joke of it, because it’s already halfway there. “Don’t kill anyone on the steps–if he splatters on my suit, we’ll have to start over again and costume changes are *such* a pain.” Or something, but the sentence needs to be reworked.

    This being said…if you call your book funny, then it damn well better be funny from the get go. The first sentence should be amusing at least, the first paragraph should end on a joke, and the first page should offer several laughs. I need to LOL in my living room if you call you book funny. You’re got a great concept, rife with dark humor options. Don’t fall down halfway there–commit to the premise and go all the way. (PS–when you query, don’t ever call your book humorous or funny. That’s for the reader to decide, and your query itself should be funny enough to get the point across.)

    I see so many humor writers worry that not everyone will get the joke, or explaining it. These are traps. NOBODY will get all the jokes but you, and that’s okay. Trust in the intelligence of your audience and go balls to the wall. Ovaries to the wall. Whatever. But push the envelope; you’ve already proven you can with the concept. Think of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray–that lady is fearless!

    Good luck! When you get this one published, I’d love to hear about it.

    xo Lucy

  13. Rosie
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 07:55:32

    It grabbed me. I was not confused about the stiletto nor turned off by “binky boo”, the childhood teddy bear. Actually, I went right to the excerpt and thought it was a sneak peek. I went searching for the book to buy it. Not sure what makes this paranormal, but I am intrigued.

  14. Kristi
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 14:02:47

    I agree with sooo many comments here! Just wanted to post and say I read it too and enjoyed.
    – Binkyboo turned me off. Really loved Alicia’s point about starting on the steps and having a one sentence flash back.
    – I also thought stiletto was a shoe but I kept going and it was clear.
    – The killing part made me drop my mouth open in shock.

    Really love it. I ADORE reading about reality shows though. Jessica Clare is writing some of my favorites lately.

    This is one option where I wish I could know when a book was published from one of these pages so I could buy it!

  15. Willaful
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 16:16:09

    Definitely intrigued! Is there a deliberate Robert Sheckley influence or just coincidence?

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