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First Page: Paranormal Romance

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The guy's aura betrayed him. Whatever he was up to was bad. Like tearing wings off butterflies bad. And he was walking directly toward her.

"Yeah, I got him," she said to the small terrier pawing at her leg.

Her teeth clenched as she stood completely still under the shade of the wing, watching him continue toward her. The plane was the only thing that stood between her and the man no more than twenty feet away.

She grabbed her logbook and pretended to read it in one hand as she clicked off the safety on the gun she held in her other hand behind her back, never letting the guy out of her sight. Everything about the guy's aura screamed foul. And that big ball of ugly was intently focused on Kerra and now only ten feet away and closing the distance.

"Hey! Can I help you?" she yelled out, waving the logbook in the air. She had jumping beans in her stomach, but if this guy thought she would just lie down and let him steal her plane, he would learn very quickly that she was the best student her self defense instructor ever taught.

No response. Instead, he just kept walking right at her, unfazed.

The fool had to be an idiot to try to steal a plane with its pilot standing right next to it. Unless-

Oh shit.

Unless of course the creep also needed a pilot for whatever fricked up scheme he had planned.

The small municipal airport was nearly deserted today – just like it was every day. The perfect place for a no-gooder to get busy being up to no good, she thought to herself.

The man abruptly froze with a deer-in-the-headlights look as something near the runway yanked his attention away from her. The colors of his aura trembled like raindrops breaking a puddle. Whatever he saw had him scared shitless. He spun like a plane in a ground loop and scurried back the way he came, pausing just long enough to throw a snarling glare her way.

Cripes. What an asshole. In response to his sneer, she flipped him the bird.

After enough distance was put between Kerra and the man, she leaned against the Maule and let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. That was the closest she'd ever been to plane-jacking, or robbery, or whatever the hell that guy had been up to. She would be sure to tell Hap about him first thing Monday morning, so a bulletin could be posted at the airport office.

She dropped the logbook and rubbed the back of her neck. Her muscles were tight, bringing on an instant tension headache. She glanced down at her other hand. It made her damn glad to have bought the Glock several months earlier. Being in Alaska, she figured she'd need the gun against bear or elk. Never, ever had she thought she'd need it against a human.

Once she found her nerve again, she pulled herself up and stretched around the tail to see what scared the guy away.

And did a double take.

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. Marcella
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 06:24:35

    Got me hooked straightaway. One of the best first pages I’ve read here.

  2. joanne
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 06:41:49

    Huge kudos for not letting your first page fall into the ‘new author vat of descriptive adjectives’.

    Still, I think grammar counts, and so does being sure your paragraph flows for the reader.

    “I got him” is surely “I’ve got him”?
    And then terrier just disappeared?
    And “tearing wings off butterflies bad” leads to her “standing under the shade of the wing” probably should be “wing of the plane”. Plane is in the next sentence but it’s confusing.
    The last sentence reads like her hand made her glad rather then her decision to buy a gun.

    With those nits picked I liked it a lot and would certainly read on.

    Thanks so much for putting your work here and good luck!

  3. DS
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 06:57:05

    I kept wondering where the props came from. When was the log book before she picked it up? Where was the gun before she was holding it behind her back? What was the dog doing? Ten feet and closing fast isn’t very much space. When she dropped the logbook did it just plop on the ground?

    She also bought a glock to try to protect herself from an Alaskan grizzly or an elk–? I think a rifle or a shotgun would be a better choice.

  4. Pat
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 07:47:10

    This is really good. It might even tempt me to try a paranormal.

    There is only one thing that bothers me a bit. Why did she wait so long to turn around to see what scared the creep away? I know different people react differently, but I think I would have spun around right away.

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 08:11:11

    This is an accomplished and interesting piece of writing. As it stands, you could leave it, if you want.
    If I had a comment, it would be to take a deep breath and step back. Less is more. So cut out some of the metaphors and focus on what is really important in this scene.
    She sees him, is put on alert because of his aura, and she is armed.
    Spread that part a bit more, and make it more focused. It doesn’t look like you need too much help in other areas.
    Maybe, because this is a romance (isn’t it?)just a hint at an initial emotional or sexual reaction, a spike of “hmm, he looks sexy.” Nothing more, no heavy erotic references at this stage.
    And the “frick” and the “cripes” seemed a bit juvenile for this character, or maybe they were substitutes for the words you really used?
    Me? I wouldn’t read this because of personal reasons. I’m just a little averse to too much snark, and clever-clever references. But there’s a huge audience for this approach, so really, there’s no need to bother with the odd people out like me. Keep going, tweak it a tiny bit, and you’re good to go.

  6. query1
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 08:40:41

    Nice job creating tension. I did read through the entire thing but I had niggles. Here are some of them that came to me once I stopped and thought about it. That said, had I had more of the story, I would’ve turned the page to read more. How much more would’ve depended on whether or not the niggles moved into the front of my brain.

    * * * * *

    The aura bit needs more details at the beginning to establish how she knows that he’s planning something vs. he’s just a bad dude since she’s never met him before and has no context/previous behavior.

    Although I don’t like tearing butterfly wings off, it’s something kids do and not something that would set off an imminent danger signal to me without more context.
    I agree with Pat, if she’s already on alert and something scares her would-be attacker away, she’d be checking it out before lowering her level of alert.

    Ten feet is much too close to allow him to get before challenging him because three or four steps and he’s on her. And if this airport is deserted why didn’t she notice him a couple of hundred feet away? Also he wouldn’t be able to see much beyond her, the dog and the plane. Where is the runaway in comparison to her and the plane that something catches his eye and she can’t see it?

    I think her thoughts are wrong once she realizes she’s in danger. Instead of thinking about what he wants or the deserted airport, she should be analyzing her adversary. His height, weight. What his reach will be, how he moves so that she’d know how to be proactive or reactive. Whether or not he might have a weapon. Something to indicate that she’s actually been trained in self-defense.

    A glock for a bear? I don’t know enough about guns to know how reasonable that is. My thought is similar to DS’s that she’d have a rifle for that purpose. Not that she couldn’t also have a glock in addition to.

    I am also confused on where she’s grabbing her props since she’s under the wing of the plane. And then I’m wondering what kind of plane this is and why the airport is deserted. I don’t expect a small airport to be crowded but I do expect people (mechanic, air traffic controller or at least someone monitoring communicators in case of emergencies, something). It is Alaska after all and freak weather changes happen so in my head that means that “airports” keep track of planes and flight plans and to do that you have people someone at the facility. I admit to knowing nothing about this but it’s a niggle that popped into my mind.

    Finally, you don’t wait to report something like that because by the time Monday morning comes around the details of the event are muddled or you’ve completely forgotten about the incident because other events have happened between now and then. And if this is a small airport in Alaska how did this guy get there? I assume he had to have some type of vehicle since my assumption is that this is rather like being in the middle of nowhere so where does he run to after he’s scared off and why isn’t she tracking him?

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  8. Jo
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 08:57:33

    At first I hated the first line, but as my eyes started absorbing the second sentence, I was already revising my opinion and really liking the first line.

    This is good. I agree, one of the best first pages. I had some of same problems with grammar and some awkward sentence structure (After enough distance was put between Kerra and the man, she leaned …), but having said that, it all worked pretty well for me. I didn’t think about the props appearing, but I did wonder about a Glock to stop a bear (paging Sarah Palin). Last, I want to underscore that 10 feet is really close and Kerra probably wouldn’t be yelling. At that point, the guy was still coming toward her and I had a sense he was closing fast. She’s waving the logbook instead of showing her gun? Martial arts isn’t such a big deal when you’re holding a Glock (remember Indiana Jones just shooting the sword-wielding assassin?).

    But let me emphasize, I absolutely want to know what (or who) Kerra sees when she looks over her shoulder. Way to leave us hanging!

  9. Lorelie Brown
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 09:08:05

    I read the whole thing *and* clicked through from Google reader, so that’s a good sign. Very interesting, though it needs some cleaning up here and there.

    My only problem comes down to the timing of the hook at the end. I know you’re looking for that “eep, must keep reading” line, but look at it as a whole.

    Bad scary guy coming at her. Bad scary guy frightened by something “near the runway.” She thinks phew, physically unwinds, then looks at the gun that had nothing to do with scaring bad scary guy and thinks “yay, glad I have this.” There’s even time in there to flip the dude off. And *THEN* she looks for what scared off bad scary guy. Doesn’t make sense.

  10. Courtney Milan
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 09:08:55

    This is really good. You do such a great job of integrating the world building into the sense of danger; it never feels clonky or inserted.

    I really like this.

  11. theo
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 09:10:36

    While I agree on the technical nitpicks of the writing, I really have to agree with DS.

    Tearing wings off butterflies? Very juvenile sounding to me as well, along with the “frick” and other words that don’t give as much punch as (if you don’t want to use f**k) even hell would.

    I hate to say this, but a light plane can’t stand between anyone unless their crouched on the ground behind the tiny tires trying to hide which is close to impossible. And regardless of the type of plane, that was the first impression I got. And if she’s trying to keep it between them, why bother to call out to him? Why not keep her mouth shut and watch what he does with an eye to making the first strike herself (since she’s got the magically appearing gun) and he’s supposed to be scaring the beejeebers out of her(though again, I didn’t really get that from this post.)

    Have you ever picked up a pilot’s logbook with one hand? Difficult though not impossible, but it seems for her, she juggles it perfectly because there’s no trouble. And where did it come from? Does she have a rolling workbench by her? From where did the gun suddenly materialize? Was it in her waistband? Pocket? Did she just conjure it out of thin air? And that size in the Alaskan wilderness doesn’t work for me. If she wants to protect herself from grizzly, she’s got to be an ace shot to do it with a gun like that.

    What happened to the dog? I’m sure others have, but I’ve never met a terrier that didn’t bark at the totally unknown person. And bark a lot! But this one only paws her leg then is no more?

    The first time I get an idea of what the guy must be thinking/doing/feeling is when he throws a snarling glare her way. I can’t see his aura and I don’t get any real description of it. You know what it looks like. You’re the author. Show me. Plus, even if the guy was 25 feet from her, she’d be able to see the expression on his face unless either the sun was behind him or his aura was hiding his features.

    I’m sorry. I suppose this sounds harsh, but these were all the things that were going through my head, plus much more, while I was reading this. She doesn’t come across as a very smart heroine if that’s what she is, because I get too much flippant sass and not enough tense moment here. Even in good UF, the sassy HN usually conveys her harder emotions through the sass.

    It doesn’t work for me at all, though I know that’s not the majority of the comments so far. Sorry.

  12. TriciaB
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 10:10:12

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented on one of these before, but the first page of your story drew me in (and I am not a first page kinda girl, I rarely am sold on or off a book by the first page. but here goes)

    I liked this very much, I do want to know what happens next. I liked the tearing wings off butterflies line. I think you did a great job of creating tension and showing just enough to keep us reading.

    My little nitpicks. The dog on what I assume is the runway. That seemed off to me, I fly a lot from huge to tiny airports and the only time I have seen a dog out on the a runway/plane are was when I got special permission (and an escort) to take my dog out to pee when we were all iced in. The only time I have heard about dogs on the runway was when John Travolta’s got killed. Maybe have the dog already in the plane and have him bark to get her attention? It would be more believable to me.

    I also agree that if the bad guy was scared shitless, she would not breathe a sigh of relief, so, imo, you should either tone his fear of the thing down or ratchet hers up.

    And finally, although I liked the butterflies line, I did not like the jumping beans frick and cripes stuff. It felt a bit Sookie Stackhouse-esque but then Kerra also says shit and shitless which is in direct contrast. If you say shit, you’ll say crap.

    Just my two cents. Please keep writing it – I’d buy it.

  13. job
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 10:21:54

    Yes, indeed. Very nice.
    Are you in character POV? If you are, you don’t need to use ‘Kerra’ more than once. You’re inside the woman, in her thoughts, and she doesn’t think of herself as ‘Kerra’.
    In deep POV, everything is perceived from the viewpoint character’s place in the scene.
    After enough distance was put between Kerra and the man, she leaned against the Maule and let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding.
    This describes the distance from the standpoint of someone watching both people. Deeper in POV that might be:
    When the man was thirty yards away and still going strong, she let out a breath she hadn’t known was stored up inside her and sagged back against the Maule.
    You can also slip more firmly into POV by not ‘telling us’ her thought prosesses in the past:
    Being in Alaska, she figured she'd need the gun against bear or elk. Never, ever had she thought she'd need it against a human.
    But just letting her have the thoughts in front of us.
    So. She’d finally pulled the gun. It wasn’t against Alaskan bear or elk. She’d faced a man. Thank God she didn’t have to shoot.

  14. job
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 10:31:07

    Drat. There’s no ‘edit’ button.


    I say ‘cripes’ all the time, so if I were the author I’d stick to my guns.

  15. Gwynnyd
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 10:54:47

    Yeah, a few pickies, but overall I’d say it’s very good and I’d keep reading even though I am not particularly fond of paranormals. I like the voice a lot.

    “Logbooks” can be any size. My private pilot husband uses a little spiral notebook that easily stows in a pocket.

    Many small airports are deserted much of the time, or the people there are tucked away in their hangars and not paying attention to what is happening out on the flight line, so that didn’t bother me. From her comments, this is an airport she uses frequently and, even if there were others there, they might not bother to watch her take off. It could be literally deserted too. There is no “control tower” or anything like that at most small airports. Pilots don’t have to file flight plans or tell anyone where they are going before they take off under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and if they wanted to file for instrument flight (IFR) they can do it midair or online. No officials have to be there at the airport. Even the gas pumps are self-serve these days.

    It’s obviously a high-wing airplane, she even specifies a Maule, so if she is standing under the wing, she can have the door open and be reaching inside for stuff. I agree it would be nice if the reader knew that, but a phrase or two would take care of it. The plane would also block the view for anyone approaching from the other side. Her legs would be partly visible among the wheels and struts, but not glaringly obvious, if the guy is coming up from the other side of the plane.

    On the “never point a gun unless you intend to use it” theory, I understand why she might not want to start out with that as a threat and keep the gun in reserve. How reliable is an “aura” of actual behavior? We don’t know yet.

    The disappearing terrier was a bit disconcerting, but, since it happened, I was almost expecting that it was the terrier who had morphed into the second threat and scared the guy away. That would also explain her relaxation. She would have known it was her “dog”, but might not have expected the particular transformation she saw.

    I’d read on. Good job.

  16. okbut
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 10:59:04

    this first page kept me reading, but this paragraph was a bit much:

    “The man abruptly froze with a deer-in-the-headlights look as something near the runway yanked his attention away from her. The colors of his aura trembled like raindrops breaking a puddle. Whatever he saw had him scared shitless. He spun like a plane in a ground loop and scurried back the way he came, pausing just long enough to throw a snarling glare her way.”

    This could be shortened to 2 sentences without the cliches. Much more effective and better flow. Agree with other nit picks.

    thanks for submitting.

  17. FunnyGirl
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:04:44

    I liked this one a lot – nice voice. Keep your metaphors and cripes and such. They give you a unique sound. Lots of people will tell you to sound like everyone else. Resist! I think that’s why so many romances read like they’re all written by the same person.

    I do agree that the no-gooding no-gooder should be farther away. I didn’t mind that she didn’t turn to see what had scared him. I assumed it was a good guy there to help her. If I were her, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to turn my back on him, either. Maybe she can assume in her steam of consciousness that it’s someone there to help her – it explains why she doesn’t react as he does. That could also set up the surprise that it’s not what she thought it was at the end of the scene.

    Good luck!

  18. Gwynnyd
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:10:18

    Oh, and dogs… at little airports, dogs are no big deal. Many pilots have them in the hangars or fly with them.

    Apparently, many people have only seen commercial flights and airports of Classes A, B and C and D. Little private pilot airports, Class G, that are the type that would be called a “small municipal airport” are very different and much more casual.

    hmmm… Since you have some readers who are getting thrown out of the story by accurate details they assume are wrong… wow… how to clarify and avoid info dumps… er, good luck!

  19. Berinn Rae
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:16:17

    Wow. All I can say is THANKS… a huge thanks for your suggestions (and of course your words of inspiration!). I submitted this first page, knowing it needed work but was stuck. (Gwynnyd – you nailed how I saw the airport/plane thing… I’m a private pilot, too. Your ideas will help me clarify that piece).
    I will take all your comments to heart as I work through my edits. Thanks so much… the readers of Dear Author kick ass!

  20. Debra
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:17:58

    I wanted to keep reading. Now I hope the book does come out and you let us know the title!!

  21. Meljean
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:25:46

    I liked it, too, though I had some of the same questions about the terrier, the size of the plane, and why she was holding a gun behind her back, and why she thought a Glock would be useful against a bear or an elk (also, she’d probably be more worried about a moose — when I lived in Alaska, I heard about a few cow moose attacks (even in the cities — one was right on the U of A campus, in fact) but never an elk attack.)

    But these are little things that can be fixed in edits. Your voice is great, this is easy to read, and I’d keep going on to the next page.

  22. Meljean
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:29:53

    @Berinn Rae: Oh, I just checked out your website. Is this KNIGHTFALL? If so, congratulations on the sale! I hope you’ll remind us when this comes out.

  23. Afiawri
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:30:12

    The first line is a suitable hook and nice and ominous. However, indicating here what is setting her off about him- whether she has a general sense of unease, sees something about him, had seen him do something, or if she can actually see auras or a combination, would be beneficial. As she does actually see auras, you can add visual details aiding this OR you can make him appear plain and ordinary: someone no one else would’ve noticed, someone no one’s going to save her from until it’s too late, a perfectly ordinary or even very handsome, clean cut man.

    The line: The plane was the only thing that stood between her and the man no more than twenty feet away. is not, however. If you want readers to have a good judge of distance, you perhaps should’ve given a detail on the plane. Nothing after ‘the man’ is productive here: perhaps adding a detail, minor or major but related- what he’s done that makes him dangerous or a reference, silly or serious, detailed or vague, misleading or not, to an incident between them previously or a detail about him more than his ‘aura’. This would better support the tone.

    as she clicked off the safety on the gun she held in her other hand behind her back
    This bit has an issue with redundancy. If she’s pretending to read a log book in one hand, one assumes it’s visible and not behind her back. Eliminating “in her other hand” would be wise. It helps with flow and it removes needless repetition.

    The way you slip in her name is good. Also how you update the reader on it being her plane. But the sentence where you mention the plane is quite the mess, particularly the part where she says she was the best student her self defense instructor ever taught. You’re trying to do one of two things: say she can fight him off or say she thinks she can fight him off but she’s overly confident. You either want to give a measure of skill that makes it undeniable he can kick her ass, for example, something about hoping up from beginning self defense to intermediate in the span or a short period or much faster than average. Or that she can beat up the boy in her self defense class x pounds heavier or x times as large. Alternatively, if you want her to be falsely confident, you must make it apparent that her measure is completely inadequate. She’d learned how to kick without falling down a month ago. Or give a sense of inflated confidence somewhere previous to this to alter the meaning of the phrase you already have.

    If he’s a fool to steal a plane with its pilot right there, why does she think he’s stealing it? Why does she think he’s not stealing another plane nearby? Or are there no other planes nearby? You say the airport is small, but not empty. If hers is the only plane around, that would make his decision to steal one with a pilot right there insignificant. If it’s not, that should aid her realization that he wants her too.

    The description of how his aura wavers is beautifully done. That simile is wonderfully original and very visual. Though, your previous description of how she sees auras is not. Is it colorful? Does it surround him, hang over his head? (Yes, I know, it’s an aura, but a little description would go a long way.)

    After enough distance was put… That’s a passive sentence. After there was enough distance, maybe. After he was far enough away. After he’d walked such and such a distance away.

    And here, after he goes away, she admits she doesn’t know why he was there. You should make it clear that she jumped to the worst conclusion and why.

    And here I ask- if there’s a bulletin being posted, doesn’t he have to have done something? Or is this a supernatural world where ‘bad aura’ is good enough? Or does Hap just plain understand. Yes, you might cover these questions later, but the reader is asking them now, and it would be wise to throw them a sentence or so on why that is, particularly since you have something else you want the readers focused on: the thing that scared the guy away.

    “Being in Alaska…” I would eliminate the word being, it’s awkward and a little confusing. If you were trying to indicate she was in Alaska and then got scared and bought the gun, come out and state that.

    That she hasn’t yet looked at the frightening thing when she was braced against the man, gun in hand, seems quite odd to me. She has the adrenaline pumping and there’s something bigger or scarier than a plane jacker and her eyes don’t flit over there? Against human nature, unless she has a reason and it should be stated right around the time he’s fleeing. Also- does the dog react? You make no more mention of him: is he afraid? Oblivious?

    Overall quite good. Nice and tense. Your mood is constantly well done and it seems to be on minor things you’ve tripped up on so far. Errors that can be fixed in the space of a few words. You have a good sense of what makes a good scene without too much drama or too little impact, a way of giving weight to action, and a good pace. You also have a good sense of cliff hangers and hooks, are quite good at characterizing and providing details without stopping or getting in the way of the plot at all. You use strong sentence structure and a good number of details and the right kind of details. Your metaphors tend to be original and I like the attempt (though not the effect of the attempt) to work in a pilot’s plane metaphor; this was a good way of characterizing her thinking and in reinforcing she’s a pilot without having it in the reader’s face (as was the logbook).

    I’m seeing people saying this is an exceptionally good first page. Not having read previous ones, I can’t give an opinion on that, but I can say I liked what I saw and it was well and away better than any unpublished fiction I’ve seen in some months, perhaps years, and I easily read a minimum of one a day, so please don’t let my nitpicking make you think I don’t adore this- I do.

  24. Berinn Rae
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:41:45

    @Meljean – It is KNIGHTFALL! I’m still giddy with excitement that I snagged the contract. Dear Author came through with perfect timing as I’m just getting started on edits. It’s my crazy-lucky day… I’m going to go buy a lottery ticket now.

  25. Cathy in AK
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 11:59:37

    Congrats on the sale!

    Overall I enjoyed this, but one detail did stick out for me: we don’t have *that* many elk in AK. Moose or caribou, or perhaps musk ox, depending on where you are, would be more likely. And moose can be quite aggressive, particularly males during rut or females protecting calves, so a gun would be a good idea. I had no problem with your heroine carrying a pistol rather than a rifle, though my first thought was as a nosiemaker to scare off a critter versus actually taking it down. Unless she was desperate and got in a very lucky shot : )

    Good luck with your debut!

  26. Berinn Rae
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 12:05:25

    Cathy in AK – I was taking a stab at the elk thing and will definitely fix to moose… (I can’t believe I made that mistake!). Thanks so much! I was thinking the same about the gun, i.e. using it to scare.

    Fortunately, with just a few words, I can really clarify things. Of course, I’ll need to do take a fresh look at my entire story. Everyone’s advice helps me read through it from a different perspective.

  27. theo
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 12:11:33

    I think my comment got moderated because I typed the word v**gr* in it, but if your publisher is in fact Crescent Moon, their front page has been hijacked by the kind of company that sells that so called “legal” stuff…

  28. whome
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 12:22:15

    I had similar issues with the airport and plane. I didn’t get a good enough feel for the surrounding area to understand why she didn’t see him sooner or if he came from her blind spot (I pulled up a Maule picture once Gwynnyd pointed it out) why he wouldn’t be just 10 feet away? And the picture I saw made it look like she’d have to walk to see around the tail, if she has to do that how did her assailant see this new threat?

    I wondered where the dog went as well. And looking at a picture of the plane, I can see that she was probably pulling stuff off the seat. But I still don’t know what’s she’s doing. Is she taking off, just landed or doing maintenance or something in preparation for a trip? Important detail? Maybe not. But I’m wondering whether or not this guy was random or he was targeting her. Which is obviously a detail to be learned later in the story. Even so, I’d like a little more detail to go with the excellent tension developed.

    Butterfly wings? That may be mean and cruel and does make my mind go to serial killers but not fear for my life danger. I am curious though how likely is it that one would get plane jacked? Is that something that pilots normally fear at small airports?

    Also if the dangerous man is twenty feet away and heading for her, why pretend to look at a log book? Twenty feet is much too close to be pretending anything unless you truly believe the guy can be taken in. If she’s on alert, she’s in flight or fight response, why isn’t she verbally challenging him right then and there?

    I agree that the gun doesn’t need to be shown because there’s not enough on the page to justify that yet unless she’s been previously attacked but I want details of her assailant. A bad aura is all good and well but is that enough to trigger a flight or fight response where she goes for her gun?

    What does he look like? By that I mean, does he look out of place, is his scruffy, expensive clothing, what beyond the aura makes him so dangerous? Is it nighttime, daytime, winter/summer? that her survival response has been triggered and why would she ignore a potential threat behind her once that response was triggered? And wouldn’t the dog be jumping back and forth between dangers?

    Overall, I enjoyed the writing. It shows a lot of promise. And I would keep reading for at least a little while longer.

  29. Heather Howland
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 12:48:51

    @theo: Thank you for bringing attention to this, Theo. I’ve contacted our webmistress!

  30. SAo
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 13:23:20

    I kept getting pulled out of the story by questions. “She stood under the wing.” What wing? A dragon? I wondered and that slowed me down before I got to the next sentence where I learned it was a plane’s wing.

    I didn’t see how the plane could be between her and him and she could still see him. It’s not providing any protection if it’s high enough off the ground for an unrestricted view.

    Why would she think the guy was trying to steal the plane? I was assuming this was a big airport, so I was not picturing a deserted non-commercial airport, which caused me some confusion until a few sentences later.

    I hadn’t pictured the airport being in Alaska and no scenery was discussed, so I was trying to readjust my picture of the scene with no help.

    I had a number of puzzling moments like these. They really pulled away from the tension you were trying to build. I suggest you set your scene a bit earlier.

    I never saw the bad guy, which made it harder to believe he was really bad. You only describe his aura, not him. Then, when he caved in and ran, my suspicions that he wasn’t really a threat seemed justified.

    Basically, I spent more time wondering why she’d leapt to the conclusion that he was trying to highjack her and the plane than really feeling the threat.

    So, all in all, it didn’t work for me, but it was pretty close. Little stuff, like saying she stood in the shade of her plane’s wing would have helped me a lot. A picture of the bad guy. All in all, a better picture of what was around her.

  31. Marianne McA
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 13:48:09

    You’d have lost me at the ‘Like tearing wings of butterflies bad.’ It’s not that that isn’t bad, but in a world full of murderers, muggers, abusers and Jeremy Kyle , someone who pulls the wings of insects seems like a low key threat.

    ‘The plane was the only thing that stood between her and the man no more than twenty feet away.’ confused me, because in my head it placed her on one side of the plane and him on the other, and clearly that wasn’t what was intended, because she was watching him approach.

    And the gun and the logbook confused me as well – it’s not clear where the gun appears from – was she expecting trouble? – and if she has a gun, and this bad man is approaching her, why is she hiding it and pretending to read her logbook? Why not use the gun to stop him approaching? I don’t know anything about guns, but I’d have thought once you took the safety off it would be dangerous to let someone get within grabbing distance. And he’s already closer than ten feet when she speaks to him, so mentally I’ve got him close enough to grab already and she’s still can’t use the gun (as I’m picturing it.)
    Someone who understands guns might make sense of the scenario, and I can see you wouldn’t want to interrupt the flow by putting in lengthy explanations, but as it stands, it’s a little hard to work out.

    Other than that, I liked it.

  32. LisaCharlotte
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 16:51:59

    FYI- A Glock will not have a safety that the character can “click” off. Glocks use the Safe Action System, a fully automatic safety system consisting of three passive, independently operating mechanical safeties which sequentially disengage when the trigger is pulled and automatically reengage when the trigger is released. Everything you need to know about Glocks.

  33. Tasha
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 16:58:31

    I’m not sure if this is the least bit helpful, but what if you moved the “The small municipal airport . . .” paragraph up as the second paragraph?

    I too was so busy trying to figure out what wing you were talking about, and then having to downsize the airplane, that I would probably have put the book down without reading past the fifth or sixth paragraph. But if I knew early on that this was a small airport (and thus likely a small plane, not a lot of people on the tarmac, etc.) then that initial confusion would be replaced by interest in the story itself.

  34. Gennita Low
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 19:19:42

    All I want to say is that I wanted to read page. 2. And now I know that I will soon! Congrats. :)

  35. Cris
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 20:22:32

    Loved it, and do not agree with those that don’t think pulling the wings off of a butterfly is “that” bad. To me it clearly speaks of casual, thoughtless cruelty. Perfect analogy.

  36. Author On Vacation
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 00:25:38

    Although the writing quality is very good, this first page didn’t “draw me in” more for reasons related to personal taste than anything “wrong” with your actual work.

    1. The information revealed about Kerra gave me a “Mary Sue aftertaste.” In a single page we discover:
    a) the protagonist is kind to small animals (allusion to villain’s butterfly cruelty, small dog pawing at Kerra,)
    b) the protagonist is a pilot (dare I presume an excellent, highly accomplished, extremely gutsy pilot?),
    c) the protagonist is psychic (able to discern human auras)
    d) Despite her caution and concern about the man with the “bad aura,” Kerra has no problem flipping him off for giving her a “dirty look.” I’m assuming this is supposed to indicate Kerra’s bravery, but it struck me as “weird” since she was so cautious about the “dangerous” villain prior to his retreat. Flipping someone off isn’t funny or brave — it’s insulting and provoking.
    e) Kerra is “the best student her self-defense instructor ever taught.” It would seem to me a person educated in self-defense would not make taunting gestures at a retreating subject.
    f) Oh, and just in case Kerra’s “best self-defense” training doesn’t kick in, she’s also armed and dangerous.
    g) In case readers missed out on all the other allusions concerning Kerra’s bravery, competency, and unique abilities, Kerra does not hesitate to fearlessly investigate whatever troubled the “villain” and “ran him off.”

    I sort of sighed at the end. Kerra just didn’t engage me. I read a lot of paranormal romance and urban fantasy books. Kerra’s introduction could be one of dozens of paranormal heroines, nothing about her struck me as distinctly personal or interesting.

    2. Another “issue” for me was the entire page struck me as a “red herring” type of introduction. There’s this huge build-up concerning the nameless, “man with bad aura.” You built great tension, only to eliminate any confrontation to introduce the new “real” threat (or whatever it is.) In my mind, the real action/change in the story didn’t begin until “Bad Aura Man” retreated and Kerra investigated the cause of “Bad Aura Man’s” retreat.

    Again, readers’ tastes vary. I noted the response to your first page has been pretty positive so there’s obviously a market for your story. This one just didn’t “grab” me.

    Suggestions concerning language:

    The fool had to be an idiot…

    This reads oddly. Try reading it aloud. It’s like saying “the red door had to be crimson.” What purpose does the language serve? Is it just to showcase Kerra’s talent for name-calling “bad guys?” Sometimes less is more. How about “The stranger had to be an idiot…” or “The goon had to be an idiot…”

    After enough distance was put between Kerra and the man …

    This is awkward. Cull out passive voice whenever possible, particularly in a narrative featuring action and suspense. Passive voice distances readers from the action/events in a book. Compare the quote to this: “After enough distance separated Kerra and the man …”

    I also agree with another poster who pointed out Kerra concluded her sinister visitor was a potential plane-jacker and kidnapper. It’s tough to depict psychic talents realistically. Just because Kerra can see the man’s aura and discern “badness” doesn’t automatically make him a kidnapper/plane-jacker. He could be an assassin. He could be a rapist. He could be a thug for a loanshark come to beat Kerra up for not making good on a debt.

    If Kerra’s special talents include precognition or empathy or telepathy, then yes, she’d “know” the villain’s diabolical plans. Just seeing “anger” or “badness” in his aura isn’t enough.

    Congratulations on your book’s acceptance, I really wish you good luck with it. Althugh I don’t think this story and style is really “for me,” I’m sure many people will enjoy it. : )

  37. query1
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 07:36:35

    DA, please do a better job of getting the latest first page. The excerpt on the author’s website is very different than this one. I feel like I wasted my time going over something that has already been rewritten.

    And author, although I overall enjoyed your writing by the end of that excerpt I’m feeling like your heroine has the beginnings of TSTL syndrome. I understand that many readers won’t have the same issues but one simply doesn’t go from scared out of their mind to the point that they are willing to pull a gun to kissing a complete stranger less than fifteen minutes later. I don’t care how nice he is to the dog, how sexy he is or what his aura says because that’s just dumb after the preceding incident.

    I understand that many romance stories require a suspension of disbelief but this one would have me throwing the book against the wall because if the heroine’s doing this in the opening scene, she’s quite likely to do something even worse to turn the plot later in the story so that the hero can rescue her. That’s not a woman who’s tops in her self-defense class unless it’s a class on what not to do.

    Sorry, I wouldn’t read on even though overall I do believe you have talent and a way with words. And if I come off angry, it’s because I am. I wasted my time.

  38. Jane
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 09:05:23

    @query1 Thanks for the comments. I do email the authors one week in advance and if I don’t receive anything in reply, I just assume that the first page is current. I understand your point, however, and will include in my email that authors should send me the updated version, if any.

  39. Berinn
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 09:20:46

    Query1 – I’m sorry that you found the excerpt so different from the first page shown here. Just this week I have been reworking the first chapter… like adding a couple hundred words before where it starts today to better set the airport/airplane stage. I really appreciate the feedback you shared yesterday. I find it valuable and useful as I edit my entire story.

  40. Maggie RIvers
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 10:48:05

    I loved it. I use “frick”, “friggin” and other words that are part of the vocabulary learned from being in different parts of the country. The words didn’t bother me at all. I’m definitely interested in reading more. And congrats on getting a contract on “Knightfall”.

  41. taymalin
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 12:38:10

    While I agree that the characterization does need work, I’m very tired of hearing every competent female character who is good at her job and able to fight being labelled a Mary Sue. It’s no wonder so many female writers are using male protagonists. Boys are allowed to be good at stuff without automatically getting the Gary Stu label.

  42. Heather
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 18:19:33

    How can she “flip him the bird” when one hand is holding the log book and the other her gun?

  43. Edie Ramer
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 20:49:58

    I loved this excerpt. The voice is strong and fresh. I would keep reading.

  44. Karen
    Dec 13, 2010 @ 08:18:07

    Okay, there were some good things and then there were some bad things. Below are some of the things that you might reconsider. As usual, I have not read any of the other comments so excuse me if I seem to be repeating things.

    • Eh, tearing wings off butterfly is bad? *shrugs* Maybe I've been around kids too much and I see them doing even more “cruel” things to bugs to not consider this a bad thing. Are you trying to go down the comical route or the violent route? If it's the later, I suggest you change your metaphor to something more sinister; like “choking a puppy until it dies”. Still staying with the cute animal theme but its not more “sinister”.

    • On the third para, you introduce a “Kera” character. Who is she? You can't just drop a name like that, you have to provide some connection between the name and any other person that we (the readers) might've already come face to face. I'm guessing Kera is our girl? But then again, there are a lot of other people who might not make that association quick enough.

    • Also, did you just say “fricked” up? Is it just for this submission or will she keep on using that word? If you're trying to go the Anita Blake route, I'd suggest you stick to “f*ck” up.

    Okay, so in conclusion, yes, you did manage to enthrall me enough to keep reading. I love, LOVE kick ass heroine and their sassy mouth. Let's just hope that in addition to talking the talk, she can walk the walk. I LOVED the last line, but the first wasn't catchy enough. Going the Anita Blake route was a wise decision and couple of things to remember is that Anita can kick some serious butt. I expect no less of Kera.

  45. Berinn
    Dec 13, 2010 @ 21:07:10

    Karen – Kerra will definitely kick butt!

  46. Elle
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 10:20:07

    People are actually complaining b/c the author revised her own work?


    Also, I’m not following why a female character who’s kind to animals and brave enough to stand up to someone = Mary Sue? If you don’t know any women like this in real life then that’s a problem. Maybe I’m just lucky but I know lots of brave, intelligent and kind women. That’s hardly unrealistic.

    This made me want to know what she saw behind her :)

  47. Sunita
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 11:38:29

    My Alaska-raised husband doesn’t take a gun when he goes into the bush, but I asked him what his first choice would be and he said a rifle (I think he specified 300mm, does that sound right?). If it had to be a handgun, he said either a 357 or a 44. But given she’s flying, the rifle. Not a Glock, though, it’s too small.

    Glad you got rid of the elk, that made no sense to me. Moose is definitely the safest alternative. Musk ox don’t move particularly quickly (and they travel in herds or whatever it’s called). It could easily be a caribou during migration season, they are everywhere.

    If you use “airfield” or “airstrip” rather than “airport” it might signal the type of facility better for people who aren’t familiar with what gets called an airport in Alaska.

  48. Berinn
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 12:16:56

    Sunita – Great suggestions! Thanks so much!

  49. job
    Dec 14, 2010 @ 13:34:29

    I was going to leave someone more expert to talk about the gun. But since it’s been bought up . . .

    I can indeed see someone carrying a handgun. A handgun is with you all the time — when you’re carting supplies back and forth, for instance. You do not want to be twenty feet away from the plane, and your rifle, when a bear comes after your groceries.

    I’d argue for putting the gun on her belt in a holster, rather than in her pocket. (She needs to be an Alaska resident to carry concealed.) Guns are not comfortable to cart around in a pocket. It’s carrying the weight of three cans of coke.

    A holster makes it less likely the heroine could conceal the fact she’s armed. Possibly the holster is under her long jacket?

    I’d suggest a gun larger than a Glock for stopping bear. They get to be several hundred pounds.
    I’d suggest a revolver rather than a semi-automatic for use in subzero conditions and for a beginner anywhere.

  50. Author On Vacation
    Dec 15, 2010 @ 00:23:25


    People are actually complaining b/c the author revised her own work?


    Also, I'm not following why a female character who's kind to animals and brave enough to stand up to someone = Mary Sue? If you don't know any women like this in real life then that's a problem. Maybe I'm just lucky but I know lots of brave, intelligent and kind women. That's hardly unrealistic.

    This made me want to know what she saw behind her :)

    It’s not that a person (gender doesn’t matter) can’t be smart, brave, handy with a firearm, good at his/her job, and so on.

    What gave me the “Mary Sue aftertaste” was my feeling I was being told/shown a series of impressive accomplishments and characteristics rather than being introduced to a “real” character. If I’m going to pay money and invest my time into Kerra’s journey, I want to know who Kerra is. For now, I don’t feel I know her.

    That’s just my impression. The author’s page is presented for us to offer an opinion about it and that’s my opinion. It’s fine you disagree.

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