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First Page Saturday: Broken Flight. Paranormal Romance.

Who says an angel can't rock a broken wing. Yeah. That would have been her retort to her current and unbelievable predicament if she hadn't suppressed her sarcasm years ago and if she weren't scared for her life. Life? Pretty funny considering she'd already died. So, yeah, she was dead but she was also shaking in her proverbial boots.

Looking back, life seemed so simple. Death was harder. Death was impossible.

Her arms were bound above her head with a chain, the coolness of the metal long gone and replaced with a burning pain she had to breathe through. She'd been like that for so long. They'd already broken one wing. Had torn the tendon in half causing it to hang limply against her back. She could deal with that. Would deal with that.

She'd been dealing with everything for what seemed like forever. Minding her business, doing her work. Her neck was strained from keeping her eyes to the floor, or the clouds, as it would be, for the last ten years.

She wasn't one to attract attention. Never had been. Why should she be any different in this place? So, yeah, she'd deal with the broken wing. If she flew in circles and made that circle wider and wider, eventually she'd reach her destination point. Eventually.

It hurt. Big surprise there, to find out you could hurt once you're dead. But you could and she did. Her arms had since lost all feeling except the tingles you get when you're numb. Her right wing throbbed. To be honest, she wasn't even sure how they'd broken it. Just knew that her head had snapped back as pain tore through her body.

And while she couldn't name the specific attacker, only because she couldn't see them, she knew he or she had been part of the Angels of Punishment. They were exactly as they sounded. A group of lethal angels. Known not so fondly as the AOP's. She'd hoped never to meet one in person.

Too late for that now.

Her breath quickened as she heard two voices outside the torture chamber; a room where the guilty met the hands of pain. A room made of grey clouds. Storm clouds. A room where electricity coursed through the misty walls, sizzling and crackling with white light. A room that hadn't been cleaned after the last torture session if the red flecks on the walls were any indication. The red screamed in neon and only heightened her fear that much more. Would her blood be a permanent stain like the others?

This was Beyond. A place where she should have met family and friends who had gone before her. A place with happiness. A place with no pain. A place where one could reside in peace. That's what she'd been told. That's what everyone wanted to believe.

Lies. So many lies.

There were levels. There was a hierarchy. There were jobs. There were rules. So many rules. And she'd followed them all. Until-

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. cecilia250
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 08:52:48

    This will probably sound really mean, but I read that first sentence – the question that ended in a period – and I was turned right off. But questions presented as statements drive me crazy.

    I’ll probably read the rest later, but I have to go lower my blood pressure.

  2. theo
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 09:27:47

    Though this is marked as Paranormal Romance, it reads more like UF, which is not my thing with a few exceptions.

    The first sentence punctuation bothered me too, but beyond that, I don’t understand the first sentence in relation to the rest of the submission. Maybe I’m dumb, but that first sentence gave me the impression we were reading about an angel who is out clubbing and is trying to dance with a broken wing.

    Once I got past that confusion, the story became redundant. In the first two paragraphs, we become very aware that she’s dead. In the third, fourth and fifth, she’s dealing. With everything.

    And while she couldn't name the specific attacker, only because she couldn't see them, she knew he or she had been part of the Angels of Punishment.

    Do we need to know here that she couldn’t name the specific attacker? She says she never wanted to meet an AOP in person. Then “too late now,” so did she know her attackers and if so, wouldn’t it be easier and more thrifty to say, “She didn’t see who broke her wing, but it was a trademark Angels of Punishment move.”

    I don’t know your Hn enough to care that she’s being tortured, frankly. I’m all for starting in the middle of some action, but it’s got to include a reason for me to want to find out why the action is going on and I don’t have that here. Not until the last paragraph. And then, it’s not enough. That coupled with the fact that she’s being tortured and she’s still a wise-ass makes me think she’s probably not going to be a Hn I can really like. There’s no fear, no real tension, she’s mildly curious when she wonders if her blood will stain the walls.

    I’m sorry. This would be a definite non-read for me without a lot of editing to make me care.

  3. Berinn Rae
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 09:30:09

    I really enjoyed this page. The first sentence didn’t throw me off at all. I took it that the main character meant it as a statement rather than a question. I would definitely keep reading. I enjoyed the fresh voice.

  4. Kerry Allen
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 09:30:16

    Nothing happens on this page. I’m not a huge advocate of throwing the reader into a flurry of decontextualized action right off the bat, but I prefer it to an Inert Character Ruminating opening.

    When I write an Inert Character Ruminating opening, cutting the first 2 or 3 pages and starting in a more dynamic spot is always an improvement. Sometimes the content of the ruminations can be worked in elsewhere, and sometimes it will never be missed.

  5. Joanne
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 09:46:51

    When I did my usual second read through and started with “It hurt. Big surprise there, to find out you could hurt once you're dead.” I really liked this piece.

    My feeling is that you could dispense with everything before that. All of the previous paragraphs (?) are irrelevant and add nothing to the introduction of your main character.

    IMO the potential for something more is here and I’d like to see the tightened, edited version, for sure.

    Thank you for putting your work here and much good luck!

  6. DS
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 09:46:58

    I sort of skimmed the first bit because I am not interested in angel stories, but about paragraph five I began to get interested in the world building. I’m not sure the first two paragraphs are needed. It felt a bit weird to go from being flip to actual torture.

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 10:11:40

    This is so far away from my expectations of what an angel is that I wouldn’t be reading further.
    To me, angels are Abrahamic, have a purpose, like a courtier, and are always male. I know that writers are riffing on this theme, but all that is left is a dead person with wings, who doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic or interesting.
    Put the question mark after the first sentence. It just looks wrong. Cut out some of the “yeah”s.
    Her tone seems deeply uninteresting to me. If she doesn’t care about her dilemma, why should I, the reader? I get that she’s in deep trouble, but I don’t get any of the pain she must be suffering, or her desperate efforts to keep optimistic or brave. Or what she’s done to get here.
    If you eliminate the repetitions and the sneering tone, or at least cut it down a bit and emphasise that it’s a function of her fighting back, put in more actual experiences and immediate feelings (what does her dungeon smell like, sound like? And a hint about why she’s there) I think that might strengthen the piece and make it into a page turner.

  8. FiaQ
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 10:45:24

    For me, the first line does need a question mark.

    It takes seven paragraphs before we could find out that she’s in a torture chamber made of clouds? I think I’d like it placed a little earlier.

    My initial impression of her is that she’s a whiner swimming in a figurative pool of self-pity and false-sounding bravado. Probably unfair and unwarranted, but that’s the impression I have. I’d read on, though. Mostly out of curiosity. Thank you for sending this in.

    @Lynne Connolly:

    To me, angels are Abrahamic, have a purpose, like a courtier, and are always male.

    Side-tracking: I’m aware that quite a few novelists portray angels either as male (more common) or female beings, but I thought angels were historically genderless? I do admit I’m heavily ignorant where religion is concerned, though.

  9. cecilia250
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 10:55:51

    OK, I read it through. I agree that there are too many “yeahs”. I also agree that I am more interested in angels who just are, rather than angels who are created as their celestial reward. In this particular case, especially because the voice of the narrator doesn’t come across as someone who would have earned that reward.

    Despite the issue with the angel stuff, in general, I would consider reading a book like this anyway, but in particular, as this one is written so far, I would not continue, because if there’s one thing that I find profoundly off-putting (as opposed to momentarily really annoying, like questions punctuated as statements), it’s a protagonist who feels hard-done-by. For me, that kind of sulky attitude is best left behind in adolescence, not something to be enjoyed in fiction.

  10. Linda Winfree
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 11:06:19

    I’m probably not the target audiernce for this piece. There’s decent characterization within the rumination so I have an idea of who she is as a person, but such rumination doesn’t go on your first page. I’m not connecting with her through this, so even though I know what kind of person she is, I’m not engaged in her suffering. I agree with the previous poster who believes your better served starting with “It hurt.”

    The description of the cloud room is nice world-and-setting building. The bit about the bloodstains was good; however, I feel disconnected from her fear/pain even there.

    Like Lynne, I’m aware that authors are taking license with the angel concept and I’m all for author freedom to do so, but . . . one thing that would have me putting this piece down is that this has a total disconnect with the concept of angels. To be completely technical, angels are created beings. People therefore do not become angels when they die, so my suspension of disbelief couldn’t kick in at an appropriate level.

    One last nit — the use of functional fragments. They are a great author tool and can make for a nice voice. In this section, they were prevalent and I found myself zeroing in on those, which further jerked me from connecting as a reader. I’d suggest paring them down only to the ones that are absolutely necessary.

    Thanks for submitting and best wishes with this piece!

  11. Elyssa Papa
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 11:13:00

    I liked this….the voice is fresh and engaging, and I would read on just because I want to see what happens next.

    I do think you go on a little too long about the broken wing and how it hurts. After the first couple of times, I get it. It really hurts. No need to beat that over the head. I know she’s chained, but I do agree a little with FiaQ that some of her thoughts tend to get whiny, so I would try and make her a little stronger. Even if she’s captured, we should get a sense of her unbreakable spirit, because she’s got a broken wing and she still has this sense of kickass about her. I think with a few changes, you could play up that angle…that despite everything that has happened to her that she doesn’t give up; she’s still a fighter.

    I also hope you tell us how she got chained, and soonish.

    I don’t think you need a question mark for the first sentence. The period makes it more sarcastic for me, and I think that’s what you’re going for???

    And you can make angels whatever gender you want. Equal opportunity, I think, would exist in Heaven. ;) Also? I really loved that it was a female angel. That made me interested right away, and I think this is a really good idea. I want to read more. I would read more.

  12. Jinni
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 11:31:28

    I never read paranormal or urban fantasy. Don’t know a damn thing about angels, but if I picked this up (as opposed to the terrible book now in my purse), I’d definitely read on. I’m a stickler for punctuation – in formal writing. Didn’t notice it because I liked the voice so much. Rock on, yeah, yeah, yeah.

  13. hapax
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 11:38:46

    Sentence fragments. So much. Staccato phrasing. Yeah.

    Does it indicate hard-ass. I’d say not. More like wall-banger.

    Sorry to sound mean. But this one is definitely not for me.

  14. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 13:39:45

    @FiaQ: The gender, if any, of angels has been a topic of debate for thousands of years.

    The idea that an angel could die, though, seems odd to me. Supernatural beings don’t generally die in my scheme of things.

    I am not loving this angel’s persona as expressed here—she sounds like Anita Blake with wings, and a lot more surly than one might expect for a divine entity!

  15. leela
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 14:28:33

    Too much information without context.

    Find one witty and question-raising sentence in there, phrase it in a way that creates an unexpected contrast or visual. Like, “I didn’t mind a broken wing. I could just fly in really big circles until I got home.” Raise a question in the first paragraph, then move to three new questions, then answer the opening question, and raise three more… but you don’t raise questions by having someone just talk to themselves. You need actual, y’know, something going on. I think it’s called plot. Or action. Or conflict. Some big word like that.

    Also, note the truncated sentences above. They’re performing the role of verbal punctuation. I know, it’s said that “short sentences increase tension”, but that would be short complete sentences. Incomplete sentences act more like or punctuation or the punchline of a joke; both are dependent on being tied to what went before to make any sense, but they’re also beats. A song that consists entirely of equally-emphasized notes with no lulls or peaks ends up pretty boring.

    Incomplete sentences are like cayenne pepper. Use sparingly, and it’ll bring snap to your writing. Use too much, and all you’re doing is making your readers cry.

  16. DM
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 16:12:30

    I agree with the posters who found this freighted with information we don’t need and mired in redundancies. And yet…

    I have sympathy for writers attempting a paranormal. Because A LOT of published books in this genre have the same problems. I’ve got Feehans, Wards, and Coles on my shelves that I could pick apart in the same way. This puts aspiring authors at a huge disadvantage. Where are they supposed to look for models? Some of the most beloved paranormals, even ardent fans will admit, aren’t models of great writing. Exciting characters, sure. Clever ideas, plenty. Unusual plots…well every now and then. But I honestly can’t think of a major paranormal author writing today who puts out squeaky clean, fast moving prose.

  17. Renda
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 16:17:46

    To me the first sentence doesn’t need a question mark because you are not expecting an answer.
    I don’t usually read the paranormal entries because I don’t like paranormal. But the first sentence caught my eye. I read the whole thing, again, unusual for me.
    I would like to see more. I, too, am not a fan of pitiful me, but I don’t think that is where you are going.
    I like it, which is rare.
    Would definitely read more.

  18. Karen
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 16:51:22

    @Julia Sullivan

    Isn’t everydody trying to emulate Anita Blake these days? I heard all LKH’s book have become the editors new Bible.

  19. cecilia250
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 17:55:52

    @Renda: Even a rhetorical question still has a question mark at the end. But I know that the whole leaving-question-marks-off-questions has gotten so common that it looks normal to people.

  20. Fae
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 18:07:05

    So much backstory without telling us much of anything crammed into one page. You drop us into some serious action but then negate that by dragging us out of the present and into the past. You give us nothing but internal thoughts about what *has* happened, not what *is* happening.

    Cut the infodump at the beginning, which tells us precisely nothing anyway. I agree with Joanne that it should start with “It hurt.”

    If it’d begun there, I would keep reading. As is, I wouldn’t have made it past the first sentence and its missing question mark.

  21. Gennita Low
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 19:43:07

    Wow. I love this first page. It’s a little bit Marjorie Liu’s UF Maxine’s voice mixed with Gena Showalter’s UF Dark Huntress, with the kind of Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage/Angel epic feel. I read a lot of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Alternative World and would definitely pick this book up.

    Good luck!

  22. Gennita Low
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 19:50:33

    Oh, and the short staccato sentences didn’t bother me at all. She’s in pain, after all, and she’s been hung like that for hours. I can imagine her thoughts kind of meandering all over the place while looking at the blood splatters.

    Also like the female angel in trouble beginning because usually it’s a male angel who takes center stage. I like the mention about hierachies; make me want to read more about this new alternative angel world.

  23. Nightwriter
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 21:19:01

    I swore off paranormal when everyone went vamp crazy, so I’m not your target audience. Having said that, I forgot this was a first page entry for a moment while reading and was disappointed when it suddenly stopped. It captured my attention and held it.

    I didn’t care for the first line either, but not for the same reason everyone else objected. It felt out of sync with the rest of the narrative. “Rock a broken wing,” That sounds like something you tossed in to be cool, to catch a reader’s attention. It did catch my attention, but not in a positive way.

    Overall, I thought the writing was pretty clean and the voice solid. So, good job!

  24. Alyson Reuben
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 00:55:00

    What I really like about this first page is that the reader immediately gets a sense of an unique angel world where things are not as they should be. While I agree with some of the other commenters that traditional angels are usually genderless or male (i.e. Gabriel), this writer is a presenting a paranormal world of angels and NOT a biblical one.

    In the first paragraphs I got a distinct impression that the female angel was shocked to find herself in a torturous place that was far from the pleasant heaven she expected.

    I also like the angel’s biting sarcasm. While some commenters viewed her as being whiny, I’m thinking she has the kind of sarcasm that develops with dismal disappointment and too many broken dreams. She sounds interesting and easy to relate to. What does she do (or what happens) to change her current situation? I would definitely read the rest of the story to find out.

  25. SAO
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 01:04:37

    Although it’s a minor issue, I thought you strained a bit for hooks; Until . . . and the thing with rocking a broken wing, which took me two or three reads to understand.

    I spent my time trying to figure out what she was going to do. How was she going to get her wing set? How was she going to get out of there? I wanted to see a plan or some action, not just musing or whining, however you want to look at it.

    The until. . . didn’t really capture my interest because I wanted to see her do something about her current situation, not explain how she got into it, which looked like it would be more musing about the past.

    I might be okay with opening with the AOPs smiting her. But otherwise, start this later, when there’s action.

    Apr 03, 2011 @ 02:42:33

    I’m hooked. I read the previous comments, some valid points, fodder for enhancement. Punctuation was the last thing on my mind. I am excited to read more, it feels fresh and the possibilties for the world you can create endless!

  27. JB Hunt
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 15:18:41

    @DM: For an example of beautifully crafted and compelling prose in a paranormal, try Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke. Whoa — amazing!

  28. Liz English
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 16:54:58

    Just chiming in to say I agree with the others who suggested starting with “It hurt.” Went back and read it from there, and it really worked for me. Particularly like, “a room where the guilty met the hands of pain.” Nice.

  29. hapax
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 18:02:22

    Following others’ suggestions, I went back and re-read starting with “It hurt.”

    I have to agree, it makes for a MUCH more involving reading experience. I’d probably read on from there.

  30. Edie Ramer
    Apr 04, 2011 @ 08:11:51

    The voice and the freshness of this pages struck me, and I’d want to read on. I do think there is more telling than showing on this page. But that can be fixed, and I think the story will be fascinating.

  31. DM
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 18:53:42

    @JB Hunt

    I agree that Brook’s prose is clean and serviceable. But I’m not sure I’d call the Iron Duke a paranormal. SciFi romance maybe, Steampunk romance definitely, but if there were paranormal elements in that book, they went right over my head.

  32. Wrayth
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 07:59:53

    i liked it enough to keep reading, for many of the reasons given above (e.g. sarcastic not whiny, etc) also it was mostly the first sentence that caught my attention, and her predicament.

    But I was wondering, do we ever get to find out what book these ‘first page’ posts are from? Because i liked quite a few of them! XD

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