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First Page: The Gift Giver, an m/m romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.


The following is an explicit excerpt.  Please do not click if this will make you uncomfortable.

I wish I could live forever in this one moment. I’d like to burn his face in my mind: the twist of his expression as he’s lost in the release of painful need. I flex my fingers a slight bit more and his grunt is music.

My hand is buried in his ass. I see other couples like us, strangers meeting in this house and sharing our secret. We are all undressed and the erections look like party favors.

For a brief moment I think of Jimmy and my joy staggers into pain. We all have our painful pleasures; thinking of Jimmy is mine. Knowing how much he’d hate me being at a fisting party, a party full of strangers sharing their bodies in this way, he’d move away from me with his arms folded across his chest to protect himself.

Jimmy lives his life protecting himself from me.

My partner has a yellow ponytail that swings over his shoulder and grazes the barbell through his nipple. I prefer men who are darker, I like Latinos and black men. This pale blonde man whose ass has swallowed my hand is pasty and much too white for my interests.

I hope he can control his muscles when he cums. The neophytes can sprain your wrist or entire arm when they shoot. The dangers of enjoying having your fist up some dude’s ass. Maybe I could write a column about that. Maybe I could write a whole damned book.

I really wish Jimmy hadn’t left.

I wish I could enjoy myself more.

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. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 08:01:02

    I see what you’re trying to do, but it doesn’t really work for me. It doesn’t make me interested in your protagonist, and it doesn’t work as a hook.
    I want to know why he thinks he has to be there, what he’s doing with someone else when he’s thinking of Jimmy, and why he can’t keep it in his pants. It’s not fair on anyone, so I’ve already lost respect for your hero.
    The passage is nearly all “telling,” not “showing,” for instance, the phrase, “my joy staggers into pain” doesn’t show what it feels like, or what his reaction is. That’s why writing sex scenes is so tricky – it has to be in deep, deep pov to really work.
    Also, whining isn’t a good way of starting a book. Despite its setting, this is a static, reflective, “kitchen table” scene, not an action scene intended to hook the reader.
    Also – erections like party favors? The language is quaint, despite the setting, so perhaps your character is new to the scene? I got a pretty lavender belly-dancing skirt at the Ellora’s Cave party at RT last year. Not in the least like an erection.
    But, as always, YMMV and IMO only. Others may disagree completely and love it to bits.

  2. theo
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 08:20:43

    Let me preface this by saying neither the genre or POV are my cup of tea however, if the writing is solid, I’ll usually read on a bit. But I think there are some universal things here that really don’t work for me. Lynne touched on a few of them but others I had problems with are:

    There are way too many contradictions here. Or maybe I’m just reading it wrong. But your protagonist waxes poetic about wanting to burn the moment into his memory and how his partner’s “grunt is music” and yet, later in the section, you go on about how the partner isn’t really his type at all and is “much too white for my interests.”

    So what is it? Either he’s totally wrapped up in the partner’s ecstasy or he’s totally bored with the guy and this is all he could find.

    If Jimmy’s mission is to protect himself from your protagonist, and he’s left the relationship (which is what I think you’re trying to say here,) why is the protagonist bemoaning the fact instead of continuing the behavior that caused Jimmy to leave? To me, he comes across as weak and rather flippant. ‘Oh well, if Jimmy doesn’t like it, so what? He’s not around anymore.’

    You have a lot of pain in here. Painful need, staggers into pain, painful secrets…too much pain for me coupled with the opposing bits and a protagonist I just don’t find likable and I wouldn’t read on.

  3. Anon
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 08:47:00

    Just the title turns me off. It reminds me immediately of the other meaning for ‘gift-giver’ which is someone with HIV who gives it to someone else (the other person having requested it, hence HIV being ‘the gift”). Given that your story is also m/m, I’m immediately thinking that’s what this is about and frankly, it makes me ill.

    Also I just don’t care for the writing at all. It’s stilted, uncomfortable and contradictory. On the off chance I’d ever get past the title enough to pick it up, I’d put it back down before the first paragraph was finished. Sorry, OP.

  4. Sarah Frantz
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 12:09:05

    I see what the other commenters are saying and agree with them for the most part about the craft issue. However, this is different enough and compelling enough for the moment that I’m eager to read more. I’d get bored quickly if this voice continued for much longer, but the setting and the action is fascinating enough for me to continue past the first page, at least.

  5. Anon 2
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 12:49:54

    I think the craft needs work. It falls flat for me. The writing itself is rough and the scene feels like a lot of navel gazing.

  6. Sirius
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 15:03:48

    I am interested and I am not (yeah, a little bit of contradictory, I know :)). Setting intrigues me, the fact that your protagonist is thinking about Jimmy while having sex with somebody else *does* intrigue me a great deal and makes me want to know more. However, not only I do not find your descriptions of sex appealing in the slightest (musical grunts, erection like party favors makes me laugh and not in a good way), the fact that your book *starts* with it actually worries me. Personally I am always looking for story and characters first, sex second and starting with sex makes me wonder if story is going to be mostly sex and not much of the story. I could be wrong of course and it is possible that this is necessary to move the story forward.

  7. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 17:34:58

    This is really not erotic or sensual. I think it’s a mistake to open with a sex party if you’re not going to give a strong evocation of the sensory impressions the protagonist is experiencing.

  8. Sarah Frantz
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 18:11:59

    See, I got the STRONG impression that it wasn’t *supposed* to be erotic or sensual. Like, that was the point. So I guess: if it WAS supposed to be erotic or sensual, total fail. But if not, I think it says a lot about the narrator’s character that he can be in this setting and be thinking about so many other things. I guess it’s a fail that we can’t tell which it’s supposed to be?

  9. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 18:43:09

    “I wish I could live forever in this one moment.”
    “I wish I could enjoy myself more.”

    Bracketing a first page with contradictory statements from the narrator might not be the best way to begin. It calls his reliability into question.

    I pretty much agree with Sirius on all else. I, too, am not crazy about stories opening with sex scenes, because that often doesn’t bode well for character development.

    Don’t know diddly about fisting (except that I find it kind of repugnant), so I can’t comment on content.

  10. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 19:25:16

    Forgot to add: opening with a sex scene also strikes me as kind of a cheesy, easy “hook” — and a none too subtle one. It seems a bit amateurish.

    These things said, I do rather like the author’s voice. It just needs a little sculpting.

    (Oh, and lop the “e” off “blonde.” That’s generally perceived as the feminine spelling.)

  11. Tasha
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 19:48:09

    “I see other couples like us, strangers meeting in this house and sharing our secret.”

    I’m wondering what this means. What secret? Does it mean men who enjoy fisting? Men who enjoy anonymous sex? There’s no indication that the narrator is closeted; he mocks the “neophytes” so clearly he’s got plenty of experience with fisting. I really don’t have a sense of the narrator feeling like he has to keep any of this secret, so this doesn’t seem to me to fit.

    Also, the spelling of “cums” would make me stop reading right then and there.

  12. anon
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 19:53:48

    I think there are the elements of a good story here, but they’re getting a little lost in the swamp of an (deliberately, I sense, but I’m not sure) uninspiring sex scene.

    Books that open with a sex scene always smack of gimmick to me. Writers think it’s a hook that will keep people reading. And in a lot of cases, that’s probably true. But I think it’s also off-putting for a lot of readers. We don’t know your character yet. We don’t care about him. And since our first introduction to him is a crass moment of “intimacy” wherein he shows himself to be shallow, petulant, and generally unlikeable, I am not hooked.

    What hooks me is an introduction to a character worth caring about or at least interesting enough to draw me on to page 2. The only thing I know about your character is that he’s indulging in an act he thinks would be upsetting to someone who cares about him. By the end of the page, I’m thinking, “Run, Jimmy, and don’t look back.”

    This may be m/m erotica, but it doesn’t, so far, feel like a romance. Please keep in mind this is just one reader’s opinion. I think your writing style is clean and readable, though it’s a little too spare and doesn’t give me quite the grounding I’d like in either setting or character. I know a lot of readers, however, love the spare.

    I also agree with Sirius that this feels like another sex-heavy story with little plot to drive it along. That’s difficult to determine from one page, but there’s so much m/m out there that follows this route, it’s a challenge to imagine this page is going in a more original direction. I hope so, but I’m not getting that vibe.

    Still, I think you maybe have a story somewhere in there between Mr. POV and Jimmy. I caught just enough of a whiff of it to make me want to comment and encourage you to dig that story out and run with it. I think you have the writing ability to make me burn to know whether Mr. POV and Jimmy will find a way to their HEA. You just haven’t accomplished it with this opening, at least for this reader.

  13. Lori/The Author
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 20:31:24

    Thank you all for the comments. I can see there’s plenty of work and rewriting to do and I appreciate the feedback.

    It wasn’t supposed to be an erotic opening scene but I can see that maybe it wasn’t the least bit clear what it was.

    Back to the rewrites.

  14. Cindy from Michigan
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 08:36:28

    Hi Lori,

    This is how I interpreted this excerpt.

    It’s actually not about sex. It’s about emotional pain, anger, self-loathing, and the need to escape the feeling of abandonment and unrequited love for a while.

    I actually love your first line. But what you think it means at first is not what it means. Does he want to feel like the powerful one, the one in control, or is it that, in this moment, he’s causing pain like he himself is in pain?

    The opening line could be used very beautifully in a true love scene.

    Here, it means the exact opposite, I think, because the character really doesn’t mean it. I hope he doesn’t. I hope it’s just a moment of, “If I’m hurting, everybody should be hurting.” I hope you give your reader lots of reasons to forgive him for his lack of kindness.

    Maybe he means he wants to live in a moment where he can forget who and what he is. It still feels to me that it means he wants to feel like he’s in control, of his life path and himself.

    If I’m correct, then I hope your story explores this side of his character. It seems to me that’s what drives this man.

    Also, is this sex act done in the missionary position? I thought at first it was because the guy couldn’t see the ponytail swinging over the shoulder and grazing the nipple thingy if they were both on their knees. Maybe you can make the picture here clearer.

    I always thought most gay sex was done doggy style. After talking with a male gay friend, I found out men have sex face to face like men and women do a lot. Am I the only one who didn’t know this?

    And where is it written opening with a sex scene is a no-no?

    As for the fisting and the cumming and all the juices flying around, it seems consistent with full-on erotica. I once had a conversation with a straight male friend from Italy, and he told me my straight sex scenes were tame. He said when men make love, they think in very graphic terms, shocking feelings, and extremely heated visions.

    From my gay friend again: I’ve read some of his writing. Yours is soft-core compared to his style.

    There is a trilogy written by Gordon Merrick back in the 70s:
    The Lord Won’t Mind
    One For The Gods
    Forth Into Light

    He was a gay writer who published the first gay romance books. If you can find them, grab them. The writing is bold and enlightening.

    I wish you nothing but the best in your quest toward publication!

  15. SAO
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 01:08:56

    I’ve obviously never been to a m/m orgy. When I read fiction, I enjoy going new places (not sure about this one). What struck me is that I still know nothing about it. Where is it held? Private club decked out like fin-de-imperia Rome? Is it like a frat-house too late into the party with beer on the floor and couples rutting on disgusting mattresses, too drunk to care? Or is there an attempt at classy and what the hell does that look like in this context?

    I will note that I’m not the audience for your work. In fact, you’ve convinced me that I never want to read m/m romance.

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