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First Page: The Yard Sale (contemporary romance)

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Chapter One

“You want five dollars for that old stadium blanket?”

Startled by her friend Barbara’s skeptical tone, Faith Parker glanced up. Barbara stood in front of a make-shift table, staring at the blue-and-white fleece throw. She had asked that same question, only referring to different items, again and again, since they had started setting up the yard sale.

Was it just an old stadium blanket? Faith wasn’t so sure. But the sooner she rid her life of these old reminders, the sooner she could officially start her new life. “You think that’s asking too much? I guess I could throw it in the box with all the other $1 blankets. It just seems like I’m letting these things go for too little.”

Short and curvy, with a sleek, frosted bob that gently touched her shoulders, Barbara reached out for the blanket. She tossed it in the blanket box that was located near a box of old towels and washcloths, and then dusted her hands off dramatically. “It’s the memories that you’re putting a price on, and there’s really no need. You’ve already paid a hefty price for them. Let the objects go, so you can create new memories.”

Faith’s gaze drifted toward the early morning sky. Since it was March, it was still pretty dark out this early. Like the bare trees, she felt somewhat stripped and exposed. What was she thinking in having a yard sale? Out with the old and in with the new. It was a lot simpler in theory. Barbara looked at her wristwatch and declared, “We open for business in fifteen minutes.”

Faith quickly sorted a stack of romance novels and magazines on another table, trying to keep busy so she wouldn’t cry.

“How much should I price these books for? A dollar?” Faith asked.

“No, fifty cents. That’s it.”

Faith took a deep breath as she reached for her black marker and a clean sheet of paper to make a sign. Barbara loved shopping at yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets, so Faith trusted her to know what she was talking about.

“Thank you so much for helping me, Barbara. I didn’t even know where to start until you came and took control.” With her foot, Faith pushed a box of stuffed animals out from under the folding table. “How much should I price these bears and dogs for? They were gifts from Jason for anniversaries and such.”

“A quarter. The little children who buy them with their piggy bank money don’t know who Jason is. They just want a toy.”

Faith’s head drooped at Barbara’s truthful statement. “I wish I didn’t know Jason.”

That wasn’t true. She had loved Jason. A part of her still loved him. Faith’s divorce was still too painful to talk about, even though it was all she ever thought about. Pieces of him were everywhere in her life still, and when she came across an item, like that tattered stadium blanket, the memories flooded her mind and took control of her body like cancer.

Barbara and her mother both felt that the memory of her life with Jason was keeping her from enjoying a second chance at life. Deep down, she knew they were right. That is why she agreed to have this yard sale and to get rid of everything she and Jason had acquired as a couple, every stitch of clothing she wore during their marriage, and even every book she read when they still shared a home. After this yard sale, there wouldn’t be a shoestring or button left that existed during the era of Jason.

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. jamie beck
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 07:17:15

    I like this! It’s written smoothly and the tone is appropriate to the action/event. Anyone who’s been through a serious break-up will relate to Faith’s struggle to let go of the mementos of dead love (God, that’s the worst feeling).

    If I have to criticize, I guess I might suggest little tweaks. The dialogue seems a tiny bit stiff/formal for this occasion. Good friends often speak loosely…in fragmented sentences even…in casual settings like bickering over how to price garage sale items. So, for example, when Faith is responding to Barb’s first question, she might simply say, “Too much? Guess I could toss it in the dollar box with the other blankets. Just seems like I’m letting things go too cheaply.”

    I’m curious whether this will be a reunion story for her and Jason, or if she is going to meet a new man? If either is going to show up at this garage sale (which I’m guessing will happen because this is where you’ve started the story), then maybe cut out some the stuff about the stuffed animals and books (because we really only need one example to get the point and symbolism), and have her interact with the new guy as early as possible. That’s always a big hook…seeing the h/h interact.

    Nicely done, though. Good luck with it!

  2. wikkidsexycool
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 08:19:46

    Hello Author,

    I’d like to second Jamie’s statements, because I really liked this opening, and the title is spot on. I also like her inner thoughts housed in these sentences:

    “Like the bare trees, she felt somewhat stripped and exposed. What was she thinking in having a yard sale? Out with the old and in with the new. It was a lot simpler in theory.”

    You’ve made me care about your protag before the first page even ends, now I’m echoing Jamie in saying I hope she meets the main guy of the story shortly, perhaps even at the yard sale or maybe her ex Jason comes by and is shocked to see what she’s letting go of. Oh this could be juicy and dramatic! Your writing and voice are fluid and skillful, though perhaps the info dump on why the need for a yard sale could be added with each memento that’s sold, as another piece of her heart (and Jason’s) is torn away. Anyway, its just a suggestion, and I hope you follow up with a blurb of some kind regarding some story basics. I’m ready to purchase this book now!

  3. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 08:24:35

    This has promise. I like the idea of the yard sale, but I’d be hard pressed, if I were Faith, to get rid of my books…the guy may go, but my library stays intact :)

    Even though I like this, and it’s well written, there’s not much happening. Two women are talking about pricing objects from a failed marriage. I’d like to get a hint of the hero…even a glimpse of him on the first page.

    One or two tiny quibbles that took me a bit out of the story: where is this story set? I have no sense of place other than it’s dark, morning and the trees are bare. Coming from Wisconsin, I know March can be a very unpredictable month, with winter still hanging on. Also, checking a sunrise chart, the sunrise in March would be somewhere around 6:30 CST. For EST, where I live now, it’s an hour later. It gets light before that time, so you have two women in a yard, in possibly cold temperatures, somewhere around 6:00 a.m. The only frame of reference I have is my own experiences, which I think many readers read from, so I’m shivering thinking about these women. Maybe you could introduce place by mentioning the team name on the stadium blanket? Or just a brief sentence about who they watched while using the blanket?

    As noted above, the dialog is a tiny bit off, a little formal. But that’s very easily fixed.

    And the reference to cancer made me cringe.

    Thanks for sharing your work. It’s a very courageous thing to do. Good luck!

  4. Jen
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 08:46:04

    I like the premise of this, using a yardsale to show the protagonist moving on. I agree with the comments on dialogue in that it could be less formal. Also, I think you could streamline a little and take out a few internal thoughts that you then reveal through dialogue. For example the part about Barbara knowing how to price things is a thought, but then followed up with dialogue saying the same thing. The dialogue is a more interesting way to reveal that.

    My only other comment is that in this opening page, I like Barbara a lot better than the protagonist. Two reasons, I suspect: One, you name Barbara more times (see how I remembered her name and can’t think of your protagonists’s name at this moment?) and described Barbara physically very early on (I think you could delete that–we don’t need that on the first page). Two, your protagonist comes across to me as too weak and kind of helpless and Barbara seems stronger and more interesting. Your protagonist even thanks Barbara for coming in and “taking control,” which makes me like Barbara better. Maybe instead your protagonist can be reflecting on how hard these past months were, when she was so sad, helpless, and devastated, but now she’s bouncing back, determined, and really trying to move on. I know divorce can be gut-wrenching and kill one’s self-esteem, but I don’t want to read a romance about a woman’s journey while she’s still plummeting, I want to read about how she’s climbing back up.

    Good luck!

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 09:13:05

    I agree with Jen – Barbara seems the more interesting character. Also, yes, please take the cancer metaphor out. Horrible. There’s also too much backstory towards the end, which takes out any tension. I’d put that in the story in my first draft, and then remove it on a revision. You want the reader thinking, “Why is she doing this when she’s attached to the stuff?” not “Oh, I see, moving on.” It’s the difference between a page-turner and a put-back-on-shelf book. This is all the end of something, not the beginning of anything, so we also need a hint of something starting. Where’s she going? What’s she doing next? Or is she planning to sit in an empty house and stare at the walls?

  6. Lucy Woodhull
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 11:34:04

    I, too, like Barbara better, because we get a tiny sense of who she is, and right now I just know the heroine is depressed. I agree with all of the above, and only had a couple of quibbles.

    First, she’s going on and on about these memories, but doesn’t actually think of what they are. There’s a specific memory attached to the stadium blanket that keeps being brought up — tell us what it is. Not a long one, just a moment. This would bring some personality to the heroine, which is sadly lacking now.

    My other nitpick — frosted bob? Is it the 80s? My mom had that done back in the day with the weird cap that the hairdresser yanked hunks of hair through to bleach them. I can’t think of one woman I know in 2013 who is getting her hair frosted. (Stadium blanket apology to anyone who got their hair frosted yesterday…)

  7. Kassy Paris
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 13:10:51

    Some good suggestions made in the previous comments. I, too, really like the beginning of this story and am hooked to find out what is going to happen between Faith and the man in her future. Will she allow what is past to hold her back from what could be a wonderful future? Or will Faith let go of what once was like the cast-offs she is selling? I would love to read the rest of the story.

  8. Jayna
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 19:00:49

    I am taken aback by all the wonderful suggestions. Thank you all very much! Even if I don’t win the contest, I feel like a winner already…of a great critique by well-spoken readers. I know I will be taking several of these into careful consideration and a few more I know I will be changing.

    As for the cancer reference…

    Faith is a cancer survivor. This is only page one, and in pages to come her cancer journey is revealed slowly (without info dump). Jason, her ex-husband, left her during her battle. He couldn’t handle it. While he does make an appearance in the latter half of the book, I’m sure all my readers will be glad to know that Faith finds her inner strength to deal with him. I named my character Faith for a good reason. This is a story of faith, recovery, and starting over.

    Yes, letting go of books is something I could never do. LOL!

    And the hero does indeed stop by the yard sale! I can’t wait for you all to meet him!

  9. Jayna
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 19:03:48

    And I’m actually glad that Faith came across a little weak. It was my intention to show her brittle and weary of what’s to come. Of course, that all changes…

  10. Tracey Jackman
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 14:49:48

    I love it! Had there been more than one page i would have kept reading. I get that it’s a romance, but the woman needs to heal more before moving on. The man/hero doesn’t need to come into her life on page one. We need to learn about who she is, what’s she’s going through, etc. I agree, I don’t want to read about her depression and hitting rock bottom, but I would also not like to see her jump from one man to the next. I think the tone is fine. There is enough detail to get me hooked, but not so much to get bogged down. This is going on my need to read list.

  11. Liz Talley
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 17:52:17

    Really enjoyed this. Wasnt going to read it until I saw the title, and then I couldn’t help myself. I do love a good yard sale. Very well-written, immediate empathy with the heroine and nice subtext.

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