Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

First Page: Unnamed Light Paranormal

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.


Jack Sutton heard a whisper of movement a split second before an arm wrapped around his neck and something sharp plunged into his gut. His brain registered that he’d been stabbed as a hard shove sent him crashing to the cold concrete floor.

"You should’ve slit his throat," a croaky, unfamiliar voice complained.

"He’ll be dead in an hour," a second voice assured the first. "Come on, help me get the cash register opened."

Jack lay still as death, praying whoever these bastards were they’d hurry the hell up. If he could crawl to the phone and dial 9-1-1, he might have a chance.

Jesus, he was going to puke. Concentrate, Sutton, he thought, swallowing hard, choking down bile. He cracked an eye open and wished he hadn’t. The sight of his own blood brought on another wave of nausea; the noxious odor of gasoline made it worse.

He squeezed his eyes shut and listened as his attackers struggled to get the cash register open. He would have laughed at their incompetence if every second didn’t mean the difference between his own life and death.

His head spun and his world darkened. He teetered on the brink of unconsciousness. The voices of his attackers became more and more distant. Jack fought with everything he had to remain conscious.

Finally the ring of the cash register reached Jack’s ears and he nearly groaned his relief. He heard the distinct crinkle of paper as they cleaned the sucker out and felt a glimmer of hope.

"Should we grab some new tires, make it look good?" the deeper voice asked.

"Nah, good enough. The cops’ll see the register open and figure the place got robbed."

Jack sucked in a shaky breath as he listened to their retreating footsteps and puzzled over that last statement. Figure the place got robbed? If they weren’t there to rob him, then what the fuck just happened?

When the back door swung shut, he struggled to his hands and knees, squeezing his eyes shut again as he fought the urge to vomit. Head hung low, he half-crawled, half-dragged himself to the desk, never imagining twenty feet could seem so damn far. He reached up and grasped the edge, managed to pull himself to his feet, but had to lay his head down on the cool metal of the podium-style desk as a wave of dizziness hit him.

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. Shannon Stacey
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 06:35:36

    I liked this and was definitely intrigued by their real purpose for being there. I’d probably turn the page.

    But the setting, honestly, is tripping me up. After reading it several times, I’m wondering—does he own a garage? Concrete floor, steal some tires. If you’re in a place of business, how do you not know there’s somebody there until you hear a whisper of sound behind you and feel the arm and knife, though?

    So after a little skipping backwards over and over to reread, I came up with an image of him lying on the concrete floor of a garage bay, hoping he can crawl to his phone soon.

    But then he turned to his starkly empty bed. I’m confused and, to be honest, I’m not sure how many times an editor or agent would reread to try to figure it out.

    But I thought the writing itself was good and the “what did they really want?” would keep me reading if you could just ground him (and the reader) in his setting a little more without detracting from the action.

    Good luck!

  2. Moira Reid
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 07:02:43

    The bed comment threw me too, but it’s hard to tell from just one page. There could be a perfectly logical explanation, so I’d probably read another page just to see. The other question in my mind is why did they stab him in the gut leaving him still breathing (and possibly fighting back) if their intent was to kill him anyway? So yeah, I’d probably read a little further to check and make sure the stomach stab made sense.

    I like a story that opens in the middle of things like this, but it’s really important for me to know where I am and what’s at stake within a page or two at most. When stories begin a few minutes before the big conflict (in this case the attack), there’s a little more room to situate the reader. Just a thought.

    Nicely done!

  3. joanne
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 07:05:06

    I think you have a nice, fluid writing style and I would have kept reading a bit even though so many things kept jarring me out of the storyline.

    If it’s his shop why are the fumes noxious to him? He doesn’t have a cell phone in his pocket so I assume we’re not in present time? His thought of almost laughing at their incompetence just seemed something he wouldn’t have, is it?

    And then what? He jumped up and looked at his bed? It’s in his shop? He had a dream?

    Again: I wouldn’t ask the questions if the writing wasn’t so appealing. Thank you for your letting us read your entry and much good luck.

  4. Leah
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 07:09:01

    I like it, too. Also wondering about the bed. I thought perhaps he was a clerk at a gas station/convenience store, since those get robbed all the time. If everyone is getting a different idea about the setting, you might want to just tell us where he is–unless it’s impt that we not know just yet. But I would keep reading, definitely.

  5. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 08:01:04

    I also thought he was dreaming. Just a first impression. There is nothing to indicate that other than a sudden, oddly appearing bed.

    This entry has a lot action for a first page! And that’s great. I love a fast pace. But a few more details about the character and setting would go a long way to help the reader picture what, exactly, is happening.

  6. Terisa Wilcox
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 08:02:14

    I liked this. I would definitely read more. Good job drawing the reader in and making them want to read on to find out what’s going on. I thought your descriptions were well-written. I assume, because of the gas fumes and the concrete floor, that he’s in a gas station. But, you might want to make that a bit more clear to the reader, unless you do that later. Otherwise, very good beginning. I would keep reading.

  7. Jody W.
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 08:24:06

    Another vote that the bed comes out of nowhere for this reader. Our beleagured protagonist is fading into unconsciousness from pain/blood loss/etc and thinks his only chance lays with 911 (which would imply he has human style health, not Wolverine healing abilities) then suddenly he’s face-rubbing and rolling over (turning) to view a bed.

    Again — this may be an issue that gets answered in the next line or two and the rest was compelling. I think the author has been sufficiently advised there’s a possible stumbling block here, so I’ll shut up now :)

  8. Maili
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 09:03:37

    It reads as if Jack is a psychic experiencing someone’s last moments.

    That’s my guess, but I still am not sure. Then again, I think it’s meant to be vague to maximise the twist at the end of that scene. Even so, I would like perhaps a smoother transition between these two settings to lessen the jarring change.

    Other than that, I quite enjoyed reading it and would read more. It seems the kind I would enjoy. Nice one.

  9. Kristi
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 09:16:17

    I liked it, and I thought the setting comments were valid, but my one big question had to do with your marketing.

    Is this really a light paranormal? It seems pretty dark to me, or by light do you mean psychics as opposed to something more fantastic like vampires?

  10. Leah
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 09:43:43

    I also wondered about “light,” which to me means “funny.” The opening scene wasn’t funny at all, and kind of set the stage for something more serious (my preference, actually). Hadn’t thought about the psychic angle that Maili mentioned…rather like that.

  11. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 10:34:02

    Thank you, everyone, for the kind comments. I wanted to make sure everyone knew that that last line about a bed isn’t from this WIP, and Jane has already fixed it, posting the actual next lines. *g* Hopefully, now it makes more sense.

    This book features Jack Sutton (a character introduced in my recent release), an ex-con who just got out of prison after serving seven years for a murder he didn’t commit. So that’s why he doesn’t have a cell phone…yet. A friend told me this would be considered a ‘light paranormal’ because it’s not vampires or werewolves or anything like that. My characters are all human, but the heroine, who owns the bait shop/convenience store next to the auto garage Jack’s leasing is a healer (she heals his knife wound within the next couple of pages). Her 14 year-old sister is a witch who has recently discovered her gift. And she’s as brooding and moody as they comes…LOL

    Thanks again for all the great comments. :-)

  12. Likari (LindaR)
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:05:51

    This is intriguing, but little nits in the writing kept stopping me. It reads to me like a second draft, ready to be polished.

    The story is good — I was drawn into the scene and stayed there, despite the nits. A few of them:

    Jack Sutton heard a whisper of movement a split second before an arm wrapped around his neck and something sharp plunged into his gut. His brain registered that he'd been stabbed as a hard shove sent him crashing to the cold concrete floor.

    1. Personally, I would start with “Jack” not “Jack Sutton.” If you want the reader to be in his head, he’s probably not thinking of himself as Jack Sutton, unless he’s an NBA player.

    2. I hate sentences that pervert the natural time line. This is just my personal thing, and I am probably the only one in the universe that this bothers. But if you’re in Jack’s head, he doesn’t know that he hears a whisper of movement before something else is going to happen.

    3. Sayittwiceitis alert: something plunged into his gut. brain tells him he’s been stabbed.

    Next: a croaky voice complained, a second voice assured — it would be better to get rid of the tags. Maybe something like:

    “You should've slit his throat.” A croaky, unfamiliar voice.

    “He'll be dead in an hour.” The second voice was deeper, self-assured. “Get the cash register opened.”

    I think if you put the second voice in charge, he would be giving orders instead of asking for help. Just a thought.

    Jack lay still as death . . .

    Except he didn’t, did he?

    Jesus, he was going to puke. Concentrate, Sutton, he thought, swallowing hard, choking down bile.

    here you have more sayittwiceitis — going to puke, choking down bile. Also, delete the “he thought.” I’d take out the Jesus comment and just write:
    Concentrate, Sutton. He swallowed hard, choking on bile.

    He squeezes his eyes a lot.

    He squeezed his eyes shut and listened as his attackers struggled to get the cash register open. He would have laughed at their incompetence if every second didn't mean the difference between his own life and death.

    The life and death clause is a cliche. You might clean that up to:

    He listened as his attackers struggled to get the register open, their incompetence wasting precious seconds.

    As I said, these are nitpicky things. The story is exciting, and I want to know why these guys are doing what they’re doing and what Jack’s story is. Good luck with this!

  13. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:24:09

    Thanks, Linda, I appreciate you taking the time to comment! You definitely gave me some things to think about. :-)

  14. Leah
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:41:33

    LOL! Thanks for clearing up the bed part! Really like it and the plot description.

  15. Florence Case
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:46:07

    Donna, I loved this. I think your writing is great–it pulled me right into the story. I’m especially glad you posted and mentioned he’s an ex-con. I look forward to reading this when it gets pubbed.

  16. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 11:53:12

    Leah and Florence, thank you so much. :-) I’ve had a crazy morning and afternoon, so I really needed this today. I’m almost at the end of a half month blog tour to celebrate my newest release, which it’s the book where I introduce Jack Sutton, so all this feedback is fantastic and at just the perfect time. *grin*.

  17. whey
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 12:52:16

    Definitely intrigued. Now, if you can just changed the heroine to a hero, I’d be all aboard! Hehee

  18. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 12:57:21

    LOL…Sorry, Whey, for this story I need a hero & a heroine. But my alter ego, Liza James, has been considering writing a story you may appreciate more. :-)

  19. Kristina Cook
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:48:12

    Just wanted to say that I was totally sucked into this opening–very intriguing, and I think the writing is terrific! Best of luck with this!

  20. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 19:14:42

    Thanks so much, Kristina!

  21. Julia Sullivan
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 11:04:32

    A friend told me this would be considered a ‘light paranormal' because it's not vampires or werewolves or anything like that

    I’ve never heard that term used to mean anything but “humorous paranormal.” Psychic powers of healing certainly qualify a book as “paranormal”–I think your friend’s use of the term is idiosyncratic and would be as confusing to an agent as it is to us.

  22. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 19:51:58

    Thanks, Julia. I guess, then, it’s fair to say I can start calling this a paranormal, period. :-)

  23. blabla
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 03:15:27

    I have not read the other reviews so I don't know what was said but I do find something's very unusual in this. For one, when a person has been stabbed and they see their own blood- the DO NOT get nauseous. Vomiting would be the farthest thing away from their mind as all instincts kick in to figure out how to survive be it fighting for ones life or playing dead. What ever gets them to live they will do it. Your writing style is very good, by the way, very engaging. Another thing is that when bad guys don't kill their victims right away, I get the feeling that they might be very stupid because in real life, they don't live their victims hanging-it's just too much hassle, simply put. But I guess if the hero dies in the first place there would be no story so I understand what you're doing. Also, do people really vomit when stabbed in the stomach??? I mean, people vomit when they've eaten something bad and their stomach is trying to get rid of it, or when the hormones changes…but when stabbed? I dunno… if he is getting nauseus from his own blood, after getting freaking STABBED, nu-uh! Better change or your character will be labeled unsightly names that question his intelligence.

  24. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 10:26:05

    Thanks for your comments, Blabla. My stepdad was stabbed in the gut many years ago, and the first thing he said was that he felt sick to his stomach. So while I appreciate your opinion, I have a different view point on this and I stand by the way I’ve written it. But I decided to email a friend who is an RN, and this is what she had to say:

    While one might (a really big might here as blood in the belly causes all sorts of nasty symptoms) not be immediately nauseated by being stabbed in the gut. There is a big HOWEVER here. If a person is stabbed in the gut, the thought of what may be coming is plenty or reason for “choking bile down” and waves and waves of nausea, and adding the gasoline makes it even better–so to speak.

    I really do appreciate your viewpoint, but I now have two very reliable reasons to keep it the way it is. Everyone reacts to things differently. While some people might react the way you describe, some would certainly react the way I’ve described. You also said:

    Vomiting would be the farthest thing away from their mind as all instincts kick in to figure out how to survive be it fighting for ones life or playing dead. Whatever gets them to live they will do.

    And I agree. That’s why, ‘Jack lay still as death, praying whoever these bastards were they'd hurry the hell up. If he could crawl to the phone and dial 9-1-1, he might have a chance.’

    He’s playing dead, hoping they’ll hurry, rob the place, and leave so he can crawl to the phone before he passes out. And yeah, the book would be over before it started if my hero died (the heroine is a healer who saves him literally a page later), so the two lowlifes hired to kill him aren’t exactly professional hitmen, just two boobs wanting to get the job done and get out. LOL

  25. blabla
    Jul 30, 2009 @ 08:21:30

    Ok then. I have not heard of such things but since you say that your step-dad had experienced the same thing, I guess that’ll do. Its just that when I read that he was being all girly at the sight of blood, I was like: you stupid, idiot! You got freaking stabbed, you moron! Stop being a pussy and learn how to live, you dolt. Even a typical romance novel heroine is not that stupid…or maybe she is!
    Unfortunately, I did not have the same info that you did. So sorry about your step-dad; must’ve been painful for him. Anyway, sorry about my attidute…its just that I have read way too many romance novels with dim witted dip shits for characters.

  26. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 30, 2009 @ 17:21:46

    “All girly, moron, pussy, stupid, dip shit”? Blabla, I don’t know whether to laugh or feel insulted. *grin* Though I do appreciate your kind words on my writing style. :-) If you like strong alpha heroes, I hope you’ll try one of my books. I promise you my heroes are not wimps. They’re big, alpha, overprotective jerks sometimes, but not wimps. LOL And Jack Sutton is introduced in MEANT TO BE.

    I guess I just don’t understand why feeling like he’s going to puke makes him a “pussy”. It’s not like he cried out, “Oh, dear, oh my goodness, I think I’m going to be sick!” LOL And if someone already feels nauseous, to me it makes sense that the sight of so much blood (a puddle, mind you, not a paper cut) combined with the noxious odor of the gasoline would intensify that sick feeling.

  27. blabla
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 11:28:38

    It wasn't definitely mean to be insulting. By the way, I hate alpha heroes! Give me one and I will probably kill it with my kitchen knife. What one needs to understand, is not to be too hard and not to be too stupid. Unfortunately, a lot of the romance novel writers whose books I have read ended up being that way and I absolutely hated it. When I read a book, I don't expect the characters to be so lacking in common sense. I just came back from lurking around this old forum in another website where the author was ranting and raving that because she made her hero soft, all the readers hated that and that they actually wanted an ass-hole alpha. Sad but true. What she forgot to mention was that she made her hero extremely stupid and that the readers hated that bit.
    Please, don't make an ass-hole alpha hero; more often than not, they ended up sounding like the bad guy to me. I like nice, soft hero and a strong heroine. Would mind telling me what sort of person your heroine is, if it's not too much to ask?
    By the way, what’s Sayittwiceitis? Does any one know???

  28. Donna Kowalczyk
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 11:54:19

    I totally get and respect that, Blabla. We all like different types of characters, and I’m pretty picky myself. I’m also not one to rant (unless it’s directed at my nonstop fighting kids…LOL), though I have been known to defend my opinion. ;-)

    I don’t like asshole alphas, trust me, and I don’t think I write them that way (well, Garrett’s pretty moody, but he has a heart of gold and seems to be a favorite among my readers). My heroines are loyal, hardworking, small town women. Sometimes they make poor choices, but I don’t think any of them fall under the category of TSTL. *grin* If you’re interested, I’d be very happy to send you the first chapter of There’s Only Been You, the first book in my Jamison series. You’ll get a good feel for both my hero & heroine (Mike & Sara). My email address is [email protected] (just in case you didn’t want to post yours here).

  29. blodeuedd
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 13:32:46

    I understand why you call me Jack Sutton, cos that would make me go yay that I get to read about him again. And I sure am since I loved him in Meant to Be, he seemed so sweet, and yes angry too but I liked what he did there.
    Good story, why did they do what the did? What kind of problem is he in now, he always seems to be getting into trouble

%d bloggers like this: