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First Page: Unnamed Paranormal

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Tor hadn’t planed on killing anyone today but a male at the back was earning himself a future measured in minutes. What the eternal bells was she doing in his audience hall? Bastard had better not touch her.

Soft leather shifted as his body tightened with tension. Claws extended to grip the throne arms then disappeared. She did this, forced him to think about controlling his reactions. Low in his gut burned more than lust. It was need he couldn’t escape and couldn’t endure forever.

Tall for a pure humanoid, her perfectly proportioned body drew male eyes no matter how simply she dressed. It was probably impossible to disguise firm muscles giving her sleek curves. Tor wouldn’t mind if she tried though. The simple dress highlighted natural beauty instead of concealing it.

Elegant bone structure created perfect features. It was just unnecessary over-kill that each feature also embodied whatever it took to rouse a male libido. Eyes slightly larger than average gave her innocent appeal that naturally led a male to speculate what it’d take to turn those silver eyes sultry. Sculpted cheek bones under delicate smooth skin, distinctly humanoid nose above lush lips made any view of her profile fascinating to a Leonor male. Long neck above gently sloped shoulders naturally drew the eye down to the perfection of her body.

Tor hated that but erotic allure wafted around her. Not normal sex one thought of when looking at a beautiful female. No. With her it was edgy and dark. Something about her grace of movement, casual coordination and fluid muscle control made it easy to imagine her body straining under a much larger Leonor.

Tor didn’t want the male behind her imagining another moment. Not right there in front of him. She’d entered his domain and in this building he didn’t have to watch her captivate another.

"Why is the Beloved of my Brother standing in line to speak with me?" Tor questioned his Visor, ignoring the two males arguing their dispute before him.

"She insisted, My Lord," Karloff, High Visor, bowed as he responded.

"Unacceptable," Tor snapped.

Thick muscles bunched as he rose from the throne. Well over seven feet tall, the dark ruffed Leonor king was an imposing figure as he looped off the dais.

Offense rippled through him but it couldn’t come close to his strongest response as he neared the woman. She drew him with such power. His eyes never left her from the moment he realized she was in his lair. He didn’t even try to politely glance away. Now the back of his neck burned as he covered the distance separating them.

"Beloved of my Brother," High King Tor greeted Princes Sahara

Tor inhaled deeply while reaching for her slim hand. Subtle scents washed through him, her scent, complex but as elusive as the woman. He always had the fleeting impression of moonrise when she neared him, as if that event has a scent.


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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. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 05:09:28

    Are you planning to submit this to an epublisher? Not being facetious here; I’m just wondering because the style displayed in this story is similar to that in many erotic paranormal romances I have read from Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, and such.

    Having said that, I have no problems with this one, although my personal reaction to it is that I hope the subsequent pages will be more interesting. The whole “lust at first sight” thing is very overused in paranormal romances.

  2. Anion
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 05:11:36

    I’m sorry, I was totally confused throughout by whether Tor was a man looking at a hot woman or a hot woman looking at some other guy or what. It felt like it kept switching or there was some other character in there I didn’t know about. Is Tor the same as High King Tor? Is the silvery-eyed woman Princess Sahara? Very confusing.

    No offense, but blah blah blah she’s really hot blah blah. Nothing’s happening in this piece at all. Some sort of humanoid of either sex is apparently looking at another humanoid of either sex, and the chick is really hot. Honestly, the description turned me off; not only does it feel cliche, but it’s just description. It sounds like you have a complex world, you should start putting us in it immediately.

    Your dialogue tags are incorrect. Physical action always has a period before or after it; the correct way to write it is:

    “She insisted, My Lord.” Karloff, High Visor, bowed.


    “She insisted, My Lord,” Karloff, High Visor, bowed as he responded.

    Not to mention your tags TELL us things that they could have shown; i.e. “High King Tor greeted Princess Sahara.” You could have shown us that.

    I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what jumped out at me. The is-the-mc-male-or-female confused me so much that I couldn’t focus as much on the rest.

    You’re not a bad writer. I’ve certainly seen worse. But this is rather dull and cliche. There’s nothing new about this opening and nothing that would make me keep reading (of course I’m sure several people will like it, which goes to show again what a subjective industry this is.)

    I wish you the best of luck, though, and I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings.

  3. Leah
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 06:38:01

    I, too, was confused about the male/female part. I figured that the first “male” was a typo, until you referred back to the situation in the end. I have to say, long descriptions of how the heroine looks and what the hero thinks about how she looks just don’t do it for me–and I skip those sections in most books. I think other people like those sensual details, and it adds to the romantic experience for them, so I’m not saying they’re bad, just that it might work better to shorten it a little, or to put them on the second page. I think Mrs. Giggles’ comments bode well for you. Good luck!

  4. Lori
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 06:39:22

    Tor hadn't planed on killing anyone today but a male at the back was earning himself a future measured in minutes. What the eternal bells was she doing in his audience hall? Bastard had better not touch her.

    This confused me. First sentence a male was pissing Tor off. Second sentence it was a female. Third sentence WTF?

    Of course I understood later but that needs a rewrite.

    Otherwise Anion said it all. Good writing but not a thing there to read. As a woman I find nothing but descriptions of other women’s hotness to be tedious. No story to draw me in.

  5. joanne
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 07:03:14

    Yes, the first paragraph is confusing.

    The description (of the heroine?) is bewildering. She is elegant and edgy? A slim hand is attached to her tall, muscled body? You’re right when you say it’s “unnecessary over-kill”. It all sounds too fraternity wish-list for me to want to read more about her or the 7 foot “ruffed” male.

    Thank you.

  6. theo
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 08:11:38

    I too, found the first paragraph very confusing and needed to read through it twice before I continued with the story.

    I’m curious. Is this paranormal? Or SciFi? Or fantasy with romantic elements? I honestly don’t know since the SF, UF and F are not genres I tend to read, but I would think a ‘paranormal’ would have humans in it. Humanoid tells me the characteristics are human but the subject is not.

    I think Anion touched on most everything I would have. But, at the risk of getting myself in trouble, I will say that all of the ‘ly’ words to describe the female’s various body parts in one paragraph was also offputting for me. Six in five sentences is difficult for me to get past.

    I got the impression from the line “Offense rippled through him…” to the end of the example that this man/demon/creature is some kind of king, and he lusts after his brother’s wife. Everything else was just too confusing to follow.

    Kudos for putting it out there. I think with work, the idea could hold promise but there’s not enough there now to tell me much.

  7. vanessa jaye
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 08:42:29

    I had to go back and see what was confusing folks. I got that the guy behind the Princess was checking her out in a way that was pissing Tor off. But in re-reading that first paragraph, I can see how it could throw peeps off. Definitely needs some tweaking.

    This was really well written, in that I wanted to get caught up in the story, and nothing really made me stumble in the reading. I already found the H intriguing (male cat shifter?), the “Beloved of my Brother” stuff hints at a major conflict at some point, and it seems like just the begining of what could possibly be some fairly satisfying world-building. Count this as a vote for the author’s voice working *for me*.

    Having said that, the tag with the Visor’s dialogue does need correcting–I can see how you made that minor mistake, because it ends with ‘as he responded’. Easily fixed. Had no problem with ‘the High King greeted her’ per se, you used the line to identify both characters, right? But consider identifying both of them sooner, then that tag could be put to better use. Maybe he refuses to take her hand as is custom? Or he does and has the satisfaction of seeing her reaction to him, etc.

    Lastly, I sort of agree with Mrs. Giggles, for whatever reason I thought ebook when reading this. Also, just a personal thing here, the laundry list of physical traits is a tiny pet peeve for me. It stops the story in its tracks while one character or the other does the mental inventory/lusting. It would be better sprinkled in as the story progresses. Better to choose a few relevant points out of paragraphs 3, 4, 5, boil them down to ONE short paragraph and move on with the story. If there’s any descriptions that you truly love, but edited out here, save them to insert later in the story.

    Description is needed, but you’d be surprised how little you can get away with in terms of physical descriptions of the characters. Half the time readers have their own (preferred) mental picture of what the H/h looks like anyway. Fer instance, I’m not sure how tall your heroine is, but right away I loped off several inches from your H and made him about 6’3″. ;-) Then there’s the problem of descriptions feeling a bit tired or not fresh. Keeping it short allows you the writer to come up with some phrasing that is unique and makes a emotional impact.

    Good luck with this. Based on this example, I’d be interested in reading more!

  8. shenan
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 08:45:25

    —-Tor hadn’t planed on killing anyone today

    That turned me right off, even beyond the misspelling of “planned.” But then, I’m not the target audience. I don’t care for paranormals. Especially the Sexy! Vampire! kind. Or, in this case, the Sexy! Lion King! kind. And neither am I the target audience for any book with a hero who makes a living killing people — or who does it as a hobby. I like my heroes a little more heroic than that.

    —- but a male at the back was earning himself a future measured in minutes.

    This is totally confusing. What male? At the back of what? Who is Tor? What is Tor? Where are we? What is going on?

    I never stick with books that don’t set up the story. I don’t want to have to wade through pages and chapters trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

    —- What the eternal bells was she doing in his audience hall? Bastard had better not touch her.

    Again — totally confusing. Within the first three sentences we’re introduced to three characters, none of whom are identified except for one character name. The characters aren’t introduced to the scene — the reader is simply catapulted into the action mid-scene. Even beyond that, the sentences don’t follow. Tor jumps from thought to thought, with no flow between them.

    —-Soft leather shifted as his body tightened with tension.

    Is Tor wearing this shifting leather or sitting on it?

    — Claws extended to grip the throne arms then disappeared.

    Whose claws? Tor’s? And did his claws actually disappear or just retract?

    —-She did this, forced him to think about controlling his reactions. Low in his gut burned more than lust. It was need he couldn’t escape and couldn’t endure forever.

    More confusion. Again with the “she” reference, with the reader left to wonder what is going on and who the mystery woman is.

    We then get an overly-detailed and overlong description of the woman and still without any idea who she is.

    I’m guessing this is an Erotic Romance. And again, I’m not the target audience. I find the whole over-reliance on sex in any genre boring. And lazy storytelling.

    —-Thick muscles bunched as he rose from the throne. Well over seven feet tall, the dark ruffed Leonor king was an imposing figure as he looped off the dais.

    Your pov shifts here. And I assume you mean “loped” there. Unless Tor did a somersault off his throne.

    —-He always had the fleeting impression of moonrise when she neared him, as if that event has a scent.

    I’m not getting a visual here. I can’t even begin to figure out what I’m supposed to be seeing.

  9. Maya M.
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 10:01:19

    I really liked “…what the eternal bells” and the implication that some part of his overwhelming negative feelings is due to his attraction to her even though she is the “Beloved of his brother”, i.e. off limits to him.

    But I tuned out by the third mention of “perfect/perfection” referring to her physical appearance. Not interested in reading about someone who sounds like she could be Malibu Barbie, especially when he apparently can’t think of a single internal characteristic that attracts him (apart from all the physical ones) despite presumably being well-acquainted with her. Being his sister-in-law (or something like that)and all.

    Still, the lion-like character was interesting.

    Good luck!

  10. Gennita Low
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 10:03:51

    Like Vanessa, this author’s voice worked for me.

    The first paragraph just needed a bit tweaking to clarify what was happening. For example, with the bolded parts being my additions:

    Tor hadn't planed on killing anyone today but a male at the back was earning himself a future measured in minutes. ***How dare he stand so close to the Imperial Highness of ***? And what the eternal bells was she doing in his audience hall, anyway? Bastard had better not touch her.

    This makes his POV deeper and also sets up the mindset of the character, along with telling just a bit about her and the main character’s social standing.

    The mental undressing/body description went just a tad too long. You can sprinkle the information later, perhaps during the conversation in Page 2, when (I’m imagining this part, of course) he’d be snarling rudely at her being there while unable to take his eyes off her form, etc. That would add to his tension and emphasize how out-of-control he was (since you mentioned claws, I’m expecting animalistic possessiveness, etc., yes?)

    I liked the uber-male loping off the throne and stalking parts. I also liked the way he greeted her, trying to sound “normal.” Not sure about the moonrise metaphor, though.

    Thanks for sharing. I think you have good elements of an interesting world here.

  11. Anne Douglas
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 11:06:44

    I think everyone else has brought up the issues I found problematic, but I had one thought on the second read – does anyone else feel as if this would read better in first person?

    I’m not sure why – I’ve no biased for or against fp – but something about it struck me that the guy concerned would sound better as fp. *shrug *

  12. Leah
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 12:16:54

    You may be right. It’s easier to get that lustful intensity in first person, and it would help the writer to set up the situation a little more quickly. Still, I always associate first person with a slightly angsty, sensitive character, and I’m guessing the hero is an alpha. Kind of interesting to think about. What if it were done from the heroine’s viewpoint, first person, and she’s there specifically to drive the hero up the wall–including choosing to sit near someone who would check her out? I can definitely see that.

  13. Frannie
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 12:26:10

    Besides the trouble with that first paragraph which I had to read three times to understand it, what most bothered me to distraction was the over use of the word “male”. By my count it was used 6 times. Isn’t that a bit too much for one word? I ended up looking for and counting “male” instead of being pulled into the story.

  14. JoB
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 12:51:03

    … What Shenan said.
    Just about point by point.

    I like the lyricism of the writing. Very fine. Very sensual.

    I do notice the amount of description in this passage.

    Now description is not bad in and of itself, of course, but I wonder whether we should see so much right up front.
    The first scene is where we lure the reader in with action and motivation and emotion.
    Description tends to be static.

    I think this feeling of ‘static description’ comes from all these inanimate objects doing stuff all over the place.


    leather shifted
    body tightened
    claws extended
    low (in his gut) burned
    scents washed
    bone structure created
    muscles gave
    dress highlighted
    cheek bones made
    body drew
    and so on …

    So much lively action assigned to body parts.

    Inanimate object cannot feel guilt or scheme or enjoy soup or make decisions or admit mistakes.
    People can.

    People show intent and motivation and cool stuff like that when you make them the subject of sentences.

    So. Fr’instance.

    Take this passage which is inanimate objects being the subject of sentences.

    Elegant bone structure created perfect features. It was just unnecessary over-kill that each feature also embodied whatever it took to rouse a male libido. Eyes slightly larger than average gave her innocent appeal that naturally led a male to speculate what it'd take to turn those silver eyes sultry. Sculpted cheek bones under delicate smooth skin, distinctly humanoid nose above lush lips made any view of her profile fascinating

    We can recast it so people are subjects of sentences …

    Sahara lowered her round, innocent eyes to the carpet at her feet. So modest. She used that elegant bone structure, the delicate skin, the lush lips, as weapons. Every intact male in the room was watching her, sniffing her scent, wondering what it would take to turn those silver eyes sultry. And she knew it.

    We don’t lose the description by doing this. But now the verbs are talking about people feeling and acting, rather than what cheekbones and skin are doing.

    And people just naturally have a wider range of interesting motivations than cheekbones.

    Finally — a pair of niggles here …

    — I know this is early draft. Later on, when it comes time to pick your beta readers, make sure you include someone who can pick up errors of the visor/vizier and planed/planned type.

    — And again, I know this is early stage and the names are placeholders. But names on exotic planets should probably not remind the reader of major publishing houses, deserts in Africa, or spooky actors.

  15. rebyj
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 12:54:55

    I had the same trouble with the first paragraph and I’m not sure what a humanoid is and could use a fleshed out definition, and I wonder if a humanoid would have a scent but that may just me my own ignorance.

    Also, he is described as having claws and a lair and that they are all ” Leonor”.. I googled Leonor and came up with “womans name” and ” brand of hairspray”.

    Same with the unfamiliar use of the word “Visor”

    Anyway, I don’t want to discourage the author at all, tweak the descriptions and carry on!

  16. Lori
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 13:46:37

    JoB: that was an excellent rewrite of that paragraph! I’m awed and jealous how well you did that.

  17. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 14:31:02

    POV all over the place, and pronouns can be your friend sometimes. At least they would tell us the sex of some of the people involved!
    This isn’t paranormal, it’s fantasy as it’s happening in a world other than ours. And it took me a while to work out the sexes of all involved and who was situated where in the scene.
    Watch your spelling, too. “planed” for planned and “princes” for princess. It wouldn’t pull me in, I’m afraid, or persuade me to read more. I was caught at one point wondering if it was lust or maybe a touch of indigestion. What is happening and where’s the tension? She’s in a throne room and there’s some instant lust going on?
    I didn’t think ebook, rather the kind of sci-fi that used to be published with graphic-style covers.

  18. Maura
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 15:19:18

    I’m not a fan of the “Claws extended,” “leather shifted,” “bone structure created,” etc. It sounds stilted to me, and reminds me unpleasantly of a particular strain of “literary” online roleplayers who are anything but. Once you got around to including some actual pronouns, it became much easier for me to read. I still had to work harder than I like to figure out how the scene was supposed to be set and who was meant to be whom.

    Do you have a beta/proofreader or other editor involved at this stage? In addition to the unclear grammar, there are some spelling errors you will definitely want to weed out.

  19. JoB
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 15:27:35

    Hi Lori —

    Why thank you kindly.
    It’s the old emphasis trick.

    The sun revealed her red-rimmed eyes.
    She lifted her face in the sunlight to reveal red-rimmed eyes.

    Same picture. Except we’ve added motivation and intent and suchlike.

  20. Maura
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 18:16:58

    I didn’t realize this was bugging me, but “pure humanoid?” Does “humanoid” in your universe mean something other than a human-like creature? Are Tor and the Leonors (a term which flashes me back to Thundercats) not human-like creatures? If she is a pure human, and not, say, a hybrid of some kind, why not just say so?

  21. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 21:23:21

    Everyone else has already talked about the confusing first couple of paragraphs. Pronouns with no antecedents are just too bewildering–if you had used “Sahara” instead of “she” it would have been much easier to follow.

    Also, “High Visor”? Do you mean “vizier” here? “Visor” doesn’t make any sense. If it’s short for “advisor” then I suppose you could render it as ” ‘visor ” or similar, but it still makes him sound like something you would wear for tennis.

    And never call anyone “Karloff” (or “Lugosi” for that matter). It’s still too soon.

    The technical flaws (the confusing first paragraph, misspellings, odd word choices above) are really getting in the way of what is potentially a very interesting story. I like the idea of powerful lion-like beings with an advanced civilization.

  22. DS
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 10:37:04

    Agree with JoB. I was skimming after the first few sentences because this read as so familiar. Not even necessarily romance, it could have been the start of any number of sword and sorcery or alien set sf stories.

    I did give a snort as the Leonor king “looped off the dais”. I know it was just a spelling error but this one struck me as funny for some reason.

    Also sff names are not easy to come up with but the right one can make a big difference in how a story reads. Norton called her catlike alien race Salariki, Cherryh called hers Hani. Both names easy to mentally or physically pronounce and neither are strongly reminiscent of any other common English word.

    While the names in this excerpt might just be place holder names, I would suggest some brainstorming to try to come up good names that won’t have the reader having to work to avoid other associations. It might be a good idea to come up with a few conventions to be used when inventing names such as for instance having the name of one sex ending in a soft vowel while the other ends in a hard consonant or maybe honorifics can be added to the beginning or end of names to distinguish sex and/or status. And avoid apostrophes, too many apostrophes makes my head go all explody.

  23. Jessica Kennedy
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 19:07:01

    I liked it. At first I was confused but then I understood. I’ve read published books that confused the heck out of me but they were still good.

    A revision would probably be best.

    I was enthralled with the world you were building. The Princess was obviously in the line for a reason and I really wanted to know why. The King’s height is way too tall for me! I can’t imagine a male being that tall. That’s the only thing that really turned me off.

    Good job!

  24. cecilia
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 18:58:22

    Looks like this one just came out!

  25. Ann Somerville
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:10:20

    Looks like this one just came out!

    What is the point of submitting a first page to an already accepted story? Or is the backlog that long on DA?

  26. Jane
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:14:15

    We do have a pretty long backlog (two months at least) but I guess I’ve never designated whether this should be for unpublished so I’ll probably change that in the future but it’s not that the author took advantage of it.

  27. Janine
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:32:35

    I don’t agree that there’s no point in putting up a first page from a work that has been accepted for publication. Writers don’t stop honing their craft when they become published. If they’re brave enough to ask for feedback here, why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to benefit from it?

  28. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:44:03

    It takes a lot longer than two months to have a book accepted, edited and published at Ellora’s Cave, even for established authors there.
    I think this must have been an early draft, because of the spelling errors, something that would have been corrected on the first editing run through. I imagine the pronoun and pov problems were sorted out, too, as the extract on the site is a lot more polished than the one presented here.
    Still something that wouldn’t interest me, because fantasy isn’t really my thing, but interesting to see an early version of a book.
    Did anyone buy this one? Does it show the changes suggested here?

  29. Leah
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:49:28

    I don't agree that there's no point in putting up a first page from a work that has been accepted for publication. Writers don't stop honing their craft when they become published. If they're brave enough to ask for feedback here, why shouldn't they have the opportunity to benefit from it?

    You have a point, there. Especially when the writer knows she is not likely to get reviews in every publication. And honestly, this forum is a lot more helpful than a book review, per se. Um, in that spirit, I have to say (and bear in mind, erotica is not really my thing), the cover is a bit much.

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