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First Page: Unnamed Paranormal

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***

I’m still in one piece-

And more importantly, still alive. Hope’s rapid breaths churned with the Yukon air, creating a steam engine effect with each exhale. She lay flat on her back, blinking past the dainty white flakes of snow falling from the midnight sky.

Beyond her fogging breaths and drifting snow, was the moon. Hanging heavy and full, beautiful yet deadly. It’s companion, the aurora borealis danced among the stars, casting a celestial glow upon the rocky, snow-covered terrain.

Running hadn’t been intentional nor had it been out of fear, but when bloodlust, a compelling force all werewolves succumbed to, took over the beast stalking her in the back drop of woods, she’d had no choice but to run, out maneuver it, and then destroy it.

After twenty years of the same old, same old, she ought to be used to the near death experiences and the overwhelming flood of adrenaline. Yet as she lay there in a mound of disturbed snow, panting and reveling in her victory, her heart was wild, drowning out the voices of her coming squadron.

Halting just at her side, a towering figure stood with his outstretched hand waiting patiently for her to take it.

"I’ve got to say boss, I’m a little offended you’re out here making snow angels without the rest of us." Sloan said, rolling his eyes when she refused his aid. He flashed a knowing grin, the dimples bordering his cheeks deepening.

"And I’ve got to say, your aim sucks." As she’d been out giving  run for your life new meaning, he hadn’t managed to make one direct hit with his automatic. No way was she taking credit for mentoring him now.

Hope ignored his dry laugh as she forced her shaking limbs to cooperate and stand. Sloan bent at the waist and retrieved something from the snow. Her knife, she realized, as he pressed the cold metal to her palm without brushing skin.

"Babe, my aim only matters in two areas of my expertise and since you’re still alive and my female subjects aren’t complaining, then I’d say I’m good to go," he said, moonlight catching a twinkle in his brown eyes.

"Uh huh. And I guess I never see any of the women you date because they’re just as elusive as the fiends we hunt."

Suddenly Hope gasped and clutched her face in mock horror. "Oh No! Sloan I think you’ve been sleeping with werewolves."

He scowled and pursed his lips. "Says the Demi Moore wanna be whose dates I never see. Tell me, what is ghost sex really like?"

Hope snorted and waved a dismissive hand as she strode to through the ankle deep snow, making her way toward the crowd of officers huddling over the disemboweled remains of her kill.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

29 Comments

  1. pendragonfly
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 07:23:40

    Great job. Liked this story a lot. I think it just needs some minor tweaking, maybe some trimming or re-arranging of a few sentences to make them crisper and cleaner. This one could be broken up, for example:
    Running hadn't been intentional nor had it been out of fear, but when bloodlust, a compelling force all werewolves succumbed to, took over the beast stalking her in the back drop of woods, she'd had no choice but to run, out maneuver it, and then destroy it.

    ReplyReply

  2. jmc
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 07:25:59

    The language of the opening paragraphs struck me as heavy and wordy, needing some pruning. Also, it’s and its have different usages; please check the second sentence of the second paragraph. (Sorry, that is one of my pet peeves.)

    Is Sloan just her employee? Her friend or lover? Calling his employer “babe” seems inappropriate unless they have some other relationship, as does the dialog about sex and dating while at what appears to be a crime scene. Actually, the tone of that convo doesn’t really match (for me, YMMV) the gory set up and suspense-ish atmosphere that the first and last paragraphs are aiming for.

    Generally speaking, I like shifter paranormals, so I might be interested in this if the writing were tightened up.

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  3. Bernie
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 08:05:33

    OK you got me. I want more. I am not a writer but a reader of paranormal novels. And I would be taking a closer look at this one. Like a strong female lead and I have to say a alpha male. Good Luck! Bernie

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  4. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 08:07:09

    Love the voice on this one, clear and distinctive. You are more likely to be taken up than someone with impeccable copy but an ordinary voice, because that’s what agents and publishers are looking for.
    Having said that, here are my niggles.

    Get the distinction between it’s and its sorted out, because that one really gets up editors’ noses. Its means “belonging to it.” Its means “It is.” Breaks the rules which is why so many people cock it up.

    The story starts really well, then you have a couple of paras of introspection which slows the action down. Delete them. Leave a brief reference to the moon, concentrate on her pounding heart and panting breath, which seem to go away for those paras, and go straight on.

    A couple of unneccessary words like “suddenly” popped out and “I think” in the words with Sloan.

    Backdrop is all one word when it’s referring to a setting. Wannabe as well is all one word.

    But on the whole, loved it. With a bit of tidying up, you’re good to go.

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  5. pendragon
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 08:26:04

    I dunno, sexy banter at crime scenes seems to work well on TV. Sex and violence are often closely related, after all. Sex and laughter are sometimes relief valves. Examples of such crime scene banter between co-workers I can think of are Castle and Beckett on Castle. Or Tony and Ziva/Tony and Kate on NCIS. Years ago on the classic moonlighting, the sexual tension b/w Bruce Willis and his employer, Cybill Shepherd, was palpable and made the show what it was.

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  6. DS
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 08:47:42

    The “boss” to “babe” thing bothered me– ok, I would take the head off any subordinate who called me “babe”. But assuming they had the type of relationship where “babe” is appropriate– that was still a lame bit of banter. It’s obviously telegraphing the future relationship between the two. Unless this is a short story, that is not something that has be on the first page.

    ETA: It did lead me to google Demi Moore to find out why the reference and I found a very interesting kerfluffle between BoingBoing and her lawyers about the apparent photoshopping of a W cover.

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  7. Maili
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 09:26:20

    Says the Demi Moore wanna be whose dates I never see.

    It took me a bit to understand what it was supposed to be. Perhaps, “…the Demi-Moore wannabe whose…”?

    Even so, I still don’t quite get the Demi Moore joke. Actress Demi Moore hid her dates from the public?

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  8. m
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 09:45:39

    I have to agree I could have done with out “babe” – I feel like I see that too much especially when author is trying to establish “this is a tough manly man who our heroine will fall for” – if that’s where you’re going… I can tell and not in a good way.

    Other than that – I’d keep reading and maybe even pick this up. I’m interested for sure, and I don’t read many paranormals.

    ReplyReply

  9. DM
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 09:48:44

    This isn’t a scene, it’s a sequel. It’s the aftermath of a more interesting event. We don’t see the protagonist do anything. Character = action. This character lies in the snow and watches the moisture from her breath condense, then chats a bit with another character who also does nothing. There’s a lot of telling, and no showing. If you dramatized the actual chase, put your character in real danger, then showed us how she reacted to that danger, you would have a winning first page.

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  10. Lori
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:02:57

    The first line was fine but the second line: And more importantly, still alive, was not. It was a first person, conversational type comment in a non-first person piece of prose that annoyed me immediately.

    To begin with someone lying in the snow after saying she’s lucky to be alive and then describe the moon was also jarring.

    So the character is lying in the snow a distance from the werewolf she killed? Why is she a walk away from the disembodied remains? Did she gut him with a knife (why is she using a knife when her team has guns?) and then walk away to look at the moon and collapse?

    Why is she lying in the snow at all?

    I’m afaid I’m the dissenting voice here but I think this is a hot mess. If you look at the scene it just doesn’t make sense.

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  11. HM
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:13:26

    Hi,

    Thanks for your review. the its and it’s thing was just a typo..thanks for pointing it out!

    Sloan and Hope have been partners for twenty years and yes, as the story goes on you will see that they -tried- a relationship but it didn’t work b/c of Hope’s issues. He’s not the hero but he is a big part of the story and will possibly :) big smile here :) have his own book one day. He’s just the typical gutter minded guy. Those inappropriate innuendos are just him…

    Thanks again

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  12. HM
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:20:32

    I started out with showing everyone how Hope killed the wolf but the scene was just too long seeing as how this is only the first page and I can’t exactly show you everything in the space of only one page but the real scene where she meets her werewolf here is towards the middle in an ambush scene.

    She is bait, attempting to lure the creature out of the woods so her squadron can tranquilize it. Which you see on the next page. Again I can’t show you everything. BUT this particular wolf doesn’t wait to simply stalk her before it attacks like the others-which you see on the second page- because it’s starving. Again second page.

    But thanks for your pointers! They are def. helpful

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  13. Darlynne
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:32:21

    I am interested and would like to read more, minor issues aside as others have mentioned. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

    ReplyReply

  14. Likari
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 11:41:58

    The bad punctuation kept throwing me out of the story.

    I also agree that the first two sentences are jarring. No one else has mentioned it, but I didn’t like the “same old, same old” phrase. It’s too immediate and clashes with the literary feel of the descriptive language all around it.

    If this is your rough draft, it explains the “hot mess,” as Lori called it. But I would hate to be the editor of something so sloppy.

    I’m being severe because the writing indicates you could do far better than this. Don’t be lazy. You are supposed to cut the gem from the rock, not make your readers do the work.

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  15. hapax
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 12:14:11

    Er, I know that I’m a dissenting voice here, but I found the language heavy and artificial, and the many run-on sentences, typos and punctuation errors very distracting.

    The heroine lies in the snow and breathes. The moon shines. Her subordinate shows up and makes stilted, inappropriate, irrelevant banter, with weird pop-culture references.

    Then this happens: Hope snorted and waved a dismissive hand as she strode to through the ankle deep snow, making her way toward the crowd of officers huddling over the disemboweled remains of her kill.

    THAT’S where this story begins.

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  16. HM
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 12:57:34

    So I guess no one saw “ghost” with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze? Where he dies and comes back as a ghost to his lover? wow. Ok, I guess i’ll take that out. Just thought more people would have understood that one.

    ReplyReply

  17. Tasha
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 13:12:02

    This is so full of errors that I would stop reading halfway through the first page. If you’re serious about submitting this to an agent or publisher, please get someone to help you find the multiple errors and correct them.

    “I've got to say boss, I'm a little offended you're out here making snow angels without the rest of us.” Sloan said,

    You need a comma at the end of the dialogue, not a full stop.

    “Oh No! Sloan I think you've been sleeping with werewolves.”

    Random capitalization of “no” plus you’re missing the direct address comma after Sloan (this is a problem throughout this excerpt).

    Hope snorted and waved a dismissive hand as she strode to through the ankle deep snow

    Extra word.

    I know people will say it’s nitpicky to focus on these errors, but when I see this many mistakes in the first page, my reaction is: The author doesn’t care. Why should I?

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  18. job
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 15:00:37

    Nice stuff. Exciting. And I like the landscape.

    Now, I would pull out modifiers because I happen to like a stripped-down style. IMO the passage would be cleaner and brighter without them. Any modifiers you leave in place would pack more punch.
    Only my opinion.

    What I mean. Not so much,

    ***
    Hope's rapid breaths churned with the Yukon air, creating a steam engine effect with each exhale. She lay flat on her back, blinking past the dainty white flakes of snow falling from the midnight sky.

    Beyond her fogging breaths and drifting snow, was the moon. Hanging heavy and full, beautiful yet deadly. It's companion, the aurora borealis danced among the stars, casting a celestial glow upon the rocky, snow-covered terrain.***

    Could be clipped to,

    ***
    Hope's breath churned the Yukon air, giving off white like a steam engine. She lay on her back, blinking past the flakes of falling snow, looking up at the beautiful and deadly moon. The aurora borealis danced among the stars, shedding coloured light on the rocky snow around her.
    ***

    That’s pulling out modifiers and leaving the basic action.

    In particular, I’ve pulled out words that don’t seem to resonate with the underlying situation of danger, running, death, and fear. Words like creating, exhale, dainty, drifting, celestial, terrain. There’s nothing wrong with those words, of course, but more robust language for the concepts above — making, panting, cutting, falling, sky, earth — might serve to create a different atmosphere.

    Reading through this passage, I feel as if I’m missing a sense of urgency. No panting, shivering, sprained ankles, face cut from branches, bruises from the fall that put her on the ground, confusion as she pulls her mind out of bloodlust and fear.

    Some of this could be added with sharp. staccato, hard-punching words.

    I’d also like to be deeper in the physicality of the scene. I want sensory details. And I want the POV emphasized as everything is described in reference to her position.
    That’s why I’d make the aurora light fall on the snow around her instead of on ‘the terrain’.

    What I mean by placing action in ref to the POV character …
    Not so much,

    ***
    Halting just at her side, a towering figure stood with his outstretched hand waiting patiently for her to take it.
    ***

    because I don’t get a sense this is our POV character lying, looking up, and seeing this. It feels more like someone outside describing.
    And would Hope not think of Sloan simply by name?

    Maybe more,
    ***
    Sloan crunched towards her and stood, blocking out the moon. He stretched his hand down.
    ***

    Final thought –
    You’re adding werewolf details which is cool, necessary and nicely done.

    Can you do this without taking the POV character out of the scene?
    Could you consider sweeping all these werewolf bits together and pouring them in all at once after you establish the presence in the here-and-now?

    To do this, you’d maybe not talk about werewolfing in general or werewolf running in the last scene. It might come as you tell us about being a werewolf IN this scene. She walks across the crusted, squeaking snow, face to the wind, to where the body is sprawled out in all its blood and intestines.

    You could maybe talk about what being a werewolf means IN this scene. She looks at and smells the body. She hears the biological world around her in some animal-connected way. She comes down from a bloodlust high.

    Not so much,
    ***
    bloodlust, a compelling force all werewolves succumbed to, took over the beast stalking her ***

    But more,
    ***
    She could still smell the mix of adrenaline and musk on him. Bloodlust. You smell that, you run for your life.
    ****

    which puts it in the here and now of the scene.

    ReplyReply

  19. A
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 15:01:02

    Nice! : )

    Minor awkward wording and sentence structure can easily be polished up.

    I got the reference to Demi Moore and the motion picture Ghost, but since several people don’t seem to catch on, maybe it’s not an ideal reference to use. I’m not recommending you take it out, just think about taking it out. Who knows? You may happily introduce people to a great film. : )

    I did find this awkward:

    Beyond her fogging breaths and drifting snow, was the moon. Hanging heavy and full, beautiful yet deadly.

    I’d suggest combining the sentences:

    Beyond her fogged breaths and drifting snow, the full moon hung, beautiful yet deadly.

    It’s possible you could trim away more adjectives and “tighten” your prose even more.

    I disagree with the reviewers suggesting the banter is out of place. I’ve got the impression this is a close-knit, hard-working group in an isolated environment. It makes sense to me the characters are very comfortable and informal with each other. I’m also tasting a military or quasi-military flavor (or it’s just my imagination working OT.)

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  20. Valerie
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 15:14:05

    I just wanted to comment about the Demi Moore thing. Although I did ultimately get the “Ghost” reference, my first assumption was that this was a lazy way to sneak in description of the heroine (ie. she LOOKS like Demi Moore). A vague, indirect reference to “Ghost” is also a bit outdated, and really serves no purpose on the page.

    I agree with the other commenters that the banter doesn’t work. I got what you were going for (tough guy cop sex banter. I watch too many police procedurals…) but your execution failed and felt stilted and unnatural. I kept wondering why the hell they WOULD have ever seen one another’s dates. You aren’t likely to regularly have dates showing up at the precinct (hunter HQ, whatever).

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  21. Juliana Stone
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 16:42:42

    I read this first thing this morning and realy liked it. Got home after being out all day, read it again and…still really liked it. I love the voice, the humor inflicted in the tone of the characters….sure there are a few minor things here and there that have already been pointed out, but I would read more. To the author, good luck with this, I wish you well!

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  22. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 17:53:42

    “Demi Moore wannabe” makes me think of a woman in her forties with a boyfriend or husband in his twenties, not of a woman dating ghosts. Ghost is so far from being Moore’s defining role that it just didn’t come to mind at all.

    Inappropriate sexual innuendos in a work situation are, for most women, icky and upsetting rather than cheeky and fun. Don’t bring them in so soon, because Sloan is coming off as a sexist ass rather than a lovable rogue; they might work fine after you’d established his character, but right now you haven’t laid a foundation for them.

    The concept of a duo of paranormal investigators who date supernatural beings and spar a la Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting is total gold, though. You’ve got a winner here—it just needs fine-tuning.

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  23. Tae
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 19:24:48

    The first thing I thought of when I saw “Demi Moore” was Ashton Kutcher. I think that’s what she’s most known for in terms of relationships these days.

    The babe and boss thing didn’t bother me so much since it mentions that she mentored him, and I didn’t really think of them in a boss/subordinate relationship, but more of a colleague where one person has more rank than the other.

    I’m somewhat interested by this premise because it seems a little different from the regular werewolf mythos, but at the same time I’m tired of people who try create their own mythos.

    ReplyReply

  24. Anion
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 20:09:31

    Yeah, I have to agree with Lori and DM. Not really a scene, misplaced commas, and additionally there are some subject issues. For example:

    Beyond her fogging breaths and drifting snow, was the moon.

    Makes it sound as if the drifting snow is also hers. And the comma doesn’t need to be there. (I also have never thought of the aurora borealis as the moon’s “companion,” but that could be just me.)

    Halting just at her side, a towering figure stood with his outstretched hand waiting patiently for her to take it.

    I guess this technically works, as his hand could be patiently waiting for her to take it, but it’s better, IMO, if the character is waiting for her to take his hand, rather than the hand itself.

    In addition, Sloan rolls his eyes, then flashes a “knowing grin,” and we see his dimples? How do his dimples border his cheeks, exactly? Then later the moonlight “catches a twinkle” in his brown eyes. Then he scowls and purses his lips at the same time, apparently.

    Hope “suddenly” gasps and clutches her face. She knows she’s going to do it, and this is her POV, so “suddenly” is not only telling, it’s out of place.

    Also, some of your sentences are confusing and lengthy. Yes, long sentences are fine and sometimes necessary, but it’s better to try to find other ways to word things. Like:

    Running hadn't been intentional nor had it been out of fear, but when bloodlust, a compelling force all werewolves succumbed to, took over the beast stalking her in the back drop of woods, she'd had no choice but to run, out maneuver it, and then destroy it.

    1. Running was certainly intentional, unless some unseen force took control of her body. I think you mean she hadn’t planned to run initially but ultimately had to.

    2. I’m confused as to how she was running for her life, but not out of fear. Do you mean she had to run to get enough distance from the thing to outmaneuver it? She hadn’t been able to get herself ready before the bloodlust took the beast? But the beast was stalking her before the bloodlust took over, right? So why didn’t she outmaneuver it then?

    3. I get that bloodlust is a compelling force all werewolves succumb to, but again, if she knew it could happen why wasn’t she prepared? And why explain it in such a clunky way? This whole sentence, in fact, is tell. You have a whole scene full of adventure and tension in this sentence, but rather than show it to us you just sort of explain it.

    Sorry, but the writing didn’t grab me at all. It’s an “almost there,” instead of “there.”

    Good luck!

    ReplyReply

  25. Anion
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 20:13:58

    Did my comment get stuck in the spam filter?

    In a nutshell, I agree this is clunky writing, very tell-y and error-ridden. Sorry.

    ReplyReply

  26. Maili
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 00:14:20

    @HM:

    So I guess no one saw “ghost” with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze? Where he dies and comes back as a ghost to his lover? wow. Ok, I guess i'll take that out. Just thought more people would have understood that one.

    Ah, I see. Well, you used a real-life person’s name, which is probably why some – including me – didn’t get the Ghost reference. When I think of her, I think of St. Elmo’s Fire (“The one where she tried to freeze herself to death by opening all windows of her flat!”). Perhaps it’d be better to use her Ghost character’s name, Molly Jensen?

    I mean, yesterday a friend jokingly addressed a male friend – who’d been playing pool – “Begbie”. We immediately understood she was referring to a notorious character from Trainspotting. If she used the Begbie actor’s name Robert Carlyle instead, we wouldn’t get it.

    Worth a thought, but thanks for explaining the Demi Moore reference.

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  27. Anon
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 07:26:33

    I’m usually okay with a few typos, but this 1st page has one too many mechanical errors for me to read on. It’s as though the author didn’t bother to proof-read before submitting it, which to me indicates one of the following:

    1. The author doesn’t care.
    2. The author lacks sufficient mastery of the English language to recognize errors.
    3. The author doesn’t respect her readers.
    4. All of the above.

    ReplyReply

  28. SAO
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 12:56:43

    I really liked the tough hunter bantering with her partner seconds after running for her life. The banter was pretty good, although I lost the point of the Ghost references (never saw the movie) and felt like the dialogue was losing me.

    Based on that, I think you have a winner. However, I didn’t really feel the run-for-your-life thing. She seemed more like she was star-gazing, daydreaming about snow falling in her face. It made the run improbable and the tough hunter character she turns out to be a surprise.

    Nothing wrong with running as fast as you can if the enemy is tougher than you think, if you ultimately take him down.

    I’d really like tough hunter had a scare, gets up and banters with colleague, if it was without the stargazing and slightly purple prose about snow and breath and stars and the Northern Lights, of all things.

    First pages are hard. I’d write the story and then revisit.

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  29. Susan/DC
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 15:30:59

    Two more language issues: First, it should be more important, not more importantly, an adjective not an adverb. Second, leave out the phrase after the word bloodlust (“all werewolves succumbed to”). That’s a bit of infodump no reader of paranormals needs and it just sounds clunky.

    Also, I’m a bit confused about why Sloan’s aim didn’t matter. I get his reference to women, but I don’t get the reference to why his aim wasn’t important in this instance.

    ReplyReply

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